The Hills Are Alive

Note: This post was written before Pearl’s passing. As far as we know she no longer hums.

One summer Pearl stayed with her daughter for a couple of days. When she returned, she brought with her a little something extra. A hum. It stops only when she is asleep.

This may not sound like a big deal, but it becomes extremely nerve-wracking to live with. It continues when we clean, when we listen to music, when we watch television, when we talk to each other, when we read, pay bills, visit with family, go somewhere, shop, nap, etc, etc, etc. But the worst time of all, is when we eat.

Asking her to stop or pointing out that she is humming again will get a chuckle from her. “I guess it’s a habit”, she’ll answer, then with the next breath, she will up the volume (hers goes to 11).  I chalk this up to a memory loss and hearing loss combo. I know she isn’t doing it on purpose, or she would be forgetting to keep it up.

Ron and I play music during dinner to no avail. I will often plug in my headphones to drown it out but she is louder or deeper or something. I can still hear it. We believe that her hearing loss is so severe that she can’t hear herself humming.

When she lived alone, she would phone us to report a buzzing noise that got worse when she went to bed. We left whatever we were doing to drive over and investigate at different times of the day or night. We got nothing. Not even the sound of the furnace or freezer. We tried to explain to her what tinnitus is, but she was insulted that we thought it was all in her head.

Tinnitus is a sound of roaring, buzzing, tapping, ringing etc. It’s often called “ringing in the ears”, it has many causes but can become very loud to the patient who is losing hearing. Weird, right? Lying with her head on the pillow amplified the sounds.

She was convinced that her neighbor was running a machine at night, as the sound was always louder when she was in her bed on the side of the house nearest his. She was also convinced that he was using her electricity to run aforementioned machine.

Not the end of the story! Read on…

She called the police on him. More than once. One day as we approached her front step while he was in his yard, she pulled us aside and said this, “Don’t believe anything he says about me. None of it is true.”

Truthfully, I was a little excited to hear what he had to say, but he just gave us a nod and went into his house. I guess he was used to it.

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Shop and Don’t Stop


About 10 years ago my daughter and I took Pearl (my ninety plus year old mother in law) out shopping thinking she would enjoy Chico’s. Ladies, how many places can you still shop and comfortably try on a size three? My kind of miracle. As Pearl was a true size three, everything was too large for her. I found some earrings on sale and then we left. She announced that she didn’t like that old lady store, we ended up at Sears.

Some tips for shopping for our older loved ones:  It is important to give seniors easy clothing, pull on pieces with few fasteners that often confuse and make getting dressed difficult. To make it easier to pull items on and off, steer  clear of tight clothing. However, watch pant lengths as they can be a fall hazard. Involve them in the color and style choices of course, they still have opinions.

Layers are good especially when going in and out of air conditioning. (We once had to get a dirty sweatshirt from the trunk of the car for her in a restaurant. The temp was 102 that day but in the air conditioning I was looking for the telltale signs of frostbite.)

When Grandma was 97 I snuck into her room in the spring and got rid of all her shorts before she tried to go out in them and we ended up on the “Seen at Walmart” page. I do think there’s a cutoff point after which only capri pants are good for summer, 97 seemed a fair age. Heck, I hit that point at 62.

Another thing we had to do away with was her slide-on sandals with the little heel. That lady was catching herself on the stairs at least once a day in her cute little shoes. It was just a matter of time until she took a hip-breaking tumble.

Hiding any woman’s shoes is an endeavor fraught with peril. We were less nervous the year we took her late husband’s car keys from him. Ron and I used the “Bait and Switch” technique, it went something like this (The bait):

“Hey, Mom, do you want to go shoe shopping?

“Oh, Yes, just let me get my purse.”

At the shoe store she found a pair of white canvas tennis shoes and a good sturdy pair of loafers. We added to these a few pairs of ankle socks (in various trim colors) (buy one get one) and we were done and headed home.

It took about two weeks for her pleasant post-shopping haze to wear off before she started to ask for her sandals. Dang it, we tore that house apart looking for those shoes. Just where could they be? She never found out the truth. In a highly secretive and complicated mission involving the store clerks (the switch), we had placed her “sandals of death” in the shoe box and left it at the store.

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Retirement Is A Walk In The Park

This post is dedicated to D. You know who you are. Years and miles do not separate friends.

I retired a step at a time.

Step One.  Go from full to part time. Do that for a month                                                       Step two.  Break it to my class that I will not be returning next term, then run like crazy.     Step Three.  Sub as needed for a couple of months. (Hug my former students at this time as by now they have forgiven me).  Not so sure about my former boss, though. (Hug her anyway). 

I was excited about being one of the people out running errands in the middle of the day. I was excited to get to walk and keep in shape. I was excited about my soon-to-be immaculate house. I was excited about yard work. I was not excited about my newer lower income, but you have to take the bitter with the sweet.

First whole day home. Take a hike. Ron and I walked to the nearby grocery store two and a half miles away, then back again.



I collapsed into the chair at home with imaginary headlines running through my mind: Wet woman found dead on street on first day of retirement. News clips of my grieving children asking “Why why why” running through my mind. But. That’s not the worst part. Not even close.

Before I go on, let me give you all a little tip: Never. Again I say Never walk 2.5 miles after coffee, cause that’s how far I got before disaster struck.

Yes, it happened. I say this because I do not want to admit that I had anything to do with it. It Happened! It Happened, alright? I peed my pants.

Soooo, that required some evasive maneuvering, agreed?

Here’s where I tell you a story. My friend speaks of the time she’s at the drag races with MR. Perfect Date.  She’s wearing her cute little jeans, he’s got his arm around her shoulder, the night has promise…till she has to use the ladies’. The line snakes around the building. (Possibly the reason that snakes are perceived as evil) and I think you can guess the rest. Yeah.

Quick thinker that she is, she steps to the sink, rips off the jeans and hoses them.

This is why women should rule the world.

Back to my predicament. Hubby followed close to my posterior side, and I slunk into the bathroom, hopefully avoiding discovery.

“Oh boy!” I panicked, ” I have to remove my shorts and rinse them out at the sink. The one NOT behind closed doors. The one leaving me naked and shivering in front of whoever comes in… including the janitor!” I wasn’t really naked but the fear was the same.

Risky behavior for someone who stops at all yellow lights. But sometimes you just gotta sink or swim.  And sink them I did, then wrung them out and stepped into them, blotted the excess and I was off to the races. No one the wiser. Except me.

Disaster averted.

At home here’s  how the rest of my day went:

Step One.  Shower

Step Two.  Laundry

Step Three.  Nap

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#BlogTour – Murder Strikes A Pose by @TracyWeberTypes #Mystery #Yoga

#BlogTour – Murder Strikes A Pose by @TracyWeberTypes #Mystery #Yoga.

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The Getaway

We have our house on the market. This all started when Pearl was with us. Our go to place when we have a showing is the library. Great idea, right? Close by, free, lots of fresh magazines to choose from, and of course, the books books books. (and computers) and books. Our library boasts cozy little reading areas throughout, we sit with our feet up on the ottoman reading. Just like home. Except there’s no TV. It works great for me, pretty OK for Ron and was sheer hell for Pearl. She was just not a reader. Let me put it this way: she liked the idea of reading- make that- looking like she’s reading. At home she could dine for days on one page from the Sunday paper.

Pearl: Charmin 7.88. Gosh, that’s high.

Ron: Yes, toilet paper is expensive. (subtext: so use less than a roll a day. Please. )

An hour later, Pearl: Maybelline, floor wax, Charmin, 7.88. Gosh, that’s high.

Back to the library.

Declining reading matter, she just sat. Looked around. Asked the occasional question.

Pearl: Where are we?

Us: the library



Librarian: Shhh!

Pearl: Why are we waiting?


Librarian: Shhh!

Pearl: Oh, that’s right. WHERE WILL WE LIVE?

Librarian: Shhh!!

Pearl: WHAT?

In honor of Library Week this post is dedicated to the Mid Continent Public Library, one of my favorite places in town. They keep the whole world in there. Visit often.


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A Spoonful Of Medicine Or Sugar Or Something

 Note: This post was written in late 2013, a few weeks prior to Pearl’s passing

 It’s a curious thing to me, but Pearl loves to take her medicine. Remembering back to the days her husband, “Doc”, was alive, she would get an Rx and take one dose then Never touch it again. She had a side effect from EVERYTHING she tried. Usually it was stomach pain. Vitamins, pain meds, solutions, Senna (okay, that one I get) or whatever. Her counter held an assortment of medication bottles that she had tried one time with the same results.

Years after Doc passed away we were returning her home from picking up a new prescription and she stopped us going out the door. ”Where’s that paper that was stapled to the bag?”, she hollered from the kitchen.

“We tossed it,” we answered, coming back in to retrieve it for her. “Why do you need it?”

“I always read them first to find out what I’m going to get,” was her reason. Hmmm. Does the  term self fulfilling prophecy cross your mind?

Truthfully, she’s had no medications for years, except for an occasional ibuprofen for headache. I tell the doctor that’s probably the reason she is 99. (To any doctors who may be reading this: That was a joke.) (No it wasn’t)

Now however, she has a few meds for her ailments. Maybe she feels pampered, like when you are sick and a loved one brings you soup and aspirin.

I don’t know but to me, the most wonderful feeling, making you feel really cared for, is when you sneak a nap on the couch and someone puts a blanket on you instead of saying, ”What the heck are you doing sleeping!“

Back to Pearl though; she is very compliant and says thank you and swallows everything right down. And we are breathing a sigh of relief that it isn’t difficult. There is no such thing as a power struggle with a frail 99 year old. They’lll win every time. Just like babies, they are really the boss, and that’s OK.

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Like Yesterday

Pearl passed on January 11, 2014. She would have turned 100 in just a few short weeks. We found her in her bed after remarking that the lights coming on didn’t disturb her. She had passed peacefully in her sleep.

She hadn’t bounced back after her latest illness a couple of weeks before. Each day we found her a little weaker, a little less aware. She began having conversations with unseen individuals. I heard her in her room yelling at nobody to get out and leave her alone.

Ron, concerned, called in Hospice to evaluate her. A social worker arrived, interviewed her and us then phoned the Hospice physician who arrived about an hour later and entered her into hospice care and prescribed medication and equipment for her.

A short timer later a nurse arrived with supplies for her care, next came a pharmacy delivery. By the next morning she had deteriorated to a point that she could barely stand without assistance.  During all of this activity Pearl maintained her good mood and seemed to enjoy all the attention she was receiving from so many strangers. Everyone had a hug for her and she had a smile for them all. She thought they were friends of hers.

Equipment arrived that day, we took down her bed to move in a hospital bed, happy to have one that would raise and lower. It eased her breathing difficulty. Next came  another nurse bringing more supplies. Ron and I were prepared for whatever should come our way were even provided with a baby monitor so that we could hear if she was too weak to call out.

Pearl’s appetite had lessened over the preceding days, she would have a bite and spit it in a napkin. She seemed to have difficulty swallowing. The nurses and doctor told us it was not unusual in end of life patients.

We were ordered to give her two medications for pain, cough and dyspnea or breathing difficulty. We gave her one dose of each at 8:45 when she went to bed. We heard coughing at our bedtime and repeated the dosages as prescribed, then gave her hugs and told her goodnight. She waved at us and said goodbye.

I woke to a loud cough at 5:02 a.m. Going to the hall outside of her door I heard no other sound, so I returned to bed. At about 7:00, we began fixing breakfast. Lights were on we were talking, coffee brewing, which usually brings her out. I remarked that she was really sleeping peacefully, as I hadn’t heard her cough yet. Ron stopped everything and said “Maybe she’s not asleep”

She had been on Hospice care for slightly over 24 hours. She left us in the way we had hoped, peacefully in her own home in her sleep. Our instructions were to let Hospice know first and they arrived quickly and took care of all of the details for us, even calling Pearl’s funeral home. I cannot overstate how much we appreciated the tender way we were all cared for by this wonderful organization.

So ends an era of 7 years duration, but the memories live on. Keep in touch, readers, as we share more from our empty nest.


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