grandchildren

THE SECONDARY CAREGIVER

Throughout our marriage whenever I got the sniffles — or worse — a full-blown cold, Ken was at his worst.  A nurturer he was not.  “Mom — or mom-in-law,” he would plead into the phone, “Could you come out and help for a few days.  She’s sick.”  “She,” of course meaning me.  The mothers were wonderful and at their best as caregivers and baby sitters, while he continued wringing his hands with worry all the while whining and wondering when I would get better.  Once I was on the mend and after the chosen mother had gone home, I often felt a little miffed that he was so incapable of  caring for me.  Sometimes I would tell Ken that it was too bad his investment in a marriage license wasn’t paying off:  Heaven forbid — his wife caught colds!  “Does an occasional bout with poor health entitle you to a refund?’  I teased.  It was a good thing I actually had a constitution of iron and was seldom sick.

In retrospect, I do believe he was terrified when I became ill.  He never said so, but I came to that conclusion because when I was in the hospital and “my primary care” was assumed by someone else, someone he didn’t know and a professional, he became a knight to behold.  My husband was the first one to arrive when the clock pointed to the beginning of visitor’s hours and he was the last one to leave when the nurse growled, “Sir!  Visiting hours are over!”

I was envied in the maternity wards as Ken sat by my bed being the best father and most attentive husband in the land.  He would pull his chair as close to my bed as he could get looking starry eyed and smiling while we talked.  Holding my hand in both of his, he periodically kissed my finger tips and told me how much he loved me.  I suppose the hospital knight canceled out the home klutz because when my colds were gone I always forgave him his incapability, and through the many years of our marriage I have concluded that’s exactly what it was:  Ken was emotionally incapable of stepping into that primary caregiving role.  A secondary support system was something altogether different, and in that role Ken shined like a new penny.  Following the automobile accident, and were he not stricken with a diseased mind, he would have been a permanent fixture next to my bed.

I missed not having him close by, and there were times during the twilight hours when I imagined him near.  With that thought in mind I drifted off into a deep sleep and dreamed about us.

We were celebrating; possibly my birthday which was in the first week of March.  Arm in arm, we were jaunty, each of our steps clicking in unison, tapping out a rhythm along the streets of San Francisco.  I suppose we were looking for the perfect restaurant.  He looked wonderful, his gray hair giving him an air of distinction — and to please me he wore a coat and tie.  He looked so handsome.  The weather was balmy, and I was dressed for an evening on the town; the two of us made a perfectly matched pair.  We were “us” in my dream, strong mature adults with grown children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren, enjoying every precious moment of our life together.  I felt good — and happy — even though we didn’t seem to be reaching any destination.

Block after block we walked, peeking around corners and passing many suitable places to eat, yet we kept going.  Suddenly, and without warning, we passed a darkened doorway and there in the corner was Ken.  Not the mature adult whose arm I had just held in my dream, but Ken the way he is — really is:  Ken with Alzheimer’s — confused and alone.  Were we meeting spirit to spirit? Or was my dream reminding  me that in reality Ken would not be my hospital shining knight, nor would he be my devoted secondary caregiver kissing my finger tips and telling me how much he loved me.  Alzheimer’s had taken that Ken from me, and coming out of the twilight where dreams can be momentarily bright and consoling — then gone like a puff of smoke — I was left to remember that my husband would not be part of my recovery.

Originally posted 2010-06-07 05:56:21.

Sometimes It Just Takes A Good Cry

This should have posted previously. (March 10, 2010) I wrote it just before I left, over a month ago. I post it now, so that others will know caregiving, like life has many different kinds of moments. None last very long. You just have to go with the flow. – Debbie Schultz

This morning the sun shines gloriously after a hard rain. Surrounding me the world is bright green, and sparkling blue, with sun glinting on the delta from my son’s backyard.  All seems right with the world. I will be on my way home in a few days; back to Utah and my mountains. The snow is gone from the streets and spring is peeking through, or so my husband says. These last few days I have really been homesick and it feels good to say that Utah is my home, an ambiguous phrase that I couldn’t say before I left a month ago.

Taking care of my Dad has been one of the most challenging experiences I have had in my life.  I did the best I could, and I could not have done anything else. Whether the systems I have set up work remains to be seen.  He has good, kind people caring for him in his home. They may not be able to meet his needs if he continues to get more combative and difficult to keep clean. Unfortunately another one of the evils of this disease is the patient is often his own worst enemy.

Before I cared for my Dad, I thought families who put loved ones with Alzheimer’s in institutions were somehow copping out. Now I know that each family makes their decision based on their own resources and abilities. For some it is an easier decision to make than others. I don’t know what my father was like right before the accident, I just know that caring for him has been really difficult. I cannot, however, excuse the treatment of turning people into vegetables, hoping they die quickly. I feel he was treated that way in the hospital: sedation, catheterization, tube feeding or no feeding. The will to live is given up very easily in those circumstances.

What the answer is, I don’t know. I feel a huge responsibility in leaving. I know when I get home I will worry about how he is getting on. On how both of my parents are coping. If the caregivers work out and can handle both of my parents? Will my mom be able to heal while still worrying about my father? I know I will be back soon, but I am not independently wealthy and I have a family and business to run in other places.

So yesterday among all of these conflicting feelings, and burdened by the enormity of everything, and the difficulties continually surfacing regarding my father’s care, I had a good, hard sobbing cry. And then I watched some tender movies and cried even more. Like this morning’s early rain I now feel cleansed, and I’m ready to continue forward doing the best I can, while trusting in a God who sees the whole situation and will someday answer all of  my questions.

Originally posted 2010-04-28 03:54:10.

Blessings In Disguise

Ken, Mabel and his daughters Julie and Debbie and daughters-in-law, Mary and Sabina at his 80th birthday 2005

This is, possibly, my last guest post. My mom should be back here writing next week – or soon thereafter.  Debbie Schultz

One of the blessings that came from my turn at caregiving was a chance to become reacquainted with my dad. Obviously he is not the strong, but gentle man, who raised me, helped me through a divorce, get back into school, and proudly watched me graduate from college at the age of 41. This man is definitely different, interesting in his babbling, making sense only in fragments. He was always a great storyteller, but even that aspect is gone from his tangled brain. I see his personality in layers. Some of the facial expressions I remember as a little girl, the mannerisms are still there. When I first arrived here from my home in Utah, he was lying in a hospital bed, mumbling in heavily sedated sleep. He seemed so very old and vulnerable to me. I softly stroked his head and muttered my good byes, thinking that might be the end. But like my mother, he has a tremendous will to live, and two weeks out of the hospital, he is gradually becoming his old pre-accident, self.

The disease is horrifying, taking a person a bit at a time, but in a somewhat detached way, it is also fascinating. What makes a personality? What bits and pieces of one’s history stick, and why do they stick? What jogs memories? Why do some things stand out, while others are forgotten? When asked, he will say he has no children. He confuses me with my mother, but I correct him and tell him that I am his daughter and I love him. I  especially use the technique when I am doing things he doesn’t want done, like showers. Looking in his eyes and telling him seems to calm him. I call it speaking spirit to spirit. And when my daughter goes to move something of mine, he says, “Don’t touch that, it’s my daughter’s.” For a brief moment I am remembered.

He knows he was in an accident. The first few days he was home from the hospital he complained about being stiff and sore. He told me that he hurt because a truck hit him. He knows, when he remembers, that my mother is in the hospital. His love for her, despite the forgetfulness is so evident. Besides often asking where his wife is, there is wistfulness in his wanderings. He sleeps on his side of the bed, waiting for her to come. He asks me if she is working and if so, when will she return home?   Although my voice may sound the same, my reactions are different than hers. He is confused by the similarities.

I am grateful for the opportunity that I have been given to get to know my father all over again. I have more feelings for him as I have served him these past few months. I miss the man that he once was, but I love this frail, funny, shuffling person he has become. Who knows why we go through the things we do in this life? As hateful as this disease is, it often brings out the best in the people that it touches. I have gained a new appreciation for my mother and all she has gone through as she cared for the other members of our family, who were also struck down by Alzheimer’s. The positive side of this negative situation is the opportunity I have been given to serve my father and make some effort to understand what has happened to change him. Without caring for him, there would not have been the reconnection I have felt.  When he is truly gone I will not only mourn the man my father was, I will also mourn who he has become. I am indebted for the chance that I got to know that other man.

Originally posted 2010-04-28 03:39:46.

A NEW YEAR AND THE YOUNG SLEUTHS

 In some of my previous posts I’ve mentioned having to search for things — mail, keys, TV remotes and any number of objects Ken acquires and hides.  Taking and hiding is typical behavior of victims of Alzheimer’s; part of the paranoia I suppose,  and my searching continues.  I’ve noticed as his disease worsens he becomes less aware of others around him.  He doesn’t notice me standing to one side as he hides a stack of magazines under a toss pillow on the sofa   Nor is he as clever in choosing his hiding places as he once was.  Ken now has more of an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude as he tucks things away.  My detective work is much easier than it was when letters and bills were hidden in books and then placed back on a shelf.

I suppose we could say living with an Alzheimer’s patient brings out the sleuth in many caregivers, and more often than not it is a necessity.  Of course, having been a parent has been uppermost in learning subtle detective work of a different kind when rearing a family, especially when dealing with evasive teens.

However, my parental investigations, or searching for hidden objects in my own home have been overshadowed, and are nothing compared to the gumshoe work done by  granddaughter Kristina and her boyfriend Chris these past few days.

Lately, the fates have not been kind to her.  Her mother, living far away in Utah, can only console her by reminding the young woman that bad things come in threes, and if that’s true, her quota has been filled.  First of all she had a fender bender which put her car out of commission.  Second, she lost her job, and three nights ago someone broke into Chris’s pickup and stole Kris’s purse — and his brother’s backpack.  Every important paper or card she owned was in the purse, including her keys.

Alerted, I thought of having the locks changed as our address is on many of Kris’s papers, but a quick phone call from her the following day informed me that someone had found her purse with her keys still inside.

The theft had taken place a few blocks from Jack London Square in Oakland where the police took the report.  Sorrowfully, the officers concluded the crime was considered a petty theft and they had no manpower to do any follow up.  A homeless man found the purse in San Francisco and called Kris on her cell.  The three (Kris, Chris and the homeless man) agreed to meet near a donut shop off Market Street.  Rewarding him generously, Kris shuffled through the remaining contents finding several important documents missing, including her driver’s license and ATM card. 

Reporting the ATM card as stolen, the bank read them a list where there had been attempted use and refusals.  Determined to find the culprit, the two were allowed to view  tapes from the businesses where use attempts had been made, which included places in Oakland, San Francisco and Vallejo. Their conclusion:  the thief lives in Vallejo. 

“Everyone was so helpful,” said Kris, “but the tapes we have viewed so far were not clear enough for identification, nor could we make out the license number from his stop at a gas station.”  And the search continues.

Their goal is to catch him on tape swiping the card, and hopefully a good tape will show the license plate of the car.  The police have said if Kris and Chris can find that kind of conclusive evidence the accused party will be arrested.

I admire the young sleuths their tenacity and great detective work, and the fact they are still “hot on the trail.”  If there is a positive epilogue I will surely report it here.

Searching every shelf in my home, hunting through all of the drawers, and shaking books to find what Ken has secreted away doesn’t begin to compare to their diligent hard work, but despite her loss this has been an “entertaining” saga for me to share.  It tells me, once again, that life goes on even in the homes of Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.  And while having a young life temporarily turned topsy-turvy with some of fate’s mishaps their adventure, while frustrating for them, makes me feel “normal,” as if I’m still involved in and am part of the world out there.

My New Year’s wish for Kris is that she gets her car fixed, finds a great job, and all of her important papers, somehow, show up.  In addition, I wish for them a champion’s feather in their caps for effort – and in the end justice.  I hope they catch the bad guy.

Originally posted 2011-01-11 05:04:36.

THOUGHTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST

Or perhaps I’ll call it The Fourteen Days of Christmas.  Today, as I am writing, it is January 6, 2011, a little off my usual schedule because we’ve been celebrating a long Christmas, but now it’s over.  And you know what?  I really like Christmas spread  o  u  t,  taking as much of  December as it needs.

If you are among the generations of through-and-through Americans whose big days are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day your holiday ended at midnight, December 25th, just as ours did before this year.  Craming so many celebrations into such a small space of time, it would seem the date was more important than the day.  After weeks, and even months of preparation Christmas is over in a flash, and now it’s gone for another year. The jolly old elf, his reindeer, and all of his helpers are taking a well-deserved rest, and that includes moms and dads everywhere.

However, if you don’t live in the USA customs for the celebration of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ can be different, and are actually more in keeping with the authentic event than all the frantic madness we impose upon ourselves. 

Don’t think I’m a Scrooge grumbling “Bah-Humbug” through this wonderful season of merriment and joy. I’m not.  I love Christmas, the carols, the cards, the parties, the well wishes and even the shopping.  And more; before AD, Ken and I so looked forward to driving through the neighborhoods seeing the decorated homes, malls and the beautiful displays on the grounds of churches everywhere, especially the live nativity scenes where we could let our imaginations go and become part of what occurred more than 2,000 years ago: the birth of a tiny baby whose life and teachings have changed the world.   Yes, Christmas is a beautiful and unique celebration – and different – as we all know elsewhere in the world.

My family and friends who have close ties to Mexico tell me that it is January 5, when the children leave their shoes out to be filled with gifts – not their stockings, but their shoes – and gifts not coming from our white-bearded friend – but from the Three Wise Men who arrive on January 6.  Think about it; isn’t the tradition of gift giving at Christmastime based on The Three Wise Men who traveled from afar bringing the Christ Child gold, frankincense and myrrh as they worshipped the New Born King?

Leading up to the 24th and 25th of December there are posadas and celebrations where loved ones reenact the blessed event, with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day being a more reverent time.  But no matter what the custom or tradition, it is a joyous celebration for Christians everywhere.

This year I have found wonderful flexibility in December.  Perhaps taking a bit of the customs from south of the border.  Singing The Twelve Days Of Christmas, while being a delightful carol, sounds a little much for me.  Who needs all of those maids amilking and noisy French horns?  But 14 days of Christmas with some light festivities, and then a few days of rest in between parties is perfect.  When Ken was well, it was tradition to spend Christmas Eve at daughter Julie’s house, Christmas morning at our house, and Christmas afternoon at grandson Sean’s house.  It seemed we spent as much time in the car as we did with family.

Ken no longer travels well, so I declined all invitations to leave our home.  “Then we’ll come to your house,” said Sean.  “What evening would be good?”  I gave him a date and beginning the Tuesday before Christmas we dined and relaxed with those who could attend, and then opened gifts with no rush in having to get the kids home and in bed, or dropping someone off at the next stop.  A few days later we did it all over again with other members of our family.

“How joyful it has been to spread out the Holiday,” I emailed our cousin, Penny, whose family has also multiplied over the years, living in various parts of Oregon.    She agreed, saying  they also spread the Holiday over several days, commenting on how well it has worked for their family.   Christmas Day can be any day we choose.

If any of these changes mattered to Ken it’s highly unlikely.   He no longer has any curiousity or interest in brightly wrapped gifts, decorations, or colorful lights, and has no understanding of the holiday.  But always a social person, he still seems to enjoy having people around him, and especially the little ones.  Our last Christmas celebration was Monday evening with daughter Julie, husband Tim; son John and wife Marisol, and their two little ones, Joaquin and Maya.  The eight of us represented four generations, and when Ken looked at four-year-old Maya, seeing her beautiful brown eyes and dark hair, he exclaimed, “What a little doll.”

With no memory of who she is or where she fits into this vast puzzle we call family, Alzheimer’s has not taken away his appreciation of the beauty of children, and for that I am grateful. 

So after all is said and done, the gifts opened, hugs and kisses for everyone, and the last guest drove out of sight what did we get for Christmas?  The best gift of all:  Family and friends – in and out of our home — bringing their presents and presence, giving us their gifts of time and themselves.  Who could ask or want for anything more?

Originally posted 2011-01-07 06:25:07.

THANKSGIVING MUSINGS

The day before the holiday I took a few minutes on Facebook to wish all of my friends a very Happy Thanksgiving.  Adding a short note of greeting I mentioned that even though we are all grateful for our blessings on a daily basis, Thanksgiving was a special day to review the year and once again be abundantly grateful.  Sounding redundant, I wrote that this day was the Super Bowl of gratitude.

Granddaughter Marisol quickly wrote back saying she was going to use that.  Continuing she told me about talking with someone who was basically a TG-Day Scrooge.  He all but grumbled, “Bah-Humbug,” about the holiday.  She was pleased with the idea of a Super Bowl of gratitude, and together we wondered about the naysayers of Thanksgiving?  We can’t call them Scrooge, nor can we add the “Bah-Humbug,” that’s already in use for Christmas  grouches.  We agreed that they would become just plain Old Turkeys — Tough Old Turkeys.   Later, thinking further ahead, but I’ll run it by Mari, instead of “Bah-Humbug,” how about using, “Bah-giblets.”  It flows nicely and a lot of Thanksgiving fans would like that one, especially grandson Sean who despises giblets.  He cooks them and then unceremoniously gives them to the dog.  She is overjoyed.

Our daughter Julie surprised me by coming to our house in the morning with wonderful vegetables to cook.  I thought her last years effort was over the top, but this year her contribution was fabulous: sliced and roasted brussel sprouts, roasted sweet potatoes, and green beans flavored with sage and butter.  (She believes roasting makes everything better.)   The day was half over when she finished with just enough time left to rush away picking up husband Tim for dinner with his parents.  “It’s all ready — just reheat and serve,” she instructed before leaving, and then she gave me a long, hard hug – half for me and half for Ken.  We’re never sure how receptive he is to hugs and didn’t want to change his good mood with an unwanted touch.  A wave and “Goodbye, Dad,” was sufficient.

Turkey day arrived at 12:01 p.m., November 25; an ordinary day, but being Thanksgiving it’s never ordinary especially when celebrating a holiday with a seriously ill family member.  Admittedly, it can be difficult.  However, the wonderful thing about our kids, their spouses and their kids is their acceptance of Ken, his Alzheimer’s and dealing with it in a matter-of-fact way.  Our grown progeny talk to Ken as if his mind understands their conversation, and that’s good – and appreciated – especially by me. It all feels so normal, and he feels involved even though his contribution to what is being said makes no sense to others.  They have learned to use some of my favorite key words and phrases such as: “Really?” “Is that right.”  “I didn’t know that.”  “I’m not sure,” in addition to a dozen other forms of reply to their father and/or grandfather who lives on another level of existence which doesn’t share our reality.

The afternoon and early evening was filled with good food, good company and lots of loving phone calls from those who couldn’t be with us.  Granddaughter Kristina, who lives here decided to spend the holiday with her mom and dad in Ogden.  She and significant other Chris drove the 800 miles, and then she called to wish us a happy holiday, as did other grandchildren and sons far away.

It was cold today.  I remember many years when we had the front door open because it was so warm, but not today.  After dinner Keith started a fire, we served pies and whipped cream and everyone helped themselves.  Most of the younger ones passed up the pies in favor of ice cream, and Ken felt tired preferring to go to bed rather than have even a dish of ice cream.  Tomorrow he can have his choice.

Have you ever noticed when company leaves it sounds like a swarm of bees?  They often leave in a mass – a tight group – making  buzzing sounds with everyone talking at once.  Adults are still finishing their conversation, saying goodbye, a frantic realization and quick search for a child’s missing shoe — it’s found — gathering coats, purses, dishes, hugs and kisses, waves from the porch, and then silence.

Pulling a rocking chair closer to the fire I put my feet up on the hearth and watch the flames dance in the grate.   A perfect time to reflect on the day, the year and count my blessings. It had been a good Thanksgiving and a good day for Ken. I am grateful.

We have come such a long way from those long-ago Thanksgiving days at the little farm of my parents in Sonoma County.  How the years have piled up bringing constant change to our lives; taking away our older dear ones and birthing new life for us to love and watch grow.  I sat there making a study of the dying embers feeling just a little melancholy, and then the phone rang; a bit late, but not for a holiday.  It was Debbie calling from Ogden.  “I just wanted to wish you and dad a Happy Thanksgiving,” she said.  The melancholy vanished with her hello.  I suppose I needed one more slice of family to complete the holiday.

We talked for a while comparing dinners and guests, our family here and most of her family there.  The debate over using the good dishes of our shared tradition or paper plates as some of the younger generation would prefer.  Makes life easier is their claim.  Deb and I laughed realizing that even the utensils we use for eating are part of someone’s tradition.  And as previously stated we must respect the traditions of others, especially the coming generations.  So we wonder as Thanksgiving 2010 fades into history, who, in the future, will be interested in or even want our good dinnerware and all of those bone china tea cups?

Originally posted 2010-11-28 08:15:53.

THE INHERITANCE

There’s seems to be one strong emotion that remains in the psyche of Alzheimer’s patients long after many of the others are gone.  Well, actually a few.  Of course, anger is there – front and center – demonstrated often when Ken is frustrated or confused, but that’s not the one I have in mind.  I’m not certain if he experiences or even understands happiness or sorrow at this point in time.  Nor am I very sure about love even when he knows me he is reluctant to be close.  He might allow a quick kiss or let me to hold his hand once in a while, but there are no hugs, no passion, no embraces spurred by memories from long ago, and there appears to be no tenderness or compassion.  Outwardly, he seldom laughs, which is sad, because he was a great laugher and truly enjoyed a good joke. Even watching “America’s Funniest Videos” he sees no humor.  There are times, however, when he chuckles while talking to himself, or at night when he talks in his sleep he might chuckle again. What he does possess more than anything is feeling independent, and I’m not even sure if independence is considered an emotion.

He often refuses to do something just because it’s been requested.  “Ken, come and have breakfast.”  “No,” might be the ready reply followed with, “I’m tired of you telling me what to do.”  So I try another approach, showing him the plate filled with food asking him if he would like to eat.  Not waiting for a reply, choices follow.  “We’re going to put your breakfast on the table and you can eat it or not.  It’s your decision.”  Then I step aside, but ready to help if the need arises.

It’s usually Ben or David preparing the meals, but when I hear him demonstrating his stubborn streak I step in making an effort to help and encourage Ken to do what is best for everyone, and whatever works.  We all like to be independent, to make our own choices, to master our own ship so to speak.  That kind of tenacity for freedom, that self-determination doesn’t necessarily wait to appear in old age.  Often it begins with a baby’s first step – or before — or anytime thereafter.

The first word out of the mouth of our granddaughter Elizabeth was, “NO!”  I wasn’t there but I imagine her first sentence might have been, “Me do it.”  From the time she managed to wiggle into a tee shirt and pants she insisted on dressing herself, not only dressing, but choosing the clothes.  The haphazard combination of choices pulled from her drawer was often laughable, and worn any which way — inside-out or backwards — or both.   Elizabeth’s original “look” would never appear in a fashion layout even for most avant-garde of children’s wear.  Her selections were adequate for home and playing in the backyard sandbox, but there were times when Mom and Dad wanted this beautiful tow-headed child put together like someone cared.

Waking from her nap one afternoon, Mom already had the outfit laid out.  “Here,” said Mom, “put these on.”  “NO!” came the quick answer as Elizabeth ran to the dresser pulling out whatever came first. “We have to hurry,” advised Mom.  “We’re going to your brother, Sean’s, Little League game.  Let me help you.”  It was a tussle, but Mom won.  Elizabeth was not happy.

At times you don’t try to reason with a three-year-old, you just firmly do what needs to be done.  Into the car filled with waiting family Elizabeth continued to cry grabbing at the tee shirt and shorts, “Dod like deeze.”  Minutes later she was still making a fuss as they pulled into a parking space at the ball park next to the stands.  “Let’s go,” instructed Dad, “everybody out.”  “No.  Not going,” the child protested with tears and sobs still evident.  “Let her cry it out,” instructed Mom.  “Elizabeth knows where we are.  She can see us and we can see her.”

The game had started: fouls, tips, a few hits, dropped balls, over-ran bases and lots of outs with the crowd cheering as only Little League parents can cheer.  Suddenly the rooting stopped and the air was filled with laughs, giggles, and a few ahhhhs. Leaving Mom’s choice of clothing in the car Little Miss Independence had stripped down to her birthday suit and was on her way to sit with the family wearing a smile and exactly what she chose: nothing.

I often think of Liz and her I-can-do-this-myself attitude when it’s clean-up time for Ken.  Not that independence is something new for him.  After all, he left home to join the Merchant Marines at age 15, sailing the South Pacific in a sea-going tugboat towing portable dry docks during WWII, but that was then and this is now.  A little less of that self-sufficiency would be a good thing for the caregivers.

It’s a two-person job, and our previous care helper, Mel, was fortunate enough to find full-time work.  Good for him, but not good for me and Ben.  However, I felt sufficiently recovered from the accident to take Mel’s place as helper.  Ben does the hard part, while all I do is hold his already restrained hands to keep him from clubbing Ben with his fists if he’s in a combative mood.

Once Ben gets him into the shower Ken is content.  Unrestrained, the water runs over him like warm rain, and he often admits, “That feels so good.”  Handing him a towel he looks for arm holes and a place for his head.  “No, no, not a shirt,” Ben instructs.  “It’s a towel, dry yourself.”  Eventually Ken gets the idea and dries himself finally wrapping the towel around his waist, tucking in the end to hold it in place; a guy thing and something he has done all of his life.  Handing him a sweat shirt, Ben continues, “This is your shirt.  Put it on.”   Stubbornness kicks in once again and he throws the shirt into the hall.  “This is not my shirt, and I’m not going to wear it.”

True, it isn’t the type of shirts he wore in the past; the ones with a collar and buttons down the front, but the sweat shirt is practical for the caregivers; easy on, easy off and easy to wash and dry.  So the uniform for most days is sweat clothes.

Eventually he accepts the shirt looking at it as if for the first time, he asks, “Is this mine?”  “Yes,” we both agree, “put it on.”  That he can do all by himself, but requires help with the rest of the clothing: “underwear,” baggy, high-water sweat pants, white socks and moccasins.  His glasses were resurrected from the past: heavy horn rims from another era replacing his newest ones lost in the accident.  The big ugly ones are held in place with a thick red elastic rope coming from the ear pieces to the back of his head.   He doesn’t look at all like the suave Ken, tall and slim with a flat stomach, who wore Wranglers, a good-looking shirt, real shoes, and totally cool glasses.  “Grandpa looks a little dorky,” comments Kristina, who lives with us.  “I agree,” I tell her, “but there are times when we have to settle for sensible.”  However, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one day he grabbed at the dorky clothes and said, “Don’t like these!”

And Elizabeth?  From one sailor to another, Grandpa would be so proud of her.  Liz has been grown up for a number of years, finished her education and is now sailing the Mediterranean as part of the crew on a private yacht.  Tall and graceful as a willow wand, she still has hair the color of golden flax, puts herself together like a fashion model, and remains Miss Independence to the “nth” degree. You might say she inherited that from her grandfather.

Originally posted 2010-10-16 18:00:31.

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