Thursday, June 14, 2018

Update - Part 3 - 2017


My parents really liked the new caregiver and she took exceptional care of our mom and dad so my husband and I started 2017 by visiting my son and the family in Nevada for ten days. My daughter-in-law had made plans to make our visit a fun and relaxing one. Both she and my son took off of work to spend time with us. My honey and I spent our last night at the El Dorado in Reno in one of their spa suites. We had really worked hard on getting caught up with laundry and house cleaning and organizing before we left. While we were gone, one of my sisters came over and dusted, vacuumed and generally cleaned everything so we returned to a nice clean house.

The year was starting out well even though my hubby had a lot of doctor's visits in January. I was tired of the gastrointestinal issues that had me cancelling plans at the last minute and I finally had time to make an appointment with a specialist toward the end of February and set up future dates and times for the many tests he ended up ordering. I felt like I was beginning to decompress. I started to breathe again – slowly.

As dad was celebrating his 90th birthday in February, his friends wanted to make it special.  Dad had me come over and started writing down the names of the people he wanted at his party. He wanted me to make sure that they all showed up so I started making phone calls. Most of the people on the list were already planning on being there, but I had to call and make sure per dad's instructions. Dad kept adding more people to the list and so I made more calls. I enlisted the help of some of the people that were taking care of most of the plans for this celebration for my dad. I have to say that most of the people dad wanted at the party were there. Only a few couldn't make it because they were out of town/state/country. Many people worked on making this a special day for my dad and our family is so very grateful. There were around 100 guests at his party and his musician friends played his favorite songs and performed funny 'old people' skits. Others cooked and baked and everyone contributed time and money to make this a truly memorable day. He was, also, awarded a special medal from Chicago's Czech Consul General for his work at Radio Free Europe and keeping the Czech culture alive in the Chicagoland area.

Let me share with you this video of his party that our friends were able to put together and edit for a memorial service earlier this year.

My dad had always said that he would be here until he was 100. How could we know, that a month and a half after his party, he would be gone.

2017 To Be Continued.....



Friday, June 8, 2018

Update - Part 2 - 2016 continued





In March, a severe storm damaged our roof and siding. I had to deal with the insurance company and the contractor to try to get it fixed as water leaked from the ceiling every time it rained and it rained quite a bit and of course the insurance company (in the fine print) was not responsible for any further damage even if they were the cause of the delays to the repairs.  To get away from all the stress, I went to visit my son and his family in Nevada. I have to say it was great seeing my grandchildren and spending time with my son and my daughter-in-law (her mom had passed way in January and her dad was now living with them). However, one week into my 3 week stay, I fell and broke my shoulder. I continued to cook for them mainly with my granddaughter's help.  

Even a painful (the only pain killer I could tolerate was ibuprofen) broken shoulder didn’t get me a reprieve. The morning after I flew home, I had an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon in the morning and had to go with my dad to his doctor’s appointment in the afternoon. The next day, right after my early morning physical therapy, I had to take my dad to see his eye doctor. 

And so it continued for the rest of the year. I spent 1/3 of 2016 in hospitals, doctor’s offices or at physical therapy – half for me and half for family members. Add to that my family’s non-medical items that I had to attend to (for my parents and sister Paula), I spent 1/3 (4 months) of my year taking care of other people’s issues (based on what I had written into my calendar). Not everything was written into my calendar, i.e., many phone calls to my parents’ new medical insurance company to get them to cover my parents’ visits and calls to agencies looking for a new caregiver for mom (her social worker was not happy with the care she was getting and gave me a list of state approved agencies to call). I was, also, putting out feelers for a caregiver who could speak Czech. We got a new agency in May and then a friend found us a Czech speaking caregiver which the agency subsequently hired in June.

The damaged roof and siding finally got fixed in August. After haggling with the insurance company and the contractor, I then had a problem getting a permit from the town to make the repairs. Along with many auto repairs in 2016, we had to have our old 1930’s furnace replaced and added central air (for my health issues). 

For nine months I felt like I had been so compressed by stress that I couldn’t breathe. I was just putting one foot in front of the other. I had to get through this – there was no choice. The last 3 months of the year, the stress finally started to lift a little. I finally had some time to spend with my extremely tolerant husband and we concentrated on getting caught up with housework - something that had been neglected out of necessity for 3/4 of the year.

I ended the year with four medical appointments in the last week (mom, me, my sister and dad). Needless to say, there was no time or energy to write.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Update Part 2 - 2016

We ended 2015 with one of my younger sisters going into cardiac arrest twice on Dec. 29th. She was in the hospital one month - 1 week in ICU, 1 week in CCU and 2 weeks in the rehab ward. After coming out of the induced coma, our sister's memory was impaired and someone needed to be with her 24/7 in the hospital so family and friends took turns being there with her. Physically, she progressed well, but her memory (long term & short term) was not there.

January was an especially trying month. I spent 13 days at the hospital with Paula and one day with her after she was released. In between this, I had to take mom to 2 doctor's appointments, the ER and for a cystoscopy; then I spent one whole day taking care of my parent's medical insurance paperwork. I had 6 doctor's appointments of my own. 

During this time, my brother's condition was rapidly deteriorating, especially since the family visits he was used to were drastically reduce as our focus was on our sister. On January 19, I drove my parents and our priest to see my brother. It was a good visit even though he had lost a lot of weight and hospice had to bring in a hospital bed for him. My car was not running properly most of the month, so I was never sure if I would make it to where I was going or back home, but there was no time to take it to the mechanic. Our brother hung on till they let Paula out of the hospital and family took her to see him. One of my sisters took me to see him on the 25th and it was obvious it would be a matter of days before he died. He passed away that Friday. My husband and I drove out to his house on Saturday to see if there was anything we could help his wife with. I am amazed at the quality of care my sister-in-law was able to give my brother while he was in hospice. I don't know how she was able to handle it even with all the help everyone tried to provide. She is such a loving, caring woman and my brother never truly appreciated her like he should have. We ended January with a celebration of our aunt's 95th birthday as we tried to process our brother's death two days before. February started with our brother's wake and a memorial luncheon several days later. My brother's death hit me hard, but there was no time to grieve.

Because our sister was on Medicaid, no outpatient rehab center that was qualified to handle her issues would take her. The hospital was kind enough to provide some follow up outpatient therapy for free but only for a few weeks. We were unable to leave Paula alone. She would freak out because she didn't know what had happened to her or why she was there (if she recognized her surroundings) or where she was (when she didn't recognize her surroundings). We ended up passing her around from one daughter or sister to another. Because we were family, most of the time, she refused to do what the therapists said she needed to do to regain her memory and she bristled every time we would try to help by reminding her that she needed to shower, brush her teeth, etc. It was not easy for any of us.

2016 To Be Continued......

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Update Part 1 - 2015

Update for all - this is to explain why I have not been posting. These past 3 years have been a challenge to say the least.

I have alluded to the fact that I have not been posting on my blog because of personal family reasons.  I have not had the inclination to write even though I have several projects that I had started. The stress has taken a toll on me emotionally as well as physically.

I come from a large family and we have been and still are very blessed. 2015 started with taking my mom to physical therapy 2x a week (after returning from one month in Nevada helping with my newborn grandson) in addition to all her other doctors’ appointments. Then one sister tore a muscle in her leg and subsequently had to deal with a blood clot. The youngest fell and broke her wrist as well as dislocating her shoulder and toward the end of the year was in the hospital with diverticulitis and an abscess for which she later had to have surgery. My older son continued to have problems with a work related injury after several surgeries to his elbow.  My brother, who had been battling cancer for about 13 years at that point needed surgery again and was not doing well (in & out of hospitals).

I flew to Nevada for a week for my grandson’s birthday.  Upon my return, my brother was admitted to the hospital again and it didn’t look good. They discharged him into hospice care at home with 3 – 4 weeks to live, possibly up to 3 – 4 months and anything after that would be a miracle. My sister-in-law decided to care for him at their home about an hour and a half away.  

We all scrambled to make sure to spend some time with him. I took my parents and a priest (a family friend that my brother & I knew well) to visit. I called my son in Nevada and he flew in with his whole family. He said he would rather see him while he was still with us then fly in for the funeral. With all the family and friends visiting him, our one and only brother rallied. Our sister, Paula, came in from Michigan about once a month for 4 – 7 days to help with his care. Another sister and her husband would come in from Michigan and help at the house one weekend per month. Family from the Czech Republic flew in and spent time with him in November. His friends from out of town all made an effort to stop by to visit him several times. It was especially hard on our elderly parents as they tried to prepare for the death of their only son. I, as the oldest of 8, was the one everyone turned to the most for emotional support even though they all tried to support his wife and be there for each other as well.  

I was busy with taking my parents to doctor’s appointments and going to my own and I was unable to go see my little brother as much as I would have wanted to. When I saw him in September, he had lost a lot of weight and I didn't think he would make it to Thanksgiving. Someone let him know that I had expressed this thought which prompted him to call me and tell me that not only would he be with us at Thanksgiving, but also through the New Year. Knowing him the way I do, I knew I could take his word as gospel. With his wife's care, all our attention and many many prayers, he was here with us for a total of nine months - truly a miracle.

My brother and I were very close growing up. We were a year and a half apart and we did most things together. We fought a lot but we were very protective of each other. In other words, we could beat on each other but don't anyone else dare touch either of us. We shared a lot of good and bad times. We did have some friends and independent interests so we weren't joined at the hip. As we grew into our teens, we gravitated more to doing things on our own with our own friends. For example, I really didn't want my younger brother tagging along on my dates. Though I did have to take him with me a few times at my parents' insistence. Our relationship changed over the years and we didn't see each other as often, but we continued to have a strong bond till the end.

Writing was not at the top of my list that year so I only posted a few times.
  

Friday, October 23, 2015

Who Do I Think I Am?

I am trying something new.  Comments would be welcome.



Who Do I Think I Am?

On my mother’s side, I am the great granddaughter of an educated and compassionate Czech farming family who were known for helping people however they could including hiding two paratroopers (part of the team sent to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich and who’s navigational crew had overshot their target by more than 100 kilometers) in their barn after they landed in their fields during World War II - at the risk of their own lives. Their whole town participated in keeping the airmen from being caught by the Germans who were actively looking for them. My grandmother and her brother (not Jewish) were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps for listening to the BBC on the radio. My mother had to run for her life during the Communist purge after the coup in 1948. She had minutes to leave her home, run and hide out for days before being smuggled out of Czechoslovakia into Germany. She wasn’t even able to say goodbye to her mother.

My father’s family was an intelligent mix of journalists, newspaper editors, writers, educators and engineers who were persecuted by the Communist regime (especially my grandparents, who were hounded to the day they died) because they refused to join the Communist party and give up practicing their Catholic faith. They were continually tyrannized by the top ranking STB official for the region of southern Bohemia, who had my uncle bring me in to be interrogated when I had the opportunity to visit Czechoslovakia and meet my family for the first time at the age of 15 in 1966.  

I was born in a refugee camp in Germany. My father worked for Radio Free Europe and my mother worked as an interpreter in the medical facility of the camp before my parents became eligible to immigrate to the United States as part of the quota for workers needed during the Korean War.  Because ‘officially’ our ‘sponsor’ was a farmer from North Dakota, my father was physically prevented from going to his scheduled interview with Radio Free Europe New York by small minded immigration agents exercising their power over these DPs (displaced persons).  They were insistent that my parents needed to go work on a farm even though my mother was six months pregnant, had a degree in accounting and spoke English and German in addition to her native Czech and my dad had been studying journalism and law at the university before the communists kicked him out of school.  We were rescued from the train to North Dakota in Chicago with the help of the Benedictine abbot and other displaced Czechs already in Chicago.  Unfortunately, the Radio Free Europe position had already been filled by this time and my dad ended up working in a factory making pontoon parts for the war. Because he was underweight and small and relatively clumsy (he managed to break several machines in the first weeks he was there) they were at a loss as to how to utilize him until they realized he had an aptitude for numbers and put him to work taking inventory. My father continued to freelance for Radio Free Europe for many years while working at various factory jobs.

So who do I think I am?

I am a child of dual cultures, Czech and American.  I am, also, a child of the fifties and sixties. I was brought up to be an idealistic realist, to have compassion, to do what is right not what is comfortable, to stand up against injustice and in my own small way make this world a better place.  I have hope in the face of hopelessness, the courage to speak out when I am most afraid and faith that good will always prevail.

I am an altruistic optimist and I will never be silenced. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Summer Green

Brand new poem inspired by photo I took yesterday - enjoy!



Summer Green

Hot, humid
August day

Blue burnished
Cloudless sky

Cool, crisp fronds
Restful, fresh

Clean, clear spears
Summer green

© Alice Vedral Rivera - 8/8/2015 7:45am