Saturday, August 20, 2011

Miles To Go Before I Sleep

Today I crossed all three Bay Area bridges: Golden Gate, Richmond, Bay. I drove to Marin to check out a nursing home, then up to Sonoma to see another after which I went to Berkeley to see Flip in the hospital and finally home after stopping for cat food. You know all those t-shirts that say "My parents went to the Bahamas and all I got was this lousy t-shirt?" Well, my daughter is moving to Paris and I'm getting her diabetic cat who requires insulin injections twice a day, so whatever hell I get into will have to be confined to the 12 hours between shots. This morning before my grand tour criss-crossing San Francisco Bay, I went to the pet store and selected a litter box, litter, scoop -- like putting together a baby's layette.

The place in Sonoma was dark and dreary with a nurses' station, like a very scutzy hospital. The director had Nazi tendencies, which is never good. He said dementia patients are not allowed on the patio, only in their own wing, and that Flip's 5150 psych hold might blacklist him so he was going to call the director of the place that had him handcuffed to get her side of the story. The one who gave Flip the bum rap. He would also visit Flip to assess him. He referred to the "general population" as opposed to the dementia unit inhabitants. It sounded like a prison term, which seems fitting. As he was showing me around, he suddenly stopped in a doorway and said, "Don't look in there. Mr. Jackson has fallen out of bed." I peeked and an elderly man was trying to clamber onto the bed from the floor. My tour guide didn't go in to help him or call someone else to do it.

The facility in Marin was the least odious of all I've seen, sunlight pouring in the windows and the beautiful Northern California hills beyond. There was a little more human warmth and kindness evident and the residents looked better cared for. No bad smells. I suspect they don't leave people on the floor if they fall, and the man I spoke with seemed very kind. Flip will probably be transported there tomorrow or Monday. I've told him that he's going to a new place until he's able to come home. I wish it were true. I am not in the habit of lying to my husband, but the truth in this instance would be too painful for both of us. I'm exhausted and living on Odwalla bars, mostly Strawberry-Pomegranate.

There was a very drunk man ahead of me in line at Safeway, where I stopped for cat food before coming home. He was clutching a bunch of roses by their heads which I first thought were plastic as they were improbable colors until I noticed they were half-dead. He lurched toward me, leered, and slurring badly, said, "I got flowers for my lady so she'll forgive me." "Well, you shouldn't have done it," said I, ever the sympathetic one. "I don't want these," he told the checker as he flung them on the counter and staggered away, knocking over a display of home carpet cleaning machines.

"How are YOU?" she said to me.
"I don't know what it is," she said, shaking her head. "They all get in my line. And he didn't even buy her flowers." ("Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she had to walk into mine.")

It's been a very long day. I've had my dinner Odwalla bar, Berries GoMega, and need to sleep. Sometimes I think about waking up in a different life, but I'm still curious about how this one will evolve, so I guess I'll keep it.


nick said...

I hope the place in Marin turns out to be okay. Good to have a view of the hills. The one in Sonoma sounds pretty grim. As you say, better the fib that Flip will only be there temporarily. And lurching, half-witted drunks are all you need at such a time. I hope the long drives aren't too exhausting!

the walking man said...

You love Flip and that is all I have to say except when I think of love between partners and soul mates I will forever more think of you two.

neora chana said...

I hope the second one takes him and not the first; it sounds like bad news.

I have done some research and it appears that, even if Flip qualified, they only cover NH, not less restrictive environments. Too bad. My stated has demonstrated huge jumps in quality of care accompanied by huge tax savings by having a variety of facility types, many of which are much more homelike.

Take better care of yourself!

neora chana said...

'they' is Medi-Cal, of course...

secret agent woman said...

Oh my God, the Sonoma one sound horrible. I hope the other one works out for Flip. Is there no one else who can keep the cat - you have more than enough on your plate right now. But not enough food - please eat! I'm worried about you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I will continue to try to find a good place in San Francisco, not an easy task. It would be good if we were both on the same side of the bay.


We've had a very happy life together and are mutually devoted, which makes this all the more devastating.


Yes, there are huge limitations, and I'll still be paying a share-of-cost. Just think of all the people who could be helped in our country if the billions of war dollars were "diverted" into health care.


No one else would take him because of the injections. My food plate is empty because unlike most people who eat compulsively when stressed, I am a compulsive starver. I'm trying to force myself to eat - I know enough about nutrition to be worried about myself, too.

secret agent woman said...

I'm a compulsive starver, too - when I am anxious or distressed I just can't eat and start dropping weight. And I guessed that was true of you, which is why I worry. Sending my love, as always.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


And we both love to grow, cook and eat good food. My idea of romance is a good farm stand or farmers' market. I can't afford to lose weight but I can only eat when all the signs are right.

secret agent woman said...

I understand. :( I hope at the very least Flip gets settled in somewhere he will be well cared for. Won't change the sadness of it all, but at least you won't have to worry about him being treated with neglect or disrespect.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


The place in Marin seemed as pleasant as possible, considering, but the man I met with was not the director, who doesn't work weekends, so it could still fall through. I feel as if I'm awaiting my marching orders as I don't know whether to drive to Berkeley today, or to meet Flip in Marin. I'm beyond exhausted. Thank you for being there!

Jo said...

My heart breaks for the man who fell on the floor and no one would help him up. Under no circumstances should you allow Flip to go there. In fact, there should be some sort of governing board where you could report that incident.

I can't even imagine what you must be going through, Susan. You must be exhausted beyond belief. I do hope you take some time for yourself, even an hour or two occasionally, and just nourish your own soul. My goodness, you have earned it...!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I just got a call from the doctor who has been seeing Flip in the hospital.The Admissions Coordinator at the nursing home wants to meet him before accepting him. She will be at the hospital around 2:00 so I'm heading over there shortly.

She also said that Flip took off buck naked down the hall and Security was called. I've begun to see the little boy he must have been as he handles everyday objects with curiosity and is nearly always sweet and smiling. Oh, dear.

Must go. The traffic will be brutal both ways but unfortunately, I don't have a helicopter.

English Rider said...

Maybe the cat will become the mascot of Flip's new home, so that you can nurture everyone in one place.

Anonymous said...

Your attitude is so impressive as you keep soldiering on. Yet, what other option have you. The one in Marin sounds much more benevolent. And Marin is so nice in itself. Good luck, dear friend.

David said...

What an ending -- which isn't really an ending at all. "Sometimes I think about waking up in a different life, but I'm still curious about how this one will evolve, so I guess I'll keep it."

That is loverly, as are you. I am sending hugs, though I would love to send more -- relief, wisdom, a bag of money, some lovely tea, a nice camp for Flip, a mountain of chocolate.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


What a brilliant idea! My life certainly does need streamlining.


Exactly. What options do I have? We all have to play the hand we're dealt.


Hugs gratefully accepted, along with all that other nice virtual stuff. I can't decide which I'd like more, though, wisdom or chocolate.

Molly said...

Surely your daughter must know the last thing you need is an invalid cat? Fingers crossed for the facility in Marin. Don't take him to that other awful place. Three words for you---Eat; Sleep; Hugs. You'll survive this hell much better if you are nourished and rested and know you are loved and admired for your guts, courage and devotion.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Well, I love the cat, too, and I'm sure he'll be a great comfort once we're past this hump and things settle down with Flip. Your concern is appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Oh and I love the image you chose to accompany this post. Very fitting. (I think.)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


That's how the hills of Marin look, which you would see for yourself if you ever managed to get there.

Anonymous said...

Hope it all works out well at Marin. Not being a San Francisco Bay area squirrel, how far a commute would that mean for you? Hope your daughter at least sends you a T-shirt to go with le cat. :)

Taradharma said...

long trip, and a grave one. I'm sure it will be quite a transition for you as Skip -- I think your little white lie will help him take it all in a little better. "It's only temporary" he can reassure himself when stressed (hopefully).

How did you find these places? Did someone from Skip's medical temp refer you?

Hope you got some sleep.

Bob said...

my fingers are crossed for you that the Marin location comes through. I can only hope that you both can find a resolution soon.

English Rider said...

P.S. Cats can also be flown to France. You can't be adding to your obligations just now. Please know that I'll try to pitch in and give the cat a temporary home, if the situation necessitates.

Maria said...

I think that Anne Lamott lives in Marin. I could visit you and Flip and then we could go sit like fan girls outside her house and hope that she comes out.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm responding to your comment a day later. The Marin facility did not work out, and we're back to Square 1.

Le chat arrive au demain. Le t-shirt,???


Some of the places I've researched myself,others have responded to the hospital social worker's inquiries. I think Flip knows the truth and it makes him very sad. It makes me very sad, too.


Thanks for the encouragement. New post tells all.


Thank you for your very kind offer. My daughter hopes to come back for him after she's settled in an apartment in a few months. We'll see. He's a sweet animal. I'll manage.


I love Anne Lamott. "Bird by Bird" is one of the best books on writing (and living) ever. Please come anyway. We can still camp out on her doorstep and hope.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Roses by any other name would just be a different walk. Life has highs and lows for everyone, and no one is luckier than Flip to have you in this one.
I suspect you will always treasure the good times with him, even at this unthinkable expense.

How does that old Garth Brooks song go... could have missed the pain, but I'd have missed the dance?

Love Bogey.



Wanderlust Scarlett said...

And, I wish you were able to be in Paris with your daughter.
What a balm for your soul that would be.