Are Birthday Cards Gone?

Anna was looking for ideas about what to get her mom for her birthday in May of 2022. I suggested a box of blank cards to send for any reason. Cheryl has always kept greeting cards that are sent through the mail for fund raising purposes from various religious and chronic illness organizations. Some would be sent to her mom when Elaine was still alive. Some of these are still in residence in Cheryl’s office.

There is a small green box shaped like an old country mailbox near the phone in which these cards used to reside. They are no longer there but are spread here and there amongst other paper and chaff in her office. I had hoped that Anna’s present would take up residence in the mail box topped box but that did not happen.

In mid-April of 2022, I suggested that she should make a list of the May birthdays and we would make a trip to the store to get some cards to send. The idea of making a list is hers. She readily agrees with this idea but as her Parkinson took hold of her cognitive centers she is unable to do this.

A few months back her engineer husband suggested that rather than a list she should write each name on a post-it note and as she selected cards in the store, she could put the post-it note inside and she would know who the card was for. Later when she wrote the card and addressed the envelope she could note what date she wanted to mail it and stick it to the front when she sealed the envelope. That solution met resistance because of the NIH factor. (not invented here) But over time she adapted it to her way and used it for awhile.

In April I helped her make a stack of post-it notes with names and we went to the store for cards. Few of those cards were ever mailed to anyone.

In May I waited to see if there would be a panic mailing of cards. May came and went.

Our daughter-in-law Mavis’s birthday is the 1st of May. Hers was the only May birthday card sent. How do I know? In a previous month there was panic as Cheryl realized she had forgotten where she had put the stamps. I now keep track of the stamps. I often have written about her punding. Sometimes she will pund stuff into obscure places. We all do this – not punding – but set things down in obscure places. With PD it is merely harder to find out where it was parked. The stamps turned back up a week or so later after I had bought a new roll.

Cheryl’s birthday is in May also and her brothers and sisters often gather for a “sibs” dinner to celebrate such an event. These pictures are from that gathering at Gabbey’s cafe.

The birthday cards acknowledgement of the family birthdays seems to have been forgotten. It is probably another nuance to he loss of sense of time, calendar, day, week. Our son Scott’s birthday is the 6th of June. We were at our daughter Anna’s house on his birthday. Anna asked her mom whose birthday was today. Cheryl looked at her with a confused look.

I felt sad about several things. I have been writing significant events on a white board that I put on the table each morning so that Cheryl knows what is happening this day. I have not been writing down birthdays. She forgot Scott’s birthday. Of the few cards that I think she should send we forgot to send one to our son. A few other sad thoughts drifted through my head. But most of all I realized that she had lost the birthday card duty. She had forgotten it. This is a long time thing that she did for our family and her mother while Elaine was alive. This is a longtime activity for her. Her short term memory has been off or fading for sometime. I had gotten used to the fact that it is necessary for me to remind her of events constantly. (It is annoying but over time one gets used to it.)

Christmas, birthday, invitation, funeral cards are all gone. An actual paper card with a USPS stamp is how Cheryl learned to acknowledge things. She never adopted Facebook or any other social media platform for those.

Parkinson is a series of small setbacks. Sometimes it is so gradual it merely seems like life going by. It is easy to attribute all behavior changes to Parkinson, after all, he entered our lives about a dozen years ago and has made dramatic changes to how we now do things. Lot’s of older folks develop an apathy for life. They do not need Parkinson’s disease to help them. It is a kind of disinterest in life. Doctor’s have recently discovered this. Geriatric doctors ask specific questions about it when visited by their patients.

This topic about the birthday cards occurred to me in early May when no panic mailing of birthday cards or frantic searching of the black book or of the old address books that we had in our old house or her mom’s address book. It was a sudden occurrence in her behavior.

Could I be watching apathy creep out from behind the curtain? I will have to be alert to this behavior. So far Cheryl does not seem apathetic. She does have a fading memory. Are they the same?

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.

Morning “News” Programs

Yesterday we picked up one sister of Cheryl’s and went to visit another sister of Cheryl who lives about forty miles down the road. It was a very pleasant visit sitting on their great front porch perched up a hillside with a nice view of the Ohio river to the north. We had a great conversation while some extra kids and grandkids showed up to drive go-karts and minny bikes over the hills and around the property. Sometimes it seemed like having a conversation on the berm of a nearby highway. Nevertheless it was a good day and this morning Cheryl is sleeping in for a bit.

Which leaves me with my morning coffee and watching the morning news shows. It also leads me to think about what is news to me. The morning news shows, as they always seem, are interspersed with the latest political dilemma, complicated financial maneuvering that makes money less valuable but no less important, some actor/celebrity fall-out from marriage or their manager, the best guacamole recipe or another use for hot dogs, the expected weather for the next week (it is remarkable how this is always bad news), the latest book usually a tell-all memoir – today about growing up as a child of abusive news reporters in California, and other useless, to me, drivel. I suppose a breakthrough therapy for Parkinson would be of much more interest. Sometimes news is merely superfluous information and blather.

I turned it off because I noticed I was using it as background noise for working today’s Wordle and a couple other puzzles I have become fond of working.

I like crosswords. I suppose that is my father in me. He liked crosswords also. It probably sounds odd that I care little for Scrabble since it looks much like a crossword when completed. I think that has mostly to do with competition which I also care little for. I am not competitive except with myself. Crosswords and stroke-play golf fit into those self competition categories and maybe bowling.

Journaling and writing and blogging is also an interest. Today is also wash-the-sheets day and I am starting later because she is sleeping in.

Carpe Diem.

The Caregiver Helpbook (3rd Edition)

Subtitled: Powerful Tools for Caregivers

So what can the Care Partner of The Year 2021 do with all of this wonderful knowledge? In an inadvertent fluke of fate and its fickle finger Patty send me an email with the information about a Caregiver’s Class put on by Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio. I am all for being as educated as I can about how to take care of Cheryl better by taking care of myself.

Being an engineer and amateur scientist I thirst for knowledge. That is corny but true. The problem with that statement overall is that there is no complete solution to Parkinson’s with dementia added. There is not even a partial solution. Cheryl’s sister hopes for a cure. I do not hold that same hope. That being said, the situation is not hopeless. 

I bought a book called “Dementia Reimagined”. I was hoping for a cookbook style answer manual. It was not that at all. It is an incredibly tiring tome about public policy and where it fell into the dumper over the years. Engineers are always hoping for a cookbook for their situation. When this happens, do this. Alas there is no such manual for life situations as defeating as PD with dementia.

But back to the help-book, It seems as though many of the ideas I have discovered on my own or others have told me about I merely have been ignoring them. Early in the book it talks about developing goals and achieving them. These are not care-giving goals. These are goals that allow the care-giver some relief.

Initial focus is on setting a goal or several goals and development of a plan to achieve it or them. The goals discussed are relaxing activities for the care giver. So, it is something you want to do. It is also something that is reachable and realistic. Something you can accomplish in the near term.

  • What do you want to do?
  • How much of it do you want to do? (more specifics)
  • When do you want to do it? (timing helps to plan)
  • How often do you want to do it? (repetitive relaxing activity)

This same technique can be used to plan any sort of activity, of course, but the book’s focus is care partnering and care partner health. Additionally this portion of the text asks the maker of promises and planning to predict the probability of achieving your activity. There’s an implied deep need here. Something that you may really feel like you want to do but have little chance of achieving. A life lesson in the manner of understanding that not all wants are achievable. (How driven are you to get to your goals)

The next portion of the focuses effective communication and recognizing emotional and stressful situations. Two forms of communication discussed are assertive and aikido. A comparison of these styles of communication is Assertive:”stand tall” vs. Aikido:”standing with” This portion of the book takes me back to my educational psychology classes and discussions about defusing confrontational situations.

  • ASSERTIVE
  • setting limits
  • asking for help
  • advocating for another
  • making difficult decisions
  • dealing with difficult styles of communication
  • AIKIDO
  • defuse emotional situations
  • help others feel understood
  • reduce anger
  • balance emotions to allow dealing with others

As I go through the rest of the book I will report anything else of interest to me.

Carpe Diem

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.

Reminiscing and Punding

In a previous post I wrote about finding a little card entitled “The Art of Marriage” in Cheryl’s purse. As I unwrapped and unfolded the little package in her purse I was very aware of the fact that it was none of my business what she kept in her purse nor why she kept those things in there. Nevertheless, faced with various requests for help, like, I can’t find my black comb or I have lost my glasses, I try my best to keep up with how objects and things are pared up, associated together in her newly confused mind.

I am guilty of looking around through her stuff to help her keep track of her stuff. I have no other interest in her stuff. That is my defense when I am caught. So far so good. I have not been caught yet. She thinks I am really good at finding things. If you know who would think to look in the freezer for a comb or used Kleenex for example, then you know someone who is care giver to some person with some variety of dementia.

Punding is a term used by the Norwegians or Swedes to describe the activity of mindlessly sorting or aligning objects, often random objects, in a fashion known only to the person doing this. I believe the term means “blockhead” Swedish.

In Cheryl’s case this behavior manifests as organization of articles and documents in preparation for a meeting or some other activity. She ran the early computer tech program at Nativity School when our children went there. Having no educational background caused her to be constantly looking to others who did, attending meetings and reading articles. She was excellent I am sure simply because she was aware of her weaknesses. She also helped her mother send cards and notes to family and friends to thank or take note of various occasions such as birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, graduations or merely an invitation to dinner. To this last Cheryl has kept many thank you notes from her mom for Sunday dinners over the years.

She gets these out and sorts, re-reads, thinks about her mom and shows them to me as though she received it in the mail today. Often she will say, I got this card from Mom. Or I got this Christmas card from (whomever).

She collects these in various clumps and collections. Some are in manila envelops. Some are in small gift bags. Some are collected in stacks with a rubber band around them. Some are in stacks held together by spring clips. Sometimes they may make some sense to me, sometimes they make no sense. No chronology. The collections can be totally random.

As she looks at the cards she reminisces about the old times. I used to point out that she was looking at a five year old Christmas card. I find that unimportant to do now. The activity is totally harmless. Late in the evening she is amenable to “I can help you with that tomorrow. Let’s go to bed and rest so we are more alert to work on that.” And we trundle off to bed tired from another day.

Carpe Diem.

Fast

There is absolutely nothing that goes fast in our life anymore. Do I miss it? My immediate reaction is NOT.

Max throwing his fast ball

I like how the young people emphasize comments by using ALL CAPS. That enables their fast comments about most anything that strikes them.

FAST however is gone from our life with Parkinson. Planning and thoughtfulness and SLOW are the current buzz words in our life.

I have noticed as I get older (I am Old) and drive my wife with PD to various exercise or other social activities that many drivers – not necessarily young drivers – move through traffic fast. What is their hurry?

Even when I am feeling as though I am late for something, I ponder what will be the result if I am later than I expected to the destination – mass, restaurant, exercise, whatever. The end result is similar to removing one’s arm from a bucket of water.

Nothing. Maybe a couple drips on the floor.

Carpe Diem – FAST

Kardia Mobile

This company wants me to buy a device that pretty much tells me I am not dead yet. I already know that. I run to the store and run to the library and run to the doctor fairly often. I am pretty sure I am still running okay and not dead.

Many people, probably most, spend a great deal of time running here and there. It is ingrained in us. We chide each other if we are not active. But instead of running what if we took a deep breath and stopped to look around at God’s wonder of Spring and the renewal of life. It happens every year. It is truly amazing.

Breathe and notice the world. Run for exercise and health but do it outside where He can show you His wonder.

Run: Carpe Diem.

A Manual for Life

Wouldn’t it be great if there is a manual for living? Wouldn’t it be great if there is a book that tells one how to do everything. Wouldn’t it be great if there is book that tells one what to do different when something goes wrong? It would be like an appliance troubleshooting page in the operator manual.

But life is not like that. It would be great if it was but it is not. I am ecstatic when I find one of these charts because any problem I have is rarely on the chart.

In my working career I occasionally helped to create charts like these for industrial machinery but there is no such manual or chart for life. There are however lots of pious platitudes. Social media platforms are full of them.

This last one with the turtle has become my mantra of a sort. Forward is forward. Progress is progress. With chronic degenerative disease one can maintain hope for a cure, that being said, it can be more useful to accept the situation and play the hand that was dealt to you. (My very own platitude.) Forward is forward.

Carpe Diem.

The Goat is Right

Stephan T. Patsis is a favorite cartoonist. His signature work, “Pearls Before Swine” is the cartoon in the comic section of the local newspaper that I read first when my wife hands me the funnies and says, “There are some funny funnies today.”

You have to choose to be happy. The goat who is somewhat intellectual and thought provoking tells rat. An absolutely true statement from a smart goat. One does choose to be happy and no one else can make that choice for you.

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

Choose to be happy.

Carpe Diem.