No Place Like Home

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It’s late afternoon. The sun streams into our family room. I decide to read another chapter in “Factory Man,” the best seller about the VA furniture making family, Bassett, who take on Asian competition and save their company and it’s town. It’s been almost 2 months since my surgery on September 16. On the 23 I will have been home a month. The days seem to slip by in a slow routine.

I am rarely ready to get up before 8. But before I can move around, catheters need attention, then a shower. Still have a surgical wound that needs cleaning and dressing. I am still far from self-sufficient and depend on Diane’s help. My clothes have been reduced to a shelf of tee shirts, socks, new athletic pants — long for the day and shorts at night. A few shirts. My rubber Dansks slip ones. Haven’t been near my bedroom bureau or clothes closet.

Ive been having a 1/2 cup of wake-up coffee. Usually a full breakfast, sourdough pancakes today, other days, homemade yogurt and a scoop of apple butter, eggs, sausage, buttermilk biscuits, sweets HGP staff sent. E-mail and newspaper (Inquirer online during the week; Inquirer and New York Times delivered on weekends — my preference but expensive).

Trying to get into a routine of doing my leg and arm exercises after breakfast. Never one for organized exercise, this is a struggle, but I need to do them daily. Good time to walk downstairs or upstairs (more exercise). Although my blood pressure is good (have stopped high blood pressure medication), my heart rate gets high with exercise, even getting up from a chair and moving quickly. In fact overall, I am amazed at how weak I still feel. Two months.

Some time might be devoted to paying bills, returning calls or other regular tasks. We’ve had someone out to clean the wood stove and chimney, Joe Kriven finished several outside painting projects I had started, Diane ordered a new shower head (detachable) and grab bars — waiting for someone to install. We’ve taken the car (due for inspection) to mechanic and it would be sold but neither buyer could drive a manual transmission.

A home nurse is still coming several days a week. She takes my vitals, changes the wound dressing, orders supplies. For several weeks there were also physical therapy nurses but the’ve given me the exercise routine.

I’ve spent a lot of time with photographs. Severely edited my Nicaragua prints from 9 to 2 albums. Filling the empty albums with family photographs. The huge blue/green leather albulm I made at the Boston bindery was emptied — many photographs had been removed or had falling out. Those and many loose ones were grouped in Peace Corps, Elementary and High School, Old Profy Family, Smith Family albums. I’m down to several trays (probably 3000 photographs) of loose photographs from 2009-2014.

I’ve also started to organize digital photographs. Since retirement I’ve loaded camera, phone and I-pad photos onto the new Apple laptop. By default they went into I-Photo. Not a very easy to navigate photo storage system. Events currently are mixed together and in more than one file. Sorting them slowly. In addition there are several large files that were down loaded from my Dell computer. These are not in I-Photo. I ordered another back up drive for photographs and also got Lightroom on the advice of Yardley Photographers. Now to decide what goes on the backup drive, Lighroom and do I use I-Photo at all.

None of this photo organizing touches my slides. I have about 100 trays and 20 or more binders with slide sleeves. Thousands and thousands of slides. Will start edited them in a few weeks. I’ve kept the Dell computer and scanner — maybe I will scan some.

Another big organizing project is books. Last January I sold about 20 boxes for $450 and hope to do the same very soon. Waiting for some paper boxes from HGP. I plan on delisting all the books I have for sale on Amazon and selling in bulk to a bookstore. We’ve also gotten together some flatware — some is silver. And I have all my proof coins. Both are ready to sell.

There have been other cleaning organizing projects. Diane spent several days giving our now unused bedroom a cleaning. I purged a basket of travel brochures and got rid of about 15 cans of paint. Just the beginning. All these projects were scheduled for retirement. Only now we are pretty confined to the house, so we are finally doing them.

Lunch is is frequently left overs. My appetite is very sensitive. I feel I can eat certain things but in small quantities. Recommended is five small meals a day and I make some attempt — after breakfast, a protein shake is common and maybe an afternoon snack. Once I’ve had lunch, however, I feel sleepy. Some days I can lay down for an hour and be up by 2. Other days I fall asleep and it’s 3 before I drag myself up.

I try to listen to some music each day. I use Pandora a bit (new for me) and I play from our CD collection. Will eventually bring up some LPs from the basement to play, keep or sell.

Although I’ve been able to write a number of blogs and in my daily journal, I have done limited reading. Some magazines. The only book I’ve completed is “Living at the End of Time: two years in a small house,” by John Hansen Mitchell. He builds a small cottage and lives there simply (sometimes watching the grass grow) reflecting, reading journals, including Thoreau’s — the cottage is a few miles from Walden. The story seemed rather appropriate given my circumstances and I’ve enjoyed several other books by Mitchell. (See my blog “On Seeing, Looking, Observing and Sensing.”)

We’ve taken several walks in the neighborhood (not enough) and a few Bucks County drives — again not enough. We need to get out more and expand what we do.

I have two places where I sit– at the kitchen table and a big chair in the family room. But I can only sit so long. So I frequently walk the house, stare out the back door at the fall colors, step out on the deck. I’ve done some cooking, making biscuits, yogurt. Cooking kumbacha squash for soup. More could be done. Need more standing activity.

Late afternoon as the sun goes down I’ll walk around the house some more, sometimes sit, stare, reflect. This is my new life. Some days I’m satisfied, it was a good day. But I also get the blues. Not strong depression. Just tired, is this it? I tell myself it’s my life during this period of recovery. Make the best of it. Another two months maybe.

About 5:30 we turn on the news and begin cooking dinner. As before surgery. Diane usually cooks and I clean up the dishes. I get ready for bed about 7:30 or eight o’ clock. Again I still need Diane’s help. I have my I-Pad and watch some movie for an hour or more. The past two weeks it’s been American Experience, The Presidents. I’ve watched Reagan, Carter, Nixon, LBJ, quite a few more in the series. Another PBS series was “Indian Summers” — about the British in India. Excellent.

Most nights I’m bothered by bladder spasms (sometimes very painful) and/or acid reflux. Both force me to get up and walk around. Don’t know why the spasms come after I’ve been sleeping but it’s fairly consistent.

Otherwise I sleep (waking up briefly) until early morning, getting up to empty my appliances. Then back to a sound morning sleep. Around 7:30 the sun shines over the river into my new bedroom window. Another day.

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