Christmas & Dementia

 

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Joseph, the guy we sold our house in Midland to, stopped by earlier today.  He came bearing a gift of a large pile of mail, which had gone to our former address.  In the stack was a number of Christmas cards, a bill from an ambulance service in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and several items of junk mail.  I’d wondered why our normal pile of Christmas cards was so much smaller this year; I realized I had neglected to send out change of address cards in the fall when we moved to our new place in Odessa.

This was the second time that Joseph had delivered mail to us, driving all the way over from Midland.  We couldn’t have asked for a nicer guy to purchase our house.  The dogs gave him a big welcome, as they tried to run out the front door.  They were unsuccessful, as Cookie was playing her usual position of goalie.

This was my first Christmas season with Dementia, and it was different.  Our three foot indoor Christmas tree is still lit up inside, and our outdoor lights continue to shine.  Our friend Joseph’s kind delivery of the mail served to extend our Christmas season, which liturgically ended yesterday on the Day of The Epiphany.

In our rather frantic society, it seems fewer people understand the Season of Christmas doesn’t end immediately after the celebration of Christmas.  But I shouldn’t be surprised; the stores are already changing over to Valentines Day and the Season of Easter.  They forget, or more likely have never been taught, that Mary and Joseph didn’t rush home with their baby.  They were still in the manger, several days later, when the Three Wise Men arrived with their gifts.

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I forget things fairly often due to my Dementia.  My “senior moments” occur fairly often.  That being said, I have not forgotten the story of God sending his Son into the world.  I can still, as the old hymn goes, “tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.”  In this new year we have entered, I pray that you will, in your own unique way, learn to tell it too.

Blessings,

Fr Dave

 

 

Christmas & Dementia

20171220_185349-1.jpgPeople occasionally ask me how I’m doing with my dementia.  Or, more specifically, they ask me what Dementia is like.  My responses have evolved over the last few months, but here’s the gist of it:  Dementia is like having an annoying roommate move in with you.  A roommate who never leaves the house and who’s extremely hard to get along with.  The kind of roommate who can never be evicted, even though he pays no bills, and always leaves a mess.  The kind of roommate that thrives on creating both problems and  confusion.  And when you leave the house, the roommate always travels with you.

Once moved in, Dementia never leaves.  Some days are better than others, but in the end, Dementia never leaves.  Medication helps a bit, but Dementia eventually defeats them all, as ones’ memories slowly fade away.  The shock of the “official” diagnosis begins to fade, and one must come to terms with their Dementia, in order to get things done.

Our Christmas project this year was to put Christmas lights up outside.  It had been a number of years since we’d done so, since we were always busy with our church.  We made our pilgrimage to Home Depot for several strings of lights.  But the really different thing we did this year, is that we put all the lights up on our backyard fence.

That was a first for us.  Our Christmas lights had always adorned our front roof, front door and windows.  But this year, we  moved into a duplex with a large common grassy area behind us.  A fair number of our neighbors are older and we got a lot of compliments.  And even better, our dogs haven’t chewed the cords and turned into glowing reindeer.  It’s a Christmas miracle, despite the darned Dementia.

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Even better, the folks that reside in the nursing home and Alzheimer Unit across the way can see them out their windows and enjoy them just as much.  Perhaps they relive their Christmas memories, while gazing at the lights.  Sometime down the road, I’ll very likely be where they’re at; the lights are nothing fancy, just a reminder that the light of Christ shines always in the darkness.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering and Dementia

Awesome pic, pre-Goetz House

Our house now has a brand new roof, and there’s a blissful quiet.  The roofers are still working in our hood, but they’ve moved on to other streets.  Thankfully, the dogs are back into their normal routines of opportunistic barking.  We made it through our roofing day by giving the dogs some mellow meds, and the medicine did the trick.  Our sanity was preserved through the miracle of chemistry!

As I’ve watched the roofers working  during the past several weeks, I was remembering a conversation with my mother.  I was home from college for the summer, and she was driving me to work.  It was one of those hot and humid summer days, in the City of Detroit.  I was complaining about having to go to work in a stifling, un-airconditioned factory.  My mother listened to me whine, and then quietly responded, saying “There is honor in all work.”

I’ve never forgotten what my mother said on that very warm summer morning.  I’ve had many different jobs since those days; some that I’ve liked, and some that I haven’t.  But I’ve not forgotten what they each have had in common.  Each job, big or small, was always filled with honor.

It’s been really hard for me to experience not working.  I’ve always had some kind of job, and often I’ve had two.  Some paid well, and some not so much, but my working became a habit.  It’s been hard for me to accept that those days have been ended by my Dementia.

But there is honor to be found in other places, and in other folks.  And our country needs that honor now, more than ever.  Honor is not something that can be attained by one’s political persuasion.  Nor can one buy honor, though many have tried to do so.  Honor does not come from being in a political position; honor comes from humility, and how one serves in that position.

I have been privileged to know many folks of honor.  They have taught me many things, and have made me so much a better person.  But the words that my mother taught me on the way to work never go out of style.  Whatever job you find to do, do it so you may know that in humility there is great honor.

 

Remembering (or not) with Dementia

20170923_164445I have read that with all the varieties of Dementia, the newest memories are the first to go.  I’ve always thought that seemed counter-intuitive, but it does work that way.  I can remember times from my childhood with relative ease, while current memories quickly escape me.

An example of this phenomena happened the other day.  I had walked into the living room, and all three of our dogs were standing together watching me.  I said hi to BB and Paco, but when it came to this rascal, 20170924_182934 (2)I could not remember her name.  My mind had gone completely blank on me.  I tried saying the names of Paco & BB over and over, hoping her name would jump out at me.  No luck, the face was there, but evidently the name had been changed to protect the innocent.  It was probably five or six minutes before the word “Shelley” came to me.

Another example occurred yesterday at Church.  The priest leading the service preached an excellent sermon on the appointed Gospel reading from Matthew 25: 31-46, and afterwards I shared with him how much I had enjoyed his sermon.  When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about the Sunday service and realized I had no memory of the Gospel reading or the sermon.  I could remember my short conversation with the priest after the service, but nothing about what the sermon had been about.  It was only by going into the Sunday schedule of lessons that I remembered the passage he had preached on.

I have to confess, it was pretty unnerving.  I still can’t remember much of the details of the sermon, not even the joke it opened with.  I remember everyone laughing at it, including myself.  But my memory of it has disappeared, to wherever the dementia has taken it.

Thus far, my memory loss has been rather sporadic, with these “senior moments” coming and going.  Unfortunately, they seem to coming a bit more often these days.  Cookie has gone from being an occasional chauffeur, to nearly full time.  I have taken up walking, exploring Odessa one part at a time.  It’s been a good outlet for me as things slowly progress, and I try and make sense of it all.

Update from last blog:  Roofers haven’t reached us yet!

Blessings,

Fr. Dave

 

 

Getting Hammered with Dementia

Thanks to a massive Hail Storm this past summer, every building in our neighborhood is getting re-shingled.  And, since there was roof damage all over Odessa, we’ve been patiently waiting our turn for the roofers to get here.  I am happy to report that they’ve finally made it, and they’ve been working hard the last three or four weeks.  The Administration and Medical buildings were done first, and they’re now working on the residential side.  Trust me when I say that there’s no sleeping in for the weary; there’s a whole lot of hammering from dawn until dusk.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you our dogs are going berserk.  They’ve been to the Vet twice so far, for some mellow meds to settle them down.  Not only have the roofers invaded their turf, but the relentless hammering is driving them insane.  Their digestive systems are all out of whack, and they can’t get their usual hours of naps.  There’s nothing like three already high-strung Chihuahuas, literally bouncing off walls.  I shudder when I consider that the roofers haven’t even gotten to our street yet!

To make matters worse, there are several new apartment buildings going up around the “The Parks”, where we live.   Most of the new roofs have gone up the past couple of weeks, adding to the cacophony of noise.  We’ve been enjoying the sunset, when all the hard working roofers rest for the night.  Having helped occasionally with roofing  projects over the years, I know its hard work; not to mention just trying not to fall off the roof!

I’am sure our Chihuahuas just want to protect us, barking ferociously to hold the roofers at bay.  Lord knows what will happen when the guys finally get to our roof.  The chihuahuas might need a doggie psychologist to cope with the stress.

One of the things I’ve learned about Dementia, is that I can’t handle much noise.  I tend to dwell these days in quieter places.  Part of that is probably due to hearing loss that seems to come along with aging.  But another part of it has come with my Dementia.  It seems to go hand in hand with confusion, because it disrupts my thoughts.

I’ve noticed over the past few months that my ability to converse has become somewhat more difficult.  When people ask me questions or tell me things, there’s a delay in my processing as to what they’re communicating.  I have to slow down and think about what they’ve just said.  There is a perceptible delay of some kind in processing their message.  It’s not that I’m not hearing the words, its that I have to focus on what the words mean.    Loud noise seems to worsen this process, and so I try to avoid loud noises whenever  I can.

And so, the dogs and I are in this together, waiting for those noisy hammers to fall.  Hopefully afterword, the hailstones will leave us alone.  But then, this is West Texas and we all know it’ll happen again.  Not to mention the boarded window right in front of me, that took a baseball sized hailstone in the same storm.  I wonder if we’ll get a group rate when we all see the psychologist?

Blessings,

Fr Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Paper Chase with Dementia

Now that Cookie and I are both retired, we are preparing to sell one of our cars.  After much discussion, we’ve decided to hold on to our Buick Regal and sell our Toyota Camry.  We’ve been doing research, reading the venerable “Blue Book” as a guide to setting the selling price, and cleaning up the car as best we can.  Our plans have run into a bit of a snag though; we can’t find the Vehicle Titles.

I have been the designated filer of records during our twenty-five years of marriage.  Two filing cabinets, manila folders, three ring notebooks, my system worked flawlessly for years.  “A place for everything, and everything in its place”, as the saying goes, until the arrival of my Dementia.  Throw in a move in the midst of all that, and the Dementia was delighted to cause us some chaos.  Since that happened, I’ve felt somewhat like this creature.

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I do have a manila folder for Titles and Registrations.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is the documents aren’t in it.  I have no memory of taking them out of the folder, or putting them somewhere else.  Were they misfiled?  Thrown away in the move?  Who knows at this point in the adventure?

With Dementia, I can remember things from the past without any trouble.  But recent memories are another story.  As an example, I have been calling our neighbor “Suzanne” for the past couple of months, until Cookie told me her name was actually Catherine.  Of course, most people begin to forget things as they grow older, but with Dementia its forgetting on steroids.

I’m not sure why Dementia takes the recent memories first.  When I was first diagnosed, I read some books on Dementia and I seem to recall there was some reason for that.  But these days I don’t remember much that I read, I’ve got my hands full trying to live in the moment.

And so, I continue searching for those missing pieces of paper, hoping I find them misfiled.  Realistically, I suppose I’ll soon be contacting the great State of Texas, to have them send me some duplicates. It’ll cost a few bucks, but we can’t sell the Camry without them.  And I expect that eventually we’ll find the originals, stashed in the place where I stuck them for safekeeping.  But that’s okay, because with Dementia, it’s always good to have copies!

Blessings,

Fr Dave

Tools and Weapons

Many years ago, I was a young police recruit in Madison, Wisconsin.  As you might imagine, a significant amount of training time was spent on weaponry of various kinds.  The police shooting range in those days was a ways out in the country, with our shooting  done outside.  In the midst of the complex was an old building where we had classes and cleaned our guns. There was a sign on a bulletin board just inside the door, that said,  “Your gun is your tool, your mind is your weapon.”  I’ve never forgotten those words, through twenty years of policing and thirteen years as a priest.  I think of them every time there’s a mass shooting.  And I think of them especially when there’s a mass shooting in a church.

This time it was a Baptist Church in East Texas.  But it could have been a church of any denomination.  All clergy know that it’s an occupational hazard.  We all know that anyone can walk through our doors.  We might lock the church down during the week, but the doors are always open to visitors on this day we call the Sabbath.

I can’t comment on this Sundays shooting, other than to say that the shooter was ready.  The gun was his tool, but his mind was the weapon.  Somehow he acquired the tool that he needed, and we have yet another tragedy to deal with.  Though his mind was the shooter’s weapon, it doesn’t translate to that his mind was sane.

These days, I live with Dementia.  My police career ended sixteen years ago.  My guns have been sold to people I trust.  But even with my diagnosis, I don’t have a doubt in my mind that I could go to any gun store or show and buy any gun I wanted.  All that would matter is if I could afford the price.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not against folks owning guns.  But there are some folks who  shouldn’t have them, and I happen to be one of them.  Not because I might use one, but because I probably wouldn’t keep track of it.  And there’s a lot of folks like me, living in this country.

I pray for this church I’ve never visited.  I pray for the victims I’ve never met.  I pray for the Pastor, and the families, and especially the children who will be afflicted by with the trauma for years to come.  I also pray for the first responders who are dealing with the trauma.  May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace and may they rise in glory.

Y’all know as well as me, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Blessings,

Fr Dave