The Colonel’s Plan – Welcome Home, Mother

February 27th, 2019

This one is a little late this week. Busy week, with Fire Station visits, meetings and a Kansas concert at the Lyric! This post is also not six months back-dated, as a lot is going on right now, and I want to keep people in the loop. 

Dear Daddy–

Mother came home from the hospital today, after 20 days. Well, to be accurate, she was in the hospital for the better part of five days. She actually came home from Encore, an assisted living and skilled nursing facility, this morning. She had been there for two weeks’ physical and occupational therapy, teaching her how to walk and get up and down from a chair without falling. 

We’ll see if it worked. I already caught her edging around the table without her walker once today. 

She’s glad to be home. She’s been napping a lot. She says she made a lot of friends “on the inside,” but she didn’t like twice-daily therapy sessions, and she didn’t like having to wait for someone to attend her before she got up and crossed the room. Although, if I’m honest, I’d rather she still waited for someone to at least be present before she did that. We’re going to make sure someone is in the house with her at all times for now. 

She thought a lot of the therapy was silly. When I was there for one of the sessions, I had to roll a yoga ball to her so she could kick it. I wondered how long it had been since my mother and I rolled  a ball back and forth! She kicked very well, but it tired her out. When she went to sit down, Danielle, her therapist said, “What do you need to do before you sit?” Mother got that tone and said, “You mean I’m not allowed to just sit down?” Of course, the answer was to place her hands behind her and feel for the chair. She needed to be sure that what she thought she was about to sit on was actually there. As Danielle put it, “You can’t trust anybody nowadays.” 

Coming home required some modifications to her living space. She needs a raised toilet seat, or alternately a toilet chair over the regular toilet. Fortunately, we still had the one you refused to use. She needs grab bars on the bathroom wall and in the shower. She also needs a ramp to get in and out of the house. The occupational therapist didn’t ask us to do that last, but I volunteered it, and she said it was a good idea. The back porch is almost a foot and half off the ground, and I’ve watched Mother attack the single step leading to it with increasing difficulty for two years now. It didn’t make sense to make her keep doing that. A single step is a major challenge for her. 

So, knowing a week ahead that she was coming home today, we set aside this past weekend, and I took yesterday off, and we built a ramp. I had a lot of usable wood left over from disassembling my deck (link?), which I’m still working on, slowed down by aging joints and muscles in my left leg. There are also plenty of online instructional materials available for wheelchair ramps. Our friends Renfield and June joined us on Saturday, in the rain and mud. (“Try to keep June away from a building project,” said Renfield.) The ground had the consistency of melted ice cream, which made for easier post-hole digging. Fortunately, the utility lines had been marked recently for a cable install, so I knew where they ran. 

We got all the posts in on Saturday. I came back Sunday to run the stringers from them, preliminary to adding decking. It had rained overnight–a lot. The posts, not yet secured, were no longer plumb, and two of them had sunk in a good bit. Resetting them was a messy job. 

The posts were the old legs from Ethan and Christian’s swingset. The stringers and joists were the planks from my deck. I bought fresh deck planking for the top. The handrails and siderails were treated lumber you had randomly left lying about the yard. 

I laid the last plank yesterday afternoon, with the sun dropping low in the sky. And, dammit, as I drove in the first screw, there was a jolt–one of the stringers had split! I had put too many screws too close to the top of the board, as that end of it was actually underground in a trench, and was hard to reach. Fortunately, I had cut them in pretty short sections. I didn’t have to remove too many planks to fix the split piece.

Before letting Mother attempt it, I rode up and down its length in her wheelchair. I think it came out pretty well, but I wouldn’t ride down without brakes, for all the slope is gentler than the standard.  

Mounting the shower grab bars, I blessed two unusual things you had done. First, the shower cubicle is solid wood–no drywall, no Durock behind the tile. It’s all 3/4 Plywood. Grab bars are supposed to be mounted to studs. But no grab bar is made at a width that most studs come in in a house. I figured I’d have to use anchors, until I realized there was solid wood behind everything–in compliance with ADA recommendations! Second, you had left the shower wall open years ago, when the plumbing had leaked. You had cut the drywall and replaced the missing panel only with cardboard. That allowed me to open the wall and see what was going on, so I could be sure the bars were securely mounted. 

So your idiosyncrasies paid off for us this week! And yes, I didn’t get house finishing done, but the house has some upgrades that I’m pretty sure you would have put in place if you’d just had more time. 

Like maybe another 94 years?

Love, Steven

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