Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The old refrigerator.

Who would have guessed that getting a new refrigerator would start the memory train going?

As I pulled the old fridge away from the wall so as to clean and mop behind and under where it had been. I saw the tag on the back where the dated we put the fridge into service, 05-14-84. My sons were almost 3 years old. After cleaning the floor under the fridge and wiping off the wall I pushed it back.

Time to remove the refrigerator art from the doors and sides. First came the magnets with the pictures and quotes on them. Made me stop and read them again. Memories of the many drawings and colored pictures from years flooded my mind. Ninja turtles, Danger Mouse and Mr. Greenbacks. Danger Mouse was a cartoon from England. When my boys started school the teacher thought they were from England because they spoke with an English accent. Sandra had to tell her why they had that accent. Those pictures were long gone. Every year a school picture was put on the door till some how they were taken down and no one noticed but new ones appeared.

But there were some that never came off. They were sealed in clear contact paper and stuck on the door. One was a little note that Robert had written in his class. It read, " I am special because I am good. I can help other people and make them feel good.." His teacher had written a note on it that read "you make me feel good." Another was a poem written by Steven. It tied colors to things or feelings. A few were, "Red, the color of war, Blue the color of etc, etc." I would copy the thing but I can't find any of the things I pulled off. I hope they didn't get put in the trash after I retired for the night last night.

As I showed Steven and Stephie where I had cut them off the door I told them, "well, it's time for them to go and time to start putting stuff from your kids on."

The new fridge came today, it is plugged in and humming, nice and clean, glass shelf so you can see when is on the shelf under it, room for gallons of milk and juice on the door. Clean crisper, with glass top. And on the door, hand drawn pictures by great new artists by the name of Lianna and Sophie. Soon there will be essays on there. Their class pictures will be put up only to be covered up by new papers and report cards.

I hope the new refrigerator will be as proud of those works as the old one was with it's things. As for me, I guess I am like the old fridge, I did what I was suppose to do, I displayed my pride of the family.

The old yellow fridge is now gone, it was put on a truck and driven away. A new white one is in it's place. Thanks old fridge, you served us well, and taught us to keep on humming and doing our job.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

some days are like that

Yesterday, the fifth of November 2010 started out as a normal day, almost.

I was up a little bit earlier then nommal because I was fasting and had to go have some blood drawn for labs. Made it to the VA clinic on time, got done with the blood draw early so I signed up for my flu shot. All in all it was all over in no time and in less then at hour I was on the way home.

I remembered reading that the Air Force Thunderbirds were in town for a show next week. Veterans Day is next Friday and they will be performing. The runway is about a mile from my house and I could hear then flying over and practicing their moves. I went out side and watched them for a little while. Sure looks nice to see them flying so close and fast. It will be a loud weekend for us.

Then the phone rang. 3:30 PM, I answered the call because it said U. S Goverment and I wondered what they wanted. I only voted once, don't recall not paying taxes, I stand when the flag goes by. Well, it was the VA. The words I heard changed my day.

"Mr. Rivera," the voice said, " you need to get to an ER as soon as you can." "Your labs just came back and your potassium is very high and has to be treated right now, you are in danger of a major heart attack." Well, that got my attention! He told me the numbers and asked for my doctors name. Told him I would go to my doctors office and seek treatment there. He told me either way, but go.

I called my doctor but he was gone for the the day. I told them what I had been told and they told me to come in, someone else would see me. I went and after a short wait (Hate being a walk in) I was seen by what seemed to be a young man. I told him what my potassium lever were reported to be and his eyes opened as wide as I have ever seen eyes open. He asked "what?" I told him again and he said, there is nothing we can do here, you need to go to the ER as fast as you can. I asked " The hospital accross the street?" and he answered "Go to the nearest ER" and I said, " that's across the street".

Being me I went home, parked my car and called my brother in law for a ride. I didn't want my old van sitting in a parking lot at the hospital for who knew how long.

I walked into the ER, no one was in the waiting room so I walked up to the window and signed myself in for treatment. After taking my information I was taken to the back, given the hated hospital gown, told to put that on and lie down on the table. Soon a doctor came in, heard my story and asked some questions. Told me if that was correct I would receive some medication and after some time would be retested. But he said I didn't act or sound as if I was in trouble. My EKG was normal, BP was high but that was understandable and most likely stress related. He ordered another blood test before doing anything else which sounded like a good idea to me.

Then I lied there and waited. About an hour later, after being checked on every few mins. the doctor came in and told me my level of potissium was just a tad over normal. Not anywhere near the numbers I had given him. Gave me a copy of the test results to give to my doctor and told me to see my PCP Monday. Told me I could get dressed and the nurse would come and remove my IV. He left and my son Robert and his wife walked in to see me. Told them they were just in time to give me a ride home. Nurse came in , took out the IV, which still hurts alittle today, if I touch it. Answer to that, don't touch it!

So Monday I call my doctor and Friday I have an appointmet with my VA doctor. Will be good to hear what he has to say.

So what have I learned? Sometime it pays to have your normal checkups. They may find something that needs attention. Even if it is wrong, better to check things out, just case. Took a long time for my BP to return to normal but I did learn one inportant thing.

I had been wondering if life was really worth living, if I was of any use to anyone. If fact I was wondering if I should just give up. Last night I thought of my sons, my grandkids, and life. I would like to see Robert's kids, I love seeing Lianna and Sophie growing up. They spent the night away last night. This morning about 8:30 I heard the front door open and I heard Sophie holloring "Ganpa, where are you?" Maybe I am still needed and loved. I believe I am.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My sister Maggie

It has taken some time to be able to post this.
First a little about my family. My mom had 11 kids. I never met the first 2 as they died as infants. The next four I really don't remember them when I was growing up. I remember them as people coming to visit from time to time, my brothers in uniform, Navy and Army. They left home for the war or to work before I have any recall of them. The other I do remember as sisters and I watched them grow and leave home. But Maggie and Grace I grew up with. The truth be known they are the ones from which I learned "social life skills". You know, don't be dumb in front of girls, how to hold a cigarette, a little about drinks.
I believe that is why I took Maggie's passing as hard as I did. Maggie was a free spirit. She did things her way and lived life as she saw wanted. She loved to dance and enjoyed her work. Many people loved her, some did not. That comes with her life style. She was kind and loving , she would share with you and not expect anything in return except for you to accepted her as she was.
When I was a young boy Maggie married a soldier and move out of my life for a season. As I think back in my memory of Christmas's past one story comes to mind. Being the last born in my mom's family I had great Christmas's. Lots of present that the family had not been able to afford when they were growing up. I guess they made up for that by giving me a lot. Anyway, this one Christmas was special to me. And it was because of Maggie.
Maggie had married and move out. Her husband was a lower ranked GI and in those day people in the military didn't get paid as they are now. So here it was Christmas day. Present were handed out and I got a small warped box. It was from my sister Maggie. There I was, lots of present that I have no memory of what they were but this box I remember. I unwrapped it and there was a pencil box, red. The sliding top was a ruler and on top of the ruler was a pencil sharpener.
I looked at that box and somehow I knew how much she had to give up to buy that and wrap and sent to her "little brother". I think of that often. I learned about giving that year.
I am glad I told her about that gift. But it took years before I told her. In fact, it was about 5 years ago. She had won a football poll where she worked and she came to San Antonio and treated her sisters and brother to a Christmas dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. As we sat around the table we talked and enjoyed our evening. It was then that I asked for every ones attention. I told my sisters, spouses , and Maggie the story of my pencil box. I am glad I told her.
When I finished my service in the Navy I went to live with her in Madison, WI. Her husband was overseas in Turkey. I remember my nights on her "hide a bed". I had a great time, maybe the best years of my young single adult life. She would let me use her car just about anytime I wanted. I dated her next door neighbor. It was a good time to be 21 years old.
Those times soon passed and life goes one. Her husband returned, they moved, I moved, I married, started a new life and settled down to become what I am today. But Maggie remained a free spirit.
After the graveside service we retired to her house. There her son informed us that my sister had left funds for us to have a last party in her honor. She wanted a special song played in her memory. It was "Que me lieven canciones" by the group Mazz. It is in Spanish and it translate as"let them bring me songs". It told us to come with songs, to sing and after her body is in the ground to have a drink for her, have mariachs sing, maybe the sound will awaken her body". It was hard to sing with tears in our eyes. She also had gotten a bottle of tequila and everyone was to have a shot with glasses raised. (being LDS) I was allowed to raise a can of pop.
Yes, Maggie was a free spirit and everyone there was sad to see her leave. After all that her son reminded us that her birthday was in a couple of days so with tears in our eyes again, everyone sang "happy birthday, Maggie".
It was good to see so many grandkids there, we may return to where we came but our posterity lives on. This is the world that we leave for them. We may not have done a great job but we love them and did the best we could do. And they carry the seed or eggs of another Maggie.
RIP Maggie

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

the way it was

I have been reading a review of the birth of LisaM's son. I have felt that maybe if I share the passing of my wife, Sandra, I could get rid of some demons I have been carrying around with me. Most of this has been written before but only in bits, here and there.

In May of 2003 I came home from bus driver training. I had been driving a school around streets full of parked cars and on coming traffic. Then on the highways and then country roads. I felt I had done well and was happy to get home. I walked in and saw Sandra standing at the sink. At first all looked well but then she looked at me and I knew something was wrong.

She looked at me and said "well, they know what is wrong with me." Then she told me that she had COPD. Well, I didn't know much about that. I knew she had asthma and asked her what was the prognosis and she looked up and said "She (her doctor)said if all goes well, I have 5 years left, could be as short as 3 years and 10 years if all goes perfect." All was quiet for a while. I think I sat down and waited for something to happen.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, her lungs could not contract to expel the used air and/or could not expand to take it the air she needed. The air sacs were not elastic anymore, or not all of them. They were all going bad and when she didn't have enough sacs left she would not be able to breath. It is a slow and painful disease.

At first things went on as before, at time we would forget just how ill she really was. Then one winter day the family went to Six Flags for a nice winter eve at the park. It was a cold, for Texas, night and while walking around the cold air got to her. She could not breath, The family formed a circle around her to block the wind and she wrapped her scarf around her face and slowly was able to catch her breath. That was the start of a long slide.

Soon after that she had a wheelchair and she would turn the wheels by hand and I would go shopping with her and I pushed the cart and she told me what to put in the basket, Taught me how to shop. Open the egg cartons and look at the eggs, look at the price per unit, sometime the bigger packages cost more. Buy more, pay more, as she called it.

But things were getting worse. Soon she was on O2 24/7. Oxygen, the green metal tanks became part of our life along with an oxygen concentrator. A machine that takes the airs and removes most of the other gasses leaving the O2. At first we use 3 litters per min. not to bad, a tank could last 3-4 hours. Turning the wheels on her chair soon became to much and we moved to a power chair. We strapped a tank on the back above the batteries and we each carried a key to change tanks and washers to use on the meter in case we dropped one when changing the tanks and could not find it. She loved the freedom the chair gave her, she would zoom around the neighborhood and when she wanted to go at night I got her a flashing red light for the back and a very bright light for the front. What a joy to see her going and coming on her own. She was happy and soon she was known all around the "hood".

Then came the day when she told me, "I think you should go shopping by yourself. I hate to see you struggle to place the chair in the van and then load the groceries in the back. It takes to long. And besides, I get to tired. I could see she was getting worse week by week and then day by day. We raised the rate of flow of O2 from 2 or 3 ML per min to 5 or 7. She now no longer went for her rides alone and she became kind of home bound. She love Fast meeting and we tried to make it on those Sundays. One Sunday I looked over at her and she was slumped over to a side and her face was very red. I had to pull her upright and adjust the flow rate to a higher number and we lasted the meeting but it was the last time she went to meetings.

At night I would remember how she loved to leave me in the dust when we went to visit her doctor. Once the clinic police told her to slow down. Boy, she would make that thing move!

We started to talk about our "living will". She reminded me that she didn't want to have a ventilator and that she wanted to die at home. She begged me, no nursing home. I promised I would not do that.

May, 2007. My descent into my hell. May 2, 2007, Sandra had been feeling ill for a couple of days and on that day she didn't eat or do anything. She was awake but had a strange look in her eyes. Then evening she quit responding. She didn't move, her breathing was very shallow and I got scared. I forgot about our living will and called EMS. They were there in a very short time. They worked on her for about half an hour in the house and told me she she had to go to the hospital. I told them what hospital her doctor used and they said no, she will not make it that far. She have to go to the nearest one. The one about 2-3 miles away. They put her in the ambulance but then they worked on her for another half hour. They waved me in and off we went. When we were about 2 blocks from the hospital the guy in the back yelled to the guy in front, "she coding". The guy driving yelled back we are 2 blocks away and hit the siren and floored the gas pedal. We shot forward and got to the door very fast. When they opened the door I could see the monitor had 3 flat lines. They told me I had to go inside and could not be there.

I went inside and went to sign her in. I asked when I could see her and told me "we'll let you know." It was about 10 PM when we got there and it was about 3 AM when they let me in to see her. She had a vent. She had been intubebated. She was on a machine. I talked to the nurse taking care of her and she asked me questions. I asked if they would transfer to the other hospital and they said, no, she is to sick. They would transfer her to ICU as soon as they could.

Next day she was in ICU but had not been responding to anything. The machine was pumping and wheezeing. The doctor would only say, "she is very ill" I told him she didn't want a vent and he said it was to late. Once it is in it would take a court order to remove it unless she woke up and told them to do so.

After about 4 days she started to run a very high fever and the doctor told me that they though she would die that night. They asked what I wanted done if she passed away. I said " don't do anything". They had me sign a DNR and told again that they could not remove the vent but that they would not do anything if her heart stopped. I said I understood and again I had to sign a paper. A DNR is a
do not resuscitate. This one nurse that I had learned to trust told me to go home, if any thing happened she would call me. Said I could not stay by her bed. I was very tired and needed a shower so I went home. While I was there I got a phone call from the hospital. A doctor told me that Sandra's kidneys were not working and he believed that by doing a dialysis he thought it would help. I asked him "what would you do if it was your wife there?". He said he would try it. I said ok, but nothing else.

No calls the rest of the night. Went in to see her early next morning and she was resting. I could see a big differents in how she looked and felt, She was not awake but I could see a great inprovment. She still had the vent. I now started to think of what she would say when she woke up and saw that she was on a machine.

Sandra's mother had died on a vent. She had not been able to come off of it. She hated it and Sandra didn't want that to happen to her. After a few more days, Sandra woke up and gave me her angry look. She could not talk with the vent but I knew she was not happy. She was still very ill and slept alot of the time. Then came the day the doctor told me they were going to ween her off the vent. They set the machine to only push air when she didn't draw in enough. I could tell when the machine was helping. In fact, first thing I did when I walked in was look at the monitors. I could tell how she was doing, could see her O2 levels, the whole bit.

But she was having a problem coming off the vent. Doctors stated talking about putting in a permanent fixture for the vent. They could not leave it the way it was. They gave us couple of days. Sandra let us know she didn't want that and I told them it was ok with me. They told me that now that she could let her wishs be known it was up to her. But she made it off the vent in the time given. The day my sons and I came to see her we walked in and the machine was gone. Not even in the room! She could talk and she wanted to know why she had been on a ventorltor. I told her I had gotten scared and call EMS they they put it in without me knowing they were going to do so.

22 days after the day she went in, I brought her home. I drove to the entrance and parked, took her wheelchair to her room and put her in her chair and pushed her down. I had to lift her out of the chair and into the van as they would not help unless I used their service. If I was going to take care of her I had to prove I could move her. It even surpised me that I picked her up and put her in the car.

Time marched on, In July it was like old times, she could walk a little and get in and out of bed. She started to teach Stephie how to cook things I like, gave away lots of her plants and enjoyed her grandbaby, Lianna.

August looked good at the start. But in the middle she started her final slide. Tino, a kid we had raised for a few years, called and came back to our house from Oklahoma. When he got here Sandra was back in the hospital. One day she started having that look again. I asked her if she wanted me to call EMS and she said "you better". I did and again they told me she was very ill and had to go to the hospital. Downtown this time. I told them "no vent" and they told me she might need one and I told them "no! She doesn't want one." So no vent. After a couple of days they had her O2 lever flowing at 30 ml per min. That is a lot. It makes a noise at that rate.

One day the doctor came in and she told him, "let me go home". The doctor looked at me and said, well, there is nothing we can do. She is using the last of her lungs. She has no reserve left. All we can do here is ease the passing. So 7 days after going to the hospital Sandra came home. Once home she asked why I called EMS again and I told her "I asked you if you wanted me to call and you said yes."

She said "Lee, I am telling you now, while I can still think, don't call again. I hurt and I am not going to get better. I am ready". She said her mind was clear, she didn't want to go to the hospital again. I promised her I would not call and we held each other.

The next two weeks I had to change her, give her a bath, cook, set her meds out. It is nothing special, it was what husband do. I saw her eyes grow dim and she started to forget lots of things. Then one day I had her in her chair sitting at the front door so she could look out. I took her a glass of milk and she took it and dropped it. I asked if she wanted to lie down and she said "I better". I took her in to bed and laid her down, She never spoke another word. After a couple of hours I went and told my sons I think your mom is going to die today. He called in to his job and told them he was not coming in. Night rolled around and she had not spoken or moved all day. In face, she didn't even have a BM. I saw her breating getting shallower and shallower and felt like calling EMS again but I remember what I had promised her. I laid with her, sang hymns softly to her and watched her die. My demon, how could I have done such a thing.

My bishop from long ago had told us when the time comes don't call EMS, their job is to bring you back. Wait before you call. Let time pass so that they will have no reason to try. So I waited about half an hour and called 911 and told them my wife and died. They wanted to know if I wanted EMS and I said no, just the police. Well, EMS drove up and 2 tech rushed in and I told them she doesn't want you. They told me it was their job and unless I had a signed paper saying that is what she wanted they had to try. I told them the paper was at her doctors and they said they had to see it. I told them no way. Just then their Captain walked in and wanted to know why they were not doing anything.. They told him I didn't want them to do anything. He looked at me and said, "sir, let me hook up this EKG, if it is flat we will respect your wishs." I said ok and it was flat. Her temp was low and they asked why I waited to call and I told them it was her wish. By this time the police were there and they called in to the station and they received a callback saying the medical examiner wanted the body to rule out foul play.

To this day, I asked myself, maybe I should have called. What if I had called, I might have had her a little longer.

The one thing that has kept me going is, the night after Sandra died I was laying in bed. I was very sad and sinking into deep depression. It was as if a darkness was coming down on me. I reach out and took her pillow, it still had her scent on it and held it and breathed in her scent. Then I heard her voice, "Lee, I am ok. I don't hurt and I can breath. I have lots that I have to do but I have to stay and comfort you till you understand that." I told her I understood and then I felt her spirit withdraw and I felt a calmness come over me.

It is those words that keep my demons at bay, but at times, they get to me.

Friday, June 25, 2010

With this ring....

As I sit here waiting for tomorrow I am thinking of Eternal Families. I am glad Robert is starting out his marriage in the temple. It has been a long hard battle to make it come about. It has taken 2 years to come to pass but without her parents here. Nancy is here with her sister and her sister's husband as her escort.

Now they have all the paper work in order, have had there interview and we are counting down the hours. I do wish my wife could be standing next to me as they are sealed. She always wanted to see this happen. Sandra has been gone almost 3 years and that is just about as long as this has taken. Sandra never met Nancy but she saw pictures and hear alot about her.

The reception in Mexico was a full blown affair. As soon as I find some time I want to blog about it. Right now my brain is full of other things. Let it be said, it was great. The reception tomorrow will not be as big but we do expect about 25 people from her ward to make the trip to San Antonio for the reception.

Robert can't wait to claim her as his. If you know what I mean. They will honeymoon in FL. Disney world and all the other sites in Orlando. Plus they will take a trip to the coast, one with out oil, same distaint to the gulf coast as to the east coast. We shall see.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

memory triggers.

Is there buried deep in your mind triggers that bring back pictures and memories?

I have them, deep in my memory. One of the ones I remember is Smell. I recall walking home from school as a young boy, I guess about second or thired grade. I would get to the corner of the street where I lived and I would smell the hot sweet scent of my mom baking pan dulse. Mexican sweet bread. I would start running and the closer I got to the house the stronger the smell. Rush up to the door and push open the kitchen door and grab one and eat it, still warm. So soft and sweet, with it's homemade topping. That memory comes to my mind when I go pass the panidrial (sp) Mexican bakery.

Diesel smoke. Now and then I get trapped behind a city bus. When it starts to move it emits a cloud of diesel smoke and my mind takes me back to my navy days. Tied to a pier, waiting to depart for parts unknown. All the visitors have departed the ship, the band of the pier is playing music and we are standing at "quarters for leaving port" Lined up along side the ship, we can see our loves one on the pier waving at us, at last the last line is thrown off and the ship blows it's horn. We are underway. Band starts playing Anchors Aweigh. The tug boats gun there engines and the diesel smoke hits you in the face.

Now when I am behind a bus and the smell of diesel smokes hits me I go back in time, back to my youth. My minds eye shows me the pier full of people and a line of sailors, our thoughts on our families that we are leaving and places we will be visiting. I fight to bring myself back to where I am.

The song, "Teddy bear song". I recall a young girl who was hired and trained to work on print circuit boards where I worked. She was newly married and had been hired about 6 weeks. She had been trained for about 4 weeks, in anticipate of a new contract to make equipment for the military. I called her Teddy Bear because I thought she was as cute as a teddy bear. Then on day she called me over and said " this is my last day". We didn't get the contract and her skills were not needed. So as she packed her little tool kit she had been made to buy, little wire cutter, needle nose pliers, small screwdrivers, ete. She was trying not to let the tears flow but she told me they had just gotten use to the extra money.

I wish I had button eyes and a red felt nose, khaki cotton skin and just one set of cloths, sitting on a shelf in a local department store. With no dreams to dreams and nothing to be sorry for. I wish I was a teddy bear, not living or loving, and not going no where, I wish I was a teddy bear.

It went something like that. The song came out about the time this happened. I guess that's why I called her Teddy Bear. I hope things worked out well for her.

So now when I hear that song, I return to yesteryear and see her again. I wish I could have had a million dollars to help her out. She was so kind and sweet that she got under my skin. Funny, I don't remember her real name.

Other songs, "Rambin' Rose," "She was a wild and lovely Rose", Pretend you don't see" and others, and her name wasn't Rose. Enough said about that.

So, do you have memory triggers?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Back Then

Return with me to 2007, Christmas time.

Three month post the passing of my wife. I didn't want to be at home that Christmas. The memories would have driven me crazy. So I went seeking friends to visit with. And a great time I had.

I met people I had chatted with for years and had wanted to meet for years.

The first person to get to the gathering was my gal pal Sal.

I have been chatting with Sally since she was known as Tiffy and then Tiffy2. OK, so I'm not Glen Beck but I got a hug anyway. Thanks Sally, you remain in my heart and will always be there. You are a special person.

The gangs all here! The best of the best! Left to right, Kings fan, Me, Angie, who organized the get together, Thanks Heart! Next to her is LisaM, she has a blog that I follow. I admire her courage and I can feel the love she has for her kids. Then there is Lammy! The one I pattern my blot after. I loved her blog. She spoke about things as she saw them.

I miss reading her notes and keeping up with her family. But I still would not want to get on her "bad side". Next hiding is Sally, and Ducky. Ducky is Angie's S-I-L.

Again, left to right. My friend Lisa, Lammy, that old guy and Ducky.

When I met Lisa that day, I didn't know she was the Lisa who's blog I had been reading. It was not till I got home to Texas that I put 2 and 2 together and realized she was LisaM from blog land. Duh, wish I had known. Ducky and Angie had their husbands and Ducky had her kids with them .

After a fine meal and some face to face chatting I took a break to go wash my hands. When I returned to our table there was a gift in the place I had been sitting. They gave me a book! I didn't expect that at all. My son, Robert, who was with us didn't give me a hint that something was going one. Somehow they had been passing it around and everyone signed it. Took all I had to keep from crying.

I was sorry The Shauna and Brandi and other from long ago could not be there but I was glad that some of the best people from cyberland were there. Busdriver Fred and his wife were there too, but I can't find a picture. ( had a HD crash and lost most of my pictures.) Robert was there too and he thought they were a great group of people.

While in Utah, I went to temple square. I had always wanted to see the lights at Christmas. So my son and I went one night. There was this group of sister missionaires there. There were singing carols along with an older elder. I told my son to take a picture of us and went and stood with them. As you can see, they had a hard time not laughing! I don't think they minded but the old man I was not to sure about. I think they thought I was some kind of nut.

I had a good time.