My Dementia Diary 84 – If You’re Not in the Obits, Eat Breakfast

Getting old? I don’t think about it. Never have. My life has been a constant series of opportunities, relationships, and “projects,” goals with timetables that fully engaged all of me until they were done.

Then there were new opportunities, new relationships, and new “projects.” Sure, there have been slow times, even some depressing ones, a good share of those relationships and “projects” didn’t turn out as I’d hoped. But I survived, did my best to learn from mistakes, and moved on.

And never thought about getting old.

It’s not that I had any delusion about living forever, I’ve always accepted that my life would end. That’s obvious, why make a big deal about it. Death is going to happen, I’ve watched it happen to people close to me, I’ve already been a widow once. Yes, being blind has perhaps helped me avoid much thought about aging as there’s no sign of it on my face in the mirror in the morning.

There’s no face.

But a recent documentary, “If You’re Not in the Obits, Eat Breakfast,” has caused me to pause and reconsider this aging thing. In this film, Carl Reiner, the ageless comedian, interviews a bunch of folks in their nineties and beyond, all of whom are living active, purposeful and happy lives.

90 years old. 

Jeez! That’s old, really old.

Both my dad and my grandfather lived to be 82. I remember my dad at his last birthday party, relatively healthy, enjoying an evening with friends. I didn’t have the slightest clue he’d be dead in three weeks. A little heart attack, some complications, and gone. Just like that.

Looking back, I wonder if he just decided it was time to go, there was nothing left he wanted to do. I’ll never know but now I’m thinking about where I’ll be when I hit the big 82. Don’t worry, it’s a few miles down the road so I fully expect this blogging thing to carry on. 

If I reach that milestone, wIll I decide it’s time to go or will I, like carl Reiner and his youthful buddies, keep seeking out new opportunities to live a full and happy life?

I like to think I’ll keep on going, but first I need to make the most out of my caregiving adventure with my wife and her dementia. That’s going to be a long haul.

Here’s hoping there will be light at the end of that tunnel and I’ll still be around to eat breakfast.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: Life in Reverse, My Dementia Diary

 

 

My Dementia Diary 83 – Hold On

hold on

hold on while her hand
is still soft
still warm
still pulsing with
the memories of golden times

hold on

hold on to the fragments
the scant threads of hope
that somehow the disease
the unseen darkness tearing her away
will disappear

hold on

to the magic of her smile
to the joy of her laughter
to her fingers caressing my face
to the thrill of her scent in my soul

hold on
to the words she whispers in my ear

hola amor

hold her close on that seaside bench
as waves lap gently at our feet
and there is only now and us and love

forever

hear the call
a lonely train
bound for another world

hold on

it will not stop here today

tio stib

You might also enjoy: Morning Bliss, My Dementia Diary

My Dementia Diary 82 – Islands of Loneliness

In the 2000 film “Cast Away,” Tom Hanks stars as the survivor of a plane crash who finds himself alone on a deserted island. in the Pacific Ocean. After weeks of working to physically survive, he then faces the deeper  challenges of human existence, loneliness, hope, and faith.

To deal with his isolation, he begins a relationship with a volleyball, which he names Wilson and thereafter discusses everything going on in his mind with this unspeaking acquaintance. His hope is bolstered by a picture of the girlfriend he dreams of marrying. His faith in his ability to adapt and solve life’s problems wanes in time and, giving up, he tries to kill himself. Fate steps in, he fails, then recommits to finding a way off the island.

Yes, he escapes, but the ending isn’t what you’d call “Hollywood Happy.”

How do my wife and I compare to Hanks and his cast away life?

Certainly, we are cast aways too, a couple living with a disease that nobody around us wants to talk about.

Dementia. It’s difficult, it’s depressing, it’s death.

Even though we’re surrounded by a sea of other souls, none of them want to stop chasing their own dreams to visit our little island. True, I was one of them once.

So, like Hanks, we, mostly me, adapt. For now, I’m better off than Tom, who only had a volleyball to talk to. My wife can still smile, hug, and babble back at me. Also, the diet on our island, with occasional burritos and ice cream bars, is much better than Hanks menu of crunchy roasted crabs. 

However, like millions of other caregivers and their dementia stricken loved ones, we won’t be escaping our island of loneliness to return to the wonders of a world left behind.

No “Hollywood Happy” endings here. But I’m keeping the faith that there will be moments of beauty, grace, and love.

That’s the best I can do.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: Hope, My Dementia Diary

 

My Dementia Diary 81 – Today’s Gratitude List

It’s too easy to forget all we have to be grateful for so I’m stopping to do so today-

Today’s Gratitude List-

My wife’s constant joy for life, and, in spite of her diminishing mental capacity, her ever present love radiating out to everyone she meets.

Our excellent physical health, strong and vital bodies that take us out into the world on foot each day.

Family and friends who reach out regularly to share their love and care for us.

A small town life that is safe, convenient, and filled with beauty.

A home that fits us in every way.

Money in the bank, no debts, and enough income each month to meet expenses.

Health insurance, including a caring and intelligent doctor who cares for both of us.

Advanced technology that lets us connect with friends and family and allows me to write and publish for a worldwide audience.

Fresh tomatoes for BLTs.

The smell of roses by the door.

My wife’s delighted descriptions of hummingbirds buzzing about the feeder.

A treasure chest of wonderful memories to light up dark days.

Lastly, dementia is taking my wife’s mind slowly, enabling us to make the most of the life we still have.

Yes, I could go on and on, but I’ve written enough, thought enough, to be reminded that despite our life challenges, we’ve got a lot of good going for us.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: High on Gratitude, My Dementia Diary

My Dementia Diary 80 – Teeter Tottering

Have you ever been on a teeter totter, that long board balanced in the middle where kids sit at opposite ends and bounce each other up and down? If the two kids’ weights are about equal they can take turns levering the other into the air. However, if one kid is much heavier, the lighter one can find himself stuck up in the sky.

That’s me right now, stuck up in the air, in teeter totter purgatory, because my wife’s needs are overwhelming my own and I can’t get my feet back on the ground.

When I started this solo caregiving gig with my dementia afflicted wife, she was still quite functional. She could take care of her personal hygiene, lose herself for hours in painting projects, and sleep through the night. Then, painting became too complicated and we switched to coloring books. Now even coloring simple designs is more than her mind can handle and she constantly turns to me for attention.

Her nighttime neediness has also increased. Once a sound sleeper, she now gets up repeatedly and prods me awake to help her find and use the bathroom, to change clothes, to calm and comfort her after nightmares. This new pattern deprives me of needed rest, leaving me tired and less able to meet the increasing demands for her daytime entertainment.

The balance of my wife’s needs and my own is way out of whack. I need to get some heavy help for my side of the teeter totter. Once more, it’s time to adapt.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: Yours to Count On, My Dementia Diary

My Dementia Diary 79 – Our Anniversary

Today is our wedding anniversary. Although my wife’s mind no longer recalls that special day, I remember the vows we made to each other-

to have and to hold
from this day forward
for better for worse
for richer for poorer
in sickness and in health
until death do us part

I don’t think anyone can really anticipate “for better for worse, in sickness and in health.” You just do your best and gut it out when the stuff hits the fan. That said, I don’t think you can really appreciate the intimate immensity of committed love until you have suffered through such trials with a partner.

What I most remember about our wedding day was thinking that my wife was the most beautiful woman in the world and that I’d never seen her so happy.

I’m now blind and she has dementia, but my wife is still the most beautiful, radiantly joyful woman I’ve known. She has pushed me to be a better man and given me more blessings than I’d ever imagined.

Happy anniversary to us!

tio stib

You might also enjoy: A Mirrored Smile, Life Journey Poems & Prose

My Dementia Diary

marriage, caregiving, dementia, Alzheimer’s, commitment, partnership

My Dementia Diary 78 – I Die Once More

lost in the bliss of slumber
I’m prodded awake
hear her pleading

help me

she stands beside the bed
naked
shivering

help me

it’s 4 a.m.

she has shed her pajamas
and there are no words
no rational arguments
nothing will quell her demented need
to get dressed and go for a walk

I will myself up
take her arm gently
lead her to the closet,, a chair
and begin, as we’ve done so many times
to dress her
underwear, socks, shirt
guide her legs into pants
her arms into a jacket
I place shoes by her feet
and leave to use the bathroom
relieving myself,
the same question haunts me
how did I offend the gods
what did I do
to create this nightmare
I hear a whimper
she’s standing in the doorway
clothes discarded
naked in the night

my soul erupts

SCREAMS!

she bursts into tears

in anguished remorse
I die once more

tio stib

You might also enjoy: This Child Who Once Was Woman, My Dementia Diary

Category” My Dementia Diary

dementia, Alzheimer’s, marriage, partnership, remorse, commitment

My Dementia Diary 77 – The New “Normal”

We don’t do sudden impulse road trips anymore, those wild moments when we would throw stuff together, hop in the car, and head out for parts unknown. Instead, a rash trip for us is a walk down to the drug store for an ice cream cone.

We don’t do drop-in gatherings with friends now, those spontaneous get togethers where wine and finger food would just show up and the buzz of excited conversation filled a shaded patio. We don’t get those invitations anymore. Do you think the fact that most of what comes out of my wife’s mouth is babble has something to do with this?

There are no longer any discussions about what we’ll do today, or this week for that matter. Such rational exercises are not possible with her dementia. All the planning is on me and I keep things as simple as possible.. While predictability used to annoy me, I now find order and stability comforting.

I’m having difficulty letting go of the delusion that a blind guy and his wife with dementia are a “normal” couple. Fortunately, life keeps slapping me in the face, reminding me that we’re not.

The truth is, we’re both disabled, we’re older than most of the people around us and have a radically different lifestyle. . We don’t drive. We don’t go on vacations, don’t participate in any community organizations, and our kids are grown and gone.

In truth, to most everyone else, including family members who live nearby, we’re flat out boring and awkward to deal with. So they don’t.

I’ve been pretending, hoping, this was not true, but, it’s time I face the facts.

The new “normal” is that we’re not.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: Shape Shifting, My Dementia Diary

 

My Dementia Diary 76 – FaceTime Karaoke

We keep downshifting through activities as my wife’s mental ability to entertain herself continues to diminish. Once, she enjoyed painting vivid abstracts and would do this for days. When that became too complicated she moved to coloring books. As her coloring projects no longer lasts more than a few minutes, it was time for something new.

Enter “FaceTime Karaoke.”

No, this is not a term you will find on Wikipedia because I made it up. It involves a video call with one of our kids with the addition of another device playing Mexican pop tunes. My wife immediately bursts out singing, and this impromptu concert goes on and on. It’s amazing how she seems to remember every song.

Music therapy is nothing new for dementia patients, rather, it’s recommended. For some reason, yet to be explained, Alzheimer’s destroys many parts of the brain but skips the part that stores and remembers music. Some reason this is because music is a complex array of sounds and emotions stored in a unique place. All I know is that my wife can’t think rationally or remember what she had for breakfast but when she hears those songs she learned fifty years ago, music erupts joyfully from her mouth.

Score one for technology, which allows us to connect intimately with family in far away places, sharing the fun and memories of songs they grew up with.

Yes, I’m careful to add nothing more than a little background percussion as it has been noted that my voice would embarrass a drunken frog.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: Almost Heaven, My Dementia Diary

 

My Dementia Diary 75 – Sleepless in Benicia

We’ve entered a new phase in our caregiving adventure, the part where my healthy, energetic demented wife, who buzzes around tirelessly during the day, now sleeps a few hours in the evening, then buzzes around, and up and down, all night too.

The problem is that she used to sleep soundly all night, and this quiet time was when I rested after hours of caregiving. Now, when I’ve finally drifted off to dreamland, I’m suddenly prodded awake and hear a voice in my ear demanding repeatedly,

“Help me!”

And she really does need help. She’s cold, or afraid, or can’t remember where the bathroom is, and once there, what to do next. So I get up, but not with a smile and cheerful “sure thing.” More like the growl of an angry bear awakened prematurely from hibernation.

Unfortunately, my 2 a.m. growling sends my wife into an emotional tailspin requiring at least an hour of patient calm talk and hugs to successfully guide her through the required bathroom procedure and back to bed again. realizing that this process isn’t working for either of us, I’ve decided to adopt a strategy used in my wilder years when crewing on long distance sailboat races.

These journeys lasted for days and so the crew broke up responsibilities into shifts, called watches, when members were either on or off duty. For example, “A” Watch might be on duty from midnight until four a.m., then “B” Watch came on from four until eight A.m.. Yes, it was tough to force myself awake and out of my warm sleeping bag cocoon when I heard the call, “B Watch on deck!” but I was part of a team and I had a responsibility to fulfill. Complaining wasn’t going to change that.

I’m on another long distance race, caregiving for a wife with dementia. There are two shifts, “D” Watch for day, and “D” Watch for dark. Yes, I know the two shifts have the same name, but as this boat only has a caregiving crew of one, I’ve decided not to confuse myself. When I lie down to sleep at night, I repeat “D Watch on deck!” as a reminder not to growl at my wife when she will certainly wake me later.

As our circumstances change, I continue to adapt, as does my wife. Apparently, she decided that prodding awake a hibernating bear was producing undesirable results, and so has adopted a new strategy. She carefully fulls the covers off the bed, leaving me naked and exposed to the cool night air. When I reach reflexively to pull the covers up and don’t find them, I rise up to search. This is when I hear the voice nearby,

”Help me!”

Damn clever, hard to get mad at such cunning, even at 2 a.m.. 

“D Watch on deck!”

tio stib

You might also enjoy: Life Journey Poems & Prose, My Dementia Diary