The Bionic Energizer Bunny Woman

The “Bionic Energizer Bunny” Woman

What else would you call someone who tirelessly works to help others – family, friends, and sometimes complete strangers?  Someone who’s home is always ‘show-ready’ and comfortably lived-in?  Who never seems to slow down – even after two complete knee replacements (one about six years ago and one seven weeks ago), major repair surgery for a torn rotor cuff injury that same year, and other surgeries and medical procedures for various personal and health problems over her lifetime?

This lady has been a widow for a bit over two years but has put her memories in a treasured mental love box (63 years married to the same wonderful man) and continues to live and enjoy life.

It has been said of her that “she has never met a stranger – just people she hasn’t gotten to know yet”.  If you meet her for the first time, within minutes, she’ll engage you in conversation and know more about you in ten minutes than you’ve shared with your best friend in ten years (okay, but it’s only a slight exaggeration).  She simply has a knack for making you feel comfortable and at home, and that she genuinely is interested in YOU – and she is!

Friends and strangers alike are often amazed, at nearly 84 years old, how she keeps going, and going, and – got the picture?  The ‘Energizer Bunny’ come to life in a senior lady that does not know the meaning of the words stop, can’t or rest.  Her philosophy seems to be she’ll rest when she’s dead and you can try, but you won’t stop her – and she really does not know the meaning of ‘can’t’ – her attitude is maybe not now, but eventually.

If she likes you (and there is an extremely small list of those she doesn’t), there is nothing she won’t try to do for you.  Need a few bucks?  Done.  Need a meal; or two?  Done.  Need a place to stay for a night, a few days, a week?  She’ll put you up and feed you, give you your own clean towels, bar of soap and a new toothbrush.  She is true Southern Hospitality come to life.  A truer friend one could not ask for.

Gracious, caring, loving, street-smart and savvy; you might take advantage of her once – but she’ll forgive you and just put you on her watch list (burn me once, shame on you; burn me twice, shame on me).

She has always kept a clean home (not just house, a home), so much so that you can eat off the proverbial floor and not have to worry about dirt or germs.  A wife to her husband that others envied, mother to two boys (okay, men now – one is 59 and one is 56 – but they’ll always be her boys), grandmother to four (three boys and one girl), step-grandma to two more girls, and great-grandmother to one (so far).

While her formal education officially ended with high school (although in her time, a H.S. education was equal to a 2-year liberal arts education today), she has continue to be involved in training her mind and personality.  She reads, not just skims, two newspapers a day (minus the sports section – except when her boys were playing sports and sometimes were mentioned), watches the news, had conversations with her husband about events around the world (usually professing to not care about the rest of the country or world – but then try to hide a tear at the plight of the poor, the disadvantaged, and generally unfortunate ones, both here in the U.S. and around the planet).

She can be opinionated about what she feels and believes, but is always willing to have an honest discussion and to be open to the ideas of others.

One of the things that changed for her has been her unwillingness to just accept things that should or could have been done better – or right.  In her younger days, she would never complain in a restaurant if her order was wrong – over-cooked steak, limp salad greens, whatever – she’d simply eat it and then tell her husband that she didn’t think they’d be coming back to that place again.

Now, having ‘earned the privilege in her old age’ as she tells it, she will send an order back, change an order completely, insist on having it her way (no matter how many times we tell her she’s not at Burger King – old advertising slogan), and kid with both server, the cook, and always over-tip (she once worked as a waitress and has great sympathy for the breed).

In spite of the artificial knee joints (now she has to show two photos to the airport screeners when the metal detectors go off), repaired shoulder, and other medical procedures, in spite of advancing years, and especially in the face of those who keep telling her she can’t or shouldn’t or she better slow down, she just keeps on truckin!

So while others might call her the “Energizer Bunny” or the “Bionic Woman”, or that “tough old bird with no quit in her”, I am lucky enough to call her “Mom.”

~  Chuck

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Much Has Happened Today

Today is Monday, November 7, 2011.

I’m writing this post on my netbook this morning, but as the location I’m at has no internet access, it most likely will not get posted until Wednesday afternoon or later.  I had said on both Facebook and Twitter that I’d be offline and without access for a few days, with only my ‘dumb’ cell phone for communications. (OOPS… I left my cell phone in the car when my wife drove off from Banning after dropping me off to help take care of mom for a few days and she was home in Claremont before she found out she still had my phone with her – can you say incommunicado?) 

Much is happening today.  It has been two weeks since my mother’s knee replacement surgery and we have an appointment this afternoon for a follow-up examination and possibly to get the staples taken out. 

The surgery was October 24th on her left knee (she had previous knee replacement on the right knee about eight years ago).  Surgery on a Monday and the following Friday she was transferred to a rehab facility – Cherry Valley Health Care in Banning, CA – which she hates. 

The people, she says, are great… the food and timing of meals, meds, etc. are terrible.  A nearly 84-year old woman who lives alone and is used to her own schedule, having to get up at a certain time in the morning for breakfast, lunch and dinner, an occasional snack, and take the various medications at their convenient times, all on the Center’s idea of a low-salt, low-calorie, diabetic-friendly diet. 

She said if anything ever happened to her again, NO MATTER WHAT, she will not go to any such facility – she’d rather die at home first. I told her that was not an option – and to stop talking about joining her husband. 

That’s the other thing that made this a bad day. 

Two years ago today, November 7, 2009, my father pasted away. He had survived, World War Two, Korea, and a hard life – and had a few heart attacks, was on his second (internal) defibulator, and was having dialysis treatments three times a week. 

He kept telling my mom he was sorry, but didn’t want to keep on living like this – that it wasn’t his idea of living.  But my mom, who loved this man so much, just was not able to let him go.  So he tried to remain positive and go on for her. 

But finally, he had another heart episode the defib unit could not overcome.  They we sitting at dinner one night and he just sort of slumped over and started to slide from the chair.  My mom grabbed him and tried to keep him upright as she was also trying to call 9-1-1. When the paramedics, fire department, etc. arrived, my mom explained there was a ‘do not resuscitate’ order, but in her panic and the emotional distress of the situation, could not find it.  The paramedics explained that without it, they must work to save him. 

After some work at the house, he was then transported to San Gorgonio Hospital, where, after a couple days,  he slipped away around 3:00AM in the morning on November 7th, 2009.  He died with my mom holding his hand and she was able to be at peace with it because of the extra hours she had with him. 

And with the events going on with mom regarding her knee replacement, wanting to get out of the rehab facility, and the turmoil of emotions surrounding the anniversary of dad’s passing, we have not even been able to make a graveside visit and plant a few flowers and a flag at the burial site in Riverside. 

Yes, much has happened today. 

*** add on Tuesday, 11/08/11 *** 

Well, well, well… remember the 2PM appointment to see the surgeon who did the knee replacement?  Funny how things work out. After I wrote the initial post here, I closed out and went to take my mom’s car back to Cherry Valley Health Center so I could take mom the shoes she wanted to wear, her purse, and a small fleece blanket to put over her legs in the medi-transport van that would take her to Redlands for the follow-up appointment.  Her car would not start. 

Oh, it cranked and tried, but it would not turn over and actually start; doubly frustrating because a few hours earlier I had driven it about three miles to the grocery store to pick up a few items to have at home in case the doctor released her from the rehab facility.  But, no, it wasn’t going to start. 

I ended up calling my aunt, who, fortunately, lives in the same home community (Banning Estates), and she quickly drove over to take the things to mom before the medi-transport van left the Center.  Then she volunteered to drive to Redlands with me the doctor’s office (okay, she gave me the keys and I drove her). 

2:20PM appointment, 3:10PM got in to see someone.  First, it was a nurse who said the knee was looking good, and proceeded to remove the 22 staples from her incision.  (A little ‘leakage’ of fluids, a touch of blood quickly wiped away, and a comment to “stop taking the blood thinner!)  Shortly after that the doctor came in, asked to bend the leg back, and was very pleased with the degree of motion… in fact, commenting that he had people much younger and farther along in the recovery process that still couldn’t bend their knee as far or as well.  (Told you, mom’s a tough old bird.) 

With little prompting from mom, and the understanding I would be at her home for the next couple of days, he signed the paperwork releasing her from the rehab care and allowing her to go home.  Yes, she promised, she would continue to do the exercises each day that she had been doing all along and knew from her previous knee replacement on the right leg six years earlier. 

Then it was back to Cherry Valley Health Center, sign all the necessary discharge paperwork, and by 5:45PM she was back home in her own place.  Happy, happy, joy, joy, joy! 

On the way home, in her sister’s car, and since we refused the 5:00PM meal at the rehab site, we ran through Carl’s Jr. for an order of Famous Burger (hold the onion and cheese) and a small order of fries.  You never saw someone so glad to be free of the ‘salt-free, low-carb, diabetic-friendly meal routine they had her on at the Center. 

Tuesday morning. Helped mom get the ‘shower’ chair set up, and with very little added assistance, she took a shower in her own home in her own bathroom, etc. – now a very happy camper.  I fixed her breakfast, and we discussed the things she wanted to do – including calling AAA to have her car towed to a repair facility nearby. 

Home care nurse is supposed to be here by around 11:00AM to do an in-home assessment for safety and ease of use around her home – of course, it’s a quarter-to-1:00PM now and she had called and said she was running late and hoped to be here by 12:30… mom’s gonna lay down for a while until she arrives and then we’ll fix lunch afterwards – assuming she ever gets here.  That’s why I’ve decided to add to this post and update it. < even if I’m not sure when it will get posted on Wednesday > 

We did get the car to the repair shop and hope to hear from them what’s wrong by 2:00PM and how long repairs will take – I’m only here until around 12-noon Wednesday.  

Yes, much has happen today – and the day after – but the bottom line is mom is home, doing good, and full recovery and use of the knee is expected.  See?  Prayers do get answered.