Easy Life with Grace

It occurred to me this morning (early afternoon) as I was cleaning up the breakfast dishes that often we want our friends, lovers, significant others to be on our schedule. This is especially true if they rely on us for help. Cheryl has not been on my schedule for a long time. She is on parkie time.

Her dementia seems to have added a special aspect to her conception of time and place. Following instructions in a linear fashion is very hard for her to do. Even if you are not interested in doing what she has decided that she wants to do, it is simply easier to go along. It is actually able to steer the activity if you plan a little bit.

There are three things on Cheryl’s agenda for today; Christmas cards, snicker doodle cookies and a list of complaints for the doctor when we see him next week. For me it is merely laundry day. (But these are all things I will do in some part.)

I got up on my typical schedule at about 7:15 am or so. I figured out the Wordle but used up all of my guesses and got a “whew” for my effort. The morning news was not keeping my attention so I printed the address labels for the Christmas cards and placed them in a prominent spot on the dining room table. I made a boo-boo. More about this later.

At 9 am or so I finally encouraged Cheryl to get out of bed. She had gone to bed at 10 pm but I could hear her moving around while I was learning how to align the address information with the Avery labels that I had selected earlier in the day. I came to bed about 11:30 pm. She was up once after that.

Even though I was making every attempt I could think of without a direct command to get her interested in making the cookies, nothing happened. I gave in and finished the cookies.

The labels however was a businesslike activity and she selected that. All was well until she became confused. I had duplicated a page of the labels when I printed them. UGH! The silver-lining was that she recognized the error. She merely did not know how to react to it. (sad face here) In an earlier life she would have said, “Hey you duplicated a page we need to print the missing page.” (She might have added “dummy” as a tease.)

She discovered this just as I was leaving to take a walk and Cindy had come to sit with her. I took the offending page out of the rotation and suggested that she continue with the rest while I took my walk. While I was gone she just stopped. She was unable to continue. It did not occur to her that she could do the page of labels that was unduplicated. And my suggestion that she do that did not register in her mind.

Later in the afternoon I stayed nearby and repeatedly showed her what to do. She finished one more sheet of labels. We have only thirty to go. Last evening I wrote a small newsy letter to put inside of the cards. I had the cards and envelopes pre-printed with our names and return address.

It is becoming a long and disappointing road.

Carpe Diem.

Thanks

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.

Cindy

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.

Jane

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.

Linda

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.

Mary Jo

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.

Nancy

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

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

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.

Jane’s Organization

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.

Clementines

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.

Carpe Diem.

Full On Baking Mode

Well Thanksgiving is tomorrow, Christmas is a couple days afterward and then Easter is the following week. Cheryl thinks that anyway, so, we are all decorated for Christmas (Soon to be Easter) Season.

Yesterday I made banana nut bread out of some soon to be brown bananas purchased specifically for that purpose. Here is the result.

Later today we will make the sugar cookie recipe that Cheryl remembers as a child and later on she made when our kiddos were small. As you can see the Mirro cookie press booklet has been though many cookie wars. (The cookie press itself has been replaced many times.) I am in the process of transcribing these recipes for posterity but I suppose if I look hard enough I could find them elsewhere on the internet of all knowledge. I am not very busy. One more thing is okay.

The cookie dough has been hanging out in the fridge overnight so it should be perfect today.

Carpe Diem

Christmas and Parkinson

Cheryl has it in her head that Christmas is any minute now. The calendar fact that Halloween is next week does not dissuade her vision of the immediate future. Often when she makes comments almost daily now about cards, cookies, toys and generally shopping for the grand kiddos, I correct her and point out that we have about eight weeks to go before we need to worry.

We have only one grand child under the age of fifteen. My secret grand plan was to give every kid money and let them go find something that they covet. Zachary is only five so shopping for him takes us back to when the parents were that small. Good memories and fun times were had by all and I admit I like to shop for little people. (Maybe I should tell my soon to be fifty year old daughter that her mom is getting her a Raggedy Ann for Christmas. Be surprised and delighted. Is Raggedy Ann still around?)

So why are men so obstinate? Why am I stuck on correcting her delusion about the calendar time? I am not going to let her miss anything. She seems to not be disappointed when she indicates Christmas is next week and I say, no it is the week after or some such other baloney to satisfy her that the perceived need is not urgent. She wants to put up some Christmasy decorations. Why not? What is the harm if it satisfies her that all is in readiness?

Cookies

Two days ago like many days previous she wanted to make cookies for Christmas. Yesterday early in the day I put together the dough in preparation. It was our intention to make the cookies after we came home from dinner last evening. It did not happen as we became distracted with watching a couple PBS shows that are our favorites. I promised today after exercise class we would make cookies.

After a little lunch we got started on the cookies. In my maleness I sort of bossed her out of the way to start the process. Why I did that I am still discerning. Maybe in another life I will know why or not. She wanted to make the dough balls for the snicker doodles. I reluctantly backed off shifted into check-on-her mode.

Music

I once worked for a small company that had a six hour loop tape of Christmas music that played on the hold line of the office phone. One of the partners had read a book about how office workers liked to hear and were more efficient with music playing. He piped the hold music into the overhead speakers. It was like working in an elevator that was stuck on the wrong floor. It was agony.

She said to me, “Get your music machine out and turn on Christmas music.” She means Alexa. I cringed when she told to do that. I think I grumped a little too and then I went to get the hockey puck I move around to listen to music. A Christmas song or two in among others is okay. WARM 98’s idea of solid Christmas music, old, new, good, bad, chipmunks, Benedictine monks, rock and roll, country-western, some group of nuns, Bing Crosby, etc. a few years ago lost me as a listener. That was not a big deal to them since I rarely listened to their station. Five weeks of Christmas music is agony to my ear. I feared the worst was going to happen – Christmas carols from Halloween to Christmas. There would be no “Monster Mash”. I said loudly, “Alexa, play Christmas music!”

Christmas music always makes Cheryl nostalgic. She remembers the olden days when she was a child. Nostalgia makes people tear up. Cheryl is no different. With her version of Parkinson, her emotions are on her sleeve. “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” started coming from Alexa. Bing was doing he usual great job. Cheryl was five when this movie became a favorite in the post war ‘50s. In the middle of scooping cookie dough into one inch balls she started to cry. There is nothing I can say to assuage her nostalgia and longing for her childhood. Those are most of the only clear memories that she has. A runny nose and drippy eyes are not useful for rolling cookie dough into balls for snicker-doodles so I eased her out of the way into a chair while I finished rolling the cookies.

I suppose we will do cards another day. Why are men so obstinate?

Carpe Diem.

It was a Good Breakfast, Dear.

It is important to try making it into a nice day. A few weeks ago another Cheryl wrote on her blog – just let it go – or words to that effect. As we move further down this road of Parkinson I find ways to simply make life more enjoyable.

Cheryl likes egg bread. It is a memory from her childhood. My mother always called it french toast. I do not know what the French call it which sent me on a quest for knowledge from the internet of all knowledge. They call it pain perdu and that translates into lost bread. French toast (pain perdu) is always better if it is made with stale bread. It is better in my opinion if it is made from stale sourdough bread.

This morning I coaxed her awake with the thought of french toast with blue berries and a little whipped cream. This is a picture of mine. She was already eating hers when I decided to take this picture. She had slept late today but it is a good day.

French toast (aka eggbread)

“It was a good breakfast, dear”, she said to me as I was loading my plate into the dishwasher. We have no real plans for today. Perhaps I will take her for ice cream later in the afternoon. Perhaps not. We will just go with the flow today.

Carpe Diem

A Never Ending Search

Breakfast

In my never ending search for a good day for Cheryl, this morning I went to a little donut shop near us and bought a dozen from Maggie. I had not purchased donuts from Maggie for some time.

Linda was coming over today to sit with Cheryl. I was intending to ride my bike around Lunken and the Ohio river trail. I asked Linda what kind of donuts she liked last night. The chocolate iced ones are hers. I sent this picture to her in a text this morning. She appeared early.

The donuts were only hours old. Ron makes them overnight.

Donuts used to be $11 a dozen with coffee. Today they were $14 a dozen without coffee. That is twenty-seven per cent more for you math weenies out there. It might be more considering the coffee. Inflationary pressure has finally come to donuts. Gasoline prices are down. Donuts are up. Darn.

I went to ride my bike. When I had returned Natalie was almost finished cleaning our little condo.

I made chicken Parmesan for dinner. We went to a little ice cream shop for dessert.

It was another good day.

Carpe Diem.

Donut Day

It was going to be doughnut day and I forgot. Alas. Woe is me.

Going down this sometimes bumpy, sometimes smooth road of Parkinson, I hunt for ways to make memories. Happy memories. You have to see how Cheryl’s face lights up when there are doughnuts for breakfast. You will know then why getting up early to go find doughnuts is a special memory. Cheerios will not go nearly as far to creation of happiness.

Skeptics will report that doughnuts are not good food. Some will even report that doughnuts are bad for you. Others will discuss yogurt and oat bran and report their studied benefits to those I say malarkey, nonsense and bovine feces. Nothing, absolutely nothing compares to a lightly textured butter enhanced wheat dough gently lofted by yeast plants straining for full growth finished in deep oil at the proper temperature and upon proper cooling, coated with a just-right glaze of sugary vanilla. (I know you can taste it. That is because I am eating one while writing. Darn, sugar on the keyboard.)

I offer only condolences to those with celiac disease. Gluten free donuts are a sad replacement. I offer condolences to those who are lactose intolerant also for they are doomed to enjoy margarine and vegetable oil.

Nevertheless as we returned home from our dinner at a diner and a walk around the park last night, Cheryl expressed an interest in having doughnuts for breakfast. I agreed but at 8 PM those are hard to find and when you do there is little selection. I said I would get up early and go find some. Alas, this morning that thought had not remained with me overnight.

Cheryl got up a little after 8 with no help from me. I heard her stirring in the bathroom and went to be an annoying helicopter care partner. All was well. I asked her what she wanted for breakfast to which she replied, doughnuts! I was initially crestfallen as I had forgotten our discussion. I put on clothing and went to our local IGA to see what was still available in their Busken Bakery cabinet. Fortunately for me the selection still contained kettle danish which is a favorite of hers. I will eat any combination of sugar and wheat dough. No favorites for me, although, my grandson once brought me a maple iced long john which a strip of bacon on top. Yummy. (When you are in Chicago next time find some “fried dough” — fattening but exquisite.)

The day was saved. The crisis was averted. Dip-able things appeared next to my coffee. Perhaps I will make a new pot.

Carpe Diem.

Tonight it is Chicken Fried Rice

I did not know that fried rice recipes are intended to use up left over rice from the previous day or two until I looked for recipes for (something) fried rice to make tonight for dinner.

Yesterday when Cheryl was making me nervous in the kitchen that is what she kept talking about, fried rice. So last night after I apologized profusely I told her tonight we would make fried rice together. We did. She did some of the chopping and egg scrambling. I did the frying over the hot part of the stove. It worked and it was pretty darn good.

In preparation last night I cooked some rice and put into the fridge. I took some frozen chicken out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw. Tonight we chopped and fried and stirred and cooked.

The general activity:

  • 1 chicken breast – pounded, salt and peppered, chopped into thin strips
  • 3 large eggs – scrambled with a little water
  • 1 C. frozen mixed veggies, pick out the big green beans and chop them smaller. My package has peas, carrots, corn and green beans
  • 1 medium size yellow onion chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. of garlic pepper. I was out of garlic cloves. I usually have some. Use two if you have some.
  • 2-3 tsp. of sesame oil
  • 2-3 tsp of soy sauce (plain old LaChoy)
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil for frying

I don’t own a wok. I used to own a wok. I am more familiar with a 12 inch cast iron skillet that I own. It works fine for this kind of stuff. We have had it for fifty years or so so it is well seasoned.

Fry the eggs after Cheryl turns them into scrambled mix. I add a little water to them like the Frugal Gourmet taught me years ago. (Remember him? Sad. He has some good recipes though. I kept his books.) Fry the eggs with about a tsp. of vegetable oil. remove them to a plate and chop them into pieces you will add them back later. After marinating the chicken chopped into thin strips for a bit in sesame oil and salt and pepper (I also pounded it out into a flat shape as though I was going to make chicken-fried-chicken ala Cracker Barrel) add a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil in the skillet and cook the chicken to golden brown. (Gently you can go too far.) Toss in the onion and garlic. Keep frying. Toss in the frozen veggies. (At some point you may feel the need to add more vegetable oil. Be careful.) Keep frying. Dump in the pre-cooked rice. Keep frying. Add a little sesame oil and taste it. Keep frying. when you are ready add the soy sauce. I guessed two tablespoons or so, but I do not measure at this point. I taste. It might need a little salt or more soy sauce. — Probably 30 minutes from beginning to the end and eating.

I should have taken a picture but we ate most of it before I thought to do that. I gotta get more Tik Tok. I rarely think to photograph foods that I am preparing unless I have impressed myself.

Carpe Diem.

She wants to Cook

Cheryl wants to cook something and I am afraid that she will harm herself. I cannot get past that.

Yesterday after our doctor appointment in the early afternoon, we stopped at Dewey’s pizza for a late lunch. Somehow the white pizza showed up with red sauce on it but mistakes happen and the pizza was good, just not what we had ordered. (That is the second time in a week that the incorrect pizza showed up at our table. Perhaps we need to expand our cuisine. ) Nevertheless, lunch was good and we returned home to do nothing for a bit. Cheryl lapsed into one of her punding/do something modes and began futzing with making something in the kitchen for dinner at 3 in the afternoon.

It made me nervous and I suppose what I should have done was sit in the kitchen to read my book and keep an eye on things. But I did not. I just popped in to check occasionally and point out that we did not need dinner for awhile as we had had lunch at 2:30 pm.

Family dynamics are hard to break. Before Parkinson she did most of the cooking and I stuck to my baking hobby out of the way at the other end of the kitchen. I stayed out of the way when she was cooking. My opinion was not solicited nor encouraged in our old house. Cheryl was a good cook and in my new duties as cook among other things I have tried to duplicate many of our old favorite recipes. Sometimes I would botch them up but most times they turned out the same. (Thanks, Betty Crocker.) These days when she gets in a mood to cook, things can turn out badly, but, more importantly, she has fallen in the kitchen as often as anywhere else and I worry that she will put her hand on a burner or fall into the hot oven.

When I could not gently steer her away from her “cooking” – she was boiling two eggs – I became angry and upset and tried to explain the danger to someone who sees none.

And last night she slept poorly. I blame me for that. Lot’s of emotion swirling around in her head as she tried to sleep left her fidgety and awake until almost four am. Even the big new bed did not help.

Carpe sad Diem. An opportunity to make a memory was lost to anxiety and anger. But tonight we will make something together. I will do better this time.

She is sleeping late today.

Carpe Diem … again.

Another Lunch with Friends

A good friend of Cheryl’s from church organized another luncheon with her and another mutual friend today.

Back in the bygone days of younger kiddos and the everyday working world, Cheryl was part of the group of women (mostly) who decorated the church for various holy days or other events in the church calendar. Often Cheryl’s job was to clean and press and arrange the alter cloths just so. The group would spend an evening or Saturday decorating the church for the occasion.

These days are gone for her and the decorating committee and St. Ann’s sodality has thinned over the years. Today however Cheryl and Barb are hooking up with Diana, the team leader, who has moved to a retirement community with her husband on the other side of town.

It gave me time to experiment with banana bread and fool around with other things. Maybe even blog a little.

Carpe Diem.