This morning when getting up, Mary Ann looked at the cup with a red cozy around it for keeping the ice water cold for as long as possible and thought it was red Jello.  After I described what it actually was, she reminded me about the red Jello that we needed to call the lady about — the lady who brought it.  We needed to find out what to do to thicken it since something had gone wrong when the lady made it and it was runny.  There is, of course, no red Jello, no lady. (Monday’s meal was delivered by a Volunteer and it included a ring of fruit filled Jello including some that was red — it was not runny but solid.)

There was another complex delusion that she talked about in a very matter of fact voice a little later in the morning.  I can’t remember the content, just that it was surprisingly complicated and detailed, with no relationship to any bit or piece of the visible reality in which we live.

It was probably a good thing that there was a Volunteer scheduled while I have the periodic lunch with jimmy, a retired casket salesman who is enjoyable to talk with.  It was a good thing for Mary Ann since Volunteer Jacki brought her violin and serenaded Mary Ann while she was eating her lunch.

I finally got to the grocery after lunch today.  It would have been tough to go another day without more of a couple of things (most importantly, Mary Ann’s disposables).

Mary Ann had been asking to get to the dentist’s office for a cleaning since we missed the last appointment.  This afternoon was her appointment.  As always, the cleaning produces lots of bleeding. There are two reasons for that.  One is that she is taking Plavix and Aspirin, thinning her blood. The other is that I don’t do enough to care for her teeth since she has lost the ability to brush on her own.  The Aides do a little to help that problem, but it would be good if I would stop feeling guilty about not doing mouth care for Mary Ann and just do it.  I have put a Chux pad on her pillow tonight so that any bleeding will not get on the sheet or pillow.

This evening Volunteer Edie came to stay with Mary Ann while I went to another choir practice in preparation for Sunday’s Concert.  I enjoy singing, I made the commitment and will keep it, but I am very ambivalent about it for a number of reasons.  The central reason is that I will miss Granddaughter Chloe’s choir concert in Kansas City.  She is 11 years old and sings in a children’s choir sponsored by the University of Missouri, Kansas City [UMKC].  This is one of two concerts in the year.  Last year our Kids included a combination Mother’s Day/Birthday celebration by taking us and the other Grandparents out for a nice meal/dessert afterward.  We are missing out on all of that because I didn’t put the date on our calendar, and I committed to sing in the concert here before I received an email reminding us of the date. I hate disappointing Chloe as well as our Son Micah and Daughter-in-Law, Becky.

Another reason for my ambivalence is that the more I enjoy the singing in the concert, the more I remember what I am missing in my life at the moment.  Singing takes my mind off everything else.  I am completely immersed in getting the notes and rhythms right, being exactly on pitch, interpreting the phrases appropriately, blending with the other singers.  There is no room for awareness of anything else when that is going on.

When someone you love has to be away for a long time, while you long to have a visit from them, a short visit from them also brings with it the pain of knowing you will have to say good-bye again in a day or two, going through the grieving all over again when they leave.  It is almost easier just not to see them until they can come home and stay.  That is the something of how it feels when I do something that brings me joy and satisfaction, something that has no place in my life at the moment.

With enough effort, I could probably figure out the logistics of singing in some choir or vocal ensemble more regularly. There’s the rub — effort.  Serving as the 24/7 Primary Caregiver for someone who truly needs your help day and night, does not leave the stamina necessary to work out those logistics.  The will and the energy to do what needs to be done to get away at scheduled times is simply no longer there.  The role I have here is big enough to take all that I have to give.  Even at that, Mary Ann could/should receive better care (e.g. oral hygiene).

Sunday will include a mass of conflicting feelings.  While I want her to get out and enjoy the music, there will be complex transportation and timing issues if Mary Ann decides she would rather attend the concert than stay at the house with the person assigned from the Agency (a person Mary Ann knows and likes); there will be the $80-$90 it will cost to cover that care so that I can sing in the concert; there will be disappointment at missing Granddaughter Chloe’s concert and how she and her parents will feel about it; there will be frustration that I am not reading music or singing as well as in the past; there will be exhilaration in doing the singing, joy in hearing and participating in making the music that will reverberate in that building (Lutherans can really sing).  There will be the Spiritual uplift that comes with the organ music and instrumentalists and the singers in the choir, a roomful of people of faith in the congregation expressing that faith in full voice.

Right now it is getting late and all that is too much to think about.  For the moment, I just hope Mary Ann sleeps well tonight, and me too.

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I think not!  We made it through today, but it took much coaxing and insisting and endless activity. She did not sleep very well again last night.  There were about as many trips to the commode, changes in position, drinks of water as have been so for the last few nights.  She was up at 7am, laid back down while I showered and got up for the day immediately thereafter.

I got her hair washed, got her dressed and delivered her to the circle meeting well before it was time to begin.  On the way home after the meeting, I suggested getting a movie or two for the late afternoon or evening to keep her awake.  When we got home she wanted to nap.  Since it was lunch time, I was able to keep her up for that.  Then she wanted me to leave her home while I took the car in for an oil change.  I thought about doing so, but since she was still up we just got in the car and headed to the Honda place.

When we got home after that, the television kept her attention for a while.  We ate supper,  watched one of the movies, and now she has just gone to bed.  My goal has been to keep her up during the day until finally she will sleep soundly through the night (with just a few commode trips) and we can return to a more manageable sleep pattern leaving both of us better rested and reducing the hallucinations.

Colleen commented on last night’s post: “Your comment about sleep reminded me of children.  The more tired they are, the more hyper they get, and the less likely they are to sleep.”  Before I read that comment, I had decided that tomorrow, if she wants to nap, I will not try to keep her up and busy, but just let her sleep.  Colleen’s observation may very well explain what is happening.  Keeping her up may actually be making it harder for her to sleep through the night. It is far too soon to determine if this will be a sleepless night or a sleep-filled night.

By the way, supper tonight was a treat for both of us, even though I did the cooking.  It was a meal simple enough even for me to prepare. When Edie came to stay with Mary Ann on Sunday (providing a meal, as she always does), she mentioned that they had just picked many green tomatoes.  We sent with her Mary Ann’s Mom’s recipe for green tomato relish.  I mentioned that it made the best glaze for a ham known to humankind.

Guess what was delivered to our house last evening while I was at the local Audubon Society presentation?  There were a couple of jars of freshly made green tomato relish and a huge slice of ham about an inch thick, ready to be cooked.  I wrapped a couple of sweet potatoes in foil and baked them until they were soft and moist, ready for the butter and brown sugar, spread the relish on the ham and broiled it (per instructions on the wrapper), opened and heated a can of peas, and the feast began!  The only moment of concern came when the relish under the broiler began to smoke.  I had visions of alarms sounding and fire trucks gathering.  Gratefully, the newly cleaned smoke detector was no longer too sensitive [see earlier post].

The movie we rented was The Soloist.  It was is engaging account of someone who managed against seemingly insurmountable odds to make music.  While our situation is far less dramatic and hardly compares to what the character in this true story encountered and, apparently, still does, the movie encourages the idea of living meaningfully, no matter what.  That is precisely the goal toward which we are drawn.

On that note, the Alien presence from planet Pedometer Prime had its way with me again.  I walked once outside at Cedarcrest and once in the mall while Mary Ann was at her Circle meeting.  Then came a powerful attack by the Alien.  Before it was over, I committed to a five week exercise and weight reduction program at Rebound Physical Therapy.  This lack of sleep must be getting to me also.  My resistance is down.  There is confusion from synapses that have not had time to connect as they do during that deep sleep that is so important to us.  Have I finally simply gone completely mad!!

One last note:  She has already been up for a couple of drinks of water, saltine crackers and a snack-sized container of applesauce.  Is it possible that she can have still another restless night?  The answer to that question will come soon enough.

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Danger! Danger!  Alien attacks again.  This Alien presence from planet Pedometer Prime has had his way with me again.  I was out and walking some time before 7:30am.  I had no idea there was a 7am on Monday.  I didn’t think they started measuring time until at least 9am.

The Alien and Mary Ann were in collusion.  As suspected, sleep did not go quite as well last night after a daytime nap yesterday and earlier to bed than usual.  The consequence was that she woke up at 6:45am in need of food and ready to get up.  Do you see how this played into the Alien’s hands?  After eating a single serving snack of apple sauce, she was willing to lie down again while I went out to walk for twenty minutes or so.  It seemed best not to start meds too early, since the two hour increments of medicine would end to early in the afternoon.  I put the Lifeline pendant around her neck, got water for her, the television remote for the bedroom TV and headed out.

Now, of course, I am feeling energized and positive.  You see how this Alien presence weaves his subversive plot?  Here I am writing this post and, again, it is morning — Monday morning!  I guess to be honest for those of us who are retired, there isn’t a Monday.  In fact we bought a clock from Radio Shack that shows the day of the week so that we would know what day we are in.

As I thought about Mary Ann’s increased ability to walk and the better nights, the domino effect popped into my mind.  The better nights have encouraged a change in my pattern of activity.  It seems more possible to do an exercise walk.  I am more rested and, as a result, more willing to get up in the morning to get in the walk. The walk perks up my metabolism, providing the stamina to write the post earlier in the day.

In addition, by getting up earlier, I am more ready and able to get to bed earlier.  Since I am writing the post earlier in the day, I can use the time in the evening after Mary Ann goes to bed for listening to music, or engaging in a Taizé devotion, following a reading by Fr. Ed Hayes.  The latest readings have come from his book, Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim.

All of the above has been about me, the Caregiver.  For Mary Ann, the good news is that she has seen little of Grumpy Caregiver and more of the patient and helpful Caregiver.  My confidence in her ability to walk has freed her from my constant presence, in her face, asking her to sit back down.  She has fallen on occasion, but still not often by comparison to the past. My confidence in her ability to walk has given me the feeling of being untethered.  That has felt  remarkably freeing.

It fascinates me just how interrelated all these circumstances are.  One domino falls, touches the next.  That one hits another, that one bumps one more.  Sometimes one small change can grow into something far more substantial.

I have no illusions.  Just as the dominoes can fall for good, they can fall for bad.  The hallucinations have begun to return.  Yesterday morning, there was a Raccoon in her bed.  When we drove into the garage after church last evening, Mary Ann in a matter of fact tone, noted that they hadn’t thrown away the quills.  I asked to what she was referring.  She answered, the Porcupine quills.  She saw them distinctly.  When I got out of the car, turned on the lights in the garage and helped her out of the car, she saw that they were gone.  She was, however sure there were some in the house.  When we got in, she went into the bedroom and looked around.  She didn’t comment further on the matter. Hallucinations, of course, can interfere with her sleep and keep her up for hours.

Since she got up early this morning, she may get tired and need a nap.  A nap might impact her ability to sleep.  The domino effect could take us back to more troublesome times.

To try to avoid that path, we have made a commitment to pick up a friend, head out for lunch and a ride.  My hope is that we can keep active until Oprah.  Once that time comes, she generally stays awake until bedtime.

We live on a very narrow margin of functionality.  We can do very well one hour or day or week, and very badly just as easily.  Right now we are on a side of that margin that has been very enjoyable.  Here is hoping for more time on this side!

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.

Warning!! The return of the body snatchers has begun!  Aliens from a newly discovered hidden planet just outside the orbit of Pluto, a planet named Pedometer Prime, have snatched both Mary Ann and me and replaced us each with one of their own, beginning the invasion.

Actually, the invasion has already begun. You can see them everywhere.  They are walking the sidewalks with a telltale look of superiority on their faces that seems to say, “I am walking and you are not!”  They threaten to take over by the sheer weight of their numbers as they outlive the rest of us.

My only hope is that a rainy day will come, breaking the power of the alien with which I am possessed.  However, I have heard that some of the aliens just move indoors to malls and gyms when it rains.  Frightening!!!

Actually, I am virtually immune to a long term stay of my resident alien, since the power of my laziness and lack of discipline is likely to drive him out soon, probably within hours.

Yes, it is true.  Yesterday when we were returning from the library and the requisite trip to G’s for Turtle Sundaes, I asked Mary Ann if she would be okay sitting in the car at Cedarcrest (a park that surrounds and includes the Governor’s Mansion) while I walked for bit.  There are many paths including one that is fairly level, in an open area including some picturesque ponds, a path about a mile in length.

The day was spectacular.  It was cool and crisp and clear.  The sky was the crystal blue of the approaching winter.  There was much pleasure just soaking in the beauty of the fall colors and the scents of Autumn.  I suspect there may have been a trickle of endorphens assisting since that comparatively short walk got this little exercise averse body pumping blood to every extremity including my brain.

If that is not enough — and this is what assured me of the alien presence — I got up this morning, earlier than usual, put the Lifeline around Mary Ann’s neck so that it would be within reach as she remained in bed, layered a shirt and jacket for the thirty degree morning and walked a little over a mile in the neighborhood.  I hope this is not a sign of some cataclysmic event bringing all life as we know it to an end.  Let’s hope not.

And now, here I sit at the computer writing this post and it is still morning!!!  Having spent a week in another time zone, our body clocks shifted just enough to make it possible to get up and hour earlier without so much effort.  Another odd but pleasing quirk is that Mary Ann has been sleeping well at night.  Understand for us a good night’s sleep still includes a couple of trips during the night to the commode and a couple more very early in the morning.  Mary Ann slept well every night during our trip and has slept well the last two nights.  That could, of course, change tonight.  If it does, it does.  If the good nights continue, we will just enjoy them.

Added hours in the morning create both a challenge and an opportunity to get out of the house a little more.  I have inferred from Mary Ann’s sleeping so well on the trip that staying awake all day does help the nights go better.  That, of course, seems obvious, but in the past staying up all day has not necessarily correlated to sleeping well at night.

Well, we had better get out of the house before we return to our usual vegetative state.

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.

She is cute as ever!  We were dressed to the 9’s (whatever that means) for the church’s new directory pictures.  My contribution was to wash Mary Ann’s hair: the rest is in her genes. That combined with her ability to stop eating when she is full, has kept her slender and very nice looking.  As is apparent in the picture, I married up. 

I, however, have combined genes (Dad) and a seemingly uncontrollable appetite (Mom) to produce enough stored energy to last many weeks were I to end up on a desert island with no food.  It has, of course, gathered in the worst place for increasing the likelihood of numbers of diseases of the aging.  What is in my favor is a family history that for the most part does not include Cancer, Heart Disease or other life threatening diseases.  Most everyone in my immediate family has died of old age, or is still living.

That family history does not impress my Cardiologist.  Nor does it help me tie my shoes, or avoid the endless shrinking of clothing in my closet.  My shoes still fit!

On the spur of the moment, I went to a local Physical Therapy Center for a free consultation introducing a weight control program including both dietary counseling and an exercise program.  I liked everything about it (except the diet and exercise parts).  There was even the possibility of something that might benefit Mary Ann while I was doing the exercise program at the facility.  Then came the “other shoe” as they say.  The numbers took my breath away.

I need to stay healthy since I am not the only one who depends on my health and well being.  My health is more important than having a bunch of money in the bank.  One problem is that the bunch we have is of a size that a great deal of care needs to be taken when spending it.

There is a simile that I find very useful and use often.  Some things are like putting out a match with a fire hose.  I am not sure the amount I need to lose is worth that much money.  I would be right in the middle of normal on the weight chart if I were only six inches taller.

The truth is, the chart I am looking at puts me just past the line between overweight and obese — just barely, but obese.  Charts vary, and in some I am not categorized quite so harshly.  Nonetheless, clearly there is need for better habits and a lowered risk of problems emerging.

One of Mary Ann’s Volunteers has access to lots of health information, and has found a book that offers one approach to developing healthier habits.  She brought the book over early this evening.  The Cardiologist’s nurse had given me a copy of my blood work with the instruction to double the cholesterol lowering medication I am taking, Today, I received another copy in the mail, this time from our GP who got the same blood work report.  Today’s copy included a handwritten note, “LDL is too hight, needs to be around 100; work with exercise and diet.”  Of course in the last couple of weeks more studies have been published suggesting that belly fat increases the likelihood of getting Cancer, Heart Disease, Dementia, and Type II Diabetes.

A contributing factor to all of the above diseases is serving as a Caregiver.  The statistics are not good for those of us in a Caregiving role.  There are some things that cannot be changed.  I suppose common sense suggests working on changing those things that can affected by the choices made.

All of this comes after receiving the cooler from Omaha Steaks yesterday (a great sale), and enjoying the buy one, get one free Blizzard at Dairy Queen this afternoon (it was the annual anniversary gift for signing up online to join the Blizzard Club).

Rest assured, if there is any change in diet resulting from all this, or any exercise added into my daily activities, there will be whining in posts yet to be written.  Consider this fair warning! 

By the way, it feels good to have our Christmas shopping done for our children.  They will receive fresh new pictures of their parents to replace the old ones in the shrine.  We are so thoughtful.

It appears that tonight will be another tough one.  The raccoons are back in the bedroom.  Mary Ann wants me to call Animal Control.  I hope she can settle soon.  We will see what the night brings.

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.