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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Today was a good day in most respects.  Mary Ann got up, ate, took pills and got dressed in anticipation of Volunteer Jan’s arrival.  Jan did her hair and nails, a real treat.  Mary Ann had eaten a good breakfast with some help.  Around noon she ate a half sandwich, chips, Pepsi, and large and tasty chocolate chip cookie that Jan had brought.

Mary Ann was up all day, watching football — her choice.  The Chief’s won!!! She was awake and mobile enough for us to go to the Evening Service at 6pm.  She ate a little supper before church and headed to bed shortly after church.

This was pretty much a normal day even by pre-hospital standards.  So far it appears that our new normal will include a little less mobility.  Eating by herself was a challenge before the hospital stay.  She now needs help much more often than before.  Walking unaided seems to be less of an option now.  It seems as if in most other areas, we are back to pre-hospital stay levels.  That is pretty encouraging.  I won’t deny that the last couple of weeks have been scary and stressful, with lots of fears about the possibility of not regaining any of what had been lost.

Maybe it was the barometer change today, but my time away this morning was not so refreshing as usual.  The rain did not allow the long walk that releases the mood-lifting endorphins.  I sat in the car enjoying the peacefulness of the rain at the lake, listening to a CD.  The Taizé Music seemed to open a certain vulnerability to thoughts and feelings that usually don’t have the time or space for attention with the moment by moment demands of the caregiving.

I am embarrassed at the self-centeredness of the thinking, but I have never pretended to be perfect — far from it.  I began thinking of who I am as an individual, separate from my role.  I thought of all sorts of things I have not yet experienced in life, things that most likely will never come to be.  I am not absolutely sure that I would really do some of them even if I had the chance.  That is why I titled this post “imagined Possibilities.”

Imagined Possibilities:

  • Singing with an Early Music vocal ensemble.
  • Spending a week of study and reflection at Holden Village.
  • Hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail.
  • Birding in New Zealand, hiking to see some of the waterfalls.
  • Seeing the Snowy Mountain region of Australia, visiting each part of that huge country.
  • Visiting Cornwall England and searching out my Father’s ancestral home there.
  • Visiting County Cork Ireland, from which my Paternal Grandmother came.
  • Heading off to Poland and Germany to see where my Mother was born (a German settlement in what is now Poland).
  • Spending time at the Taizé Community in France and singing the music, having a chance to serve as a Cantor.
  • Seeing some of the National Parks with my own eyes.
  • Going on Spiritual Formation retreats at various places in the US.
  • Probing with great minds the intersection of theology and Quantum Physics (at least listening and questioning).
  • Attending organ recitals and hearing great choirs and orchestras.

What is so selfish about all this, is that Mary Ann has lost the freedom to do so much more than have I.  This morning just opened a bit of sadness about what I might have imagined for myself.  I don’t know all the things that Mary Ann would like to have done.  Once I was asked where I would like to go if I could, and when I mentioned Australia, Mary Ann said she would like to do that too.  We have both talked about never having seen even the Grand Canyon.  We talked about going across Canada on a train, traveling to see the fall colors in New England.  We got to visit England and Northern Europe forty three years ago, and had talked about wanting to go back, especially to England.

I know intellectually, and most often viscerally, that life is lived wherever each of us is.  There is no need to be in some special, exotic place to live life to the full.  The grass certainly is not greener on the other side of the fence, as they say.  It was just a moment of imagined possibilities and some sadness at what will not be.  No matter what any of our circumstances are, all of us have things that are beyond our reach, things we cannot have or experience.  We can either face the loss of those imagined possibilities, grieve their loss and get on with life, or spend our precious moments stuck in self-pity.

I have the privilege of caring for someone I love.  There are so very many who would give anything to have that privilege.  I guess part of living this life to the full is allowing a moment of sadness into it.

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I got up at 5:30am on Saturday, showered, dressed and was ready by five minutes to 6:00am to start the process of getting ready to go to Kansas City for the Parkinson’s Symposium.  We would have to be on the road by 7:30am to make it on time.  I had already complained to the Dr. about the early start time for the target audience who have mobility and sleep problems.  He said the issue was finishing before lunch.  Registration was at 8am and the program started at 9am.  Living an hour and a quarter away added to the time issue.

Since I thought maybe Mary Ann could get ready in an hour (normally including morning chores, the minimum prep time is two hours), I let her sleep another half hour.   At about 6:30am, as I helped her to the commode, she said, let’s stay home.   I knew it would not work to try to force her to go. 

I had initiated plans for a luncheon with friends in Kansas City to celebrate two birthdays members of the group were having.  I told her that at least we ought to go to KC in time for that meal.  After all, I had started the process of arranging the meal out.  She agreed.  We both went back to bed for a couple more hours. 

It was good to visit with friends of thirty-five years.  Even though we are only an hour or so from that crew, we end up getting together only four or five times a year, if that. 

For a variety of reasons, the weekend seemed to provide a number of reality checks that reinforced the level of limits on our lives and the concomitant sense of isolation. 

Sunday morning a Volunteer came.  Edie always brings whatever is needed to leave behind a full meal, very tasty, with lots of variety.  During the Volunteer time I headed up to the Lake for a while and then to the marsh below the dam.   It was a helpful time.  Feeling out of sorts and searching for some sense of renewal, the combination of devotional reading and sensory refreshment was especially meaningful. 

The book (about spiritual formation) is speaking to my need, providing the sort of intellectual framework that fertilizes my roots and generates hope for growth.

What flooded my senses provided the grounding in the natural world that helps me reframe my situation.  As I stood at the edge of the lake, the gulls spread over the water were screaming.  I have no idea why, but they were screaming.  I guess that is just the way gulls vocalize.  Nearby, one gull flew over another that was sitting on the water.  The flying gull made what sounded like some belligerent remarks, and the one on the water started screaming at the one flying.  In other places on the lake, occasionally one gull would crash land into another and a skirmish would ensue.  I don’t think this is mating season.  I will have to ask a birder what was going on. 

There were Cormorants diving for food.  A raucous Great Blue Heron flew by joining the conversation as he flew.   I watched a butterfly go by and come very close to becoming a snack for a Barn Swallow that just grazed it.   

The highlight was what I had seen last week and thought to be a juvenile American Bald Eagle.  My birding expert, whom I call Bob, after I reported the sighting, suggested that due to a flying pattern I descibed it might have been an Osprey.  This week the bird came close enough to confirm that is was an Osprey.  It had the telltale black mask on its face.  In fact it dove into the water right in front of me to get a fish — an unsuccesful fishing trip.  As I continued to watch, another bird appeared in the distance.  It also flew toward me, and I was able to determine that it was a second Osprey. 

I spent some time walking by the marsh, providing a little exercise, much needed.  The lifting and moving and turning of Mary Ann provides some strength training, but my life is pretty much void of any cardiovascular conditioning.  A combination of creativity and discipline seems to be the path toward better physical and spiritual health.  I am better at the creativity than the discipline.  I am way better at talking and thinking than I am at doing. 

We are in another restless night.  It has been no more than fifteen minutes between needs for the last two or three hours.  It is hard to muster the energy for moving from thinking to doing when very tired and tethered to another person whose needs are constant. 

Yesterday there was what felt like the start of the flu during the evening after church and into the night.  Chills came for a time.  Instead of writing a post on this blog, I went to bed in hopes of getting whatever it was to let go.  Since I simply can’t be sick due to Mary Ann’s circumstances, I got better today.  We will see what comes. 

This is a very thoughtful time for me, with lots of feelings converging.  My hope is that there will be enough time for processing, and that a healthier pattern of living will emerge.  At the moment, I am shutting down.  It is time to get to bed!

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.