I am witnessing a working Time Machine (the machine itself being completely invisible).  There were sitting at the table tonight, gathered around a couple of pizzas, four teenaged girls talking and laughing as if their bodies were not a number of decades older than that.  Mary Ann was fully engaged.  Her voice may have been soft, but she was a part of it.  She laughed along with the rest.

These four have known each other since the Fifth or Sixth Grade.  They have a world of memories since they went all through high school together.  They have kept in touch throughout the decades that have passed since then.  They graduated from East Aurora High School (in Northern Illinois) in 1959.  Every time the four of them get together, they continue on as if they have barely taken a breath since their last visit.  It is one continuing conversation.

They traveled a long way to come and see Mary Ann.  I know it means a great deal for her to see them again.  Of course, painfully, it will likely be the last time they get to be together.  I would not, however, bet on it since Mary Ann has demonstrated such resilience over the years.

Mary Ann began the day early again.  After the often fought battle to get the last hour or two of sleep in the morning, she was alert and responsive.  Again, as has happened often recently, she fainted a number of times on the stool as there was some otherwise healthy intestinal activity.

Volunteer Jan had arrived and took over after the fainting spells subsided.  Again, it the fainting seems to associate with both the kicking in of meds and intestinal activity.  Jan washed her hair and did her nails for her, while I headed up to the lake for a while.  The lake was beautiful.  I was immediately treated to views of some raptors, hawks, an eagle.  One of the hawks could have been a leucistic Red Tail Hawk.  I do not know enough about birds yet to be certain about that.  There were aome of those beautiful White Pelicans, flying in a relaxed formation of about twenty, circling over the lake, and over me at various times.  Again the bright white contrasted by the black portion of the wings that span five or six feet made watching them a breath-taking experience.

There was another less pleasant experience at the lake.  Remember the snow that I shoveled yesterday?  There was snow at the lake.  I drove only on paved roads, with little enough snow and slush and ice on them to avoid problems.  I got to my spot in the parking lot near the dam without trouble.  When I left, I went out the other side of the lot, up that road.  There was a fairly thin layer of wet snow on it.  I did fine as I approached the last few feet.  The top of the snow did not reveal that the road beneath dipped.  When I moved into that last bit of road, the van stopped moving.  I ended up stuck in a snow bank that did not reveal itself on the surface.

The simple solution was not so simple.  I tried to back out so that I could back down to the lot and go up the road on the other side.  The van would not budge.  The snow was wet enough that it just packed and formed an icy base under the wheels.  Having learned to drive in the winter in northern Illinois, my pride was hurt.

There were no others on the road in the area, until a passer by in a four wheel vehicle stopped.  It took a very long time of studying the predicament, trying to rock the van back and forth (tough with an automatic transmission).  Finally with the good Samaritan pushing on the front of the van, I was able to begin backing down the hill.  Once back in the parking lot, I was able to get back up the hill using the road by which I had come down to the lot.

I stopped for groceries in preparation for the visit of Mary Ann’s Friends, and made it back home.  After eating, Mary Ann stayed up much of the afternoon.  She did nap in her chair with her head on the rolling table that sits in front of it.  By the time Joy, Terry and Cherri arrived, she was rested enough to greet them and enjoy them.

Two are in the hotel and one staying downstairs.  My hope is, of course, that Mary Ann will sleep well tonight so that they can continue tomorrow from where they left off tonight.  The construction will continue with sanding sheet rock joints and the multiple corners tomorrow.  We will see if the construction activity moves the group to the hotel lobby seating area.  The birds entertained today.

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She asked, “Do you need some help?”  She was at the table for pills and breakfast this morning (6:15am) looking across the table at someone or something.  I asked her who she was talking to. She answered, “Santa Claus.”  She was serious.

Then she asked if I had talked with our Daughter, Lisa, last night.  She heard Lisa saying, “Help me.”  Lisa, of course, lives in Kentucky.  She saw Granddaughter Ashlyn, who also lives in Kentucky, on the other side of the table doing something, she wasn’t clear what. I am not sure I convinced her that Lisa and the girls were not here in the house.

I had gone to bed extra early last night in hopes of catching up on some sleep, but it was another difficult night.  She was up a number of times. Twice (in the 3am to 5am territory) she got up for some reason and ended up on the floor next to her bed.  She was not hurt at all.  I was having some distressing back/rib pain that made it unrealistic for me to try to lift her.   I pulled over the walker and tried to position it and hold it down so that she could very slowly and with great difficulty pull herself up enough each time to get into a sitting position on the bed.

The Bath Aide, Zandra, came to give her a shower and wash her hair later in the morning.  Zandra commented that it was the first time Mary Ann had seemed to be almost completely unresponsive to her.  She also reported that Mary Ann had been handling the thin gold chains she often thinks she has in her hands.  When we talked about the day at supper time tonight, Mary Ann said she could not remember Zandra being here at all today.

She certainly had no memory of the rest of the day since she went down for a nap around 10am or 10:15am,and did not get up until 4:50pm.  She only ate a small container of yogurt and a muffin for supper.  She watched some television and we moved into a time of intestinal activity that included a number of trips demanding my help in obtaining results concluding with some unaided production.  Hopefully, she will feel better for a while.  She has settled on to the bed at about 7pm and is napping again.  I don’t know if she will get up for a while later or l just get up to take her bedtime pills at 8:30pm, change for bed and then lie back down for the night. The odds of Mary Ann sleeping much tonight are slim to none.

During the day there were two Volunteers, Rebecca and Clarene, with Mary Ann at different time, one right after the other.  While I had the benefit of the time away, Mary Ann and each of the Volunteers had no time to enjoy one other’s company.  She slept through the entire time each of them was there.

The time today provided me a chance to lunch with a good friend.  It was helpful to be able to talk openly about lots of the dynamics in our lives.  Later, there was  long conversation over coffee with another good friend.  It was especially helpful to have those times in safe settings with trusted friends to process the more challenging place to which we have come in our household at this point in our journey.

This afternoon the new batch of Seroquel arrived.  Tonight I will increase the dosage from 100mg to 125mg.  I will continue that for three days, then move to 150mg.  To be honest, I don’t actually expect it to make any difference in the hallucinations.  I could be wrong about that, and I would like very much to be wrong about that.  When we tried increasing to 125 last fall for a couple of weeks, it did not seem to make any difference at all.  On the hopeful side, it has often been our experience that a medication had virtually no effect until it reached the therapeutic level.  Maybe 150mg will take Mary Ann across a threshold that 125mg did not yet breach.

I am concluding this post earlier in the evening than usual, hoping, not expecting, but hoping for a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

I am at a computer in the business center at a LaQuinta motel in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  We put on CD’s of short stories.  They were a little strange, but kept our attention as we traveled.  It is a clear shot to Oklahoma City on an excellent Interstate with minimal traffic.  The Flint Hills remain a spectacular sight.  

The rest area at which we stopped had family bathrooms available.  What a Godsend!  My stress level plummets to nothing when I see that we have a family bathroom available rather than trying to find someone to guard the door to a busy women’s restroom while I help Mary Ann. 

It was wonderful to surprise good friend John by appearing at this door for the birthday open house on the occasion of his sixtieth.  I had sent the return comment card ahead in the mail since I wasn’t sure that this would all work out, and I wanted to mislead them into assuming that we would not be there for the open house.  Packing the car the night before actually worked.  We got off at a reasonable hour and made to his home within minutes of the start time of the open house. 

By the way, we were able to include a stop at the Braum’s Dairy Store in Blackwell, OK.   Mary Ann got two scoops of Butter Pecan — there is none better.   I had a two scoop Hot Fudge Sundae covered with salted pecans!  Just to make clear that we know the ice cream decorum — it was after twelve noon (by minutes).   All is well with the world!

It was a treat to see Peggy and reconnect after thirteen years.   I had the joy of being one of three pastors who officiated in their wedding.  After having such a clergy presence, they are assured of being stuck with one another for many years to come.  Somehow, I think they are okay with that!

A special treat was getting to see and talk with John’s Daughter, Hope.  Since I lived in their home for the first few months of my ministry in Bethany, Oklahoma (an inner suburb of OKC), I got to know Hope and Joel during their early years.  Hope was fiesty!  That, my friends, is an understatement.  She was always intriguing and someone to be reckoned with even as a child.  The energy and intelligence and drive were apparent from the outset.  She has turned into an engaging adult who is realizing all that potential — of which the pinnacle is about as cute and pleasant little twenty-one month old little boy as could be imagined.

There was one surprise for me.  After a time, Peggy came out with what was obviously a Christmas present, wrapped nicely, topped with a flat bow that was covered with dust, as in a well-aged bottle of vintage wine.  It turned out to be a Christmas present that they had gotten for me, wrapped and marked with my name in 1996!  By the time it was ready to be given, we had already moved away.  It just never found its way to me — until now.  It was a nicely framed wedding picture of John and Peggy, looking young and excited as they began a new life together.  The picture, of course included the three clergy who joined forces to set them on the right path.

While the folks who attended were from John and Peggy’s life after we moved away, one blast from the past was visiting with Barry, a fellow pastor — who is the consummate smart aleck.  What great fun to see him again and pick up with the bantering as if no time at all had passed.  Barry lost his wife only months ago after a long and very hard battle with diabetes.  This particular experession of the disease did its worst for almost as long as Mary Ann has been dealing with the Parkinson’s.  Pat lost her sight (for the most part) pretty early on.   Barry also has spent many years doing full time ministry and full time caregiving.  There is an instant connection among those who fully understand the dynamics of caregiving from the Caregiver’s perspective. 

After a stop at a Denny’s, eating too much food packed with unhealthy carbs, we have settled in at the motel.  Shawnee is about an hour closer to Hot Springs than John and Peggy’s home in Edmond.  We will not have to drive in any of the OKC city traffic tomorrow.  The balance of the trip should be pretty manageable — although I would not presume to predict how well tomorrow will go.  I am just grateful that we have made the first day without serious problems. 

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

Mary Ann and I have now had our fifteen minutes of fame.  The article on our situation, with picture and all, was published  in our local paper yesterday morning.  The fame has already faded.  Oh well.  Who wants to be plagued by the paparazzi anyway. 

At various times during the day today, I stopped by the computer to read  posts on the spouses of those with Lewy Body Dementia online support group.  Since there is an expectation of confidentiality in that group, I will use no names. 

One member of the group wrote a very graphic and painful post, venting a level of frustration she feared would shock all of us.  She revealed a depth of pain that is almost beyond description.  What drove her to write was not just a passing moment of feeling sorry for herself.  It is hard to imagine anyone going through the impossible dynamics of her circumstances and surviving. 

What is more frightening is that no one was shocked at her shocking vent.  They understood.  She just put into words feelings that many in the group experience.  What is frightening about it is that it revealed just how much pain there is out there.  What is frightening about it is that those of us who are not yet experiencing the later stages of the dementia in our spouses have that level of pain to look forward to. 

One of my first thoughts was thanksgiving that Mary Ann has a comparatively mild level of dementia at this point in its progression.  We have a quality of life that would be the envy of many who are immersed in the worst of the dementia.  We can get out to eat — maybe a little messiness, but the job gets done.  Mary Ann’s memory is still better than mine.  That is pretty scary!   Since she is lighter than I am; I can still provide the physical help needed to get basic needs met.  Our communication is limited, but it still happens.  We can travel, with some difficulty, but we can do it.  Mary Ann’s needs are still within the range of our friends who volunteer to spend time with her while I do other things.  Most nights she sleeps reasonably well. 

As I have revealed in some of these posts, we have frustrating challenges that push us to the limit.  We live in a narrow margin of functionality.  We are one fall away from the end of being able to manage here at home.  Any compromise to my health could destroy our system here with one another.  None of the other options out there is acceptable to either of us.  One or the other of them might become necessary, but they are still not acceptable. 

While the difficulty of our situation does not measure up to so many others’ situations, venting frustrations is still a necessary safety valve.  Those of us to do the caregiving and those who receive it need to release some pressure once in a while to stay sane! 

I am convinced that it is healthier to name the pain we are in once in a while, to admit to ourselves and whomever we trust enough to do so, that we just can’t handle it any more.  It is far healthier to vent than it is to try somehow to sustain the illusion that we are fine when we are not always fine.  We may want everyone to think we are noble, self-giving, saints who just love caring for our Loved One every moment of every day.   The price we will pay for maintaining that fiction will at some point be a psychic meltdown — probably a physical one too. 

The challenge is to find ways to vent our frustrations without hurting ourselves or anyone else.  One of the best ways seems to me to be just what the person in our online group did when she wrote out all those thoughts that seemed to her to be so horrible.   Another way to vent effectively would be to have a trusted friend or cluster of friends who can listen to some ranting and raving without getting upset with you, or worse yet, telling you that it isn’t as bad as you think. 

Some work out their frustrations in other ways.  The occasional, “oh fiddlesticks” or “gee willikers” spoken with great gusto can release a little tension.  Just make sure that the grandchildren are not within earshot.   One of my vents of choice is to string together a long, loud and involved rational explanation as to why what just happened should not have happened.  My kids just loved those lectures.  They would often say, “Dad, can we hear that lecture again, it would be so good for us.”

I have said this in former posts.  Taking the time to process what we are going through and writing about it in this blog has provided a surprisingly powerful mechanism for working out my frustrations.  Maybe it is as simple as talking the frustrations to death.  (And  you wonder why my posts are so long.)

There is a piece of reality that frees me to take off the rose-colored glasses, look past any illusions about my goodness, or strength of character, and expose the nastiness in me, the ugly character flaws.  I understand the One who made me to love me so powerfully that my nastiness, character flaws, even my doubts and anger are not strong enough to ward it off.  I can vent to my heart’s content and remain safe and secure, able to get on with life in a meaningful way after the safety valve has released some pressure. 

For those of you who do not share my understanding of reality, the same is so.  Setting aside the pretense and the illusions and facing down the harsh realities of who and what we are, provides us with a sort of reality therapy that allows us to get through the worst times and come out able to live meaningfully in the face of terrible circumstances. 

Caregivers need to vent frustrations.  Just don’t hurt yourself or anyone else when you do the venting!

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.