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April

The ridiculous, nit-picky, trivial bits in life are sometimes just what we need. A facepalm, a doubled-over laugh. It’s what makes life survivable and fantastic. It saves me on a daily basis, always has. It really helps these days. It helps lift what feels like a boulder sitting on my chest. It has been a tough month so far after a few in a row. Last week, I was driving on my daily trek to see my dad at his sub-acute facility in Baltimore. The RAV-4 in front of me had two juxtaposed stickers on the back: “I LOVE MY GRANDDOGS!” and a crab-shaped sticker with the pattern of a Confederate flag. My first thought was, “How can you have so much love and ignorance and hate in one place?!” My second thought was preceded by a sigh, then, “Oh, Maryland…”

Today, I was at the Maryland headquarters for vital records. The Maryland headquarters for vital records is inside a small, crappy, not-really-a-mall. It’s right next to a Payless Shoe Source! Vital records AND cheap sequined flip-flops, all in the same 100 square feet. (No disrespect to Payless — I’ve bought many a pair of non-sequined flip-flops there.) Across from the vital records “office” is a mall kiosk that sells really shitty jewelry. Next to that kiosk is an unmanned kiosk where you can fill out a form for whatever records you need. The forms were scattered there haphazardly. There were no pens at this completely unofficial kiosk, so a new line formed at the shitty jewelry kiosk to borrow the visibly angry vendor’s single pen. It turned out that the pens attached by a metal chain, inside the “office,” had all been stolen. Laughable.

I was there to obtain a death certificate for my mother, to prove to Medicare that my father (who is applying for Medicare through me) is in fact a widower, after recently losing my cousin Katie. I was thinking, sitting in the clammy little waiting room, this is kinda weird. Most people in the “office” were rocking new babies, waiting excitedly for birth certificates. It made the wait a little shorter looking at such optimism and cuteness.

My father is going to a nursing home this week. He is sort of trapped in his own body right now, but very cognizant of his situation. His occupational and physical therapy has essentially ceased, as they said that he has hit a plateau in terms of mobility. I complained — if he is destined to be confined to bed/a wheelchair, teach the man how to use the goddamn wheelchair. I told the therapists, “I have been showing him how to steer using his feet, while using his good hand to unlock the brake and roll the wheel.” The therapists said, “Oh, great idea!” (Why is this news/my idea? FACEPALM — been down this road before with health care.) I’m afraid of when I’m not there — do they even bother putting him in the chair, given that it takes two people to do it? Unfortunately, traumatic brain injury therapy not only takes a lot of time and energy, but is subject to the limitations of health insurance — as are all injuries. Because of the setbacks from his pneumonia cycle, he has been in make-up mode trying to gain back the ground he lost on therapy. How is that “they” have given up before he has? I want better for him, as does he. I am so very, very proud of my father. He puts full effort into every therapy session and deserves better. My time spent watching his therapy sessions will help me help him in the days ahead, I hope.

Yesterday, his hair had been slicked over to one side and he was puffing on his breathing treatment. I told him, “You look just like George Burns, puffing on a big cigar!” He got a hearty laugh out of that. I am struggling to get things in line so he can move this week to his new home and continue his healing without financial burden. Good thing I can still make him laugh.

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April

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Two people in this photo have been lost to breast cancer. My mother, and now my dear cousin, Katie. We lost Katie this past Tuesday, after a hospice stay at home surrounded by those who loved her best. I feel fortunate that I was able to spend time with her before she was gone. I am saving the words I have written for her, about her, for a brief remembrance at her Celebration of Life service. It is an immense loss and I will leave it at that.

It so happens that Katie’s service will be held on the same day that my father is scheduled to be discharged to a nursing home. I worked on my words for Katie as I drove around, taking tours of potential new long-care facilities for my father. I kept thinking how ridiculous it all was, the sequence of events of this week. Where is there room for anything else? How much grief can a family take in such a short span? Fortunately, I am surrounded by a very small, yet very durable group of relatives. We can laugh together at the absurdities and small blips of positivity that we experience. Everything is a learning experience. Everyone who has suffered a loss in life knows that. For those who haven’t, know that to be true.

April

I have always loved waterfowl, from when I was very young. When I was first hired at the zoo, I worked at the bird house. It accelerated my love for waterfowl and educated me beyond words. We have four very recent additions to the farm: two French Toulouse and two Brown Chinese goslings, all hatched one week ago today. Although 2016 has brought more challenges than I thought I could take, our new charges add a little joy to spring. When you can’t fix things, you just take care of things.