Rod Mulder — The Slog

After we got into a pattern and learned how to live in Estes Park, we realized that we weren’t leaving any time soon. We were just waiting and waiting is a slog.

6 March

Jane and I made a run to the house yesterday. We were gone longer than we wanted to be but we got to have some dinner with Jeremy which was most awesome. Tried to get Rod a Sunggie but apparently we missed the news that those were recalled or something.

Knowing that I wasn’t going to have time for a swim today, I decided to go to the 5:30 AM Masters Swim at the aquatic center. Rod perked up as I tried to sneak past and asked who was there. Our brief back and forth woke up Laura and caused me great guilt for causing the commotion.

Rod was confused yesterday. He wanted to–let’s see, what euphemism haven’t I used yet?–drop the kids off at the pool. Even though he hasn’t been out the bed in a week, yesterday he made it to his feet and onto the bedside commode. This I know only second hand. Jane speculates that he simply didn’t remember that he hasn’t been out of bed in a week and not knowing he couldn’t do it worked in his favor. However, she said it was pretty shaky. He never really had his legs under him or was supporting his own weight.

Rod also told Laura that “we should take the neighbors to breakfast.” I couldn’t hear the whole conversation but Laura essentially asked who the ‘we’ in that statement was referring to.

So, he was delusional and confused today which may be because of the excitement Thursday. Generally he is not angry, sad, depressed or mean, just friendly and confused.

No Dutch lessons last night; I was too tired.

7 March

Even though last night was good, we think that Saturday was pretty rough which makes it two bad days in a row. Jane and I were speculating that our standards are changing. Maybe what was a bad day a week ago is a good day now? It is difficult to be objective.

Rod obsesses about things like food and something in his teeth. He had lunch and then fell asleep for a little while. When he woke up a short time later, he asked if he should be hungry. Jane interpreted this as less about being hungry and more about him not feeling well and knowing that food can make him feel better.

He likes us in the room with him. However, his breathing is sometimes disturbing to listen to so, you know, we have a small challenge there. He is back to clearing his throat often and coughing sometimes quite violently. This is sort of what we saw before the hospital bed and it is no fun now that it has returned.

There is some confusion but he is such a nice man that he accepts our suggestions when we tell him that he is wonky. He has been very talkative today but all over the place and sometimes asking questions out of nowhere. Usually he just wants a cookie which is awesome. One time I answered him with “don’t we all?”

I think he looks pretty good. When he is sleeping and his face is relaxed, he looks peaceful and not as old.

Eric called this morning partially to ask if he was supposed to be reading something between the lines. What is the real story? The real story is that we think we are looking at one to two weeks. The rate of decline seems to have slowed but we are still seeing daily changes. We are seeing less physical and more cognitive change. The trouble breathing as well as the compulsive eating might be symptoms of that.

But, of course, he is still very nice, friendly, and thankful. The softest and best part of his personality is what we usually see.

8 March

Rod seemed confused this morning. Laura said that he was certain he was going to die the night before. He is uncomfortable but not in pain. He wants things that were small comforts to him like ice cream, cookies, and coffee. For the moment, he gets a little pleasure from them and that makes him feel a little less blah.

He has been asleep most of the time but wakes up disoriented. Laura was out shopping today and he woke himself up calling for help. Jane asked him a couple questions and it was clear he didn’t know that he had called for help or why he was calling for help.

We have had music on today which he seems to like. Laura picked up some chewy cookies at the store today which he and I both like. They aren’t going to last long. He likes it when we are in the room and I think he especially likes when we are talking but not necessary with him. He and I had a couple conversations today but they were very short. I recounted the sermon to him this morning and this evening I showed him some pictures from the hike Jane and I took as well as some others. I was surprised when he read something off my computer screen because reading has been difficult for him. He wears a watch but it takes him about a minute to read it.

He is not joking around today and he isn’t appreciating humor much either. It hasn’t been a “good” day but it hasn’t been difficult either. He is quiet and as long as he has something to drink and a steady supply of cookies, he is sort of content in an unhappy sort of way.

It is a little blue in the house but we are taking turns going out which seems to be helping us cope.

I went to bed early. There was a kerfuffle downstairs after I made my exit which I am sure I will hear about in the morning.

9 March

Look, this is my blog and so I can write about myself a little, right? I am trying to remain “in shape” during all of this. I am certainly not working out as much as I could if I was at home but I am putting in a good effort. At home, I lift 3 times a week, swim twice, and ride 2 to 4 times depending on the weather.

Up here, the cycling is out. I’ve replaced that with snowshoeing which is just wickedly painful for me especially afterwards. My arthritic great toe lights up making everything difficult including sleep. I am swimming at the Estes Park Aquatic Center and lifting at MedX. Both of these are tricky because the pool is only open for a couple hours each day and MedX is somewhat limited compared to what I am used to. I swam with the masters group last Friday morning but those nut cases start at 5:30 AM. I have never been an early morning athlete. I think it is actually cheating because it isn’t fair not feeling the pain. The body isn’t fully awake and the brain is all foggy. Pain receptors are sluggish and so, yeah, it doesn’t count if you can’t feel it.

Anyway, the “spring forward” time change was yesterday and I was all freaked out about not waking up in time for the 5:30 AM waterboarding experience. Subconsciously, I was worried so, of course, my brain got me up on the hour every hour starting at about 1 AM. I was up plenty early and rolled into the deserted parking lot a couple minutes early. It remained deserted for the next 15 minutes while I thumbed through Reddit wasting time waiting for someone else to show up or for the cops to arrest me for being a middle age man parked next to a playground or whatever.

I gave up and came back to the house. Now, on my way out, I was a ninja. The bottom of the stairs from the loft where Jane and I are camped is right where Rod’s bed is. In the complete dark, I had to navigated those stairs on the way out, tiptoe past Rod, find my entry fee, USMS license, keys, coat and shoes, and got out the front door that is only 15 feet from his bed. It was tricky and I think I got it done. On the way back in, I had to reverse the delicate process. I suspect that I failed because after climbing back into bed, I heard Rod.

I felt responsible, of course, and when things didn’t seem to calm down, I got back up and dressed (a little) and went to check if there was anything I could do. Laura was solving the problem and I scared her asking if she needed anything.

Back in bed now around 6 AM, I figured I would try to get a couple hours of sleep and set my alarm for 8 AM. At 7 or so, the smoke detector in the guest room chirped. And then again a few minutes later. Not knowing if this is one of those systems where if one battery gives up, all of them start chirping and also figuring I wasn’t going to get any more sleep with even one chirping, I got up again, showered and got dressed.

I am sitting in the loft writing this for the past 15 minutes or so and there hasn’t been a single chirp since I’ve been sitting here. Am I hallucinating? Dreaming? Still dreaming? Rod is out and I don’t want to wake him up so I feel trapped up here.

The update for the day:

In spite of me, it has been a very quiet day. I was in and out of the house around 5:30 this morning as I tried to go swim and was deeply concerned that I was waking Rod up. Laura assures me I did not or I didn’t make it any worse.

After I disappeared to bed last night, there was some concern that Rod’s blood sugar was too high. Jane noted a couple things and there was a moment of great disappointment when Laura substituted string cheese for a cookie. The nurse today borrowed a glucometer from the hospital and even though he ate pretty much only a cracker all day, he was over 300. Most of us are under 125 unless we binge on cotton candy and funnel cake. So, a little high today and it was probably worse yesterday.

Rod’s been sleeping most of the day. Aides showed up this morning and gave him bath. He kept his eyes shut most of the time and only interacted minimally. They were very nice considering I backed into their car when they arrived.

For the nurse this afternoon, he was largely passive as well. When he is awake, he keeps his eyes closed. When she asked for his hand to do the blood test, he responded but didn’t flinch when she pricked his finger. He is still a tough guy. He has eaten very little today which is a BIG change. His speech is more slurred and he is difficult to understand in general.

On the positive, he looks peaceful and seems to be comfortable. It is beautiful out today. All the windows are open and the room is bright. I have started liking the Gaithers so I relocated to the living room while Laura was out shopping and decided to further confuse my Google Play recommendations by playing their Hymns album again for Rod. He asked for a sip and in the process of getting him some Diet Coke, he accidentally punched me in the throat. I am not taking it personally.

The other night, Rod said that something he has had time to do in his situation (his words) was remember the words to the old hymns. Then, without breaking eye contact, he recited the third verse of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”:

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

   Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

10 March

I wish I had good things to write today. I don’t. I’m sorry.

When Rod is awake, he is miserable. He seems to like us in the room but he calls for help and we don’t know what we can do for him. He is having trouble breathing, clears his throat very often, and has terrible apnea when he is asleep. He is not conversational. One word answers usually. He talks more to Laura than Jane or I. Even when he is awake, his keeps his eyes closed. Many times when his eyes are open, they are not focused. Last night at about 2 AM, Laura couldn’t wake him up to take a pill.

OK, sorry for that. That is it for the bad news.

It was a beautiful day today again. Blue sky, sun, deer in the neighborhood, children playing outside, and a peaceful warm place in the house. As life goes on, to me, it felt quiet, peaceful and sacred in the house. The normalcy of life outside contrasted the sacred, important, momentous, and eternal inside.

There are moments, however, when he is himself. Jane knocked her knee agains the bed today. Laura asked if she hit her funny bone but before she could answer, Rod piped up with, “nothing funny about it.”

I am writing this while Jane and Laura do yet another puzzle. Rod is sleeping. Hymns are playing and we sing along sometimes.

11 March

On Wednesday, I commuted to work in Boulder (about forty-five minutes to an hour away depending on traffic in the canyon) to put a face to my name for the new guy that was hired. I am sort of a prickly-pear to work with unless you get to know me a little and realize about 90% of what I say and write is sarcastic, hyperbole, and meant as a joke. It was nice being back in my world but I could feel that I was tired and a little more seriously and somber than normal.

12 March

Sorry for lack of report Wednesday. I commuted to work in the morning and stayed at home for the night. Tuesday night was, however, awful. I slept very little as did Laura. The only nice thing was that I saw a fireball at 6 AM out the window because I was wide awake. I even filed a report with the American Meteor Society or whatever.

Rod was coughing up a storm all night. He was very uncomfortable and having trouble sleeping and breathing. It was disconcerting to all of us.

I talked to Jane a couple times during the day Wednesday and expected the worst each time. They gave Rod the good stuff (morphine) Wednesday night with a chaser of Ativan. When I got back this morning the report was that it was a good night. Jane slept on the couch until about 7 AM. This allowed Laura to sleep soundly. She reported that she slept so soundly that she woke up sore like she hadn’t moved all night.

Rod is much more comfortable today. Thanks to a lifetime avoiding narcotics, he has a nice low tolerance. Apparently a little goes a long way. There is a life lesson in this for all of us. I mean, too late for me but for the rest of you, yeah, don’t do drugs.

I’ve had a couple short and goofy conversations with Rod today. So have Laura and Jane. At one point he was mumbling and I asked if he needed something. “Just keeping tabs on everyone,” he said and then with a smile, “taking names.” He talked about going to Holland, Michigan, getting ready to go to bed, wondering where we were going to spend the night, and other things that were just on the border of making sense.

Happy, pleasant, peaceful, calm, and quiet. He is here and someplace else at the same time. His eyes focus at nothing and seem to just scan the room looking at or for something. When he calls for a “sip”, he seems a little surprised when I appear at his bedside even though I just walked across the room in his field of vision the whole time to get there. More and more, we can walk by him and not be noticed.

Jane is going to sleep on the couch again tonight because that worked.

He hasn’t been lucid much but yesterday he was very concerned about his sister-in-law Marcia who was having hip replacement surgery. He was relived to hear that the surgery was successful and that she is doing well.

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