Surrounded by Friends full of grace
In the Autumn of 2021, I found out through no fault of my own that we are surrounded by good friends willing to step up and help out with Cheryl’s care. I wrote this note of thank-you sometime ago but on this Thanksgiving Day of 2022 I am revisiting these thoughts of gratitude for all that you have done for Cheryl and me.
I appreciate everyone’s help whether it is a small thing or a big thing. Sometimes it is a phone call. Sometimes it is merely joining us for dinner after church or “Pizza Tuesday”. Sometimes it is taking the roll of care partner for a couple hours. Sometimes it is staying with mom while dad goes somewhere for an hour or a week. Sometimes it is merely holding the door for Grandma. I love you all. Thanks so much for helping.
Cheryl’s cousin’s wife Cindy began coming over to sit with Cheryl or take her to one of her exercise classes once a week for a couple hours. I am free to do whatever. (Thanks, Cindy.) These days in the warm summer Ohio air, I often go ride my bike somewhere. Cindy surprised me in Autumn a year ago by asking me what I did for exercise after a discussion about Cheryl’s exercise classes. One of Cheryl’s instructors was a friend of Cindy’s. Cindy spontaneously offered to come and be with Cheryl while I did something else other than care give. It took me several weeks to figure out what to do with my new found freedom and now I look forward to it.
Cindy often comes over on Thursday which works best for her and her work schedule. This week of course Thursday is Thanksgiving day so she said she can come tomorrow. She is a gift to me that I find hard to put into words.
Our next door neighbor, Jane, comes on Mondays typically to sit with Cheryl for a bit while I go ride my bike around somewhere or merely grocery shop. Cheryl sometimes walks across the hallway to visit with Jane. She is a good friend and close. Often Jane goes with us on “anything goes pizza Tuesday”. She reacts to Cheryl’s discussion much like Nancy does. Over the years Jane has had issues with her health and Cheryl’s first thought is to see how Jane is doing. Jane has pointed out things to me that she notices about Cheryl and has suggested solutions for those without any judgement. (Thanks, Jane.)
Jane is celebrating today with her family in north central Ohio. Safe travels, Jane. You are a blessing to me.
My cousin’s widow, Linda sits with Cheryl while I go do something else. Last May I signed myself up for a caregiver’s class to find out about other services that were available. Linda came over fairly early in the morning so that I could attend this class. I found the class itself very useful. It was primarily oriented towards care partner health and well-being. (Thanks, Linda.)
She has encountered some tragedy in her life. Her sister Diana recently pasted from this life but today she is spending her Thanksgiving with her daughter, warm, in California. Safe travels, Linda.
A few months back Mary Jo sent an email to me to remind Cheryl (and me) of a commitment she had made during a chance meeting at our parish first Lenten fish fry since the Covid pandemonium closed the world. Mary Jo indicated that she would like to come and visit with Cheryl occasionally. She comes on the third Wednesday of the month to visit. (See Jane’s organization below.)
Mary Jo’s visit seems simple and innocuous but social interaction no matter how small is helpful to Cheryl. Each time Mary Jo visits she is a new acquaintance to Cheryl. Cheryl shows her pictures to Mary Jo and tells her about our children and grandchildren. Thanks, Mary Jo, for sitting and listening to Cheryl’s remembrances.
Last evening we had dinner with Cheryl’s sister Nancy. We have been doing this more and more. It is helpful to me in a couple ways that Nancy might not think about. Nancy, firstly, is not dealing with any dementia. Her conversation goes in a straight line. That fact by itself often provides relief to me. Over the course of my working career I traveled to other countries and many of these did not have English as their base language. It was always a great relief to hear American English from the people around you waiting for an airplane back to the states. Cheryl’s mingled conversation is much like trying to make sense of a foreign language with little preparation.
The second thing is that when Nancy talks to Cheryl she is accepting of whatever Cheryl might say. Cheryl tells her about the children in our house, their sister Janice and other thoughts as they occur. Nancy does not correct or suggest anything different. Sometimes she will ask for clarification if Cheryl has mixed up names or dates. Cheryl recognizes that she does mix things up but she does not have the stress of keeping the story straight when conversing with Nancy. That is stressful to her, saying the right thing; giving the right answer; not offending anyone. She learned those from her mother and they are deeply ingrained in her personality. When talking to Nancy she relaxes. Thanks, Nancy.
Nancy has a new person in her life, Gene. Cheryl and I a grateful that she has his companionship.
Family – Sons and Daughter
My son David and his wife Melissa have a wonderful patio and a big green backyard. Many times with little warning over the summer, I have asked to come visit for a bit with Cheryl. Cheryl likes to visit her children and see how they are doing. Sitting on their patio in the sun brightens her mood. It gets us out of our little condo and does not require a lot of preparation by me. It is a sort of little day trip for her and I can chat with my son who is a fellow engineer.
They have always responded with yes. (One time they were out of town on a spontaneous getaway weekend.) Thanks, David and Melissa. We are very grateful to you and Melissa for allowing us to intrude in your life.
My son Scott sits with his mom while I go to my stock-club meeting once a month. Thanks, Scott.
In 1984 several of us engineers decided to make ourselves rich by speculating in the stock market. We started meeting in March of that year. The markets have soared and ebbed. We languished through “black Friday”. We bought gold mining companies. We sold gold mining companies. We drank a lot of beer discussing and criticizing corporate management. We have won big (ABBV) and lost big (F). Good friends and lots of beer with dinner in the back room of the bar makes for a fun evening. Thanks again, Scott. We are grateful to you and Mavis for letting us intrude in your lives. I have also parked Cheryl at Scott and Mavis’s house near us so that I could ride my new ebike around our old neighborhood. Cheryl could see Zachary – the newest grandchild – run around while I was riding. Thanks, Zachary.
My daughter Anna visits with her mom and in the summertime when her high school is on break takes her mom to exercise class. Last year Anna stayed with her mom for a week while I went to visit my sister on the west coast and Joyce and I attended my nephew’s wedding. Jeff and Stephanie have a new baby girl. Thanks, Anna.
Anna also calls her Mom randomly just to see how Cheryl is doing. (Anna you cannot see how your mom’s face lights up when I tell her it is you on the phone.) These are really simple things that your mom and I appreciate. We are grateful to have you as our daughter and Eric as our son-in-law.
Anna is cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. She sent out her list of what everyone else is bringing. My job is rolls or bread. I broke my forty-year-old dough hook yesterday starting these rolls. Today I kneaded dough by hand. I have not done that for awhile but I am thankful that I had the opportunity. Thanks Anna and Eric for hosting the great collection of family today. It will be crowded and fun.
Allison comes once every six weeks or so to trim and shape Cheryl’s hair. Before she started coming to our condo I took Cheryl to the Salon Named Desire every few weeks to have her hair cut. The salon is located on the second floor of an old building in the business district of the suburb of Pleasant Ridge.
Overtime it became harder and harder for Cheryl to negotiate the stairs. When Cheryl had foot surgery I asked her through the salon if she would be willing to come to our condo to cut Cheryl’s hair. She did and as I discussed it with her she said she had several clients that she visited at home.
Cheryl’s foot healed and we went back to me driving her to the salon but eventually it became an issue. We adapted and so did Allison. When she leaves I vacuum the large bathroom floor. Thanks, Allison.
Natalie comes every other week to clean our little condo more thoroughly than I would. And this visit usually aligns with Allison’s hair visit. She is our niece and has developed her own little cleaning service. She is a godsend. She sees and cleans and dusts and vacuums. When she leaves everything is shinny and clean. The appliances have no splats and splashes and dribbles and fingerprints. We usually go out to a local diner/bar for dinner when she comes to preserve the clean for just a couple more hours.
Yesterday the furnace guy came to do his yearly tune-up. He remarked as he took out the filter to blow it out and clean it, “You guys keep this place awfully clean. There’s no dust on this.” Thanks, Natalie. I am pretty sure this is all you.
This week one of her kiddos is ill. Get well soon, Charlotte.
Cheryl has a wonderful bunch of friends with whom she used to play bridge, decorate church and other activities. Our neighbor and long-time friend Jane has organized several of these women to come visit Cheryl on a regular basis. On various Wednesdays of the month Cathy or Kathy or Marg will appear for a visit. On the third Thursday Carren and Nancy (different Nancy) come to visit. Barb has come on the last Thursday to take Cheryl to lunch. Thanks to all of you for spending time with Cheryl.
Cheryl needs social interaction more and more as we travel this Parkinson road.
This group of women went to grade school together (St. Clement hence the Clementines) and have kept in touch throughout their lives. Kathy, Jeri, Kathy, Anne, Mary, Barb, Mary Pat, Marilyn, (I missed someone) you are a great group of friends she has had since grade school and she really enjoys your company. Thanks to all of you for being part of Cheryl’s life.
Thanks specially to Kathy and Marilyn for talking to Cheryl over the phone when she her confused mind has decided there is a Clementines emergency.
These are really just a few of the things, people and experiences that I am thankful for today. Cheryl has told me several times over the past week that Easter is next week. Last night she did not believe that Thanksgiving was tomorrow. This morning she seems unsure of our activity and remarked that it will be a busy day. Somewhere in her confusion she knows today is special. To all of you who help us no matter how small, thank you for all you do and have done.
Time to shape the rolls.