Caregiver concern

GOOFING OFF — A CAREGIVERS RESOLUTION

AN ALZHEIMER’S CAREGIVER’S RESOLUTION

Cat hiding under a blanket

A playful game of peek-a-boo with Gouda the cat helped me make a spring resolution to schedule time for “goofing off” and taking better care of me.

 

April 26, 2013 — I haven’t made New Year’s resolutions for many years, but I have decided to make a resolution this spring: to take better care of me.  As a caregiver that is often the most difficult of all tasks.  Being the first assistant to Ben and Crizaldo in caring for my Alzheimer’s husband Ken I do manage to visit friends, meet people for lunch and see some of the latest movies, but the one area which I have neglected terribly is taking care of the physical me.

 GYM TIME

 When Ken was well, especially after he retired and before AD we went to the gym and actually worked out three times a week.  Plus, he (some days coaxing me to go along) walked the dogs along the bay. Last year I managed to get to the gym all of a dozen times, if that many, although it was and is on my Monday, Wednesday and Friday to-do list.  Even though it remains at the top of my TDL the gym does manage to slip by the wayside when the list gets too long.

 At one time I also did a half-hour workout on my living room floor, but even that has been dropped from my Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday routine.  Nor have I been walking.  All of these activities have fallen into an “I don’t want to and I don’t care” bad-attitude phase.  I have asked me many times the “Why” question, but haven’t found a good answer.

 I JUST DON’T CARE

Having lunch one day with my friend Madalyn I mentioned that I really didn’t care that my car needed some TLC, even though I felt a little embarrassed about picking her up with so much grime on the outside of my reliable vehicle. 

“I just don’t care,” I apologized, and then repeated the IJDC about a few other things on the list.

“Do you know that not caring can be a sign of depression and stress,” she said.

I have always thought I had a good handle on the depression demon and actually don’t feel too stressed.  However, I must admit that I have been hampered about getting things done because I have fallen into the habit of not caring.  Thinking I would start to care again once the warm weather arrived, the days grew longer and our skies were clear and blue, it was easy to procastinate.  I was certain I would snap right back into wanting to get the car washed – and caring – but it wasn’t happening.  Perhaps Madalyn was right.  Could I kick the “I just don’t care” attitude, feel better and less stressed if I could get beyond this rebelliousness?  Possibly, but how? 

A HAPPY VISIT 

Kristina dropped by for a quick visit and to give Ken his monthly vitamin B shot.  She is a very “up” person and right now she lives her life with her secondary goal as having fun.  That doesn’t mean to say she doesn’t earn a living.  She does and enjoys her work as a caregiver for disabled people, and has been wonderful, at times, helping with her Alzheimer’s grandfather.  Right now, though, she and her boyfriend are pretty much into amusement when they aren’t working, and she mentioned looking forward to the weekend so she could goof off.

“Hummmm,” I hummed, how long has it been since I goofed off wondering if I still knew how.  Ken, before AD, knew how to goof off and was an expert.  Watching sports on TV was goofing off and visiting with the neighbors instead of cutting the lawn were two of his favorite goof off non-activities.  I’m not sure if wives were as good at this talent as are their husbands, especially if life dishes them a full plate of Alzheimer’s complete with accessorized ramifications. there lives would perk alone like the early morning brew — bubbly and strong.   I’ll have to think about resurrecting this goof-off idea.

 SILLINESS IS GOOD

Gouda the cat and I have a continuing contest over “Whose bed (chair) is this anyway?”  She either occupies my computer chair or the bed after I get up.  So far it’s a standoff.  Going in the other day to make up the bed I pulled at the covers which immediately awakened the ball-of-fur feline.  Instead of leaving her comfort zone she attacked the moving blankets.  I pulled and she dove into the exchange. “Fun,” her action declared.

My arm went under several layers of blankets for protection from her sharp, needle-point claws which were in full flight as I snaked my hand in every which direction across the bottom sheet.  She was doing what cat’s do best — chasing  a moving object.  I reacted with full participation – always guarding against Gouda’s prowess skills and weapons which now included teeth and her back feet.  Bounding here and there she was all over the “map.” My armored arm, hand and fingers became her prey as she challenged them from on top of the swathed surface.  After several minutes I said to myself, “Good grief, I’m playing with the cat.”  Do you suppose that could be considered goofing off?  Playing?  Wasting time?  Indulging in nonsense?  If that’s what it’s called – then this could be the start of something big.  I’ll put that on my to-do list: schedule goof-off time — ten minutes to play with the cat — well, maybe at least five.

Originally posted 2013-04-27 12:08:07.

ALZHEIMER’S AND THE OTHER WOMAN

 

Affairs, rather real or imagined wreck havoc with the pysche of an Alzheimer’s caregiver.

 October 19, 2012 — I have read that it isn’t unusual for older people with dementia or Alzheimer’s in the earlier stages to forget their spouse – especially if they live in a care facility with a lot of new people with whom they become acquainted. The Alzheimer’s affair can be tragic to the well spouse, or it can be a source of happiness for someone with Alzheimer’s searching for love and companionship in a confusing world.

 “He met someone,” a broken-hearted healthy wife will say to a friend.  In this case she has lost her husband twice: to Alzheimer’s and then to another woman. The Alzheimer’s World is not our world even though we have one foot in the door nearly all of the time.  Our loved ones can become strangers to us, and us to them as they embrace their new life in an institution.  Their world with us can vanish and what remains for them is what is readily available which might be the man or woman in the next room.  

When her husband with Alzheimer’s became involved with a woman he met in the facility where he resided,  former Associate Justice, Sandra Day O’Conner, following a painful period of adjustment, responded she was relieved because her husband had found some happiness.

At that point in time there is really nothing for the wife or husband and family to do than allow what has happened to just continue.  Changing the mind of an AD patient is next to impossible.  The connecting link to the well spouse is gone. Besides, the happiness of the AD spouse is what is paramount.  Furthermore, living and caring in an Alzheimer’s world is often surreal and often feels like make-believe and roll playing. What happens to not only the patient, but for the spouse as well can seem like a dream — or worse — a nightmare.  Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-10-20 15:38:00.

LIVING IN THEIR COMFORT ZONE

Romick Family 68

The Romick family, long before anyone thought of Alzheimer’s.

August 11, 2012 — So much has been written about family participation in helping with an Alzheimer’s patient.  From what I have read the percentage of those willing to help and those willing to watch is way out of balance.  I don’t have the statistics; furthermore I doubt there are any truly accurate stats because involvement in caregiving is such a personal family issue.  However, I would venture to say that the numbers of those willing to watch are far greater than those willing to help.

FAMILY PARTICIPATION

Perhaps, the approach is all wrong from the beginning.  One article I read was a synopsis of a study done by Steven Zarit, a professor and head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State.  The study’s main focus was communication between the family and the person with dementia.  This, I imagine, would be done soon after diagnosis and when the victim was able to communicate his or her wishes.  The study group’s consensus was that communication is either poor or non-existent between family members and the relative suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease; the problem mainly resulting from a difference in understanding the core values held by everyone, including the victim, about giving and receiving care:  The core values being autonomy, burden, control, family and safety. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-08-11 20:14:32.

GUILT AND POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

carrying guilt

There are times to feel guilty and there are times to just let it go.

July 7, 2012 — So many words have slipped from our vocabularies since Political Correctness has been the fashion, but the one word whose use is frowned upon yet nags at me endlessly is guilt.   “Ohhhhhh,” say some, “guilt is bad.  It can make you feel sad, and we shouldn’t have to deal with that.”  So what “they” are saying is that we mustn’t get caught in the trap of feeling regret or guilt.  Instead, let’s all be happy.  What was that song?  “Don’t worry, be happy.” Simple to say and easy to do as some folks are able to walk along their merry way leaving life’s problems and a good portion of responsibility in a wake of what should be corrected; all the while experiencing no regret or guilt.  Shame!  They should feel something and be held accountable. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-07-07 21:59:06.

ALZHEIMER’S: ANOTHER WORLD AND COMMUNITY

Alice in Wonderland and Catepillar

Unusual happenings in the Alzheimer's World can be as strange as Alice's chat with the caterpillar.

May 18, 2012 — As stumbling humans we are either falling into a rabbit hole or squeezing through secret openings in the looking glass in much the same way as curious Alice in her Wonderland adventures.  Traveling along this road of experience called life I doubt we’ll meet up with a talking white rabbit worried about the time, or a grinning cat, but we can learn and be gifted with a multitude of different perspectives as we venture along the way.

A DIFFERENT VANTAGE POINT

From a Ferris wheel high in the sky we are left suspended in a swinging basket to survey our first upside-down world.  We may have been frightened, yet there is intrigue wondering what else is out there yet to be discovered.  Leaving the airport’s solid ground we glide upward into dandelion puffs of drifting clouds, floating on currents of air into another realm, viewing the earth below as a patchwork quilt.  Next? If we’re brave enough to put on a mask and air tank we can enter into the watery kingdom of fishes, other sea creatures and plant life living on, or near, the sandy beaches of the ocean’s floor; truly another world. And wasn’t Christopher Columbus, in his curiousity, led to a “New World?” Life is a revolving door pushing us into, in front of, behind and along the edge of the mystical looking glass whether we like it or not.  We are constantly moving through different worlds of learning, and while they might not be the fun and exciting places where Alice traveled, they are, nonetheless, for our experience and understanding. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-05-19 05:35:16.

HOPE

November 5, 2009 — I grew up hearing the phrase, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.”  I saw that emotion — hope — shining in the eyes of a desperate mother more than 30 years ago in an Idaho hospital, and I shall remember it always.  Our oldest son, Kevin, during his first week at college had been in a  horrible automobile accident and lay in a deep coma for three days while we waited for the unknown seeing him minutes at a time in ICU, and then more waiting until we were permitted to see him again.  We met so many good, kind and concerned people during our stay near his bedside.  Some had family members in various stages of recovery so we all shared in the profound commonality of grief and worry.   However, uppermost in all of our thoughts, struggling to banish any negativity was hope.

We watched our son lying there, seemingly so calm and relaxed, outwardly unscathed by his ordeal, all injuries being internal, including a severe concussion, leaving us to wonder if his brain had been permanently damaged.   He looked so normal in slumber except for the occasional outbursts of profanity.  “It’s all right,” said the doctor.  “Base man is injured and angry, and he hurts.  That’s how he responds.  It’s all right that he swears.”

There was another couple whose son had been in ICU for some time until his doctor had him moved to another ward.  Still hooked to his IVs, he needed additional nourishment so they inserted a feeding tube.  Ken and I visited with the parents as they watched over their 15-year-old who had been returning from a football game with a friend at night, his friend at the wheel.  It was dark and the RR crossing was unmarked.  Undoubtedly, they never knew what hit them, and now he lay there still unconscious, but alive.

Unlike Kevin, the boy was rigid, his hands curled  into tight fists, his body responding not to any stimuli.  We spoke very little.  What could we say,  just giving them a hug for comfort.  My inward thoughts told me this boy would not recover, yet when I looked into his mother’s eyes, I saw the familiar agony and worry we all shared as we hovered over our injured children, but beyond that I could see there was also the most tenacious of all emotions: hope.  The boy was alive and where there’s  life, there’s  hope.

“Mr. and Mrs. Romick?”  asked a smiling nurse.  “Your son is awake.”  We wondered if he would recognize us — he did — but it would take a long time before he fully recovered.  We were able to fly him home two weeks later to begin his journey back into our lives.  I have always wondered about the boy from the train wreck.  We didn’t see the parents again following our brief visit.  Was he able to overcome those tremendous odds?  Were the prayers, faith and hope of his parents enough to bring him back?  I hope so.

And it’s hope that sometimes levels our roller coaster ride with Alzheimer’s — at least from time to time.  When Ken has longer periods of being Ken, and he calls me “Sweetheart,” I find myself hoping.  Treating him holistically, I must have  faith that what I give him in the way of supplements will do him some good, even though I have absolutely no medical training, and it’s because of hope that I continue.  After all, the medical community doesn’t have much to offer.

Today, it was a bit of joy and laughter from both of us that gave me my needed spark of hope.   We were out shopping and just before we returned home, I said I should stop at one more store.  “Where?” Ken asked.  “The ahh Dollar Tree,” I answered.   Having a bit of  a hearing problem, he hesitated, looked at me a little puzzled, yet smiling and said, “The Adult Tree?”  Then he laughed repeating himself, “Adultery — do they have a store for that?”  Then we both laughed.  Poking him in the ribs I said, “You made a funny.”

We had a wonderful afternoon, but at sundown, the moods returned as did the agitation and other symptoms of AD, but I was nourished with my spark of hope.  Reality check:  I know after nearly six years that his brain is ravaged, yet if he yoyos with good times to mellow the bad, then perhaps it will postpone that awful day when I must consider alternatives — placing  him in a full-care facility — I don’t really know.  Meanwhile, I too can keep in my thoughts that where there’s life, there’s hope.

Originally posted 2009-11-05 06:50:51.

PROBLEMS BIG AND SMALL

The ghosts, goblins, fairy princesses and super powers have come and gone from our house, leaving no tricks, their bags bulging with treats, meaning another Halloween has passed.  I enjoy the sporadic parade of kids in masquerade. (I don’t even mind the older set as long as the candy holds out, their voices already hitting the low notes of “Trick or Treat,” who come later in the evening).  In the past so did Ken.  This year he made no recognition of the holiday when I placed pumpkins on the porch, an immense spider clinging to an equally over-sized web hanging from the roof, and a friendly ghost stuck in my juniper bush which was sprinkled with candy-corn lights.  The house looked festive and inviting and I raced to the door with my caldron of candy at the first ring.

I could see the groups of small fry in costumes were confusing to Ken, who managed to get to the door in front of me offering out a jumbled scolding to a mom and dad with little ones.  I pushed in next to him explaining “Alzheimer’s,” adding, “You didn’t get your candy,” as they all scurried down the walk.  The parents, looking a bit unsettled, shouted over their shoulder, “That’s okay.”   I moved my chair next to the door so it wouldn’t happen again.  I strive to be as “normal” as possible, but as Alzheimer’s gets worse, the problems get bigger and more difficult to manage.

Soon, Granddaughter, Jessica, 10, arrived looking extraordinarily beautiful, glittering petals covering the skirt of her fairy princess costume, a jeweled snood for her hair and wings with which to fly, everything stitched and put together by Sabina, her talented mom.  Jessica, while enjoying the door bell ringing part almost likes being the hostess more than the visitor, taking over my duties handing out the candy while her parents chatted with me and Ken, who soon relaxed, his son’s presence and friendly banter calming him.

As I survey the growing problems as caregiver to my husband and his Alzheimer’s, and all the others who share our experience, I also think of the little ones out on Halloween night with plastic pumpkins and decorated bags carried to collect their evening’s loot.   As young as they are they too have problems.  For them their problems loom just as large as our problems are to us, which reminds me of my seven-year-old friend, Robert.

While visiting grandparents in Northern California Robert was allowed to pick out a pumpkin at a nearby pumpkin farm.  Selecting it from the vine, he helped load it into a wheel barrel, and then into the car.  Aunt Chrissy laughed and said that she would buy the 95 pound pumpkin for his birthday.

At home, the gift sat stately and firm on the front porch until some thoughtless, mean-spirited thieves took it while Robert was at school and his mother, Malena, away from the house.  Coming home to an empty porch Robert was inconsolable.  He sobbed until Malena thought his heart would break.  Tearfully he asked his sympathetic mom, “What if the thieves are already making pumpkin pies?”  How could a first grader understand the cruel ways of the world, or why anyone would take his special gift.  The theft of his Halloween-birthday pumpkin was, to Robert, the biggest problem he had ever encountered, and a problem he was unable to solve.  Our story, however, has a happy ending when a family friend, who is also a police detective talked with Robert, assuring him the “force” would see that his pumpkin was found and returned.  Meanwhile, our detective located an equally large pumpkin in an equally busy pumpkin patch and, back in full police uniform, delivered it to Robert’s porch.

Problems and adversity are a necessary part of our growth in life and they have no age preference, whether they be problems dealing with dirty, rotten scoundrels, age and illness, business worries, problems of the heart, families in crisis, or young marrieds’ problems making their budget stretch to cover the mortgage.   Like pain, no one can measure the severity of another’s misery, nor can anyone calculate whether a problem is big or small — only he to whom the problem belongs is allowed to make that distinction.  One thing, however, is for sure:   no matter what size the behemoth which might lumber into our lives, the enormity of it is always lessened by love, concern and at times action, when needed, from those who care: sometimes a stranger, family members, friends or a good and wonderfully kind police detective.

Originally posted 2009-11-02 07:39:37.

HE NEEDS TO BE IN A HOME

“Have you thought about looking into a care facility for Ken?” asked my neighbor.  “Of course,” I answered, closing the issue and moving on to another subject.  What I wanted to say was, “Having to place my husband in a full-care facility hangs over my head  like an enormous lead weight every single day of my life, and I wait constantly for it to drop.”  Because we are friends I didn’t feel she had overstepped her bounds by asking me, after all we have known one another since our children were young.  But I did feel the intrusion when she called a family member and told them Ken belonged in a home.   This being my fourth trip (and the most difficult)  down Lost Memory Lane, there is one thing I know for certain: no matter how demented their state of mind, people with AD and other dementia-related illnesses are happiest in their own home, surrounded by loved ones, and when and if the time comes for placement, the decision will be made by family, doctors and the guiding hand of clergy.   My most fervent prayer is that the Lord will call him home before I have to make that placement.  Keeping Ken with me for as long as possible is my goal.

If “as long as possible” sounds vague, it’s probably because it is.  I have certain established criteria which will help me and our family reach that awful decision:  if Ken becomes violent, if he can no longer care for his personal needs, or if he becomes a danger to himself or others.  Those remain uppermost in my mind, but I know other problems may arise of which I am presently unaware. I will cross those bridges if and when I come to them.  I also know removing him from his home will be the most difficult thing I will ever do.  “But you would have so much more freedom,” people have said.  “To do what?” I ask.  Admittedly, caring for any loved one who is terminally ill is difficult, wrenching, exhausting and depressing, but would it be less painful to visit him or her in a care facility only to have them weep at your leaving and beg to go with you.  There are no easy answers and there is no easy decision, so it is best for those who mean so well not to become part of the problem.

I find the further down the AD staircase Ken travels the more changes take place: changes in his ability to understand, his awareness, comprehension, personal care, his physical abilities and even his willingness to cooperate which I know is normal for the disease.  All of these changes and more will be factors in determining when and if he has to placed in a home.   However, the fascinating part of this insane journey (if I can  use the word fascinating), at least with Ken, is this fact:  his trips yoyo up and down.  There are days when his decent seems endless; speaking with little sentence structure, groping for needed words, unable to take simple directions, more anger and frustration than usual, difficulty in making the simplest of decisions and general annoyance with me the majority of time.   After a few days of this sudden and bazaar behavior, I tell myself, “Tomorrow, I’ll call the family, and we’ll talk.”  But when tomorrow comes, he’s better.

The medical community has said that once memory is gone, there is no recovery, but I wonder about that.  As I have watched him regress over the past six years, the decline is very definitely dramatic.  There is no comparing the Ken of 2003 and the Ken now.  I’ve watched and listened to him drop through the years, lose memories and his age year after year: forgetting his career, me, his children, and then dwelling for a time in the Navy, dropping down again to a time when he insisted he needed his pajamas before he could get ready for bed.  During those latter times I call him “Buddy,” the nickname his parents gave him.  Furthermore, when he’s Buddy (who is about 12)  he wonders why he hasn’t seen his mother and father, and asks about his sister, Loretta.   Loretta, I tell him, has her own home, but telling him his parents are deceased is unacceptable to him, so I tell Buddy they are on vacation.  Being just a boy Buddy tells me he is not married, never has been married, has no children — only a sister and his mother and father.  Another personality in the mix and to whom I refer is Mr. Hyde, who also owns our house, but is older and married, but not to me.

Other times, from out of nowhere, Ken will look at me and wonder, “Are you my wife?”  I assure him that I am adding, “Your wife needs a hug.”  Eagerly he obliges, and in our embrace we fit into each other’s arms as if these wretched years have never been.  Feeling the comfort he remarks, “Oh, this feels so good,” and then he rubs my back as he always did before letting me go.  Ken invites me to sit with him on the couch so we can watch TV together with him asking, “Are you okay?” and he reaches for my hand.  My husband remains for several minutes before that mysterious fog wipes away the memory and he becomes one of the other personalities, dismissing me as some annoying intruder.  I’m grateful for the interlude.

Physically, Ken is in very good condition, a little on the skinny side.   How long the two of us will ride this crazy roller coaster called Alzheimer’s is an unknown factor, but we will continue riding it together until — and if — there comes a time for our ride to stop.  Meanwhile, I am the one, with my chosen council to councel who will determine when a change needs to be made.

Originally posted 2009-10-28 08:06:27.

I PRAY FOR YOU ENOUGH…………

Just after I finished my previous writing, “Through The Storm,” I received a lovely email from my cousin, Penny, in Oregon.  I could see by the enormous block of addresses that she had, indeed, sent it to all of her friends and family.  It was one of those emails worth forwarding titled “I Pray For You Enough…..”  After reading it my thoughts were, “How nice.”  I had received a similar one a while back titled “I Wish You Enough……”  The contents were the same, the story line the same, but a little different in that the prayer story involved a mother and her daughter, while the wish email was about a father and daughter.  I wondered if an original story had been written by the talented writer anonymous, and during the little email’s travels over the waves of the internet, the various recipients tweaked it just a bit to suit their own fancy, with change happening in small increments.  In any event I’ll briefly relate the story in first person, but I’m not the person:

At the airport I was waiting for my flight when I noticed two women standing nearby.  So close, in fact, that I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation.  As the daughter said goodbye before rushing to her flight she said, “I pray for you enough……”  The mother returned the phrase, “and I pray for you enough……”  Tearfully, the daughter scurried off to catch her plane as the forlorn mother watched.  I could tell she was near tears, but I didn’t want to intrude.  However, she caught my eye, knowing that I must have heard their conversation and asked, “Have you ever said goodbye for the last time?”  I answered that I had, many times.  Tears began to flow as she sat down next to me, her sad words revealing that she had a fatal health condition and her daughter’s next visit would be for her funeral.

While her explanation allowed me to know she was dying, I wondered about the phrase used by both women.  Timidly, I asked, “What did you mean when you both said I pray for you enough?”  She went on to tell me of a family tradition which had been passed along for generations, praying that their loved ones would have enough to meet their needs and to bring  joy to their lives.  Then, as if memorized she said,

“I pray for you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

“I pray for you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

“I pray for you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

“I pray for you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

“I pray for you enough gain to satisfy your wants, but especially your needs.

“I pray for you enough loss to appreciate all you possess.

“I pray for you enough hellos to get you through the final goodbyes.”

Seven simple prayers covering just about anything one would need, except when life changes dramatically as it does with illness.  The mother was ill.  What would she need in the way of, “I pray for you enough……” for her condition?  And I thought of AD and Ken, and myself as a caregiver.  Not only us and our needs, but the needs of caregivers all over the world who have accepted this awesome responsibility of caring for the dying no matter what the cause.   (Please note I am not including prayer for healing because I’m only considering terminal illness where there is no hope.)  So for the patient, these six are a beginning:

I pray for you enough peace of mind to get you through the day without — or at least with only a minimum — of anger, agitation and mood swings.

I pray for you enough memory so you can take care of your personal needs: a shave and a shower without help.

I pray for you enough friends and family so you can talk, even if it’s only ramblings.

I pray for you enough strength so you can walk a short distance with your caregiver, and get from one room to another without help.

I pray for you enough respect and love from others, that they remember who you were and not what you have become.

I pray for you enough medication to keep you free from pain, to calm your nerves and allow you to relax and sleep.

As a caregiver, the most often-asked question I hear is, “What can I do for you?”  I have “Ken sitters” a phone call away.  I have friends who drop by with a meal for two, cake, a plate of cookies, a book to read, Monday night dinner at Jayne’s house, phone calls so I can sit and chat, friends who invite us to social events even if Ken acts strange, notes in the mail telling me they are thinking of us.   How blessed I am, but even with such awesome support we caregivers need all the help we can get — including prayers.  I have listed a few for starters:

I pray for you enough sleep and rest.

I pray for you enough knowledge, skills, support and help in handling stress.

I pray for you enough friends with soft shoulders to cry on.

I pray for you enough patience to get through the day.

I pray for you enough memories of the good times in life and enough erasers to dim some of the bad.

I pray for you enough love and devotion from all those who know you, and enough remembrances to know you are cherished.

I pray for you enough faith to remind you that there is life after Alzheimer’s (and all of those other disease horrors).

Originally posted 2009-10-24 06:44:13.

EARTHQUAKE DAY — 10/17/89 — 20 YEARS LATER

We had moved my mother and father from Sebastopol, California to the Bay Area so they could be near us as they both grew older.   In addition to their age, my mother was showing positive signs of Alzheimer’s.  My father was healthy,  fully aware and capable of caring for himself, and, to a limited degree, he could care for my mother as well.  Nevertheless, it was prudent that they be located nearby continuing to live by themselves, which is what they wanted.  Ken and I, as help, were just minutes away.  I saw them daily, did their shopping, watched over their finances and took care of anything else they needed.  It wasn’t necessary that I hover over them on a 24/7 basis, allowing Ken and me the time to pursue our own responsibilities and interests.

As with Football, baseball never held much importance in my life, but that year, the unusual win of both baseball leagues brought the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland “A”s together to duke it out for the BIG WIN.  Seeing one game of the World Series might be worth watching.  So when our son-in-law, Tim, said he could get tickets and asked if we wanted to go with him Ken was ecstatic and I said, “Why not?  It’s possibly a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

October 17 was a fabulous day for a ballgame — shirt-sleeve weather at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, and that afternoon it seemed as if everyone was going to the game.  Traffic was heavy, but steady and we left early enough to find an acceptable parking space.  Walking toward the complex we passed tail-gate parties by the score with revellers who were already enjoying themselves a little too much.  These people were obviously over-the-top fans.

Near the crow’s nest of the stadium we found our seats about 30 feet from what Ken called an “eyebrow.”  This was a concrete overhang all around the top of the facility and as it hung above us unsupported it did look like an eyebrow; a very large eyebrow.  Towering above the eyebrow a couple of light standards stood rather ominously to the right and left of us.  Looking down on the field we could see miniature people finishing preparations for the game.  Fortunately, we were prepared having brought two pair of field glasses.  I took out my camera with its telephoto lense, hung it around my neck and sat back in my seat.  Glancing at the time we had about 25 minutes to kill before the game started at 5:00 p.m.  We watched as a steady stream of enthusiasts continued to pour into the stadium wearing team hats and waving banners.

At the scheduled hour a cheerful resonating voice spoke into the loudspeaker welcoming all to this historic sporting event.  With hardly a few words out of his mouth the sound of what seemed to be a rumbling train drowned out the rest of what he said.  Bewildered, the fans looked around to see where the sound was coming from; recognition was almost instant.  The stadium began to tremble and the light standards shook and swayed so violently I was certain they would fall on us along  with the overhanging eyebrow.

While my whole life did not pass before me I was amazed at how many thoughts raced through my mind in just 17 seconds.  The first was fear — terror at what was happening.  I was certain we would be crushed under concrete and steel.  The second feeling was acceptance that we were all doomed, and the third feeling was a wonderful, peaceful calm.  I was going to die and it was all right.  The next thought was planning my last act of service to the world — at least to California — the Bay Area to be exact.  With my camera in tact I would snap photos of death and destruction until I either ran out of film or a slab of concrete took me out.  And then it was over; the quaking stopped.  An audible sigh reverberated through the air as probably every person in attendance let out their breath.  Later, as TV and radio commentators spoke of the fans they called it a “cheer.”  Wrong!  It was the sound of grateful relief.

As everyone was sucking in their next breath the same announcer who had welcomed us just seconds before came back on the air, and in the calmest, most controlled voice imaginable he said, “In case of an emergency, please exit in an orderly manner through……”  And then there was silence.  Electrical power was gone.

Many bolted from their seats and left, but the stalwarts had come to see a game having paid $100.00 and up for their tickets.  The earthquake was over, nothing seemed damaged.   Let’s play ball.

From our high-in-the sky vantage point we could see some billowing puffs of smoke throughout the city.  People in front of us had a portable radio and we asked,  “What do you hear?”  “Nothing,” was the reply.  Must be okay we decided as there were no announcements on the news.  But “nothing,” meant nothing.  The stations were dead.

Yet, we waited.   Were they going to play or not?  So we waited some more, as did most of the fans.  Finally, as the sun began to slip over the western hills of San Francisco an official came out with a bull horn and made the announcement, “The game is postponed.”  We were dismissed.

Those who had waited became instant friends talking about the earthquake, damage throughout the city and speculating about the future of candlestick.  Was it stable?  Were our homes okay?  How about our families?  What was the smoke we saw?  Are the bridges in tact?  How long would it take us to get home?  Would the game be played here?  It was all spectulation.  Some of the answers came through our new friend’s portable radio.  Within minutes after losing power, back-up generators at TV and radio stations kicked in and they were back on the air.  We were shocked that a section of the Bay Bridge was down, that the Marina was badly damaged and there were fires.  In Oakland a section of the Cypress Freeway had collapsed.  Rescue teams were on the way.

There was this amazing camaraderie among those remaining, but now it was time to go home.  I looked around as the crowd filed out of the stadium in the requested orderly manner.  Would we come back?  That day nothing was certain so before we left the top of the world I took some photos of the sun setting over candlestick, the light standards silhouetted against the fading orange and red sky.

Driving through darkened streets and across the San Mateo Bridge, usually a 45 minute drive from our home to the ball park, we arrived at our places of abode three hours later.  We were all concerned about family.  Stopping off at my parent’s home first we found my father sitting alone.  Our son, Keith, had stopped by right after the quake.  Finding his grandparents safe and well he returned home to his own family.  Mama had gone to bed.  The lights were back on and Dad related to us how the house had rocked so badly he thought it would fall off the foundation, but it had survived.  A few books were thrown from the shelves and a few dishes had tumbled from the cabinets.  Dad said, “And your mother — she was so frightened crying out again and again, ‘What will we do?  What will we do?’   and the lights went out.  Later, as we sat by candle light, she asked, ‘Why are we sitting in the dark?’  She had forgotten the whole thing.”   At our home we found the same slight damage.  All was well.

Two weeks passed before the stadium was pronounced “safe,” and we found ourselves sitting in the same seats at Candlestick watching our missed game of the World Series.  It was memorable — I suppose — but today I don’t even remember who won.  I do, however, recall with vivid accuracy the Loma Prieta Earthquake of October 17, 1989 which was, indeed and hopefully, “a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

Originally posted 2009-10-15 01:09:54.

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