Monday, June 29, 2015

Janet Eleanor Waite - May 30, 1931 to December 4, 2014

Janet Eleanor Rogers Waite and John Braden Waite, June 25, 1954
Mom fell and broke her hip on November 2. At first it did not seem to be a serious fracture. It did require surgery, though. She spent a little over a week in the hospital and was doing fairly well with physical therapy. There were some moments of confusion, which we assumed was the result of pain medications.

So they moved her back to Willamette View Manor, but this time in the Health Center. She would be ready for her apartment again after some more recovery time and physical therapy.

Parkinson's Disease had slowed her down over the past 10 years. But with adjustments in medications, she had been doing better up to this point in 2014. With Dad's declining mental state due to Dementia, 2013 and 2014 were more difficult for her in other ways. By August 2014, Dad had moved into Medicare Hospice, out of their apartment and into a memory care unit at WVM. Up until November 2, Mom was able to go upstairs to visit him on an almost daily basis.

Mom continued the recovery and physical therapy at WVM Health Center during the middle of November. But she seemed to be losing some momentum. The physical therapy became more of a chore. She was no longer able to go across the hall and up to visit Dad. It was more difficult for her to swallow her Parkinson's meds. As we would find out soon, those meds were only available by mouth, not by I.V. Mom spent Thanksgiving in bed at the Health Center.

I believe it was the day after Thanksgiving, November 28, 2014, when the Health Center nurse called. She had been off for a few days and upon her return was worried about Mom. Mom had been running a fever and had some unusual swelling in her neck. The Health Center sent Mom back to Providence Milwaukie Hospital. They immediately recognized something much more serious than they could deal with and sent her by ambulance to Legacy Emmanuel Hospital.

Mom went into surgery (I think it was Saturday morning) for a huge abscess infection in her neck. The next day and a half Mom remained heavily sedated and monitored. She had a breathing tube and could not speak. She was able to understand and squeeze hands to communicate. She began to refuse food down the feeding tube, as well as suctioning.

By Monday, December 1, the breathing tube was out. The doctor called my brother Richard and I that Mom was refusing care. Richard and I went in on Monday evening. With a strong, but raspy voice, Mom said, "just let me go." She said it several more times, for good measure.

The next day they discharged Mom to Hopewell House, a hospice home owned by Legacy in Portland's southwest hills. What a beautiful but sad place. But the beauty evoked so many happy family memories. Mom was still able to understand, smile, squeeze hands, etc. By Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Mom became less and less aware. By the time she died mid-day on Thursday, December 4, most important people in her life had been able to visit and be with her. Dad, of course, was not.

Monday night. We knew the inevitable. As a teacher, the most annoying thing is when work/school take over dreams and thoughts during sleeping hours and waking moments when I can't get back to sleep. I dream about school situations. Dream voices tell me, "you need to..." and "don't forget to..." and "what about...". In my dreams I plan. In my dreams I do report cards. In my dreams I create lessons and units. In my dreams I make mistakes so I don't make them the next day, week or year.

Monday night. I REFUSED to dream of school. I decided to take charge of my own dreams. I decided to fly with Mom through my memories. Here's where we went and what we did:

* In 1957 we flew to the bus station in Florence for our Greyhound trip to Portland for my eye operation at Emmanuel Hospital. On the bus I ask you why that man had a big nose. You shush me and tell the man, "sorry." (You're there now). Then I am on a cart. You tell me you are there and everything is OK. A man tells me he is going to put a bell over my nose and mouth. I go to sleep.
* We fly over ourselves, you, me, Richard, walking to the library. It's quiet there, while we look for books to carry home.
* There we are, you holding me and telling or reading stories.
* Here I am visiting you in your classroom at Siuslaw High School. You are teaching. I stand and look at myself (and your class) in a large mirror.
* Here we are at our old house in Florence. You are taking a bath. I am about 4 or 5. I open the bathroom door and you scream for me to get out. Come on Mom!
* At the old house still. I ride my trike down the driveway hill of Mrs. ?? (her last name was the name of a bird, and Dad always said that she drove a Lark).  I turn in and land on my face. Two neighbor girls take me inside and you clean me and patch me up. I never do that again.
* Still there. You are reading. Richard wants your attention. He keeps crawling around on the living room floor while saying, "roar, I'm a tiger!" You ignore him. So he bites your leg. You pull down his pants and he gets a good lickin'. I feel bad and am glad it's not me.
* There we are on Sunday at the EUB church. You sit with me, Dad, and Richard. Except for when you sing in the choir. (Once Dad said he heard fire alarms while you were singing). Before and after we visit with people. Sometimes we have church picnics. The hymns always make me yawn.
* You are cooking Sunday dinner after church. We always have something special. I'm watching NBA basketball on our 5-channel TV. The meat, potatoes and veggies are always separated on the plate. Over the years, Mom, we came a long way in the food department.
* Now we're at the drive-in movie. Dad takes a funny looking speaker thing off a post and attaches it the driver-side car window. Richard and I watch the first feature (maybe). We have popcorn. When we're tired, or when the late feature comes on, Richard and I climb into the back of the 1956 Chevy wagon and into our sleeping bags.
* The wooden spoon. It wasn't just for cooking. The threat of the "wooden spoon" was usually enough to get us to toe the line. We've come a long way here, too, Mom.
* I'm home sick from school and you're taking care of me. A blanket, hot tea, mother's love.
* It's summer and Richard and I come in for dinner. We tell you that we're not hungry. We had our fill of huckleberries along the miles of trails behind our Florence house.
* We fly through a Viking football game in 1965. The old field looks so small. The stands are barely enough for spectators of a small town. But the sounds and smells are the same: cool coastal fall air, popcorn and hotdogs, glaring field lights, amateur announcer, number 32 and 44.
* I take you to the places you never knew about. The trail to the airport. The trail to the garbage dump. The trail to the Siuslaw River. The trail to the dunes with small bodies of water; quicksand? we knew to stay away. The trail to the construction site where I started up an earth mover. Our adventures on bikes all over town and across the bridge to Ada. We never got lost, we always made it back. Did you worry?
* It's summer 1961 and we have a new house being built off Rhododendron Drive, the highway to the beach and north jetty. The fresh pitch on new 2x4's smells devine, the taste a bit piney. We have our own sand dune behind the house.
* It's October 1962 and I'm at school. The principal's voice comes over the classroom loud speaker. (I don't remember his name, but some kids called him "Your Highness"). "There is a storm coming. The school is closing early." You, Dad, and Richard come to pick me up. Winds are already stronger than anything I've ever experienced. We stop at Bray's IGA for food we can cook without electricity. Dad runs in while we stay in the car in the parking lot. A large piece of plywood flies through the air and knocks out the windshield of the convertible sports car next to us. I look over at the car/airplane model shop (a kid's dream!) and see a huge tree topple in front. We drive the 5 minutes to home. Dinner is hot dogs cooked in the fireplace and cans of shoe-string potatoes.
* It's July 1966 and there's a U-Haul truck backed into the driveway. We get to carry the little things. Dad and friends carry the big things. We leave friends and our cats (Mimi and Annie) behind forever. Oregon to Virginia! You would be the navigator and journal scribe. Thank you for the 8 page record of our amazing trip.
* Before we get in the truck, we fly through all those familiar places. The beaches and their tide pools; Devil's Punchbowl; Yachats and Reedsport; north jetty and south jetty; Coast Range and beach parks, picnic areas, and covered bridges; and best of all, Cleawox Lake and miles and miles of dunes. We fly the best dune buggy ride ever!
* Oregon to Virginia in just minutes, not days! We fly around and see the sites of our new home. There's Old Dominion University; the military bases; the big city downtown; segregated neighborhoods; historical sites dating back to the 1600's and before; WW1 and WW2 vets with missing limbs begging on street corners; a new kind of beach with a wooden boardwalk and warm water, but no rocks, no tide pools, no waves to chase.
* We fly by our house on Monaco Court. The bomb shelter is right there in the backyard! It still smells dank, dark, and musty.
* We find a new church, the United Methodist on the border between Norfolk and Virginia Beach. The people are friendly. My old friends are there. We attend a church fish fry. The fish and hush puppies are excellent. The hymns still make me yawn.
* There I am at school, 6th, then 7th, then 8th grades. The kids are different here, but not only because they are stupid pre-teens and teens now. We overhear one bragging about killing Ni*g**s when the Poor People's March comes through on the way to D.C. in June 1968. It's the end of 7th grade.
* Adoption. You always said that you wanted daughters, too, but because of mis-matched blood types there were risks. So here we are on Nanci's first day with us in 1967. Then there's Karen in 1969. They don't look like us. You tell Richard and I that some people might react negatively, that we should be ready. They do and we are. There at the church... some turn away and refuse to talk to you and Dad.
* 1969 and it's time to move on. You trust Richard and I with helping to make the decision - Guam or Sierra Leone. Wow what a contrast! In my 8th-grade-ishness, I worry about finding a wife (I didn't even think about girl friends first). Tropical beaches on a tropical island vs. the unknown in Africa? We choose Guam.
* Before we pack all our possessions for the container ship trip to Guam, we fly over all those historical sites. (Dad called them hysterical sites). Thanks, Mom, for the love of history and genealogy you've given me.
* No U-Haul truck this time, even if we could put pontoons on it. We fly to Portland, visit Grandma Waite in Toledo and Grandma Rogers in Milwaukie - the Manor is so cool! We didn't know it would later become your home, too. Then we spend 3 glorious (NOT!) weeks at the El Rancho Motel in Milwaukie. There's nothing to do, so we listen to the radio - Led Zeppelin, Credence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix, etc. We wait for our tickets and clearance to fly to Guam.
* We retrace our flight to Guam through Honolulu. We fly around the airport complex and, sure enough, there it is. That really weird spigot outside on the side of a building. We pull it and pineapple juice still comes out! It must be for airport workers, but we found it in 1969 and we find it again.
* Guam. We spend a few months in a furnished rented house in Tamuning. Roosters wake us up at sunrise, no alarm clock needed. Mom, do you hear that "garage band" playing The Doors the next street over? They're really good - they sound like The Doors! (Remember, Jim Morrison's dad was an admiral at the navy base on Guam).
* Later we fly to Dean's Circle. The houses we lived in there are still there, but now they are University of Guam offices. We fly around the campus, especially Dad's science classrooms, the planetarium, the Marine Science Center.
* Here we find a new kind of beach. The water is always warm, there is no boardwalk, and most of the beaches are protected by a reef. The waves are good enough for body surfing.
* We experience new adventures in food, language, and culture. We are the minority, the newcomers, the statesiders, the Haoles. We learn, we grow, we understand, we adapt. 
* There I am in school, 9th grade at George Washington Jr. High, then 10th and 11th at George Washington High, home of The Geckos. The kids are a whole different kind of kids. About 10% look like me, and many of the rest look something more like Nanci and Karen. It's a whole new world.
* On to Greeley, CO, Mom, for my senior year of high school. Thanks Mom (and Dad) for all these experiences. I feel that it's easy for me to adapt to new places and situations. Since we've carried a beach theme throughout this Mom, we re-discover that there are no beaches here.
* Then back to Guam until 1976. Mom, we could fly to all those places I went, and things I did, after I flew the nest. But you weren't there then, so we won't go there now. Sorry Mom!

Tuesday morning. I woke up with a different feeling. I went to school and, among the usual things, prepared sub plans for the rest of the week. Emmanuel Hospital would be moving Mom to Hopewell House for her final hours or days.

For most of Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday, Mom did not speak a lot. She mostly communicated with smiles and hand squeezing. I got the chance several times to share with her parts of our flying trip through my memories. It was very difficult and I choked up too much to really be able to tell anything. I guess it was more for me than Mom, anyway. She had her own memories to fly through, if that's what she was able to do. By late Wednesday night she was still existing, but in a different, secret, unknown world, a world where she would not return to tell us about.

During these days and into Thursday, we let her know that she should go get Dad. It was OK to go home, but get Dad, too.

But back to Tuesday night for a special non-Mom moment. Nanci had arrived that day. Nan and I were visiting Mom. I wanted to let Mom know that her great-granddaughters, Elsa and Azara, would be arriving later in December. I held out hope that she would be able to see them one more time. When I mentioned this, Mom looked up at Nan and I and said, "you're not going to get rid of this old bitch that easily!" I looked at Nan and asked, "did she say what I thought she said?" "I don't think she said she had an itch!",  responded Nan. This was so out of character of Mom. She had never allowed herself to BE "naughty" (in her words). I'm glad she got that one in there.

This in and out continued into Thursday morning. There seemed no way to predict when Mom would leave her new state of being, either. In the morning Zenny, Nancy, Karen, and I drove to the Manor to wrap up some business and pack up some things between the Health Center and her apartment. We visited Dad. We did not think Dad would understand what was happening with Mom, so we told him nothing. Later, in late December and early January, we found out that he could have understood. We should have told him then, not later.

Done at the Manor, we headed back toward Hopewell House, thinking about stopping somewhere for a quick lunch. My cell phone rang with a call from Maureen. Knowing about my flying memories with Mom, her words were, "Grandma flew." I wish I could have been there. So did Maureen and Lorna, who had walked away for 10 minutes for a bite to eat. Fortunately, Mom passed while surrounded by other loving family members.

Headed up the winding, wooded driveway of Hopewell House I flashed my headlights into her window. We could see someone changing the bed for the final time for Mom. In the room Mom was now quiet, peaceful, no more raspy, rattly breathing, a flower placed in her folded hands.

We said our final goodbyes.

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