Mary Ann liked the chili.  At first she could not negotiate the spoon well enough to get anything into her mouth.  For whatever reason, her compromised spatial awareness (from the stroke or the Lewy Body Dementia or both) makes it difficult for her to use the spoon as intended.  Most often it gets turned over so that all she gets is what sticks to the back of the spoon.  It works for ice cream and sticky foods, but not for liquids. Sometimes she can get the spoon turned upright, but she can’t keep it level enough for a liquid to stay in it long enough to make it into her mouth.

After I crumbled lots of saltine crackers into her chili, soaking up the liquid, she was able to get a portion of it eaten.  She tried to cut off a piece of the freshly baked, very tasty, cinnamon roll so that she could eat that.  I saw her struggling with it and used the spoon to divide it into a number of pieces that she could pick them with her fingers.

We were sitting at a round table eating with former parishioners who pretty much took for granted Mary Ann’s struggles with eating.  They knew not to pay too much attention or offer to help, thereby making Mary Ann more uncomfortable.  The family at that table with us had lost two members, the Daughter and Wife of one, and the Mother and Sister of the other, both at a comparatively young age to a form of Alzheimer’s Dementia.

I quietly offered to assist Mary Ann by feeding her, but as expected, she refused the help.  She was clearly getting very frustrated, more so than she has in the past.  Since this was a church dinner provided by the Junior Youth and their Parents, there was not a menu with various items to choose from.  There was no option of picking something that would be easy for her to eat.

It is clear that we will need to check the menu for the next dinners at church to be sure there is something there that Mary Ann will be able to eat without much help.  Tomorrow evening is the Parkinson’s Support Group dinner.  While that group has other members who are debilitated, at the meetings, Mary Ann is usually by far the most limited in physical ability.  I hope that she is able to handle the meal.

What is at stake here is the potential loss of one of our main activities outside of the house.  Mary Ann has done pretty well at not being deterred from going out by the difficulty she has eating.  Her frustration this evening was intense enough that it could negatively reinforce the experience of eating out to the extent that she will just refuse to go.  She has always wanted to go out to eat.  We would eat every meal out if I would acquiesce to her wishes on the matter. As eating in public becomes more of a problem for her, she is beginning to let go of the need to go out.  While I am glad for the money we save by eating at home, we need not to cloister ourselves in the house.

Mary Ann napped for a couple of hours this afternoon and went to bed fairly early also.  She commented on the fact that is was a long day, the Bath Aide at 9am this morning, the Service and dinner this evening. She slept fairly well last night, and at the moment, she seems to be settled in.  We will see what tomorrow brings.

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Could our timing have been worse??  I think not.  We rolled up the sidewalk just in time for the pastor to open the doors for the pallbearers, readying themselves to carry the casket to the coach. The family was lining up behind the casket.

We just scooted in the open door, past the pall bearers and the family to the other side of the lobby as the funeral home staff ushered out of the Nave of the church those who had come to attend the funeral.  It was the epitome of bad manners.  Sometimes it is not better late than never!

Actually, I pretty much expected that we would embarrass ourselves when we left the house.  The funeral was at 10am.  We left the house at 10:20am with about a ten minute drive to church, depending on the stoplights.  Mary Ann had to take some medicine before we headed toward the door.

The decision was either to embarrass ourselves by arriving at the end of the funeral, or not going.  Mary Ann’s bath aide has a schedule of clients to see each day she works.  It is not a simple matter to just ask that she come earlier, throwing all her other clients off their schedules.

When there is a chronic illness like Parkinson’s that has entered the family, there are consequences.  Among them is the loss of the ability to make and keep plans, to accommodate to external demands.  The disease often rules the schedule.

Having served as Pastor of the congregation for over twelve years, I had known the deceased and family for a long time.  There had been some very challenging times in the family’s story during those years.  I was involved in that story.  This was a chance to see some of the family who had come from very far away.  I could have written a note explaining why we couldn’t make the funeral.  That just did not seem okay to me.  Charlotte had served as a Volunteer with Mary Ann, I had confirmed some of the grandchildren.  I had done a couple of weddings for the family.  The connection seemed too strong to accept that we couldn’t get to the funeral.

I decided that in spite of behaving badly by coming in at the end of the funeral, and the embarrassment that would come with it (embarrassment is a most hated enemy to me), I would not give up the chance to have a few minutes with members of the family.

We had had some practice with this sort of embarrassment when we decided some time ago to go to a morning worship service instead of the evening service. That Sunday morning we arrive in plenty of time to attend the 11:30am service.  The service, of course, is and always has been at 11am.  We had to roll past a group of folks standing on the sidewalk by the door to church.  They had gone to an earlier service and were just socializing as they were heading to the parking lot.  Again, I knew we would be late, but I wanted to hear a newly commissioned Deacon preach (he was great!).  We had a commitment that evening that would not allow us to attend the evening service.

Chronic illness has consequences in day to day life.  Sometimes embarrassment is one of them.  As I have mentioned before, eating in a restaurant often provides opportunity for embarrassment as food often ends up where it is not intended to go.  Using public bathrooms always provides opportunity for embarrassment as I have to find someone to watch the door of the women’s restroom while I help Mary Ann, fearing all the while that someone will come charging in, horrified to see a man in the women’s restroom.

One of my personal challenges is to refuse to give my hatred of being embarrassed the power to control our choices.  We need to be out with people.  One thing our circumstances have taught me is to be less judgmental of others.  Who knows what they are going through, when they do things that seem to be in bad taste or thoughtless or inappropriate? Who knows what they are going through?

Embarrassed?  Yes!  But we’ll live.

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.