Visiting Extended Family

Hi all. Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is contact with extended family and especially the coming together and leaving.

When I was a child, my extended family lived all over the country. For reference, I live in the Netherlands, so “all over the country” means anyone was still within a three-hour driving distance. However, we didn’t visit with extended family very often. I rarely saw my aunts and uncles except at my grandparents’ house. As for those, we visited my maternal grandparents several times a year even though they lived closer by where I lived as a young child than my paternal grandmother. My paternal grandmother, we saw most often and had sleepovers with each summer and sometimes at Christmas too.

I don’t think we had any rituals for the coming together. For leaving, my paternal grandmother wanted to give everyone a kiss on the cheek. I didn’t mind and hardly even noticed it until she wanted to give my husband a kiss when we last saw her in 2016. My husband politely refused.

Like I said, my sister and I had regular sleepovers at my paternal grandmother’s house. We always slept on thick matresses on the floor, but they felt pretty comfy nonetheless. My grandmother made her own quilts, so she probably lay one of them over us as a duvet.

As for my paternal grandfather, I only ever visited him for day trips, but my sister once went on a week-long trip on my grandfather’s powerboat with him. They actually slept on board.

I can’t remember whether I found saying goodbye to extended family after a visit was over difficult or not. It probably depended on how well I liked said family member.

That brings me to the question of which family member I would like to bring back to life for a visit. I’d certainly choose my paternal grandmother. I have talked positively about her many times before. She declined a lot both cognitively and physically over the last few years of her life and I didn’t feel comfortable visiting her anymore during the last eighteen months she lived. Even so, I know she remained resilient up till the end and, when she could no longer take it, I know she had seriously exhausted all possibilities of remaining optimistic. She died during palliative sedation on May 12, 2018. If I could bring her back to life for a visit, I’d tell her I’m still happily married to Jeroen. For those who don’t know, my paternal grandmother was my official witness during the wedding ceremony.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (April 10, 2022)

Hi everyone! I’m joining #WeekendCoffeeShare today. I just had a soft drink and a glass of water, but if you’d like a cup of coffee or tea, I’m pretty sure my staff can make you one too. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that a fellow client passed away on Wednesday. He had had COVID back in February, like most of us, but he didn’t fully recover. This client had been hospitalized several times during December and January because of seizures, but these finally seemed to be well under control. Unfortunately, COVID was the last straw. He had been on a feeding pump ever since he’d had COVID, but because he became increasingly uncomfortable and unresponsive, the doctor and staff decided to discontinue his feedings on Monday. I last saw him alive Monday evening. He actually lifted up his body, smiled and squealed with delight upon hearing my voice. I made the conscious decision, having already been informed that he’d be dying soon, to keep this memory as my last memory of him while alive.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I finally managed to craft another butterfly with the silicone mold I’d gotten for Christmas last December. I badly wanted to create a butterfly to go with the fellow client’s coffin, but wasn’t sure whether I could use the mold. However, other tutorials seemed even more complicated, so I eventually decided to give it a try. I did the wings in Fimo Effect color blue ice quartz. The body is pacific blue and the antennae are black.

If we were having coffee, I would also tell you that I have finally given in to the polymer clay color mixing thing and bought a precision kitchen scale. That plus a collection of 60 Fimo soft color recipes. Of course, I haven’t tried Fimo professional yet, but if I have to believe my staff, the colors I’ve mixed so far turn out gorgeous despite not being done with the true primary colors.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about the nationwide cerebral palsy day I went to yesterday. Of course, because the ParaTransit taxi had arrived at 8AM and we didn’t have to pick up any other passengers along the way, I was in Apeldoorn, where the day would be held, by 9AM. Thankfully, I had called my mother-in-law when I entered the taxi and she’d made sure to be there on time too.

The day started with a live-streamed lecture by Erik Scherder, a neuroscientist from Amsterdam. The message was quite similar to the one he’d conveyed in 2018 when I’d attended the cerebral palsy day too: that exerting yourself physically is needed to stimulate your overall neurological wellbeing. In 2018, the lecture had mostly been geared towards (young) adults, while yesterday it was more focused on children and their parents.

I attended two workshops during the day. One was on aging with cerebral palsy, mostly geared towards those age 40+, so I was a little outside of the scope, but I could relate (sad as it may be) to some of the increasing discomfort that older adults with CP face. The other was a yoga class.

As regular readers of my blog might know, I am not 100% sure I even have cerebral palsy, in that my parents never told me and, by the time I was an adult, things got so overshadowed with other diagnoses it’s unclear. For this reason, I felt validated knowing that I appeared not to be the most mildly affected person, strange as this may seem. In fact, during the yoga class, we had to loosen up our muscles and my mother-in-law told me to loosen up. Someone else half-joked: “That’s about the hardest thing to tell a spastic.” That made me feel good.

How have you been?

Final Goodbyes

Yesterday, the fellow client who passed away was temporarily moved from the morgue into her room in the care home. I went to have a quick look yesterday evening. This morning, since I had finished my polymer clay butterfly and flower, I went back into her room and set them at her remembrance table next to her coffin. My assigned home staff was with me and asked me whether I wanted to touch her coffin, the things she had with her and even her hand. I did. Her hand was cold, which was the final reminder I needed that she’s really dead.

This afternoon, we went back into her room to pick a rose from her remembrance bouquet. We then went outside and stood in a circle with all other clients and staff who were close to this client and the family. Everyone laid a rose on the coffin. The client’s brother and our support coordinator spoke a few words and then the coffin was put into the funeral car and driven away. My assigned staff cried a few tears. I did feel sad too, but I couldn’t cry.

This is the first time I’ve ever been this close to a deceased person. I mean literally, as in touching her hand. When my maternal grandfather had died in 1995, I did pay him a quick visit at the funeral center, but was only able to have a quick look and with how little vision I had back then, I probably could hardly make out what he looked like. With my other grandparents, I didn’t ever get to see them while in their coffins. I had originally thought I wouldn’t benefit from visiting this client in her room because I couldn’t see her, but I actually did benefit. I was able to say my final goodbyes. Now I know she’s really gone.

Written for E.M.’s Random Word Prompt #7: “Remembrance”.

A Few Really Intense Days

Last Thursday was a weird day. I had to have my mammogram at 11:45AM at the hospital in the nearest city, which is half an hour’s drive away. We arrived about fifteen minutes early, which was good, since I still needed to get an ID label. Normally, the hospital give you an ID card with your first visit, but the receptionist said I should already have one since my ID was in their system. It probably was from when I had my abdominal X-ray at the outpatient clinic here in town, where apparently they don’t do ID cards. Oh well, he printed off a label and sent me on my way.

The mammogram people were running a bit late, so I got a little stressed. As it turned out, the person doing my mammogram was also a guy, which made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I tried to reassure myself that it’s his job. The mammogram was painful but thankfully it was over with quickly and I knew that it being painful said nothing about possible results.

In the evening, a male I initially didn’t recognize was in the care home. As it turned out, he was our GP. I was already distresssed from my schedule going to pieces due to the mammogram. It was getting even worse, because it turned out a fellow client had to go to the hospital. She had Down Syndrome with severe heart complications and the doctor suspected her heart was acting up again.

Later, it turned out she had RSV, a type of pneumonia that normally only affects babies and small children. She was tested for COVID too but was negative. As she was moved from cardiac care to the lung unit, she seemed to improve over Friday and Saturday, but wouldn’t be discharged until Monday as there are no doctors to do that over the weekend.

Thursday night, I myself started experiencing nausea and bad stomach pain and could hardly sleep. I vomited a few times in the morning, then was exhausted and lay in bed most of the late morning and early afternoon Friday. Thankfully, by Saturday, most of my symptoms were gone.

Then on Sunday morning, I got the news that the fellow client who’d gone into hospital Thursday evening, had passed away after all. My first thought was: “This won’t affect staffing, will it?” I quickly silenced those thoughts, knowing they are selfish. When the manager came by to support the staff, she did pay a quick visit to my room though and I asked her whether the vacant room would be filled quickly now. She reassured me that the staff and clients will have time to process this loss first.

I have been busy all of yesterday evening and today thinking about how to make something for the client out of polymer clay to go with her to the funeral. Yesterday, I initially made a butterfly using a mold, but I did it all wrong and it turned out rather rubbish. Then I decided to create a multicolor flower. However, one of the staff who knows the family’s wishes about the funeral etc., told me a butterfly would be especially fitting. So I stressed all day about how to make a butterfly using my rather inflexible mold. I might’ve found a way. My nurse practitioner, with whom I had an appointment this morning, did reassure me that I am well-intentioned regardless and that’s what matters.

This afternoon, I got the results of the mammogram. Thankfully, there are no abnormalities! At least that’s something to be happy about.

What Day Is It Anyway? (March 24, 2020) #WDIIA

Okay, so I’m back with another #WDIIA post. As I write this, it’s March 24, 2020, 8:50PM. My paternal grandmother, my last living grandparent, the one who died in 2018, would’ve turned 96 today. It’s weird that I think about that now, as I didn’t call her for her birthday for the last several years of her life. She was profoundly hearing impaired and had severe memory loss. Then again, I could’ve sent cards, but didn’t. I do miss her though. Still, I am thankful that she doesn’t have to suffer through the COVID-19 thing.

I awoke at 8:36 this morning. Had a quick wash, brushed my teeth and got dressed. Had another bowl of yoghurt with crunchy muesli for breakfast. Thank goodness they still had full-fat yoghurt. I normally have fat-free yoghurt, but the unbranded ones are so extremely watery they’re really disgusting.

I went for two walks today, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Didn’t go for a walk in the evening this time, but did go on the elliptical for twenty minutes. I went on it for twenty minutes yesterday too and only burned 66 calories according to my Fitbit. Today I burned 90. That’s not very good, as a brisk walk burns off more. Still, I’m feeling my legs and back now. Besides, burning calories isn’t the only benefit of exercise. I do really hope that, when I can get weighed in again, I’ll have lost weight. I usually get weighed in at the day center once a month, but not sure that will be happening now.

The week’s groceries arrived today. Tomorrow, we’re going to make toasted ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch. I’m looking forward to that.

Not much else happened today. How has your day been?

Loss #WotW

This was truly a mixed week. I wanted to write a gratitude list for it, and maybe I will do so tonight, but right now I don’t feel like it.

On Monday, I attended day activities as usual. A fellow client, an older man, attended too as usual, but he was very unwell. He had been ill for a long time and the staff had feared for his life on a few prior occasions. I attended day activities during the morning only and I worried in the afternoon that he’d die soon.

On Tuesday, the man wasn’t at day activities. I heard the staff talk about his group home staff having had a scare in the morning, but he was still alive. In the afternoon, I heard them talking about palliative care. By late afternoon, when us clients werre ready to leave, I heard that he’d passed. For those who don’t know, my day activities group is for people with severe intellectual disabilities, so i’m the only one who understands the conversations staff have among themselves basically.

On Wednesday, the other clients were told that this man had died. Most still don’t fully understand, but some have made beautiful drawings in his memory that will be given to his family on Monday. Near the center’s front door is a table with (electric) candles, a picture of the man and all the drawings. I decided to make a butterfly soap for it. I made it on Wednesday afternoon with my support coordinator. It turned out great, a beautiful lavender blue with lavender fragrance oil.

On Thursday, I was off from day activities and I spent the morning in bed. It didn’t really feel good, but I had nothing planned for the day except for horseback riding at 4:30PM. That was a great experience. I rode Aagje, a fjord horse with long hair (which is unusual for this breed).

Today, I showed my day activities staff the butterfly soap I’d made and placed it on the client’s remembrance table. We tried to do day activities as usual as much as possible. We walked to the marketplace in the morning. In the afternoon, when I went for a short walk with the day activities coordinator, I told her I wanted to ask a rude question. I wanted to ask whether, now that this other client had died, I could take his place at day activities on Thursdays. I still feel pretty awkward having asked this, but she understood that, if I waited a while, they might’ve gotten a new application. I E-mailed my support coordinator on this issue too.

Early this week, I got an E-mail from my support coordinator forwarding the termination letter from the Center for Consultation and Expertise. I didn’t understand this, as the consultant had offered to be my contact for the long-term care funding agency. Apparently, she still is somehow. I really hope I hear from that agency soon. My support coordinator did E-mail the local authority’s social consultant, who is in charge of my community care funding, to extend my funding for two months as we wait for long-term care to kick in.

Right now I feel… numb? I was a bit dissociated this afternoon, as my day activities staff were discusing clients’ severe challenging behaviors (not current fellow clients of mine). I remembered my time on the locked psychiatric unit, where I was often threatened with seclusion for problem behaviors and was in fact secluded or restrained a few times. It felt good disclosing this to my staff, but I did feel a bit awkward.

Now I’m waiting for my husband to get home from work. He’s going to bring French fries and snacks. I look forward to that.

I am linking up with Word of the Week. I choose “loss” as my word of the week in my fellow client’s memory.