Empty nest feelings: More of what makes me thankful

In the past few months I’ve met at least two young men who have lost their parents. I’ve also been reading about a character who had to raise his brothers and sisters at the tender age of 19. I know it’s fiction, but I’m sure it happens.

I am almost twice the age of my young friends, and I still have both parents. My husband still has both parents. We know we are blessed.

What chills me, and when I say “chills” I mean I feel an icicle stabbing my heart and I want to cry, is when I think of the possibility of my own children in that situation. It seems self-serving to feel like they need both parents alive and well, and obviously I’m happy to be alive. It’s not that so much as the thought of not being in their lives any longer.

When our children left home, we sold our empty nest and moved to the tropics. I don’t regret the move, but sometimes I have to compare the lives of my children with their friends’ lives. If we had stayed put, our son could come home and work for the summer and actually save some money, instead of needing help just to pay his rent. He could use my car instead of considering his own with all the expenses, including the insurance cost for a young man under 25. I could easily make a road trip or short flight to visit our daughter. I could send homemade cookies in the mail.

Instead, every visit requires great planning, scoping out flights and rental cars and accommodation. Every phone call comes with worry about running out of minutes.  Skype is our salvation, but that requires planning so we can coordinate schedules, as well as hoping they remember that we’d planned the Skype date. We may be retired, but our kids have busy lives.

With all these thoughts of what could have been, I am still eternally grateful that we made it to their adulthood. Every parent who has ever written up a will and carefully chosen potential guardians must know the feeling. Our children are adults now. We don’t need a designated guardian in our wills.

Still, parenthood doesn’t end there. I hope we’re around as long as our parents have been, not only because I want to live for so much longer and I still have that “bucket list”, but because I want my kids to have us there when they need us. They know their own hearts and minds, but we’ll always be their parents. Their father will always have an opinion and I will always try to offer comfort, advice, their favourite recipes or whatever they ask of me.

No, I can’t imagine being under 30 and having no parents. I will always be grateful for my parents. Now, as a parent of two adults, I am even more grateful to be in their lives.

Life Challenge: Surviving surgery

I had surgery on my foot on Wednesday. It was a day surgery, but I was under a general anesthetic and the surgery lasted 2 hours. It ‘s my first surgery since I was a young child and had my tonsils out. I remember some things about that surgery very clearly. I remember getting a needle in my hip. I remember being told to count backwards from 10 and I don’t remember finishing the countdown. I remember having a sore throat when I woke up and a sore bum, from the needle.

This time it was a little different. I remember chatting and joking around with the doctors and nurses in the OR, breathing in oxygen and getting something to make me “woozy” in my IV. I woke up in recovery with a sore throat, this time from having had a tube down my throat. I still felt a little woozy.

My husband had brought me in to the hospital in plenty of time to prepare for the surgery, and I had a very nice nurse from Jamaica  to prepare me. He set up an IV with saline and antibiotics. He washed my foot and put my booties on.  When it was time, he helped me onto the stretcher to take me into the operating room.

By the time I came out of recovery I had new nurses to take care of me. In order to start me on pain medication, my doctor requested some food for me. The nurse brought me some soup, crackers and apple juice. It was very familiar to me as the post op “light meal” we would send patients when I worked as a hospital dietitian. The soup, a chicken broth, was very good!

By 7 pm I was allowed to go home with a huge bandage on my foot and a post op shoe, instructions to rest and keep the foot elevated for 4 days and to take my medication three times per day.

I’ve been managing to follow the instructions, mostly because my husband is a tyrant, the good kind of tyrant, who makes sure I keep my foot elevated and don’t stand or walk too much. He makes meals for me and cleans up. The first 2 days he brought me water, food, my phone, whatever I needed, so I wouldn’t have to get up. He is still cooking and cleaning for me.

The pain has been surprisingly minimal. I credit my doctor who did the surgery and was taught to treat the tissues and bone delicately during surgery. I have also been following directions well. I feel very fortunate. The most pain I’ve had is when I get all cramped up from trying to type with my foot raised up higher than my hip!

Of course, this affects my life challenge. I can’t do anything.  I can’t exercise. I can’t swim. I’m home all day and I have to eat when I take my medication. I’m having a hard time regulating my intake and figuring out how much or how little I should be eating. I want to eat enough to help my healing process, but I don’t want to gain back all the weight I lost. I am also a little worried about losing all the fitness and strength I’ve been working on.

I was told, in the literature I was given about the surgery, that the first day or two would be the most painful. Again, I feel very fortunate at how little pain I experienced. I know I was on 3 kinds of pain killers, but still…

Five days post op and I am finding this is my most difficult time. I haven’t slept well, not because of pain in my foot, but because I can’t get the rest of my body into a comfortable position. I wake up several times each night. Consequently, I am very tired today.

I am also feeling a little queasy today, which is surprising, considering that I am only on ibuprofen, which I am taking with food. I also find myself studying my foot and worrying about the bruising. Is it normal? Is it excessive? Should I ask the doctor?

The projects I had lined up to do are still there. They will take longer than expected. I guess that’s a good thing, because so will my recovery.

I am feeling the loner side of my personality taking over. When I am active and physical, doing things like cooking, swimming, snorkeling and other forms of exercise, I also feel more sociable. I take part in grocery shopping and running errands with my husband.

When I can’t do those physical things, I find myself lost in a book, either reading one or writing one. I lose my desire to socialize and I just want to be alone.

I’m not lost to the world yet. I still have a burning curiosity about what is going on around me.  I’m sure as I become more mobile again my social skills will gradually return.

For now, I’ll use this opportunity to have quiet time and reading and writing time.

Life Challenge update, another plateau and no foreseeable budging!

As a dietitian and nutrition counsellor, I always advised my clients to expect a plateau in their fitness and weight loss progress. The important thing is to continue with your healthy way of eating and to keep up the daily exercise. I now find myself in a position to follow my own advice.

Having lost eight pounds since the beginning of April, I’m now struggling to continue the progress. I was so proud of myself for losing two pounds while we were away, when I usually gain at least that much on holidays, that I thought another few pounds would be a piece of cake. Maybe that’s a bad choice of words when it’s the baking that is my downfall.  I’m keeping a record of my intake and I continue to exercise every day, but maybe my overall activity level has dropped. Either way, I’ve hit the dreaded plateau.

This normally would be something I could work through, but I have a feeling I’ll be happy to hang on to this plateau in the next couple of weeks. I’m about to have elective surgery on my foot and I’ll be off my feet, unable to exercise for four days and unable to swim for 2 weeks!

There is a little ray of hope. I managed to take part in a veritable smorgasbord at our community party this weekend, and ate what amounted to an extra 30 percent of my energy requirement for the day. I still maintained my weight! It’s the leftovers that will be my challenge!


Away from the madness

We often read the local news and shake our heads at the decisions made by those in power. I lament the inclinations of some politicians to create an “us and them”mentality between the Caymanians and the expats. I often wish I could vote so my opinion would count for something when local surveys are conducted.

Then I have days where I am happy to sit on my island, under the world radar, far from the madness that has taken hold in many parts of the world. I am grateful for the fact that although we share influences of both, we are not American or British.  We also share influences of Canada, Jamaica, Central America and Italy, as well  as many other countries. Our population, now at 60,000, is a sort of “united nations”, muddling through and trying to find the balance between issues like immigration and employment, tourism and the environment.

When I watch the news on the US networks I want to weep . I see posts on Facebook that have gone viral, often titled “Meanwhile in Canada”  or something similar, showing happy mixing of races and harmony in the streets. I feel momentary pride in my country, until I read about police shootings in Toronto, or hateful tweets from a special interest group. All lives matter.

Our children attended a high school  in Calgary where they were colour blind.  They would come home and talk about friends and classmates by name. They never felt the need to describe them as “my Chinese friend” or “mixed race Irish-Indian classmate”. They simply talked about them as personalities who had been part of their day, perhaps to joke around with in class  or possibly as part of the group working on a project together. I like to think that the products of these high schools represent our future.

Recently we attended a major sporting event in California. I looked around the stadium at the spectators and thought, this is America. The crowd was not white or black or yellow or brown. You could say it was all of those, or you could say it was just a crowd of people, watching their favourite athletes.

Where does the hate come from? I want to believe that we don’t have the race problems in Canada, but I know that’s not quite true. However, we don’t have the problems that seem to be taking over the news in the US lately. Their country seems to be imploding. Britain has their own problems, too. One thing I believe, is that for all our problems in Cayman, race is not one of them.

Last night we heard of the attack on people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France. More madness, more hate.

So while the world goes mad around us, let’s enjoy our beautiful island and the people we encounter every day; Caymanian, Canadian, British, American, Jamaican, Filipino, European. Let’s set an example for the world.

Summer in Cayman

Yes, I’ve been here before; summer in Cayman. The June rains start to diminish, the temperatures continue to rise and worst of all the humidity level sneaks up so you wish it would rain. School is out, so families leave the island. If one parent has to work, they stay here alone while their spouse, usually the wife, takes the children off island to visit families.

Those of us left behind spend more time at the beach.  If we’re lucky enough to have a pool we gather around, lazily dipping into the water to cool off, then drying off in the shade or sun. It just depends how long we’ve lived here, or whether we’ve been foolish enough to seek the sun before.

Those of us left behind are also on hurricane alert. It’s not that we’re expecting a hurricane, but we check the weather forecasts regularly to see if any are expected. We’re prepared. We have our food supply, our water supply and our flashlights with extra batteries.

We go out to run errands at those times of day we used to avoid at all costs. The traffic isn’t that bad. The young man hired to clean the sidewalks and patios becomes even more soporific, barely managing to get the sidewalks sprayed down between the movies he watches on his phone in the shade.

The mornings are the biggest difference. I have my coffee on the deck, I swim in the pool, but after that, I’m inside with the air conditioning.

The sea is calmer in different places. There might be more diving on the north side. The island settles into a calm, slow rhythm, as if resting for the busy tourist season.

There are tourists. They come with their children, now out of school for the summer, trading places with our island families. They come on the cruise ships, but in smaller numbers. A busy day in high season might see five or six cruise ships, in summer only three.

Our first visits here were at this time of year. As hot and humid and lazy as the island becomes, it’s the island we came to love.  The cooler winter months are a pleasant reprieve, but then we have to share this small space with so many people. This time of year, summer, still invokes that childhood feeling of school holidays, afternoons at the pool and freedom from responsibility. By the time September comes, it will be a love-hate relationship, but right now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.