People Are Still Dying

She went to bed early and did not seem to stir all night long.

Look at this she says to me holding up the obituary page in the paper today. I rarely look at the obituary pages. Cheryl reads them everyday. It is the one of three reasons we still subscribe to the U.S. News and World Report Cincinnati Enquirer. The three reasons are obituaries, comic and puzzle pages, banner page with today’s date. I occasionally look at Daugherty’s sports column. He is a good writer.

I asked, “Is there anyone you know?” But she does not recognize any of the names. She goes through the list several times. The first go does not register every name. She has had two and a half doughnuts and she brings a clementine orange as well as some orange juice with her to her chair as we settle to watch the TV. Lately I have been purchasing Minute Maid orange juice concentrate from the store. It is about $1 more that the store brand orange juice. I do not drink orange juice with breakfast. It is the only thing Cheryl drinks and has been for some time.

She tells me that the Enquirer publishes a list like this a couple days a week and it is much longer on Sunday. I relax as I listen to her talk about dead people. Death is a part of life I remarked. Yes it is she replied without looking up from the list as she read it one more time.

She reads the list carefully as we watch Sunday Morning on CBS. There is a story about Liza Minnelli. Cheryl catches the reference to Judy Garland at the end and remarks that she is dead too. She is thinking Liza is dead, I suddenly realized. There is no point in correcting her thought so I do not.

It is Donut Sunday and she is sitting with me watching what I think of as our Sunday show. We used to watch this show on the VCR after Sunday mass. We often stopped at the Pleasant Ridge Donut Shop on the way home. We always walked to church.

Last evening after church we went to a local pizza haunt to enjoy the quiet and have something to eat. The Cincinnati Bengals playoff game had sucked the life out of the late afternoon pizza scene. The NFL had assigned them the 4:30 PM slot on Saturday. Few people attended church that evening. Some of the lack of attendance may have been due to the latest covid wave or the play-off game.

After we entered the empty restaurant and settled at our table conveniently located with a clear view of the sixty-inch flat-screen TV, another crowd of six appeared and was seated at a nearby round six top. After our dinner – a small pizza for me, a favorite appetizer for her – I suggested that we drive over to a local bakery for some doughnuts or a coffee cake for our breakfast tomorrow.

We did that and as luck would have it, the doughnuts were a special price to move them out of the store. I will have to remember this for future reference and future Donut Sundays.

Today is a good one. I am pretty sure that she slept well last night.

Carpe Donut Sunday Diem.

A Third of the Way

It is now a third of the way through January. Cheryl and I went out to a small diner on the other side of town to visit with one of her life long friends.

They call themselves the “Clementines”. They attended grade school together and many attended the same high school. They number about a dozen and they used to meet every other month at a local pizza place to chat and reminisce and catch up.

Cheryl was the the original organizer of this group and convinced the others to come and chat. She teased many of them into it at first. She kept the friendships alive. And then Parkinson’s hit and took away her organization and her cognition.

At first she hid it well. It drove her crazy that she might forget something or someone. The computer, something that she had used throughout her working career as a database analyst, something she wrote code for to extract information, became a confusion. I (behind her back) asked one of her friends t take over the organizational task. Kathy stepped up and did it.

Covid struck and they moved to Zoom. I set up the zoomeetings for a bit because I had a corporate account with the community college that I work at part time. Kathy got her own license because she was using Zoom to visit with family.

Today we went to lunch with Marilyn who was unable to zoom a few nights ago. It was a wonderful lunch. Cheryl was able to talk to someone other that me in person.

Tonight for dinner I made oven fried chicken and roasted brussels sprouts with carrots. But for dessert I made Apple Oatmeal delight which is a recipe from BookBakeBlog’s site pages. It was pronounced good! Write that one down!

Apple Delight (not BookBakeBlog’s name)

Life is a journey. Enjoy the apples (and other fruit) were you find them. Carpe Diem!

The Bread is Made. The Meatloaf is in The Oven.

Many gather at this time of year. The plan B gathering area for Cheryl’s family is at our house. It was supposed to happen at her brother Ken’s house. Ken’s wife is ill but she is on the mend. The dinner count is down by two. Cheryl’s sister Debbie also cannot attend. Sometimes grand kids sports get in the way as families grow. But all is well. Our table sits eight comfortably and we now only have five. Hopefully there will be leftover cherry pie.

Children visit their parents’ home. Grandparents visit their children’s homes and when they leave the mess stays there. In this grandparents’ home the gifts are all wrapped, sorted and ready for transport. Santa is unsure of the number of stops required this year. He is awaiting further instruction from the other Clauses.

Traditions abound and new traditions are made. Sometimes big brothers help little brothers. Zachary is the smallest one in our bunch. He has only had four orbits around the Sun so far. It looks like he is being mentored on decoration hanging.

Even some as sickness creeps in and some cannot visit. Zoom and Face-time is meant just for this situation. What a wonderful technological world we live in for a short time.

‘Tis the Christmas Season

Carpe Diem.

Cheryl’s Cookies (Not the Commercial Venture)

Living with a parkie makes me alert to new information when it comes up. That being said I do not always recognize my new task. This is about becoming a master cookie maker on the fly.

Executive function

Dementia occurs in about 40% of Parkinson’s sufferers. Some behaviors are side effects of medications. Some come with build up of unpronounceable proteins in the brain. No matter the source, the behavior can be disheartening and annoying from a care partner perspective. Cheryl’s reaction often is anger to some perceived slight or merely, the question, why do it that way? (It is an engineer’s question.)

It starts with me. Words and question structure is important. Engineers always want to ask why something is done some way or simply is some way. Why often sounds like a challenge, even to other engineers, if it is not asked properly.

How to do

Our latest challenge to our marital bliss is Christmas cookies. Baking is a hobby and a passion. I like to think I have perfected my meager talent at making breads of various types and shapes. I am proud of that but lately I have pushing into cakes and pies. The pandemic pandemonium gets to us all in various ways.

My perception of making cookies is one of a trivial exercise in baking. That seems to be an incorrect perspective. Cheryl’s helping me. Two cooks in the kitchen is a recipe for a challenge to peaceful coexistence. Two bakers near an oven enables battle lines to be established and defended with vigor. Starting a question with why is akin to removing one’s glove and casting it upon the dueling ground. (smiley face)

Cheryl has made perhaps a giga-dozen (I just made up that word) of cookies. I have made none. What can I say to redeem myself? Engineers ask why a lot.

Where to start

To a skilled cookie baker the recipe is merely a guide, a refresher, a list that says these get lemon zest. Interestingly, that is much like how I view a new bread recipe. I am on familiar territory.

But not so fast apprentice! Nearby there is a master cookie baker. Do not question the master’s skill at her craft with disdainful utterances such as, why and how come? All will be revealed. But also keep an eye on the recipe and make suggestions such as, yes, we have put that in the mix. Shall I add the butter?

Sometimes with creeping dementia ingredients are forgotten. Sometimes without that factor ingredients are forgotten. Try to be kind and remember that no one got up in the morning thinking, how can I mess with his mind today? Most importantly, do not raise your voice two octaves, that is a dead giveaway to your ignorance.

How does one check for doneness? It is common sense! Look at them. (the “fool” is left unsaid.) They will look right. What is right? (and on and on and on…)

Cut out the Crap in the Conversation

To a person standing nearby this conversation can sound rude. It sounds like one person is giving another orders and it can be that way. If, however, it is done with kindness in the communicator’s heart and with understanding that a Parkinson’s patient also may be dealing with confusion issues, it is neither rude nor demeaning in any way. Often a person experiencing Parkinson’s cannot or does not get the implication or inference. Be clear. Have kindness in your voice when speaking.

The onus is on the care partner to be patient, kind and clear. Be aware, care partner, that this is hard to do because you remember how your partner/spouse/parent/friend was before. (Good natured teasing may be misinterpreted. Be certain that your partner is not confused.) You too can be unaware of how they are now. The Parkinson’s patient may become sad or angry. Be persistent if you as care partner are very concerned about safety. Add some love to the conversation if you think you are not getting through the confusion. Strive to not become frustrated and raise your voice (two octaves).


We did wind up with our first battle batch of cookies. Although they are a motley crew, they taste fine.

Carpe Diem.

Special – or not – Spaghetti Sauce

Every once in a while I get creative with the refrigerator contents.  Last evening I had some frozen butternut squash I had cut up and cubed a couple days previous.  Usually I roast this in a 400 degree oven with a little salt and pepper and olive oil for about  15-20 minutes but I decided to try something different.

I had also a 1/2 pound of ground beef. And I had a half jar of Barillo (12oz.) tomato basil sauce.  I took about a cup of butternut squash and simmered it in about a cup of water for about 15 minutes on top of the range.

When it was soft I poured off the water and smashed it into a pulp and dumped in the Barillo sauce. When I recover unused commercial sauce like this I often put a couple tablespoons of water in the jar to rinse the bottom, I poured this in as well. I added a pinch to a quarter teaspoon of red pepper.

I sauteed the ground beef with a little olive oil and rinsed it in a colander when it was browned. This removed some of the grease left from the saute. Cheryl has a hard time with any sort of greasy food. She likes it but about an hour later it gives her a lot of indigestion.

I added this to the sauce and let it simmer gently with the lid on for about 20 minutes.

While that was happening I got the water going for 4 ounces of spaghetti. When that was ready I plated it up.

I sprinkled a bit of grated Parmesan cheese on top.

She pronounced it good.

The picture at the top is not mine. It is from fitmencook.org. How cool is that? Perhaps I am a closet fit man. (smiley face here)

Carpe Diem.

Last Night it was Bacall’s Cafe

Wednesday night dinner out was a favorite place Bacall’s Cafe. She had a half BLT and a salad. I had pot roast, mashed potatoes and vegetables which turned out to be sauteed zucchini. It was a regular night.

Cheryl spent a great deal of the time trying to get her right earring in. She never did. The waitress tried to help but was worried about hurting her ear. Many years ago when she had her ears pierced the incompetent piercer did not get the hole straight through. For many years she was able to make it work. These days her PD fidgety motion makes inserting the post or pin often unsuccessful.

Eventually I convinced her that no one cared and she should put it in her purse and try later. We talked about different things none of which stuck with me. She did not have any odd topics to talk about. It was a dinner conversation that lulled me into forgetting about her PD. We teased each other as old married people do.

I remarked that none of her family came to her family gathering at her cousin’s house. She replied that maybe since they had been at our niece’s wedding the previous weekend they were doing other things. Perhaps she right, as family gatherings go, the clans tend to stick together with not much intermingling.

We saw several old acquaintances at other tables and booths. It was Wednesday afternoon and the old folks were out having dinner and a drink or two. Talking about this and that. She was having a good day for the moment.

When we got home, I settled into my recliner to watch a bit of news and for Nature to come on our local PBS station. She went into her office to look at the clutter and maybe check email. About an hour or so later as I was starting to read my book and tigers of India were saved for now, she showed me some pictures that she thought were of my sister Laura and her family from a trip out west. (POOF) she was off in PD la la land.

The pictures have little to do with Laura although she is in some of them and nothing to do with any trip out west but Joyce and Rob, our family’s only westerners, are in them. The pictures are of two Christmas celebrations twenty-five or so (maybe thirty) years ago.

Oh well, Carpe Diem!

Time after Time

A few minutes ago I went in to check to see how she was doing. She told me that Tari picked out some really cute birthday cards this time around. (Tari was not with us shopping for cards yesterday but that is not important.) She is working on the August birthday cards. She had just put on her favorite Rod Stewart CD on the player in her little office. This song came on. It happens to be one of my favorites. This disease of Parkinson is slowly taking her from me and I long for the old days.

What good are words I say to you?
They can’t convey to you what’s in my heart
If you could hear instead
The things I’ve left unsaid

Time after time
I tell myself that I’m
So lucky to be loving you

So lucky to be
The one you run to see
In the evening, when the day is through

I only know what I know
The passing years will show
You’ve kept my love so young, so new

And time after time
You’ll hear me say that I’m
So lucky to be loving you

I only know what I know
The passing years will show
You’ve kept my love so young, so new

And time after time
You’ll hear me say that I’m
So lucky to be loving you
Lucky to be loving you

An old standard by Rod Stewart

It is a lament of times passed and an optimism for the future. I often struggle with that last part when this disease of Parkinson appears in the middle of the night or I am researching incontinence products on various websites. On melancholy days I think about the preParkinson times. It helps to not look back with longing for those experiences. Time only moves forward. I am grateful to have had those experiences with her. I am grateful for the times we have yet to experience.

Do I wish she did not have Parkinson’s disease? You betcha.. Cyndi Lauper has a song that might be more familiar with a similar sentiment. Once in a while I get very nostalgic for our previous life. I let it roll over me in waves. It is helpful.

Tonight’s menu is Salisbury steak, rice, green beans and corn. I am baking a small cinnamon crumble cake for dessert. These are some of her favorite foods. I am following the Dinner for Two cookbook by Betty Crocker which is her favorite cookbook. She will compare her version before our kiddos came along to my version this evening.

Hopefully the hallucinatory little girls that often populate our home in the evening will not appear and we can rest later.

She is looking for earrings after she awoke from her nap.

Carpe Diem.

Pizza Tuesday

Several years ago we began going to a favorite local pizza store one night a week. We tried different days and over time we landed on Tuesday as the day we went out for pizza. It developed into a tradition as my youngest son would say. It became known as “Pizza Tuesday”. Sometimes in conversation a friend might say, “Can we get together tomorrow?” I might reply, “No. That’s Pizza Tuesday.” It became sacred. We did, however, invite others to our favorite pizza store to share. Occasionally one could see local celebrities such as one of the local colleges’ basketball coach there snarfing pizza like the rest of us fans.

When we sold our old house and moved to our condominium we invited our neighbor and friend Jane to our Tuesday dining adventure. It became a time to chat and catch up. Pizza Tuesday as a tradition became even more ingrained in our routine.

The pandemic pandemonium stopped much of that activity. At first we carried out (took away) our pizza from our favorite pizza store and moved our tradition home to our dinning room table. That worked well for a bit. Over a period of approximately fifteen months we experimented with pizza that was not only pepperoni. We added vegetables and fungus. We tried other sauces from the menu. We tried other pizza stores. We tried take away from other food emporiums. We expanded our flavors.

As the pandemonium eased Cheryl and I slowly began to visit restaurants with few or no utensils or menus. I learned how to use the square bar code thingy that restaurants pasted to their tables, walls and doors. A restaurant with paper menus became a favorite when previously it was not a favorite. Victoria, a young waitress at the favorite-not favorite, began to recognize us by sight. We came when she was working often. We began to look for her and tease her a bit about her constantly changing hairstyle. There was a reason to go there beyond pizza.

Socialization is a strong motivator. I worried a bit for Cheryl’s safety and health but I recognized that for her it was important to simply get out and see people other than me. Even in a pandemonium, one must live. Neighbor Jane who is immune-compromised remained isolated.

This past Tuesday evening we went back to Pizza Tuesday. The three of us went to yet a different pizza store. Perhaps, for us, THE PANDEMONIUM IS OVER! Prior to this event we made a list of various foods both home cooked and restaurant dishes that we would like to have. Jane aimed this discussion specifically at Cheryl. We will read the list and tick them off one by one. And I hope make a new list at the end of this list.

We are all three vaccinated. Not one of us has bought into the disinformation distribution on social media. Eating out and conversation provides all of Maslow’s hierarchy in one way or another. This chart is similar to one I saw many years ago.

An old psychology chart that I have not seen for awhile.

Godspeed and 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!

Parkinson’s Awareness Month

This is Parkinson’s Awareness month but for me it is just another month. I have expanded these thoughts and comments specific to Cheryl. In the comments below I have added information that she might say but these days Parkinson’s has robbed her of language. She can speak fine but words can be hard to retrieve and occasionally some severe confusion about what is coming, where she is, or, for that matter, what happened moments ago.

Nevertheless

To the Ones That Love Me…This is what you need to know about me and my Parkinson’s Disease.

This is not a death sentence, PD can be managed. Encourage me to exercise daily, it is MY MEDICINE. – It is remarkable how much a few simple exercises can help Cheryl. Many of the exercises are simply vigorous movements or stretches. At her Parkinson Community Fitness the class exercises are tailored to folks dealing with PD. She cannot do all of the motions that the instructor asks but she tries her best to do them. The exercises can pick her up in a way that acts on her body like an extra dose of meds. Many times afterward we will have a late lunch somewhere because she is feeling good.

Early on she recognized how much exercise helped her to feel good. When her mom was still alive she spent a great deal of time at Bridgeway Pointe helping Elaine with various things. Elaine regularly exercised on a recumbent bicycle-like exercise machine. Cheryl did this as well with her mom and occasionally with me at the YMCA. She sought out an exercise regimen at the Y with one of the trainers there and developed some exercises specific to her particular inabilities. Later when PCF opened we joined. It has been and still is perfect for a non-athletic person such as Cheryl.

Don’t make assumptions about my PD, every case is different. – For many years Parkinson’s symptoms for Cheryl were mainly physical. This is no longer true. Hallucinations, delusions, mental confusion and memory loss have added to the morass of physical symptoms.



A meditation – serenity and peace comes to me when I can see that Cheryl is safe and unafraid. Most things that occur with PD cannot be changed. It is very hard to accept that fact. It is a degenerative disease. In my manliness I can see, or think I can see, ways to mitigate and ease her mind, life, anxiety and worries. And when I have done that I have removed any small bit of independence that she still has. In Cheryl’s mind oft times her disability does not exist. She has yet to capitulate. A confused mind does not recognize its confusion.

My meds have to be taken EXACTLY on time everyday. Spontaneity is no longer, please help me plan ahead. — This is complicated by the fact that what is eaten either before or after greatly affects the usefulness of the medication. The primary treatment of PD is a combination of carbidopa and levodopa often referred to as Sinemet. PD is a result generally of a dopamine deficiency. Absorption of this chemical occurs in the gut and the presence of other proteins inhibits absorption. So, “Hey. I’m hungry let’s go grab a burger somewhere!” spontaneity is gone from our lives and has been for some time. We often forget that and opt for spontaneity anyway.

That being said, Cheryl greatly enjoys the company of others (friends, siblings, past acquaintances) during dinner or lunch and she easily loses track of time and pills, food and drink get out of sequence. Her body’s reaction to this is twofold; she becomes exhausted (but not always) and she may develop severe indigestion (but not always). She may have either, none or both reactions.

My health comes first. I need to put myself before other’s needs and responsibilities. – but Cheryl is unable to do that easily. it is not part of her personality. It never has been. She is the oldest of six children and as they were growing up, her mom gave her more and more things to do and help with. I tell her often that what we do and where we go is really up to how she feels. She knows that she needs to put herself first but she would rather be with family and friends even when she is feeling not so good.

The other aspect of this is that she may feel perfectly fine until we are somewhere for a bit and she will crash. After she recovers she will become apologetic and worry that she has ruined everyone’s experience.

Anxiety is real. Don’t overwhelm or over plan me. – I have over time gone behind Cheryl’s back, so to speak, and have suggested to organizations that Cheryl is involved it that they find another to perform whatever little task she has been doing for them. She was the go-to person for anything computer related. It was her career for many years. These days it is merely a source of anxiety and confusion for her. It has reduced her anxiety level and in some cases has made me the bad guy.

I am okay with being the bad guy if she sleeps better at night.

Sometimes l am exhausted, especially late afternoon and evening. – This happens most often after she has taken her medication. It seems the meds can overwhelm her body but not always. “Always” would be easier to plan for.

How I feel changes by the hour. I can feel good in the morning and terrible an hour later. I am not the old me who can multitask and go-go-go… – It seems that any sort of multitasking activity is gone from Cheryl’s life. I however like to whine about how many new things I take care of in our life now. Cheryl no longer drives. I am her driver (whiny voice).

Be patient and don’t overwhelm me. – two questions in a row overwhelm. If that happens with me nearby, I will answer for her and slow the conversation so that she can keep up. This can include repetition.

Apathy is real! – And sometimes attention deficit is real also. It is easy for her to start one thing and be distracted by some other thing.

Sometimes l just can’t do a task and need your encouragement. – Like puzzles.

Communicate with me on your concerns and help strategize new ways of doing things. – This is a constant activity in our house. It is easy to use up days thinking about and trying new ways of doing things. It has also taken some time to train the care giver (me).

Help me to eat clean foods and drink lots of water. – Cheryl really does not like vegetables of any different variety that was not fed to her as a child. I do not know if this has any truth to it but there are many things she will not eat or even try. Her idea of lots of water is two or three sips. These are my observations from my experimentation with Hello Fresh meal kits.


As a caregiver it is hard for me to explain how frustrating some of these nuances can be. Resistance of personalization of this disease is very hard to do. I mean this two ways – projecting my feelings, what I think she is feeling, onto Cheryl and dismissing what she tells me that she feels. One of the comments above is that every case is different. This is not unique to PD. Scientific medicine would like the mechanism of disease causation and progression to present as a commonality to all humankind but that simply is not so.

There is a lot of discussion of phases of Parkinson’s disease in medical texts and websites. From my narrow view that is mostly crap. Literally everyone is different. It serves no purpose to relate current symptoms to some list and determine were one is in the dance we all have with death. It is best to look for and act on the feeling good times. There will be plenty of time to consider the feeling bad times after one has passed from this life.

Carpe the Diem!