Love Stories Make Me Cry

I don’t know why that is. They just do. They are not sad but some are. Life long love is precious. Some say that it is rare. Perhaps what makes me tear up is the fact that many people do not find love that lasts for a lifetime. Perhaps an inner joy in me appears when I discover a story like ours. Perhaps my tears are tears of joy for, I cry at weddings and births too.

In the Fall/Winter Miamian (The magazine of Miami University) is a wonderful love story. Many Miami University grads met their life partners there while in school Oxford, Ohio. I imagine this is true of many university campuses but at Miami it is legendary. The story is about two people who met at a basketball game but did not know each other. They were set up by friends and began to date. During this time she noted that they could get a one hour PE credit for taking a social dance class. He did not want to do that but she insisted with, “If you’re going to date me, we will do this.” Later as they found out that they were in different sections of the class, she wanted to drop the class because it was not what she wanted it to be. He responded with, “If you’re going to date me, you are going to take this class.” The woman teaching the class allowed them to take their final exam together. It was a waltz. It was a metaphor for the rest of their lives.

Today she is suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. And he is her caregiver. As time progressed she needed more care than he was capable. As he was moving her into a facility to care for her better the pandemic struck the U.S. The facility was about to lock the doors to curtail the spread of the virus to their residents. Could he move in with her? Yes. He has moved in with her to the assisted living facility to be with her throughout this Covid-19 pandemic. They locked the doors to the facility to stop the spread. True love.

I wonder about our future with Parkinson’s disease. As time progresses I notice that my life partner struggles with many of the simple organizational tasks associated with day to day living. I have taken over many of these, most of which fall into the category of chores – laundry, cleaning, cooking and the like. I wonder if it might have been better for me to not assume some of these tasks. It is not that I mind doing them but I have taken many of the daily routine tasks away from Cheryl and she has little of the daily routine chores to help her organize time during the day.

As it is, I am able to keep up with daily living chores. But I cannot resist looking towards the future and wondering about what is next.

In addition to being a movement disorder, Parkinson’s seems to destroy in some people the ability to perform parallel tasks. Cheryl has filled her days that I have removed the chores from with a task that her mother used to perform for the family. Elaine used to keep track of and send an appropriate card to children and couples on the recognition of their birthdays and anniversaries. Intermingled with this was additional well wishes for illness, deaths and other life events. It is somewhat unique in her extended family as I have noticed no one else doing this. Facebook has the unintended consequence of reducing within a family notes, cards, phone calls and other intimate connections. (Perhaps a good new year resolution is to get off Facebook and onto the phone or email or snail mail to reconnect.)

I have digressed. The simple act of keeping an address list up-to-date and maintaining a calendar with birthdays, anniversaries, deaths or other dates is confusing to one who is loosing her ability to remember which pocket of her purse holds the chap stick she put in there moments before. I help her and have helped her a bit around the fringes but I am resistant to take over this task in its entirety. It is something she wants to do. It seems to be something she likes to do. It is something that frustrates her greatly upon occasion. It is something that derails her objective when she discovers an incorrect address or thinks she has discovered an incorrect address because she has remembered an address from “auld lang syne”. When this happens one must stop and wait for the correct address to appear from the email inbox – or text message stream which is a variety of the same thing.

This is merely an example of a deteriorating brain and I wonder if I will be able to keep up with her needs into the future. The husband of the couple interviewed in the Miamian recognized that he was unable to tend to her needs completely and decided assisted living was the answer. His wife has Alzheimer’s which is by my perception much more debilitating than the slow progression of Parkinson’s disease dementia but will I recognize when I am unable to take care of her on my own?

Our love is here to stay. Their love is also. I will always cry when I find a love story of two people devoted to each other for life.

Parkinson’s disease sucks. I hope I can recognize where it is sucking us toward.

It is the Little Things

Glasses piling up on the counter

Most little things are not important to care about.  Our niece, Natalie, who cleans for us once said you are neat people in response to a comment from Cheryl about how quick and efficient she is at cleaning our place.  She is right about that Cheryl and I are neat people generally.  Clutter of newspapers and magazines will appear during the week but by weekend they are in the recycle bin.  I get up and make the bed every day.  While I am cooking dinner which is something I find myself doing more and more often these days, I put things in the dishwasher as I complete a task. We put the dishes in the dishwasher right after using them. 

I’m not big on dusting  which is why I hired Natalie to do that for me but since she has been dusting and cleaning every couple weeks, I have spent time spiffing up my office.  Lately I have noticed a slight changes here and there with Cheryl’s behavior about neatness.  It seems to be another sign of the degradation of mind caused by the Parkinson’s disease.  Something else for the caregiver to do.

The inconsistency of PD is often confusing to me and always frustrating for Cheryl.  I have mentioned this before.  Paul McCartney  has a new album out and on it a song titled “Seize the Day”.  Absolutely one should seize the day but often with a parkie one must seize the moment.  Her day might be disconnected from reality one moment and acutely aware twenty minutes later.

Mail… junk mail

As one gets older the junk mail increases. At least that is my perception. Cheryl used to be able to discriminate junk mail advertising and new credit card offers without opening the envelope. These days each envelope is opened and ruminated over. I think that’s how the Readers Digest started to get delivered. She may have asked me in a weak moment – Do you like Readers Digest? The subscription has been renewed until 2025 or so. Oh well. It was cheap.

Perpetual Christmas card list

Finally it is the end of an excruciating three weeks of getting the Christmas card list in order and sending them out. Cheryl has been looking at printing out and re-looking at the list of addresses she has from 2018, 2019 and edits from this year. This is all made so much harder by the fact that the original list of addresses is kept in an Access database which makes little sense to me. The list itself is a couple names short of 100. Both Aunt Alberta the last of my father’s core family and Aunt Ruth the last of my mother’s core family have passed away in the past twelve or thirteen months. Cheryl’s sister Janice is also gone, as is my brother Bill. Things need to be adjusted.

This exercise is more than just making sure that the address list is accurate.  It is a time to think about those folks. Maybe a letter is needed for the card.  Maybe a phone call is needed to get current.  To me it’s about the list. To Cheryl it is more than that. The sewing machine becomes desk to finish off the last 30 or so cards that require extra thought. Lots of distractions jump in the way of sorting through these last cards.

Is this one of those “Aha” moments that a Facebook friend talks about? Aha! She is not able to focus her thoughts long enough to ask for help. When she asks for aid, it is very hard to understand when I must not push back when she wants to do it differently. I was not able to accept micromanagement in my working career either. This is frustrating. There are four more addresses to go.

We wrote a generic message to those who were left to go. We did this in the car riding to visit my son yesterday. Today when I asked her for the notes she took so I could write it up, she did not know what I was talking about. I had to be very specific in my discussion. But we got there. This is the note:


I have written this short note to everyone on my Christmas card list. My Parkinson’s disease is making typing and writing more difficult as time progresses. So, even though I would like to write a longer note, I cannot do it. I do want to find out how everyone is doing this year, so, if you are interested please send a text message to 5——–0 or email to me@Gmail.com and Paul will set up a Zoom meeting to keep in touch.

Thanks to you all and have a very Merry Christmas!

Cheryl

printed 6 to a page

I probably spend too much time trying to understand why I am angry (at myself) and frustrated (with myself) about a stupid list of addresses. I printed the labels – weeks ago. I just went in to check on the last four. She is handwriting an address for a fifth one to someone not on the list at all. Carpe Diem…

Questions

In a Facebook Parkinson’s disease caregiver’s group – a person asked in a posting if anyone else got driven crazy with questions.  I am not.  I wish I was.  Occasionally she will wander down a rabbit hole and come out the other side anxious about loosing a piece of information, email draft, telephone number or address.

What day is this? Is Scott going with us? What do you think Jan wants on her pizza? Are we staying here or can we go home? Did that guy bring my pills yet? … I do get these sorts of questions.

There is very little straight line activity in Cheryl’s world. Her world has many distractions along the way.

I have read and re-read this several times. I am whining but there it is – a couple weeks in the life of a PD caregiver. It certainly is an odd disease. And it sucks!

This particular image has nothing whatever to do with anything I have written here but amusement parks used to have photo booths in them. Remember photo booths?

Two Young People in Love OR We had Dark Hair Then

There is no value to looking backward in time. It is, however, enjoyable to reminisce about days gone by.

On the Importance of Sleep

Chronic illness and sleep

As we travel this Parkinson’s journey the engineer in me is hunting for a fix for various things that arise. Lately the sometimes appearance of “Sundowner Syndrome” (SS) has me hunting for information and hoping for a solution. This Web MD article has some useful tips about how combat Lewy body dementia which can be a late stage Parkinson symptom. We do many of the suggested things such as, physical exercise, increased lighting and redirecting. Some actually seem to help.

Many if not most PD patients have trouble sleeping. I think Cheryl may be in the “most” category. These are just perceptions on my part but it seems she has about a three day cycle. On the third day she sleeps well at night. Poor sleep seems to contribute to SS.


Caregiver and sleep

The role of caregiver is a tiring one. One can spend much of the day assessing mood, movement, confusion and cognition. In the background of my thoughts is a constant “what am I missing” anxiety. In most cases it is a misplaced anxiety because I have become very good at ignoring my own needs and thinking ahead for Cheryl. — Oh, wait… maybe I forgot my own needs?

Stolen from the WWW – I like it!

Recently I began to think seriously about what I need to stay healthy both physically and mentally. In the summer and warm months I enjoy riding my bicycle around. It is a love left over from my childhood. When the kids where teenage I took it up again for a few years. About three years ago I did it once again. It allows me to empty my head. I listen to a book or podcast while riding and pretty soon a couple hours are gone and I have given no thought to Cheryl and PD. That is until this year, the year of the pandemic and the year of fear and misinformation.

It has not happened for a some time but approximately 3 years ago and about two years ago Cheryl had a bad episode with fatigue and meds. I took her to the hospital the first time and the fire department took her to the hospital the second time. Both cases where less than satisfactory experiences. Hospitals are not set up to deal with Parkinson’s patients. PD patients have very special medication needs. They have very specific medication needs. This year of pandemic quarantine and isolation and the free flowing misinformation and social media idiocy, whenever I rode my bike around my favorite path I was often worried about Cheryl. I was unable to let go and empty my head. I kept track of time. It was exercise and not relaxation. I became totally focused on keeping her out of any sort of hospital setting and as a result I was unable to dissociate from that thought train.

Even caregivers need proper sleep. On those days previous that I had ridden my favorite route without any thought of Cheryl and her well-being, I slept well. That total relaxation and refresh seems missing to me. I have asked my niece and friends if they would be willing to sit with Cheryl while I disappear for a bit of time. Time that I have come to think of as do-nothing time. I am developing a network of care for her and me.

Mindfulness and resting conscience

It is not sleep but a relaxation technique. Many folks are able to meditate and pray and give their conscience state to something else.

When I was a kid I attended a Roman Catholic school. There was a book called the Baltimore Catechism that we all spent time with. In it or may be with it us kids learned how to pray. This is from Wikipedia — Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication. In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of supplication or intercession directed towards a deity (a god), or a deified ancestor. More generally, prayer can also have the purpose of thanksgiving or praise, and in comparative religion is closely associated with more abstract forms of meditation and with charms or spells. On social media and SMS messaging people tend to add little icons of hands pointing up — in the sense of “praying for you”.

None of those prayers written in the Baltimore Catechism do it for me nor do hands pointing up icons give me peace of mind. I empty my head as best I can and think about good times past and try to not dwell on those and long for their return. I try to empty my head of distracting thoughts about the future which tend to go toward death and wondering what that is like. I try to listen to my heartbeat and let go of anxiety about Cheryl’s care and stay in the present for her — not dwell on what unknowns may be brought by the future.

When I am able to do this the day looks fine.


Foggy or bright? — each morning I get up and attempt to discover how Cheryl is doing that day. Last evening for example we had dinner with our friend Jane who joined us for spaghetti and conversation. Towards the end Cheryl felt like she had to lay down and rest. Jane helped me clean up the dishes and she returned to her home across the hallway. When Cheryl returned her view of reality was confused. She wanted to know if we were ever going to return to “that other place.” We had a long conversation about where we live. It is as though she perceives two realities. She knows where we live but she wonders why we do not ever go home.

Foggy day

We later played Scrabble for a diversion and she went to bed. In the morning she seemed to have no memory of any of that confusion from the previous evening.


I get anxious when she ignores things that I want her to do so that she can get a good night’s sleep. And then I remember that I may not know all the answers. I take a deep breath and try to help her move slowly toward the bedroom at night.

The sun-downers thing that seems to be developing is different at each presentation. Sometimes it manifests as an urgent need to complete some task and mentally she is unable to finish – which makes her anxious – which makes her try harder – which makes her anxious – which makes her frustrated – and so on with a mental state that is almost manic. This may keep going even if I manage to direct her into bed. Her mind does not easily let go of the circular task/completion anxiety loop.

It made me think of Randy Newman’s song from Toy Story. I recently heard it on some news program.


You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me
When the road looks rough ahead
And you’re miles and miles from your nice warm bed
You just remember what your old pal said
Boy, you’ve got a friend in me
Yeah, you’ve got a friend in me

You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me
You got troubles, and I got ’em too
There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you
We stick together and we see it through
‘Cause you’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me

Some other folks might be a little bit smarter than I am
Bigger and stronger too, maybe
But none of them will ever love you the way I do
It’s me and you, boy

And as the years go by
Our friendship will never die
You’re gonna see it’s our destiny
You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me

– Randy Newman, Toy Story

She will always be my friend. I just want to be hers and give her a smooth path.

This is my prayer and lament.

I Got Really Angry Tonight

Luke’s Sunset

Angry with her confused state late in the day,

Angry with her actions during it,

Angry with my reaction to her actions,

Angry with the disease and what it has taken from her,

Angry that I let my emotions show,

Angry that I directed some of my anger at her.

Angry that I trod on her heart.

Just angry with my inability to fix things.

Parkinson’s disease sucks and it makes me angry. And scared.

Scared for what the future holds.

Nostalgic for our past experience.

Disappointed in my inability to be present.

Totally and honestly present and

Mindful of the beauty of this day.

Unconcerned with the morrow or the past.

Accepting of new relationships and hopeful for new connections.

Searching for clues to doing better.

Hoping for some glimmer of light of

a new dawn.

The Chair ARRIVED!

It came! AND the power package worked. There is nothing more to say. The joy on her face when she sat in it for the first time says it all.

Happy chair owner

Thank the lord and the heavens above. The Chair has arrived. It has been pronounced good and comfortable.

During this process I watched Cheryl get into and out of a sitting position. In her PCF class they do this as an exercise. A parkie seems to need two things to help with this. The chair needs to be steady and sturdy. No rockers, swingers or swivelers allowed here. We had a plain wooden rocker which is also less than satisfactory for getting up and out of. This chair is taller and solid. I tilts and reclines but has no other movment.

Swivel chairs are a really bad idea for a parkie.

It has been a couple years now

This meditation has guided me through these last few months since I read it. I have edited it a bit for me personally. I try to read it and hold it in my heart each day. In an email from him, James Clear makes points about success, happiness, health, wealth and peace of mind. I try to use mindfulness as a way to reduce my own anxiety and understand what it is that any higher power may have in store for Cheryl and me.

Wealth is the purchases you don’t make.

Spiritual wealth is tied in no fashion to material wealth. Over time Parkinson’s disease has robbed Cheryl of her abilities to control and reconcile our check book. Through our entire fifty years of marriage she has done this family task. My interest was usually – how are we doing this month dear? Are we winning or losing? Her response was often – we are winning but it will be a little tight this month. She is frugal. Material wealth is not in our cards. Neither of us are risk takers. But over time if it is not important for one to have the latest, newest, nicest shiny new object enough material wealth accumulates to see one through to the end.

Spiritual wealth is more illusory. Spiritual wealth requires work. How can I do my best job to acquire more spiritual wealth, more inner peace? What sort of spiritual purchases can I avoid to gain or regain wealth spiritually?

Routine in life is calming to me. Routine provides a place for one to put your thoughts and displace the anxiety that arises from new PD behaviors. But lately, my routine is not my routine. New things seem to get added each week. Like laundry, which I never did in our previously un-parkinsons life. I have adapted to this addition. Friday is now laundry day for clothes. Monday is laundry day for the sheets. Wednesday was for towels and the like but I left this up to Cheryl because every now and again she would decide it was time to clean and part of that was to wash the towels. Over time with her parkie mind it became random. I suppose this is a new routine to be added. Service given freely to others, in my case, my wife, who needs my help provides an opportunity to gain spiritual wealth. Not purchasing the anger that arises from the constant tug of war between my way v. the previous (her) way can help with spiritual wealth. Remaining mindful of the mental fragility that comes with some PD patients may add to stress in a caregiver. Acknowledging that fragility, recognizing the tug of war, and then letting any stress or anger with the disease go often for me gives way to a bit of grief for what is to come and a calmness (acceptance?) of what is to be. This is a sort of meditation.

I think we all long for an easy road regardless of whether we are giving care to someone with a chronic illness or not. I know I do. I long for the pre-parkinson banter. The snide comments and the snappy comebacks would make us laugh. We spent fifty years becoming comfortable with that banter and learning how to push each others button and how to not do so.

From Sunday’s Gospel–MT 21:28-32; ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go,” but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir,” but he did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ They said, ‘The first.’ … after this Matthew wanders off into the weeds talking about tax collectors and prostitutes.

This is an odd gospel reading. The first kid responds as a teenager might — nope, not today pops. I’m hangin’ with the guys. Then he changes his mind. He does not apologize. He just goes. The second kid is a liar. Families are complicated. The first child is a reluctant helper. The second child is an asshat. I do not know where Matthew is going with this story and he does not tell us. He goes off into a ditch about the less desirable elements of any societal group.

Greater spiritual wealth is gained by doing for others without grumpiness about it. Lesser spiritual wealth is achieved by doing only. Spiritual wealth is gained in both cases. It is human to grump occasionally. Don’t beat yourself up about it but do not be a liar. Liars are below prostitutes in the social order and they are asshats.


Happiness is the objects you don’t desire.

I desire very little in life. It is a low bar but as long as the money and I run out at about the same time, I am good with that.


Health is the injuries you don’t sustain.

Exercise and eating your veggies add up to relatively good health. Stretching when you get “on in years” is a must. If it hurts, stop! Physical therapists will tell you that over and over. All good advice.

Find some sort of exercise that you can enjoy and stick with it. If you want to body build do it. If you are a runner, do it. If you are a dog walker, do it. If you are a stroller, do it. If you can do yoga and like it, do it.

Take care of your mental health. If you spend a great portion of your day caring for another or others, take time for yourself occasionally. When your grumpiness takes control it is time to go out and find balance.

Do not hurry your relaxation.


Peace of mind is the arguments you don’t engage.

Taking extra meds to fight side effects brought on by the Parkinson’s meds. It is an argument that is unwinnable even without the loopy logic of PD. Stay away from there.

Cheryl first; me second. It use to bug me a bit that she would schedule my time without warning after she quit driving. I became a built in Uber driver. I actually referred to myself as the driver — as in — Do you want to join us for dinner? My reply — Don’t ask me I’m just the driver.

Do not do that to yourself as a caregiver. You are in this too.

Someone else is using my pads. Virginia is making some sandwiches. She is taking care of the baby left here. … it seems that more and more Cheryl is slipping into her own reality. Trying to correct her thinking about what is real and what is delusion merely creates heartache and anxiety.

Avoid the bad to protect the good. — Stay off Facebook and avoid political crapola in your life.


Success is largely the failures you avoid.

Failure can be turned into success if one takes the time to learn from that failure. Life is rarely a straight line.


Thoughtfulness, meditation and mindfulness help to bring peace of mind. These are all different names for prayer.

More Air on the Chair

In a previous story I reported that THE CHAIR did not come as predicted on the tenth of September. I have since learned of other fat fingered fumbles one encounters when there is human involvement.

Between the attempted delivery of the incorrect chair on Thursday September 10th and my third attempt at acquiring information about delivery of the correct chair September 20th there was a furniture buyers convention at an undisclosed location. Woo Hoo! Party time with some work. I get it. I have been there. But there is a internal structure flaw that shows within Furniture Fair’s receiving and ordering system.

Mistakes happen when humans are involved. The incoming inspection department, if there is one, missed the fact that the Prestige Power Recliner was not powered. That is an easy check to make because the buttons to operate it are on the side. The manual chair has nothing at all. The incoming inspection merely requires looking two places; one look at the order sheet to read “Power” and one look to the right side of the chair itself. Alas, that did not happen.

Since incoming inspection was flawed and no report was made to the buyer it has been eleven days before manufacturing in Mississippi knew of their mistake. Longer in fact because an email to their customer service website (Southern Motion) revealed they had no knowledge of the mistake.

The customer – me – was not disappointed with the furniture store until the customer discovered through conversation the compounded error. In fact I was not disappointed with the manufacturer. After all shit happens. One just fixes it and moves on. But there was no reaction from the receiving department. Alas. And there was no reaction by the buyer group because they were away discovering new things to buy.

On another topic when I called to talk to someone at the Furniture Fair organization to ask about what was next I was always referred to the original salesman. That always seemed odd to me. I was pretty sure that other than the original sale he was no longer directly involved. At the store itself there was a clerical staff backing these sale guys up. I was pretty sure that when he entered our order it was merely going to the purchasing staff. He would not have been involved in the ordering, shipping, receiving and delivering process. At the outset he explained that the typical order to delivery time was 8 – 9 weeks and the pandemic had slowed that a bit. A very honest synopsis of the eventual process. When he was unavailable I was able to speak to the store manager. Nice gentlemen all, but why were they involved in my dilemma? Their whole role seemed to be to look in the computer and tell me nothing was happening. The girl who answered the phone line could have told me that nothing was happening.

Customer perception is one of inability to react to errors. The back office must be chaotic at best.

Funny Thing happened on the way to Church

Saturday as we were pulling into the parking lot of church for the 4:30 service, Cheryl looked at me and said – you can just leave me off and I’ll get a ride home. Not knowing where that had come from I asked – why would I not stay with you?

She responded with – since you are angry you don’t have to stay. Me – I’m not angry. Why do you think that? Her – you were mad about the water.

She is right! I am angry about the water bottle I forgot. I try to take a bottle of water with us when we go somewhere. Occasionally she needs it. Most times not but I want the option. This time I had failed and angry with myself.

I had commented that we forgot water. I may have said simply – there’s no water. We drove church in silence as I was thinking about if there was enough time to stop somewhere and buy a bottle of water. I was mad at myself, not her. It showed in my voice. She thought I was angry with but didn’t say that until we got to church.

She thought I was angry with her. It was much of my conversation with her eating afterwards. We used to go to dinner somewhere after church before the covid thing. Covid-19 stopped that but on Saturday we were starting again.

It’s a small delusion. She interpreted my silence as being angry with her. I will try to watch for it next time and hopefully not beat myself up for missing it.

Caregiver Stress 101