Today is Carol’s 66th birthday. She is my older sister and has always been very protective of me even as adults. Reminds me of a story from very first time I went to visit her at the Inn. We both made a promise not to tell mom about it! I would like to think one reason she didn’t want to tell me she was dying is because she is so protective. Off topic; Carol’s birthday.

As I sit here, I think back to her 60th birthday when Linda and George closed the Inn for the weekend and invited her family and good friends to a celebration in her honor. It was supposed to be a surprise but somehow she managed to figure it out. She was so excited to have everyone coming there and wanted everything to be perfect. (She always wants everything to be perfect!) She made little signs for the doors to each room with our names on them and insisted on fixing breakfasts for us each day just as if we were all guests. Her words were along the lines of “this is what I do and I want to be able to do this for you all.” She wanted to do everything herself, but we all pitched in with the dinner preparations. It was a fun weekend. This birthday was a bit different.

It started with breakfast and then the routine of getting her ready for the day with at least 15 trips up and down the stairs to retrieve things and then to put them back again; I am definitely getting my exercise! While Janine the bather was here, I went upstairs and took a very quick shower so I’d be ready to help with make-up, hair and such although all I really do is watch or retrieve that which was forgotten or say that she looks fine. Janine helped dress her which was helpful. After she left, I helped with the finishing touches, put everything away and then decided to quickly go put on my make-up and do my hair. Kris and Sean arrived while I was upstairs. The next thing I knew they were yelling up the stairs to hurry up and come downstairs. I had no idea what was going on but hurried to finish. When I got downstairs they told me we were going to go downtown to eat at the food carts. Quite frankly, I was surprised by this. As we started to get Carol ready Kelly discovered there was no oxygen left in the portable tank and there were no more extras. Carol decided that if we gave her enough anti-anxiety meds and morphine everything would be all right. I on the other hand, was a nervous wreck! I have been watching her breath for the past week and see how difficult it is for her with the oxygen and how upset she becomes without it. She told me to just relax. I tried. Briefly, I thought about taking some of her anti-anxiety meds but thought the better of it. The meds were tucked into a purse “just in case”, we settled into three different vehicles and off we went.

I would have liked to observe us from another person’s point of view, I’m sure we looked quite interesting. We are a very motley crew! After arriving at the food carts we all decided it was a good thing Carol didn’t have the oxygen tank with her because there were too many people smoking. That could have been quite disastrous.

The food carts are situated along the sidewalk in a square block area of downtown Portland. There is every type of food imaginable to choose from and the smells waft through the air like fingers, pulling us in different directions. We walked around the block together in order to see what food delights awaited us. When we got back to the place we started, we all went in different directions with a plan to meet in the nearby park. Each of us had a different type of food and we each tasted a bit of everyone else’s.  It was a wonderful blend of culinary delights! It was also a great place to people watch. After eating, we drove to Kelly’s radio station office for a little look-see and then Carol decided she needed to go home. Carol told Kris, Sean, Krista and I to “go to the Rose Garden and Japanese Garden”. There was no asking if we wanted to go she just said “go” so we went. She can be quite persuasive! I think she might have needed to rest.

The roses weren’t in full bloom yet but the rhododendrons and azaleas were outdoing themselves. The few roses that were blooming were gorgeous and we stopped to take a few pictures of them here and there.

The Japanese garden was breathtakingly beautiful, such a treat for the eyes.It was also very peaceful and a welcome respite from the house. I needed that.

Later in the evening two very good friends from Oklahoma City, Linda and Lolly, came for a visit bringing birthday cake, plates, napkins, etc. with them. Carol had a very good visit with them, lots of laughter. They noticed that she was beginning to tire and as they left told us they would be back tomorrow. I do think the day wore her out.

I learned something about my sister today or maybe it was yesterday, when she needed to go to the bathroom. The downstairs bathroom is not very big, just a half bath. When she got in there, she started panicking and wanted the door and then window opened. I was trying to open the window and not step on her at the same time plus, I wasn’t familiar with the window and it took me a second to figure out how to unlock it. She kept saying she couldn’t breathe and had a major panic attack while in there.  I couldn’t get her out fast enough. I learned that Carol is claustrophobic! I never knew this. I suppose it is true that you learn something new every day.

After we got her back to the sofa and she relaxed a bit she confided in me that she is quite concerned about how she is going to get back upstairs. She also told me this would be her last trip downstairs. I asked her why. Her response was that it was too much effort and trouble. She said she really enjoyed being downstairs the past few days in the midst of all that was happening and she didn’t really want to go back upstairs. I suggested if she really wanted to stay downstairs we could bring her hospital bed down. She didn’t like that idea because there isn’t a downstairs bedroom and she felt that her being here in the house was a disruption enough to Kelly and Krista’s life without being out in the middle of the living room all of the time. I told her that I understood why she would feel that way but to think about it some before making a final decision.

All in all it was a wonderful day today. Getting out of the house was a delightful treat for her and she seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. She was able to spend time with family and friends. She received flowers from Mom and others plus several cards. She was away from the house for several hours without needing the oxygen. She seemed very happy and content as we sat watching TV tonight.

I wish I felt the same way.