About Me

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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?

10 comments:

麗文剛文剛文剛玲 said...

若有人問你成功時會不會記得他 試問若你失敗時他會不會記得你......................................................................

Jan n Jer said...

Oh boy Faye...you do have your hands full. At least you have your place to yourself now. It's hard being a care giver sometimes...but you are doing the right thing by your sister and she is lucky to have you. Keep the Faith1

KittyHawk said...

Who was it who advised, when being faced with a certain 'unpleasant' activity, "close your eyes and think of England" ?

Cousin M said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. I used to have days when I was sure my teeth would disappear from gritting them so much - hope you don't have too many of those.

Sayre said...

My inlaws are our concern. MIL has Alzheimers, FIL is very frail, and alcoholic and his arms don't work properly, yet he drives all over the place. They were in an assisted living place for about 5 months before FIL decided it was too expensive. Now MIL has to cook (because FIL won't), which is worrisome. She leaves towels on the stove and forgets to turn things off. It's scary to think, but FIL is supposedly of sound mind, so there's not much we can do. I hate to admit it, but I am both looking forward to and dreading the phone call that they've burned their house down or crashed into a tree. That probably makes me a bad DIL, but the stress of living with that anticipation and not being able to do anything about it is so hard - as you know.

Debs said...

I don't have to care for anyone, but my MIL is pretty frail and poor Rob is always going to check on her. Thankfully, she has a carer who is very kind and helpful and they get along well, so some of the pressure is taken off him.

laurie said...

hard work. mostly thankless and frustrating work. exhausting, mentally and physically. when i was in your shoes (not the same shoes, but caregiving shoes) i vented all the time.

i'm sure people thought i was selfish, graceless, and didn't understand that the *other* person had it much worse than healthy i had it.

but venting was the only way i could get through it.

怡靜怡靜怡靜怡雯 said...

來幫忙拼人氣~Go Go Go............................................................

Jill said...

my parents are in their 60s, but I do worry about them. both brothers live nearer, so I imagine that they'll take on some of the work. this year my dad has been staying closer to work so he doesnt fall asleep driving and my mom has been ill off and on so my nieces and nephews have helped with garden and such -- not much there, though, weather has been awful, first way too rainy and then scalding hot, so nothing to 'can' this year. Sad. They helped with grass and such, though.

My mom taught me the song that goes with the story and I sing it every now and then, just for kicks. I'll teach it to my little one, I'm sure. Some legends never die.

Lane said...

Oh this strikes a chord with me.

I feel guilty that I feel so resentful but I just do. There is just never enough time and caregiving, even if it is just a morning of running errands or being a taxi driver, is time consuming.So I vent to my poor family when I get home and it helps:-)