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!


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?


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.


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!


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.


Fr Dave



Costumes & Dementia

In yet another milestone of aging, Cookie and I had no Halloween trick or treaters come to our door this year.  This wasn’t really a surprise of course, as we live in a duplex in an Assisted Living Facility.  In some respects, you could call us the youth movement of the facility.  There was a Halloween Party in one of the bigger buildings on site, but neither Cookie nor I had a costume.  Well, that’s not totally accurate, because I do wear a costume, though many folks don’t really see it.  It is the costume known as Early Onset Dementia.

Costumes are designed to cover up who we are, and perhaps, to become someone or something else for a while.  The more intricate the costumes, the better they work.  As a Police Officer in Madison, Wisconsin, I worked the Annual Halloween Party sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  It was a huge event, drawing many thousands of people, most of them in costumes.  For many, the costumes served as a way to achieve anonymity, and to do things they might not ordinarily do.  People were crammed together elbow to elbow, the beer flowed freely, and it was pretty much a party on steroids.  Most of the police were on foot, and it took a while to get anywhere.  And then there were the traditional comments from people each year: “Oh Officer, I just love your costume.”

Still, all in all, they were fun events to work.  But they could sometimes be dangerous too.  The police radios were pretty much useless, as the noise from all the whooping and hollering, the loud music, and other such things drowned out the dispatcher.  If you got into trouble, it was sometimes the old “one riot, one or two rangers” to the rescue.  For those of a criminal bent, the anonymity provided by their costumes was a license to touch others and steal.  But for most folks, the parties were fun, and they had a good time.

As William Shakespeare once said, “All the worlds a stage, and we are all actors actresses.”  These days it’s a whole different costume that I’m wearing, and one that I suspect many others with Dementia wear too.  It’s the costume that says things are okay when they’re not.  It’s about pretending that the weird things going on in one’s brain are only a product of aging.  It’s a costume of pretending that everything’s fine, when they aren’t.  I suppose it’s what the Brits called “keeping a stiff upper lip”.  I wear my costume when I’m out and about, but in the evening, I find myself pretty much overcome with exhaustion.

I do believe that Shakespeare had it right, and that most of us wear costumes.  I’m working on shedding mine, because wearing it takes too much energy.  I can only be who I am, a guy afflicted with Dementia.


Fr Dave


Pharmacology for Dummies (me)

pills-2770451_960_720I’ve spent the past week in a trance, due to a new medication I’ve been taking, clinically known as Namzaric.  It’s one of those hybrid prescriptions, containing two drugs (Memantine Hcl & Donepezil Hcl) given to those of us suffering from Alzheimer and other forms of Dementia.  The theory is, I suppose, that if one drug is good, two drugs will be better.  Unfortunately, that didn’t work out in my case, hence my new nickname  “Zombie.”

I’d actually been taking the Namzaric for a couple of weeks, as it takes a while to build up in one’s system.  This week, the said building fell on me, so to speak, and I was very happy to change medications.  It’s kind of scary to sit in the same chair all day long with zero energy to get out of it.  Even my high octane coffee was powerless against it!

Like many people in our country, I take a lot of medicine.  At this stage of my life, they all tend to be legal, but that wasn’t always the case.  As Willie Nelson sings so eloquently, “and after taking several readings, I’m surprised to find my mind’s still fairly sound.”  One can argue for or against that statement, but the truth is we are a nation that takes a lot of medicines.  A phenomenal amount of medicines.  And legal or illegal, medicine creates a lot of profit.

I try not to think about how many folks are driving around and/or working while taking medication.  On the other hand, I’ve run into some people (not literally) that I thought would do better on medication.  And I’ve lent a helping hand to folks who couldn’t afford their medication, where not taking it was detrimental to their health.  The use of drugs, legal or illegal, is a very complex issue, as the recent DEA Opioid investigation in Washington demonstrated.  Medication is an extremely profitable business, no matter what it is you’re selling.

My sense of things is that the use of drugs, legal and illegal, is destroying the fabric of our nation.  Then again, I’m not for giving up my own meds, at least the ones that work.  Somewhere in between, there must be a workable solution.  It’s a discussion that we, as a  nation, desperately need to have.  Our kids will learn about drugs from us, or from those sell it.  As a parent and a former cop, I advise you to do the teaching.


Fr Dave

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Expanding One’s Horizons


I have been mulling over horizons, the past few days.  Specifically, I’ve been thinking about our three dogs, Paco, Shelly and BB, and how they’ve each been dealing with their own newly expanded horizons.

Their former backyard was pretty much totally fenced, as you can see in this picture:  20170630_112218There was a world beyond it the dogs could not imagine.  Anything that made noise beyond the fence was an immediate cause for barking.  Though the garbage truck was always their biggest nemesis, our neighbor’s cat was a close second.  The cat would slowly prowl along the fence, entertaining himself with their perpetual barking.

Moving to our new place must have been rather dog-mind blowing.  Our yard is fenced, but it doesn’t impede their vision.  There is a massive lawn behind us, with dwellings of various sorts built much of the way around it.  And there’s lots of birds and rabbits for the three dogs to keep track of!


Of course, by now the dogs have gotten used to things.  They’ve gotten used to their new space and the smells and bells of things.  In a sense, you might say their minds have grown, as they’ve adjusted to all that space.  I guess they’ve come to realize that everything’s big in Texas!


How often it seems that we are limited by our own understandings.  There is comfort, I suppose, in knowing one’s horizons.  But horizons were never meant to confine us, and they are always changing.  Indeed, the events happening in our country, and in the world are constantly redefining our horizons.  There was a time when one could hunker down, and ignore the world around us.  But like our dogs, unexpected changes in our lives clamor for our attention.  Even so, there are both risks and rewards, in expanding one’s horizons.

Like most things in life, dementia can limit one’s horizons.  Indeed, there are things I can no longer do, that I’ve had to say goodbye to.  But the dementia has also resulted in my  expanding my horizons, in new and different ways.  My ministry has changed, not ended; to understand the gifts that dementia brings.  Gifts like grace, and the knowledge that despite our differences, we still have the power and ability to grow in our relationship with God.  No disease has the power to change this, even though on the surface, one’s horizon may seem limited.Snoopy

As I watch our dogs happily cavorting in their new yard (minus the thistles, I might add!), and growing into their new surroundings, I pray that God will continue to widen your own horizons.  Like pioneers of yesteryear, we must seek the far horizons.  It may not always be an easy thing, as you seek the living water.  But when your travels  end, you’ll look back and see the marks of progress on your journey.  I wish you well, and may God bless you with new insights on the paths that you have chosen.


Fr Dave