After Season

We’re having a beautiful “after season” here, which is what we tend to call the brief moment between summer and true fall; I suppose it’s “Indian Summer” in English.

The nights and mornings are starting to be COLD; it got down into the single digits last night and I think we may have reached the stage when we can no longer leave the windows open at night. That’s a shame, really, because I love the cool night air. But if you start seeing your breath when you get up to go the bathroom, then it’s probably a bit too cool!

By mid-morning, however, the sun is out and the air has warmed up to the high 60s or low 70s, so it is just about perfect. You really don’t want to be inside if you can find any excuse at all to go out. As always, when the weather is nice, the villagers spend hours outside on benches chatting away. We all know that these days won’t last for long and we want to profit from them as long as possible.

The cooler temperatures have gotten me back in the kitchen for “real” cooking, something I’ve avoided a lot during the summer heat. I’m feeling like making long, slow-cooked meals in the crock pot and I’ve been baking bread several times a week. That is also because our bakery is closed for their annual holiday, but how serendipitous that it coincided with a change in the weather and a desire to “nest!”

The only fly in the ointment happened not outside, but somewhere within our own four walls! Poor Peaches came down the stairs on Saturday afternoon limping badly. She was actually crying in pain when we tried to figure out what was wrong and we wound up having to take her to the vet. She clearly pulled a muscle or sprained a joint and for the life of us, we have no idea how it happened. We didn’t see her do anything; didn’t hear the dogs roughhousing before hand nor any yelps of pain, so it remains a mystery.

She is much better today, but still limps a bit. I guess we may never know what happened. Still, it doesn’t seem to have stopped her from enjoying our walks in the beautiful weather and I’m glad she doesn’t have to be totally confined to house rest.

Ciao for now,

Randy

The End of Civility?

An upsetting incident occurred last Sunday while we were walking the dogs. The weather was lovely and there were a number of people out in the gardens, including a grandmother, her daughter and granddaughter, as well as several “mature” village residents sitting out and enjoying the sun.

We came to big field at the end of our route and turned to head for home. Peaches, as always, was off her leash and bouncing around on the path and exploring the field for creatures, while Shmoo was on his leash. Suddenly, we heard the sound of motorbikes coming from the sports stadium along the path.

A first motorbike appeared, saw us, slowed down, passed us and sped back up. It was fine. But a second motorbike was following him and this one didn’t bother to slow down at all. JM held up his hand to try to slow him, but the guy kept coming. I called Peaches to get her out of the path, but there wasn’t a lot of time. The second motorbike got so close to JM (who still had his hand outstretched) that JM actually touched him. This enraged the biker, who stopped, gave JM the finger, then drove away even faster than before. We were very concerned because the grouping of grandmother, daughter and granddaughter were up ahead on the path and there would have been no way the biker could see them and stop in time if they were in his way.

We were all shaken and Peaches was actually so terrified that we had to put her back on her leash so she wouldn’t try to run home on her own (it’s the place she feels the safest).

We were still debating what to do, if anything, when another incident shook us.

On Wednesday, friends were preparing to head back to their jobs in Mordor on Thursday. They decided to take advantage of the last good weather of the week to take an afternoon bike ride; the plan was to stop in to visit Mom at around 7 pm when they got back. JM was on the phone and we didn’t realize right away that there had been a call. We found a message saying they wouldn’t be back because one of them was in the hospital!

They had been biking home when a motorcycle (yet again) had passed them on the road. The guy was going fast and came so close to them that he nearly knocked them down. One of our friends yelled something (probably angrily) and they continued on their way.

About 10 minutes later, the motorcyclist returned from behind them and hit our friend  in the back with a massive wooden stick! It knocked him down, of course, and he was lying in the road almost passing out from the shock and pain. Luckily, two good Samaritans stopped and called the emergency services and the police.

The Gendarmes were extremely efficient and actually found someone who might have been the perpetrator, but since neither of them was able to identify him with 100% accuracy, I’m not sure what will happen.

They were lucky that nothing was broken, there wasn’t any internal bleeding or head injury, but it could have been much, much worse.

Other bikers have told us they thought that the cars passing them were being far more daring and dangerous than they had been at other times. None of us know if this is a pattern of general behavior change or if it’s just people feeling frustrated with the end of summer, fear of the future or just plain rudeness. At any rate, it is disturbing.

I used to tell JM to not gesture at cars that had cut us off on the freeway in L.A. because we never knew if they were armed. I would hate to see the fear of life in a city coming here to our rural paradise. We would all be the poorer for that…

Ciao for now,

Randy

Change can’t be stopped

Don’t you wish that it could sometimes? When life is going well and you are happy, don’t you wish there was a magic button you could push that would just freeze frame everything at that perfect moment?

Sadly, we can’t do that and we have to go with the flow, even when the flow isn’t something that we want.  I’ve been dealing with this a lot lately as JM and I have been managing our two sets of parents.

I wrote about Mom’s health issues and although she is doing better, it is clear to me that we aren’t going to go back to the way things were. We’ve made some changes that will hopefully be good ones. For example, I discovered that she hadn’t been taking her blood pressure medication for over a month. She insists that she had, but the pill boxes don’t lie. If there were six weeks worth of blood pressure pills where there should have been none, than clearly she wasn’t taking them.

We discovered this because at our doctor’s visit he put his foot down. She needed me to take over getting her pills ready and giving them to her. I had really not wanted to do that, because I felt she needed to have SOME sense of autonomy. But it was clear that in her current state it just wasn’t something she could handle. It took me a few days to come up with an argument I could present to her that wouldn’t be insulting. Finally, what worked was telling her how much JM WANTED to organize her pills because he loves organizing things. She accepted that and we took over.

As we were sorting things out we discovered that she not only had not been taking the BP meds, but she had been taking too much of something else (or else she was taking something entirely different that we haven’t identified). This could explain part of why she had been so unwell over the last month or so. She still insists she WAS taking that medication, but there is no way that can be true. That’s the cruelty of what is happening to her, and she is aware enough of herself to know it is happening.

Another problem she’s had has been getting up in the morning and suddenly feeling nauseated and bloated. Finally I tracked down what I believe is the cause of that: she gets up early and has orange juice and takes her pills then goes back to bed. I explained that taking that many pills on an empty stomach is making her sick. She insists that she’s always taken them that way, but I have convinced her that she needs to stop doing it. We’ll see.

JM’s parents are going through change as well. They have to leave their apartment in Paris after 40 years to move to Toulon. They are not only in denial as to what a move of this kind means, they don’t really want to go. So we have been helping, but now that Mom is in this new precarious health situation, that is more complicated. Our doctor doesn’t want me leaving her, and I can see that that would not be wise. No one else can really care for her the way that I can. So, another change will be JM having to go up to Paris on his own to help his folks. We hate being apart, but we have no choice.

Even in our village, things are changing. Our friend and plumber, Christian Drouin, told us this morning that he and his wife Nathalie are moving back to Normandy because of HIS aging parents. They are leaving business in the capable hands of their son, Vincent, but we’ll still miss them.

I try to embrace change and do when it is good. But I would like to leave all this bad change behind and, like an ostrich, bury my head in the sand of life.

Ciao for now,

Randy

E.R. French Style

On Monday morning when I called to check on Mom she told me she wasn’t feeling well. I tried to press her on what was wrong, but she was unable to say anything other than that she felt “funny.” She also had trouble understanding what I was saying on the phone. I immediately went next door and found that it was not good news.

Basically, she was disoriented, confused, unable to articulate words properly and just generally out of it. I called our doctor only to discover that he was on vacation! There was a replacement doctor seeing his patients though, and she gave me the first appointment in the afternoon.

I knew something was wrong with Mom, because she said she didn’t want to go anywhere and when I insisted that she HAD to go to the doctor, she allowed me to just put a housedress on her and take her out that way. Mom is VERY concerned about making sure she has at least lipstick on before going out the front door and for her to not worry about that was not a good sign.  In fact, my grandmother nearly called the police to come and take her to the hospital when she went into labor with me, because even though her water had broken, she wouldn’t go out the door without putting on her make up first!

Things got weirder as we went outside. I had put the car right in front of the door and she couldn’t find it. She also couldn’t figure out how to get inside it. When we got to the doctor’s office she didn’t recognize the building or the office.

As soon as the doctor saw Mom she wrote out a letter and told us to get to the ER immediately. We went to the Solano Clinic in Lavelanet (where the doc’s office is) only to discover that the hospital there was full and they didn’t have room in the ER or a bed to give her should she need it. They called the big hospital in Foix and told them we were on our way. That was about a 45 minute detour!

Still, we got to the hospital, JM took Mom in and then we waited. We waited for 3 1/2 hours! They obviously didn’t think we were as big an emergency as other people, and seeing some of the other people who came in, I think they were probably right. But that doesn’t really help when you’re worried about YOUR loved one!

Finally it was our turn and they let me go into the examining room with Mom, something they normally wouldn’t do. But they saw that she couldn’t speak French and was not in great shape. We actually did get an intern who spoke English, which was a surprise. They sent her for a brain scan and did a stroke evaluation and it definitely looked like she had had a small stroke, which had been what I was worried about.

She didn’t have any major paralysis but the right side of her face was a little droopy. Mostly she had “word salad” and comprehension problems. Clearly they were going to keep her overnight.

Around 9 pm, JM and I left because the dogs had been alone and unable to go out all day and we really needed to deal with that (downside of no garden and doggie door). A nurse called at 11 pm to tell us what room she was in and to ask me to help let Mom know she needed to call a nurse if she had to get out of bed.

We got to the hospital the next morning in time to see the doctor who was treating her there. He told us that he didn’t think she’d had a stroke at all, but that it was EPILEPSY! This seems to have been caused by an earlier stroke that she had about 15 years ago and from what I’ve read, it’s a relatively common thing in stroke patients.

To be honest, that was pretty reassuring, because compared to a stroke, epilepsy is something I think we can all live with. By that point, Mom was actually pretty much back to normal. She had no memory of what had happened to her and I don’t think she really understood why she was in the hospital. But the difference with the previous day was amazing. We were ready to take her home, but the doctor looked at us like we were crazy, “She only got here last night,” he said.

We agreed that she should stay for a few more tests, but clearly, the hospital wasn’t all that worried about getting her out of there. They weren’t really doing anything for her other than the tests, and although I can see the point of doing them while she was there, I still think getting her the heck out of there would have been better for her.

That’s where I really did not like this doctor. He said “No one likes to be in the hospital,”which is true, but he was unable to put himself in the shoes of an elderly woman who didn’t speak French and was in a place where almost no one spoke English.

I don’t believe, however, that it has anything to do with his being French. I think it has to do with the difference between “specialists” and family doctors. Our doctor has a philosophy that his patients are people with needs, this doctor was more, “I’m treating the epilepsy in room 309;” that tends to be dehumanizing.

Finally, the tests were done and it’s true, they were done faster than if we’d had to take several appointments to get them. We don’t have the results yet though, so whether it was worth it or not, I can’t answer.

I can say that the experience was very stressful for all of us. Mom still has trouble grasping exactly WHY she was there. JM and I feel like we’ve been through the wringer. The dogs are the only ones who seem to have put it all behind them without too much difficulty.

There were several odd things about the hospital stay itself. They didn’t have Mom’s blood pressure medication in their pharmacy. They didn’t tell us that until she’d been there for two days and I wound up bringing it with me on the day she was getting released. Apparently, because it’s a public hospital, the paperwork is complicated to order medications so it’s easier to bring your own if they don’t have it.

Although they told us they would bring towels, soap, etc., it seemed complicated to get them to do it, so we wound up going to the Carrefour and buying what she needed ourselves. I guess most people tend to bring their own supplies, but having never been in a hospital in France before, we didn’t know that.

Mom found the food good and copious. They served huge portions that it was impossible for her to finish. JM and I wound up eating one lunch in the cafeteria and were impressed by the quality and low cost. No ambiance at all, but the food was good.

Everyone (except the doctor) was unfailingly nice and helpful. That certainly helped to make things more pleasant. But I still don’t ever want to go through that again!

Ciao for now.

Randy