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

Ago

When we were young Cheryl was a very good seamstress. She impressed me by making me and the boys a couple of shirts. I have no idea of the amount of work, effort and skill it takes to make other items of clothing but the year she made us custom fitting flannel shirts for Christmas I was super impressed. I still have a couple. The rest overtime I managed to wear out and fray most of them beyond repair. I can tell you that there is nothing, nothing better than a well tailored shirt. If you have ever had a shirt made for you, shirts off a rack are never the same again. Although I never owned one I can understand why men could spend thousands of dollars on a hand made suit. No wedgies in your armpits or elsewhere.

Today for whatever reason she has decided the pillows need to be trimmed differently.  Here we are in Joann Fabrics. It is hard for me to understand what she is thinking. She has a hard time expressing her thoughts. It is overwhelming like a lot things these days. I really do not know how to help her.

The plan that I conjured was to get outside before the inclement weather turned up. Maybe a walk even though it is cold the wind is still. And afterwards we can have some lunch somewhere. It is Sunday and we have no plans.

But she found her stash of earrings when she was putting her clothes on. I was in full on waiting mode in my little office hide away hoping to not get frustrated and jump in to speed her up. This is January in Ohio and it has been weirdly warm for a couple weeks and that usually means the crap is coming. I became anxious and went back to check. She was messing around with her earring stash. I reminded her we were going to take a walk and have a little lunch somewhere. Oh yeah, that’s right said she. She came out of the bedroom with a bunch of her earrings in a box to take to the jeweler for repair that they did not need. I pointed out that it was Sunday and her favorite jeweler is closed today. She said maybe we could go sometime this week and I readily agreed.

Let’s go take a walk and get lunch. Okay she said.

That all went out the window as we got into the car and she told me about Joann Fabrics and pillows and fringe and trim and once seam binding. Happily I knew what all of those were but had no idea why she was telling me or what she had in mind. I had a lot of questions. I reluctantly drove toward Joann Fabrics instead of our favorite park to walk in. Switching from earrings to pillows left me dumfungled.

I drove to Joann Fabrics and later after we had absorbed enough of the ambiance, we went to a close by Cracker Barrel for salads and pillow talk. This was a soft talking day and Cracker Barrel was a bad pick for quiet conversation but they did have a nice wood fire going near where we were seated.

Later when we got home she showed me the green pillow that she had been talking about. I think she made this waiting for one of our kids to get big enough to be born. I do not remember which one but this pillow has been in our household for several decades.

Carpe the sewing project Diem.

Christmas Trees tell a Story

As do most things in our lives, Christmas trees and other holiday decorations tell a story of good times past. Some are sad times past but they are stories of our life.

I gave in yesterday as it slowly dawned on me that the tree decoration activity was becoming an overwhelming task for Cheryl. It was her idea and has been for a couple of weeks. “We have to get the Christmas tree up, Easter will be here next week” she told me one day. I had resisted but I thought – who cares? I got the boxed tree out of the garage and put it up. I got the tubs of decorations out and parked them on the dining room table for the next couple weeks. We maneuvered around them. Once in a while she would put up a ornament or two. Many of these are one the dining room ceiling fixture because it was near to the tub on the table.

I have to admit it makes me smile.

Yesterday I had little to do while I was waiting for the laundry to get finished, so, I put up the rest of the tree decorations on the tree. I put the empty tub back in the garage with a small sigh. And the last glass ornament on the ceiling fixture over the table. Our house says Christmas now.

Carpe Diem.

Word of the Day – Dumfungled

Word of the Day – Dumfungled
By Kath November 9, 2022 Word of the Day

Dumfungled (verb) (Scots)

dum-fun-gld

  1. mentally and physically worn out.
  2. done for, wasted
  3. Some beer would be good. Perhaps a nice single malt.

Example sentences: “Leave me be, hen. I’m feeling dumfungled at the week I’ve had.”

My sentences: Dumfungle the competition and take over their area. | Dumfungling takes a lot of time but it is so restful afterward. | AND | My wife has Parkinson’s disease, so, she is dumfungled in the evening.

Oft times as a care partner I find little diversions to take me away from our daily existence. Reading, language, words, word usage and humor are mainstays of my diversions. This word-of-the-day from a site in the UK captured my interest today. Thank you Kath – whoever you may be.

Carpe Diem.

Poetry and Other Prayer

i carry your heart with me

By E. E. Cummings Copied from the Poetry Foundation

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

A couple people help me occasionally with Cheryl when I need to do other things. Today I had planned to go visit our lab area at a nearby community college but that changed early this morning. I sent a text to Linda and told that the situation changed but she was still welcome to come visit for a bit. She came and we talked about her sister who is struggling with cancer and other things going on in her life.

In a different discussion Linda revealed that Frank (My cousin, her husband who passed out of this world a decade and a half or so ago.) kept a book by E. E. Cummings on his desk in addition to books by Robert Fulghum (It was on fire when I laid down on it, and others.). I vaguely recalled that Cummings was a poet but I was not sure so I looked him up on the world wide wait. I was proven correct and I went to a poetry website that I occasionally visit. Searching for some of his work this was the first poem displayed. (I think Frank was talking to me.)

Thanks Linda and Frank. I have found another poet who speaks to me. And thank you Poetry Foundation for being there when I need words to guide my heart.

Carpe Diem.

Part of a Study

Pfizer is conducting further trial testing of a mRNA style flu vaccine. Their ad popped up on Facebook a few weeks ago and I answered it.

The first visit about 3 1/2 hours long was taken up with health history and all the normal blood related questions. After the initial interview an official doctor, he had a stethoscope draped on his neck, came in to ask many of the same questions. Good cop, Bad cop? I think that we were waiting for the vaccine to melt. A third person came in to train me on how to label nasal swabs that I needed to do if I felt like I caught the influenza virus from somewhere. Eventually another came to a blood draw. And another came to inoculate me with the double blind test substance. Every day in the evening for 7 days I have to report any and all symptoms on an app. I waited 30 minutes after the jab to make sure death evaded me.

I returned home to the cookie mess. Cheryl had decided to make more Christmas trees but had run out of gas, strength, linear thinking and wherewithal to complete the cookie dough. I guessed there was not enough butter and no flour in the mix. I saved the cookie dough but put them in the oven for too long. Probably should have been 10 minutes not the 13 that I had selected because I thought it was 15. The cookie expert (Cheryl) always says, set the oven for a couple minutes short and look at them. (The recipe words were nowhere to be found.) Oh well, I like crunchy cookies. She likes soft cookies which I think are under done.

Afterward Cheryl recognized that she could no longer make cookies on her own. Or she at least expressed it that way to me. Today she probably does not remember that at all.

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.

Organizational Techniques

This is such a good story I am unsure where to start. Had I been more alert to how Cheryl treated this book I could have foreseen the difficulties that eventually came to her and became much of my daily life. But seeing how she treats it now is unimportant and I flatter myself into believing I could helped her if I had been paying careful attention at the beginning.

About three years ago – certainly prepandemic – Cheryl was struggling with her birthday card organizational techniques. She had several old books of names. One of these was left to her when her mother had passed from this life to the next. When a new month was approaching she would collect these to her in her office in the evening to make a list of folks whose birthday was coming to buy cards.

When her mom was still alive she would take Elaine to the Dollar Store to buy cards to send out. She took this over in time for her mother and eventually kept it up after Elaine passed away. She did this, of course, in addition to her own birthday card list. So, one evening I noticed she had several old handwritten books that she was looking through to discover whose birthdays were coming next month.

She had entered much of this same information into an Access database that she had created during her working career to help her and her mom keep track of things in an organized and businesslike manner. Cheryl was an extremely organized business woman. The most disheartening thing for me to watch as this disease progresses is her loss of organization and control. If the disease was merely physical it would, I think, be easier to deal with.

Nevertheless I put on my engineering hat to help with different methods to enhance and at the same time add ease to the organization of the birthday cards. In a second career as a high school science teacher which never completely panned out, I discovered a wonderful organizational tool that teachers use and might very well be adaptable to Cheryl’s needs. Teachers use a weekly planner to help with organizational tasks and as I discovered with my small experience, to keep track of how far behind you are with the course material. Usually these are dated with the year but at Staples I found a wonderful version that in addition to having only two days per page was lined and printed in a 8.5 by 11 format had no year printed. It could be a yearly calendar of birthdays, anniversaries and other information without concern for the year or day of the week.

The doomsday algorithm would give you the day of the week. Look it up. It is pretty neat.

She had been struggling with organizing the birthday cards. I suggested she use this yearly planner. In the store, she agreed that it could be a useful tool to organize the activity. I was proud of myself for finding such an elegant solution to her dilemma. Being the ever helpful hubby I produced from her Access data a list that I could put into Avery’s online printing tool and produce the information for the dates that were known. New information would come along with use and could be added by hand as the years evolved.

Almost a good idea but my idea therefore NIMBY and NIH reared their ugly heads in unison. And I, not to be defeated, began to defend my method to a woman who spent her working career in computer databases and systems analysis, as she, slowly crept into memory loss, confusion and dementia. What a hoot! I completely and totally missed the AHA when it went by about two years ago.

How to help without helping? I continued for many months to reconsider and think about how to make the Big Black Book useful to her. In her old multi-book system she looked at a single page to discover who had a birthday that month. An index my engineering mind shouted at me. You forgot to make an index. I thought about that for awhile and realized that the planner was organized by month, not day-of-the-week, not year, only day of the month mattered. It was self indexing. I was at a loss as to how to fix her thoughts.

I quit concerning myself with instructing her on how to use it. I just rolled with her confusion.

Over time the preoccupation with getting out the birthday cards dissipated. Other thoughts of how to help her organize it left me. I became an observer. She always tells me, if I don’t do it myself I can’t improve. She is right. I am merely her aide.

Carpe Diem.

Happy Anniversary (52)

I woke up this morning and there on my Facebook feed
Was this beautiful expression of love on our anniversary

It was made by my friend Edie down south
God spoke to her, we never talk by mouth

She has this exquisite talent she is sharing
she posted this on the day of our pairing

Edie, you did not know
that fifty two years ago

Cheryl and I were wed. Thanks for your art.
This day is special, thanks for the great start.
August 29, 1970

It was a seriously hot day. We were dressed to the nines. We were skinny. Life was in front of us.

Happy anniversary to us!

Carpe Diem. (I do not know why I wrote 53) 🙂

To My Cousin Frank (aka Butch)

Frank, I know you are not with us any more and have not been for awhile but I suspect that like Google and Facebook you can watch us, so here is what I want to say to you.

Thank you ever so much for marrying Linda all those years ago when we were young. These days she is an immense help to me and a good friend. As you are aware, her simple act of kindness to Cheryl and me comes in the form of being with Cheryl while I go do something else. Lately that has been riding my bike around Lunken Airport.

When she first started doing this for us I had signed myself up for a care giving class which put great emphasis on making sure that you take care of yourself as a care partner. I asked if Linda could be with Cheryl during those class times and she agreed. I took the “take care of yourself” message to heart and make an extra effort to find help so that I can be on my own for a couple hours.

Since I am seeing Linda more these days, prior to this as you know we met for pizza Tuesday maybe four or five times a year, I think often about our conversations and ponderings in Aunt Dorothy’s kitchen. Do you remember some the questions we posed? How does one determine if sour cream is bad?, for example. I had not thought about it at the time but it was the same sort of thing that would puzzle my dad and I am guessing his brother, your dad. Sometimes small people would run through and we would wonder who they belonged to. Those are good memories. That entire older generation of our family is gone now. Aunt Bert passed away last year. But you know that. Have you talked to her yet? Does dementia go away when you get to heaven?

So, here is a couple questions for you. How are you doing in heaven these days? Is heaven a no smoking area? Is there a smoking section? Or did you give that up?

Did you know grapes are better when they are frozen? I learned that from Sarah’s Luke.

Ray and Shirley passed through town a few days ago. We gathered at Sarah’s house with as many folks as we could conjure up. Not all of your kids were there but some were. Betty and Herb came from Brooksville. Andy was not there but Kyle and Julie were. It was a great time. Ray took a picture:

the gathering

Good talking to you.

Carpe Diem.