After almost 2 decades of visiting the elderly under the tutelage of 4 subpar bosses, (ministers, et al) I retired in 2013. Except for a 5 month daily stint, helping a wonderful friend named Lois who was recovering before after surgery for compression fractures, I have found retirement quite satisfying.
|My dear friend Lois, who lives about an hour away now…|
Our move from Muskegon to Jackson took a great deal of work and time. Downsizing a considerable amount of square feet, moving 175 miles east, plus so much work on the house we bought. Gallons of paint, new floors, appliances, knocking out walls, new sidewalk, driveway, light fixtures, garage roof. The list seemed endless. More to do on the outside, but almost done with the inside. Our bathroom is being remodeled as I type. Two plus weeks in, our contractor, Duke has completed the tearing down part to the studs. New window is in, drywall and cement board up, and he’s about done with the tile work. I have a cabinet setting next to my recliner (which is setting askew) that goes above the toilet, and I’m staring at the humongous box which holds our new shower doors. All in my living room. Sigh. Since Duke has some more sanding to do, I keep averting my eyes from my adorable antique oak highchair, which now sports an eighth inch of white dust.
|See the fingerprint? What a dusty mess, but almost done and ready to put the house back in order…|
While the move has been an incredible amount of work (and not something I hope to repeat ever again) I’ve not been sorry for 1 minute since we moved. No, not even 1 second. Actually ecstatic when I think we’re actually here. Only wish it could have been a couple years sooner, but thanks God, at least we’re here now.
|Part of the new driveway and sidewalk, March, 2016…|
I started getting twitchy after we settled in for the long Michigan winter. I don’t know very many people and when there’s a foot of snow on the ground, you just don’t stop and chit-chat with the neighbors. Landon’s (Drew to the rest of the world) basketball games filled a lot of nights, but the days were kind of long. I knew I wanted to work somewhere part time, but I not only was particular on where to seek work, but what kind of hours too. I didn’t want nights, weekends, or holidays, so retail was out. Any type of assisted living work would involve weekends too. Then my good friend suggested a new daycare/preschool/early elementary school which was growing by leaps and bounds and needed help. Are you kidding? Neese, the old people whisperer caring for children who don’t belong to her gene pool?
|Landon # 3 freshman, varsity basketball season was superb, 2015-2016…|
I applied and passed the background check. For heaven’s sake, don’t act so surprised. Told the director I would feel most comfortable with infants. I have a lot of trouble hearing and understanding little people. On occasion, I pick up my 6 year old grandson, Graham from school. Outside, there’s parents with babies, and toddlers picking up students, all milling around. We walk to the car holding hands because there’s a lot of cars trying to leave the parking lot. I ask G about his day, but he doesn’t talk very loud and his adorable mug is not facing me, so until we get into my Jeep, I miss most of what he says. Dang hearing loss is just the pits. Hearing and responding appropriately to toddlers would be dicey at best. But when a 2, 5 or 8 month old wants your attention, they let you know loud and clear. It may take me a couple seconds to determine where the cry is coming from, but believe me, I hear them all just fine.
|Graham 6, with a craft project we did this winter…|
I started working in February, so by now I recognize who is crying by their own unique sound. It’s really fascinating how different each baby sounds. One little guy has what I call a hiccup cry. While he’s gearing up to let us know he needs someone’s undivided attention, his little belly kind of hiccups until he really gets his motor running. A sweet blonde 8 month old prefers to make more baby babble while she begs for attention. Yi-yi-yi she cries with her little mouth making perfect circles. A dark haired, dimpled baby boy prefers to kind of meow cry like a kitten. One tiny auburn haired lass is surprisingly loud and boisterous, but often when she’s demanding attention, has a little pout in her lower lip for extra cuteness. Then we have a quality control baby/dude. He’s very helpful keeping our building up to code, safe and in tip-top shape. If any window glass in the whole building is of lower quality, his ear shattering, chalkboard scratching, howling screech will shatter any inferior window glass. I kid you not. He’s adorable, even more so when he’s not working so hard on the job though.
Wouldn’t you know, I’m drawn to every high maintenance baby lugged through the door by their parents. We are up to our limit of 12 babies. The state code is 1 worker for every 4 babies, but we have 4 workers for 12. We will be losing 4 babies very soon. Each has recently turned one and now much of our day is spent rescuing the wee ones from these busy miniature people. Who all seem to find the younger baby’s hair, eyes, ears, and mouths truly the most fascinating place to stick their little fingers. Or try and boink a rattle on their head to hear what sound that might make. The rowdy 4 will move to a room next to us that serves 1 to 2 year olds. And we have a waiting list that will soon bring us back up to a dozen babies again.
I’m surprised at how much I look forward to the days I work. Only working 20 hours a week, but as I’m getting ready, I have to smile because yesterday one of my HM (high maintenance) little dudes had learned to shake his head ‘no’ and pat-a-cake over the weekend. Hiccup dude transferred a toy from one hand to the other. Another little guy is getting up on all 4’s and rocking back and forth. Won’t be long until he’s all over our big room. You know I can’t take any pictures of these adorable little ones for privacy and confidentiality issues. Of course you guys understand. Trust me, everyone of our babies are smart, and cute as a bug.
Going back to work, even 3 days a week has not been without complications. Right after I started we were having an unusually, beautiful warm day. I’m done working at 1, (Neese, ever the early riser wanted early shifts) so I drove home, rested for a few minutes and decided since the snow was gone, it was time to start my daily walk again. Dressed in my walking duds, happily singing along with P!nk, Maroon 5, Kylie Minogue, Pitbull and that little hottie, Enrique Iglesias when I felt a sharp pain behind my left knee. Probably should have stopped walking, turned round and limped home. Of course I did not. Shortened my walk to 1-1/2 miles, but I have paid for that walk for 2 long months now. I did not call in sick, but honestly had trouble getting out of the rocker with a baby for about a week. The pain’s never gone. How about not being a total dumb ass and call the doctor? Well I didn’t have a doctor, but John did. Swallowed my pride trying to work my way through it and set up an appointment about a month after the pain started. Doc was fairly certain it was something called a Baker’s cyst. Usually prompted by some injury to your knee, the knee makes too much fluid and it collects in a cyst behind your knee. Ordered an x-ray and ultrasound, then sent me to an orthopedic specialist. Yup, same dude I took Landon to when he had his stress fracture in January.
|Construction zone, formerly known as my living room…|
The orthopedic doc is not convinced it’s a cyst. Although a Baker’s cyst can bulge, swell, then recede, he couldn’t feel it. When he asked about my chronic lower back issues for the last 25 years, the numbness and tingling in my leg that started a couple years ago, but comes and goes, he started nodding his head. After further determining a definite weakness and range of motion loss in my leg, he was more inclined to believe I have a pinched nerve. Signed me up for physical therapy. Which I’m about half done with now. Head therapy dude gave me a set of 5 exercises to do at home, 3 times a day. I considered myself gifted to remember 4 of the 5 until I went back to therapy for a second time. I’m using a treadmill (never walked on one before) a semi-recumbent bike, and some kind of electric zappers that attach (no, not my head) to each side of my knee and 2 spots on my butt. Then ice cold wraps under my butt and around my knee. Feels incredible, and from what I’ve experienced, PT usually hurts. A couple days since I’ve started have been completely pain free, other days I limp with every step. A couple more exercises on different machines will be added to gain the strength and mobility. I’m confident and hopeful that soon I’ll be walking pain free again. Even if it’s only a mile or 2, every other day.
But that wasn’t the extent of my complicated start back to the job force. Three weeks ago, a couple days before I left for Nashville with Shannon, Peyton and Landon, I got a tickle in my throat. The obnoxious kind that makes your eyes squirt water for 5 minutes and cough uncontrollably. Just a dry bark, but unfortunately did not disappear during the Nashville trip. Staying in one hotel room with 4 people trying to sleep through my nightly barking. I thought it would just go away, but instead it got worse. But I didn’t feel bad. No sneezing, fever, aches, or sinus headache. Just a cough that steadily got worse. Geez, half the babies have runny noses and are coughing. I can see I’m going to have to build up an immunity to everything those little farts catch. Soon. I tried to tough it out for 10 days after we got back. But after literally coughing 2 solid nights, I’d had enough. Not to mention how weary Hubs was of my constant hacking.
So I called my new primary care doc. I’ll admit I sounded pretty bad. But I still felt fine. It was pneumonia. Never had pneumonia or those accordion sounds coming loudly from my chest before. Sounded like Myron Floren on Lawrence Welk. Got a shot of antibiotics, a packet of decreasing dosage steroids, a prescription for antibiotics, and cough medicine with codeine. Hello, good nights sleep. Finally. Doc wanted to check me again last Friday to make sure I shouldn’t be in the hospital for the weekend. Oxygen level was still low, especially after I meandered slowly (but as quick as I could) down the crowded hallway, fast-as-accordion-chest-music-maker-grandma-with-a-bad-leg-butt-and-knee-issues-could-lumber-along. I’ll admit, I looked pretty hopeless, and sounded worse. She ordered a breathing treatment (also a first in my life) which took a few minutes, made me kind of shakey and cough like there was no tomorrow. But after a couple hours I did feel somewhat better, breathing wise.
|Good grief, more pills than I’ve taken in a decade…|
Construction guy Duke finally said the words we longed to hear but dreaded. “The toilet’s gotta go. Can’t start tiling the floor until it’s out.” Well we could go stay at Shannon’s since they were all going to gone for the weekend. They were headed to Fort Wayne, one of the biggest basketball tourney’s of the season. Almost 250 teams competing in different age brackets. We’ve gone several times when we lived in Muskegon, which was about 5 hours away. From Jackson, it’s only a hundred miles. We just decided to spend the weekend down there instead of driving back and forth. Loved the basketball, but weather, health, walking wise, was a huge mistake. It was rainy, cold, windy, we had no hotel room to start our fun weekend away from home. If you can imagine, 250 teams, say a dozen kids on each team, plus parents, coaches, and college scouts. No room at the inn-anywhere. We drove a few miles out of the city, found a dive. I’ve already sort of blocked out this little incident out of my mind. Like hard labor during a difficult birth. I was past the point of doing anything constructive besides coughing and limping. I slept intermittently on top of the covers in my sweats on while wondering why on earth the hotel’s interior decorator chose to paint a wall orange right next to the red and navy striped drapes that adorned the window. At least the window was covered so I didn’t have to tally which rooms rented by the hour. Kidding. Long night. Tracey went to bat for us, and found a room for Saturday night. What luxury. A small suite, king size bed, fireplace. Heaven. Made up for the hard bleachers, impossible parking, constant cold drizzle which wasn’t doing any of my sick and sore old parts much good.
|Construction dude, Duke cutting tile. Not his favorite chore…|
Landon’s team, King James (LeBron) Shooting Stars had a tough tourney. Their version of the twin towers, 2 tall, painfully thin guys, both got hurt. One pulled a calf muscle (Tracey questioned this, as the kid’s leg is so skinny, T said it was impossible to have a muscle there), the other either sprained or broke his ankle, yet both still tried to play. But neither could jump, run, or rebound after those injuries. Yet running, jumping and rebounding are still needed if you want to continue winning games. (Any Hawkeye fans remember Iowa’s twin towers, Greg Stokes and that hunk Michael Payne from the mid-to-late 80’s?). KJS Stars lost after winning the first 2 games of the tourney on the second day. Bummer. But Landon had some good games. He’s my fave, you know. FYI Iowa fans, I also watched Iowa’s coach, Fran McCaffrey’s 15 year old son, Patrick play. I believe he’s the young man who had a pretty serious bout with cancer a couple years ago. His older brother, Connor (who has already committed to Iowa) was also playing in the 17u division, but I never caught any of his games. There was actually quite a crowd from Iowa in Fort Wayne for the weekend. Iowa State girls softball team were in town. Don’t know if it ever got dry enough for them to play. You know those Iowans. They support their kid’s teams. Tons of cars with Iowa plates. All getting better parking places much closer than this gimpy gram.
|King James SS. Landon sitting on the right…|
Well, I’ve got some good news. Had to be rechecked for a third time on Monday. No, I did not tell her what I had been up to during the weekend. I’ve been up or down graded to bronchitis because my lungs sound great again. Yay. To be safe, one more round of antibiotics and some weird cough ‘pearls’ to use when my little coughing fits hits during the day. These pills won’t put me to sleep along with the babies. Just got back from PT and next week more strength and endurance exercises will be added. Think I might be on the right track on both fronts.
And lastly, the babies. I think every high school student (boys and girls) should be required to spend a couple hours, or days in my infant room. And maybe every young couple in love or lust too. For the middle to upper teens, there is no better form of birth control than to be in a room with 12 beautiful, cuddly babies. Which, at any given minute, at least 6, usually more are vying and crying for undivided attention. No holes barred. And will not be silenced until they are individually soothed. Or to the couple contemplating becoming parents. Once they gaze into our little auburn haired, blue eyed, petite fire ball, complete with her turquoise head band, bottom lip pouting just enough to be irresistible, plus her keen intelligence at all the things she observes, will hustle out of there, head for home and start a family immediately…