- Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Mrs. O'Leary's Cow
Are you are familiar with the story of what caused the great fire of Chicago in 1871? If not, legend has it that Mrs. O'Leary was milking her cow one night by lantern light. And, as cows will do sometimes out of impatience or orneriness, she kicked over the milk pail and lantern, setting fire to the O'Leary cowshed. The fire quickly spread over much of Chicago burning everything in its path.
I remembered this tale yesterday when I got this call from my older sister who lives in an elderly housing complex about 10 minutes drive from my home. Opening inquiry went something like this:
Sister: "Have you been trying to 'get' me?"
Me: "No, why?"
Sister: "I've been sitting in the parking lot all morning. The firemen made us leave our apartments and just now let us back in the building. The woman in the apartment at the end was smoking while she had one of those oxygen breathing tubes up her nose (I know. . .). They say she fell asleep and set her chair on fire. The firemen came and put out the fire and now half the building is smoked damaged and people can't go back in their apartments. They have that yellow tape all around like you see on police shows. I can get in my apartment though."
Me to myself: "Thank god."
I am beginning to think that Sister M is my own Mrs. O'Leary's cow. You've maybe heard the reply that people sometimes make when someone throws out an apology that they don't really
mean? "Yeah, and Mrs. O'Leary's cow is probably sorry for kicking over the lantern but Chicago still burned!" This is the third fire scare that my sister has been involved in in the past two years. I am constantly worried about her and fire.
About this time in 2008 her apartment building caught on fire. All the apartments were destroyed or smoke damaged. Sadly, two people were killed in the blaze. My sister's apartment was badly smoke damaged. I decided to move her to Louisville--it was about a 400 mi roundtrip to see her--where I live so that I could do a better job of care giving. She lived with me for about five months while we found her a suitable apartment. Oh my, that was hard! Those of you who either live alone or have your own family understand what an upheaval it is to have someone else--even if it is family--in your home.
Finally, I got her settled in a safe elder living complex. Right off she threw her neighbors in a panic by setting off the smoke alarms. When she cooked or fried it was always at full tilt. Pots were boiling dry and burning, steam and smoke billowing, and grease sizzling. She couldn't be bothered with the vent fans so, of course, the smoke alarms went off. Concerned neighbors poured out of their apartments, and the firetrucks arrived! It was only yesterday that she admitted that she'd caused the firetruck runs. She did say that she left a note up in the hall apologizing to the neighbors for causing alarm. You see, Mrs. O'Leary's cow! If she's sorry, that should be enough--until the next time.
I suppose the point of this post is to vent about some of the ongoing challenges and frustrations for caregiving. I'm not cut out for it, but it is my reality. I know many of you are in the same boat. How are you coping?