Blind Man on a Bench

a surprise lover
the cool breeze kisses my cheek
my body delights
in sunshine’s warm embrace

wavelets lap softly on the sand
the scent of seashore drifts into my nose
a fly buzzes by

birds surround me
chirping behind
squawking above
honking across the water
laughter approaches

raucous conversation
“good morning!”
“Good morning to you”
the footsteps fade
a blast of male perfume persists

I bite an apple
crisp
juicy
sour
my lips pucker

smile

immersed in a beautiful day
mind swimming in memories
a blind man on a bench

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 6 – A Shared Life

“for better for worse, in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part.”

These thoughts are part of many marriage ceremonies, I’ve committed to them myself. Yet, until recently, I’ve never fully grasped their significance.

In the past, the bumps on our life road were never terminal, there was always a way out, there was always tomorrow, things would get better, time was on our side.

That’s not our reality now. Alzheimer’s dementia is no game of the day, not a trivial illness that will go away, we’ve now entered a path that is one way only, and it well end only one way.

Most of us take all measures to avoid the subject of death and dying. In younger years, I was certainly that way. However, later in life, death has knocked on my door several times and I’ve learned to open my heart and appreciate the gift of being with other’s as they end their life journey. Is this tough work? Beyond words. But, so are the rewards.

Being blind has humbled me. Blindness took away many freedoms, many activities and experiences I often took for granted. Our life now, our shared life, is simple. There are no complicated agendas, no long “to do” lists. We get up and enjoy the wonders of a new day. I listen as my wife delights in describing hummingbirds hovering at the feeder, as she greets passersby and talks to children, and reminds me we have to buy more cookies.

Our shared life has become a series of special days. Our special days have become a series of precious moments.

tio stib

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Wondering What I Will Be

I wonder if I’ll ever be
happy with just plain old me
accepting what the mirror can see
surrender to reality

stop playing the re-invention game
lusting after love and fame
stop playing other people’s games
hope the world will speak my name

I wonder who I will be
when I give up on changing me
exhaust all possibilities
get up one day and let it be

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 5 – Groundhog Day

In the 1993 fantasy comedy film, “Groundhog Day,”the main character, a weatherman named Phil Connors, discovers that he has become stuck in a time loop where the day he is living repeats itself over and over. No matter what he does, Connors wakes up to the same day, again and again.

Connors soon realizes that no matter what he does, no matter how insane his actions are or how much he messes up, no one will remember. He will wake up tomorrow and start all over again. However, it also becomes apparent that whenever he does something that improves the lives of others, this good carries forward and when he wakes up the next day, the world is better.

I find myself in my own “Groundhog Day” loop, but mine is no fantasy.

My wife’s deteriorating mental condition has resulted in her mind not being able to remember anything in the recent past. This means that when I screw up, as I often do, and say something that upsets her, she gets angry, but in a short time, if I’m patient and let the storm pass, she soon forgets all about what had happened.

I get to start all over again.

My daily focus is my wife’s happiness. Still, my ego, my expectations, jump up and bite me far too often. I say the wrong things. I don’t pay enough attention to her. I get angry at life. She gets upset and pulls away. Realizing my mistake, I go into sooth and patience mode, and eventually we get back to calm again. I store the experience in my mind and the next day, I do my best to avoid a recurrence.

I’m getting smarter at recognizing the triggers that have set me off previously, taking better care of balancing my own needs to minimize frustration, enjoying the purity of my wife’s simple joy of being.

Will I escape this time loop? Phil, committing to make himself and the lives of those around him better, eventually does so through the power of love.

At this point, love is the only answer that holds out hope for me.

tio stib

winterend

the cave dwellers stirred

doors cracked

light and warmth crept inside

the sun, long unseen

reappeared

cautious toes inched out

pale faces squinted

fists rubbed dazzled eyes

lips curled with wonder

smiled

voices murmured

chorused

hallelujah!

a zombies’ reunion

winterend

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 4 – Simplicity

My wife and I have a common need.

Simplicity.

Her dementia makes chaos confusing. My blindness makes disarray frustrating. Fortunately, our small apartment limits the possibilities for disorder.

However, Order for my wife’s mind is putting all the silverware in one drawer. For me, order is putting the forks with the forks, spoons with spoons, etc.. I’ve accepted the daily task of doing this sorting by touch, relieved that I’m not searching for cutlery in the bathroom.

We have our own desks, sitting across the room from each other. I sit and write on my computer as she sits and works on her many coloring books. I make no attempt to organize any of her materials, although I sometimes try to help find her reading glasses. It amazes me how one moment five pairs of reading glasses have vanished and an hour later all are strewn across her desk. The saving grace in such situations is the knowledge that nothing can get too lost in our small home space. I say that knowing how distraught I’ve been frantically searching for a spatula only to finally find it in the refrigerator.

Simplicity also governs our activity schedule. We typically get up and go walking around town, varying our route depending on weather and mood. We return to eat breakfast and then head to our work zones. At some point, we’ll stop and exercise, break for lunch, and often take another walk before sunset. Interspersed between these daily events are a occasional visits by friends, trips to the library, shopping, or eating out.

compared to life before blindness, when a sudden impulse would propel us into a car and off to the mountains or ocean or some other getaway destination, life now is quite uneventful. Does this bother me?

Yes. One of my most difficult challenges is not being able to just take off when the mood strikes me. I’ve found no consoling rationale that comforts me here but eating my heart out for what can no longer be won’t do us any good. It is what it is.

I’ve always liked order and simplicity, but I’ve also enjoyed chaos and complexity. In the past, I loved the process of working through chaos to restore order, through creative effort and physical work. Sure, I can still do some of that with my writing projects but I’ve yet to find this as rewarding, as satisfying, as taking a plot of empty land and turning it into a vibrant garden.

In truth, as much as my wife and I need simplicity in order to have a functional life that minimizes frustration, there is one nagging trade off. Simplicity, however helpful it may be, can also be extremely boring.

Perhaps this is why the sudden desire to walk downtown for an ice cream cone has become a life changing event.

tio stib

 

Selling Out to Google Maps

I may be blind but I can still feel the sun’s warmth on my face and if it’s noon, I know I’m pointed south. On a recent family trip, I felt the sun’s noon warmth and knew we were driving south. but, Napa was north. We were headed in the wrong direction. What had happened?

The driver had entered the desired destination into Google Maps on his smart phone. However, deep into conversation with his front seat companion, he’d missed a turn. We were now not only headed in the wrong direction, we were about to cross a toll bridge.

Yes, the female Google Maps voice did eventually sort things out. We turned around, paid the toll to recross the bridge, and got headed north. but how had the driver made such an obvious mistake in direction? I pondered this question as we drove on in search of amiable wineries and fine wines. I noted several other google Map miscues, the computer guide was far from perfect. We were doing our third circle of the same block before the driver realized he’d missed another turn.

What happens when we sell our souls to Google Maps?

In this case, the driver had surrendered all connection with the reality outside his vehicle. He had no idea which way was south and that south was the wrong direction. He had no vision of the larger world he was operating in, trusting that a voice from a computer would take care of his directional needs.

True, google Maps did eventually get him to the wineries he was seeking. but at what cost? What did he miss along the way? what sights, what experiences, what happenings were left unnoticed because he was content to live within the isolated bubble of his automobile reality?

I wonder what kind of world it will be when the majority of people around me are content to live in such bubbles. It seems obvious that such lives would be self-centered, caring little for most of what lies outside their isolated existence, things like, weather, sunsets, Nature in all its wonders.

Ouch! Not my kind of world. Not my kind of life. I’ve been blessed with a lifetime of adventures with road maps, topographical maps, nautical charts, maps on napkins, all kinds of real, touchable maps. How boring life would have been without all those maps guiding me to lost places, crazy characters, and unexplored  frontiers.

“No, sonny, Denio Hot Springs ain’t on the map. Buy me a beer and I’ll show you where it is.”

“Damn, I’m thirsty! Do you think the name ‘Sometimes Creek’ means it’s not here in the summertime?”

“I think that vacant gas station we just passed was the town of Desolation. So much for our cold beer break.”

“The vulture sitting on the sign seems to say that things are not so great in Paradise, population 2.”

“Yeah, that big X on Wally’s map meant big rapids. Next time, tell us before we get sucked into a monster like that.”

“I know we’re out of gas, but that spot you thought was a town is a piece of chocolate.”

I dare you to break your bubble, turn off your smart phone, grab a real map, and chase your own adventures.

You might even get lost.

Tio Stib

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