It’s Easy to Tread on Someone’s Heart (and other AHA moments)

Here is the setup. Cheryl has a wheelchair tag. In fact we have two. When Cheryl was still driving we applied to the state to get one for each car.

A few weeks ago we got in the mail on two different days a form for the state to renew our wheelchair tags if we wished to do that. The forms require a script from Cheryl’s doctor. When they came a couple weeks ago I put them in a special position on a ledge wall between the kitchen and the rest of our living area in the hope that I would remember to take them with me to our doctor appointment in December. Cheryl agreed that was a good spot to leave them.

Today, she re-discovered them and was telling me what they were. I let worry and anxiety about losing them before the doctor appointment come over me. I took them from her and explained why they were on the ledge. Thinking back on it, I was not that forthcoming with why I was putting them back on the ledge. She became very angry. I apologized for being a stinker. It is a delicate balance on some days and I admit I am not always up for it.


Of late, Cheryl keeps her emotions just below the surface. It seems to be a symptom of her disease. She is constantly thinking about what was. Hearing a particular hymn in church will cause her to weep. When she sees pictures of the grand kids on our electronic picture viewer, they become real to her and she will talk to them. If I take a deep breath or just simply sigh, she will ask me what’s wrong? If I do something and she feels slighted in some way real anger appears. All of these reactions are the same as any feeling person except maybe talking to the hallucinations. Parkinson’s is not real to her. The unsteadiness and jerky motion is not visible her until it is.

It is hard for me to not be a helicopter care partner and hover close by. It is hard for me to not be protective of things that I am certain will be lost in her PD and Lewy body confusion. She displays punding style behavior which in her case seems to be arranging and rearranging her papers in her office. These papers are often random collections of emails and news letters assembled with no apparent theme. (I worry that real papers will disappear in the organized randomness of her office.) I try to watch what goes into her office and short circuit anything of importance before it gets there.

Sometimes, like this morning, I do that without the gentleness that I should have used. When that happens I tread on her heart.


Edie’s prayer

I should have read this when I got up this morning.

Carpe Diem

Frustration and Anger

Lately I have been experiencing a bit of what I think of as Caregiver Burnout.

We seem to have repetitive conversations about where we are, where we live, who is here, who is not, where we are going today or not, when church is or etc. I admit to raising my voice in a natural inclination to getting the conversation to stick in her head. I can hear myself getting louder and cannot seem to resist. Later when I reflect on it, such as now, I want to remain calm and discover a quiet informative way to convey the same information to her in a way that helps her to remember. I find it to be doubly frustrating. She cannot remember so she will ask again. I repeat the information about dates and times and where. She cannot remember so she will ask again. (Urgh!) When I raise my voice, she thinks I am angry. I know I am frustrated. Maybe I am a little angry. It is hard to not be angry with this annoying disease.

Her inability to remember conversation and detail just an hour later is frustrating to her as well. She makes little notes to herself to help her remember. The next day or two or three days later she will ask me what I wrote her this note for as she holds up a note that she previously wrote to herself as a reminder. She does not recognize her handwritten messages. Parkinson jitters and stiffness has destroyed her calligraphy. She seems to not believe me when I tell her that I did not write whatever note she is holding in her hand.

I kept this particular note. I cherish it. She struggled very hard to remember how long we have been married this year. Along with all the other things our family calendar has become meaningless to her. The other picture is a sample of what her handwriting used to be. I have kept all of our letters we exchanged in high school. I suppose that makes me a romantic. 🙂

An added frustration is her complete inability to remember medication coupled with my occasional failure to also do so. I have set her phone to alarm for each medication time. She sometimes resets the alarm and does not take the meds. Occasionally I miss that. It is a constant battle between her Parkinson and my old agedness.

Over time I have taken over the duties that she used to do in our home.

In this second year of the pandemonium the pull between now and what was before is infuriating. Keeping track of her stuff and mine reminds me of how things used to be. She used to tell me what we were doing and where to go to next. Now the shoe is on the weaker foot. Occasionally that foot hurts.

It’s hard to enjoy the journey if you can’t see the road. It is so intensely unsettling to travel an invisible road in the dark.

At least we are vaccinated and boosted. The road is pretty long even when not visible.

Carpe Diem!

Sunday used to be Different

This story is about nostalgia and remembrances of past years. We used to go to 9AM mass. When the kids were small it was 10:30AM mass. Over the years as the priestly population dissipated and became smaller the parish we belong to reduced the number of masses from five to three to two to sharing a priest with another parish. Word is that is to change again here shortly as the Archdiocese of Cincinnati tries to find a solution to the priest shortage. The Roman Catholic church’s own rules keep it from fixing its own dilemma.

A few years ago we switched to attending 4:30PM mass on Saturday. Cheryl’s medication, sleep and “feeling good” circumstances changed when she could tolerate being in church.

Covid-19 changed it again. We stopped attending for a while. The archbishop said it was okay to not go to church on Sunday. People in secular society argued about wearing masks inside. The pandemic eased a little. Health officials said vaccines are coming but wear a mask for now. People argued about other folks telling them what to do or not to do. No one argued about the archbishop saying no one need attend mass. Attendance in person was no longer obligatory. (Is the archbishop telling us what to do?)

The church scrambled to put the mass online as a streaming service. Cable TV still provides a local service channel with an incredible amount of boring but sometimes interesting stuff. A live streamed mass with no videographer or camera operator can easily out do the cable public channel for uninteresting content. There are many boring live streams now. Many live on with YouTube. Seems like every parish has its own live stream. Public health and government officialdom said it was okay to go to church again but wear a mask.

And then little blue ribbons appeared to separate folks from sitting to close together in the pews. Hand sanitizer appeared in the back of church with little baskets of disposable masks. Everyone wore a mask to keep from inoculating others with our asymptomatic illness for many weeks. The ranks at mass were very thin especially the old people’s 4:30PM mass. An entire year went by in this fashion.

Random arguments started about vaccines and how they were made. Experts who knew little about the process spoke anyway spreading the gospel according to Dimwit. The church got on the side of social empathy and “get any vaccine you could.”

Are we riding the horse into the dirt? Many years ago I worked for a large company that kept shrinking and shrinking until it no longer existed. Remnants of it are still around but it no longer exists as a whole. I met one of the former management folks later in a different company around town. The conversation often drifted into what happened? The perceived fault always lay with others or some insurmountable object, however artificial that may be.

Is that happening to the Catholic Church? It seems that many stalwart parishioners spent a great deal of time analyzing what church meant to them. I know I did. The church is changing. I am changing. For me the church and parish is a spiritual socialization. And I like the stories in the bible, many of which I have a different take on then the priest might have in his lecture after the readings.

I started down this thought about Sunday not thinking about church in particular. We used to get some donuts on the way home from church and sat and ate them with coffee for me and tea for her and watched the prerecorded CBS Sunday Morning news magazine show. We did this for many years. I miss it. Cheryl no longer sits for any length of time longer that fifteen minutes to watch anything on TV. We would sit quietly and watch with only occasional comments from either of us. Later in the afternoon we would prepare a meal for her mother and my parents that evening. Sundays are different now. Some of that is age and some of that is the disease of Parkinson. Sundays are just different.

Carpe Diem! Even when the days are short and numbered, remember that we are all flawed humans but if we pool our talents the flaws are out numbered.

No Church Yet

Last night we sat outside for a bit and watched the International Space Station fly over. She was very excited to see it. She had found an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer a few days before that described upcoming events in the night sky.

We live on top of a hill and have a fairly unobstructed view of the horizon to the west. There are buildings, of course, but all in all not a bad view. After the the ISS disappeared from our view behind our building we went inside and she wrote this note to our children and a few other random family members. She wrote it in Word and printed it out and then asked if I could send it to our kids. This morning I did just that.


Hello, Anna, Scott, David, Janice, Jan, Nancy, Bill Farmer, Iris, Virginia, if I forgot someone, please pass this information along,

During this time of the year, there are often beautiful sights in the night sky. Paul is aware of these because he often researches some of the software that is available. You do not need to have access to special software… although it is
helpful. You can see some of the stars and planets without any special equipment; you can watch the International space station as it travels across the evening sky. These sights are magical! Many if you have clear skies at night… some of them are visible in the early evening. When you learn that there is a lovely event that is expected to occur, get the kids ready for bed, explain the event to them… where to look in the sky, etc., they should ask their
teachers about the night sky.

We found our information for tonight’s show in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the subtitle is “Crescent moon next to dazzling Venus.”, on page 5A.

Love,

Grandma. Aunt Cheryl, and any other relatives who may enjoy this.

The morning started pretty normal. The VERY LOUD ALARM clock awakened me to get her 7AM meds. I helped her to the bathroom and waited on the edge of the bed for the toilet to flush. She took her meds. We laid down again for a while.

Later I got up to find coffee and watched TV for a bit until Cheryl got up. She popped out of the hallway to our bedroom all excited because she could not find any underwear. In my stupidity I pointed out that she had underwear on just no pajama bottoms. (She was confused getting up this morning but I did not understand the extent of her confusion.) She was intending to get dressed for church but I did not realize this at the time. I was pleasantly ensconced in my Saturday morning coffee and newsy programs.

The newsy programs I have found to be not so newsy. The pattern is repetitive and to me boring — Covid we’re all gonna die; the latest political kerfuffle; desperate folks swimming the Rio Grande trying to get to Texas; some weather activity. Lately there seem few MASS SHOOTING events that make the news. Are they becoming commonplace? Or is it merely that most do not rise past some low bar of heinousness that is defined somewhere.

Nevertheless She was looking for underwear so I went back with her and found some undergarments which she pronounced good. I asked if she needed more help and she said no. I resist being a helicopter care person because it seems to anger her when I give unsolicited help. I went back to the coffee and pressed play on the DVR. This is a handy way to watch a two hour news show which is actually fifty-seven minutes long with a lot of breaks for commercial messages about Prevagen, Progressive insurance, the Good Feet Store, Kroger’s and the local weather. With a pre-recorded program you are able to fast forward through the windows direct USA.com and the rest of the crap that comes with commercial television. Cable TV is much better with no commercials and the inability to speed through the ads. (Facebook has this same model.)

After a suitable period of time, it takes concentration to speed up the saved file and catch the actual stories from the Saturday news show, I returned to the bedroom and realized my error. She was all dressed up for church and fidgeting with her earrings in front of the bathroom mirror. I apologized to her and told her that church was not for seven more hours. It is not time to go to church yet. But she was dressed and ready to go.

She blew up at me a little. “No one tells me. Neither of you told me anything!” I was two people. One in the mirror and one behind her. I admit I did not think of it. Almost everyday this week when she woke up she would ask, “What time is mass again?”

This seems to be turning into a constant in this life. For the past few weeks she awakens thinking it is time to go to church. I usually tell her – no this is (mon, tues,wednes,thurs,fri)day. Church is on Saturday afternoon. If she does not ask I do not tell. It worked for Bill Clinton, alas, not for me.


I find in myself an anxiety about getting something fixed before she spirals off into the weeds. By this I mean some task with which I have decided to help her. Her interests are not always my interests. Cheryl has taken on the task of sending thank you notes to those who have participated with or donated to the Sunflower Rev It Up for Parkinsons walk/run/ride last weekend. In this new world of no white pages phone books and no landlines it is harder to discover the addresses of those who have disconnected from the 48VDC copper transmission lines. For a parkie with no sense of how else to search that information it is impossible.

There is some confused repetition to her actions and to our life. I will tell her I will do something for her and find that a few minutes later she is doing whatever that may be instead of waiting for me to complete that task. I admit to not being johnny-on-the-spot about it. Her needs are not mine. Her interests are not mine. And I might have to gracefully let go of whatever mundane task I have given myself to do.

It stresses me a bit. I worry about letting her wander off into the weeds of Parkinson confusion, delusion, hallucination and altered reality. But it does provide some relief to me as long as it is not harmful to her. At least, that is my selfish view. Even now as I pour my inner thoughts into this commentary she is reading and re-reading a two year old story she wrote about the beginnings of whoopadiddee as though it is new.

I suppose the idea that nothing and no one cannot fix her confusion is most troubling to me. As long as she does not seem to be lost completely to me I let it flow around me. It is disturbing to my soul. Occasionally I am two people, the one who lives with her and that guy who brings the pills in the morning. Once in awhile I am Paul.

Alas, Carpe Diem.

Last night I was Someone Else

This whole hallucination, delusional reality thing that seems to have developed during this latest phase of Parkinsonism is truly disheartening.

Last night she addressed me as “Dad” several times. I tend to ignore it when she does this because much of the time she merely cannot find a name or a term for someone or something. Occasionally it becomes a little game that we play until I guess the correct person or thing. She responds with, “Thank you” when I find the name for her.

Sometimes, however, it becomes apparent that she is having a delusional episode. It becomes apparent suddenly to me. I do not recall the exact context last evening but I became aware that she did not know who I am. I asked, “Do you know who I am?” She replied, “Dad always says you are Paul.” My heart just broke when she said that.

It is a hard to describe the emotion. It feels like something in between fear, anxiety, anger, empathy, love and disappointment.

A deep love for her as we travel this journey. One foot in front of the other as we travel step by ever so slower step. We make every attempt to enjoy the scenery and smell the flowers. We take as much joy as we can in the moment. It is hard sometimes but in the last several days new life has come into the wider family and we are happy for the new parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

A great fear for her future and perhaps I dread the eventual realization that I might not be able to care for her alone. Those thoughts tumble down into the mire of money and will it last and for how long and how long will we need external support and how long and how long. These thoughts go nowhere. No one can see the future and if you are a deep believer, there is a plan somewhere. It sure would be nice to peek at it to prepare.

An anxiety about all of those things is a first cousin to fear. Meditation and journaling helps. It is not my make up to leave things in the hands of others.

I have developed an empathy through walking this road together with her. It saddens me that I cannot fix it. Much of that thought comes from the feeling that the Plan is being developed as we move along the road. That sucks, big time. The engineer in me pushes back on idea of starting the mechanism while it still being developed. Poor practice as that will really blow the service budget.

A few months ago I realized that the anger I feel, a deep despairingly fist hitting anger, is with the disease and what it takes from her. I am embarrassed to admit that I am not good at redirecting my anger into action. Or deflecting my anger away from her by keeping it out of my voice. I am just not good at that last. I apologize a lot.

All of those things add up to a disappointment with the situation.

On the next day she was lucid, not confused and fine. Go figure. “everyday is a winding road” – Sheryl Crow

Carpe Diem.

On Making Pies

Perhaps if one would choose, a bit more experience would precede making a pie for company.

About Thursday of last week, something she saw on television or read in the paper caused her to decide that she would make a pie for dessert on Sunday.

In her mind’s eye, it was no big deal. In her mind’s eye there is no Parkinson’s disease. In her mind’s eye she has plenty of stamina. On the way home from dinner at Through the Garden Restaurant on Friday evening we stopped at the grocery and bought some apples. On Saturday she cut up and peeled three of the four apples and had to sit down. I peeled and cut up the last one and another for just-in-case.

She took her meds and laid down for a bit. When she felt a little better, I made the crust under her tutelage. We (I) rolled it out and started over about a dozen times. I quit to put on shoes and gather my stuff for a trip to the store for a premade crust. On the way through the kitchen I stopped to try just once more with a twist.

My twist worked and we (I) assembled the pie.

Today we will take it to my son’s house to see how it turned out.

My other son’s wife is an expert pie maker. I probably should have subcontracted the pie to her and they live pretty close by. Maybe next time I will do this or maybe next time I will practice making crust.

Martha Stewart has a website full of ideas.

My pie – ready for transport

Carpe Diem!

Occasionally to Her I am a Different Person

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” 

James Baldwin

I do not know much about James Baldwin. He was a black man and an author. He wrote “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and other things. He died a while ago. This quote which I tripped over this morning reading through other articles not from mainstream media as my sister-in-law likes to say, spoke to me. Lately, Cheryl has been struggling with seeing extra people in our home and upon occasion, though not wondering who I am, seeing me and sometimes not seeing me.

Yesterday evening she asked me if I had talked to Paul about something. I do not remember what the something was. It was not important . I quickly realized that she thought I was not me. I replied with I am Paul.

These moments seem to come early in the morning or late in the evening. It is dark. The lights are on here and there.

She talks about dad doing this and dad doing that. The first time she started telling me about dad was when I changed the dimmer switch on the light fixtures in our master bath. I had added a newer dimmer control with a toggle. I had thought it to be more convenient for operation in the night. It is and she approved of its installation. She told me so that night by saying – did you see the new light switch dad put in? It works great.

I did not ask who she thought I was. I merely acknowledged that it was a good thing that he put it in the bathroom.

That guy who brings the pills… is a common early morning remark lead in to some comment I said when I got out of bed to turn off the alarm and retrieve her first dose of medications for the day. There are many of these; That guy who brings the pills in the morning, he said we were going to the store today. (for example)

Extra people appear to her in our home. Not religious apparitions but little girls and sometimes their guardian an older woman will appear with them. A few days ago when I returned the bowl that had contained her pills and the water glass to the kitchen, she asked me what that woman wanted. I told her that there was no woman there. I was merely putting the glass away. She accepted that.

For many months, I had accepted that this observed change in her behavior and thinking was just a natural progression of Parkinson disease. This behavior does not present itself when she and I visit her neurologist. I sent him a note before our last visit. We talked about it at length when we were there last time.

We are in the midst of slight medication adjustments and a series of pathology tests to rule out any physiological problems that could cause symptoms such as these.

So far these are all negative which makes me a bit sad. She is in the minority of parkies that the disease affects her cognitive function.

It is now more important than ever to seize the good moments, live in the present and jettison the anxiety for the future.

Face the thing. Maybe the outcome can be changed. As a caregiver do not forget that you have greater knowledge of your loved one than the doctor does. Tell the doctor what you see. It will help to find a solution.

And don’t forget to Carpe Diem!

Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?
Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?
Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?
Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?

— Peter Townsend