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

You might also enjoy My Dementia  Diary 9 – Adventure Buddies

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

You might also enjoy My Dementia Diary 8 – Sometimes She Knows, The Joy of Adventure Buddies

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

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 7 – The Marvelous Mind

My Dementia Diary 7 – The Marvelous Mind

It is estimated that the human mind processes from 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts each day, 35-50 thoughts each minute. All this happens within a mass of about 3 pounds that has over 100 billion neurons fed by 400 miles of blood vessels. No wonder the human brain demands more energy, about 20 percent, than any other body organ.

As marvelous as our brain is, we often take it for granted.

Until it stops working.

Until some neurons stop firing, and a person can’t count backwards from ten anymore.

Until something short circuits, and the brain doesn’t remember who was just on the phone.

Until someone starts stuttering, unable to find the right words they want to say.

Until reality becomes a series of fragmented stories.

Then, we stop taking the marvelous mind for granted. Then we wonder how after spending millions of dollars and countless hours researching dementia, scientists still do not have a single drug that can cure or even help with this condition.

Then we scream in frustration as we watch the person we love fall farther and farther away from us.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 6 – A Shared Life

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

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 5-“Groundhog Day”

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

My Dementia Diary 4 – Simplicity

My wife and I have a common need.


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