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

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

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

Taxi School-Chapter 2

Introduction

Al McGinty, “Gint” as he is known to friend and foe, does not like change. He’s driven the same cab for thirty years, eats at the same cafe every morning, can’t say a nice word about politicians or lawyers, and worships New York City. He has a unique lifestyle, one true friend, Wally, and reads the New York Times each evening with a glass of brandy and a Cuban cigar. His is the perfect world.

But that’s about to change.

Gint is the main character in my novel, “Taxi School,” and you can follow Gint’s story as his life explodes and he is forced into one of Nature’s three ultimate choices-

Adapt, migrate, or go extinct.

I’ll be publishing a new chapter each week, hope you follow along. comments, on any line, are always appreciated.

tio stib

CHAPTER 2

“Jesus, Johnny, you got nothing better to do but read “Playboy,” blurted Gint as he burst into the office of Carlutti’s Car repair, “I can see you have a demanding schedule, but I need my cab, preferably today.”

ir.

Johnny, a good looking guy with a tanned face and a full head of slightly grayed black hair, was not the least bit moved by his surprise visitor. He remained seated in his swivel chair, boots up on the desk. and raised his magazine for Gint to view.

the title read, “World Traveler.”

“Lulu wants to get out of town,” said Johnny, “and what Lulu wants, Lulu gets.”

“As well she should,” replied Gint, remembering that  Lulu had been the hottest chick in the old neighborhood. She still turned heads. Lulu and Johnny had been lifelong sweethearts.

“As for my demanding schedule, hell, Gint, your Checker cab is about the only automobile I can work on anymore. These days, car repair is all about computers, and I’m not going there. J3 loves that crap and he can have it.”

J3  was John Carlutti  the third, the youngest of the male Carlutti line to work at the repair shop, and the kid Johnny yelled at as he opened the door to the shop, over the noise of air wrenches and occasional curses, “J3, move your sorry ass and pull Mr. McGinty’s cab out front!”

Gint saw a kid with a mop of black hair and grease on his face look up from under a car hood, smile, then dash outside. then Gint saw something familiar.

“Hey, Johnny, isn’t that Joey’s cab?”

Yep, he left it here last week. Asked me to sell it.”

“What?” Gint cried out, turning to Johnny in disbelief, “he can’t do that!”

“Well, he sure as hell did,” said Johnny, “came by, said he was hanging it up, asked me to send the sale money to an address in California.”

Stunned, Gint sat in a chair beside Johnny, speaking softly, “we’ve been in the business together for thirty years, bought our cabs together. We’re partners, a team, the last two Checker cabs in New York City.”

“Not any more, Gint, now you’re a team of one.”

The office street door opened, and J3 stuck his head in, “here you go Mr. McGinty, thanks for using Carlutti’s Car Repair.”

Gint mindlessly shook the kid’s hand and walked out.

On the sidewalk, gint whistled once and Wally came bounding down the street. Gint opened the driver’s door and the two climbed in to the last Checker cab in New York City.

-to be continued-

You might also enjoy: Taxi School – Chapter 1

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”

Taxi School- Chapter One

introduction

Al McGinty, “Gint” as he is known to friend and foe, does not like change. He’s driven the same cab for thirty years, eats at the same cafe every morning, can’t say a nice word about politicians or lawyers, and worships New York City. He has a unique lifestyle, one true friend, Wally, and reads the New York Times each evening with a glass of brandy and a Cuban cigar. His is the perfect world.

But that’s about to change.

Gint is the main character in my novel, “Taxi School,” and you can follow Gint’s story as his life explodes and he is forced into one of Nature’s three ultimate choices-

Adapt, migrate, or go extinct.

I’ll be publishing a new chapter each week, hope you follow along. comments, on any line, are always appreciated.

tio stib

chapter one

It was a dark Bronx morning, still more winter than spring, patches of mist swirling about glowing streetlights. The night’s rain glistened atop the line of vacant cars. With the exception of two figures ambling down the sidewalk, nothing moved. The four legged one lifted his leg on the chrome spoke wheel of a black SUV.  The two legged guy unzipped and pissed on the passenger door.

“Damn yuppies!” he cursed, zipping up.

The two strolled towards the corner and a flashing pink neon sign. The M & M Cafe beckoned.

Slamming the door behind him, Al McGinty announced himself. Gint, as he was known to friend and foe, removed his worn driving cap, smoothed his thinning hair, and hung cap and  jacket on a wall hook. Surveying the empty restaurant his eyes stopped at a lone man hunched over a counter stool.

Smiling, Gint spoke “what’s got the cops up before sunrise, O’Malley?”

The big man in the rumpled suit spun slowly on his stool, sipping his coffee before a grin appeared on his weathered face.

“Most crooks aren’t as lazy as you are, Gint, some of them even work night shift.”

“I’ll never forgive you for that parking ticket, Lieutenant,” replied Gint plopping down on the stool next to the officer.

“Mother Mary, that was thirty years ago.”

“And you were so proud of yourself.”

“Hell, yes, my first big bust.”

The kitchen door burst open and a full figured  woman in a spotless uniform swept in with a steaming plate balanced on one hand. Embroidered above the left breast of her snug fitting blouse was the name “Midge.”

“Wally, baby!” Midge exclaimed, bending down to stroke the furry head of the mid size mutt sitting patiently at Gint’s side.

She continued, “how ya doing, kid?” scratching him behind the ears.

Wally bared his gleaming teeth in appreciation.

“God,” Midge said, “I wish I had those pearly whites.”

“I wish I had my breakfast,” said O’Malley.

The waitress arose and dropped O’Malley’s plate in front of him.

“Anything else?” she snapped.

“Coffee would be swell.”

Midge turned abruptly and headed for the coffee pot.

Gint, exasperated, let go, “and what about me, Midge dear?”

“Yeah,” replied Midge, not bothering to turn her curly blond head as she picked up the coffee pot, “what about you?”

“Now what are you mad about?”

“Gint, I’m always mad about you.”

“I knew it!” You’ve been in love with me since I first walked in here.”

Returning with the coffee pot, Midge retorted, “fat chance, the best offer you ever made me was a trip to Paradise, which turned out to be the Paradise Motel in Jersey.”

“You’d be better off running away with me, Gint, the lady can’t even boil an egg,” said the big bald guy who suddenly appeared besides Midge. “Mick” was written in black marker at the top of his apron, although this was hard to make out through a collage of stains and food fragments.

“Mick and me, together in paradise, that’s disgusting,” said Gint.

“It’s an oxymoron,” added O’Malley wiping up the last of his fried egg with a piece of toast.

“Too late now, boys,” said Midge, refilling O’Malley’s coffee.

“That’s right, guys,” continued Mick, wrapping a tattooed arm around his wife, “we’re selling out and going home.”

“Home? what do you call Brooklyn?” gasped Gint.

“You forget I was born in Vermont.”

“Yeah, and the smartest thing you ever did, besides marrying Midge, was leave. There’s nothing but winter and trees up there. Besides, it’s a foreign country and you don’t speak the language.”

“The kids don’t want this place, but the developers do,” said Mick, “we’re going to take the money and run.”

Midge poured a mug of coffee for Gint, adding, “besides, Gint, it’s getting old serving deadbeats like you.”

Midge winked at O”Malley, then bent down to Wally, “what’s it going to be, boy, the usual?”

Wally barked and showed his pearly whites.

Mick and Midge returned to the kitchen. Gint turned to O’Malley who had demolished his steak and eggs and was finishing off the hash browns.

“Can you believe it? What are we going to do without the M & M Cafe?”

O’Malley swallowed and took a sip of coffee, “not we, Gint, you. What are You going to do. In three months and twelve days, I’m retiring. Amy already has us a cute place in Florida near the grandkids.”

The cop  got up, put a ten spot on the counter, and slapped Gint on the back. “Remember that little job you’re doing for me today.”

Gint, still stunned by the M & M’s upcoming demise, answered, “yeah, got it covered.”

“Keep him out of trouble, Wally,” the cop said to the dog, then laughed to himself, “another oxymoron.”

O’Malley picked his overcoat from a wall hook and pulled it on as Midge reappeared with two steaming plates.

“Take it easy, O’Malley,” she said, putting one plate in front of Gint, then stooping to put the other at Wally’s feet.

“You, too, Midge” and O’Malley was out the door.

Gint looked down at his breakfast and groaned, “why is it Wally gets all the love around here?”

Wally, eagerly scarfing up his bacon and eggs, did not reply, but Midge answered, “he’s cuter than you and he never makes passes at me.”

Gint, still staring at his plate of soy eggs, plain toast, and a bowl of prunes, said”couldn’t you just forget my cholesterol problem and serve me some real food for old time’s sake?”

“What are friends for?” answered Midge, watching Wally lick his plate clean, “besides, those old times have finally caught up with you.”

Yeah, thought Gint, they certainly had.

-to be continued-

Wondering What I Will Be

I wonder if I’ll ever be
happy with just plain old me
accepting what the mirror can see
surrender to reality

stop playing the re-invention game
lusting after love and fame
stop playing other people’s games
hope the world will speak my name

I wonder who I will be
when I give up on changing me
exhaust all possibilities
get up one day and let it be

tio stib

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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

winterend

the cave dwellers stirred

doors cracked

light and warmth crept inside

the sun, long unseen

reappeared

cautious toes inched out

pale faces squinted

fists rubbed dazzled eyes

lips curled with wonder

smiled

voices murmured

chorused

hallelujah!

a zombies’ reunion

winterend

tio stib

You might also enjoy” Seattle Sun, Dancing Toes

 

 

My Dementia Diary 4 – Simplicity

My wife and I have a common need.

Simplicity.

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