husband

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.

OTHER MEN IN MY LIFE

December 21, 2008 — When Ken and I married we were everything to one another: husband and wife, soul mates, lovers and best friends.  At first we had eyes for no others and space for only the two of us. Eventually the oneness and passion took its proper place in life and we became, once again, part of the real world. 

We were already children of our parents and a sister and brother to our siblings.  We had aunts, uncles, cousins and numerous friendships.  As we grew into the big, roomy shoes of married adults we took on new titles becoming not only what we were already, but more in being the kind of people we had chosen to be:  a man and a woman who were quite capable of family devotion, preparing for earnest parenthood, worthy neighbors, and good friends to many.  We also became as the scriptures tell us a strong, “equally yoked” team.  Well, as equally yoked as one can be married to the world’s number one procrastinator.  However, we were still everything to each other as we had been in the beginning.  Everything, that is, until more than a half century later when the demon Alzheimer’s introduced two new men into my life; both of whom I could readily do without.

This afternoon was filled with phone calls and company, which is always good for Ken – and me.  Having been a social person all of his life, Ken is happy to have someone to talk with even if his brain doesn’t recognize them.  Furthermore, he does remember how to “fake” it.  A young visitor might ask, “Hi, Grandpa. Remember me?” Ken will smile and answer, “Can’t recall the name, but I recognize the face.”  He doesn’t, but the encounter gets his brain working and makes a small – or tall — guest happy.

THREE’S COMPANY

Having visitors makes me happy as well because that stimulation seems to keep away his two other personalities.  My husband can become any one of three different people – or I suppose it’s better to say three different personalities, one of whom is the man I married with a diseased mind.  The various moods or personality changes that can appear at any time is part of Alzheimer’s.  I have named the first intruder Mr. Hyde.  While this personality can be rude, disagreeable, mean, and a bit combative, he is not violent and murderous as was the character created in the turn-of-the-century book Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.  Nevertheless, because he can be unpredictable, I tagged him Mr. Hyde as a point of identification, and the name seemed to fit this stranger with whom I am often pitted.

GETTING TO KNOW THEM

Mr. Hyde admits to being married, but not to me, and has a family which is never discussed.  He will often look at me and ask, “Where is my wife?” or “Where’s the boss?”  The boss, of course, is me although he sees only a stranger, someone very young who is still going to school and needs to call her parents when it’s time to go home.  That concern is part of Ken’s deep-rooted personality as he worries whenever he knows a woman is out alone in the dark of night.

The second personality is Buddy,who is about 12.  Buddy owns our home, which he claims as the house where he was born, having received it as a gift from his father and mother who still live here, and are presently away.  Buddy tells me he is not married, has no children and no additional family other than his sister Loretta who is also away.  As Buddy, he can become very strong and quick in movement. He can easily become combative when confronted with anything, especially his rights as a property owner.  Often he sees me as an intrusive stranger who has no right to be here and wants me gone from the house.  The boy personality is very protective of his home. It’s almost as though he has been left in charge while his parents are away, and takes his assignment very seriously. 

Mr. Hyde was the first to arrive.Both of these newcomers  can make things very unpleasant with their presence. Mr. Hyde and Buddy love to argue, even though most of the time they remain politely pleasant unless they are provoked which can be real or imagined.  However, it doesn’t take much to set them off.  I dislike the two intensely, all though I believe they cling to Ken’s basic upbringing about respecting women.  I can just hear his mother say, “Buddy, you must always remember this:  You are never, never to hit a woman – not for any reason!”    

As strong as these personalities are neither of them seems to appear when there is company in the house, and that’s a good thing.  Meanwhile, and though I detest both I am prepared for Mr. Hyde and Buddy to be the other men in my life for as long as they decide to stay.  

 

 

 

Originally posted 2008-12-22 02:56:18.

GRATITUDE AFTER ALZHEIMER’S

This gallery contains 2 photos.

A LAST GOODBYE WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE

A family gathers for Thanksgiving dinner.

Some of our family gather for a day of gratitude and Thanksgiving at my daughter’s house.

 November 28, 2014 – So many things for which I feel gratitude. At the top of my list is that I have a lifetime of wonderful memories with Ken. I only wish that the selfish disease of Alzheimer’s had allowed my loving husband a momentary return to his old self just so he could have said goodbye to me and his children. I would have asked for just one chance where I could have said to him, “Thanks for 64 wonderful years, but then we all know that AD never gives anything back once it has robbed the mind of life and living. So I won’t dwell on what might have been and go on to a Thanksgiving long ago when the children were younger and we were on our way to Grandmother’s house. You know, “Over the bridge and across the bay to Grandmother’s house we go. The car knows the way.” And on that memorable night it was almost believable that the car knew the way.

THE NIGHT BEFORE

We always packed our clothes well ahead of departure for a long weekend in the country, and set out for Thanksgiving at “The Little Farm” located half way between the town of Sebastopol in Sonoma County, California and Bodega Bay on the ocean.  It was Wednesday evening as we headed north from our East Bay home for our annual holiday festivities. Continue reading

Originally posted 2014-11-30 02:58:09.

REMEMBERING MY FATHER

Edwin Weeks with horse

My father Edwin Weeks

June 15, 2012 — My father was a big burley man born at the beginning of the last century. With good looks, little education, and a work ethic that wouldn’t quit he managed to attract lovely Irene, artistic Irene and scholarly Irene. Having one semester of college she continued learning nearly all of her life. Their story is another of Alzheimer’s and love and caregiving.  In spite of his dirt-farmer background with no other experience, the couple moved from eastern Utah to San Francisco where he found sporadic work during the Great Depression. The dollars were scarce, but they managed, barely keeping their small family housed and fed.

THE WAR YEARS

“Give it a try,” Irene advised her hard-working, but reluctant, husband as he read the ad for workers at Vallejo, California’s Mare Island Shipyard, “all they can say is no.” Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-06-16 06:18:22.

THE ALZHEIMER’S LETTER

junk mail

Responding to donations for one cause resulted in a whole slew of more requests.

 

 

June 8, 2012 — There are times when I look back on Ken’s diagnosis and wonder if he went into immediate denial or if he just didn’t understand the full ramifications of Alzheimer’s.

CROHN’S

I did write about Crohn’s a while back in “Okay, Give Me My Shot,” loosely defining it because it has been a major health issue with Ken for decades.  Among the indicators of the disease is pain. To eliminate the pain and the accompanying symptoms of Crohn’s required an extreme change in diet.  High protein, low residue: meat, potatoes and white bread.  “That’s all,” the doctor said. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-06-09 04:50:06.

SUPER BOWL GRATITUDE DAY

football game

Though gratitude may not have to do with football, to this caregiver it makes Thanksgiving, the superbowl of gratitude.

I never think of November without conjuring up thoughts of Thanksgiving which I have come to refer to as the Super Bowl of gratitude. There are a few grouches out there who believe the holiday is all a bother. No doubt the naysayers are imagining some corporate CEO greedily scooping up profits from the turkey market. Even if that were true the holiday is and can be so much more.

Squeezed in between Halloween (which seems to be getting bigger and better every year) and Christmas, Thanksgiving looks to be the forgotten holiday. No one appears to give it much thought except school children with their Pilgrim collages and hand-traced-paper-plate birds, and supermarkets whose windows are adorned with cornucopias, autumn leaves and fan-tailed turkeys.

So I find that before the family gathers around the table on the 4th Thursday of this month I begin early to count my blessings. Actually, I do most every day when I offer my morning prayer of gratitude, but sometimes it takes a reminder to appreciate things we take for granted, and don’t always think of as blessings – only bills.

I’m the first one to grumble about the increases in our utility costs, especially with the tight economy and our very tight budget, but what if gas and electricity weren’t available. The other morning, just as my day was getting started, the electricity went off.  It’s happened before, many times, and it’s always such a surprise. My immediate reaction – always — is what’s wrong with the lights? Automatically, I flipped a few switches. No electricity. I knew that already. There is something about a power failure that announces exactly what it is when it happens: the power fails. Perhaps it’s the suddenness followed by a brief, yet eerie silence as everything stops that momentarily baffles our senses.

Outside, there was plenty of light, but neither of our bathrooms has a window. Question: What shall I do until the power returns? Answer: I’ll prepare breakfast. Wrong, the stove is electric as is the microwave. When Ben gets here we can get Ken started on his day. No we can’t. The bathrooms are dark. Check my email, vacuum the rugs, wash/dry some clothes, or mend some of Ken’s things waiting for me on the sewing machine. Can’t do any of those catch-up chores, there is no electricity. Instead I made my bed, and before Ben arrived the power was back on. I went about the day immediately dismissing my half hour of inconvenience. When in reality, utilities, even though we must pay for them are blessings taken so for granted.

The next day the wall furnace, in the family room, where Ken “lives” (eats, sleeps and sits) stopped working. “When troubleshooting a furnace,” someone had told me, buy a new thermostat.”  I did. “Who told you that?” asked the servicewoman from PG&E as she sat cross-legged in front of my ancient wall heater. I gave her a “duh” answer to which she replied, “The first thing you do is call PG&E.” More often than not their house call can get the heat up and running, or they can tell you what’s wrong but they can’t fix it as the problem is beyond their service parameters. And they do this as a free service. She even installed a new thermocouple to match my new thermostat. “Don’t get a new heater,” she advised, “It’s a valve, and you need to get a good heater/plumbing person.”

The PG&E service woman who came and the people in the office with whom I spoke about the problem were incredibly helpful. They all got a “5” on the follow-up phone survey and I am so grateful for their help.

“Mason can fix it,” said a sweet young friend, Tara, when I mentioned my problem. “I’ll have him call you when he gets home.”

So that’s where we are this week in life’s comedy of ups and downs, struggles and solutions, and I am grateful for the kindness, the advice, the help and the general goodness of people, and to Mason who put the heater back in A-1 condition. Grateful for my comfort-filled home; certainly an understatement. Today’s homes are filled with luxuries beyond measure. What a marvel our lives and conveniences would be to our long-ago ancestors: running water in the house – hot and cold – heat on a chilly day, sanitation, lights to take away the darkness, a stove to cook our meals and a big white box to keep our food cold and fresh.

Setting aside the wonders of our modern world I can’t forget so many wonderful people who will and do step forward to help. I could go on, but I won’t. I have to save some thoughts for Super Bowl Gratitude Turkey Day when I will share my appreciation and feelings of love with those I am passionately thankful for: my family.  Ken and I are truly blessed.

Originally posted 2011-11-12 04:01:01.

Shhhhh! My husband is asleep

old man sleepingin bed

Even while asleep this caregiver gets comfort from her husband with Alzheimers; sleeping in the house.

I sometimes feel a bit isolated when the caregivers leave, but not for long.  Ken is in bed and usually asleep as the evening stretches before me.  Yes, cabin bound, but I don’t feel I’m alone in the house.  I’m not.  My husband is sleeping in the next room.  I can sit with him and read or I can talk to him if he’s awake.  Awake or asleep he doesn’t make much sense, but that’s all right.  If something entertaining is on the tube, I can sit next to his bed and watch TV, holding his hand while he sleeps – or not.

Alzheimer’s makes life such a dichotomy: at times I state that he is gone and other times when we are alone he is with me.  At night, his very presence gives me a semblance of companionship – the same feelings I had years ago when his day had been long and hard, and sleep beckoned earlier for him than usual.  He was at home although he was asleep.  If someone called I would simply ask if it was important because Ken had a rough day and had gone to bed early. I suppose that’s the feeling I have now at night:  my husband is here, but he went to sleep early.

It’s with that feeling I go about my evening – even laughing at myself for the lack of logic in some of my actions.  Ken’s caregiver, Ben, is very good to me and very considerate.  Waste Management comes to our neighborhood on Wednesdays to collect the contents of our various waste containers so Ben puts the cans out on the street before he leaves each Tuesday evening.  He also makes sure the cans from the house have been emptied as well. However, there are times when a forgotten waste basket filled with paper needs to be added to the recycle can.  I think nothing of taking the trash out to the street before I go to bed – even at midnight.  I have no fear of leaving the door open and dumping my small amount of paper into the recycle bin for pick up the next day because my husband is in the house.  If I lived totally alone, even though I am comfortable in my neighborhood, I wouldn’t empty the basket until daylight.  How rational is that?  Am I safer because he is here?  In his condition, certainly not, but because my husband is here,  I feel safe.  I know my reasoning defies logic, but feeling safe and feeling that I’m not alone is not only a comfort, but a battle fought and won, and it’s a blessing to have someone with me in the house, even if that someone could do nothing if a bad guy jumped out from behind a bush.

Bob DeMarco in his Alzheimer’s Reading Room blog often talks about AD victims still being here, and physically DeMarco, of course, is right and in some cases an AD victim’s cognitive awareness is in and out.  In reading about his experiences with his mother, Dotty, I realize that where she is with her AD is not where Ken is with his AD. During his awake time when daylight fills the room he is seldom the Ken I have been married to for more than a half century.  And when I look into his hazel-green eyes and see no response or recognition, and I’m sure others will agree, that’s when I have that feeling he is not here – he is gone.  But other times, and during those long night hours, as lacking in logic as it is, he is here with me — but we mustn’t disturb him because my husband is sleeping. And his presence fills my home and my heart.

Originally posted 2011-11-05 03:25:19.

HALLOWEEN AND MY SUPER FUN DATE

Halloween pumpkins

Carved pumpkins a sure sign of Halloween

I have often said the bonus part of being married to Ken is that he was a fun date. Not only was he a fun date before marriage he continued to be a fun date after marriage, but then many of our friends remained okay dates after marriage until the tube took over, turning them into the well-known couch potato. The difference between Ken, who did watch his share of ball games, and our friends was that he continued to be a fun date up until AD became a third wheel in our lives.

Our early neighborhood was mostly made up of young couples with small children, and all but a few budgets were pinched tighter than a size eight foot in a six shoe. Consequently, nights out on the town, or even a movie, were few and far between. However, to keep our social appetites fed, kids in tow, we entertained one another at our various homes taking turns hosting: we bar-b-cued, planned picnics in the parks, or at the beach, and enjoyed Sunday summer band concerts by our city’s Municipal Band – all without spending any money. In addition, a couple of nights a month the neighbors got together for a game of penny-ante with no one going home richer than he came. It was for fun not fortune as all of the winnings went into a kitty until there were enough accumulated funds for everyone’s dinner, plus a tip, which happened every year or so.

And there were parties and celebrations according to the calendar, but perhaps none so outlandish and memorable than Halloween, with costumes required. The 31st, of course, was kids’ night so the adult party was usually held on Friday or Saturday night before Trick Or Treat, but not every year. For those less willing than Ken to dress up as someone-something else was much too much to ask of some husbands on even a yearly basis.

Prior to our just-across-the-street friends Fred and Phyllis adding a family room, all parties were held in the host’s garage. Once we found their new room to be a warm and cozy place without a draft their home became the gathering place during the colder fall and winter months.

So it was that Phil donned in black shorts, black shirt, a cowboy hat and toy six shooters hanging from her hips became a female Paladin (Have Gun Will Travel, a popular TV series at the time). Laughing, she opened the door to let in the party revelers. Fred put on two arm bands, a bow tie and took his place behind his bar as the in-house bartender, which was the costume for many of the men. Ken wasn’t much different that first year matching my Roaring 20s flapper dress with gangster-looking attire, including arm bands.

Other years, and good sport that he was, he agreed twice to wear the other half of Raggedy Anne: Andy with a sailor hat and sprouting red yarn hair. Our faces matched with cherry-circled cheeks, smiling mouths and exaggerated eyes. We wore it to Fred and Phil’s second party and a few years later our duo costumes appeared at other events. There were times when I couldn’t believe he was still such a fun guy and so willing to throw caution to the wind and be just plain silly.

Several years later we had occasion to attend a fund-raiser for a local community service organization. I made Ken a white sports coat out of a piece of left-over polyester knit from years gone by, painted a black mustache on his upper lip and handed him a baton. As Xavier Cugat, he matched my Carman Miranda outfit topped off with a turban headpiece filled with an assortment of fake fruit, including a cluster of purple plastic grapes. We were a hit with friends, but didn’t win the grand prize – not even runner up – which was all right. It was a good time because I had a special evening out with my fun-date husband. I sure miss him.

Even as Ken succumbed to Alzheimer’s, I continued to decorate for the holiday, and the second year of Ken’s illness he remembered about the little ones coming for Trick or Treat. Together we put out decorations making our house look spooky without being scary. Every morning, though, I would find the pumpkins, scarecrows and the friendly, smiling ghosts on the kitchen table. More of a morning person than I wanted to be, Ken busied himself getting the house in order while I slept. “Why did you bring in all of the decorations,” I asked him. “Halloween is over,” he replied. “Let’s put this stuff away.” Explaining that the holiday wouldn’t be over for two more weeks, I asked him if he wanted to help me put the things outside. “Of course I’ll help,” he said, ready and willing to have it all in place when the costumed children came for candy.

We went through the same routine every morning until November 1, when I agreed that we could put Halloween away for another year. It would have been easier for me to just give in the first time he brought the whole array into the kitchen. But I wanted our life to be as normal as possible even if it meant doing the same job over and over, and for several years it worked.

This year in front of our house there is a seven foot happy-faced ghost – possibly a distant cousin to Casper — hovering in the midst of our juniper bushes, surrounded by candy corn lights and spider webs. Ken no longer brings in the decorations during the early morning hours. Sleeping in a hospital bed with full rails his morning activity is limited, as is his walking ability.  He isn’t even aware that Halloween is fast approaching. Actually, I doubt he notices what’s outside, much less the passing of days, one being much the same as the last. Neither is he aware of the leaves turning gold and the hint of another year soon to pass. Alzheimer’s, like a thief in the night or a mysterious, ghostly intruder has stolen away my fun date, and the demon disease didn’t even ask, “Trick or Treat?”

Originally posted 2011-10-29 18:14:30.

THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

Haunted House

When an old house creaks, it may be haunted or not.

“Your house is spooky, Grandma.”  The statement did not come from one of our younger posterity but from our 23-year-old grandson Brian.  Several years ago, before Ken contracted Alzheimer’s we had asked Brian, recently returned after a four-year stint in the Marines, if he would stay in the house while we were on vacation; look after the dog, take in the mail, water and cut the grass and keep everything ship-shape until we returned.  We also agreed to pay him a tidy sum for his efforts.  He happily accepted.  When we arrived home we found that he had been more not here, than here.

“I just couldn’t stay in your house after the first night,” he explained, expounding on every creak and groan he heard or imagined. “I think it’s haunted!”  I turned to this brute of a man and asked, “How old are you, Brian?  How tall?  And how much do you weight?”  If he looked a bit chagrined, it didn’t change how he felt.  “You house is spooky,” he repeated “really spooky.”

He then proceeded to detail his night in our so-called chamber of horrors.  “This place has bumps in the night, stuff moving in the shed next to the house and in the wood pile and in the backyard,” he confided.

“Probably a cat,” I explained. “Or it could have been a rat – or a possum,” none of which eased his mind.

“The floor creaks,” he continued, “like someone is walking.  So do the walls and I can hear the roof in the family room going snap, crackle, pop, and I believe there is something living in the attic making a rasping sound.”

Reliving his night of terror seemed to add to his vivid and out-of-control imagination.  He had verbally tagged everything except the foundation and windows, but I couldn’t really remember any of the strange sounds except the time when we did have mice in the attic.  Explaining to this gentle giant that our house was an older home and no doubt had settling noises, I also acknowledged that after a hot day the flat roof on the family room addition contracted making it sound like the bowl of Rice Crispies he described.   That wasn’t enough.  Unconvinced, Brian insisted the house was haunted even though I pooh-poohed the whole idea.  He did, though, express regret for abandoning his house duty, but assured me that the dog had been cared for as were the yards and mail – all accomplished during the safety of daylight.

Perhaps the sounds were there and Ken and I had just grown used to them so we didn’t notice, but our conversation reminded me of another dark night and an unexpected noise from long ago when our children were young, the house was fairly new and there was no Emergency 911.

I believe both Ken and I were awakened at the exact same moment by the click of a door latch as it snapped into its slot, and then nothing.  That one sound had brought me into wide-eyed wakefulness.  Lying in our bed I could feel that he too had heard the noise and was no longer sleeping – hardly even breathing – yet I managed to murmur, “Did you hear that?”

“Someone just closed the kitchen door,” he whispered back.  “We have a burglar in the house.”

“Call the police,” I uttered.

Quietly, he reached over and picked up the phone setting it on the floor to muffle as much sound as possible.  Feeling the rotary wheel he placed his forefinger into the “O” and pulled it to near full circle until it stopped, and then he let it go. The clicking as the dial returned to its place almost matched the thumping of our hearts.  “Operator,” a woman answered.  “Someone is in our house.  Call the sheriff,” Ken said, barely audible.  Within seconds a man’s voice was heard, “Sheriff.”  Ken quietly explained our situation and gave him our address.   We were assured that a squad car was on its way even as we spoke.  Ken hung up the phone and we lay there staring at the shadowed ceiling.

On the clock possibly a minute and a half had lapsed since the kitchen latch had pulled us both from our slumber when suddenly I exclaimed, “The children?”  Leaping silently from my bed I rushed to the boy’s room.  From the light cascading through their window I could see that all was well.  Slipping down the hall with Ken close behind I opened the door where our girls slept.  One bed was empty.  “Julie is not here,” I declared.  Adrenalin pumping and as quiet as the proverbial mouse Ken cautiously opened the kitchen door and tiptoed into the darkness armed with a baseball bat which he had picked up from the boys’ room.  Bravely, he called, “Whose there?”

“Daddy?” a small voice returned.   “Julie?” Ken questioned, “Is that you Julie?” he repeated placing the whiffle-ball bat on the seat of an adjacent chair.

Snapping on the light we saw our frightened little girl, ghost-like in her nightgown, peeking around the darkened corner.  “I had to go to the bathroom,” she explained.  “Why didn’t you use this one?” Ken asked pointing to the one right across from the bedrooms.  “I didn’t want to wake you,” she continued, “so I used the one in the laundry room, and then I heard noises so I stayed in there.”

Tucked back into her bed with an extra kiss, we said goodnight to our sleepy child and returned to our bedroom.  Ken picked up the phone a second time and dialed the operator who connected us once again to the Sheriff’s department.  Apologizing and asking that the car racing to our house be canceled, Ken explained, “There is no intruder.  It was a child.”  “Whose child?” grumbled the officer.  “Ours,” said Ken sheepishly, “and she’s fine.”  With that I could visualize the sheriff smiling as he said to Ken, “Have a good night.”

As the fall of another year edges its way into earlier darkness causing the evenings to become longer and longer – especially after the caregivers leave –I find that it’s really a good time for me.  At the end of the day Ken is very tired.  Alzheimer’s seems to sap his energy so he is soon asleep and I have several hours of free, uninterrupted time.  I write, or catch up on bills, or do other busy work, or treat myself with a CD to watch.  Then it’s off to bed where I read until sleepiness blurs the print. I can lose myself in a good book.

The house is silent.  Every so often one of the cats will gallop down the hall before jumping up on the bed – a familiar thumping.  Turning the page I hear another sound.  Pausing to listen I ask myself about the bumping coming from the shed, a thud as a log tumbles onto the bricks from the woodpile.  “It’s probably a neighbor’s cat,” I say to me, “or a rat, or a possum.”  I listen to the relaxing of our half-century old house as it yawns and settles in for the night.  If Brian were here I would say, “No, Brian, the house isn’t haunted; like me, it’s just tired and our joints creak.”  But if I do see an apparition I will take the advice of psychic Silva Brown from one of her books, “Just tell the ghost to take the first door on the right and go home.”  Then I’ll add, “And on your way, please don’t let the latch click.  It might wake up Ken.”  That’s when I close my book, move the cat, turn off the lamp, snuggle under the covers and go to sleep.

Photo courtesy of  country-boy-shane http://www.flickr.com/photos/shanegorski/

Originally posted 2011-10-22 02:54:49.

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