Epilogue 7: The Mailbox Caper

In reflection, I recognize the lost week and morphine delusion changed me. Facing death and abject terror will do that. I found myself pondering the meaning of old. I understood the physiology—our parts wear out. But I had given little thought to the philosophy of aging—purpose, life interests, relationships. We live with assumptions. I was certain falling in love was the province of youth.

I returned to Woodland Garden following two-months away. Residents welcomed me warmly; Norma and I resumed evening chats in the library. I realized how much I had missed her.

One morning we joined a dozen or so residents in the lobby for the daily mail wait. Spirits were high.  The mailman finally arrived and we moved toward the mailboxes arrayed on the wall opposite the elevator. Norma reached her box just ahead of me and retrieved a fistful, mostly advertising. She flipped through the brochures, then, fitting the group’s light mood, she kissed me and turned to the elevator.

Something walloped me. I elbowed to the mailboxes. My arthritic fingers finally got made the small key work. I  and I dug out my mail and driven by a compelling desire to hold Norma and tell her I loved her, I hurried to the elevator, hoping to catch her. I punched third floor, exiting at the library. Norma was gone.

I dared knock on her door, so I grabbed a book and sat two hours pretending to read, hoping librarian Norma would appear. The emotional surge persisted. I returned to my apartment frustrated. Lunch held no interest, nor did the afternoon routine.

Mid-afternoon I returned to the library and puttered. Time dragged; evening came. I returned to the apartment but sleep was out of the question. To vent my feelings, I fired up the computer and began a mushy love letter, fully intending to delete it.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

Epilogue 6: The Morphine Terror

How was it, after dying for three days, I postponed my meeting with old Saint Peter? Divine healing no doubt; but through agents.

Son Kevin watched over me throughout the lost week. He grew dissatisfied with the details he was getting related to my dying and negotiated a new doctor, who scanned my chart and confirmed the  diagnosis. With nothing to lose, he  started over, withdrawing all treatment. I improved immediately, ending hospice care and  precipitating the insurance issue.

Chris Jensen Health Center had a bed that would meet the deadline, but I would have to endure three more nights in the hospital. I was not back to full reality–sleep refused to come. I begged for help but no sleep aid worked. On night three, my location changed with a new  nurse. Apparently thinking pain caused my sleeplessness, she came with a syringe and squirted strange-tasting fluid in my mouth. I asked what it was. Morphine, she said.  Will I sleep? Oh, you will sleep!

But I did not sleep. The morphine plunged me into unimaginable terror; a vortex sucked me down, down. Old men in dark suits were piling rough-cast cement furniture. A taunting voice said, There are theological issues here and you are responsible, but you can do nothing about them. I recall shouting, I don’t care the consequence; I will do what’s right! That instant, all delusion cleared. I found myself in bed, at peace, my mind clear.

Fourth of July weekend found me at Chris Jensen facing six hard weeks of rehab, an ordeal I’ll never forget. I  returned home just in time for my 90th birthday, and the mailbox caper.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Epilogue 5: My Lost Week

My first months at Woodland Garden were sheer delight. I turned my living room into a museum—every item on the wall a memory. I got to know fellow residents–54 women and 9 men. Evenings, they clustered in small groups around card games or conversation. Woodland Garden seemed more like a college dormitory then an apartment complex.

Friendship with the girl from 313 grew, leading to long chats in the library, stirring suspicion. We played it up, though a 19-year age difference quelled any thought of romance. One evening, Norma explained the miracle of Woodland Garden. She said, I prayed for five years for someone to talk to, someone who shared my interests. God moves in mysterious ways.

The list of common interests lengthened. Norma tended the library; I was a book guy. Our ancestors hailed from the same part of coastal Finland, and when they moved to America in the 1800s, they settled in adjoining Northwestern Wisconsin townships. We never lacked fodder for conversation.

Then, an interruption. My gimpy left hip grew intolerable. In April, 2013, I signed in at St. Mary’s. Replacement surgery went fine, but in rehab, abdominal infection set in and my lost week began. I don’t remember the ambulance ride; I was totally unaware I was wired and plumbed in a hospital bed. I lived in a strange world of changing scenes. I later learned each change related to my bed treatment.

I lost all sense of time. One day I heard Hospice-palliative care; Dad, you have to fight.  I was dying! There was no fear. Then I was in a bed, propped up with pillows. Friends filed by, some crying. There was a garden with a rustic dock and boathouse at the head of my bed. Reality was partly restored.

One morning, a small group huddled near my bed.  Someone said, You have three days. Insurance will cover hospice care but not rehab. I was going to live! But a terrifying encounter remained.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

 

Epilogue 4: The Miracle Unfolds

How did I wind up 70 years of unbroken employment so cash poor I couldn’t afford an apartment?  Easy: a string of low-wage jobs; four hungry kids; and six years of caring for an invalid wife. Also, dumb choices.

I left the best-paying job of my early married years to rejoin the Mission staff. I did have the privilege of helping young, curly-headed kid find his life course. Many years later, I spoke at the kid’s retirement party. He served many years as Superintendent of the St. Paul Union Gospel Mission. The mayor declared retirement date George Verely Day. I guess that’s worth something.

As my frustration in Tucson peaked, a note came from daughter Sally in Duluth. I had kept her posted on my frustrating search, which she reported to an informal gathering of friends. One friend suggested I try Woodland Garden. I had not heard of it. Always full with a waiting list. It does not advertise.

Sally talked with manager Jill, who  provided application forms. When they reached me, I found they were the same forms Lakeland Shores had supplied, which HUD had rejected. I emailed Jill, asking what might be different at Woodland Garden. She replied immediately, Leave that to me. Your next address will be Woodland Garden. But expect to wait six months to a year.

Waiting was no problem, but within days Jill emailed again. A resident had died. Jill wanted to fill the vacancy by early July. Could I come? I would have set out on foot!

Learning of my pending home, son Kevin and Tena, with whom I lived in Duluth, visited to look around. A kind resident walked them through. Finding my apartment locked, she opened hers; it was, configured like mine.  She is the nicest lady! Kevin emailed. Her name is Norma.

On July 7, 2012, I occupied Apartment 301, close to 500 square feet. That in contrast with Lakeland Shore’s one room studio. I apologized to the Lord for getting impatient. And up the hall, on the other side of the  library, lived the girl from 313, Norma.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Epilogue 3: Frustrated in Tucson

Following Elsie’s death in February 2009, son Joel and Sue invited me to their winter place in Tucson to escape Minnesota winter. I returned in 2011, but cancer surgery stalled my return until March 2012.
 
I had began to sense the time had come to alter my lifestyle, to live alone for the first time. I was 89. Health Insurance and surgery follow-up dictated Duluth as the sie. My online scan from Tucson disheartened me. Even the cheapest apartments were beyond my reach.
 
Then Joel told me about HUD Section 8, a government program for low-income tenants. My spirits rose and I went back online. I phoned senior services in Duluth, building a list of HUD facilities. One leaped out: Lakeland Shores in my old Lakeside community. Everything I needed would be within walking distance, important since I had quit driving. I emailed for an application.
 
I labored hours untangling government gobbledygook and mailed the application to Lakeland Shores, confident I had found my new home, I waited. Finally, a one-page boilerplate letter response arrived. “I regret to inform you your application has been rejected. Your income is $196 a year above the Section Eight ceiling. Unless your income comes down or deductions increase, you do not qualify for rent assistance.”
 
Deductions? I emailed the manager for clarification. No response. I phoned repeatedly, getting the answer machine. No return call. I mailed an urgent letter. No reply. Weeks passed. Tucson days were getting hot. Frustration mounted.I grumbled to God and everyone who would listen.
 
Then in Duluth, daughter Sally mentioned my plight to a group of friends and the miracle mill began to grind.
 
The rest of the story next time.
 
Old Grandpa Lloyd

It Works for Me

Last Tuesday Jeannie of Senior Friend Associates set me up another year of housekeeping help. I told her how much I appreciate Dawn, sent to help me every-other-Thursday. Her work enables me to continue living at Woodland Garden.

We’re an independent-living, rent assisted facility. Residents are not allowed to sustain one another, but professional and family help is OK. Dawn looks after chores beyond my gimpy state.

We hear lots of grumbling these days about the government from the political right and left. Well, the government—county, state, and federal—works for me.

Elsie’s care through six years of painful disability ate all my financial assets. Everything I own is in my apartment. A modest preacher’s pension and Social Security meets my needs.

What a fuss rightwing politicos raised over Social Security and other Roosevelt New Deal programs! Call it socialism or whatever; I would be living at the Mission without Social Security and HUD, Section 8, another Federal program.

Sure, some abuse the system, but millions more paid in as I did throughout my working years, beginning at age 16. Sure, I have collected more than I paid in; but what happened to the trillions workers contributed over my 94 years?  And they call low-income support entitlement!

Politics will always be, driven by the lust for power and control.  I’m all for free enterprise, but what about multiplied billions floating in the upper 2% stratosphere? How much is enough?

Thank you Uncle Sam. And thank you Senior Friend.  Check it out: sfa@seniorfriendinc.com.

Grandpa Lloyd

Epilogue 2: I’ll Tell You When to Quit

Autumn, 2010. Son Kevin sat with me in the recovery room at Lakewalk Surgery Center. I had yielded to a colonoscopy to explore a problem I had long attributed to aging. When the doctor finally arrived, his demeanor spoke before he did:  “Sorry to tell you, but you have rectal cancer.” I paused a moment. “OK. We’ll run the tests. If the cancer has spread, I’ll do nothing.  My faith is intact.

I turned to Dr. Ingrid Nisswandt, my primary care physician. Three weeks of blood tests, x-rays, and scans, found no hint of cancer elsewhere. In late November I checked into St. Mary’s.

Dr. Melissa Najarian did the honors. She whacked off a chunk of intestine and installed a belly bag. After five hospital days, I headed for Lakeshore Rehab, feeling less than perky, with zero appetite.  Three days later, I was back in St. Mary’s.

My caregiver, insisting I eat to gain strength, spooned something into my mouth, triggering an explosion. Black gunk flew far and wide. Feces, said the nurse, and summoned an ambulance.

It was a cold night. Wrapping me in a warm blanket, the ambulance crew wheeled me to the unheated vehicle then returned for paperwork. The blanket soon lost its heat and I grew colder than I had ever been. I fought vomiting. Totally miserable, I cried to the Lord, “I’ve had it; I quit!”

Now God doesn’t tell me stuff as some claim; I never hear heavenly voices; but the thought came clear as day: “Quit what? You never started anything. I’ll tell you when to quit.”

Peace flooded in as the ambulance rattled me to St. Mary’s. Masked people poked a tube down my nose into my belly and hooked me to a pump. I dozed, warmed by the promise, “I’ll tell you when to quit.”

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Epilogue 1: The Angel of First Avenue West

Contrary to my long-held vow, I’m compelled to write one more book. I will call it Epilogue and fill it with l stories from life beyond Elsie, my bride of 66 years. The stories will appear on Facebook and the Hole News then hang them on the Story Tree (www.lloydsstorytree.com) with the tagline Epilogue.

Here’s story #1, The Angel of First Avenue West.

I’m coming on to 95; old, any way you look at it. Sleepless hours come most nights, bringing reflections. I have led a rich life, spending 19 years doing what youth does then 66 years with dear Elsie, mother of my five kids. Though we were poor, life kept happening, often in unexpected ways.

Elsie left for home the morning before Valentine’s Day, 2009. An injury caused her to hurt for six long years. Consumed with her care, I gave little thought to my future, but life continued to happen in unexpected ways. The first came one week after Elsie died.

On a raw February morning, I headed toward the Social Security office to tend to required business. It was before nine o’clock and traffic on Superior Street traffic was light. I hurried along the sidewalk, leaning into the cold wind. Just as I neared the bank that accommodated my destination, an errant brick tripped me up. I fell hard, hat and glasses flying.

Stunned, I assessed the damage. Nothing broken, but I could not get to my feet, and there was not s soul in sight. As I scrunched toward the building, hoping for a handhold, a man rounded the corner from First Avenue West. He hurried toward me, gathering my hat and glasses. Determining I was OK, he helped me up. “You look familiar,” he said. I gave him my name.  “Oh, you just lost your wife!  I’m so sorry.” Then he added, “I sure enjoy your books.” He guided me to the bank door and walked on. I have no idea who he was.

Nearly nine years have passed since I met the Angel of First Avenue West, years filled with remarkable occurrences that cry to be told.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Deep Roots

I’m looking for Deep Roots, a book produced on the 100th anniversary of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions.
 
Missions are dear to my heart. Preached my first sermon at age 15 at the Duluth rescue mission. Only one man still present when I finished. He was drunk asleep. Worked three years at the St. Paul Union Gospel Mission during school years. Got my diploma from Bethel Seminary; got my education at the Mission.
 
John Ashmen, current President of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM) stopped by for lunch not long ago. Maybe you saw the Facebook picture. John has been a friend since he was a 15-year-old playing sax at Camp Haluwasa in New Jersey.
 
So many good Mission memories. The best is the night I bought a pack of cigarettes in Jesus’s name for a man and didn’t require him to get saved first. You don’t believe in that? You would if you were cold and living with your girlfriend on cardboard under the viaduct and hadn’t had a smoke for two days.
 
Memories!
 
If you can find me a copy of Deep Roots, I’ll be grateful. First time Amazon let me down. Glad to pay for it.
 
Old Grandpa Lloyd

Always Park Behind

My duties as student pastor at Spirit Baptist the summer of ’45 included Junior Boys’ week at Wood Lake Bible Camp. I looked around for boys to take along and came across a foster kid cared for by the local tavern owners. When the boy showed interest in camp, I betook myself to the Green Lantern, parking my familiar ‘31 Chevy directly in front.
 
The foster parents welcomed me warmly and we visited a half hour. Meanwhile, our church pianist chanced by and spotted my car. I had no idea how deeply some of my folks disliked the Green Lantern. Spirit township was bone dry—no alcohol. The homey, small tavern huddled on the township line, close as the law allowed. I left for camp early the next morning with the foster boy, not knowing my infraction had been discovered.
 
We had a great camp week. One evening after chapel, the boy and I boarded a green, hand-made rowboat to explore the shoreline. I manned the creaky oars; the boy faced me. He seemed to know little about the gospel. As we drifted at sunset, I explained God’s love in Christ simply as I could, and the boy who lived in a tavern professed faith in Christ.
 
I headed home pumped up to tell about camp, but I found a chilly congregation. I had all but ruined the church! The pastor in the Green Lantern in broad daylight! I don’t know how many were listening when I told about sunset on the lake when God’s grace touched the heart of a foster boy who lived in a tavern.
My advice: When visiting the Green Lantern, always park behind.
 
Old Grandpa Lloyd