This Morning

She was weepy as she toileted this morning. I asked her what she was thinking about. Could she tell me why she was so sad?

She had been worried that she would not wake up. I did not know what to say to her. I think the tears were relief that she had another day. (I have not dreamt of my own death.)

The tears were still coming during breakfast. Her sense of impending demise was strong. I hugged her for a bit while getting her juice and coffee cake. She seemed to relax and she focused on the newspaper. I went to watch the TV news and work the Quordle.

Later as she was getting dressed, she thanked me for taking care of her last night. I had to turn away and focus on my chores for Friday. I told she was welcome before I started to tear up.

Somewhere in the recesses of her cognitive brain she is pondering the future. It seems as though she does not see very far into the future. She has a much better vision of the past and sometimes the past is current to her.

And it rises to the surface upon occasion.

I think that the hardest part of this damnable disease is the rollercoaster of feelings, emotions and moods. I have written this before but it seems like one minute after a sane normal conversation exchange the train will go off the rails.

Today is developing into one of those. It is hard to keep the caravan moving in the same direction.

Moments ago when I asked if she wanted her bedtime pills, she responded , what for? It’s daytime.

Carpe Diem

Hospice

A Hospice center is a quiet, peaceful and sad place.

The old meaning of a place of rest for travelers is an appropriate one. It is a place of rest between here and the after.

Cheryl and I have been visiting Fr. Gerry Witzemann.  He is dying. Gerry married us years ago or as Cheryl likes to say, officiated at our wedding. Her comment is more correct of course. Cheryl’s cousin started out as a Franciscan priest. When his mother became ill and elderly her wanted to do more for her. His order wanted him to go to the southwest to minister. He left the Franciscans to remain in the area and help his mother as best he could.

This is our fourth visit. Gerry is not ready. On our first visit he indicated that he was ready. Are any of us ready for afterward? Sitting with someone that you know will not recover turns one to introspection.

Soon and very soon…

Today his niece Sherri is here. Cheryl can talk to her cousin about things that she knows little about.  That part of her family lived close by when she was a child.  But as people grow older they spread out. Sherri’s mother Verna, Gerry’s sister passed away a couple weeks ago. Sherri took care of her mother for the last three years of her life, at home, with dementia. What a grace filled presence. She once got up to talk to her uncle, “It’s okay Uncle Gerry. Mom is waiting for you. So is grandma and grandpa.”

Sheri was in the army. She was a nurse and a nursing supervisor. She is a very pleasant conversationalist. Her husband passed away in 1993. They have no children. As a reservist she was called up and spent a year in Iraq in charge of the nursing staff in the hospital set up by the army. Gerry was the Witzemann family archivist. It was his hobby for years. He has lots of notes about the family history. Sherri now has his information.

We exchanged phone numbers.

Gerry won’t be with us much longer and that is sad. Many folks who come to visit him and he has many, are uncomfortable. That is understandable – and sad. Somehow it was neither sad nor uncomfortable with Sherri there. We were just there with Gerry.

Soon Gerry will be gone from us.That is why he is with hospice.

(Fr. Gerry Witzemann passed out of this existence at 5:30 am February 5, 2023. A Sunday the Lord’s day. How appropriate. May he rest in peace forever.)

Carpe Diem

Happy Birthday, Joyce

Holy cow. For two old people we look good.

I talked to Joyce yesterday and wished her a Happy Birthday. She and I are last of our family still awake in the natural world. She sent me these pictures of her and I sent her a picture of me. Her friends went out to celebrate her birthday and she got to meet Santa.

I sent her a text message early in the morning and wished her a happy birthday. We are the middle two in our family. Our younger sister and older brother are both gone now. It is just us. She called me back when she was walking her Mexican rescue dog. We talked about everything and nothing while she walked her dog. I commented that the crows were far away this morning and she told me it was cold in Portland so her ear phones were under her hat. She sent me a picture.

I think it is important to have family around. When our brother passed out of this life a couple years ago in the beginning of the whole covid pandemonium from something else not covid, it left another hole in our family. When our younger sister passed away from cancer in 2008 she took part of me with her. I had been her stem cell donor. Dad died the year before our sister. Mom died a few years later. Now Joyce and I are left.

We both have the same Carhartt hat. How warm is that?

Happy Birthday, Joyce.

Carpe Diem.

A Good Friend is Dying

It produces a reaction in me close to anger. I do not understand why. Anger is not quite right. Disappointment and some sadness with a little depression mixed in is a better description of the emotional mix. The only constant in life is change. However, that does not mean we have to like it.

In Matthew’s Gospel 21 (28-32) there is a story (parable) and I thought of it as I reacted to Cheryl’s idea. The parable in Matthew is about a owner of a vineyard who had two sons. He asked (told) his first son to work in the family business. He replied that yes he would go but he did not. When Dad talked to the second son the kid replied, nope, not today. I am hanging with the boys. He later relented and went to work for his father. It had not been more than a couple of weeks since it was read at mass.

That second son’s reaction was much like mine when Cheryl told me a confused story about Dan and Lynette. She though that Dan was a the Hospice of Cincinnati facility visiting with Lynette who was dying. He was not but I did not talk to him as I should have. My first reaction was similar to the second son. Nope. Ain’t doin’ it. I have no good memories of that hospice facility that is where my father died.

I gave in and took her to see Dan and Lynette. I put whatever little dinner preparation I had started back into the refrigerator for later. I made the five minute drive to the Hospice facility.

Cheryl was having a good day. We ran some errands and took a walk in the park. We had lunch at one of our favorite lunch diners. Our activities were all spontaneous. It was one of those sixty-five degree early March days. It would have been perfect if there no breeze at all but it was an okay breeze of five knots or less. It was very sunny. When we returned I told her about Dan’s call on Saturday. She did not return with the hostility that I expected as I had not told her right away. (This kind of news makes her upset for days.) She did react by calling Dan back to talk and find out what was going on.

When we got to Lynette’s room and I realized that Dan was not there I called him. In our conversation Dan explained that Cheryl kept asking where he was and did not seem to understand he was not there at Hospice. I asked him if he wanted to come. He does not see well and does not drive at night. He said yes he would like to do that and maybe we could get something to eat.

We drove across town, picked him up and came back to visit Lynette. She was unresponsive when he was there as she had been when we were there forty-five minutes earlier. Dan is a pretty quiet guy but he was a little beside himself. After a short visit watching Lynette’s irregular breathing we went to get something to eat. Dan insisted on paying for dinner.

We talked a lot while we were eating pizza at one of our local pizzerias. Comfort for a friend is something for which one must always find time. I have no explanation about my initial reaction other than it was about me. I had planned dinner and had comfortably settled into my chair to read before I had to get up to make dinner. I had no intention of comforting someone who was grieving that evening. Cheryl had been very upbeat and happy all afternoon. I was feeling pretty good myself.

Kindness to others earns grace. If only life was easy. This occurred on Monday. Late Tuesday since I had heard no more from Dan, I sent him a text and asked how things were and if I could help.


This is Wednesday and Lynette is deceased. Dan called late last evening to tell me that Lynette had passed on today. It is a sad moment for us both. Cheryl was asleep. I did not wake her with bad news last evening. This morning as I was going through my litany of what was happening today, I told her about Dan’s call. She was confused for a bit. She will ask me about it later.

One of life’s little twists just happened. Fate/karma/luck/the angel Gabriel – whatever brought me back into their lives on the last day of Lynette’s. Time for a little meditation and maybe prayer and reflection.

Cater was the answer to Wordle today. I am a little sad today. Lynette was good people. The only person I knew who knew how to tat lace. She had lots of crafty talent. She was an executive chef and a good cook. Dan is retired away from the “front of the house” in restaurant parlance. The restaurant business is where they met. Lynette was a very special person and I think I am better for knowing her in life.

May Lynette rest in peace without pain and dementia. Carpe Diem.

Our Neighbor is Dying

But life goes on around her.

Our little condominium group of fifteen units was built approximately twenty-five years ago. When we purchased this condo five years ago we were very blessed with the fact that our nephew who was also a real estate guy wanted to buy our big old hundred year old house from us as is. Additionally he had this condo in his back pocket ready to sell if the right buyer came along. At the time he was also working as an organist for one of the larger Catholic parishes in the area and this condo was owned by the pastor of the church. Agreements were made, hands were shaken and there was enough slack in the schedule that we had the old wallpaper stripped, the whole inside of the condo painted and carpets steam cleaned afterward. The carpet was able to dry for about a week before we moved in. All of this happened five years ago next week.

Our upstairs neighbor who is resting peacefully with hospice is one of the original tenants. There are two other original tenants (owners). They are all in their nineties.

A young couple who were recently married moved out. She chased her job to Los Angeles. He chased her there. They are very much in love and will do well. Her mother moved in two days ago to fill in their spot.

Our upstairs neighbor subscribes to the Enquirer as do we. Cheryl likes to read the comics and work the puzzles. In the Sunday edition two to three pages of obituaries are reprinted from Legacy.com or wherever they were originally published. Cheryl likes to read the obits and to speculate as to whether she might know anyone.

Our upstairs neighbor used to get up at 6 AM to take a pill she once told me. She would pick up her Enquirer and my two papers. Our papers she would stick into the banister to the upstairs and then walk up those stairs to her condo. We talked about this not long after we moved into our home. I told her I would gladly bring her paper upstairs. She is fiercely independent. She said to me, thank you but no. I very rarely beat her to the papers by the door anyway.

On garbage pick up day she would extend her morning activity to bringing the empty refuse bins close to the building so that the other residents did not have far to walk to put them into the garage. On rainy days over the last couple years she would leave that duty to me. The first time she did that I worried that she was in ill health. When I tracked her down later she said no she was not but the garbage collector had been a bit late she had already collected the papers before he had gotten here. She thought I would bring the bins in by the building. I did not know I was being trained for my new job until this past summer when cancer caught up with her. These days I pick up the papers and carry one up to the ledge in front of the second floor landing so that whoever reads it can find it.

A few months ago she had a surgical procedure to mitigate the progress of the cancer. A few days ago it became apparent that the procedure did not work as well as the doctors had hoped. A dozen or so years ago my sister opted for mitigation after being diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome. I think of my sister whenever I come into contact with a dire situation with someone I know. At about the same time my father elected to not mitigate the situation he found himself in after a cancer diagnosis. The outcome was the same for both my father and my sister.

It is possible that our upstairs neighbor is resting peacefully in the same room that my father spent his last days on this Earth. Recently she was moved to the same facility.

When the time comes may she be at peace.

The world will be a sadder place when she is gone but we who are still alive are secure in the belief that she is in heaven. I am glad to have known her no matter how brief that time has been.

An Update: Mary Ellen Welch passed from this life on Wednesday, October 13, 2021.

9/11/2001 – Wandering Indiana

Today is a sad day. Twenty years ago we were at Cliffty Inn in Indiana up the hill from Madison. We were on a spontaneous vacation trip.

The whole world seemed very quiet that day as we made our way to our eventual destination. I realized sometime later that morning that there were no planes in the sky. There were no contrails.

All brought on by a fairly well to do Saudi Arabian who somehow felt slighted by the U.S.A.

Well, Osamba bin Laden, you were evil incarnate. It is so very sad that you did not understand the Quran when you read it.

God is great but you did not understand that idea and believe.

Dan is Coming

Cheryl particularly looks forward to visiting with family and friends. She also is close with several women from grade school. They refer to themselves as the Clementines. Lately they have been meeting via Zoom because several of them are taking care of folks that have immunodeficiency in some way. Cheryl really misses the face to face interaction they used to have in a restaurant somewhere.

Today her brother Dan brings lunch. They will sit and talk about family things.

A few days ago many of her siblings gathered at a restaurant to celebrate Dan’s birthday. I was there. I refer to myself as Cheryl’s personal Uber driver but lately I pay closer attention so that I can help her remember what was said and who is doing what to whom. It is not a task that I relish. It is what I do.

As a family group, their generation is beginning to die off. The second oldest died last year in the chronavirus pandemic. They seem to talk to each other more about their personal lives. Most of them are very quiet about that. The youngest talks often about what is happening in his life. He is a new grandfather and soon to be again. All of them live locally within an hour drive.

Our two families deal with grief and loss very differently. My sister and I talk on the phone more often than we did when Mom and Dad were still alive but even so, we might go weeks without doing so. Our older brother and the oldest sibling died last Spring. Our core group has been reduced to two. My sister and I are separated by two thousand miles and three time zones.


… And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Another favorite thought

Carpe Diem. July is almost completed.

Memorial Day 2021

It is the very last day in May this year.

In St. Bernard, Ohio the little town surrounded by a bigger town in which my wife of fifty-plus years grew up and left at an early age, they had a simple recognition ceremony of those who were killed in the two world wars, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam war and the current excursions into Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a day of remembrance. Sometimes a day of sadness and grief.

Last year the ceremony was non-existent due to the COVID-19 restrictions. This year it was poorly attended. There were perhaps fifty people and half of those were participants.

A DJ played music before the gathering (including the green beret song), the appropriate marches for each branch of the armed forces (the new Space Corps was not included) as the particular flag was raised and “Hang on Sloopy” before the Ohio pennant was raised. “Hang on Sloopy” is the official rock song of Ohio. The Smooth Transitions, a quartet singing group, did a great job singing “Grand Old Flag”, “God Bless America” and “Our Land St. Bernard”. It had the feel of an outdoor religious service.

Wreathes were place by several civic groups to honor the fallen servicemen. The fire chief of St. Bernard read the names of those who died and as he was doing that a small flag was placed for each man at the foot of the small rise that is topped with flag poles and a monument.

Cheryl was feeling good today so I took her to attend. Afterward we drove around St. Bernard. We drove through St. Mary Cemetery to view her mother and father’s grave sites. Later we drove through Gate of Heaven Cemetery where my parents and Aunt Margaret Dwenger are buried. My mother’s older sister made a career of the Navy and retired as a Lieutenant Commander. She was never married.

It is Memorial Day. It is a day of remembrance for us all.

Carpe Diem.

A Prescription

Many years ago my family doctor gave me this prescription.  “6 weeks on a sunny beach” — He has since retired from private practice.  Looking back to that year from today, there was a lot going on in my life.  Looking at the date on the prescription, June 28, 2006, it was the first year that Cheryl started noticing symptoms of Parkinson’s. There is still much happening in our life.

None of those things is as peaceful as this rose. Thanks to Edie Kynard’s Art I have this wonderful rose to contemplate.

In a couple weeks I will travel to California to be with my sister and others to celebrate my nephew’s marriage.

In one week Ohio is officially open for mask-less escapades to wherever.

Last evening our stock club met in our favorite bar for the third time this year.  (We talked about death stocks.  See previous post.)  The presenter of SCI did not solidly endorse it as a stock for the club to buy at this time. Perhaps the club is not solidly interested in deathly stocks. Kroger is in our portfolio and it was up for revue (yes it is misspelled on purpose). Part of the discussion settled around how much Joe Biden’s $15 minimum wage proposal would affect Kroger’s bottom line. ( I am not sure why it is Joe’s idea but there are many conservative capitalists in our club.) A quick search of the internet of all knowledge turns up the information that the average folk starts at $11.62 at Kroger. If you can wield a knife in the meat department or can read a pharmacy order you can get more. Last year Kroger had about 465k employees. Assuming 10% of those are new employees which seems high but bear with me, 46.5Kx3.38 = $157170.00 per hour increase in base pay or $314,340,000.00 per year assuming 40 hour week and 50 weeks per year or .24% of sales for that same time. A surprisingly small percentage number when you do the math. If they collected an extra penny on all items they could pay the $15 minimum wage and pocket the extra $1G or so. Nice.

Our society is slowly, steadily climbing out of the darkness of the pandemic shutdown but it still goes on in the world. Donald wanted to make America great again.  It already was great.  Here is the chance to make it greater.

There are many things to fix that would make America greater. Overall though, just merely treating others with kindness, patience and dignity will make America greater.

Why is it important for some folks to control others life experience?  Is it simple jealousy or envy? Maybe changing that attitude in those folks would improve life a bit.

Is there societal value to imposing one’s own personal values on another? Look inside and think about how you would react to unsolicited advice about your particular situation or perhaps unreasonable restrictions on your actions and then answer that question. Of course everyone’s situation is different. Income disparity affects health and healthcare choices. Income disparity affects diet.

Perhaps Andrew Yang has the correct approach. It is at least a different approach.

I did not start this post with the thought of chasing the minimum wage or a universal basic income but Carpe Diem.