Thank you, everyone, for your kind words and well wishes during the past two weeks. I appreciate them. We’ve been tying up loose ends related to Duane’s life and death, and we’re nearly finished with everything.
- Duane’s memorial service is this Sunday. I’ve been collecting photos from family members, and have put together a slide show of memories. After the memorial service is over, the final loose end will be his financial accounts. We’re prepped to handle those, however, and are just waiting on the death certificate.
- One of my rooms downstairs is filled with Duane’s collections of ancient coins and Magic: The Gathering cards. The coins are a mystery to me. I watched as he collected them over the years, but I never bothered to learn anything about them. Why would I? Now, I wish I’d paid attention. The cards, on the other hand, I can handle. There are many of them — my guess is a minimum of 168,000 cards and perhaps twice that number — and they’re largely unorganized, which means I have months of work ahead of me in order to sell them. But I understand the game and I understand collectibles, so this is all within my ken. It’s just a lot of work.
- Kim and I have decided not to adopt any more of Duane’s fish. This was a difficult decision. Duane very much wanted me to take his fish, especially the nineteen Mbuna cichlids. And there’s a part of me that wants to have them. They’d be fun. It would honor his memory. But I also know that the fish would be a hassle, that they don’t fit with our long-term plans. So, if nobody else in the family wants them we’ll donate the fish to a pet store, then sell or donate the fish equipment.
Things have been complicated slightly because I got sick. Duane’s extended family was passing around a nasty cold for much of April, and I managed to catch it the day after he died. It laid me low for several days. (And now, at this very moment, Kim is home sick from work with the same cold.) Fortunately, it’s not COVID.
Things have also been complicated because my mother’s health issues have recently reached a sort of crisis.
More Adventures with Hospice
Last week, just days after my cousin Duane died, the memory director at Happy Acres contacted us. “We think you should consider placing your mother in hospice,” she said.
I was gobsmacked. Why?
Mom has been suffering from undiagnosed memory issues for over a decade, and she struggles with both anemia and diabetes. But these are all chronic conditions. She doesn’t have a terminal diagnosis. Why would she need hospice?
The past ten days have changed my mind.
Mom has lost fifteen pounds during the past month. She no longer shows much interest in food (except milkshakes). Her chronic digestion issues continue, as do her chronic urinary tract infections. Now, she’s losing the ability to walk. She’s begun to fall. Since the middle of April, she’s had four E.R. trips due to falling. She looks like she’s been in a brawl.
And, as of this week, Mom has begun experiencing incontinence. All this is to say that I’ve overcome my resistance to the idea that she should be in hospice. Maybe she should. It can’t hurt, and maybe it will help.
The doctors are still mystified as to exactly what’s going on with my mother. One huge barrier to diagnosis is that she is essentially non-verbal. If Mom has a strong emotion, she can communicate. When we were driving her home an appointment the other day, she croaked, “Burgerville.” She wanted a milkshake. If I show her photos or video of her cat (the cat that Kim and I have adopted), Mom brightens. “That’s my baby,” she says as she holds my phone.
Mostly, though, she says nothing.
She hardly responds to questions. Sometimes she’ll nod or shake her head or smile, but mostly she offers no reaction. (My sister-in-law took her to a doctor’s appointment last week. Steph says that Mom said nothing for the entire trip except one word when they got back in the car: “cashews”. She knew Steph had cashews in the car.)
Because Mom does not (cannot? will not?) tell us what she’s thinking or feeling or experiencing, all we and the doctors can do is act on what we observe. They’ve run tests to discover why she’s been vomiting blood for the past six months, but they’ve found nothing amiss. Same with the UTIs. Same with the memory issues.
“Look, I know this is frustrating,” her doctor told me during a one-hour video call in February. “And I wish we had some answers for you. Trust me when I say, however, that all of these tests are helpful. They may not tell us what’s wrong, but they allow us to rule out many possible problems.”
And so here we are today. Today, my brother and I signed the paperwork to admit Mom into hospice care. We don’t believe she’ll die anytime soon, but we also know that the assisted living facility isn’t equipped to send her to the emergency room six to eight times each month. It’s unreasonable to expect that.
With hospice, Mom will have a nurse visit two or three times each week. Whenever something happens that might otherwise send her to the E.R. — she vomits blood, she falls, etc. — a hospice nurse will be to her within half an hour to make sure everything is okay.
I’ll admit that there’s a part of me (a big part of me) that wants to move Mom in with me and Kim. We have the space. She could have the entire downstairs to herself, and she could be reunited with her beloved cat. Plus, I’ve just spent two months providing hospice care for my cousin, so I have a rough idea of what to expect.
I also recognize this remains a poor idea. It was a poor idea a decade ago. It was a poor idea last year. It’s a poor idea now. It’s a poor idea every time it occurs to me.
Mom needs professional care. Duane’s situation was different. He was a healthy young(-ish) man at the end of his life. Mom is an older woman whose health has been declining for more than a decade. The staff of the assisted living facility know her and care for her. They have training that I don’t. So, I’ll let go of the idea that she should live with us…for now.
So Much To Do
I don’t expect that Mom’s situation will require as much time and attention as Duane’s did. We’re paying $7000 per month for trained professionals to give her the best possible care. Still, I expect to devote one day each week to her.
Meanwhile, there’s so much that I want (or need) to get done in other corners of my world. My life has been on hold for almost three months now. I’m eager to resume it. There are a lot of big projects looming on the horizon:
- I’m fat and want to get fit. I joined a local gym here in Corvallis in the middle of February. I exercised there four times before I began spending most of my time with Duane. I want to begin exercising again. In fact, I want my physical fitness to become my top priority for the remainder of the year.
- Kim and I had intended to do a couple of landscaping projects this spring. One project — a side fence — is very important to her. Another — landscaping the front yard — is important to me. I’ve had no time to start on these (or other) chores, but I want to do so before the ground turns hard for the summer.
- I have drastic plans for Get Rich Slowly. (Drastic but good.) I’ve written 5000+ words about my thought process but the short version is this: I hate what the modern internet has become. I loathe it. And I’m sad that Get Rich Slowly is some small part of that. I want to strip this site of most (all?) advertising, adopt a minimalist layout, and revert to something closer to the blogging style I used twenty years ago. If you want me to write exclusively about money, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re one of those who is happy to read any of my musings (financial or otherwise), you’ll be pleased. Again, I’d started moving this direction in January and February before getting derailed by Duane’s situation. I need to find/make time to resume this work.
- I need to re-write the software for the family box factory. My father wrote the original programs in 1985 using an Atari ST computer. I re-wrote the programs in 1998 using Visual Basic on a Windows PC. Now, in 2022, it’s time to write a third iteration of our software, and that’s a project that will take a couple of months. (One challenge is that I’ll need to learn a new programming environment. I think I’m going to use Xojo, which will allow me to build cross-platform apps.)
- I want to explore volunteering with hospice. Duane’s death changed me in some very profound ways. While I was caring for him, my depression and anxiety vanished completely. (They’ve resurfaced some in the past ten days.) The reasons for this are obvious: As everyone always says, one of the best ways to overcome anxiety and depression is to help other people. Plus, as difficult as it was to help Duane die, I found the experience so, so meaningful. Anyhow, I feel as if I might be able to do some good in this world by helping with hospice, and I want to explore how I can help.
During the past ten days at home, I’ve either been sick or been dealing with issues that require my immediate attention. I’ve had no time to dive into these deeper projects. Now, as things settle, I want to pursue them in the order listed above.
That means the first two things I’ll be working on are my fitness and our home. It might take a week or two to get these projects moving, but once I have some forward momentum I can then resume my work on this website. I’m eager to do so! I have a clear vision of what I want Get Rich Slowly to be, and I wish that I could simply snap my fingers to make it happen. In reality, I know it’ll be a slow, slow transition. The sooner I can get it started, the better.