My Dementia Diary 45 – A Different River

In younger years, I was drawn to reckless adventuring. Climbing mountains, sailing oceans, rafting wild rivers, anything that took me to the edge and, often, beyond. One such trip was a float down the Snake River through the Hell’s canyon wilderness. this was a journey into the unknown long before outfitters offered guided versions complete with 5 star dinners.

There were a dozen of us, friends and acquaintances, guys lured by the appeal of an adrenalin packed escapade. None of us had done anything like this before, so we scouted the local bars for advice. One drunk curmudgeon said we’d all be killed, another offered we could do the trip on inner tubes. One thing was certain, Hell’s Canyon was more than a mile deep and isolated. We’d spend days without encountering other human beings. If something went sideways, getting help and getting out of there would not be easy.

Our research didn’t scare anyone off. Equipped by a local surplus store and comforted by some cautionary guide notes scribbled in a small notebook, the expedition was launched below Hell’s Canyon dam.

There’s a magical wonder in drifting down a wild river, pulled into an unknown world, with surprises around every corner. There are times of sublime peace and awe as you are carried silently past towering canyon walls, under forever blue skies  with high circling, screeching hawks, past frozen deer staring at you wide eyed. Then, you hear the whisper of something different ahead. the whisper increases to throbbing echoes and then a pulsating roar.

Rapids. the biggest, ass stomping, wildest water any of us had ever seen. Not bothering to check the small notebook for advice, our little flotilla of rafts plunged straight into the middle of the maelstrom.

We got trashed. Spun around, sandwiched, catapulted, flipped, and finally spat out at the bottom in a quiet pool. Our quickly nailed together rowing frames had been broken like toothpicks. Our two week supply of breakfast granola was now mush. Still, all had survived, but we had a new reverence for the river. 

Often, as I lay in bed waiting for sleep to carry me away, I recall the many moments of reckless abandon as I’ve floated the river of life, turning a corner and charging into another rapid of surprises without consulting the guidebook. I’m awed and grateful that having tempted fate so many times, good fortune has always smiled on me. But, there was a cost for all those thrills. I often used the allure of adventuring as an excuse to run away from commitment, avoiding the intimacy of truly loving relationships. I used adventuring as an excuse to run from my fear of love.

I’m on a different river now, floating down the canyon of deteriorating dementia with my wife. In the quiet water, things often seem normal, little changed, and it’s easy to deny that dementia is even here. But, then there are whispers, my wife will say something that makes no sense, and my mind is suddenly drowned by the rush of reality flooding my consciousness. Dementia is here and it’s not going away.

It happened today.

“Will you walk with me?” she asked.

“Sure,” I replied, “where are we going?”

“To visit my mom.”

In the process of putting on my coat, I stopped. My wife’s mom lives in Zacatecas, Mexico, 2000 miles away.

“Your mom doesn’t live here,” I shared.

“Yes, she does, right there,” my wife answered, pointing outside.

I smiled, trying to hide my disappointment that her mind had slipped again.

“Sure,” I said, helping her with her coat, “let’s walk.”

As I hold my wife close in the night’s darkness, I feel the peace and warmth that can only be found in the adventure of love.

tio stib

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

the sudden urge for sweet
flooded my mind
with cookie moment memories

the ecstasy
the ultimate delight
of warm, chocolate chip cookie
melting in my mouth

licking the spatula 
covered with cookie dough
savoring
each chewy  chocolate nugget

the crazed anticipation 
as the aroma of baking cookies 
silently owned the house

ring!
the timer bell
rushing to the kitchen
eyes wide as the oven door opens
the tray slid out revealing
rows of perfectly formed
golden brown cookies

salivating

is there anything better than a warm chocolate chip cookie
washed down with a cup of milk

sure there is, a half dozen warm chocolate chip cookies 
washed down with several cups of milk

“Don’t you dare!
Those cookies are for the bake sale.”

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 25 – Life in Reverse

Noting my wife’s continuing mental deterioration from rational adult to simple minded child, I was reminded of a piece I saw George Carlin do some years ago. Bless his brilliant and irreverent mind, George has moved on to the great comedy stage in the sky, but he leaves many laughs behind him. I think his piece on “Life in Reverse” is all-time hilarious. Wouldn’t it be great if life actually worked this way-

tio stib

Life in Reverse By George Carlin

In my next life I want to live my life backwards.
You start out dead and get that out of the way.
Then you wake up in an old people’s home
feeling better every day.
You get kicked out for being too healthy,
go collect your pension,
and then when you start work,
you get a gold watch and a party on your first day.
You work 40 years
until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement.
You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous,
then you are ready for high school.
You then go to primary school,
you become a kid,
you play.
You have no responsibilities,
you become a baby until you are born.
And then you spend your last 9 months
floating in luxurious spa-like conditions
with central heating and room service on tap,
larger quarters every day and then Voila!
You finish off as an orgasm.

I rest my case.

by George Carlin, 1937-2008

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Why I Like Being Blind

No, in truth, I seldom like being blind. However, there are moments when I recognize that blindness has some benefits. Here are my top ten reasons to like being blind-

  1. When I get up in the morning, I can’t see how old I’m getting in the mirror.
  2. It’s nice being personally guided through airport security and other checkpoints, avoiding long lines of annoyed travelers.
  3. I don’t have to pretend I’m ignoring people I don’t like. I really can’t see them.
  4. I don’t need to shave every morning, or for that matter, worry about wearing matching socks. Yes, I admit age has something to do with this disregard for fashion.
  5. I can now unabashedly ask for help, paying no attention to my previous suffocating shyness. I need all the help I can get.
  6. I’m no longer asked to help people move. My history of breaking other people’s valuable objects has nothing to do with this.
  7. I now have an excuse for talking to myself. I’m talking to my computer.
  8. I now have a socially acceptable excuse for eating with my fingers. It’s the most effective way to get food into my mouth.
  9. I now have a more acceptable reason than being drunk for tripping over curbs. Yes, likely I’ve been drinking, but now I’m blind drunk. .
  10. 10. When late for appointments, it’s now much easier to say “Sorry, got lost.”

I’m always seeking more reasons to be happy with blindness, please add yours as a “Comment” below.

tio stib

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Life Is Like A Broken Egg

Yesterday I dropped an egg. Actually, I didn’t drop it, I surmise it rolled unseen off the counter. I heard a noise near the floor. In a microsecond, my brain flashed through the possible causes of such a noise. At about the same time, my brain reached another conclusion. The toes on my right foot were also sending signals to my sensory center. Something gooey was down there.

A broken egg!

As I groped around cleaning the shattered shell from the floor and then its contents from my foot, I pondered the symbolic relevance of this event in my life.

Yes, I tend to get lost in my own world at times.

Perhaps, I wondered, my life is like a broken egg. Here I am, marching along unseen by most of the world and then, crash! I splat into eternity, possibly making a mess for someone else to clean up as I exit.

That’s one possibility.

My mind drifted off in other directions. I remembered a structures class where we dropped eggs in specially designed containers from a third story balcony. The object, of course, was to preserve the integrity of the egg. The challenge was to do this with as little material as possible. It’s no problem to put an egg in a big box of bubble wrap and drop it unfazed onto the floor below. The trick is to drop the egg, mostly naked, with the same result. Similarly in life, I thought, there’d been times I’d insulated myself with such things as work and selfish interest so that the rest of the world couldn’t touch me, and I couldn’t touch the people who cared about me because I was too closed off from them.

There have been naked opposite times when I was raw and open, times when I felt that life had run me over and left me for roadkill. Going bankrupt and watching friends die come to mind.

My lesson from these experiences: Sometimes it’s good to overprotect. Sometimes it’s good to hurt. The pain reminds me of happier times.

All this you may say, from simply having an egg hit the floor? Yes, and there’s more.

What if I’m like an egg? A hard, durable shell on the outside and a soft sticky mess inside. My outside, that part of me I show the world, is a lot like the shell of an egg. It’s quite resistant to general pressures, quite strong when grasped firmly. But, the shell has its weak points. It doesn’t do well with pressure applied to a single point. Yes, I have my buttons. I hate cleaning up other people’s messes, such as wiping up their broken eggs. I have no tolerance for fools, which is why politics disgusts me. The egg shell is also brittle. It doesn’t do well when landing on sharp objects. I explode when subject to sharp noises, and am even more violent when subject to the sound of barking chihuahuas.

All this from a broken egg.

My last thoughts on this surprisingly deep self-dialog. How do you crack an egg? I use two hands. Even so, I often make a mess of this simple action, sometimes striking a nearby surface so hard that the shell cracks open and leaves a trail of egg goo from there to the frying pan. (This is a clue to what I usually do with eggs, hinting at my limited cooking repertoire). Sometimes, when my mind is somewhere else such as now, I fail to hit the egg hard enough,it doesn’t crack, waking me from my reverie to initiate another strike on the shell. This usually results in the previously mentioned egg goo trail.

What does this say about my life? I tend to be overly cautious and conservative. Do I lack faith in my creative abilities to expand my egg cuisine? Maybe I’m just lazy.

One of my goals for the New Year is to learn how to crack an egg with one hand. I think this may take quite a few eggs. I’ve heard that gin fizzes are a good use for egg whites and an easy way to forget about life’s deeper concerns.

Like how my life is like a broken egg.

tio stib
2014, 2016, 2018

First published in January, 2014, but since I haven’t mastered the one handed egg crack yet, I decided to publish this again to remind myself of goals I’ve yet to attain.

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Layers

Breathing

scents
of fallen
rose petal
secrets

Unwrapping

tied up
boxes
of lost
surprises

Waiting

while tear drops
melt
false maskes
from me

Staring

into mirrors
of screaming faces
behind
shadow smiles

Knowing

layers
illusions
are dissolving

my truth
is being
revealed

tio stib, 1995, 2018

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My Dementia Diary 42 – My Gratitude List

Today’s gratitude list-

our good health and well being
a comfortable home that fits us perfectly
living in a safe town in a free country
clear air to breathe, clean water to drink
hot showers
phone calls from caring family
the Brocks, our compassionate neighbors
hot chocolate  and chocolate chip cookies
our daily walk adventures
digital music from Beethoven to Arkenstone
a computer that defies blindness and lets me write
a life full of smiling memories
audio books and my writing mentors
2012, our honeymoon year
a tasty club sandwich
playing the banjo
hearing my wife whistling
snuggles and wet kisses

and another birthday, happy, happy!

tio stib

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