Here is the Scoop: Tough Weekend in San Diego

As I alluded to in my last post, my weekend was pretty dismal. The time had finally come to pack up my Aunt’s apartment and put it into storage. My sister Lisa flew in from Texas, and Alan and I were set to meet her on Saturday morning. We’d pick her up from her friend’s house in Carlsbad and we’d all drive down, pick up the U-Haul truck, and then spend the day packing up her apartment and take it to a storage facility. Alan and I planned to take a run in the morning, then pack up and head south. The run didn’t happen, and we didn’t get going until about 9:00. Meaning we picked up Lisa at noon. A little later than planned, especially considering that Alan’s one caveat was to watch the 49er’s playoff game at 5:00.

My Aunt Lois, who I wrote a little about here, suffers from a brain injury incurred about 25 years ago in a car accident. Several months ago she fell in the shower, where she lay for more than a day before anybody found her and called for help. She has been declining since then and will never be able to live on her own again. So, we had to pack up her apartment. My sons were not available to help,which meant it was my sister, my husband, and myself doing the work.

We had quite a task ahead of us. She had been in her apartment for about 10 years, but because of the problems caused by the brain injury she really just inhabited it. Many things were still in boxes from her last move (which was helpful for us, but still sad). There was a large area of her front room that was loaded with boxes, unused furniture, old pictures, sheet music, records, and a piano. None of it had been touched, all of it was heavily coated with dust.

So with face masks in place the three of us spent the next several hours packing, loading, sorting, and tossing my aunts possessions. It was hard work and it was very sad. Her walls were covered with pictures of animals. She was an animal advocate and vegan, every spare penny she had she donated to organizations like Peta, Farm Sanctuary, and others, and in return they all sent her cards, posters, calendars, and magazines. She kept it all, decorating her refrigerator, walls, and windows. She also kept journals, writing paragraphs almost every day to express her anger, frustration, and hopelessness.

Lisa and I sorted through all of this as we packed, while Alan managed most of the loading. Neighbors stopped by as we were working to ask about our Aunt, they were saddened to hear she wasn’t doing well. After three hours we had accomplished a lot and it was time to stop for the day.  We still had a lot of work to do on Sunday though, so we decided that we’d pick up Lisa at her friend’s house in Carlsbad at 7:00 am. So much for the running plans.

We left Lisa at the apartment to be picked up by her friend. I planned to drive Alan over to my son’s house so he would be in time for the 49er’s playoff game. Then I’d head to the store, pick up a lock we needed for the U-haul, plus some food (and wine for me). As we drove away, we realized that we hadn’t had a bite to eat since leaving La Quinta early in the morning. Suddenly starving, I added a Subway stop into the plans, dropped his sandwich off before I headed back to my aunt’s. Lisa had already left, so I pulled up behind the truck, locked it up, then headed back to my son’s. Fortunately, San Diego is a pretty small city, and in light traffic, my aunt’s house is only about 10 minutes from my son’s, so it wasn’t difficult. I finally finished, got back to my son’s, ate my sandwich, and relaxed. Oh, did I mention I got to hold, feed, and snuggle my grandson? Oh yes!

weekend

weekend

 weekend

 After the game, which the 49er’s won, improving Alan’s weekend, we drove back to Encinitas to check in to our hotel. It was almost 10:00 by the time we got into bed. I slept poorly, one of those nights that seem to last forever because you keep waking up, leaving me tired and cloudy in the morning. Fortunately, neither of us felt any back pain from our work the day before.  As we checked out, I grabbed a bagel from the breakfast room, we stopped by Starbucks and started off on our day.

Because we needed to meet the storage people by 11:00 and get the truck back by 1:00, we didn’t waste any time. We finished the loading in record time, leaving a few items that might have some value, her piano, a  few antiques, behind for possible sale. Truck packed, we dashed to the storage place, where we discovered that it was the indoor type of storage, meaning that we had to load everything onto a dolly, take the elevator to the third floor and unload it there.  The nice thing about those type of storage facilities is that they are climate controlled and secure. Just a lot of work to load.

Faced with a 7′ x 10′ area, we were concerned that our truckload wouldn’t fit, but using some great stacking and jigsaw skills that we didn’t even know we had, we managed to get it all in with no room to spare. Still, it was close to 2:00 when we headed back to drop off the truck. We arrived late, but they had closed for the day so we left the truck and slipped the keys in the drop off box, not sure if they would charge for an extra day. Considering this is a company that will charge you $25 if you don’t sweep out the truck, I am not optimistic.

This time I insisted that we take the time to eat before we did anything else. We stopped by Subway again, then headed over to my son’s where my sister finally met my grandson for the first time.

weekend

weekend

It is that small things that make all the tough things worthwhile.

Time passed much too quickly. Soon we had to leave again, first to pick up a rental car for Lisa, then to meet a man who would look at my aunt’s antiques. The piano is huge, built in 1940, what they call a box grand, quite unique, but without a big demand. Lisa called several antique shops and no one was interested. She finally found a man who provides props for movie and theater productions. He took a look and promised to get back to us in a day or so.

By the time Alan and I headed home, it was after 6:00, with a three hour drive ahead of us. We were exhausted, sore (but not too bad all things considered), and just wanted to be home. I had to work at 5:30 on Monday morning, but I insisted that we stop halfway home for dinner. I was tired of surviving on Subway. We recently discovered a little restaurant called the Earth Bistro, which has vegan and vegetarian options. Yes, I had another sandwich, but at least it wasn’t from Subway.

It was just a very sad, depressing weekend. Running helps me work off my stress, so having no time to run left me feeling more anxious. I am so grateful that I was with my husband and my sister, that we were able to support each other and share the burden of the weekend. I feel for my sister, who is staying in San Diego for the week, dealing with some business for my aunt. She reported today that my aunt is doing very poorly, not eating, and too weak to even sign her name. She has not been eating, and so is very weak. She has said for a long time that she wanted to die. It looks like she may finally get her wish.

As I try to remember the funny, edgy woman of 25 years ago, who was an actress and a singer, who was smart, successful, and happy, my heart breaks a little thinking about the woman after the accident. I love you Aunt Lois, I hope that soon you will be back with the pets that you loved, with your big sister, my mom, who took care of you, where your brain will finally be normal again, and you can be happy.

Thank You. THANK YOU

I know it was the good vibes.

When I wrote on Saturday about dreading my trip to San Diego, explained why, and asked for your positive thoughts, prayers, and good vibes, you, my dear readers, were quick to respond. You commented on my post, replied on facebook, tweeted your support.

It made me feel stronger.

I met my sister at her friend’s house in Carlsbad. Our uncertainty (dread? fear? uneasiness? So many word choices.) about our upcoming meeting with Aunt Lois almost, but not quite, took the joy out of our reunion. I haven’t seen Lisa since last Christmas, so we were really happy to see each other. It was the circumstances that were bringing us down.

On our drive toward San Diego, we discussed what we wanted to accomplish. First and foremost, we wanted to get into the room without Lois getting very upset. screaming, and kicking us out. I asked Lisa what the plan was if that happened. “Wait her out,” she said, “she’ll have to stop eventually.”

Establishment

Aunt Lois in another life, as a singer/dancer in the well known group The Establishment (lower left, in the hat).

We arrived at the rehab center, which seemed a reasonably nice nursing home close to downtown (and not too far from Lois’ apartment). It was clean, the people seemed nice and caring, and it smelled like food, not, well not some of the bad things you could imagine.

Without going into details, I will say that of all the things that Lisa and I imagined happening during our visit, what actually happened was not among them. After warning the on-duty nurse that there might be some “issues,” Lisa and I warily entered Aunt Lois’ room and…nothing.. She greeted us like it had been a week since we’d seen her. She was excited and happy to see us. She even told me that she’d expected to see me on the 19th. Huh?

As the saying goes, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. We had a nice visit. As I mentioned in my last post, Lois is smart and funny, and can be a joy to be around. It is that damn brain injury that gets in the way. You never know what you’re going to get, wonderful, funny Lois, or angry, sad, disturbed Lois. We spent several hours with her and were able to discuss some of the issues, including long term care, with her. No decisions yet, but we’ve made a start.

She’d be happiest if we could move her back to Los Angeles. She’d lived for a long time in Encino, in the San Fernando Valley, and she’d love to be back there. So Lisa and I will look into it. We also have to learn about Medi-Cal, Medicare, nursing homes, and a lot more.

But, we’ll be doing it with Lois’s blessing and cooperation. At least for now. She’s trying to focus on putting on some weight and getting stronger (to that end, we picked her up some vegan chocolate chip cookies from Trader Joe’s. Sometimes calories are calories.)

I feel like we’ve opened a door of communication, a path back to our old relationship, a chance to help her without her fighting us all the way.

And it’s all because of your good vibes. Thank you.

I’m Dreading Tomorrow

Tomorrow I have to do something that I am dreading.

My aunt, who I’ve mentioned briefly here, is my mother’s sister, and is one of her few surviving relatives (I have a few cousins, the children of her brother, that I haven’t seen for years). Aunt Lois was in an automobile accident about 25 years ago, where she was t-boned by an uninsured driver, which left her with a devastating brain injury.

Without going into detail about her life since her accident, her injury affected an area of her brain which controls emotions, self control, and anger. Since the accident, and most especially since my mother died 20 years ago, my aunt has driven all of her friends away, even the most loyal, with her behavior. She yells at them, she calls them names, she won’t answer their calls.

She does that to my sister and me too.

My lovely, wonderful sister, Lisa, has tried so hard over the years, to help Aunt Lois with her life, her living situation, her finances, and more. Lisa is so much more patient than I am and has spent so much time, effort, and even money trying to help. Several years ago, because Lois was so miserable in her apartment in Los Angeles, Lisa, with Lois’ approval, arranged to move her to San Diego.

She hated it. And decided she hated Lisa. When I visited Lois, she would call my sister the most horrible names, accusing her of awful things, and screaming about how miserable her life was.

A moment here about my aunt. Before her accident, she was a funny, edgy, kind of neurotic woman, who loved animals and was not fond of men (she was straight as far as I know, she just didn’t have a high opinion of the male gender). She was an actress, a singer, who’d had some success in Hollywood. She was in a singing and dancing group called The Establishment, which had some success in the 60s and 70s. She was witty and bright, and I always thought of her as the “cool” aunt.

Establishment

That’s my Aunt Lois in the lower left, with the hat.

Now, in spite of her condition, she can still be witty and bright, funny and intelligent. She can also be rude, nasty, and mean. She loved animals before. Now she is militantly vegan, donating any extra money to animal causes (over the years I have come to share many of her opinions is this area). The smell of meat being cooked by her neighbors can drive her crazy. She yells.

I know it is not her fault.

Several years ago, she cut off all contact. She wouldn’t answer the phone or the door. She didn’t return calls. I am not proud to say that after a few tries, I stopped trying. I lived my life. I felt guilty, but I did nothing to improve our relationship. My sister got married and moved to Texas, so I was the only nearby relative, but I avoided the conflict.

Several weeks ago, Lois fell in her bathtub. She is 76 now, physically healthy because of her diet. Apparently, though, she had a urinary tract infection, became weak, and fell. She was there for over a day because, when they heard her yelling, her neighbors thought that it was just Lois being Lois.

Fortunately, she will be okay. She is very weak and is in a rehab center to get some physical and occupational therapy. I haven’t talked to her. Lisa and I have only spoken to the nurses in order to monitor her recovery.

Now, here is the deal. The owner of the apartment where Lois lives spoke to my sister the other day. She is a problem. She has taken to waking up in the middle of the night, wandering through the apartment complex, talking and yelling to herself. Her neighbors are not happy. Something is going to have to be done.

Tomorrow I will be driving to San Diego to meet my sister, who flew in from Texas (about the only bright light in my day!) We will go to the rehab center, try to meet with my aunt, and talk to her about what her options are. We have every expectation that we will be thrown out of the room. Lisa and I have no legal right to intervene. We are just trying to do the right thing by my mother’s sister.

I am dreading tomorrow. I could us some physic support.