When the children were small we began a tradition of making a trip to Myrtle Beach about once each year. The company that I worked for at the time used a pair of common vacation weeks which always landed at the end of July and the first week of August.
The company paid us salaried folks every four weeks called a period. The vacation weeks were the middle two weeks of the eighth period of the year. There were thirteen periods in a year and every few years a week was added to the thirteenth period to correct alignment with a normal calendar year. The Roman’s and later on the Pope would have been proud of Cincinnati Milacron.
Every year for 15 years or so our family went on vacation in the hottest part of the Ohio summer. Since my father worked for Milacron the memories of this vacation time goes back to childhood.
Cheryl liked to hike and walk. Not being an especially athletic person she substituted hiking and walking for any other athletic endeavor. At Myrtle Beach we would get up early hike the empty beach. It is where I first saw the green flash that occurs when the sun comes up over the ocean.
On other vacations over the years hiking was a big motivator. In every state park or national park or area that we stopped in walking and hiking was a major part of the experience. Maps were collected upon arrival and put to good use during the stay. In one Kentucky park our hike was about ten miles. It is without a doubt the thing I miss most with the onslaught of Parkinson. Her struggle to walk freely and move easily is disheartening. It was in many ways our main entertainment.
Conversation, discussion, debate, points won, points lost were all accompanied by a satisfyingly long walk. I think I miss those more than I can easily express.
Today my daughter and her husband took a long walk down the beach together. I was envious.
This time at the beach I am pushing her here and there. There are special wheelchairs for the beach and they are free. There is good ice cream across the road. I pushed her there too.
Cheryl slept pretty good last night. One of my many anxieties about this vacation trip is how well she will sleep at night. In retrospect it is a constant concern. Like everyone she is much better health and attitude wise with a good night’s rest. Parkinson merely makes that harder to achieve with regularity. Stopped overnight in Cullman Alabama she seemed to sleep okay. We snuggled for a bit until she was asleep or seemed so to me. I moved quietly to the other bed afterward.
This morning I was up at 6 AM but we are on CDT now. Cheryl awakened at 7 AM. I helped her toilet and get cleaned up and change clothes. I thanked the Almighty for the smooth start to the day. We rolled down to the breakfast area to se what we could find. I found scrambled eggs, toast and bacon for Cheryl. Her favorite these days and as she started to eat and proceeded to have a coughing fit, I cursed the Almighty for interfering with Cheryl’s need for sustenance. That was a joke of sorts but lately when she eats breakfast she suffers through a coughing fit until the phlegm drool gets down her throat and her esophagus gets its act together and she can swallow okay again. She eventually settled down and drank a little green tea.
Day two of the trip is off and running. Google says that if we do not stop we will be on the beach at 2PM. And in the shameless advertising of places to stop, LaQuinta in Cullman has executive suites- their term- that are pretty nice if you are traveling with a less than ideal mobility person.
This morning after I finished my old people chair yoga and relaxed for a bit in the morning quiet with the daily Wordle, I found that four of the five letters were contained in my search for vowel words. Those four letters led me to guess heart which contains all the letters but in the wrong order. The correct answer is hater.
It stuck me as sad that hater is an anagram of heart. These are two very different emotions.
In other news stories over the weekend a gentleman expressed chagrin at the failure of smaller local newspapers. His point was that lack of local fourth estate oversight allows corruption to creep into local government and institutions. The national news organizations will fill the gap but never tell the local story. National issues, although real, affect little in our local lives but tend to polarize our conversation. There is support for this in my home town of Cincinnati.
Indeed the last of the local newspapers, the Enquirer, is a sort of ghost paper. It is part of the USA Today paper equivalent of cable news. The sports section is often more pages than the rest of the paper. Whether it it is causation or merely correlation is probably unknown without more study. Nevertheless three city council folks fell prey to the lure of really fine campaign donations by developers vying for attention. It is sad really. And no doubt these folks thought that they were helping the community. No local news hounds were asking those embarrassing questions that make public figures think about issues in a different light.
Heart versus hater.
The combination of Parkinson and Lewey body dementia some times combines to embarrass Cheryl in the most private of ways. I hate the diseases and what has been taken from her. My heart goes out to her and wishes to save her from any embarrassing moments. Often I fail. No amount of planning for contingencies can prevent every disaster. Incontinence issues can be a disaster or a merely a learning experience. I can be a disease hater and take heart as I help her through it. I have learned to not hate myself for missing things that in retrospect seem obvious should have been planned for things. React and respond.
As Cheryl often reminds me, it’s an adventure. It is! I can hope that she will give me a hint that she needs extra help sometimes but I realize that it is not part of her persona to do so. She was raised to not be a burden and no amount for talking from me will convince her that to me she is not burden. I gave her my heart almost sixty years ago and she is still very private. I feel intrusive when I help her probably because I do it without her permission. I can not stand to watch her struggle. We are too close. I am too much in love with her to do otherwise. Occasionally it causes conflict.
I often write Carpe Diem. More importantly seize every opportunity to learn and grow.
Our little trip to Florida provides many of those. It is an adventure. It is an opportunity to grow. It swells your heart. I feel any hateful feelings for the disease dissipate for now.
Cheryl is sleeping very late today. This she has done before and it concerns me that she will not sleep tonight. For now though, I will try to be in the moment and think of all the good things going on about us. I will push away the anxiety of the future events.
If she should wish to go to bed at a time later than me tonight, so be it.
Last evening as we drove to our granddaughter’s high school graduation it became apparent to me that although Cheryl knew who I was she did not really know who I am. She started talking about events in the past that we had done or children and grandchildren, sometimes mixing those together. Her discussion might start out as Paul and I did this or Paul and I did that or Paul told me etc. It makes one wonder about the complexity of the human mind.
In one of these conversations, an incredibly lucid one, she said to me that she thought her Parkinson disease was getting worse. (AHA) She went on to say that her memory was very bad at times. I just took a deep breath and let her continue. She explained that she was having a harder and harder time remembering names and relationships (she said “who they belong to”) and that thought bothered her. Throughout the rest of the evening at the graduation ceremony, pictures in the courtyard outside the high school and on the way home, this failure to remember names and relationships was forefront on her mind.
This information is very important to Cheryl. Embarrassment or shyness keeps her from merely asking, “who are you?” I told her that she can always ask me who the other people are and I would tell if I knew. I am not shy. I merely say, I’m sorry I’ve lost your name in my head.
Most times these drive along conversations fall into the category of prattle and I can respond with, ugh-huh or yes that is probably true or I don’t know about that but, yesterday evening it was more serious than that. Last night it affected her sleep as she began to worry about how everyone fits together. She could not find those relationships in her head to her satisfaction. She spent the three hours from eleven PM to two AM speaking to herself in a low voice and fidgeting with her hands. Fidgeting often accompanies her discussions with herself as well as others.
There was a lot of hugging and reassurance that I would always help. She on the other hand is aware of her memories dissipating into the ether and it scares her.
Indeed, her disease is getting worse.
Living in the present is all that is left when one cannot plan ahead nor remember past experiences. Disappointment was rampant in our drive along yesterday. Regan’s graduation ceremony, however, was well orchestrated. She is on to the next thing. (Smartphones take really crappy long photos but here is some from the ceremony.)
Today as I encouraged Cheryl to wake up and get out of bed it occurs to me that the changes are very slow. This morning is very different. It is hard to recover from a night of little or no sleep.
Yesterday she was awake very early simply because she had not slept overnight. I was not awake overnight to observe her but I get up two or three times to use the toilet. I long for the days when my bladder could contain my overnight urine output until morning but alas those days are gone. (I have digressed.) Each time I made this trip she was awake and talking to me. As I attempted to fall asleep, she squirmed as she attempted sleep. Each time I woke up she was in a different position. It suffices to say she slept little overnight.
Yesterday she was delusional and hallucinal and those experiences went to talking to her mother, my mother, seeing our two sons around, seeing her deceased sister and our smallest grandchild, Zachary.
Yesterday evening was my regularly scheduled meeting with friends. We formed a stock club many years ago and we enjoy a few beers and talk about various get-rich-quick schemes as well as attempting to discover the next Walmart or Amazon. It is a satisfying evening for me and our son Scott comes over to hang with Mom for a couple hours.
We had a gift for our newest high school graduate so I enticed our son David to stop by and pick it up. As I was texting David and working out the details Cheryl wondered aloud if Scott was bringing Zachary with him. I texted Scott with that request.
Our daughter-in-law brought Zachary over after he had been fed at home. Scott came at the usual time to hang for awhile. And David came by for a few minutes to pick up the gift and chat with Cheryl for a few minutes. I left for my meeting.
She saw them all in reality instead of inside her head.
Afterward she went to bed and although she was awake when I returned from turning off the lights and reading for a bit she fell asleep shortly thereafter.
Today she really had a hard time getting started. I rolled her, she has a new transfer chair, to breakfast after getting her on and back off of the toilet. She ate scrammed eggs, toast, bacon and some orange juice. She has started reading the Wall Street Journal to which I subscribe. (Getting rich quick is still strong in me.) She likes the editorial pages. I rolled her back to the bedroom afterward and now I hear her moving around selecting her clothes for today.
Yesterday I looked at my notebook and realized I had written little in my journal for several days. I pondered the fact that things seem to smooth out for a bit. Usually it is a long enough bit that one can be lulled into the idea that things are changing. Things are changing for the better.
Stuff that lost your attention falls in the dumpster.
Last night after Cheryl’s previous night of reasonably good sleep stayed awake all night.
Today will be a long one. She will be tired all day. So will I.
I am either becoming used to the odd late night behaviors and reacting to them in a calm sane fashion or they are simply unremarkable to me and seem commonplace.
At the very least I should be thankful to the Almighty that we are in a place that does not drive me to my blog to write about and discern my own feelings and emotions.
At various points in our lives I imagine many of us feel this way. As summer approaches it is time to slow down and enjoy the world’s awakening.
One grand daughter is graduated from university and is on a long awaited tour of England, France and Italy. Cheryl’s sister is off to Italy with her gentleman friend Gene. Another grand daughter graduates from high school in a few days. Our daughter’s family is enjoying their new boat on this bright sunny May Sunday afternoon. Cheryl’s brother is on his boat. He posted a picture this morning on Facebook.
Cheryl seemed to have slept well. I made her current favorite breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon with grape jelly toast. She seems to be getting up later as time goes on.
Today we will take a walk somewhere in the sunshine.
Today is Cheryl’s birthday. She is not sure how old she is and that is a good thing in many aspects. When I remind her, her answer is, “Really?”
Tonight we will go to dinner to celebrate. It was a spontaneous decision on my part. Some of her family will come too. With parkie’s many decisions are spontaneous. One has to determine how the day is going.
Her sister Nancy sent her some spontaneous flowers. Our niece, Natalie, brought them with her when she came to clean our condo today.
Spontaneity is the spice of life and living in the moment is something we all need to do more often.
Cheryl and I gathered last night at a place on a little river nearby with most of her brothers and sisters to celebrate nothing in particular. They just wanted to be together for a bit and share dinner.
The conversation swirled around Cheryl and a small child in the next room was testing her lungs on the building acoustical characteristics by screaming. She was probably about three years old and comfortable in her own skin. No one was scolding her.
Tari had her bluetooth cicada stuck in her ear in case there was an emergency and drank a very white pina colada. (I always saw them as yellow sometimes pink if they had a maraschino cherry garnish.) I put my cheap cellphone on the table in anticipation of Cheryl’s 7PM medication but forgot to check if the alarm was set. Nancy has gotten Gene to drink amaretto sours which is the only thing she will drink other than water. Gene usually drinks only water. Cheryl had a Pepsi because they did not have Coca Cola. Ken ordered a Captain and Sprite which I suppose is another Pepsi product. Jill drank water no ice. I had a dark colored Budweiser tasting beer (beir) on tap brewed locally by some mystery brewer specially for this restaurant. It was okay bier.
The food was excellent. The Deutsche themed restaurant offered schnitzel which I have not had for some time. Kartopfelpfannkuchen came with it. I ordered that. It was perfect. Cheryl ordered chicken tenders with the signature bourbon barbecue sauce, broccoli and apple sauce. She ate most of it which meant she both liked it and she was hungry. Barbecue chicken of some sort was the majority dish for the rest of the table. Others had a rib-eye steak and chicken cordon bleu. Those decisions made the conversation continued loudly. Cheryl had her parkie voice on which is very quiet.
The room was decorated with models of tanks and other weapons of war. Above the two marines in the front window there hung a bazooka the nemesis of tank warfare. It did not appear loaded. The current Abrams (M1) tank did not have a model present as did not the Bradley fighting vehicle. I think there was a Patton on display.
This is the sort of gathering that Cheryl’s mother Elaine would have enjoyed and as we were driving away it became apparent that Elaine had been there. She began to worry that her mom would not get home. That was our job most of the time when her mom was still alive. I assured her that her mom was where she lived now and would not need a ride. Cheryl reminded herself that her mom had passed onto another plane.
When we got home we watched TV for a bit and as it got closer to bedtime and she was more tired, she was also more confused. We talked some more about Elaine and as she remembered that her mom was in heaven, she asked, “Was there a funeral?” I replied, yes. Do you not remember? No, I do not she told me. So I started down the road of jogging her memory. Nancy got up and read a wonderful eulogy about your mom. Do you remember? Oh yes I remember that now. She talked about Bob and Mom. (Nancy did not but did a very respectable job of eulogizing her mom.) It is hard to keep calm and composed when your parkie wife wanders off into the memorial weeds. I merely acknowledged that and reminded her that we had a little luncheon in St. Clement’s lunch area. She remembered that pretty well.
She calmed down and called our son Scott with the news that we were home downstairs of grandma. After she finished her call with Scott she asked, “Is grandma not upstairs?” Her thoughts will bounce around for awhile after a big group gathering. She eventually remembered that her grandmother had passed away but became anxious for a bit that she could not remember any of it. Her grandmother’s funeral was early in our married years. I could not help her remember but we did settle on her calling her cousin Barb to find out what happened to grandma Moeller. (Today as I write this I notice that any and all of that anxiety is gone.)
Trying to keep up with conversation with her siblings is exhausting for her. They are catching up and joking around. This activity takes her back to her childhood and young adulthood. The small child screaming at random intervals seemed to add a nuance of grandchild. Her mom was there too. She was in the house on Phillips Avenue and we went home downstairs to where Aunt Jean lived. These were confusing thought patterns.
And eventually we both went to sleep.
Today after I took her to exercise class, Cheryl ate the leftovers that she brought home for lunch . She suggested that we go back there for dinner or lunch again. We will. They have food that Cheryl likes. Suggesting that we go back is a big endorsement from Cheryl.
I might get a different bier though.
Sadly this room was decorated with weapons of war or krieg as the Germans would say. All in all a good family visit.