The laughter therapy program has hit the road.  The Joy/Terry/Cherri serum moved on this morning.  I have suggested to them that they designate themselves The Three Therapists (like the three Tenors) and develop a supplemental source of income.

Mary Ann was determined to get to her Bible Study this morning.  We left for church while the three were still at the house.  Actually, it made the good-byes a little easier. The process of getting out of the house this morning resulted in our being a few minutes late for the Bible Study. She had a mild fainting spell.  Mary Ann hates being late, but the group was tolerant of us when we arrived.  I felt bad interrupting, but I knew Mary Ann needed the time with them.  Apparently, she did reasonably well there.

After the Bible Study, we headed to McFarland’s to eat.  Mary Ann did reasonably well there also.  At the end of the meal, she seemed to weaken.  I needed to accept the help of a thoughtful customer to get her coat on as she tried to stand in front of her wheel chair.

It was not long after we got home that she ended up in bed napping.  That happened just at the time Hospice Nurse Emily arrived to check in and do Vitals.  Mary Ann’s blood pressure was about what it should be for a twenty-five year old.  It vacillates so much that I am seldom surprised by how high or low it is when measured.

Mary Ann slept soundly for a few hours this afternoon.  She got up for supper, but was in bed again fairly early this evening.  So far she seems to be sleeping well.

While the Hospice Nurse was here for a while, and the workers were using power saws, providing some noise and activity, it just seemed too quiet around here with the crew from the north on their way back home.  I realize just how boring life is much of the time for Mary Ann.

Certainly all the activity did wear Mary Ann out.  It will be interesting to see how much sleeping she does in the next couple of days.  It is a very good tired.  What a wonderful way to become worn out.  I suspect that the endorphins released by the laughter are still working their healing magic inside of her.

The challenge for me will be to find ways to bring interest and stimulation into her days.  It is a daunting challenge.  I have tried before with very limited success.  The limitations that have come with her recent decline have made the challenge even more difficult.

The day will be busy tomorrow. At the end of next week, Daughter Lisa and the family will come to stay with us for about a week.  Combined with the remodeling project, I hope there will be enough to keep her engaged.

Right now, we need some prayers for Granddaughter Chloe (11 years old), who has not been able to shake a undiagnosed problem with nausea that has been going on for a couple of weeks.  Prayers are for a clear and concise diagnosis and effective treatments, please.

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The cure for what ails Mary Ann has been discovered.  Their names are Joy, Terry, and Cherri.  She has laughed and talked and asked questions and given answers. The feisty lady I married has returned.

At one point today we were all laughing so hard, that I, for one, had to wipe watering eyes. Mary Ann was laughing just as hard.  It is a wonder that we weren’t thrown out of Baskin & Robbins for rowdy behavior.

Another time one of the three said to Mary Ann she could hardly believe that she had been married to a Minister for 44years, to which Mary Ann said “Me, too.”  Mary Ann asked one of the three how someone in her circle was doing.  It was a completely appropriate question coming from a full awareness of their history together.  I could  hardly believe my ears.

When Mary Ann and I have been alone together today, or occasionally when she talked quietly with me, she was having mild hallucinations about one thing or another.  She wanted me to clean up the pile of poop on the carpet.  She was looking at the transformer on Cherri’s little Notebuook computer.  When engaged with her three friends, she was completely lucid and able to track what was going on.

Mary Ann slept like a log last night.  The Girls wore her out.  It was a good tired.  It allowed her to sleep well.  This morning she was up for an hour or so before Bath Aide Zandra came, but we held off on taking her morning meds.  As hoped, Zandra had no problems with her, there was no fainting.  She took her meds after the shower/hair washing/dressing time.

Mary Ann did have a mild fainting spell when we were all gathered in the kitchen, having some breakfast, but the girls had seen that before a time or two when we visited them up north a couple of years ago.

After talking for a while, we headed out for a lunch at a great sandwich place called the Classic Bean.  We had a good time there.  After that Mary Ann had an appointment with her Primary Care Physician.  Blood tests had good numbers, there was no need for any change.  Since we see the Cardiologist and Neurologist regularly, he did not mess with those meds.

Next came the trip to Baskin & Robbins, described above.  She wolfed down two scoops of Gold Medal Ribbon as fast as I could get the spoonfuls to her mouth.  We did a mini-tour of a couple of spots with great views and returned to our house for more talk.  In the morning and again in the afternoon, I retreated to my office to give them time to talk without a guy present.  Some things are just better not to know!

I had gotten a frozen Lasagna, a loaf of Asiago Cheese Faccaccia bread and a large container of salad greens when at the store yesterday.  For supper we had a buffet style relaxed meal with a bottle of good red wine.

The three are planning to leave in the morning to head back to Northern Illinois.  I think they were thrilled with how well Mary Ann did while they were here.  A couple of them have been reading these posts, so they were expecting a much more subdued Mary Ann, far less able to be involved and responsive in their conversations with her  The Mary Ann they have known for all these years emerged to spend time with them.

While none of us can stop the disease process in its tracks, the Parkinson’s Disease Dementia took a beating these last twenty-four hours.  For a while it lost its grip and Mary Ann returned.  I will be bold in lobbying for more visits as the months go by, assuming Mary Ann stabilizes.

When the mail came today, there was a wonderfully goofy surprise.  My Sister Gayle saw something she just had to get and send to Mary Ann.  It is a stuffed Donald Duck about 16″ tall.  When a button is pushed, he sings “Polly Wolly Doodle” and walks around.  If he is picked up by the ears, he screams, “Put me down!”  Needless to say there was more laughter when Donald performed.  Gayle knows Mary Ann well.  There were a number of individually wrapped Fannie Mae chocolate candies included in the package.

Mary Ann is in bed now and seems to be settled.  She has to be very tired with such a full day of activity.  As always, I will not presume to predict how the night will go.  I will just hope she sleeps well.

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I am witnessing a working Time Machine (the machine itself being completely invisible).  There were sitting at the table tonight, gathered around a couple of pizzas, four teenaged girls talking and laughing as if their bodies were not a number of decades older than that.  Mary Ann was fully engaged.  Her voice may have been soft, but she was a part of it.  She laughed along with the rest.

These four have known each other since the Fifth or Sixth Grade.  They have a world of memories since they went all through high school together.  They have kept in touch throughout the decades that have passed since then.  They graduated from East Aurora High School (in Northern Illinois) in 1959.  Every time the four of them get together, they continue on as if they have barely taken a breath since their last visit.  It is one continuing conversation.

They traveled a long way to come and see Mary Ann.  I know it means a great deal for her to see them again.  Of course, painfully, it will likely be the last time they get to be together.  I would not, however, bet on it since Mary Ann has demonstrated such resilience over the years.

Mary Ann began the day early again.  After the often fought battle to get the last hour or two of sleep in the morning, she was alert and responsive.  Again, as has happened often recently, she fainted a number of times on the stool as there was some otherwise healthy intestinal activity.

Volunteer Jan had arrived and took over after the fainting spells subsided.  Again, it the fainting seems to associate with both the kicking in of meds and intestinal activity.  Jan washed her hair and did her nails for her, while I headed up to the lake for a while.  The lake was beautiful.  I was immediately treated to views of some raptors, hawks, an eagle.  One of the hawks could have been a leucistic Red Tail Hawk.  I do not know enough about birds yet to be certain about that.  There were aome of those beautiful White Pelicans, flying in a relaxed formation of about twenty, circling over the lake, and over me at various times.  Again the bright white contrasted by the black portion of the wings that span five or six feet made watching them a breath-taking experience.

There was another less pleasant experience at the lake.  Remember the snow that I shoveled yesterday?  There was snow at the lake.  I drove only on paved roads, with little enough snow and slush and ice on them to avoid problems.  I got to my spot in the parking lot near the dam without trouble.  When I left, I went out the other side of the lot, up that road.  There was a fairly thin layer of wet snow on it.  I did fine as I approached the last few feet.  The top of the snow did not reveal that the road beneath dipped.  When I moved into that last bit of road, the van stopped moving.  I ended up stuck in a snow bank that did not reveal itself on the surface.

The simple solution was not so simple.  I tried to back out so that I could back down to the lot and go up the road on the other side.  The van would not budge.  The snow was wet enough that it just packed and formed an icy base under the wheels.  Having learned to drive in the winter in northern Illinois, my pride was hurt.

There were no others on the road in the area, until a passer by in a four wheel vehicle stopped.  It took a very long time of studying the predicament, trying to rock the van back and forth (tough with an automatic transmission).  Finally with the good Samaritan pushing on the front of the van, I was able to begin backing down the hill.  Once back in the parking lot, I was able to get back up the hill using the road by which I had come down to the lot.

I stopped for groceries in preparation for the visit of Mary Ann’s Friends, and made it back home.  After eating, Mary Ann stayed up much of the afternoon.  She did nap in her chair with her head on the rolling table that sits in front of it.  By the time Joy, Terry and Cherri arrived, she was rested enough to greet them and enjoy them.

Two are in the hotel and one staying downstairs.  My hope is, of course, that Mary Ann will sleep well tonight so that they can continue tomorrow from where they left off tonight.  The construction will continue with sanding sheet rock joints and the multiple corners tomorrow.  We will see if the construction activity moves the group to the hotel lobby seating area.  The birds entertained today.

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By the time they arrived she was a little more subdued.  When she got up this morning, she was her feisty self, the one I have known for almost 48 years, smart-ass comments and all (excuse my French as we used to say — no offense intended to those of French ancestry).  There was laughter wound into the interactions.  It was a good morning.

In the course of our interactions, she asked me to tell her about what went on last weekend.  I asked for more help in determining what she was referring to, since I couldn’t remember what went on last weekend.  I thought maybe she was referring to the trip to Oklahoma a couple of weeks ago.  She said that maybe it was just a fantasy, but she recalled events including (again) my wedding to Lulu, this time including some sort of Evangelist and someone stopping the wedding just in time.

I reiterated that I refuse to marry someone named Lulu and she is not going to get rid of me by palming me off on some other woman.  She is stuck with me to the bitter end, mine or hers.  This time she did not seem upset about what she was remembering.  She seemed to understand that it was not real. The conversation was clear and rational, if the content was not.

After such a good hour or two, she needed to use the bathroom.  She fainted three times during our stay there.  Each time we got up for me to do my part in the task, she fainted again.  They were not just momentary lapses but substantial ones.  After that series of episodes, she was very tired and her eyes slammed shut.  If no company was coming, she would probably have gone to bed for a couple of hours or more.

Since company was coming, I did not offer and she did not ask to lie down.  When the crew from Kansas City arrived, she was able to rally to a level of alertness that allowed good interaction for a number of hours as we talked, ate out, drove around a bit and returned home.

When we ate out, she fed herself the sandwich.  Yesterday, she had fed herself some of the time.  When the huge cup of ice cream came after lunch, she insisted on trying to eat it herself.  She often turns the spoon upside down when eating.  It is hard to watch without trying to turn it right side up, but when she is in her determined mood, she refuses to change that pattern.  Finally, after I asked her quietly if she would let me help, she agreed.  At that point she had been working a long time without getting much ice cream into her mouth.  As has happened before, the love of ice cream trumped the pride standing in the say of getting it into her mouth.  It does seem to me that she is regaining a little of her ability to feed herself.

What we did was quite secondary to doing it with folks with whom we have a long history, folks with whom we can be ourselves.  They are folks who have come to be almost extended family.  They are all University of Missouri grads and have little use for the Kansas teams.  None of us is perfect.

In the crew of eight of us there have been struggles of all sorts.  We each have stories to tell.  One in the group has had a chronic form of ALS that was diagnosed maybe eight or so years ago (not sure of the exact timing), long after symptoms of something had been apparent. She, her husband were not able to come since she broke her knee cap and is finishing up a long rehab.  The wife of one who came could not travel yet after a painful test for a problem yet to be diagnosed.

Mary Ann slept on the couch for a couple of hours after they left.  She just did not want to go in the bedroom to nap.  I am inferring from her reluctance to nap in the bedroom lately that she feels if she is in the living room or kitchen, the napping will not be as long.  She will not lose as much of the day.  She will still be in the heart of activity, even if dozing.

The project is continuing to progress.  The sheet rock is up and the first coat of mud is almost complete. It will need to cure until Monday, when Mary Ann’s friends from Junior High years on will be visiting from Northern Illinois.  That is, of course, when the sanding will begin.  The girls and Mary Ann may need to spend time in the lobby sitting area of the hotel to avoid flying plaster dust.  It will be nice to have an alternative place to spend time. After having the view through the sun room glass (even though still covered with cloudy plastic sheets) for a day and a half now, I cannot even imagine the house without it.

After getting up from her nap, Mary Ann was not hungry and would not eat any supper. After I started eating some leftovers, she did eat a few chips and a cookie.  I have little doubt there will be a need for food some time during the night.

While there is no clear reason for Mary Ann to have been doing so much better the last few days, we will take it and simply celebrate.  We have certainly had more than our share of bad days and there will be more to come.  As always, they will come one at a time.  We will deal with each when it arrives.

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.

Mary Ann slept reasonably well last night — back to a more normal pattern of getting up to use the commode.  She was up before 6am for some food, but was willing to lie back down for a while.  She got up at 7am for food and pills.  She did pretty well, handling most of the consumption on her own — just a little help with some of the yogurt.  She continues to be able to hold her head up, at least for a while.  She is communicating a little better.

She was up for about two hours and is now back in bed.  Yesterday late afternoon she was up for about two and a half hours.  I am assuming that as time goes by she will be able to stay up during most of a full day, but there are no guarantees that will be so. I am certainly feeling better about how she is functioning now than I was two days ago.  There is a way to go yet to regain the pre-hospital norm, if that is to be the case.

One of Mary Ann’s friends from Junior High days is celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary today.  This was the 50th anniversary year of Mary Ann’s graduation from East Aurora High School  East High is, of course, an arch rival to West Aurora High from which I graduated a couple of years later.  We have been married almost 44 years — and they said it couldn’t work, a girl from East High and a boy from West High.

Cherri is thrilled with the celebration.  In these times, it is a remarkable thing to have longevity in a marriage. They have children and grandchildren that bring them great joy.  Cherri shared words of love and concern for Mary Ann, recognizing the contrast between her mobility and the options that mobility provides and Mary Ann’s plight.  She and Joy and Terry, along with Mary Ann made up a foursome to be reckoned with.  When they are together it is as if not a day has passed since they hung out together so many years ago.  They all care very much for Mary Ann and hate seeing that feisty lady they have known, trapped in a body that won’t cooperate and diminishing in mental acuity.  She has had such a wonderfully wicked sense of humor that could get you when you least expected it.

Along with the sadness at what has been lost, is something that is not so obvious, something that is important.  It is something that has not been lost, but found.  It is something that is there, available to all of us if only we will pay attention.  It is something that our situation makes more visible.  It sounds very trite to say it this way, but it is not at all trite.

Mary Ann and I live at the very core of life all day long every day.  There is deep and profound meaning in the simplest of tasks.  There is not a trivial moment in our days.  While there are great limitations on the options available to us for activities, there is no limit to the value of our time.  Our lives are filled with meaning.  Whether there is sleeping going on or time on the commode or eating or going in the car or sitting on the deck or watching the computer screen saver move through pictures of our Grandchildren, there is value attached to each moment.

Anyone who has lived long enough to have gone through painful times is likely to be aware of the meaning attached to the time we have.  Every moment we are in, contains all the time there is.  It is a moment of life, which my spirituality understands to be a moment intentionally given by the Someone who gives us life.

While the heart of Christianity often gets clouded by caricatures shaped by the loudest voices who seek to define what Christianity is, the truth is, it is a relationship created and sustained by a kind of love that is ultimately beyond human comprehension.  It is not a set of behaviors or a political position but a connection with One who produces good behavior to the degree we don’t ignore that connection.  The core is the relationship, not the behavior.

Back to Mary Ann’s day.  Edie spent the morning with her.  Apparently, Mary Ann got up and spent the morning engaging in conversation as well as watching and talking about the preparation of the meal.  We enjoyed a hearty meal, watched football for a while (of course, the Chiefs lost again), and then Mary Ann decided to lie down again.

Tonight is the time we usually attend a worship service.  At the moment, I am not very confident that will happen.  She has not yet dressed today.  I would be surprised if she would tolerate preparations to be out with people.  We will see.  It is still a couple of hours to Service time.  She is sleeping soundly at the moment.

As expected, she was not ready to try heading out in the car and attending the Service.  She was up for a while, ate a little, watched a little television and headed back to bed.

Tomorrow begins with the bath aide and includes an afternoon trip to the dentist.  It will be interesting to see if she has the stamina to do both.

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.

I am at a computer in the business center at a LaQuinta motel in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  We put on CD’s of short stories.  They were a little strange, but kept our attention as we traveled.  It is a clear shot to Oklahoma City on an excellent Interstate with minimal traffic.  The Flint Hills remain a spectacular sight.  

The rest area at which we stopped had family bathrooms available.  What a Godsend!  My stress level plummets to nothing when I see that we have a family bathroom available rather than trying to find someone to guard the door to a busy women’s restroom while I help Mary Ann. 

It was wonderful to surprise good friend John by appearing at this door for the birthday open house on the occasion of his sixtieth.  I had sent the return comment card ahead in the mail since I wasn’t sure that this would all work out, and I wanted to mislead them into assuming that we would not be there for the open house.  Packing the car the night before actually worked.  We got off at a reasonable hour and made to his home within minutes of the start time of the open house. 

By the way, we were able to include a stop at the Braum’s Dairy Store in Blackwell, OK.   Mary Ann got two scoops of Butter Pecan — there is none better.   I had a two scoop Hot Fudge Sundae covered with salted pecans!  Just to make clear that we know the ice cream decorum — it was after twelve noon (by minutes).   All is well with the world!

It was a treat to see Peggy and reconnect after thirteen years.   I had the joy of being one of three pastors who officiated in their wedding.  After having such a clergy presence, they are assured of being stuck with one another for many years to come.  Somehow, I think they are okay with that!

A special treat was getting to see and talk with John’s Daughter, Hope.  Since I lived in their home for the first few months of my ministry in Bethany, Oklahoma (an inner suburb of OKC), I got to know Hope and Joel during their early years.  Hope was fiesty!  That, my friends, is an understatement.  She was always intriguing and someone to be reckoned with even as a child.  The energy and intelligence and drive were apparent from the outset.  She has turned into an engaging adult who is realizing all that potential — of which the pinnacle is about as cute and pleasant little twenty-one month old little boy as could be imagined.

There was one surprise for me.  After a time, Peggy came out with what was obviously a Christmas present, wrapped nicely, topped with a flat bow that was covered with dust, as in a well-aged bottle of vintage wine.  It turned out to be a Christmas present that they had gotten for me, wrapped and marked with my name in 1996!  By the time it was ready to be given, we had already moved away.  It just never found its way to me — until now.  It was a nicely framed wedding picture of John and Peggy, looking young and excited as they began a new life together.  The picture, of course included the three clergy who joined forces to set them on the right path.

While the folks who attended were from John and Peggy’s life after we moved away, one blast from the past was visiting with Barry, a fellow pastor — who is the consummate smart aleck.  What great fun to see him again and pick up with the bantering as if no time at all had passed.  Barry lost his wife only months ago after a long and very hard battle with diabetes.  This particular experession of the disease did its worst for almost as long as Mary Ann has been dealing with the Parkinson’s.  Pat lost her sight (for the most part) pretty early on.   Barry also has spent many years doing full time ministry and full time caregiving.  There is an instant connection among those who fully understand the dynamics of caregiving from the Caregiver’s perspective. 

After a stop at a Denny’s, eating too much food packed with unhealthy carbs, we have settled in at the motel.  Shawnee is about an hour closer to Hot Springs than John and Peggy’s home in Edmond.  We will not have to drive in any of the OKC city traffic tomorrow.  The balance of the trip should be pretty manageable — although I would not presume to predict how well tomorrow will go.  I am just grateful that we have made the first day without serious problems. 

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.

We just returned from an evening with friends of some thirty-five years.  As always it was a wonderful evening of good  food (Irish, of course), great conversation, and reminiscing. The eight of us, four couples have lived in the same town only fifteen of those years. We now live about an hour away from them.  the distance does not seem to separate us in any other way than geographically. 

We have stayed friends throughout Mary Ann’s progression from the Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis to the Parkinson’s Disease Dementia that is now emerging. Many who have shared experiences have revealed that friends have sometimes simply left, as the disease has progressed. 

Tonight, bathroom needs, disruptive hot flashes, challenges in eating were all part of the evening’s events.  Those challenges were simply taken in stride as part of what it means to be together as friends.  One of the group, Marlene, has been dealing with a slowly progressing version of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) for around seven years now.  She is completely wheelchair bound.  Her husband Charlie and I have much in common to talk about — he, however, is a much better cook that I.  Chronic illness with no reasonable expectation at the moment of anything other than decline, has not diminished the strength of the friendship that binds the eight of us.  It has seemed to draw us even closer together.

Our experience with this group is not necesarrily the norm.  Some, maybe some of you, have had other experiences with the impact your Loved One’s Disease has had on friendships.  I have lots of thoughts about keeping and losing friends, doing things that can build lasting friendships — even when unpleasant symptoms seem to keep friends away.  Let’s start with your thoughts! 

What have been your experiences, good or bad, with friends sticking with you or slowly disappearing from your lives as your Loved One’s disease has progressed?