“My supper is gone!”  Since she had not been eating for a while, I asked her if she was done.  Almost all the leftover Quiche from lunch was still there.  The fruit had not been touched.  She said her food was gone.  I turned the plate, pointed to the Quiche sitting there and asked if she saw it.  She said she did.

We had ended up at McFarland’s Restaurant for lunch because of the awkward fit of the retired pastor in the life of the parish from which he retired.  We attended the funeral of one of the people I respected most over the years.  Ann was 93.  Just imagine what she had seen in those 93 years.  In our tradition we do not canonize saints.  If we did, Ann would be one!  She and husband Maury, who died about ten years ago, had helped found the congregation in the late nineteen forties.  I remember a few visits with both of them at their home after I first arrived in the parish in 1996.  Ann was doing with Maury what I am now doing with Mary Ann.  She was doing it with much more grace and humble acceptance than I have demonstrated.  While wishing to spend time talking with the family and close friends, I was not comfortable inviting myself and Mary Ann to the meal provided for them.  With a little more of that gut grieving going on, we headed to McFarland’s for lunch.  I keep wondering how much of this sort of grieving the Pastor I followed suffered in silence without my ever knowing it.  Thinking about that helps me put into perspective what is just part of this step in the journey.  It also surfaces some guilt that I was not more sensitive to his place in life at that time.

The most exciting event that wound some joy and anticipation into that same gut was the gift of the most effective anti-depressant of which I am aware, Lori’s home made chocolate chip cookies — a huge container of dozens of them.  Lori’s thoughtfulness will provide some pleasure for days to come — actually longer if I get some into the freezer before we devour them all.

At McFarland’s Mary Ann worked on the Quiche she had ordered for a full hour after the food arrived at the table.  I offered to help in one way or another at various times, trying not to make her feel as if I was rushing her.  She would not accept any help.  She struggled to get pieces on the fork that were secure enough not to fall off on the way to her mouth.  Toward the end of the meal she did allow me to cut a large piece of watermelon that accompanied the Quiche into smaller pieces.

After that hour, she had eaten about 30% (at the most) of the Quiche and one small piece of the melon, none of the rest of the fruit on the plate.  Of course people had come and gone all around us.  The folks who sometimes come, eat, and play bridge were starting to play at the table next to us.

I left the tip, got Mary Ann into the wheel chair, gathered the take home container and her purse together so that we could pay the bill and head to the car.  When I put the check and the twenty dollar bill on the  counter in front of Walt McFarland, the Owner, he just wished us a Happy New Year and did not pick up the twenty.  He said it was on him.  It is surprising how powerful kind gestures can be when a person is stressed and struggling.  He carried our containers out to the car and opened the doors for us on the way there.  Mary Ann just can’t negotiate styrofoam containers without crushing them or losing them off her lap (understandably) as the chair moves.  As a result, I have the challenge of holding the styrofoam containers (leftover meal and left over Coke in a takeout cup), pushing and steering the wheel chair, getting the doors open and holding them open so that we can get out.  Walt is a good guy!

Mary Ann started trying to get up this morning at 4am.  Between then and about 8:30am there were the usual snacks, little plastic containers of applesauce and tapioca pudding, some commode trips, some arguing about my need for her to stay in bed so that I could accumulate enough sleep between tasks to function during the day.  When we got up, she was determined to make sure we got ready in time to attend the funeral.  She was alert about many things at that point, except that there were things she could not do by herself.  After getting her usual yogurt and cereal to eat with her pills, I wanted her to sit securely in her chair while I showered and dressed. She could not sit.  She was too determined to get ready to go.  She said I could take my shower while she got dressed.  She hasn’t been able to get dressed by herself in a number of years.  I got her completely ready to go, and finally she was willing to stay seated long enough for me to get ready.  We had plenty of time.  We were ready almost an hour before we needed to leave.  By the time we left, she had sort of shut down mentally and physically.  We were able to get to the funeral, but not without much difficulty.

When we got home after the meal, she was not tracking well.  I asked her if she needed to use the bathroom; she said yes.  I was trying to tranfer her from the chair to the toilet stool, and as she was standing up, she began reaching forward and down. I asked her what she was doing.  With a very irritated tone that I could not see what was so obvious to her, she said she was washing her hands.  I don’t remember what I said, but I managed to get her seated and afterward get her to the bed for a long nap.  Just before she awoke, I had opened and shut the front door, leading her to decide that she had missed Zach and Erin coming by with there new baby.  She had been dreaming and, as she admitted at that point, she can’t tell the difference between dreams and reality.  Later this evening she told me that she had just seen me smoking a cigarette.  Other than a few days in college almost fifty years ago, I have never smoked cigarettes.

This has been and continues to be and interesting time in our journey.  There seems to be some transitioning going on for both Mary Ann and me.  I am not sure to where we are transitioning, but I guess we will figure that out as time goes by.

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It was the top line, one letter only, an E.  It was huge.  With her right eye, Mary Ann could not read it.  The Nurse had gone through all the sizes of letters available until finally she had the screen full from top to bottom with that one letter.   She could not read it. 

While Mary Ann seemed unfazed, I was taken aback by the impression that Mary Ann was essentially blind in one eye.  She had been to the Optometrist within the last year and a half.  She had gotten new glasses.  It was hard to imagine what could have caused such a dramatic change so quickly.  Neither she nor I had noticed her losing sight in that eye.  It just did not compute.

The Doctor came in to get more information and do a check of her eyes before the dilating procedure that would follow.  When the Doctor checked her right eye, she was able to read with difficulty letters on the screen that were large, but a size that allowed four somewhat smaller letters to show on the screen instead of only one huge letter.

After the glaucoma check and the dilating procedure had taken effect the doctor returned.  I asked her what might have caused the swelling that appeared yesterday and had disappeared by today.  She said it might have been a  chalazion, a blocked oil gland.  She observed that sometimes they will go away after a time and sometimes they have to be surgically removed. 

Then I asked her about the large quantity of thick, dark mucous that would sometimes gather on the edges of her right eyelid.  She mentioned the possibility that it might just be a flareup of blepharitis, an inflamation of the hair follicles of the eyelashes.   She prescribed a topical antibiotic if that should flair up again.  I will admit, having experienced blepharitis before, I am not convinced by that explanation, but we will use the antibiotic should it happen again to see if it helps.       

Neither the chalazion or the blepharitis are anything of major concern.  Then the Doctor checked the retina in each eye very thoroughly.   Her observations were good news in that Mary Ann’s retinas appear to be in very good condition.  The margins (?retina or eyelids) are in excellent shape, clear and clean.  She has cataracts, but ones that are a long way from needing surgery. 

The bad news is that the vision problems seem pretty clearly to be neurological.  The images from her eyes mechanically are being transmitted appropriately, all the parts working well.  The problem is in the processing of that information by her brain.  The Doctor did not say it, but it seems reasonable to conclude that there is no treatment for that problem. 

While I forgot to mention the stroke Mary Ann had about three years ago, it seems reasonable to consider that a factor in this problem.  The cluster stroke effected her right side.  The problem is with her right eye.  Ever since her stroke she has had problems using utensils to eat.  I mentioned in earlier posts the time she couldn’t see the meatloaf on her plate but could see the baked potato, the time she got up to get her Pepsi when it was right at the top of her plate inches from the food she had been eating. 

When I asked Mary Ann how she felt about the appointment, she asked if she needed new glasses.  I don’t know how much of what was said settled into her awareness.   We will make our routine appointment with the Optometrist since we are due anyway.  Mary Ann very often says she needs new glasses.  She seems to be convinced that any problems seeing are the fault of the glasses.  Since the iris of the eye is run by the neurotransimitter (Acetyl-choline) used by the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), her compromised ANS (and the medications that treat it) has been affecting her vision for many years.  More of what the Parkinson’s and the Lewy Body Dementia have brought along with them when they joined us on our journey through life.  

As always, Mary Ann is just taking it all in stride.  It seems to be something of a blessing that some of the things she is dealing with have just not fully entered her awareness.  That may be by choice, or it may be a function of the Parkinson’s Disease and the Parkinson’s Disease Dementia.  It may all be sinking it, may simply be choosing not to talk about it.  It may be a defense mechanism to keep from dwelling on the problems.  It may be any combination of all of them.

Whatever is so, there seems to be nothing resulting from the appointment with the Eye Doctor that changes our current version of normal.  That is about the best we could have hoped for. 

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.