This was one of the difficult days in the cycle we are in.  As much as I want her to be present with me, I was grateful when she took a couple of naps.  I don’t really know how to explain how difficult it is when Mary Ann is weaving hallucinations/delusions/dreams with moments that seem lucid, at least on the surface.

This mode demands full and constant attention.  Since she can’t differentiate what is real from what is not real, I am expected to deal with things that are not there.  Every task demanding my participation is multiplied exponentially in difficulty.

Of course she started trying to get up between 5am and 6am.  Then she was in the intense sort of mode that has a bit of an adversarial tone.  On days like today, she may be mobile on her own one minute and then weak and confused with her eyes shut the next moment.  When she is in that mode she often can’t connect with the simplest things.  If I ask her to sit down to put her pants on, she may stand up.  She may think we are in the bathroom when we are in the bedroom.

Eating is a nightmare.  When she will allow me to help, she often moves her hands in the way of the food as if she has food in her hands, or put her head down in a way that won’t allow me to put the food in.  She tried to drink the chips from the little pyrex dish, then she tried using a fork on the chips.

In this mode she will often not answer a question or say a word that doesn’t fit, then get angry with me for asking her again.  Sometimes she will say no to a food, but eat it when I put it to her mouth.

It is almost impossible to find out what she wants or where she wants to be.  At one point, she wanted to write a thank you note to a fiance’ from fifty years ago whom she decided had come by to visit.  Another time she just said she wanted her chip autographed.  I said back to her those words, and she confirmed that is what she said.  I, of course, have no idea what that was about.

It was a difficult day also because I find it physically very taxing to lift, move, twist her into the transfer chair or the chair at table when her eyes are closed and she has no spatial awareness to help.  Constantly getting her into and out of bed, turning her from facing one side to facing the other, demands physical strength that is right at my limit.  So much of the time in days like today, she is minimally helpful in that moving.

I tried to nap this morning during her first nap, but it was a restless one for her, so I needed to be up, helping.  Very soon she was up again.  Finally, this afternoon, I was able to rest in bed for about an hour while she was napping more soundly.

She has been incontinent in bowel activity and having bouts of mild diarrhea.  The tasks that are associated with that problem have been increasing and were included in today’s struggles.

I am disappointed in myself that it takes so little time when she is in this sort of mode for me to feel as if I am at the limit of my capacity to cope.  It would seem as if I should recoup when she has the sleeping days or a good day, and then be able to keep things in perspective, dealing with great patience on the bad days.

What seems to happen instead is that as soon as there are even signs that one of these especially frustrating times is coming, the dread emerges.  When the day comes, of course, it is after a challenging night.  With the difficult day comes the awareness that this is what is likely to be the norm more and more as the days and weeks and months and years go by.  As much of a struggle as today has been, it is only a taste of what is likely to be in store, judging from the experience of others.

I understand that the difficulties today are just for today.  Tomorrow may be better or worse, but that will be for tomorrow.  Were I perfectly rational and dispassionate, I would be able to take each moment as it comes without feeling the weight of past struggles and ones yet to come.  I am not perfectly rational and dispassionate.  I am alive, able to feel the frustration and helplessness and sadness to the core of my being.  With that comes the capacity to experience the full range of what it means to be alive, feelings of joy and exhilaration.  I guess the trick is to retain the capacity to experience fully the extremes that come with truly being alive without getting lost in one or the other.

Mary Ann’s friend, Jeanne, phoned today and will come tomorrow for part of the day to be with Mary Ann.  She came a few days ago to spend time with Mary Ann while I met with a friend, but Mary Ann slept the entire time Jeanne was here. Tomorrow’s visit will give me a chance to get the van serviced.  I was having difficulty figuring out how to get that work done given Mary Ann’s current condition.

Needless to say I am hoping for a better night and a better day tomorrow.  I can hope.

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I thawed the roast in the microwave and cut it into two pieces to be sure it thawed completely and would fit into the crockpot.  Then I heated the large pan to brown the meat in olive oil.  As usual, the stove and the floor in front of it glistened with the olive oil splatter before all sides of the the two pieces of beef were browned. 

I put the beef into the crock pot with some red wine and a packet of Onion soup mix and turned it on high.  Then I browned lots of onions and some garlic in the same pan and set it aside to put in the crock pot later. 

After a trip out to Bobo’s Drive-in and an enjoyable visit with the bearer of some chocolate (local source for chocolate is named Audrey), I got to the business of getting the veggies prepared and into the pot.  There were carrots, potatoes, some celery, the onions and garlic from earlier to be added.  After that had cooked a while, just for the heck of it, I tossed in a can of corn and a can of green beans.  I have trouble knowing when to stop when making these sorts of things.  I am of the school that says, whatever the ingredient, if some is good, more is better.  I have trouble with pots that seem consistently to be too small.  I did have enough sense to add a second packet of onion soup mix so that here would be enough seasoning to handle such a large quantity of food. 

The process began around noon.  The last of the veggies went in some time before 5pm.   It was about 7pm when we sat down to eat.   The potatoes still weren’t done.  Yes, I cut them into fairly small pieces so that they would cook more quickly. 

Needless to say, Mary Ann did not eat much of my culinary delight and needed a snack before bed (the usual little Snack Pack container of tapioca pudding).  The hallucinations are now interfering with her settling in and going to sleep.  It may be another long night.

By the way, I turned the crock pot on high after supper, and a couple of hours later it tasted great — to me.  I suspect Mary Ann will not be interested in trying it again.  That is our usual pattern. 

I guess it is a combination of laziness, lack of experience in cooking, and the disincentive of Mary Ann’s pretty narrow range of what is acceptable to her to eat that fuels my failure to launch in providing regular nourishing meals for Mary Ann.  Today is probably the first time in a week or so that I have attempted to do anything other than make sandwiches, take her out, give her what she brought back from the last time we went out, or eat the food that folks sometimes bring over or provide for us. 

I have to admit, that it continues to be a source of shame and embarrassment to me that I have not done better at fulfillling my Caregiving duties in the area of food preparation.  The food that I do prepare tastes good to me.  I love leftovers and eat as much as I can of what we have.  I  am over twenty pounds overweight — a lot for this five foot, six inch frame.  The freezer is full of food that I will eat and Mary Ann will not.  What I make is usually, as was so today, crammed full of veggies and all cooked together.  It is just not appetizing to her. 

Actually, I have no excuse for not doing a better job in this arena.  Our close friends in Kansas City include a husband caring for his wife with ALS.  Charlie does a great job of providing a variety of tasty and healthful meals.  I think Marlene would agree, other than that he doesn’t always listen to her instructions as he is cooking.  I am a reasonably intelligent person; I can read; I can (reluctantly) follow directions — as in recipes.  I have watched and enjoyed lots of cooking shows over the years.   There were Francois Pope (Chicago area), The Galloping Gourmet, The Frugal Gourmet, Justin Wilson — The Cajun Cook, Yan Can Cook, Lidia, plus all the recent and current Food Channel cooks.  You would think I might have absorbed something.  All I seem to have retained from all of it is a voracious appetite.  The cooking looks like fun, but the eating is funner!

Oh well, no one said it would be easy!  As long as there are Glory Day’s pizza by the slice, Long John Silver’s, Bobo’s, McFarland’s, The Classic Bean, Copper Oven, Perkin’s, Jersey Mike’s, New City Cafe, Panera’s, Steak and Shake, Subway (unless they keep showing that annoying commercial with the out of key singing), and a cluster of ice cream and frozen custard places, Mary Ann won’t starve (at least until we run out of money).   

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.