A HARBOR FULL OF GRACE

Angel and I drove to Havre de Grace again a week after the family visit — one of our favorite outings since moving here, only about 20 minutes from Bel Air.  Nobody here pronounces “grace” the fancy French way,  but as in “Amazing Grace.” A good, old flat American “A” is fine with Maryland folks.

A bit of background. Named for a port in France, this charming Harford city, more like a cozy village, is situated where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay, and is a historical area.  In the War of 1812, the British burned and plundered the area.  Now, thank God, it’s a haven of peace and serenity.

The day began gloomy and cloudy, but weather reports were hopeful, and we were rewarded by the sun appearing at noon and a gentle breeze blowing from the water.We both like walking to the lighthouse and back — besides being good exercise, we always see smiling faces, hear friendly greetings, and are both delighted when children run over to ask shyly:  “Can we pet your dog?”  We’d be disappointed if they didn’t!  Had a nice conversation with a young woman who’d lived in Jackson Heights before moving to Maryland, and gave birth to her only son at 41 as I did.  Small world.

Then, walking slowly with a cane, a man coming back the other way, abruptly announcing: “Dogs aren’t allowed here.” But he looked pleasant, not annoyed, so I said I’d seen the notices posted, nobody ever stopped us, and though we may not look like it, Angel was in fact what’s called a “comfort companion,” and I definitely needed one. That’s all I meant to say then, but suddenly found myself sharing about my depression. And was abashed when he told me he was on many medications, had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease over two years ago. We hugged each other, said we’d trust in God, pray for each other, hoped we’d meet there again. And I promised to put him in my next post. So,  John Barton, I did.

When Angel and I got back to the Promenade Grille I ordered the best bowl of New England clam chowder I ever tasted, with a side of three hush puppies, one of which I shared with my friend — couldn’t resist her melting, pleading eyes, though I’ve been careful to keep to her diet and give her Cushing’s Disease medication — she’s much improved now,  even her tail hair has grown back luxuriantly. Adds more zip to her happy wagging.

Indulge this old former English major if I quote Emily Dickinson here:  “Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” I’ve been feeling little flutters now and then.

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OCTOBER SONG

Wrote one sentence yesterday — last day of the month again — on the premise of “well begun is half done,” for a post to be called “September Song,” but never got any further after Kieran and Bethany asked me for dinner and a sleep-over. Mixed up and baked an Irish soda bread, threw Angel’s and my stuff in a bag, and off we went to Baltimore.

Nolan and Jack ran out of the house barefoot to meet us on the front porch, laughing as they sniffed the warm bread.  And there inside was baby Maeve, so responsive at two and a half months, smiling, making happy sounds, waving her arms and legs as we talked to each other. And there was mommy fixing dinner, salad and lasagne for tonight.  Then daddy was home, roughhousing with his sons, letting them slide down his back head first as he held their ankles, then cuddling Maeve.  And gramma got to hold her again, giving her a bottle as she looked steadily into my eyes.

We ate a big chunk of the soda bread this morning —  Jack mostly just the raisins in his slice. Nolan asking for a second piece smeared with cream cheese. I was looking forward to watching his soccer practice after breakfast, but coach called to cancel because of rain soaked, muddy field. Declined invitation to accompany them on alternate family amusement — sneaker shopping for the boys at Kennilworth Mall.  Hugs and kisses goodbye, drove home, missing them all the way.

Last Sunday we all went apple picking at a Churchville farm — donuts and cider, sitting on the floor of a big wagon on the way to the orchard, Jack cautiously choosing only a few, Nolan asking for help carrying his heavy bag. Then to the casual Promenade restaurant at Havre de Grace marina for lunch, followed by joyous sliding and swinging at the harbor playground. Sat contentedly on a bench with Maeve on my lap — with a short break to show Jack that Gramma could still pump a swing — Bethany and Kieran keeping track of Nolan and Jack.

To make up for all this fun, I went to the Abingdon Y this afternoon where I staunchly pedaled an exercise bike for 40 minutes — a personal record. First time Kieran dragged me to his Baltimore Y a couple of months ago, I lasted 10 minutes under protest. He’s  disappointed when I admit I haven’t been “working out” — three days a week is his goal for his nearly 85 year old mom. I’m allowed, for variety, to now and then walk the treadmill at my condo community center.   Wanted to make him happy today.  He was.  Didn’t mind my rewarding myself with a Friendly’s coffee Fribble.  My idea of exercise is a leisurely walk with Angel on a beautiful day, but this doesn’t count, says Kieran.

Started a new antidepressant, Pristiq (Desvenlafaxine), three weeks ago, prescribed by nurse practitioner at Harford Memorial  clinic — cheek swab for DNA showed this medication to be more effective for me.  I’d googled and found that Effexor (Venlafaxine) and Trazodone were to be “used with caution.” Had been feeling groggy for several hours after waking in the morning. Now I’ve learned that Wyeth makes both Efexor and Prestiq,  and that there’s little difference between both.

Trying to keep moving rather than moping at home. And have registered for classes at senior center beginning next week:  Toning and Stretching on Mondays, and Line Dancing on Wednesdays. Started the latter a couple of years ago but dropped out when I couldn’t keep up, was usually on the wrong foot — most took the beginner class over and over, knew every step by heart. But thought I’d give it another try. Better than an exercise bike or treadmill, for sure.

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ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH” Part Three

Some slightly amusing incidents at Hopkins Bayview to lighten the foregoing:

After several days of eating large portions of bland, lukewarm food, became what is euphemistically called irregular.  Went to medication window, told humorless technician I needed laxative. He silently turned around and picked up a syringe.  Alarmed, I gasped:”Is that for me?”  Back still turned, he filled the syringe, mumbling:”It’s for someone else.”

When he visited, Kieran brought the tweezers and small hand mirror I’d asked for, and a nurse supervised as I plucked, standing at a sunny window.  Non-glass, dim mirrors in bathrooms for safety reasons. No nail clippers or files allowed at all.

I wore same long pants most days, hadn’t brought many clothes. One morning,  for a change, put on knee length denim skirt.   Nurse followed me, tapped me on the shoulder saying:  “Please go back to your room and change into something else.”  Apparently concerned that the narrow back slit would reveal a scandalous peek at my thighs.

By the way, had dinner and stayed overnight at Kieran and Bethany’s Saturday night — so good to see them and wonderful grandchildren again. When I went to get car, heavy rain began, dangerous storm on my way home, I was invited to stay. Didn’t want to take Kieran’s temporary bed in guest room, but I did, gratefully.  My son  in charge of Nolan and Jack  in room next door — Jack sometimes wakes crying.  Bethany and Maeve together in another room for nighttime breast feeding.

Kieran slept on futon mattress on floor in dining room. And Sunday morning persuaded me  (very reluctant) to work out on exercise bike at the their Y in Baltimore, and added me to their family membership.  Knees and insteps a little sore today.  But intend to go regularly to Abingdon Y — my son claims exercise boosts spirits.

Collected Angel at Kieran’s, drove to noon Mass at St. Margaret’s, stayed for blessing of the sick as I’ve done before, then to moving  memorial gathering for Charlotte, my good condo neighbor,  who died after bravely enduring several illnesses.  Her family served a generous lunch for relatives and friends in our community room, and spoke movingly of their happy times together. I’ll miss her in apartment C next door.

Have appointment this afternoon with psychiatrist at Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace who monitors  medications.  Not sleeping well with Trazodone at home.  And  an hour or so after taking 150mg of Efexor with breakfast, start to feel groggy and confused. I keep moving anyway, but it’s hard after not much sleep. Had to correct lots of typos on this. Will close for now and take Angel and myself for walk around condo, increasing our melatonin and endorphin levels.

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“ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH” Part Two

Somehow clicked Publish by mistake.  To continue…

Discharged last Tuesday, well enough to continue meds at home, the doctors decided, and I agreed, would visit therapist in Bel Air and psychiatrist at Harford Memorial to monitor prescriptions, do more volunteer work.  Going to see Maeve at last.  Walked to Emergency Room parking lot where left car 16 days before, gave grumpy attendant at exit a letter from social worker stating I’d been an inpatient, forgive fee.

Woman in booth frowned, made phone call, asked me for license, gave me a form to sign, sternly said I’d be billed for $150! I pleaded to no avail, she called for security guard who took his time coming, but was kinder —  went into booth and lifted the gate .  I’d been delayed from Kieran’s, was there over an hour, sometimes standing outside car in hot sun. But social services is now on the case!

Then to Kieran’s, finally got to hold Maeve in my arms, saw Mommy, Daddy and Nolan — Jack napping — couldn’t wait for me. Later went to get Angel from vet — happy to be together again — and home at last.  Saw therapist today, said I wasn’t sleeping well on Trazodone, had tried unsuccessfully to reach Hopkins and Harford Memorial psychiatrists.She reminded me that meds “take time to work.”  I know that, am trying to be patient. Keep me in your prayers

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH…”

I’d told my son I wasn’t doing well the week after coming home from St. Joe’s, and he called on July 7th, persuaded me to come for dinner and stay overnight. That afternoon watched Nolan and Jack happily splashing in a backyard wading pool — with their daddy pretending to be a big fish for them to climb on. The next morning, Kieran talked me into walking a mile long trail with him — exercise creates endorphins and lifts mood, he said, and though I felt a bit unsteady on my feet — he didn’t  seem to notice — I kept up the pace, didn’t want to worry him.

I’d been taking  Paxil for three weeks, prescribed at St. Joe’s, no weaning from the Zoloft and Lithium prescribed at Meadow Wood which I’d been taking for about a month.  Now I was waking often at night,  walking  wobbly, head muddled — and had a urinary infection, a probable side effect of Paxil, I learned. On July 11th, after seeing Dr. Naguib re now cleared urinary infection, but feeling generally miserable, I panicked again and drove to Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital in Baltimore for admission to their behavioral health unit.

Kieran very upset this time.  I’d broken my solemn promise to talk to him first, but knew a brisk walk wouldn’t be enough to help. Took Angel to board at the vet, crying s I left her, I called my son to tell him I was going to another hospital. He tried to persuade me to come to their home, but I was determined. After a sleepless overnight in the noisy Emergency Room, was admitted to the In Patient Psychiatric Unit the next evening, then taken off the St. Joseph’s medicines and prescribed Effexor — an antidepressant I’d been on for fifteen years until last January and was sure had stopped working.

Very long days at Hopkins — working crossword puzzles, reading, taking notes for “The Perils” in the Common Room, talking to other patients. Few group sessions, an occasional craft workshop and sessions led by a nurse or social worker — “How to Find Happiness” the theme of one, led by an almost annoyingly chirpy social worker.

Was surprised many patients were allowed to spend most of the day in bed, some only coming out for meals. Not sleeping well again, given Ambien several nights, then taken off and prescribed Trazodone and Remeron at bedtime. Antidepressants can cause insomnia.  Sleeping medicines can aggravate depression.

Happy news in the  middle of all this:  My beautiful granddaughter, Maeve Gallagher, was born on July 15th, a healthy 8 pounds, 9 ounces.  Sad that I’d have to wait to see and hold her when I was discharged — finally, on July 26th, after an endless two weeks and two days.

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STILL HANGING IN THERE

Today is July 4th — haven’t posted since April 30th — been battling another round of depression. In early May, gradually feeling lower, waking often in bed, panicking after no sleep one night, I contacted the Bel Air Crisis Team, was advised to drive to Meadow Wood Behavioral Health Hospital in Delaware this time.

Kieran was understandably upset — only called him when I arrived there. For seventeen days I was prescribed a potent mix of five medications — Zoloft, Lithium, three others — assigned to the geriatric unit, mostly patients with dementia — sad and disturbing.  Moved to a quieter unit the second week despite my advanced age. Too much free time, just a couple of group meetings a day, telling our moods on a scale of one to ten, our daily goals. Mine was to get out of there!

Struggled at home for a month after discharge, feeling no better, the Lithium apparently causing diarrhea, shakiness and loss of appetite. And was attending out-patient therapy at Harford Memorial three times a week.  About ten patients sitting in a circle, in various stages of wellness, filling out work sheets, a social worker leading discussions and writing on a board. Each three hour session seemed endless.

Still sleeping poorly, and after another night of no sleep, called my son — had promised I’d never again  admit myself to a hospital with talking to him — and we went to Sheppard Pratt, nearer his home.  Sent to GBMC emergency room for tests, Kieran staying with me till admission at midnight.  No beds at Sheppard Pratt, transferred to St. Joseph’s Hospital.  Immediately taken off Zoloft and Lithium, and prescribed Paxil and other meds — discharged after two long weeks.

St. Joseph’s less traumatic than Meadow Wood  — not hard to do — but several trying group sessions a day, including one with crafts or coloring picture books. Tried  to work crosswords and read a novel, though difficult to concentrate. Kieran visited bringing puzzles and snacks — he’s been so caring and wonderful — it  breaks my heart to trouble him and Bethany now — their baby girl due in about a week. Two weeks in St. Joe’s then home.

They visited me with my grandsons yesterday on their way to a friend’s Fourth celebration in Bel Air, and hung room darkening curtains in my bedroom —  Kieran was concerned that the early light woke me up.  I love them all so much. Don’t know what I’d do without them.  So many I met in hospitals without family support.

Another comfort — Kieran and Bethany’s friends Aaron and Kathy, took Angel into their home while I was away this time — my pet recently diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease, on meds twice a day, tomorrow due for blood work to see how they’re working. I love her so much, too, and am worried about her as I was with Honey’s diabetes..

Kieran just called to invite me to a cookout today.  Am foggy and shaky, but know it’s better not to be alone.  Feel like a weakling.  Here I am at 84 in good physical health, while friends my age are having health problems –Marilyn’s heart surgery tomorrow, Charlotte has a recurrence of cancer, Monty in the hospital again, Therese still with a blood clot in her leg and now a broken arm after a fall.

Have been praying and holding on tight to hope. Please remember me in your prayers. Thank you all for hanging in there with me till now.

 

 

 

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RANDOM RAMBLING

Still wasn’t ready to write April 1st. Have tried to post every month, but on the last few days it feels like “deja vu all over again,” as Yogi Berra poetically put it. I’m back in Queens College with a term paper due!?!

Sometimes it’s a slow slog to get the words right — they don’t flow as trippingly from my fingers as they do from my tongue,  often edit after publishing. Speaking of “deja vu,” if you have nothing better to do, see my Introduction’s new first paragraph (April 2011) and additions to “More Dangers, Toils, and Snares” (November 2015).

Now have a grand total of 42 followers — a select group after five years — but loyal and hardy.  Still can’t persuade many to take a look. Back when I began  I emailed friends and relatives about my venture — my brother’s wife immediately replied: “Bill and I don’t do blogs.”   When he called before they left on their latest cruise, I suggested he take a chance, “Be Brave,” I said.  But he reminded me: “Cyn  and I don’t do blogs.”

Am not into Facebook, so have been passing out business cards to people I meet along the way — luring ten more subscribers.  Remember the rich man in the Bible gathering strangers from the highways and byways after those he’d invited didn’t show up at his party?  As I’ve noted, this is a kind of therapy for me.  It’s a bonus if you smile or nod in recognition now and then. That said, here’s what’s been going on since March.. .

The “Downton Abbey” English Tea Party was delightful, though the promised “three course tea” was rather scanty — a three-tiered serving of scones, tiny sandwiches and cupcakes shared by about six guests.  But the final episode was completely satisfying, loose ends neatly tied up, most characters on their way to happily ever after.  I’ll  truly miss the Crawleys and their servants.

The Hogan’s St. Patrick’s celebration was wonderful — open house for babies up to grandparents.  Kieran, Bethany, Nolan and Jack drove from Baltimore, staying several days at Bethany’s sister’s nearby home. I’d flown there that morning. Was happy to see my nephew and his wife, Matt and  Stef, all the way from California. Tim served mounds of  corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots — washed down with gallons of beer, wine and soda. A bagpiper played all afternoon.

The next day was sunny and mild, and we sat outside eating corned beef sandwiches, listening to Irish music, the children improvising step dancing. As Tim’s five-year-old, Caroline, held three green helium balloons, I playfully tapped one too hard, and we watched dismayed as they drifted high, caught in a tree, and floated out of sight. Caroline ran to her mother crying. I know it didn’t comfort her just then, but I said they might land somewhere else, make another child happy. She sniffled and looked thoughtful.     .

I’ve cancelled my trip to Ireland in June, realized  I wouldn’t have as good a time myself at this stage of my life as I did with Kieran and Bethany five years ago. Was so glad they joined me after three day in Dublin on my own. And Angel isn’t as spry as Honey was at nine years of age, pulls back on her leash when she gets tired  walking.

Besides, I’ve had to pay for a new hearing aid — the right one went missing — had already replaced that one under warranty  after Angel mistook it for a chew toy on my coffee table. And I need a new electric dryer — the old one died very inconveniently.

While mommy attended a speech therapist conference in Philadelphia, Kieran brought the boys here last Saturday –games and pizza at Chuck e Cheese; fun at home with books, toys, and a boisterous round of hide-and-seek; spaghetti with meat sauce for supper, vanilla ice cream and strawberries for dessert; baths and stories at bedtime. Among the memories  — in the middle of playing, Nolan suddenly looked up, announcing:  “I missed you Gramma.”

Sunday morning my domesticated son loaded the washing machine with sheets and towels.  Followed by silence from the adjoining appliance.  Picture damp laundry draped over door jambs and furniture for a couple of days.  Home Depot to deliver new dryer Tuesday.

After my family left, went to Mass, then drove to Towson to see the play “Detroit ’67,” presented by Center Stage, temporarily at Towson University while their Baltimore theater is renovated. A gripping story of a black brother, sister and  friends during the violence in that tormented city, beautifully acted and produced. Talked to a pleasant woman sitting next to me at intermission — she’s been enjoying Center Stage offerings for 30 years. I’ve subscribed to the 2016-2017 season starting in November.

On the national front, I’ve donated $100 to Bernie’s campaign and voted for him in the Maryland primary.  I’m more optimistic after his  winning streak, am weary of hearing Hillary is inevitable. It’s a gut feeling, but never liked her as First Lady, Senator, presidential candidate, or Secretary of State.  And here she comes again –the Energizer Bunny, beating her own drum.  The motley assortment of 18 Republican candidates has been winnowed down to three — Trump as strange as his hairdo, Cruz just plain scary, and Kasich seemingly sane and reasonable. I’d vote for him over Hillary if, by some fluke, he’s nominated at a contested convention.

Bernie is real,  and his plans are possible with grassroots support. What’s so outlandish about free state college tuition?  Queens College was free when I went there. Our country is heading in a disastrous direction, the middle class disappearing, the wealthy living in luxury, the rest waiting on them. “Upstairs Downstairs.”  “Downton Abbey.” My grandmother a maid in rich people’s homes.

More in May. Maybe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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