friends

Does Gladys Have Instant Alzheimer’s

Several years ago my good friend Gladys Blogerbang and her husband Bob retired, moving to the Denver area.  I have missed them immensely.  (All names and places have been changed to protect the innocent – which in this case is me – because I didn’t do anything wrong.)  Through the years Gladys and I have corresponded, telephoned, visited back and forth and emailed one another.  We have kept in touch.

The Blogerbang family and our family overlapped:  they had older children, we had younger children and there were a few in the middle the same age.  Those in the middle were friends.  Together, Gladys, Bob, Ken and I watched them all grow; distancing themselves from us as teens, stumbling through the 60s-70s, screeching into young adulthood, and hopefully finding that which they were seeking as mature adults.  Meanwhile, as parents, we consoled one another when they crashed, and cheered when things went well.  Gladys and I should have been sisters, but close friends is almost as good.

Neither Gladys nor I have ever totally mastered our computers, but we get by with tips and help from friends and family. Call us computer “dummies” if you like, and that’s okay because that’s how Gladys got us into trouble – well — one of us got us into trouble.

Gladys lost Bob a few months ago, and because of Ken’s Alzheimer’s I didn’t feel I could leave him to fly back for the funeral.  When she called to let me know of Bob’s passing we spent a few moments on the phone.  It’s almost impossible to let someone know how your heart aches for them over the phone, and how much I’ll miss Bob.   I thought about sending emails, but somehow that was so impersonal.  Rather I chose to send cards and notes to keep in touch the old-fashioned way:  U. S. Mail.

Time passed and Gladys called me from Arizona.  She was staying with her daughter for a while.  It was wonderful to hear her voice and she sounded as if she was picking up the pieces of her life.

“I have a new computer,” she announced, “with a new carrier and a new email address,” which she gave to me over the phone.  She also sent me a card with some slight variations in the email address.  I chose the one I thought to be correct, which included her full name.  The following week I began to send her notes and a few forwards just to catch up.

Days later I checked my email and there was an email from Gladys Blogerbang.  “Good,” I said aloud, “she’s home and back on line.”  “Do I know you?” the message read.  “I’ve been getting your emails and I’m not sure who you are.”  Terror struck in my heart.  My dear friend, Gladys Blogerbang didn’t know me?  What happened?  Alzheimer’s?  Instant Alzheimer’s?

I know Alzheimer’s hits different people in different ways, but the only case I can recall of instant Alzheimer’s was Miss Daisy in the touching play/movie “Driving Miss Daisy.”  A long-time retired school teacher, Daisy woke one morning to find her class papers missing.  Searching for the non-existent work, she ransacked shelves and drawers finally becoming angry and frantic. End of scene; and then in the next scene she was in a care facility.  Was this happening to my friend Gladys?

Rather than panic, I zapped off a reply.  “Are you the Gladys Blogerbang who once lived in the Bay Area of California?”  “Were you married to Bob?”  “Do you live in Denver?”  The answer arrived that evening.  “I live in Germany.  I am married to Jake, and, yes, I am Gladys Blogerbang.  How did you get my email address?”

My first thought was joyous relief that my Gladys was just fine.  In addition, wasn’t this a fun, serendipity coincidence finding two Gladys Blogerbangs, each on opposite sides of the world.  I mentioned all of this to Germany Gladys explaining how I accidentally ended up with her email address, no doubt making some minor error, and adding a bit about myself and Denver Gladys.  Maybe too chatty; too much information.  I also wrote that I would check with Denver and see where the mistake might be.  If it couldn’t be found I suggested it was probably the fault of the carrier.  I signed off with, “Please keep me posted and nice to meet you.”

Meanwhile I tried one of the other email addresses for Denver Gladys.  Nothing came back, so I sent a few more notes.  Two days later an email arrived, but from Germany Gladys:  “I have blocked your emails, but they are still coming through.  Please call your Denver friend and get this straightened out.  I do not want to hear from you.  Do not ever email me again” Wow!  Rejection – big time.

Admittedly, I was disobedient and replied one more time to Germany Gladys telling her that it wasn’t my problem, and that I was really glad she wasn’t my friend Denver Gladys, because she, Germany Gladys, was no fun at all besides being a considerable grouch.  Not kind of me, I know, but I actually felt, and feel, a little intimidated by her terse email, almost expecting Grumpy Gladys to appear on my screen and yell at me.  Me – the innocent one.

Then the imagination took over:  Is she an agent?  A spy?  A drug dealer?  Does she think I’m dangerous, planning to steal her identity?  A hacker?  (Now that’s a good one — me – the computer dummy.) Perhaps, though, in our crazy, mixed-up world, she has a right to her paranoia.  Sad but true, Denver Gladys and I could be a threat, but we aren’t —  not to anyone.  Furthermore, I am extending to Germany Gladys my utmost apologies just as I do when I get the wrong number on the telephone.

I have written a U. S. Mail letter to Denver Gladys detailing my internet adventure with Germany Gladys, and requesting she look into the mix-up sending me a correction to her email address.  We’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out, and I do hope it’s over.  The one thing I know for sure is I am really glad my dear friend Gladys doesn’t have instant Alzheimer’s.

Originally posted 2010-09-26 04:15:04.

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.

“TAKE ME HOME”

How many times during the length of a marriage does one of the partners nudge the other whispering, “Let’s go home.”  It doesn’t matter how great the party, how good the movie, how grand the evening or even how perfect the vacation, there comes a point when it’s time to go home. 

Children aren’t much different either; from a skinned knee on the playground to puppy love’s first rejection, the yearning is the same, “I wanna go home.”  The youthful statement is often accompanied by sobs, pleadings when bored or whining when the pleadings aren’t heard. 

Poets write verse about home, lyricists link home to a melody, our service people long for it and commuters drive for hours to get there.  Back home is where mom and dad live, a new home is what everyone wants, and home is where we are when the door closes.  A sanctuary from the world, our private abode; a place to hang our hats, kick off our shoes and relax in front of a warm fire and hopefully, a place where love is.

But what happens when you are home and you don’t remember it being your home?   Then the lament changes to, “When are you going to take me home?”  Each day, during a certain mood, Ken tells me that he wants to go home, becoming very anxious about getting there.  No matter how often I try to reassure him, “This is your home, Ken,” he becomes less and less likely to recognize what was once so familiar.   “Look around and you might remember the family room you built many years ago, and come into the living room,” I suggest, guiding him along the way.  “See your father’s Marine photo on the wall, and your parents’ wedding picture, and right here is the family portrait, the four of you:  your mom and dad and your sister, Loretta.  And look at you at 15, aren’t you handsome?”  

 Up until yesterday, the tour seemed to bring him back into, at least, some reality of being home.  However, yesterday he looked at his parents’ photos, glared at me and asked in an accusing manner, “Who gave you permission to hang my family pictures on this wall?”  At that point, fearing he would rip them down, I changed the subject and eased him into another room.  Forgetting the photographs, he still wanted me to take him home.

A few years ago, we attended the funeral of a good friend whose brain had been ravaged by Alzheimer’s very rapidly.  For their privacy, I’ll call them Luke and Paula.  Luke was a successful orthodontist at the peak of his career, being struck down at a comparatively young age.  Following diagnosis, he immediately sold his practice, and the couple moved mid-state to be near their son and his family.   While Paula battled Luke’s disease, I battled Ken’s so we didn’t keep in touch.  Seeing her again,  I gave her a hug and despite her brave front, there were tears when she said, “He’s home, he’s finally home,” explaining how often he pleaded for her to take him home.   Her reference, of course, was the Heavenly home from whence we all came.   However, I couldn’t help but wonder if he missed their place here, in the Bay Area, having been in their new home for such a short time it made sense that the old house held more memory.

I also believed Ken wouldn’t go through the “wanting to go home” phase because we have lived in this same house for more than a half century.  I was wrong.  As he regresses, he becomes younger and younger, often asking if I have seen his mother.  When he does, I know he has become the personality I have named “Buddy,” his parents’ nick name for him.  Undoubtedly, I thought, the home he  has in mind is where he grew up in Berkeley, or is it?  Even as his father, Nicholas, descended deep into Alzheimer’s he would beg to go home.  Is it possible that Ken isn’t asking to return to his childhood home on 10th Street after all?  Perhaps Paula is right.  In their tormented minds, were — are — they calling out to Him to take them home?    Could their spirit be remembering what Wordsworth suggested?

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home.”

Originally posted 2009-09-06 07:10:05.

THE HOUSE HOPPER

In many of the old black and white movies the characters did a lot of “night clubbing.”   Apparently, it was the in-thing to do in posh places like New York, Chicago, San Francisco and other sophisticated cities throughout the country.  No one would think of going to a club in blue jeans, much less a tee-shirt.  As a matter of fact, those wearing informal attire would not be admitted.  Patrons were dressed to the hilt; men in tuxedos and women in formal gowns and furs.

Whether it was a gangster movie or one about high society there was at least one night club scene where everyone  knew most everyone else in the establishment.  The male characters (women did not participate in this practice) would leave their own table and meander around the club, stopping at various tables to exchange greetings, business ideas or to schedule a coded mob meeting with the other clientage.  The practice was referred to as table hopping.

With new writers, directors and plots, movies and television moved into a new era with more of a casual flair.  Night clubs and related table hopping went the way of the mobs, taxi dancers, cigarette girls and public dance halls, all fading into oblivion.  But that table-hopping personality trait remained alive and well for more years than I can remember in Ken, my social butterfly husband.

As new home owners moving into one of the cookie-cutter tract houses of the 50s, we found our neighbors to be much the same as we: cookie-cutter people. Most were buying their first home under the G.I. Bill of Rights, they owned one car, had 3.5 children, a dog or cat — perhaps both — struggled to make the mortgage payments, and lived on one income with a very tight budget.   I doubt that any of us were ever a part of, or even considered the social level of night clubbing as seen in those black and white movies.

Once the tract was finished, a whole bunch of people, who were virtual strangers, moved into their homes within the first week.  We greeted one another with a quick “hello” and a casual wave, but strangers quickly became acquaintances as co-op fences sprang up, with costs shared by those owning adjoining properties, and we soon found we had a new group of best friends.

The developer planted one tree on every lot and tossed grass seed on top of the parched earth producing a front lawn.  It was a start and every Saturday, the men pulled out their lawn mowers, cut the grass, pampered the tree and watered the lawn.   Little by little each home began to take on it’s own individuality in spite of the cookie-cutter floor plan, and we found that although we had much in common we were not gingerbread folks straight from the cookie sheet.

We spent evenings on one another’s porches sharing our young lives talking about jobs, careers, our hopes and dreams as our children played on the new grass.  We liked each other and Ken was in his glory with an endless supply of friends to share stories.  Saturdays, with the garage doors up and open, he wandered from house to house to see what new and exciting changes everyone was making, holding boards while John sawed, kibitzing as Fred pondered where to place the gallon cans of young plants, and building a trellis for Herb who couldn’t pound a nail.  Looking outside to see how the mowing was coming along, I would find Ken nowhere in sight.  The mower, however, sat in the middle of the lawn where he had parked it before wandering off to visit.

Coaxing him home to do his own work, I mentioned to him that he couldn’t be accused of table hopping, but he sure was good at house hopping.  Furthermore, I continued, “If we lived in Heaven together, you would no doubt spend eternity cloud hopping.”  I was never certain  if he was deliberately procrastinating  or if his constant visiting was just part of his people-loving personality.  Whatever the reason he soon earned the reputation of the neighborhood house hopper.

Alzheimer’s disease has robbed Ken of most of his abilities and most of his personality.  All of his engineering and building skills have been forgotten and he would be baffled if asked to hold a board while someone else worked the saw.  However,  he can still do putter work — even cutting the grass.  While so much of his physical and mental accomplishments are gone or diminished,  he still enjoys people.

Recently we visited our dear friend, Dorothy, who is confined to bed in a convalescent hospital.  We don’t get there as often as I would like, but when we arrived she was pleased to see us.  Ken doesn’t remember Dorothy at all and when we entered the room with two other patients, he looked around at each person and their visitors.    While I gave Dorothy a hug, he stopped by one of the beds, reached across the patient to shake hands with her visitor and said,  “It’s good to see you again.”  They chatted for a minute and then Ken crossed the room, pulled up a chair and began visiting with Dorothy’s next-bed neighbor.  I whispered to her, asking if she minded chatting with my husband.  “Not at all,” she said, obviously a temporary patient with no visitors, who understood and recognized AD.    Ken made himself comfortable, tossed one leg over the other knee and began, “When I was in the Navy, during World War II……….”     Still a people person, this was table hopping at its best.

Originally posted 2009-07-17 04:57:46.

LETTING IT GO

If we could look back on all of the people who have helped make up our life’s tapestry what would it look like?  Colorful, I’m sure — often brilliant in its scope and varied in texture.   Supposing all of those people were represented by a different color — not a racial thing — colors from the Crayola box and no one can choose the same color.  Now look to see how those colors come and go — in and out of our tapestry —  each entry bringing new vibrancy, contrast and dimension.   At times,  though, our people must pack up their color and move away, but there are times when the color is gone because of a misunderstanding, lack of compromise, anger, grievance or whatever?   The reasons friends and often family members leave our lives isn’t important.  It’s what we do about it that counts.  Do we hang on to the anger/frustration/hurt or do we let it go, and in letting it go is the loom of life left open for more weaving with those colors later on, or it is closed?

On that tapestry there is a major section where there are two dominating colors:  him and her — male and female — husband and wife.  There are times when those colors are bright and other times when they appear dull.  While it is natural to not always agree — and that’s all right — the colors can be dimmed even more over little neglects, hurts, offenses or lack of appreciation just to name a few of the myriad of complaints that are a part of two people living together.   Take note, however, this isn’t about the serious crimes in relationships and marriages which might bring about breaking up or divorce.  It’s about the little irritating (and sometimes not so little) things and about letting them go.  I suppose this is all about forgiveness.

In the beginning of our marriage I was, admittedly, a pouter.  And I was very good at it.  Whenever there was a slight (and believe me I can hardly recall what most of them were) I would pout for a while — perhaps even a day or two.   Ken agonized while I pouted and finally he would apologize.  That’s what I was after:  “I’m sorry.”  Not only did his words say what was important so did his big, sad, hazel eyes.  An apology was always followed by immediate forgiveness on my part.   We never exchanged harsh words or names, nor did we yell at one another.  I pouted and he apologized:  our m.o. for years and years.

One evening at our home after a neighbor secretly spiked our already delicious punch, Ken got a bit tipsy (along with several other unsuspecting guests).  Recognizing his carefree state of being he announced to everyone in the room that I was going to be really angry with him.  Then he added,  “Well, at least this time I’ll know what I did wrong.  I’ve been apologizing for the last 15 years and I never knew for what.”   After that declaration I took note.   When he offended me I told him immediately why I was angry.  Total communication.  I was mad and he knew why.  Furthermore, his apology didn’t come as quickly as they had in the past because he now had to recognize what he had done and make amends.  Pouting — perhaps.  Apology — probably.  Letting it go — forgiving — eventually.

Alzheimer’s has taught me differently — just let it go — now.   When you live on a roller coaster, emotions carry you to highs and lows you never thought possible.  At times I have seethed with frustration and often feel anger to a point where I have to leave the room over things my stricken husband says or does.  Then a few minutes or hours later when he has forgotten he’ll seek me out looking so bewildered and with sadness in his eyes will ask, “Did I do something to make you upset?”    I know he can’t help not remembering, he can’t help being arrogant at times, he can’t help lashing out at me in his own frustration.  Then I hear his words as he recognizes me once again and he says, “If I have upset you, I’m sorry.”  I am swept with a feeling of calm, and to my own surprise I can truthfully answer, “No.  You didn’t do anything wrong.  Everything is okay.”  I have learned to let it go even when there can be no apology.

As I review my life’s tapestry there are a few earlier threads which have clashed with my present color scheme and in retrospect I don’t miss their shades and hues.  My tapestry is beautiful without them.   The past is gone and all is forgiven.  It’s just a matter of letting go and remembering the advice of a dear friend who said, “True forgiveness is remembering without pain.”

Originally posted 2009-05-04 02:09:34.

PATIENCE

“I pray for patience and I want it right now!”  If there’s one thing that slips through the sieve at the drop of a hat it’s patience.  No matter how well-intentioned and how resolved we are, it just takes one push of the right button and patience is gone, followed by regret and new resolve to be more patient next time.   Then next time leaps unexpectedly from behind a corner and it’s back to square one.  Patience:  Is there some place where I can order it by the carload?

Over the  years I have observed that the desire for patience is rather universal.  Mothers of small children plead for it, parents with teens have long since been stripped of it and grandmothers lament because they didn’t have more of it.  I recall my own mother looking back on rearing me and my two sisters and telling me that she wished she had been more patient.  It was like an apology and as a young mother with small children I gave her a hug because I understood and forgave her. 

Then in her old age she became a victim of Alzheimer’s and I was her main caregiver.  Every so often I found myself losing patience with her.  She became like a little child — a spoiled child — resorting to  high-pitched screams when she didn’t get her own way.  It had been a long day and she screamed at me as I helped her get ready for bed.   Suddenly the small room was filled with the sound of a banshee.   Looking at her she had the most startled look  on her face and I realized it was I who was screaming.  Ashamed and angry with myself for losing patience I couldn’t have felt more remorse if I had slapped her.  I hope that when we meet again she will forgive me.

Several of my friends, male and female, are the caregivers for those they love most, their best friends with whom they have shared a lifetime who are now strangers in their midst; strangers, created by Alzheimer’s or related diseases.  How they mourn their lost patience especially once their dear one has departed  this world. “If only I could have been more patient,” is their guilt-ridden cry of self-deprecation.  It is my cry as well, but how I rationalize that it was all right to lose my patience and temper in light of Mr. Hyde’s anger toward me, his snide and arrogant remarks for no reason, his rejection, disregard and lack of appreciation.   But when he is Ken and he remembers I am his wife and he loves me my eyes well with tears knowing that, indeed, I do love him, really love him, and I hope he will forgive me for my lack of patience.

Originally posted 2009-02-25 06:41:14.

KNOCK YOURSELF OUT — OR THANKS FOR HELPING

The other day when Jayne was keeping Ken company while I did some work at our rentals, she spent some of her time working on her computer via my computer, which is great.  I’m glad she could keep up with her work instead of  just sitting and twiddling her thumbs.  But knowing Jayne, she wouldn’t be doing that either.

“Where do you keep your vacuum cleaner,” she asked when I got home.  “I know you must have one — and I’m sure you have a mop.  I couldn’t find anything.”    In the past I would have fluttered all around telling her not to even think of cleaning and mopping my house, but I didn’t.  “The vacuum is locked in the spare bedroom with the income tax which is spread all over the bed and the mop is in the garage next to the water heater,” I replied.   That’s so she’ll know where to look next time.

She did manage to wipe up the kitchen with an old towel.  “Does he do that on purpose?”  Jayne asked  “Do what on purpose?” I responded.  “Does he always walk across a newly mopped floor as soon as you finish?”   “Count on it,” I answered.  “But it isn’t deliberate.  Telling him you just finished mopping is meaningless.  That’s why I make sure he is napping before I start.  And thank you, the floor looks good to me.”

I reminded her that the reference book for Alzheimer’s is “The 36-Hour Day,” and even if I did have 36 hours I still wouldn’t get everything done that has to be done, especially when I still manage our rental property.   It seems that at the beginning of the day, I mentally make my list of what I will do and when it’s time to go to bed I just forward those chores over to the next day — or the next.   Eventually everything will get done.   If the floor isn’t vacuumed, the kitchen isn’t mopped and I can leave notes in the dust it doesn’t matter.   It isn’t that I don’t care, it’s just that I can’t care.  Taking care of what’s important is what matters.  So, if  any of my friends want to vacuum my floors, do my dishes or fold my clothes I say in the popular vernacular, “Knock yourself out”  and thank you so much.

Originally posted 2009-02-15 05:53:03.

A BEST FRIEND FOR A LIFETIME?

women friends in a 50's suburb

You could make an instant friend in the suburbs of the 50’s, but would it last a lifetime?

August 13, 2016 – We tend to think that way, especially women, when friends have been friends for years, actually decades, but people are people and everyone is different. Physically, we’re probably made of the same stuff, but when it comes to emotions we are definitely different. My friend and I enjoyed so much in common: living in the suburbs, children about the same age, married about the same number of years. With former farmlands converted to housing developments the returning WWII veterans and their spouses quickly snapped up the sprawling quick-fix to a severe housing shortage. Throughout America, numerous tracts of cookie-cutter houses sprang up over the countryside as if the former farmer had planted and fertilized an expansive bumper crop of single-family homes. Following the end of the war, many of us moved into our new abode on the same day or within a week or so from completion date. With so much in common,  it was easy to be friendly and get acquainted  before all the paint was even dry.

SPATS AND DISAGREEMENTS

Early on with our neighbors, I noticed a little something with my new best friend (I’ll call her Beatrice) that was a little out of sync (at least with me). If we had a little spat, as is often the case when families live in such a condensed environment. I believe a similar scene repeated itself many times during the next half century in every neighborhood throughout our country.

Beatrice was never one who apologized when she needed to step forward and say, “I’m sorry.” So it was always me who stepped forward, rang her bell usually holding a baby on my hip asking, “May we come in?” She welcomed us. and we picked up where we left off and just went on with our similar lives until a small break happened again which was resolved within a few weeks using the same pattern

FAST FORWARD SEVERAL DECADES

As neighbors, we were all shocked and saddened by the death of her husband Jack before he even reached the age of 50. Friends couldn’t do enough to help her adjust and begin a new life without him. The men jumped in to finish any project Jack had been working on, doing more and going beyond what may have been on Jack’s list while the women were at her beck and call. There was nothing we wouldn’t do for Beatrice. We were like family.

Life remained relatively good for a long while. Our children all grew up, went to college, or not, got married, or not. And then tragedy struck again. The daughter of one neighbor died suddenly and so unexpectedly, her demise leaving all of us filled with compassion and concern wondering about the whys and adversities of life that we all experience, yet manage to live through. I spent an afternoon with Constance, the young woman’s mother—once she was settled and had accepted her loss. The following week I asked Beatrice if she had gone to visit Constance? She had not. I suggested that it just wouldn’t right if she didn’t and she should force herself to pay the grieving mother a visit even if she felt uncomfortable. Reluctantly, Bernice finally did.

SKILLS FOR LIVING

We should all have them, or at least some. Somewhere in our life, we all need to learn not only how to show sympathy, how to be empathetic, show compassion, share a hug or two when appropriate, read up on the right things to say, or not to say, during a time of loss and learn to listen. There are times when most folks need a listening ear and a soft shoulder where they can just cry. Not forever, but for a little while. There are some, however, who just cannot, no matter how hard they try, help carry other folks’ burdens. I do believe my friend Beatrice is one of them.

NO SOFT SHOULDER, JUST SIGHS AND EYE ROLLS.

It was when my husband Ken began showing obvious signs of Alzheimer’s that I paid a few visits to my friend of 60-some years that I noticed her wandering gaze when I mentioned some of the things Ken had done because of his AD. I even caught a few eye rolls. It didn’t take me long to get the message that she just didn’t want me to talk about my husband or his devastating disease. Asking, “How’s Ken was strictly a formality?” She really didn’t want to know. Nor did she offer a hug or an invitation for me to come over anytime and the assurance that she was going to be “there” for me during this time of adversity.

Furthermore, other neighbors had mentioned to me that she was being more than critical about the need for more professional care that she believed he would receive in a all-out care facility. Apparently, she felt the care which I was providing for this truly mild-mannered man who was no danger to them or to himself was not enough. “He should be in a home,” she complained to our neighborhood community.

I know and understand that we all have our foibles and weak places in our personalities. She isn’t me, and I’m not her and that’s all right. Even if she wasn’t “there” for me with a soft shoulder, she is still my friend and I have forgiven her her apparent inability for empathy. Not everyone is able to “step up to the plate.” I have noticed that her health is beginning to fail, and she has a touch of dementia. I visited with her recently and have told her that if her son isn’t available, I’ll be “there” for her. “Just give me a call.” After all is said and done, we have been friends forever and still are. 

Originally posted 2016-08-15 01:51:29.

EVEN 33 HOURS CAN BE A VACATION

My grand daughter Katie and her new husband Brian

My granddaughter Katie and her new husband Brian

July 20, 2012 — Alzheimer’s is a prison for the victim and often for the caregiver.  As caregivers, especially those of us who care for our loved one at home, we struggle against the confinement.  Keeping our head above water in the never-ending stream of responsibilities and duties we must fight diligently to give ourselves the needed breaks we not only deserve, but desperately need.  I periodically write about breaks” for caregivers and the different things we can do, places to go and the importance of friends not only to keep us as a viable part of society, but to keep us sane as well.  Undoubtedly, all of those suggestions seem to work for the day-to-day functions of our busy and often stressful lives. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-07-20 21:21:59.

AFTER ALZHEIMER’S — WHAT AM I GOING TO DO NOW?

Author Ann Romick

Alzheimer’s caregiver and blog author Ann Romick

June 1 2012 — Good question.  As a caregiver, you can wonder what will happen after Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lewy Body dementia, MS, cancer and a host of other awful diseases that are, in most cases, terminal.  Spouses, lovers and family members become caregivers, and often caregivers become shadows of their former selves.  Not to be dreary – that isn’t my intent.  It’s just that as caregivers we are duty bound and love bound to our patients, and responsibilities filling our every minute with something to do: constant busyness – an observation to be given considerable thought.

THE RAT RACE

It’s a rat race not only out there, but in here as well, and caregivers are the runners. As a spouse you soon become aware of how much the other spouse did in this partnership, and now you’re accountable for doing it all.  Coming, going, rushing in every which direction to get it done and still there is more to do.  Each day ends in exhaustion: physical, emotional – most of the time both — but before you can drop into bed you must make one more check to ensure your patient is all right: covered, comfortable and asleep. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-06-02 02:59:27.

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