Monday, November 6, 2017

Obituary notice

Thelma Laverne Chitwood Sergent, 79, died on Saturday, November 4, 2017, at the Suncoast Hospice Care Center in Pinellas Park, Florida.  She was preceded in death by her parents, Ralph and Ary Chitwood; her husband, Charles Tony Sergent; and a sister, Mary Alice Walker. 

She is survived by her daughters, Toni Renee Swertferger of St. Petersburg, Florida and Tina Allyn Seward of Norcross, Georgia; two grandchildren, Lauren Renee Swertferger of St. Petersburg, Florida and Matthew James Seward of Norcross, Georgia; a brother, Jack Chitwood of Loveland, Ohio; and several nieces and nephews. 

The body will be cremated.  Other arrangements are pending. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Room 34 Magnolia

My mother will die in Room 34 Magnolia. 

This is her room in the Suncoast Hospice Center in Pinellas Park, Florida, where she is being cared for during her last days.

On Friday and Saturday, I saw her for the last time.

My sister prepared me well for how she would look.  She's no longer wearing her wig.  Her hair is gray and wispy.  She's lost weight.  And the leg that has given her so much trouble is discolored.

She can no longer speak.  But she will turn her head towards voices.

I played some Roger Williams music for her.  He is a pianist that she enjoyed listening to.  I showed her Matthew's graduation picture.  And I read some of my past blog entries to her.  (Whether she enjoyed those or not, I can't say. :-) ) 

Saturday I fed her applesauce and gave her water.  I watched as two nurses' aides repositioned her, and listened as she moaned in pain afterward.  There's no way you can move someone in her condition and not cause them pain.  She finally got some pain meds, and that helped her. 

I had dinner on Friday with my sister, her husband, my niece, and her boyfriend.  (The boyfriend won me over when he asked me to let everyone know when I got back home.) 

Between seeing my mother and having dinner with my family, I went to the cemetery and told my father and grandmother that Mom would probably be joining them soon.

The next day, I had breakfast with my best friend, who drove all the way up from Sebring.  I was fed so well that the next meal I had was at the Chick-Fil-A at the Tampa International Airport.  We talked, and she assured me that the feelings I had were very normal. 

That Saturday, I also saw my uncle--my mother's brother-in-law, also the man that gave me away at my wedding in place of my deceased father--for a few moments.  I gave them some alone time. 

And then I went back in and told my mother that I had to leave.

I told her I loved her.  I told her thank you for everything she'd done for me.  And I told her that if she wanted to go see Daddy, she had my permission.

Then I had to leave.

I saw my sister and niece before I went to the airport.  My sister's still cleaning up after the hurricane (dealing with some property damage) and when I got there, I found my brother-in-law operating an excavator. 

My sister, niece and I sat and talked. 

Then I headed for the airport, was whisked through the TSA pre-check (a nice surprise there!), ate dinner, recharged my electronics the best I was able to. 

At 7:25 p.m., I boarded a Spirit Air plane back to Atlanta. 

We took off at 8:14.

I landed about 9:20.

It was nearly 11:15 by the time I got in the door.  My husband had picked me up at the MARTA station, got me home, and made sure I got into bed. 

Now the waiting begins.

Mom could die today.  Or maybe next week.  We don't know.

I am glad I went, though.  I think I would have regretted it if I didn't take one final time to say good-bye.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Season of dying

Fall is a season of dying. 

It's the season where the trees, after one final blaze of colorful glory, drop their leaves.  The leaves die and the trees stand bare, waiting for spring and their annual resurrection.  

The grass lays brown and dormant, and in some parts of the world, frost attacks plants and early snow covers the ground.

This is the season of my mother's dying.

Last week, I learned that my mother was back in the hospital with another blood clot in her leg.  This is the same leg that's developed blood clots before.  It was blood clots in her leg that sent her to assisted living two years ago.  

In March, she fell and hurt her shoulder.  Ever since then, it's been a slow march downhill.  

I've only watched her dying from afar.  My sister has been coordinating her care, advocating for her rights, and trying to make her as comfortable as possible. 

Yesterday--in fact, nearly 24 hours ago--during my ladies' group, my sister texted me and told me that after a meeting with a doctor, they'd made the decision to transfer our mother to hospice care.  She's sleeping a lot and no longer very responsive.

Tomorrow afternoon I will get on a plane, the first airplane flight I've taken since my son was a baby, and fly home to tell my mother good-bye.

I have no illusions.  My mother probably will not know I am there.  The person I'm going to see will not be the mother I knew.  

Dying is ugly, grotesque, and disgusting.  This season of my mother's dying is cruel.  It's cost her her cognition, her independence, her speech, and soon it will cost her her life. 

She's lived for 79 years, 10 months, and seven days.  She lived 35 of those years married to our father, and then, nearly 25 of those years without him, the man she called her "best friend".  She's had two children and two grandchildren.  She cared for children, an ill husband, took in my sister and her child after a divorce, cared for her mother. 

Now, in this season of her dying, with her body worn out, it is time for her to be cared for. 

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Me, too, it looks like . . .

A friend of mine and I were discussing the #metoo posts on social media this week.  #Metoo was meant to show that "I, too, was a victim of sexual harassment/assault."  The campaign started as a result of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, accused of sexually harassing women over a 30-year period.

At first, I'd posted, "Not me, but I support the ones who say #metoo."

I said that because I've never been raped.  Nor have I ever been victimized by a male boss or coworker demanding sexual favors as a condition of employment.

But I did share with her an experience I had in the eighth grade.

A boy classmate tried to force a ring on my finger in class one day.  I nearly twisted my finger trying not to accept it.  Somehow, it ended up in my purse.  When he demanded it back on a later date, I looked for it and couldn't find it.

I told my friend about that incident and she asked, where was the teacher?  (I don't know; and that is a good question.)

She said, that was assault at the very least.

And then I shared a remark the same boy made on another occasion: "Your little sister drinks milk from your breasts, doesn't she?"

I'd said, "I don't have a little sister."

The implications of that statement didn't hit me until years later:  what he was basically saying was that I had a baby that was young enough to be a "little sister." 

My friend said, okay, THAT I would classify as sexual harassment. 

While writing this, I thought of something else:  while working in an inner-city school library, I told a student to leave the library because he didn't have a hall pass.  In response,  he thrust his crotch at me and said, "That's my pass."

I guess that could be interpreted as a threat of sexual assault.  (I left that job after three months.)

So . . . I'll throw in my #metoo. 

The number of #metoos I've seen on my social media feed this week is saddening and sickening; and there are women who could have posted, "me, too" and didn't because they didn't feel comfortable.

And there are men who could have posted #metoo as well.

When we let harassers off with "kids will be kids, suck it up and deal with it," when we do wink-wink, nudge-nudge while discussing certain attitudes of people; and most of all, when we make people feel guilty and ashamed for speaking up, we create the exact climate where #metoo flourishes.

And then we wonder why so many #metoos show up in our social media feed.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Patrick Kennedy and me

Today is my 54th birthday.  And I just don't feel that old.  I definitely feel older, but not old. 

October 16th, 1963 is my birthdate.  It was also the 1,000th day of John F. Kennedy's presidency. 

Just 71 days earlier, JFK and his wife had a baby boy, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy.  He was a preemie, like their son John, Jr.  Patrick came five and a half weeks early.

He was born August 7, 1963. 

39 hours and 12 minutes later, on August 9, 1963, he died. 

Sandwiched in between those days was my sister's third birthday.  My mother would have been about four or five months pregnant with me.  I'm sure my parents followed the story, read the newspaper, watched the news, wondered if the Kennedys' baby would live, and were saddened when he did not.

Sixty-nine days later, as I understand the story, my mother went in for a regular doctor's appointment.  Her doctor told her, "You're dilating.  You need to get upstairs, immediately."  My mother's OB's office was right next to the hospital.

I was born at 3:29 p.m., October 16th, 1963, after natural childbirth.  The doctor feared killing the baby if he gave my mother anesthesia.  (This proves that I have been a pain to my mother since before I was born. :-) )

Would the Kennedy baby have crossed my mother's mind?  After all, his brief life and death was still fresh in the public's mind.  He was a preemie.  I was a preemie.  He was born five and a half weeks early.  I think I was born about that early.  I've never known what my real due date was.  Patrick was in an incubator.  So was I.  Did it cross my parents' minds that I, too, would meet the same fate as the Kennedy baby?

Despite a race to Boston Children's Hospital--an ambulance took Patrick from his birthplace at Otis Air Force Base, 70 miles away, in 90 minutes--and despite the best medical care available at the time, Patrick died of hyaline membrane disease, known now as infant respiratory distress syndrome.  All they could do for him at the time was put him in a hyperbaric chamber and treat him with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. 

Did my parents think, the Kennedy baby had the best medical care in the world, and he died.  Will the same thing happen to our baby? 

Thankfully, no.  I stayed in the hospital about six weeks and came home right around Thanksgiving.

Maybe, because Patrick was so fresh in people's minds, maybe the doctors and nurses at the hospital paid special attention to a preemie?  I'd like to think so.

Patrick's death did lead medical researchers to aggressively search for a way to effectively manage hyaline membrane disease.  Today, we know of a branch of medicine, neonatology, that saves the lives of thousands of babies yearly.  At least one of those babies, born at 2 lbs. 2 oz. (half my birth weight) attends my church as a healthy preteen.  A set of triplets born four years ago yesterday also thrive; they are the children of our children's minister.  A friend of mine works as a neonatal nurse.

During JFK's last trip, which ended on a dreadful day in Dallas, he made a brief stop in San Antonio, where the base commander at Brooks Air Force Base invited him to briefly speak to a group of men in a space simulator. 

One of JFK's questions:  "Is it possible your work might help improve oxygen chambers for premature babies?"  He was thinking of Patrick. 

The next day, he joined Patrick in death.

I don't understand the mysteries of life and death.  Why did one preemie, born to the most famous family in America at the time, whose parents could get him the best of medical care, die in a big city hospital, despite the availability of multiple doctors and state-of-the-art medicine? 

And why did another preemie, born in a small mountain town, to a teacher and his wife, who were far from wealthy, and in a hospital that was far from state-of-the-art, live? 

I don't know. 

Yesterday was National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.  It is a day set aside to honor and remember children loss to miscarriage, stillbirth, and early death.  (My grandmother lost a baby when she was three months old.)  One slogan used to remember these children is, "There is no footprint too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world."

Patrick Kennedy, born August 7, 1963; died August 9, 1963, had a small footprint that left a lasting impact on the care, treatment, and survival of other preemies.

I'd like to think that I was one of the people on which his footprint left a lasting impression.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Going back to my morning coffee . . .

How can I go back to my morning coffee after hearing about the horrific events last night in Las Vegas, Nevada?

And yet, that's exactly what I am doing.

I am writing this at around 11 a.m., Eastern time, with a coffee container to my left.  I woke this morning to hear a report of 20 dead and multiple wounded in Las Vegas.  A half-hour later, the death toll had risen to 50. 

By now, we all know the drill:  Lone gunman, usually a white male, who opens fire on a crowd with a military-style weapon, then shoots himself as the police close in on him.  It's happened before.  It will probably happen again.  It happened at Columbine (in that situation, there were two gunmen).  It happened in Orlando.   It happened at Sandy Hook.  Last night, it happened in Las Vegas. 

And here I sit, going back to my morning coffee.

I've grown numb to the reports of violence, shootings, and stabbings in our world.  What was once a shocking, horrific, rare event has become commonplace.  I don't even know how many mass shootings we have had in the last ten, twenty years.  Statistics depend on how you define the term "mass shooting". 

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the shooting.  However, they have no evidence that they did it.  I will remind people that in the very early moments of 9/11, the PLO claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Twin Towers, and it turned out they didn't do it.

My friend Bron just posted the following tweet:  "We have reached a density of mass shootings where even pointing out that we aren't going to do anything feels tired and oversaid.@emmettRensin" 

We, as a country, are just tired and numb.  We're overrun with violence and bad news.  I have a filter on my Facebook feed that keeps out things I don't want to read about, and even then, reports of violence and turmoil creep in. 

Which is probably why I go back to my morning coffee.

What is there left to be said?  What is there left to be done?  Calls for gun control fall on deaf ears, and our pleas to "love one another" and "stop the hate" seem to do no good.  

Right now, I say my prayers for the people of Las Vegas, for the first responders, for the dead and wounded, even for the soul of the shooter, and for his family.

And then, I end up going back to my morning coffee.  :-(

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The wham shot

(Note:  Contains spoilers from the September 26th episode of This Is Us.  If you haven't seen the episode or don't want to know about the episode, do not read the following entry!)

(Spoiler space below)

TV calls it the Wham Shot.

Last night, Mandy Moore drove up to the exterior of a burned-out house and shrieked, and with that one shot, the producers of This Is Us broke the hearts of America.

For anyone unfamiliar with the show, This Is Us simultaneously follows the past and present stories of the Pearson family:  Jack, Rebecca, and their three children Kevin, Kate, and Randall.

We've known since about the middle of the first season that Jack Pearson died when the kids were teenagers.  We've known since the second episode that Rebecca ended up marrying Miguel, Jack's best friend.  What we haven't known is, how does Jack die?

Last night, in the premiere of the second season, This Is Us dropped a major clue as to Jack Pearson's death.

The first season ended with a vicious argument between Jack and Rebecca, resulting in Jack's moving out.  The second season opened with Jack staying at Miguel's house.

In the "present day" scenes, Kevin, Kate and Randall are celebrating their 37th birthday.  Kate is gathering up the courage to pursue a career as a singer, Kevin is making a movie with Ron Howard (who appears in a short scene), and Randall and his wife are exploring the possibility of adopting another child.

The end of the first episode shows Rebecca going to Miguel's house, banging on the door, demanding to talk to Jack.

She says they can work things out together.

He admits to being an alcoholic, that he's been drunk all day, and that he needs to work this out alone.

He closes the door.

She bangs on it again.

He opens it.

She orders him to get in the car, that they would work things out together.

They drive home, with her saying that things would be okay and that they'd get back to normal.

Cut to Rebecca, wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey, driving alone in the car.  A plastic bag with various items sits next to her on the seat.

Cut to a shot of Miguel.

Cut to a shot of Randall and Kate as teenagers, crying; Kate saying, we need to find Kevin.

Cut to a shot of Kevin's leg in a signed cast.

Cut to a shot of the red mailbox reading "Pearson".

Cut to Rebecca sitting in the car, wailing and sobbing.

Camera tilts up to the shell of a burned-out house.

Wham shot.

Like others, I'm a bit confused with the final shots.  Did Rebecca really go over to Miguel's house?  Did Jack really tell her he was an alcoholic?  Did Rebecca really order him to get into the car and drive him home?

Was all of that just a figment of Rebecca's imagination, something she wished she'd done and didn't do?

Was the part where Rebecca ordered Jack to get in the car just a figment of her imagination?  As in, "If I'd just done this, Jack would never have died"?

Or did all of it really happen?

We know that Jack Pearson is dead.

We now know that it had something to do with a house fire.

What other wham shots do the producers of This Is Us have in store for us this season?

We can't wait to find out.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.