My Dementia Diary 59 – Growing Down

 

“Oh, what a cute baby!”

If you, like me, have been blessed with baby experiences, you’ve often heard this phrase, or even uttered it yourself.

“Oh, what a cute corpse!”

Bet you haven’t heard that one though.

With too much time to think lately, it occurs to me that life’s two extremes, birth and death, get vastly different types of coverage.

Growing up is much more popular than growing down.

Consider the many different options for how to have a baby, from home births to dropping the newborn into a pool of water, then the  countless ways to approach and deal with the phases of child development. Of course, the celebrations of “firsts,” the first word, “dada,” (or was that “dodo?”), the first step, then walking, running, and on to the first day of school and driving a car.

Why do you think there isn’t the same attention and celebration paid to the steps in the death of a demented person?

“Oh, wow, can you believe it, mom just started babbling.”

“Oops, he doesn’t remember our names anymore, let’s have a beer.”

“Ewww, Mom didn’t find the toilet this morning.”

No, folks don’t pay nearly as much attention to growing down as they do to growing up.

Seems staring mortality in the face is scary.

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 58 – Good People

We walk every morning. These excursions are usually noneventful, visiting the fishing pier to hear squawking gulls and honking geese, wandering around the marina with its hundreds of lonely yachts, or meandering through residential neighborhoods smelling a barrage of flowers. Our route depends on my energy level, which, because I’m not a morning person and don’t drink coffee, is never high. Needless to say, we don’t walk fast.

Imagine a slug crossing a road.

Given our relatively sedate walking pace, I was taken by surprise when my wife tripped and fell yesterday. Fortunately, I was holding her hand and this grip allowed me to ease her crash onto the sidewalk. Still, she was stunned and started crying as her knee began aching.

As I knelt to comfort my fallen companion, I heard voices.

“Are you okay?”

“Do you need help?”

It seems that two women, driving by separately in their cars, had seen our accident, stopped their vehicles, and hurried over to help.

Fortunately, when the initial shock wore off, my wife was able to stand, gingerly test her knee, and take a few steps.

“Would you like a ride?” offered one woman.

Feeling we would be okay, I thanked the good samaritans for their kindness and they returned to their lives as we slowly continued our walk

I can’t see them, but I take comfort in knowing we are surrounded by good people.

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 57 – Healthy & Happy

 

I was once obsessed with lists. I would rise long before the sun to be at work by 5:30 a.m.. Fueled by a cup of hot chocolate, I’d dive into my “things to do,” twenty was not a daunting number, before the rest of the office arrived at 7”30. Focused and disciplined, I checked off my cumulative responsibilities one by one.

I admit to a supreme sense of satisfaction on those days when I managed to complete these tasks before the “good mornings!” of fellow workers turned the rest of the day into chaos.

Was I really so wrapped up in being dutifully responsible that I sacrificed having any sort of other life?

Seems so. I do remember moments during that time when I dreamed of sleeping in, fantasized about a day with nothing to do, no budgets to balance, no employees to guide, no monthly reports to issue. 

As the wise man said, “careful what you wish for.”

My career path has veered from architect to caregiver. There are no staff to manage, no urgent tasks to accomplish, no reason at all to get up at 5:30 in the morning.

Except when my wife needs help finding the bathroom

the multiple item “to do” list has disappeared. The day has been reduced to two priorities-

Healthy and happy.

that’s my daily work, keep my wife healthy and happy.

Has a delightfully simple  ring to it, don’t you think?

tio stib

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Fire In The Hole! Reflections From Summer Camp

It had been a memorable July 4th at Camp Colman. the bright sunshiny day had helped campers enjoy swimming, playing horseshoes, and making those ludicrous craft items you find years later in a box and ask aloud, “what the heck?”

The evening meal had been mouth watering grilled salmon courtesy of the camp’s patron, Ken Colman. After the sun had disappeared on the far side of Horsehead Bay, campers and staff assembled on the beach to ooh and awe at a fireworks show set off from the swimming float. 

As silence finally subdued the crowd, everyone disappeared into the night.

But in Cabin 5, the fun had just begun.

When their counselor left them for adult R & R in the lodge, a voice cried out-

“Hurry up Pat, what’d you get?”

Flashlights beamed on a boy sitting crosslegged in the center of the floor, smiling as he ripped open the recently received package.

It was Pat’s birthday and his sister had kindly sent him a present. Inside lay the obligatory homemade cookies and an assortment of candy bars. But the real treats were hidden under layers of toilet paper.

Fireworks!

Wow!

Jeez!

Can you believe it!

“Man, whose got a match?

As none of the middle schoolers yet smoked, or admitted to it, they seemed to be out of luck. But, the older and always prepared sister had covered this eventuality. Under the secret stash of sparklers, missiles, and bombs was a pack of matches.

Cautious not to draw too much attention to their clandestine celebration, they lit the sparklers first, gleefully twirling their twinkling torches around the inside of the cabin before someone mentioned this might be a fire hazard.

the party moved outside. 

“Hey, what are those?”

“Pop bottle rockets.”

“Yeah, what do you do with them?”

A Coke bottle appeared and was shoved, base first, into the ground, it’s nose pointed haphazardly across the center lawn.

A small digression for a note on local geography. Cabin 5 sat on one side of the large expanse of grass called the center lawn. On the far side of this lawn, perched nobly on a small hill, sat the camp lodge, out-of-bounds to campers but a late night respite for leaders and staff, At this point on a dark night, lights glowed inside the lodges windows but nothing stirred on the campus lawn or adjacent hillside. 

For the uninitiated, a pop bottle rocket is a small missile attached to a stick. This explosive was slid into the waiting pop bottle and a match was lit. Wide eyes watched as the fuse glowed  and quickly shrank to nothing and-

The real fun of pop bottle rockets is that they don’t just go “boom!” Rather, they hiss and whistle and screech as they twist madly towards their target.

This particular pop bottle rocket performed perfectly on its three second flight towards the lodge. As the missile exploded into the hillside there was a simultaneous scream and the distinct sound of something or someone crashing into the bushes.

This unexpected result was barely noticed by the frenzied pyrotechnicians.

“What else is there?”

“Jeez, what’s that, it’s huge?”

“Cherry bomb. Man, can it make noise.”

“Put it in the garbage can.”

another match burst into flame, a fuse lit, and the cherry bomb was tossed into a garbage can, lid dutifully replaced.

“kaboom!”

I swear that lid blew 10 feet into the air. The echo from the explosion reverberated up and down Horsehead Bay.

but what was even more surprising, is that before that lid crashed back to earth, a searchlight swept the area and a voice yelled out, “What’s going on!”

Somehow, in the seconds it took for Camp Director Jack to jump up the steps into Cabin 5, every single one of its delinquent residents was fast asleep deep inside his sleeping bag. All except for the unfortunate kid in the back corner scrambling for the safety of his upper bunk. The searchlight illuminating two squirming legs seeking shelter inside his bag disputed his innocence.

There was no happy ending to this story. The next day, all Cabin 5 campers were put on latrine duty, requiring multiple trips to the two outhouses , Nellie and Egypt, for cleaning purposes.

However, it was difficult for us not to smile as we walked back to camp after our odious chores. Somehow, Director jack had missed the birthday present box, and we lit up the remaining fireworks and dropped them down the outhouse toilets.

“Fire in the hole!”

Respectfully submitted,

Camper 4601

(Camper name has been omitted in fearful deference to the ghost of departed Director Jack)

Footnote: This historian readily admits that fifty years of time and a failing memory may have resulted in some distortion of facts in recounting these events. However, I’m certain that the above mentioned garbage can lid flew at least ten feet up into the air. As for other Camp Coman happenings, the camper sleeping bag stuffed with jellyfish, the various articles of camper clothing run up the flagpole, the painful proddings  by the Order of the Fork, the life altering impact of snipe bites, and the imaginative uses of peanut butter and marshmallow cream on the initiation outing to Dead Man’s Island, I shall entrust these details to more sound minded scholars. I will admit though, that I was the last one on the campfire stage to figure out the metaphysical mantra of the turbaned visiting Siam Prince Shambu -“ohwhatanassSiam.”

Additional footnote: For the curious, the unheard scream when the pop bottle rocket exploded into the hill below the lodge belonged to Jr. counselor Dan downey. Since nicknamed “ducker,” it is reported that Dan still suffers from PFSD, post fireworks stress syndrome. It was noted in the newsletter from his 50th high school reunion, that when a champagne cork popped off, “Ducker” dove under the refreshment table, causing some embarrassment and a lot of spilled drinks.

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My Dementia Diary 56 – Dealing with Resentment

“Tis the season of returning Spring vacationees, folks coming back from school breaks and family outings, eager to share the stories of their adventures. I force myself to smile and say, “how nice.” But it’s easy to be resentful.

Sure, cross country skiing through pristine trails in the mountains, drinking margaritas at sunset on a Hawaiian beach, or visiting the the wonderful museums in Washington, D.C., sounds like fun. 

If you’re not blind and caring for a wife with dementia.

Sour grapes? Totally, which is why I work hard not to fall into the resentment trap.

After all, how many people get up in the morning with money in the bank, no debt, and food in the refrigerator? How many people go for a leisurely walk each morning in a comfortable climate through a safe and friendly small town, past sweet smelling flowers and singing birds, and listen to the gentle lap of waves on a beach?

Our adventures may not be as grand and exciting as the returning vacationees, but  ours are no less delightful.

I’m better off being grateful for what we have, than resenting what we don’t.

tio stib

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Symphony vs. Stanza

beginning with merely four notes
Beethoven created an immortal symphony
a musical poem with voices numbering
over two dozen instruments

surrounded by the sound of genius
I bounce between inspired and humbled
trying to write a decent stanza

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 55 – Socially Starving

I’m with my wife 24/7, all day, every day, all the time. I never paid any attention to our relationship reality when her mind was healthy and I could see. Being together was a constant treat, always new adventures to share, things to do together. 

And, we could talk, share ideas, questions, and breathe together in awe at a stunning sunset.

As much as we enjoyed each other, we were always organizing get-togethers with family and friends. We could drive, so making connections was easy. We were both functional, making shared meals with others  a simple thing to do at our place.

For a short time, our life was a wonderful balance of precious times together and special moments with others.

Such times are past. Our range of life options has collapsed. My wife’s dementia and my blindness have shrunk our social activities significantly. We no longer drive, so getting out to visit folks beyond our walking radius doesn’t happens unless someone comes for us. This occurs less and less, as I suppose, for most, that socializing with a demented woman and a blind guy is, at best, awkward.

Fortunately, my wife enjoys video calls with our kids, which they are considerate enough to make often. But, as any sort of intellectual, rational conversation is no longer possible with my wife, I find myself craving social contact.

Even though we rarely meet anyone at our local coffeehouse, we visit regularly just so I can hear the drone of other human voices, be near conversations, get vicarious pleasure from being in the middle of people living regular lives.

Slowly, I’m socially starving.

tio stib

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