Our current location is Howell Michigan where we have been staying in my mother-in-law’s previously vacant condo for the past six weeks. In case you missed the update in a prior post my wife’s mom, Mary is nearing her final weeks of life. We spent the summer at various locations in Missouri and having made two prior trips to Michigan the same year, knew time was nearing when we would need to spend more time with Mary. We left the fifth wheel RV back in Joplin Missouri where I found covered storage with power to keep the batteries up ($161 a month after 10% veterans discount). My best guess is we will be back the first half of February to resume our RV lifestyle. Mary is doing as well as expected and is now under the care of Hospice and her two daughters. She is able to remain in her assisted care apartment until the end. Thank you to everyone who responded in comments wishing Mary well or have kept us in your thoughts. I’ve read the same story in many of your own blogs. This has become another thing we now have in common. Life brings about changes in the route and in our case has resulted in a number of months parked in Michigan. I’ve had more time to sit around and think than I usually have. The wheels that have been turning are inside my head rather than down the road in an RV where I prefer to be.
Lucky you, or not, I have much time to write …
The facility and staff of the assisted care facility are top notch. The food is restaurant quality as is the dining room. The common area of the newer facility is setup like a large home to include a movie theater, sauna, game rooms, library and more. These common areas are duplicated at the corners of the building which I found creates a family atmosphere. By that I mean Mary attends events with the same people who live at the corner of her building, developing friendships. She lives in a one-bedroom unit that opens to a common hallway. Small details make a difference such as there is a shelf and wall area outside each room where resident can decorate however they want. I can tell this personal area aids residents with memory problems how to find their decorated front door. Everyone has a panic button around their neck that can be pushed for even the smallest request. One wing of the building is for memory care issues although I’ve never been in that area that I can recall.
A husband and wife live here as well as individual elderly males and females. The Activities Director plans no less than four events a day, some including trips on the bus to local shopping and restaurants. All of which are posted in photos and video on Facebook available to loved ones outside the facility. Karen makes sure to show Mary the posts to include comments from family. Months ago, before Mary became ill, we watched a video where Mary and friends took the bus to Hell Michigan. Mary is a member of the “lunch bunch” and they decided the one bar/restaurant in Hell was the place to go. It was charming to watch the bikers from the bar escorting old ladies off the bus – which was a planned event. Sometimes we tell Mary we knew she was out with her friends to which she insists she did not go on the trip as if not wanting to admit she was enjoying her new homelife. I really do think she lies on purpose at times. We don’t correct her and just move on to another subject. If she says she wants to move back home we tell her, you live her, this is the only place people are located that can take care of you. Karen was concerned that Mary would not use her oxygen when ordered. I said no worries; I’ve seen it before. Once they get scared, they will do what is required without argument. That’s a cold statement but it is the truth. They will also move to assisted care or agree to changes when they are scared.
Allow me to put out another truth for those wanting insight. During my 30-year law enforcement career I handled death investigations, more intently so during the final half as a Detective. In the 1990’s I wrote a paper on Crime and the Elderly. Research led me to many sources of information. Any C.O.P (Constable on Patrol) whom you might ask if they know Det. Seneker will be able to tell you the most important victim class for me are the elderly. I believe society as a whole can be judged by the way they treat the elderly! This all began sadly with the wrongful death of an elderly person and from then on I was hooked with concern for them. Of all the points I’d like to make in this paragraph I think the best would cut off a common area of concern when first considering the need to force the elderly into living elsewhere. Specifically, regarding court action to revoke their decision making. Rightfully Judges consider taking away anyone’s constitutional rights a serious matter. This includes the right to live where they want, to pursue happiness, to live independently. The average person would be wrong if they think just a few facts or events would be enough evidence for a Judge to incarcerate someone into a place they don’t want to be. Yup, they have the right to fall and die on the floor at home. This is controversial in that some laws allow arrest when a person is a danger to themselves or others. But eventually those arrests end up in court or release within a specific number of hours of initial detention depending on state law. Yes, doctors can be witnesses but getting one of them to court is difficult at best. The state or county Department of Aging, or whatever it’s called in your area, is the best resource and free to call. They have experienced caseworkers. But even their testimony during a court hearing is not automatically a reason to take away someone’s constitutional rights. We are caring family members and find a way to make it work for the best and don’t rely on a Judge’s decision that will most likely never come in a timely manner.
I’m adding the details for the benefit of family and those who will find themselves or loved ones in the same position someday. I went back and edited a few details that after second thought, were maybe too personal. Life is a journey, and we all know in the last trip, “from which no man returns” is one we will have to take alone. I believe Christ is a short distance down that road to quickly great me. Until then, we will do whatever is required to make life comfortable and safe for Mary. Karen’s dad passed a long time ago as did my own parents. The wheels turn in my head reminding me however the longest relationships in life are with our siblings and extremely important. Especially after the death of a parent. By the way, I had never heard this before: “Grief is Love with No Place to Go.” I talked to others and found they already knew that phrase, adding those with the most love to give can experience the most extreme grief.
Across the hall from Mary’s apartment is where Ester lives. She sold her house and moved in here three years ago. From the first day of arrival, she took a liking to Mary and a friendship developed, although Mary sometimes thinks Ester over does it. Ester is high energy and always smiling. She loves the place and makes sure to tell everyone. The first six weeks or so, as the doctor warned, Mary considered this a temporary home and talked about moving back to her condo. We followed doctor’s orders and told Mary this is your home. You see Mary had an automobile accident earlier in 2022 which caused lasting injury. Her daughters gave her a chance to live independent for weeks but that did not work out to include Mary forgetting to take her medication or taking it all at once rather than by prescribed dosage. Mary was a Registered Nurse and when the doctor told her she must live in assisted care or a nursing home she respected his orders. I can understand her wanting to “go home” and desire to live independently. This facility is as close to that as possible. I’ll not take the time to describe the services in full detail, but they ultimately include Mary being able to pass here at her new home in the care of her family and Hospice.
Finally comes the most wonderful thing about the place in my eyes. Everything is considered to be normal here in the eyes of the staff, some of which have adopted Mary. Events considered uncommon for the young occur daily in life for the elderly. I’ll give you few examples. Mary has a stuffed dog which sometimes one has to believe she thinks is real although she says it’s not. When the staff comes to get her when she did not show up at the dining room, they remind her to bring her dog. Her friends even pet it. One lady liked to walk and the staff was conscious that every now and then they needed to turn her around to walk the other direction. Not like a “crazy” person wondering the halls of an asylum but as if the lady had physical trouble turning or lost her way. The staff opened her apartment door for her eventual return. Or there was the old guy at bingo who literally yelled bingo after every number that was called while he was paying more attention to his cell phone screen at the time. I thought to myself, hey guy yelling bingo, when you don’t have a bingo is like yelling fire in a theater. No one in the room gave it a second thought because it’s okay. Accidents happen, sometimes you need someone to push the wheelchair back to your room, professional staff who make a habit to get to know family who visit by first name, letting Wyatt wonder and greet residents who have become fond of him, pausing exercise class while someone walks back to their room for a dog treat and most of all caring that you attend events with your new friends rather than rotting away alone in your room.
Mary’s daughter Kathy makes sure Mary has everything she needs from the store as a matter of bi-weekly routine rather than as a daily event. It’s important for Mary to live alone and the kids to continue their own life as best as possible. Also, nice to know the fire department is located just down the street for ambulance trips if needed. I’ll note this because it was new to me. Mary fell last week and dumped her head. She is on hospice which she qualified for as she was expected to die within six months and agreed to no treatment for her stage four cancer. She has a do not resuscitate order and durable power attorney vested with her daughter Kathy who lives six miles away. My wife Karen got the call about the fall and resulting injury when the staff member passing out medications in the morning found Mary. The fall had just happened, and they know this because the service at the facility includes routine checks on Mary which were later increased to every hour directly after the fall. My wife Karen, who had retired from hospice work reminded the staff they are to contact the hospice nurse and there would be no automatic trip in the ambulance to the hospital. Injury or illness are at a deferent level of concern compared to someone not on hospice care. Mary turned out fine with a black eye and bruised forehead.
Rest assured there are plenty of people with experience to give advice. It may be overwhelming at first but eventually turns into a comfortable routine for all. It’s only the end of the world for one person who for a relative short time, deserves to be the center of attention. Honor thy parents! That’s one of the 10 most important things we are expected to do in life.
First Winter with Snow and Christmas Lights in Four Years
This is our first Christmas outside our RV in four years. We added a few lights to our neighbor’s Al and Linda’s collection. Al decorated to include a Christmas tree growing outside our back patio door. It snowed maybe five times in November which I understood to be unusual. This latest snowstorm started three days ago and continues. The condo complex landscape team thankfully does a great job of snow removal. Being born and raised in the lower Midwest I found a few weather terms here in Michigan to be a little alarming. First there is the lake effect snow, which Karen had described in the past. Cold air moves across the warmer Lake Michigan and dumps snow east of there. Fortunately, most of it ends near their State Capital in Lansing which is about an hour west of us. Then there is the Alberta Clipper which is extreme wind that develops in Alberta Canada and blows through here. Most alarming of all were the pink rods I found sticking up at the corners of the driveway and sidewalk one morning. A neighbor explained eventually the temperatures drop and remain below freezing for long periods of time. The snow piles up and the snow removal teams use the pink rods as a guide to where the concrete is located and keep the plow out of the yard. And what they call snow flurries here we call heavy snow in Missouri. All this aside, it is oddly nice to get the full Michigan experience as is the same in all the states we live within long enough to get to know the individual state peculiarities.
What I’m Doing When There is Not Much to Do
I’m not bored. In my opinion boredom is another word for lazy. I’ve got plenty to do. Heck, I’ll even make work for myself if necessary. Someday I’ll mature, then go into an assisted care facility and beyond. Think I’ll take my father’s retirement advise. I’m getting up every day and doing what I want and not doing what I don’t want to do. He also said getting old sucks. Everything hurts more and less people care.
I do care to improve my mind which started the wheels turning fast, especially as chances for fun became hidden under the snow outside or parked under an RV storage awning back in Missouri.
Did I tell ya already about our friends Ray and Charlotte stopping at a nearby campground on their way to winter quarters? They live up in Traverse City Michigan. I called Ray afterwards to tell him I hate him and his sunshine down south. Jokes aside, these are special people to us just as are the many we have gotten to know while living fulltime in an RV. We know what it takes to plan a stop while enroute to a destination. They kept up with all our sudden route changes due to family stuff and we really enjoyed the visit. Sorry, no photos because I forgot to take them. I’d love to see Wyatt chasing Dixie in the high snow like they did on that sandy Atlantic beach last winter.
I have been studying the life of Benjamin Franklin. His autobiography was actually the start of a letter to his son and an incomplete work. The two were at odds before the Revolutionary War. Franklin was a loyalist at one time before the revolution and his son remained one, causing a lasting divide between the two. Thankfully they got over it. Franklin had 13 ideas of what virtues make a person more able to do good for others. He trained himself to make these virtues part of his personality. Going as far as to focus on one virtue at a time and evaluating himself at the end of each day on a chart to see how he had done. He was 69 years old, the oldest in the room, when the United States Declaration of Independence was written. By then world leaders had already valued his opinion. I appreciated one quotation which is: “If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.” Again, others may already be familiar with this line of thought and I’m just a little slower learning than others or just got time to improve myself. Should have done that when I was 18. Franklin only spent two years in school. He was a reader and self-taught. His master’s degree was earned however as he could have taught the college course based on personal experience. His two doctoral degrees were awarded and earned as well.
I have done nothing in my life worth writing about as a way of being remembered by others. So, if I follow Franklin’s advice, I think I’ll have to write something worth reading. And put my name all over it as the author. I’m strongly leaning towards the story of my family from Tennessee to Missouri. Then publish the works for the purpose of genealogy and sending free copies to as many libraries or online services that will take it. That would be a way to honor my forefathers as well, especially as much of the work is completed by research they handed down and never got around to writing it up.
Back during the 2020 riots, or whatever you want to call them, I started a letter to my daughter as well. After about six pages I threw it away and never sent it. I had worked with three generations of law enforcement. The first was the 60’s cops and what came out of those experiences was often passed down from the senior officers. Then my own generation that was different and then the next and current which are way different than the others. I wanted to provide better understanding of current events and ease any worry or concern my daughter was going through regarding some attitudes towards law enforcement. I wanted to set the record straight, especially from the perspective of someone like myself who loves this country, our system of government and its ability to be modified without throwing it out and as a police officer with a strong belief the constitution is the greatest law of the land. I threw the letter out because ultimately, I did not feel qualified to write it. I felt the letter would get out and criticism would come from those who have issues with law enforcement and from cops who are currently on the job. The letter was not all about racial issues or whatever. Much of it was about hope and how over time the best decisions tend to be made.
The wheels kept turning so I took on a little more study work during the down time here in Michigan. I’ll not go much into detail because I care not to bring politics into it. I was born in 1963 and became politically aware in sixth grade. My first male teacher, Mr. Dempsy handed out a writing assignment, which as I recall was to be completed over an extended school break. He taught us how to take notes. Then we were to watch the presidential debates and take good notes to be graded later. I located Mr. Dempsy yesterday and gave him a call where he lives in Maine. Thanked him for all he had done for me and how it affected my life the past nearly 50 years. Once I was asked how I knew my police reports were a true and accurate representation of the events. I’m a good note taker is my replay – thanks to Mr. Dempsey. It was nice to have an adult conversation with him regarding what became of him and ideas he had for us as children. He did something in his life worth writing about. Or even a short video by one student which was not me.
I know specific events that happened during the Vietnam War, which shaped the army I joined in 1982. In the 60’s I recall not everyone had a television. So being able to watch TV at a friend’s was a big thing. I recall my grandmother crying as she watched the news about Vietnam where my uncle Tommy was serving and would earn three purple hearts and the silver star. I later learned what were considered honest news reporters although some feel Walter Cronkite was wrong in his assessment of the Vietnam War. The Tet Offensive did ruin the enemy’s ability to fight due to losses. He however feared the war was unwinnable and went on national TV saying the same. So, fast forward to now and me wanting to fill in the gaps in knowledge.
So, I’ve been studying the folks that called themselves the New Left back in the 60’s and when the term New Right was coined around the same time. I have also become more familiar with the Federal Communications Commission’s policy called the Fairness Doctrine and the historical aspects.
Winston Churchill believed that if you want to look into the future, you have to study an equal amount of time from the past as both are on the same road. Seemed reasonable what is going on today that is causing hate and division started a long time ago and is molding into other forms despite someone thinking they invented any great new concept. I’ll end it there and hopefully have not disclosed which way I lean because that’s not the point. Do your own research. Why study this? To gain control of my surroundings and be able to pass along well worded advice to my daughter. I don’t want to be the crying grandparent I witnessed standing around the campfire years ago up in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She said her granddaughter no longer talks to her even after grandmother promised to not talk politics. Sometimes I know my own limitations. I’m not the best communicator and I guess a little lazy in trying to convince others verbally to consider a different opinion. I’m no Benjamin Franklin.
Good thing Jesus Christ did not hate the people that disagreed with him. Guess that’s my Christmas part of the blog.
P.S – an RV thing. Got a new wheel from the manufacturer under warranty. We have had a very slow tire leak since the rig was new. Turned out to be a very tiny crack in the aluminum wheel which is common. Also ordered a new set of water valves for our wet bay because I broke off a handle when winterizing the first time. That’s replaced under warranty due to a flawed design. Got all this sent to me in Michigan while we are stopped long enough to get it. Stuff like this becomes mundane after the first year or two of fulltime RVing so don’t lose your mind, like I did when I was less experienced or at least had worse things happened to compare against.