My dementia Diary 14 – Pink Nails

 

Vietnamese. Spanish. english. Put a blind guy in the middle of this language chaos and what do you get?

Pink nails, or so I’m told.

I am realizing that my wife is less and less able to care for her personal hygiene, from remembering to take showers to brushing her teeth. She has been meticulous about such things in the past, so I’m  always surprised to discover such care is not happening. the remedy is usually a nudging, a gentle reminder, and she will spring into action, smiling. Yes, I am blessed most things are still easy.

But her nails are a different matter.

Up until now, she has done her own finger and toe nail care, cutting, filing, and painting them, an activity she has much enjoyed. However, she recently held out a hand to me and asked me to touch it. Doing so, I felt her nails and realized they were quite long, much longer than she usually kept them. It had probably been weeks since they’d been trimmed. Obviously, she wasn’t doing this herself anymore.

Off we went to the local nail salon. We walk by it often and greet the workers who sit outside lunching, all friendly and all Vietnamese. Upon entering, I explained that my wife needed a manicure and pedicure and pink was the preferred color for her nail polish. There was a response in strange words which I took as affirmative. then, I sat nearby as two young women babbled to my wife in Vietnamese and she babbled back in Spanish. I was quite content to keep my English out of the conversation, trusting my wife’s needs would be met as women seem to be able to understand each other no matter the language differences.

A short time later, she waved her hands gleefully in front of me and I, sensing they must now look beautiful, told her so, feeling good that, once more, we’ve successfully adapted to life’s continuing changes.

Yes, her nails are now likely pink, but I don’t really care, she’s happy. No, I was not tempted to have my own nails done. Blindness gives me a good excuse to avoid that. Besides, I don’t look good in pink, or so I’m told.

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 13 – This Child Who Once Was Woman

she laughs at dancing butterflies
smiles at babies passing by
clings to me when brought to cry
this child who once was woman

her zest is sparkling innocence
a love of life without a fence
a mind released from circumstance
this child who once was woman

a singing bird
a playful word
the mirth of anything absurd
she hugs
she screams
she loves 
she beams
this child who once was woman

my heart beats glad, she is such joy
reminds me when I was a boy
of times preceding plots and ploys
this child who once was woman

the change, I was slow to see
as fog crept over memories
and here is all that she can be
this child who once was woman

now, I hold her close and dear
do my best to soften fears
not to shed a single tear
make the most while she is here
my wife who once was woman

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 12 – My Grandfather’s Clock

There is a clock sitting on the shelf near our bed. It belonged to my mom’s dad and was passed on to me, making it my grandfather’s clock. Over a hundred years old, this timepiece is relatively small, meant to be set on a fireplace mantle, but it has a surprisingly vibrant chime. There are no batteries within, its mechanism driven by a coiled brass spring, which I wind weekly with a dozen turns of a key. For this effort, I am rewarded with a melodious chime counting out each and every hour.

I take comfort from these chimes, from the tick-tock of the ever swinging pendulum, an aroused awareness that time is now. I wonder if my grandfather, my mother, other family members, felt a similar connection.

I’ve lived more than 600,000 hours so far, a surprising number when I attempt to remember the breadth of my life experience. what happened to all those hours? The more important question, what will I do with the hours I have left?

Each tick of that clock is a moment I will never have again.

How many more chimes are left in my life?

How blessed I am to have had so many hours of being.

As my wife sleeps peacefully beside me, I again find comfort in the tick-tock of time, past, present, and future, and I drift away in hopes of hearing the morning chimes once more.

There’s an old folk song that beautifully expresses my sentiments, perfectly named, “My Grandfather’s Clock.” Here’s a link to a Johnny cash rendition

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 11 – Morning Bliss

After several weeks of blustery cool and wet weather, today dawned warm with azure skies. We started out on our daily walk with one less layer of clothes. I’d even gone so far as abandoning my jeans for shorts. The Spring air, the melodies of newly arrived songbirds, my wife’s constant flow of delighted descriptions of happenings around us, was blissful.

I was suddenly struck with how fortunate we are to have the life we live, a peaceful and safe town closely connected to Nature, nearby friends and convenient walking access to all our daily needs, a comfortable and affordable home.

Given the challenges dementia and blindness present us, it’s hard to imagine how we could have a better living situation.

On top of these blessings, is the gift of still being able to share the simple joys of living in such a perfect place with my wife. True, we no longer have any sort of deep intellectual conversations, yet we can enjoy the little things. Ice cream cones and hot dogs. Tea and cookies. Hummingbirds at the feeder. the honks of Canada geese flying overhead. The smell of the beach at low tide. The laughs of children at the playground. “Hllos” and “How are yous” with neighbors and passersby.

My wife has become my eyes. through her childlike curiosity and delight, I am able to enjoy the world around us.

For this, I am deeply grateful.

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 10 – Where’s the Spatula?

Blindness has changed how I operate in the kitchen. Spontaneity has been replaced with disciplined order. When preparing a meal, I first seek and lay out all I will need on the counter. This avoids frantic searches at critical moments, like where the heck is the pasta as the water is boiling over.

My wife’s dementia has added a wrinkle to this process. In her desire to help out, she follows behind and cleans up after me. I’ll be cooking hot cereal on the stove, turn to pour it into bowls I’d previously placed on the counter, only to find the counter empty. She has put everything I’d laid out away.

I certainly can’t fault her intentions. She wants to feel like she’s helping out, an important part of our life. The first time this happened, I was puzzled, wondering if I was losing it. Then, I was frustrated when I realized what she’d done. Finally, I started laughing, hit by the comical nature of what was going on.

There is another twist that is happening more and more. She has begun putting things in what I first thought are strange places.

Based on the afore mentioned cooking process, I was making pancakes. As you likely know, this process involves pouring the batter into a frying pan and then, at the appropriate moment, flipping the pancake over to cook the other side. To do this, you need a flipper, commonly called a spatula. the moment came when I needed to flip the pancake and I turned to grab the spatula. My hand searched the empty countertop.

It wasn’t there.

“Where’s the spatula?”

I often forget that asking a person with short term memory loss where something is will not result in a helpful answer. this time was no exception.

I opened the one drawer in our kitchen that serves as home for silverware and utensils and frantically rummaged around to find the spatula.

It wasn’t there.

At this point, my nose told me that there had been a death in the frying pan, my dreamed of pancake was now charcoal. Resigned to temporary defeat, I tossed the crispy breakfast failure into the garbage and resumed the hunt for the spatula.

I eventually found it, and its location was logical in a functional way. My wife’s mind had chosen to put the spatula down with the frying pans instead of in the utensil drawer. That makes some sense, although in the immediate moment, I was not so broad minded. Since that episode, I’ve come to expect such things. Bowls no longer end up on the shelf with other dishware, but in the cupboard beside the cereal. Dish clothes end up hanging on the dining room chairs. No, I have yet to come up with any logic here.

Fortunately, our studio apartment is quite compact and when I’m unable to find something, I’m comforted by the knowledge that it’s somewhere close. The other blessing is that as my hands search for missing things, they often discover other misplaced items. Finding stuff has become a treasure hunt.

I’ve also learned to put the spatula on the stove when it’s going to be needed, knowing my kitchen helper will be less tempted to hide it from me.

The adventure continues!

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 9 – Adventure Buddies

She never says, “No.”

My wife has been the perfect adventure buddy. No matter what I suggest, no matter where we go, she never says, “No.” Instead, she embraces the moment, delights in new experiences, finds joy in whatever we’re doing.

Let’s go camp on top of Mt. diablo and watch the sunset.

Let’s go.

How about we take the train to Klamath falls and go fly fishing/

Let’s go.

I need a break, do you feel like a sandwich at the deli?

Let’s go.

Cars, planes, trains, new people, new places, new adventures.

Let’s go!

I often smile as those memories drift thru my mind. Blindness and dementia now limit our travel radius, but she still never says, “no.”

She always answers, “let’s go!”

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 8 – Sometimes She Knows

She cried last night. She was afraid. Something was unsettled in her mind, but she could not explain it. I hugged her close and kept whispering that I loved her. Slowly, my wife began to relax and eventually fell asleep.

I lay awake and thought about what had just happened. My wife and I have never talked about her dementia, her failing mind. Months ago, when I realized what was happening, I’d wanted to have that conversation, but, by then, it was too late. Her brain could not grasp dementia rationally. Instead, she became angry, upset because she thought I was criticizing her. I’ve not mentioned the subject since. Yet part of her knows that something is wrong.

Sometimes, in the middle of another conversation, she will stop and ask me, “what’s happening? What’s the matter?”

And I hug her even tighter.

tio stib

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