Friday, January 28, 2011

changes in our household

Paul is home--he said he could pack himself up and come home but in the end I went to Clinton and helped him.  A few minutes after he left in his car, he called to say he had gone off the road.  He was in a ditch, uninjured and with very minor damage to the car.  So I went to help him and we waited an hour for AAA.  Then we waited another 45 minutes for someone to bring John to drive one car home, as I figured Paul was too shaken for it to be wise for him to drive home.

It gave us good talking time.  I said that when he has been home from college, I have treated that as a vacation and asked him to do very little.  But now that he is home to live, I hope to treat him less like my child to take care of and more like a roommate sharing in the work of running the household.  I said eventually I would even like him to start taking a turn cooking for us all.  His response to that was that it probably wouldn't be very good, but he seemed comfortable with the idea.  I also said I was glad to have him home to help with John.  Paul asked what that might involve and I said the first step is that I want him to learn to put on John's socks (it requires learning because John is sensitive about his feet and Paul puts his own socks on any which way).

I told Paul last night that I would buy him orange juice this afternoon when I went to the store, but if he wanted it sooner he could go to the store for himself.  He said "That would work, I went to BiLo a lot at school." 

Step 1: Integrate Paul into the household as a partner.  That is going well so far.
Step 2: Help him find volunteer work to do.
Step 3: Figure out possible changes in the house so he has better space.
Step 4: When does he want to start taking courses at the community college?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

moving home

When I planned the renovation and move to this smaller house, I assumed that Paul would be in college.  There is a large attic bedroom with its own bath, which I gave to Elizabeth, who has filled it with her stuff.  It has a motel style heating and air conditioning unit, which can be left off when she is not home.

John has three rooms downstairs.  I originally wanted him to have two of the rooms and leave the third for Paul, but he didn't like that idea.  John has a sitting room with his TV and a bedroom, both crammed with his stuff.  And then there is a room that is partly Paul's room, but it also has John's partial kitchen.  John makes his breakfast and lunch there, and his endless cups of icewater.  Paul has a bed tucked in a corner and a bookcase and a good-sized closet with shelves.  That has worked fine while Paul has been in college--I like having Paul a little more integrated into the family rather than shut away in his room all the time, and he doesn't have a lot of stuff.

But it doesn't seem fair if Paul is going to be living at home for him not to have his own room.  The trouble is, this is an oddly laid out house, and there just isn't another room.  If he switched with Elizabeth there just wouldn't be room for Elizabeth's stuff.  The main floor is open; my bedroom is the only room with doors, and even it is also the passageway to the screened porch.  John isn't going to be willing to give up any of his space.  I've been laying awake at night trying to figure out how to make Paul a room by finishing half of the unfinished basement area, but it has huge insulation-wrapped HVAC ducts and a washer and dryer that can't really go anywhere else.  If it didn't include the washer and dryer his room would be 8 feet by 9 feet, and would need to have two 3 foot doors (because of access needed to the other part of the basement).  It would have ductwork, some of it with only 74 inches clearance from the floor, and rusty pipes.  It would have a basement window, in a window well.  John wouldn't be happy having to move the stuff he has stored there, but that I am willing to fight.

I need to let go of this and go back to sleep.  Paul didn't come home yesterday--he said packing up took longer than expected and he will come home today.  I need to wait for him to come home and talk about the issue together, not try to solve it myself.  I don't know how he trades off privancy versus the walls not closing in on him.  I wish we could at least move the washer and dryer, but the problem is dryer venting.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

leaving college

My son is withdrawing from college today.  We had a good conversation Saturday and made the plan together.  He would see if he could get his act together this week, and if not he would come home.  I was a little worried that he would get his act together and then not be able to keep it up, so I was thinking the best thing was probably for him to come home.  But I am surprised by how much it hurts.

As a senior in high school he had no doubt that he wanted to go to college.  With two parents who are/were professors, part of the problem is that he can't imagine doing anything else.  He went off in fall 2009 to St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, which had been his first choice.  It turned out not to be the supportive place I had imagined because it is so small, and after the first semester they told him he couldn't come back.  I didn't want him to come home and have to deal with his father's illness, so I arranged for him to go to Presbyterian College, which had been his second choice.  Spring semester a year ago he worked with an academic coach and his grades were As and Bs.  Over the summer he took courses at our local community college and completed his language requirement, with an A in Spanish 201.

This past fall went less well.  He was having trouble with at least one course, and then he got sick and missed more than a week of school (he tested positive for both influenza and strep throat).  After than, he had trouble catching up. We arranged for a medical withdrawal from one course and he got through the semester with a B and two C+s in his other courses because I went three days and sat with him in the library all afternoon and made sure he worked.

We hoped this semester would be better, but after the snow days he stopped going to class and to his appointments with his academic coach.  He doesn't report the anxiety of last fall, he says he just doesn't feel like going to class and can't make himself.  So he is coming home, hopefully on a medical withdrawal.  He thinks he wants to take one course at a time at the local community college, and I want him to find some volunteer work.

When we talked Saturday we talked about how maybe he just isn't ready for college yet, needs more time for his brain to develop.  I said if he was home I would expect him to do some work for me, and he said he could understand that.  I will expect him to help with his father and aunt.  While I had been trying to protect him from that, I see his coming home as a different path.  We will see where that leads us.


A few weeks ago I used to print this blog into two printed volumes to save that stage of my life for the future.  I thought it was a good time because I have stopped writing--it was a record of my life from 2002 to 2008.  But it made me value the blog more as a permanent record of my thoughts and evolution.  So I just imported all the posts I wrote on a different blog, about my husband's illness, so that would be combined with the record here.  I've also posted here some items I first posted in Facebook.

I had used a separate blog because I saw that as a different audience and because I knew my daughter read this blog and I didn't want to burden her too much with my feelings.  But we are all more adjusted now (and she has probably stopped reading this blog because I have not written in so long).  And I have something I want to write about, and realized I wanted to write in my own place, not on some discussion board.  That post will follow.  Then I realized I have written several things in scattered places, and I have gathered them here to be that continuing record.

Friday, January 21, 2011

a personal reflection on elder care issues

I wrote a piece on this topic for my professional society's newsletter, which you can read here. I am getting nice feedback on Facebook.


My husband is in the very early stages of dementia--he still makes his own plans, though he moves too slowly to do much and he gets confused sometimes. Eight months or so ago he started to go with me to some monthly church suppers where people talk about their lives, and I wasn't too happy because he told me I couldn't talk about my frustrations with him. But he tends to isolate himself, so I decided he needed that group more than I did and I would do it his way. The group is meeting tonight, and he said several weeks ago he did want to go.

He has had some swelling in his legs that got worse, so the doctor wrote him a prescription for a diuretic. He got the prescription today. He told me yesterday that he had decided not to go to the dinner today because of the effects of starting the diuretic. That seemed reasonable. But when I called him this afternoon, he said he was going to postpone the first dose of diuretic and go out to dinner with some friends of his. I'm so angry, but there is no point in expressing it at him when he is no longer capable of learning to be more thoughtful.

Our son meanwhile flunked out of one college and then did really well at a second college last spring. He had some problems in the fall because he missed a week with the flu, but we hoped the spring would be better. But he didn't show up for a meeting with his academic coach yesterday and isn't answering his phone or email last night or today.

My therapist's office messed up and gave someone else an appointment next week that I had sent them two emails saying I wanted. They can give me another one not as good, but it does feel like my safety net is unreliable.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Christmas letter

Here's what we sent this year:

Dear Friends,

We have had a much easier year this year, happily moved into our renovated house. We enjoyed tomatoes, snow peas, and even eggplant from our two raised bed gardens.

John’s illness is progressing slowly. He is still able to travel, including a trip to Bremen, Germany, and Stockholm with Andreas and Nino, German friends from graduate school days. He enjoys organizing wine dinners and a local group called Drinking Liberals. We celebrated John’s 65th birthday in August with a small dinner party. We drank a bottle of 1842 Madeira we had bought on our honeymoon in Madeira in 1987.

Pam spent a lot of time this year helping Elizabeth with the college process. Pam did do one short triathlon in the fall but is doing less training than in recent years. The Science and Technology in Society program she runs is hanging in there, though it has been a stressful year because her closest colleague in the program had a successful heart transplant. Her new excuse for some peaceful time is fountain pens with many colors of ink.

Elizabeth is loving her senior year at Concord Academy. She and Pam took a long road trip to visit colleges last summer after Elizabeth finished a summer course for high school students at University of Chicago in Egyptology. She is interested in studying ancient Near Eastern archeology and also preparing for a graduate program in art conservation, with the idea of eventually working in a museum with archeological artifacts. She has decided to apply to Emory, George Washington University, University of Delaware, Bryn Mawr, Boston University, Brown University, and Harvard.

St. John’s College did not work out for Paul, but he moved in spring 2010 to Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC, where he had a very successful spring semester. He finished up his language requirement over the summer at our local community college. This fall has been tougher—we arrived for parents’ weekend to find him so sick Pam took him to the doctor, where he tested positive for both strep throat and influenza. Catching up after missing more than a week was a bit overwhelming.

We’ve simplified our lives a lot, which reduces the stress of the unexpected things that come up. We don’t have the control over our own lives we expected, but life is rich in its details.

Pam, John, Paul and Elizabeth