Friday, November 4, 2011

Night Time Prison

Nearly every night pop has been venturing into our bedroom waking us up in the wee hours, either coming from or trying to find his bathroom. Not sure which. So .... it dawned on me one day that we needed to find a way to batten down the hatches, secure the borders, imprison the escapee while still allowing him access to the needed rest room. Looking around the house, the most obvious forms of containment seemed to be furniture. So for the past couple of nights we have been experimenting with just that. Our dining room chairs, substantial and a bit heavy, have become our barricades between the dining room and kitchen which leads to the dinette, the living room and yes, even to the garage where we have on occasion found him searching for his bedroom, bathroom, comb, wallet, you name it. Our deacons bench turned diagonally blocks access to the hallway which also leads toward those rooms and toward our bedroom. All of this, more or less, imprisons him into the south east portion of the house creating a little maze from his room to his bathroom and making it impossible for him to venture into the remaining rooms of the downstairs.

Seems to be working! We've not had a visit in two nights and haven't heard any furnishings trying to be moved. Prison life most certainly has it's benefits. Everyone seems to be sleeping much better.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Greasy Pockets

How a man survives without a purse has always been one of my curiosities. Pockets being the male substitute for a purse still seems inadequate to me but so be it. Upon close examination this morning I noticed my dad's shirt pocket, carrying only a wad of tissues, looked gray at the base. And upon closer examination I determined the gray was caused by something greasy.

Now, Pop has never been what I would call a pack rat when it comes to possessions. But when it comes to cookies, ... well that is a whole different scenario. Never waste a good cookie is dad's philosophy. Yesterday sitting in one of his favorite wicker chairs I noticed him munching on the chocolate variety, one that I had not recently given him. Where it had come from I did not know and asking him would have proven fruitless, the memory long gone. Finding the cookie jar or the bags in the pantry would also have been beyond his capability. So I ruled that out, which left me with the only genuinely plausible answer -- cookie hoarding. And where would be the most logical place to stash your hoard? In the shirt pocket, of course! It is handy for the taking and it won't get sat upon to become crushed. Very logical. Greasy pocket mystery solved!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Can I Help?

I never know which pop is going to show up. Yesterday it was the oblivious pop. Today he is the constant companion who follows me around the house offering his services at every turn. "Is there anything I can do to help," has been the repetition for today? This is a gracious offer but one that is hard to oblige. His balance is poor so anymore sweeping is not an option. Vision is weak so eye hand coordinated tasks are difficult. I used to give him a basket of change and have him sort it by pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters but yesterday the challenge seemed daunting. He managed to bag the copper pennies but the silver change all looked the same to him.

This afternoon, having returned from Costco with a large bag of individually wrapped rolls of paper towels I invited him to remove the rolls from their outer covering and place them on the table for me to relocate to the pantry. Not taking long to accomplish he was ready again to be of more assistance. I resorted again to the magic bullet which always seems to salve any lonely or boring moment. Tea time! Intentionally locating him at the bar eye ball to eye ball with me he is able to sip his tea and at least feel a part of what is happening as I busy myself in the kitchen. Maybe tomorrow he'll be oblivious.

Lamp shade glasses

"What ya' got there Don," my husband asked as pop ambled down the hall pushing his trusty walker? On my fathers finger was attached the mini lamp shade from his bedroom night light. Extending it toward my husband to be examined he responded, "I don't know but I think it belongs on my glasses."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wheels and Repetitions

"Hi Pop. You want to go with me for a bit," I ask?
Sitting at the round dining table along with three other residents, pop sits with his head in his hands. I smile at the group coordinator and indicate that I'll be taking him home for a visit and have him back at Arveda by dinner time.
"No," Pop says."I'm kind of sleepy. I think I'll just stay here."
Feeling guilty because my visit with him is long overdue and knowing the drive and time with his family will be more beneficial then a nap, I persist.
"It is a beautiful day outside and I've got some errands to run. Thought you'd like to take a drive with me." His expression reveals his exasperation with my insistence but he gets up and follows me to the door anyway.

Moving out onto the high way I hear the same line that I always do when I pick him up for our visits, "Man those cars are moving fast."
Continuing down the road I hear the second repetition, "Boy this little car rides nice."
I respond as if I've never heard either of these remarks before.
Again, "Man those cars are moving fast!"

Third repetition,"How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine. How are you feeling?"
"Good," comes the response.
"You healthy? Wink is healthy?"
"Yes, we're all healthy."

"Man this little car rides nice."
"Yes, Beamers are nice cars."

"How's Deb?"
"She's good. She and Dick will be here next week."
"OOOOOOOh! How long will they be here for?"
"About a week."

"Man this little car rides nice. These Hondas are great cars."
I don't correct him on the make of the car.

Fourth repetition comes ... "So how do you like living in Texas?"
"I like it."
"How do YOU like living in Texas, Pop?"
"It's different."
"Do you miss California?"

"Man this little car rides nice."
I try to change the subject with my previous comment. "Deb and Dick are coming next week." It is new news to him.
"Ooooooooh! Really? How long they going to be here?"
"A week."
"How are they doing? Everyone healthy?"

"So how do you like living in Texas?"
"Well, we've been here for nearly 11 years now so it feels pretty much like home."
"Oh, man. Has it been that long? Do you think you are going to stay?"
"Well, Wink has his business here. I think we'll be here until something changes."

Entering the bank parking lot, pop says to me, "You sure know your way around here."
"Yes, I've been living here for nearly 11 years, I repeat, so it is pretty clear to me now."
"Ooooooh. That long? How do you like living in Texas?"
Pop has obviously gotten onto a wheel, and our living in Texas has become the theme for today.
"How do YOU like living in Texas, Pop," I respond back?
"Oh, it's OK. Different."
"Are you homesick for California," I ask again?
"No, not really."
I ignore the discrepancy in his answer from his previous comment and continue to the ATM and then on to our next destination.

Moving at a snails pace we navigate Costco. Pop pushes the cart as it kills two birds with one stone. Pushing gives him some responsibility so he feels helpful and at the same time provides the necessary grip for his balance. I decide that shopping at pop's pace is too time consuming and it will involve too much effort for him to make my last stop at the lens counter. I pass on that for another visit and we make our way through the check-out and exit the store.

Hoping, again that the diversion at Costco would break into other avenues of discussion we head home. Soon I hear, "Well, I've gotten to see a little more of Texas today," sounding more like a visitor then a resident.

Finally arriving at our house I help him out of the car, up the short set of steps to our front deck and through the door. I note that he seems weaker and less steady on his feet then when he lived with us just 6 months ago. My husband greets him and ushers him to one of his favorite, comfy chairs.

"So how do you like Texas, Wink," says my dad?
"Oh, we like it, Don," comes the polite response.
"Do you think you'll stay here?"
"I think so."

Fortunately for my husband he has work to do in his office and gets up leaving me to field the litany of questions about Texas. Weary of the past 2 hours of repetition and feeling a bit trapped I excuse myself and go into the kitchen to prepare pop a second cup of tea. Texting my sister I give her a blow by blow account of my afternoon with our dad. We both text, LOL.

Hanging up my phone I realize that I have run out of reasons for hiding and I return to the living room with the cup of tea. Pop says, "Thank you and then ... So how long do you think you will live in Texas?" I look at my watch and decide that 2 and 1/2 hours of visiting is plenty. Besides it is nearly within an hour of dinner time at his residence and this is excuse enough for me to pack up and return him to his "home." I invite him to go for a drive. He responds in upbeat fashion and out the door we shuffle. Strapped in our seats, with 4.5 miles of listening time, I smile to myself as I hear him say one last time, "So how do you like living in Texas?"

Friday, December 10, 2010


The tall male nurse bounces into the room buoyant and upbeat, tying bibs around the patients necks. Another aide tosses a carton of milk into the air and catches it athletically setting it on the table in front of the patient. It is dinner time.

Joleen, who appears to have severe cerebral palsy spasms as she drinks from her sippy-cups. One for milk, and another for her strawberry milk shake. George across the horse shoe shaped table has oxygen tubes in his nose and develops a serious coughing attack while trying to swallow his pizza. Melba sits with her eyes closed and looks as though she is blind, waiting quietly, patiently for the aid to feed her while the super that is sitting in front of her is getting cold. This is meal time at the convalescent hospital. My dad appears to be the most cognitive one there.

I look at each of these people wondering what sorts of lives they once lived. I would guess that Joleen has had cerebral palsy all or most of her life and is used to institutional living. She wears a constant smile and tries to communicate. I can't understand her.

George, big and burly, has large hands like someone who was used to manual labor. Perhaps he held down a variety of blue collar jobs, a one time mechanic who chatted freely with his customers, barking at those who irritated him. Or perhaps a truck driver maneuvering large 18 wheelers over treacherous highways and mountain roads.

Melba could have been any ones mother. I wonder how many children she has? Or had she been a nurse tending the needs of others, now on the receiving end?

My husband leans over to me and says, "Did you hear what that old guy across the room just said?" No I didn't so my husband reiterated to me, "I'm going to stand up and poop in my pants and I'm not going to clean it up," were the exact words. We cringe but can't help but laugh!

Pop turns to me several times throughout his meal and cheerfully asks me the same question, "Are you going to eat, too?" Looking at his portion I think to myself how glad I am that I am not. Always the first to finish his meal he puts down his cloth napkin and indicates that he is ready to leave his left overs behind. He's not even interested in taking the tea with him. I unlock the breaks on his wheel chair and attempt to maneuver him around the rest of the diners also in their rolling chairs.

My husband and I comment on how stuffy it is. My dad comments on how cold he is. I retrieve his signature cardigan and help him pull it on over his boney, protruding shoulders. "I'm tired," he says. We roll him back to his room. Help him into bed. Tell him good night and that we'll be back tomorrow.

My husband and I find the experience shocking. My dad doesn't seem to notice.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Where Will Pop Spend Christmas?

It was about 5:00 a.m. when my husband awakened me and said, "Your dad is sick, Jude. You'd better get up." I learned that Pop had been vomiting since about 4:00 a.m. We visited him in his bedroom over the hours watching him weaken. Through the day he continued to appear to have some sort of virus. But by evening we began to question our theory of "viral." Very much against his will (he was sure he was just fine) we carefully loaded him into the car and drove to the emergency room. That night he was admitted and the next day was in surgery to repair an intestinal blockage.

The following week, during my daily visits, I watched his strength drain from his body until he looked like a Holocaust victim. The lack of solid food had taken its toll. In those hours I was reminded again the truth behind the old adage "ignorance can be bliss." As the hours rolled into days his continuous, repetitive questions reminded me that he had no recollection as to how much misery he had endured, how close to death he had been, and how uncertain his future was. As we approach the Christmas holiday season he is resting and recuperating in a convalescent hospital. I can't help but wonder, where will Pop spend Christmas?

I know that his memory challenges have trapped him in a chronic state of oblivion sort of like being locked in a room with one way mirrors; we are able to see in but he is unable to see out. Oblivious to the seasons, the celebrations, the life which swirls on around him he continues to live but not really live. Thanks giving was a blur, a non happening. I assume Christmas will be the same. While I bustle around preparing for this blessed holiday season I fit in time to see him daily but he has no idea how many hours have transpired between our visits.

Unless you've been through something like this you might not understand the following statement and think that it sounds cruel, but I often wish Pop could just spend Christmas in heaven.