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

You might also enjoy:My Dementia Diary 49 – Happiness, My Dementia Diary

 

My Dementia Diary 51 – Visiting Mom

She wants to walk over and visit mom. The problem is that my wife’s mind no longer realizes that mom is 2000 miles away in another town, another country.

No need to try and explain this, her mind does not comprehend rational logic. Once more, I’m challenged to adapt to the current reality. 

“Would you like to talk with her?” I ask my wife.

If the answer is affirmative, I dial up mom on the phone and the ensuing conversation seems to resolve the need to connect. However, if we’ve already called mom three times in the last few hours, saving money and mom’s sanity requires another option.

“Sure, let’s walk over to Mom’s,” I’ll suggest.

So we bundle up and go outside and by the time we get to the street, my wife’s mind has moved on and we’re talking about birds, or neighbor kids, or new blossoms on the peach tree.

I find that I enjoy our life together much more when I’m open to it being a continuing adventure of challenges and surprises.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 45 – A Different River, My Dementia Diary

My Garden of Words

there is a porch 
in my mind’s quiet place 
broad, shaded, open 
where I sit and look out 
at my garden of words 

listening 
enjoying 
watching words waving 
in the gentle breeze of memories 
each seed 
an echo 

of planting 
caring 
weeding 
hoping 

waiting 

wondering 

would faith be rewarded 
would something glorious appear 

sometimes
unexpected beauty blossomed 
sometimes 
no matter the effort expended 
new life never sprouted 

yet still I garden with words 
planting, caring, hoping 
sitting on my porch each day 
marveling at the miracle 
of creativity 

tio stib

You might also enjoy: River of Words, Life Journey Poems & Prose

My Dementia Diary 50 – Marathon Man

I’m better suited to marathons than sprints. My most satisfying successes have been the result of disciplined and persistent efforts focused on achieving goals over long periods of time. Yes, I’ll admit that such persistence has sometimes turned into close minded stubbornness that compelled me to continue with failed pursuits which should have been abandoned long before. Such lessons had to be learned.

From early on, I was never much of a sprinter, not one to jump into things for quick rewards. Part of this was certainly how I was brought up, believing success demands hard work and disciplined effort. I learned the value of patience and persistence. I also learned that success, or at least success as I’d defined it in the moment, was sometimes something I had no control over. More lessons.

Which brings me to now and my present life challenge, a blind man caring for his dementia stricken wife.

I seem to have been perfectly trained for this opportunity. My personality, my values, my previous life experiences have prepared me well. Yet, while I take some comfort in this knowledge, there is also the realization that this is a race where there will be no celebration at the finish line. 

This is a marathon which must be run one day at a time, satisfaction gained only upon reflection each night when I ask myself-

Did I love as best I could?

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 35 – A One Act Play, My Dementia Diary

River of Time

once upon 
a nursery rhyme 
I was born
on the river of time

bouncing
splashing
over waves
with fantasies
and blue sky days

then came the sound of fear
as adulthood thundered near
some hopes were dashed 
some survived
some dreams drown
while others died

river of time
river of time
we all come together 
on the river of time

and so my life has floated on
through rapids wild
past silent songs
a new adventure every day
even as my hair turned grey

river of time
river of time
carry me home
oh river of time

tio stib

2016, 2019

You might also enjoy: High on Gratitude, Imagine Water

My Dementia Diary 49 – Happiness!

As my wife whistles joyfully nearby while she works on a coloring project, I wonder why I’m not similarly joyful.

Am I happy with my life? No. Am I unhappy? No. Then what am I?

Unlike my wife’s demented four year old mind, I’m many years past childhood. I can remember those happy days, but then life got complicated and so did happiness.

It seems my feelings about “happiness” have been evolving for years. Childish delight and wonder was run over by a need to accomplish things, win races, climb mountains. There was an ecstatic high when such goals were achieved. This was happiness. Of course, I often failed. Then came a life choice, is “happiness” about winning or simply doing my best? Sometimes “yes,,” sometimes “no,” depending on my mood and maturity in the moment.

Enter the paradox of people. My biggest joys have come in celebration with others. But my darkest times have also been caused by people. Another “happiness” question, do I need to get everything I want or is compromise enough? Compromise has become easier over the years. Age has mellowed my need to climb mountains.

Then I lost my sight. I realized that much of what had made me happy were things that I could see. That world disappeared and I became very depressed. It took some months, but I adapted to my much constrained life and found some satisfaction in being able to operate independently. However, I was a long, long way from “happiness” at that point.

Blindness seems to have prepared me for the next challenge, dealing with my wife’s dementia. My much smaller world fits well with her smaller life needs. Happiness for her is a walk to the water, babbling about all she sees and hears, knowing that I’m listening. Making breakfast together is a delight for her. Visiting with friends is the highpoint of her day. I’m able to make such things happen.

I take satisfaction from such service.

Am I happy? No. Unhappy? No. But, at this point in life, I am content.

Most of the time.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 10 – Where’s the Spatula?, My Dementia Diary

My Dementia Diary 48 – Both Sides, Now

It has been raining in our town, a string of wet, dark, gloomy days that make it easy to stay inside, sit in the easy chair beside my wife as she colors happily, relax, and listen to life happening  around me.

Lost in this oblivion, I heard my mind say, “pay attention-

a familiar song was playing on the radio. It was Joni Mitchell singing “Both Sides, Now.”

Both Sides, Now

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way
But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow

It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud,
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way
But now old friends they’re acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day.

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

Joni Mitchell, 1968

These words pulled me into a cosmic pinball game, emotions flashing, as my heart bounced up, down, and around through forgotten memories. Yes, I’d heard this song before, but not the way, years later,  I heard it now. 

I was left with two thoughts-

Joni Mitchell is a heckuva songwriter and musician.

I really don’t know love or life at all.

Both Sides, Now

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 45 A Different River, My Dementia Diary