“How is retirement going?”  the Pastor asked as we were leaving after worshiping at the evening service at  a Lutheran Church in Kansas City a few months into retirement.  I told him that it seemed to be going pretty well, better than I had expected it to be going.  When we got in the car after that interaction, Mary Ann said, “Let’s be honest.  This is not working.  We are both bored silly!” 

First of all, it was a shock to me that so many words came out so clearly.  Mary Ann was never very forthcoming with conversation and especially by that time in the disease process.  She just blurted it out.  By that time I had begun to feel as if things actually were going pretty well.  What I inferred (rightly or wrongly) from what she said was that it was not working for her and she was bored silly.  In fairness, she may have been assuming that I was bored with our situation after moving from many hours away from home working at my job to being at the house pretty much all day long every day. 

It certainly was boring for her.  She couldn’t do any of the things she had done in the past for entertainment other than watch television.  We had been heading out in the car very often to do one thing or the other so that we would not be cloistered in the house, but apparently that was not doing the job.  Since we were together all the time, there was no news to share that the other didn’t already know. 

At first, it sort of hurt my feelings that having just retired early to do full time care of Mary Ann, there seemed to be no appreciation.   For one thing, I needed to accept the fact that I could not fix the situation — I could not do enough to replace all that she was missing.  One thought that came to mind  was trying to increase the visits from Volunteers so that Mary Ann would have someone other than me to talk with (listen to) more often during the week. 

It happened that there were enough of the working folks who could only Volunteer evenings that Scheduler Mary was able to accommodate that need.  We added two evenings a week as options when Volunteers were available.  The Volunteers brought with them their presence and their experiences and their stories.  Sometimes (especially on NCIS days) there was a lot of just sitting together and watching television.  Often Volunteers shared what was going on at work or in their family or extended family, thereby enlarging Mary Ann’s world. 

Sometimes a Volunteer (daytime or evening) would read to her from a novel they brought out each time she visited.  There were occasional outings by Volunteers who happened to be willing and physically able to help Mary Ann in and out of the car as well as handling the wheelchair.  There were trips to Ensley Gardens, a world class garden on the other side of town.  Volunteers would sometimes do food preparation, bringing Mary Ann into the kitchen with them.  In earlier years, Mary Ann had often challenged Volunteers to a game of Scrabble.  She played well and showed no mercy. 

I suppose the greatest challenge was trying to keep Mary Ann’s environment a stimulating one for her.  I felt inadequate to the task.  I didn’t have the creativity or the stamina to do it myself, but with the help of the Volunteers, she had a reasonably good quality of life within the limits placed by the Parkinson’s Disease.  Until the last few months, we got out as often as I could think of  something to do that we could manage, if only to the Library or the grocery store.  Right up until the last hospitalization last October 31st, we were often on the road.  We had just returned from our last major trip the day before, October 30th. 

Descriptions of the last two major trips with come in subsequent posts.

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