Throwback Thursday: My Grandma

This TBT falls on what would have been my Grandma Roth’s 92nd birthday. It is her third birthday in Heaven, so it seems only appropriate to honor her on the blog today. At the end, I’ll include the tribute I wrote and (very tearfully) read at her memorial service.

Grandma in High School

Grandma in High School

Grandma (48) and Grandpa (52) in 1970. They were married for 59 years.

Grandma (48) and Grandpa (54) in 1970. They were married for 59 years.

Grandma meeting me in 1974. This is possibly the first photo of us together.

Grandma meeting me in 1974. This is possibly the first photo of us together.

Grandma meeting my nephew Jonah in 2008.

Grandma meeting my nephew Jonah in 2008. She absolutely loved babies!

One of my indelible memories of my grandparents is of them turning off the TV in the evening and taking out their Bibles for a little while. Grandma continued doing this until she became to weak to do so. What a legacy of faith!

Grandma and her Bible. One of my indelible memories of my grandparents is of them turning off the TV in the evening and taking out their Bibles for a little while. Grandma continued doing this until she became to weak to do so. What a legacy of faith!

This is the last photo of us together. When we took it, I had a feeling it would be. (Dec 2010)

This is the last photo of us together. When we took it, I had a feeling it would be. (Dec 2010)

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Mom tells me I was 2½ the first time she packed me into the backseat of my Grandparent’s car and sent me South for a few days.   Staying all by myself with them became a regular occurrence during my childhood.  In my younger years, Grandpa was still working, so it was often just my Grandma and me together all day.  I have such fond memories of those times.  From my earliest memories of my time there, one of the daily constants were the walks Grandma and I took.    

Grandma and Grandpa still lived on 122nd  when our walks began.  Grandma and I would set out from their home, within sight of I-84, and walk up to the Herfy’s on the corner of 122nd and Halsey, which I insistently called “Perky’s,” for coffee and a treat for me.   I now know that walk was ¾ of a mile one way!  Quite a jaunt for little legs.  Approximately half-way along our route, there was a pedestrian overpass.  Grandma would consent to let me walk up the steps and stand on the walkway to look down on traffic, but I could not go all the way across.  I’ll never forget the day when she actually let me walk all the way across the overpass and down the steps on the other side all by myself, as long as I came right back.  I’m sure she was not enjoying the experience one bit, but I felt so grown-up and big!

From the overpass we’d continue on our way.  There was a vacant lot just before the corner at Halsey that Grandma and I would cut through on our way to and from the restaurant.  It was full of trees, and Grandma and I would often stop there, sit on a stump, and watch the planes coming into Portland International, looking for “Flying Bananas” (bright yellow planes one airline used), before heading home.

These walks went on, day after day, visit after visit, year after year.  Just Grandma and me.  I never remember Grandpa joining us.  

But times change.  Herfy’s became Arctic Circle and eventually Arby’s.  The vacant lot was fenced in, the trees cut down, and new office buildings built.  Grandpa retired, and, when the urban paradise that was their yard grew too much for him to maintain on his own, the house of my childhood was sold, and they moved to the duplex on 162nd.  The walks continued, though changed.  After the move, we’d walk around the housing development behind their place, oohing and ahh-ing at the houses (we even “trespassed” on a job site and took a self-guided tour of a house in progress) .  Grandpa started joining us, and was with us on that clandestine excursion.  Eventually, the walks moved indoors, into the malls around Portland.  I think Lloyd Center was my favorite.  Grandpa usually did his own thing, and met us at the skating rink at an appointed time.

As time went on, and Grandpa’s dementia progressed, even these walks became too much, and my walks with Grandma ceased altogether.  I’d still walk around the neighborhood by myself, but it wasn’t the same.   I’ve missed those walks ever since.  

Several years ago, I found a plaque with this poem on it and gave it to Grandma.  It epitomizes my memories of my walks with her.  

Walking With Grandma

I like to walk with grandma,

Her steps are short like mine.

She doesn’t say “Now hurry up”,

She always takes her time.

I like to walk with grandma,

Her eyes see things like mine do –

Wee pebbles bright, a funny cloud,

Half hidden drops of dew.

Most people have to hurry,

They don’t stop and see

I’m glad that God made Grandma.

Unrushed, and young like me.

~Poem by Thena Smith~

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In The Wee Hours (and a little FO Friday)

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“Sitting here in the wee hours of the morning, knitting as I rock in a rocking chair while my little patient sleeps a few feet away in her crib, one thing is clear: I have turned into the ‘quiet old lady’ from Goodnight Moon.”

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This Wednesday marked my 17th anniversary working in medically intensive home health care (MIHC). It’s a specialized field that most people aren’t typically aware of and is different from hospice or visiting nursing. Basically, “medically intensive” means the person receiving care is dependent on medical interventions or life-sustaining equipment that require them to be monitored one-on-one by a nurse at home. An example of a person needing such care would be Christopher Reeves, who was dependent on a ventilator after his spinal cord injury. While a visiting nurse (or home health nurse) may come to a person’s home and provide care for 1-2 hours and may see several individuals a day, a MIHC nurse spends a full 8, 10, or 12 hour shift caring for one individual. I am employed by an agency whose name I won’t disclose here. I have been with them for all of these 17 years.  

I used to work with adult and pediatric clients (patients), but 13 years ago, I decided to focus solely on peds/kids. I also decided to work nights. Yes. Consciously decided. I am a true night owl! Working day shift…having to get up at 0-dark-thirty…was brutal. I tell people all the time that I’d rather stay up to see the sunrise than get up to see it. Nights have been a great fit! This was proven to me again two years ago when I was recovering from surgery. I just decided to let my body tell me when it wanted to sleep, and consistently found myself going to bed around 4 or 5 AM! But I digress.

The children I work with (you’ll see me refer to them as “kiddo” or “little one”) require care for a variety of reasons, from muscle disorders to airway anomalies to cerebral palsy. Each child is different, even ones with the same diagnosis. I counted it up a few years ago and figured then that I had cared for around 25 different kiddos over the years. Currently, I work with three kiddos, though I am trained on a few more cases as well. The kiddo I was with Wednesday night is a preschooler with a muscle disease who has a tracheostomy and ventilator as well as a feeding tube. Tonight, I’m with a kiddo who also has a trach and feeding tube due to an airway annomalie, but is otherwise a typically developing toddler. She is doing well and may graduate (not need nursing anymore) sometime next year. My third “kiddo” is my one exception to the kids-only rule. She is in her 20’s and has a trach, ventilator, and feeding tube due to a neurological disease. I’ve been with her for 10 years. She’s a hoot!

So, what does a typical shift look like? It depends on the kiddo. Wednesday’s child was pretty “heavy care,” meaning she requires a lot of interventions, from airway management (suctioning, nebulizer treatments, etc.) to position changes every hour or so. My shift tonight is rather “light” by comparison. This little one is independent as far as positioning goes, so it’s mostly observing and intervening as necessary (clearing mucous from her trach, scheduled feedings). Being a typical toddler, the hardest thing about caring for her is that she can, and sometimes does, fight my efforts.  I use my eyes and ears a lot as well as a monitor keeping track of my little one’s oxygen level (all my kiddos have this). I tell my friends that, in my line of work, a good night is often a boring night. He he. If my kiddo slept well and nothing out of the ordinary happened and they didn’t require care beyond what is usual for them, it’s a good night. 😉 So far, tonight has been a good night.

One response I get frequently when I tell people what I do is, “It must be so hard to work with sick kids.” To which I always reply, “My kids aren’t sick,” and, for the most part, they aren’t. Sure, like everyone, they can occasionally become sick, but their general, baseline state is not “sick.” They are “differently abled” or “medically fragile.” Sometimes, it is hard, though. When one of my kiddos gets sick, they can become very sick. It can be scary! When a child is in pain, and the available interventions don’t seem to work, that is hard. It doesn’t happen often, but I did have one child who seemed agitated or uncomfortable at least 50% of the time. She was nonverbal and significantly delayed, so she couldn’t tell us what was wrong or how to help, and nothing we did seemed to ease her discomfort. That was very difficult! Cases like that, at least for me, are rare.

Another response I get when describing the kids I work with is, “Oh that’s so sad.” Well…no, not really. At least not most of the time.  While their diagnoses may affect their physical or mental abilities, the kids I work with don’t generally seem to be bothered much by them. By that I mean that they are…well…kids. Their normal is their normal. It’s important to remember that. It’s important to remember that they are not their diagnosis. They are kids, first and foremost, and it’s vital to be able to look past the equipment, past the disease, and see the child. (That’s actually true for adults as well, btw.) My kiddos are sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes silly, sometimes mad just like any other kid. Some go to school. Some are too young or too fragile to do so. Some, the very littles, need to be held and rocked in the night (yay!). As far as it  being sad goes, I’m sure their parents have times of grieving, and as my kiddos grow, the ones with lifelong diagnoses may experience times of grieving, too. Supporting them through those times is part of my job as well, but generally feeling sad or sorry for them is not. I hope that makes sense and doesn’t sound calloused or harsh. 

Hmm… I seem to have gotten on a bit of a soapbox there.

Anyway, that’s my job in a nutshell. I enjoy my job, and, after 17 years, I’m not too shabby at it. Can I see myself doing this indefinitely? Maybe, but I don’t even know what I’ll be doing this time next year…or tomorrow, for that matter. Only One knows what my future holds, and He’s not all that into full disclosure. 😉 For now, I’ll keep enjoying what I do…and the crafting/reading time it provides. That leads me to FO Friday. I shall leave you with a trio of baby hats I knit over the past week or so.

Have a good Friday!

~Janet

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