It’s Just Laundry

It used to bug me a little bit if Cheryl leaked out over night. But one day I said to myself what is the big deal. It’s just laundry.

It is now another mantra for me. Much like Carpe Diem (seize the day or seize the moment) after repeatedly saying mottoes like this out loud or not, it changes your mind about whatever is bugging you. Out loud is better.

Psychiatrists and psychologists call this cognitive talk therapy. It works for many situations. The important part is to keep doing it even if you do not think it is working for you. Eventually you will convince yourself.

After I wrote the initial thoughts I had on this topic of changing your attitude to be positive, I tripped over this article by Rachel Feintzeig in the Monday Jan 23 edition of the WSJ. It intrigued me. Naturally there is an app for that. I used to think that it was better to be a pessimist and be surprised by events than to be an optimist and be disappointed by events. This is summed up by the dismissive and sometimes arrogant, we’ll see comment that is spoken by pessimistic personalities.

An added bonus to reading Ms. Feintzeig’s article is that I learned a new albeit made up word: pronoid. A friend of her’s made it up and explained it to be the opposite of paranoid. He believed the world to be conspiring in his favor.

Pronoid – a situation where your surrounding friends and environment join forces to make your existence better than at first perceived. (I like it.)

Overnight urinary incontinence can be really inconsistent and inconvenient but in the end a load of laundry solves it. Cheryl lately is losing interest in her exercise classes that she used to like, I try to bump her into some other physical activity. Take a walk, go shopping which is also a walk, or something. Outside is best but sometimes the weather does not cooperate. Carpe the moment. I try to read her mood and find something that is not in our condo.

It does not always work but activity is best. Sedentary is less than best.

And Carpe the laundry diem.

A Great Time

We went out with friends to a new restaurant. We had to be seated on the second floor. There was a ladies room on the second floor.

What a relief it was to us both.

Not the most appropriate opening to a story about going out to dinner with friends but parkinson makes the very small things in life into major obstacles. Those need not be obstacles but they can win out in the “Is it hard? v. Is it easy?” tug-of-war that enters the discussion whenever any social activity happens.

I have written about women’s restrooms and some of those experiences. This is not a blog post about that. This is a story about how truly graceful are friends that Cheryl and I have in our life and have had for half a century. It starts with an email from Jan in early December proposing that we gather for dinner somewhere for our annual holiday gathering. Cheryl used to refer to this group as the defunct bridge group because although we used to play bridge at our gatherings, over time we simply gathered for a meal and socialization.

Jan suggested a few dates in January and suggested collecting at her house or a restaurant somewhere. I immediately voted for a restaurant somewhere for two reasons; it puts the eventual clean-up in someone else’s bailiwick, it gets Cheryl into a social situation were she does not believe she is a burden to anyone. (Grace on Cheryl’s part, she does not want to be a burden.) And besides, Gary and Jan go to restaurants that we might never pick just because of unfamiliarity. She picked the Purple Poulet in Newport Kentucky.

In a later email after Jan had confirmed the reservation, she wrote that we would be seated upstairs and asked if that would be a problem to anyone (grace – Jan did not single us out). I did not respond to her email because upstairs by itself is unimportant. It does tell me what equipment I might need. It also tells me that I need to call the restaurant to understand restroom facilities which I did not do. (no grace for me) Somehow with our narrow life activities, I never got around to calling the Purple Poulet and asking about ladies restrooms. I am not shy about that idea merely incompetent in this instance.

Yesterday was January 20th, the day that had been previously selected for our dinner gathering. Sherry called to ask if we would like to come to her house late in the afternoon for a drink and we would leave from her house to go to the restaurant which was a thirty minute drive through the center of town. (Grace on Sherry’s part for offering extra time to socialize and catch up.) Sherry has a sister who also has parkinson as a part of her life. Her sister is living in an institutionalized setting but Sherry spends a good amount of her time there. Cheryl is comfortable in conversation with Sherry and Sherry understands Cheryl’s difficulty with mobility and mental agility.

After I accepted Sherry’s invitation, we discussed restaurant steps, parking arrangements and restrooms facilities and, oh bye the way, if steps and restrooms were a problem, why did I not speak up? (She left out – you fool!) Sherry is too polite for that last part. She did start dialing the phone. Pretty soon it was all settled. We would meet at her house and ride to the restaurant in Gary’s GMC Acadia. (Grace to Gary and Sherry.) Sherry suggested that if the Ladies was downstairs which was my fear, we would just deal with it at arrival. (More grace to Sherry – her words – I’ll just tell Cheryl I have to go and we’ll go together when we get there.)

I managed to get Cheryl to Sherry’s house before everyone so that I could put our car deep into her driveway and out of the way. I was successful and the evening was all set. Denny and Katy arrived a few minutes after us. Gary and Jan arrived shortly thereafter. Sherry had drinks and snacks. For an hour or so we were surrounded by just friends not Parkinson. What a relief it was to us both.

It is not often that we acknowledge the kindness and graciousness in our life. There is no excuse for that. Many explanations but no excuse. This group of friends surrounded us with love and kindness and helpfulness and grace. For a few hours we, Cheryl and I, could just be. (Thank you, all.)

About the Purple Poulet; I linked their website to the first mention of them above. For me at least and I think Cheryl would agree it was a great dining experience. The restroom on the second floor was marked Ladies on the door near our table but was in fact a well appointed handicapped restroom. I have been in many. I know.

The steps turned twice and had handrails on both sides. If there is no elevator the next best thing is handrails on both side of the steps and a gentle slope to the stairway. Up is never a problem for Cheryl. Down, however, is a perceptual problem as well as a physical one. A short gentle run of steps is much less intimidating than a long or steep straight run. (grace to the stairway designer.) I have not gone down a set of steps with Cheryl forward for many years. (Sherry managed the walker while I was helping Cheryl manage the steps down – grace to Sherry.)

We both had their chicken. On their website they claim “The Best Fried Chicken by Southern Living” – It was the best fried chicken I have had in quite awhile.

This morning Cheryl is still sleeping. I am not but I should have skipped that second glass of Robt. Mondavi that I allowed myself because I was not driving to and from the restaurant. (no grace to me – grace to Gary for driving)

Carpe – the best fried chicken – Diem.

And surrounded by grace is another reason to stay connected.

Grace to you, Denny, Katy, Jan, Sherry and Gary for letting us simply be us.

Pizza Tuesday

An old tradition of ours is pizza Tuesday. I know. I know it is supposed to be taco Tuesday but neither of us are super huge fans of tacos. Although if we wind up at a Mexican restaurant and there are some very good ones in the Cincinnati area, Cheryl will order tacos. Some of the Hello Fresh meals are Latin American in flavors. Neither of us grew up with that but the La Rosa family has been in business for sometime and some scenes from the Rain Man use Pompellio’s as back drop. Sorry I have digressed again.

We used to frequent a small pizza joint nearby (run by a family of German dissent or Latvian if the spelling is different) that we liked. We tried several nights during the week and ultimately landed on Tuesday as the least crowded. It stuck. Over time it became “Anything Goes Pizza Tuesday” because sometimes one would rather have a hoagie or a hero sandwich or a calzone or maybe just a salad. Cheryl did not care as long as there was pepperoni somewhere. The only exception being a steak hoagie sandwich reminiscent of Pasquale’s. Sadly, the Pasquale’s of our childhood is no longer.

Lately we have moved Anything-Goes-Pizza-Tuesday to a newer use of an old italian restaurant near where we live. They opened just before the pandemonium and we supported them with carry out orders during the shutdown.

Pizza Tuesday has developed into a social affair with friends and neighbors. Sometimes Cheryl’s family shows up. Sometimes anything goes.

On this particular night Cheryl’s cousin Donna showed up. We had been trying to get together and on a whim I called her and invited her to Strong’s Brick Oven Pizzeria. She came. My cousin’s widow, Linda showed up. We had a great conversation. We got home later than we usually did. Sadly, we had no leftovers and that is too bad.

It was a time to connect and make new connections. The pizza Tuesday reminder list is getting longer. Cheryl had a good time and told stories.

Carpe pizza Tuesday Diem.

Inspiration in Song and Poetry

I often find hope and inspiration in song and poetry. Today while reading blogs of others I tripped over this from Filosofa’s Word. Kermit and his rainbow song.

To me and I suppose many, poetry and song are the same thing. A song with a melody that is catchy enables a poor poem to live. A sweet expressive poem often needs no accompaniment. Sometimes the music is first and inspires the poem. Sometimes the poem is first and inspires the melody.

A favorite poem Desiderata sort of sums up life. It has no metre. It follows a prose format. I find it to be calming to my heart. I have not read it for a while but reading Jill’s blog page about caused me to do that today.

Carpe Diem and keep connected to everyone around you.

New Year’s Day

We had a great visit from all the kids and many of the grandkids. On New Year’s Eve I spontaneously asked our children if they had anything special planned for New Year’s Day. I asked if not would they like to gather around our table for a meal in the afternoon. I suggested about 4-ish. They all said yes.

I stole this idea from Frank C. Church. Thank you, Frank for a spontaneously good time.

Who can tell? Maybe a new family tradition? Traditions have to start somewhere. They are kept up if everyone has a good time participating. Zachary certainly had a good time. He had not seen grandma’s marble race before so Mom and Gavin helped him put it together.

Most importantly Cheryl got to have everyone at her house. She smiled and laughed at the conversation and activity. It was simply wonderful to see her smile.

Her smile and laughter are less as we head on our journey of Parkinson. Yesterday was very special to her and to me.

Carpe Diem. And don’t forget to connect!

A Nice Dinner

We went to one of our favorite places to eat dinner tonight. Friday night with my girlfriend, best friend, lover, mother of our children and life companion. It was a good time. Christmas decorations are everywhere. People are visiting and gathering for the holidays. Bacall’s Cafe was loud. It was full of us old people chatting and eating and drinking and gathering. We were all catching up with each other and the world.

It seems to me that the smaller local restaurants have better service. Those restaurants seem to provide employment to the youngsters in the neighborhood.

Friday night has a special atmosphere. It always has for us. When we were younger and still working full time for others, it marks the end of commitments for the week. Often Cheryl and I would meet for a quiet dinner somewhere. Just us and our conversation was a special time to relax and take stock of things. When the kids were small Friday was often chaos. But those years passed by too fast and it was just us again.

These days I think that it is important to stay with her in her remembrances. If she wants to talk about long ago I try to stay with it. But I also try to gently steer her to the present if she has strayed far off the road. As we were driving to the cafe she asked me where I wanted to celebrate my birthday next week. — Her deceased father’s birthday is next week and her brothers had been talking about meeting for dinner somewhere to commemorate that event.

I am still on a learning curve with this sort of conversation but I calmly reminded her who I am and reiterated the conversation about celebrating her dad’s birthday. I switched the conversation to where do you think we should go? She switched it back to I wonder where Dad would go if he was here. And we went down that road for a bit until we arrived at the cafe.

AHA: Preserve any routines you can. Embrace any memories she has. Calmly help her find her way back to the here and now. Emphasis on calmly and watch the pitch and tenor of your voice.

Date nights are not always for the young. We had a long wandering conversation about the place we were eating. We talked about other places we have been. We talked about family. She had a coke. Years ago it would have been a glass of rose or white zinfandel. I had a gin and tonic. Years ago it might have been a nice single malt scotch. As we have aged we both like sweeter things. It was a good time.

As we were getting into the car for the drive home, one of her old time friends, Donna, called my phone. I almost did not answer. Robo-calls are annoying. Donna had gotten my number from one of Cheryl’s friends that she had met in church. She called to get together for lunch one day after the holidays. A new conversation about Donna happened on the way home. We will have lunch somewhere in a couple weeks.

Carpe date night Diem.

Back in the Olden Days

Gift wrap at a department store was free for purchases from that store. The malls often had a bunch of girl scouts or boy scouts wrapping boxes and raising money for their troop. If you did not want to get stuff wrapped boxes were available from the department store. (With their logo)

That slowly faded away over time. It was part of the season and might still be there but I have not shopped in a department store for several years. Parkinson disease interlaced with dementia does not enable that to occur with ease. I lament that fact.

This year we did spend some time shopping at J C Penney. Cheryl has always liked Penney’s store. It is one of the few department store chains still surviving after Federated Department Stores sucked up many of the littler ones and became Macy’s. A couple days ago a nice gentleman gave us a couple coupons on the way in the door at J C Penney and bid us well as we began our shopping experience. Later when we had a bunch of carefully selected gifts piled onto Cheryl’s walker and headed to the front to purchase them, he saw us coming and as the line to check out was long he asked the woman staffing the cosmetics counter who was idle to check us out. She smiled and said sure she would do that.

As we approached the counter to do that another frantic old woman who had just come in the door barged in front of us and asked the cosmetic counter staff if she could “pay her bill here” because the line was too long to stand in.

Two things I have not thought about perhaps ever in my life; driving to the actual department store to make a minimum payment on an invoice that was sent to me via USPS, something that can be done by return mail and manifesting surprise at the length of the checkout line at 1 PM on a Sunday afternoon two weeks before Christmas. Perhaps she could not afford a stamp or did not have a stamp and the bill was due on Monday. This woman decided to chat with me about those things while the woman behind the counter opened a different computer to access the billing records and accept the $35 minimum payment on her J C Penney account and applied it to the customer’s Visa account. It is easy to understand how cash strapped elderly women get over their head in debt. (Sorry, that was unkind.) I did not chat. I merely stood silent and waited while Cheryl stood there looking tired.

Eventually the nitwit was gone and the cosmetic woman picked up our purchases on her counter and said, I need to get some larger shopping bags. She was gone for about 20 seconds. She checked us out and I helped put the stuff in the bags because she had very little space on her cosmetics counter.

We completed our purchase and I thanked the woman for allowing us to check out with her. She smiled. Perhaps no one had thanked her for helping them that day.

As we left the store I noticed that the long line had dissipated. I remarked about that to the gentleman who was still staffing the door passing out coupons. He smiled and wished us a good afternoon.

Carpe Christmas shopping 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.

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.