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Making friends with Dementia
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This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.
The past week I spent a long day in our garden, pulling zillions of weeds. Well, maybe not that many, but it sure seemed like it. The Clover was a definite challenge, but there were plenty of other contestants. Fortunately, the temperature stayed in the sixties, with plenty of sunshine. I had thrown the weedy debris on to the lawn, and figured I’d pick it up and bag it the next day.
The reason for waiting was that my back was feeling extremely unhappy. I took a hot shower and collapsed in front of the TV, pretty much like a zombie. It was just about an hour later that I happened to look at my left hand and realized my wedding ring was no longer residing on my finger. After a somewhat frantic search in the house, we realized that the ring was probably camped out in the garden.
The next morning, Cookie and I braved the morning chill and got to work searching. Cookie combed through the piles of weeds I’d left on the lawn, and I began searching the garden. About a half hour later, she located my ring in the weedy debris, it kind of looked liked it lived there.
It never occurred to me to take the ring off my finger, before heading out to the garden. I’ve lost some weight, so it did fit a little bit looser. But folks with dementia don’t seem to attend to such things. I know I don’t much anymore, as my memory continues to worsen. I try my best to keep abreast of it all, but my brain is losing the ability to remember.
I’ve been thinking of that old saying “Let go, let God” a lot. What got me thinking about it was a nasty rash that Cookie had acquired, and then gifted to me. Such things seem to come and go like the wind, harassing one for a while; hopefully they disappear when they’re finally done doing their mischief. Unfortunately, we are still in the midst of the thing, and are visiting our respective docs tomorrow.
Such things come and go like the seasons, often without our control. Letting go and Letting God seems to help me to retain at least some of my sanity. How might it work for you?
My brothers and I play Fantasy NASCAR, and this past weekend we all attended the legendary Daytona 500. It was my first visit to a NASCAR event, and I am grateful to my sister-in-law Cindy, for making it possible. Given my current state of affairs, it wasn’t something I could have done on my own, but Cindy and my brothers looked after me!
We left for the racetrack at 9:00am, and by the time we got there, the place was already crowded. The race itself didn’t start until 2:30pm, so we had plenty of time to pick up our security passes, and to tour the grounds. The weather was warm and sunny, and just about perfect for walking around. As we looked at the cars, and the buildings and such, it was evident that our garages at home would never pass muster. There were no oil spots, and no grease on the tools; you could of safely eaten right off the floor!
The stands themselves are monstrous, with seating for well over 100,000 fans, all of which were filled at race-time. We had great seats, but they took some climbing to get to. The exertion was worth it, as we had seats overlooking the racetrack straightaway where the race started and finished.
NFL player JJ Watts was there to say those historic words, “Gentlemen, start your engines.” There is no way to describe the rumbling of racing engines, other than loud! As the race started, the noise got much louder, and stayed that way right to the end. It was eerie to watch the cars going by at such high speeds, with just a few feet separating them.
And then there were crashes. Several actually, knocking half of the cars out of the race. The engineering of the cars has made them as safe as can be, but the drivers need to have nerves of steel. They are gifted athletes, no doubt about it, as they put their lives on the line.
It was a great experience, and I’m so grateful I was able to be there with my family. Like the drivers who rely on their pit crews for safety, I am able to rely on my family, and nothing can be better than that.
This past week, I was sitting in my comfortable recliner, watching the tube in our living room. Remnants of Christmas were scattered around me, as we haven’t put much away yet. Our tree is only three feet high, so it doesn’t take much to pack up and store away. I could easily see us leaving it up until Easter, without any problem at all.
Cookie was in the kitchen, and I was hoping she’d bring me something to munch on while we were watching TV. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched her stack up some items and head into the living room. I suddenly noticed that she had a box of chocolate cherries in her hand; I immediately knew what she was munching on. My guilt meter immediately went off, as I suddenly realized I hadn’t bought her Chocolate covered cherries this year. Guys, help me with this; I’ve been giving her a couple boxes of the things every Christmas since the beginning of time. I mean the tradition is so old, that she probably actually ate some of the cherries swathed in chocolate from George Washington’s cherry tree!
Traditions are very powerful things, and I felt pretty awful. I apologized to Cookie profusely. Actually, I had been feeling pretty good about my Christmas gift to her; she had wanted a couple sets of “My Pillows”, which she loves, and I had ordered them in plenty of time for Christmas. But once again the dementia had its way, and blotted out the memory. If Cookie hadn’t bought the candy, I don’t know if I ever would have remembered. She was very gracious about it all, but this year I’ll be writing it on the calendar, you can bet on that.
Ah, that rascal dementia. Be vigilant with your loved ones. A forgotten gift could just as easily be a stove left on, finances gone awry, or medicines lost or just not taken. Everyone is different, and yet we’re really all the same.
I’m Back…Yes, I know its been a while. All I can say is, there’s moving and then there are the endless details after “settling in”. Details, such as connecting with new Doctors and Clinics, amongst other things. It has been an interesting process, though somewhat exhausting for Cookie and I. Some things have changed, but not everything…
This morning, the temperature was down in the thirties. Cookie drove to church, a fifteen minute ride from our house. We had to park a ways from the door, as all of the close spots were taken. After church, we were walking back to the car with the temp still in the low forties. I innocently mentioned to my better half that since she was doing all the driving now, she could get the car and pick me up at the door. I said this rather facetiously, but it didn’t much matter; the rules weren’t subject to change. Message received, with crystal clarity!
I now have a new Neurologist, and during my first exam he informed that I don’t have dementia. That was the proverbial thunderbolt, and it still has me reeling. It’s a very unsettling thing when one neurologist says you do, and another says you don’t. Quite frankly, I didn’t know what to think, and still don’t. On the one hand, it seems too good to be true, and on the other hand, I still have the usual symptoms. My memory problems continue to get worse, and the brain lesions have not gone away. Never-the-less, he was quite confident in his diagnosis; he said that if I really had dementia I would be much worse by now, given the time spread.
It’ was the first time in my life that I’ve had two doctors disagree on a diagnosis. It feels weird and uncomfortable. The new guy has arranged for a battery of testing, which I will be undergoing later in November. Hopefully, they’ll figure out what’s going on up in my attic. Curious also, the new guy didn’t change any of my medication. He left me on it, at least until I have the testing he scheduled.
Coming up also is an appointment with my new Cardiologist, though I doubt this time there’ll be any drama. Three bypasses and two stents make a diagnosis relatively easy! Since we moved, I’ve taken to walking three miles a day, around the circumference of our neighborhood. Knowing Cardiologists as I do, he’ll probably ask me to double that.
We have a new granddaughter, Tali (Talia), who weighed in early at nine pounds and change. We flew up to visit with her and her proud Mommy and Daddy in early October. She is a cutie!
We are feeling settled in Lewisville now, and I hope to return more to my writing. I’ve learned the hard way to double-check whatever I do, and yet, I still get confused. I hope my new Neurologist can shed some light on the subject.
This is not my computer desk. My computer desk in my bedroom looks like a bomb went off on it. Which it did, metaphorically, because the hard drive in my computer recently died. I used it one night and it worked fine, and the next morning the darn computer refused to boot up. The screen displayed the beginning of what had formerly been a happy machine going to work, but no more. The computer got about a third of the way through the boot-up and froze, followed by a clicking noise which definitely seemed to me a bad omen. My repeated attempts to boot the machine up were futile.
With creaky knees, I crawled under the desk and disconnected the maze of wires. After a quick phone to the Geek Squad, the computer and I were enroute to BestBuy. The Geek at the counter listened to me, sagely nodding his head. And, just like a physician about to deliver some unwanted medical news, he promised he would check the machine out.
I got the call that very same evening. The Geek regretted to inform me that my hard drive was no longer of this earth. With a heavy heart, I listened to his follow-up question; Did I just want a new hard drive, or a brand new computer? I must admit that visions of more power were alluring, but a new hard drive was a whole heck of a lot cheaper!
The Geeks “got ‘er done” for me, and I’ve been spending the last several days recovering data. Actually, not all of the data, as I’ve been using the occasion to clean out old files. Eight years of data from this machine, plus whatever migrated from older generations than that. It’s been freeing in a good way, the letting go of the old, and making room for the new.
It has struck me that part of this process has been mirrored by my dementia. While I can’t really replace my brains’ hard drive, I must let certain memories go. Memories are a hugely important thing in dementia, because each day some memories go. I’m not sure where they actually go to hang out, but I can tell you they are no longer there. Or perhaps they are there, but I no longer have the ability to access them.
Think of the humble password. When I was young, I had no passwords. Actually very few people back then had passwords. They are pretty much a computer phenomena for those of my generation. I have a book of them, some of which I no longer know what I had them for. It is getting increasingly hard for me to keep them all straight, especially those that I don’t use very often. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to reset them. Before dementia, I rarely had to change them, but now my brain has become a password machine. I sometimes write them down, and then forget why I used them!
I wish there was a password that would unlock my dementia, but if there is, it hasn’t been invented yet. And so, I’m going to play some Microsoft Mahjong on my newly minted hard drive. Not where was it that I left off at?
My good friend T.P. took this picture on Friday, June 22nd, our last day of vacation. I am standing on the shore of Lake Huron, where we’d been looking for a few rocks to take home with us. The choices were many, of all different shapes and colors, so we took our time before driving on to our respective destinations. T.P. would be heading south, to one of Detroit’s many suburbs; I was heading due west and then south for Madison, Wisconsin, looking forward to my daughter Chana’s baby shower. It was hard to end a vacation on such a beautiful day!
It’s hard to believe the above picture is already six weeks old. Or, as my brothers would say, just 46 weeks to our next vacation! Little did I know that in those six weeks, Cookie and I would engage not one, not two, but three different moving companies before we finally made it to Lewisville, TX. Thank goodness for Two Men & a Truck, they did an outstanding job!
Had I known all that was going to happen, I might have safely stayed on the shore of Lake Huron! But I know that lake pretty well, and how it can change in a moment. And being up north, its rare that the lake really ever warms up to temperatures we might be used to. As a boy, my body could take it, but I’ve grown soft as I’ve aged!
I must admit, the process of moving drained me. Not just the lifting and packing and all that, but the details that always come with a move. We had planned on moving the last weekend of June, and everything was set up for that date. Not just the move itself, but money transfers and banking, being out of our duplex on that date, and things we had set up in Lewisville. Delaying the move until July 10th & 11th meant paying for another ten days in the duplex, in addition to rent for our new place in Lewisville!
It was really hard for me to keep track of the details. I would write myself notes and lose them, or even worse, couldn’t figure them out. We had already done most of the packing, but I couldn’t remember where things had been packed. If it wasn’t for Cookie, I don’t know where I would be!
The picture, above on the lake looks really inviting. In truth though, the road we travel is rarely that easy. We are challenged at times, sometimes stretched to our limits. After they’re over, we look back at those times, and say, “How the heck did I ever do that?”
For me, it’s all about grace. It’s about seeking grace, moment by moment. Sometimes I find it, and well, sometimes I don’t. When I can’t find it, I do my best to try to keep searching, because I’m a better man when I do. Grace, we might say, is the most amazing currency; You can share it with others, but you can’t keep it yourself. Grace only works when you give it away. We must always be searching, for the need in this world has never been greater. Remember, grace isn’t grace unless you give it away.
Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com
As I write this, it’s 109 degrees in Lewisville,Texas at 5:20 in the afternoon. Needless to say, we’ve gotten a very warm welcome here. We’re also getting some fine sandy dust blowing over from Africa. All in all, today has been a pretty much average day, temperature-wise, since we arrived. But I’m happy to report the essentials are mostly all in the house, and the air-conditioning is splendid!
The guys from “Two Men and a Truck” did a fantastic job with our move. There were actually 4 men and two trucks, both of which were completely packed by the time they left. They finished up around 7:30pm and arrived in Lewisville the next day’ right on time, and got us moved in. After the first two moving companies we hired dropped the ball, they really took good care of us!
We left our house in Odessa on Tuesday, the 10th, and Cookie drove all the way to Lewisville. We didn’t get to Peter and Jen’s until three in the morning, 3:00am, and had to meet the movers at noon. The dogs weren’t really sure what was happening, but they were glad to be in their crates. They’d had a busy day, keeping after the movers!
I have to say that moving has been a real challenge with my dementia. When the movers had questions, I wisely sent them to Cookie, and tried to stay out of their way. They were all young and muscular, and we let them do all of the lifting!
I bought a lawnmower, but it’s been too darn hot in the garage to put it together. Since it’s not going anywhere, I’ve been watering our lawns before they turn Saharan on us. The dogs are pretty much settled in, assured of their couches and a ready food supply.
Jen and Peter came over after and helped us organize the house, and they did a great job! Jen and granddaughter Ari came to visit today, its so nice to not have that 5 1/2 hour drive between us! We miss all the great folks from Midland-Odessa, but it was time to move closer to family. My memory lapses are getting more frequent, and I am worried about that. We are connecting with new Physicians here in the Lewisville area, and are making appointments and such.
There’s an old saying that the Lord never gives you more than you can handle. Whether you agree with that premise or not, I’ve done a fair amount of praying over the past couple weeks. We were so blessed to get here safely, and to get mostly moved in. I’ll take that as a definite yes, and move on to the next challenge. Which won’t be moving, I can promise you that!
While on my morning walk, I happened upon this sunflower, or whatever they call them in the desert. It had taken root on a twelve foot deep, rock-filled terrace, between the privacy wall and the sidewalk. It was an amazing sight, even for Odessa; it was the only growing thing among the rocks that filled the terrace. It reminded me of that old saying, “Bloom where you are planted.”
At the time I noticed the said flower, the sun was behind me and already frying the rocky terrace. Though I was sweating, the flower seemed as happy as a lark. I don’t know if the sunflower was where it had wanted to end up, but it had made the best of it. And, it looked a lot more content than I was.
It is a valuable thing, to bloom where one is planted. Not just for oneself, but also for those who live around you. Like the flower in the picture, blooming brings serenity; when you bloom where you’ve been planted, your contentment becomes contagious. You become the medicine that folks are always seeking. It is exactly what our country needs right now..
As most of you know, Cookie and I were supposed to be in Lewisville by now, hopefully blooming in our new location. Unfortunately, we had moving problems once again. The movers were in an accident on June 29th, as they were driving to our place here in Odessa. Thankfully, they weren’t seriously injured, since it occurred on Interstate 20, three hours east of here. However, the truck and attached trailer careened off the highway, causing substantial damage. And so we had to say adieu to our second mover.
We have now contracted with the Dallas office of “Two Men and a Truck”, and they will be moving us on Tuesday, July 10th. Actually, it will be “four men and two trucks”, a virtual moving army! Fortunately, our duplex here in Odessa is still vacant, so we are renting day to day. Daughter Jen and husband Peter are looking after things in Lewisville, until we actually get there.
Since all our things were packed and sealed in boxes, just waiting to be loaded, we’ve been slowly searching for those essential “needed items”. And, we’re still blooming where we’re planted, albeit being somewhat worn out. The good news is I never disconnected my computer, so at least there is that. And, I’ve got that sunflower if I forget to bloom. It reminds me of Our Savior, and all the blooming that he’s shared with us.
May you each have a safe and happy Independence Day, wherever you’ve been planted!
Photo by Cindy Gustafson on Pexels.com
In the past couple weeks, I traveled from Odessa to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. One would be hard put to find two more different ecosystems. Going from the arid Texas desert to Michigan’s Great Lakes was quite an adjustment. One would be hard pressed to find two greater contrasts in the weather!
I was thinking about this as I took my last walk through our Odessa neighborhood this morning. Tomorrow, at the crack of dawn, the movers will arrive to move us to Lewisville, and the new adventures that await us there. The final day of packing has arrived, which I’m sure most of you are familiar with.
The climatic changes over the past couple weeks reminded me of an ancient story from the Taoist tradition. A man fell asleep, and dreamed about a beautiful butterfly. The butterfly flew gracefully around the man, occasionally lighting on various flowers to feed. The man watched the butterfly as he dreamed, enjoying the peace that it brought him. Eventually, the man awoke, and realized he’d only been dreaming.
An ancient Taoist master told this story to a disciple. He then asked his disciple a question. Was the man dreaming about the butterfly? Or was the butterfly dreaming about the man?
My sense is the Taoist Master was asking the man to think outside the box. So often we think in a “this or that” fashion. We search for “black or white” answers. Such thinking blinds us to other possible options. It prevents us from seeing the other beautiful colors.
I believe our nation is stuck in this black and white cycle. It’s certainly not the first time, and it won’t be the last. Once again, we must learn from the wisdom of others. Most of the despots in world history have thought in black and white only. It has always been the language of tyranny.
But now, its time to fill up some boxes, and, to get on with our move. New adventures await us in the City of Lewisville. I will carry with me memories of the sandy old dessert, and many memories of good friends. As I work, I will be thinking, “Did I dream of y’all or did y’all dream of me?”
What’s the worst thing that can happen to you when you’re moving? I’m sure a number of things will cross your mind. Damaged goods, tardy movers, pouring rain and blowing snow, the list is probably endless. But yesterday, we topped them all. We discovered that our moving company has gone out of business. No notice, no phone call, no apologies, they just disappeared. Our scheduled move on the last weekend of June was no longer in service.
We had contracted with Red Carpet Movers a few months ago to have them move us. I had a couple of phone calls with them, beginning in early April, and another in late May, to add some items to the manifest. The woman I spoke with both times had added the items and assured me that the move was on schedule.
Yesterday, Cookie asked me to call them and add some more items to the manifest. Called one line, disconnected. Called a second line, disconnected. Tried them again, both disconnected. They were gone, and so was our moving date. I began surfing the web, trying to find out what happened. After a hour of surfing, we still didn’t know. Grrrr!
As if moving isn’t stressful enough! Red Carpet Movers is a national franchiser, but finding someone who knows something about it isn’t so easy. I think the worse thing was that nobody called us. On June 29th, we would have been waiting for the movers to come. And waiting, and waiting, and waiting!
But the Lord was with us. As I was surfing the web, I discovered another company called “Red Carpet Moving”, with an office in Dallas. I dialed them up and explained what had happened. The guy that I spoke with was familiar with Red Carpet Movers, but hadn’t heard that they’d closed. Thankfully, he is able to move us. He did tell Cookie this morning that he confirmed that the other mover had gone out of business. Thankfully, we hadn’t had to put down a deposit!
Needless to say, today is much calmer. Yesterday at this time, our heads were pretty much up on the ceiling. Can I confess to you that each of us had a moving experience?
Blessings, and now back to our packing!