Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Travelogue of Hope

The bulk of the two weeks since my last post were spent away from Grand Junction, and while I tried to keep up with the goings-on here I was otherwise occupied most of the time.

The main purpose of the trip was to attend an evaluation session with caregivers for my brother-in-law Michael, who lives in a group home in Massachusetts. Mike shares a home, and attends a day rehabilitation program, with some people he has known for over 20 years. I took over the handling of Mike's affairs after Jan died, and part of this includes being out there at least once or twice a year to see how he's doing, and meet face-to-face and coordinate his needs with those overseeing his care. This includes staff from the state government.

I stopped in Pittsburgh on the way to spend some time with Leslie and the girls, with the intent of taking Leslie out for Valentine's Day. We wound up spending most of that day at Children's Hospital, where Leslie's daughter Michaela was eventually admitted for vomiting and back pain, some of which may or may not be consequences of her continuing fight against neuroblastoma.

I stayed with Leslie and Michaela in the hospital until Wednesday. There was a pull-out sleeping pad included as part of the small sofa apparently intended to accommodate two for such purposes. This only served to create my own back pain in places I had not experienced it before. So after the first night I slept sitting up, with one pillow filling the space between my back and the angle of the furniture, adopting what could best be described as an "airline-style" sleep position. It worked for those periods when nurses or aides weren't in to administer medications or otherwise do their jobs.

After flying to Boston and driving the 90 miles to Cape Cod, I attended the evaluation meeting the next morning, then stopped in at Mike's group home to meet some other staff and see how Mike's living arrangements were shaping up. I finished things up in time to get an evening flight back to Pittsburgh.

I brought Leslie and Michaela back home from the hospital the next day. We managed a very nice belated Valentine's dinner this past weekend, before yet another set of flights to arrive back in GJ just before midnight on Sunday.

I saw my mother a couple of times while I was there as well. I sent both her and Leslie a crank-up flashlight and radio, if only to help prepare for the next major snowstorm and/or power outage. Talk radio in Pittsburgh was still abuzz with the so-called shortcomings of the road crews, electric utilities, and anyone else not perceived to have done their best to deal with what was a significant weather event.

The snow still piled on the sides of many roads, and the ice accumulated on the sides of many houses, was an impressive sight. There are already concerns about flooding, should the Pittsburgh region experience temperatures and rain which would rapidly melt the over 40 inches of snow that fell there so far this month. I'm hopeful for a more controlled, steady runoff.

After returning I found myself trying to be hopeful for many other things as well. I'm hoping for an improving stability in my relationship with Leslie, and that the medical professionals caring for Michaela will be able to stem the tide of her cancer, and also reduce the new onset of back pain that has no etiology as of yet. Michaela returns to Philadelphia next week for follow-up to the radiation treatments she received in January.

I'm hoping that Mike will continue to improve in his ability to socialize appropriately with his housemates and others, and that his skills development will also improve with continued daily involvement in programs that are designed to do just that. Mike is hampered by an impaired short-term memory, one of the consequences of his head injury nearly two years ago. He does seem to recognize me and others that have known him a long time, but he likely does not remember my visit. I'm looking forward to monitoring his progress later in the year.

I'm hoping for change in several factors that seem to connect me to what feels like two parallel universes, both integral to my existence but disparate in the way my life is conducted while I am in them, or even thinking about them. Along with this is hope for acceptance of the choices I have made by those who still display some measure of discomfort about them.

Many of these hopes are decidedly uphill in their intent or desired outcome. Along with that hope is a need to commit myself in a greater sense to the fact that these things, like so many others, are really outside of my control, and all that I can do is learn to live in a way that honors God's plan for my life, as well as those who share my personal, working, and social existence.

Have a good week ahead.

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