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.

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Facebook is an interesting tool, even for Geezers like me.  Not too long ago we connected with someone our age who went to the same church Mary Ann and I attended.  It is where Mary Ann and I met.  Actually, Mary Ann and I had grown up together in that church.  It was a large enough congregation that we only knew each other’s names since both families were very active in the church. We didn’t really get to know each other personally until the summer after my first year in college.

Judy was a member there.  Her family was also one of the mainstays in the congregation. She knew both Mary Ann and me before we were a couple.  It is through Facebook that Judy and Mary Ann and I connected after some fifty years.  Judy now lives in a small town in Wisconsin.  She is in a leadership position in her parish there.  That parish has a Prayer Shawl ministry.

As Judy has read this blog, she has become very aware of the challenges we face day by day.  She decided to include Mary Ann in prayer as she worked on the shawl.  She sent us pictures of possible choices for the yarn, and Mary Ann picked out her favorite.  Today the package came.  Mary Ann had the shawl around her shoulders this afternoon and evening after I got it from the mailbox.  It is very beautiful, even matching some of the colors in the house.

I should mention that Judy also sent a treat for me.  Having read the blog posts about the newly opened Baskin & Robbins near us, and my Facebook urging that all the local people head over to get ice cream there and announce that Pastor Pete sent them, she knew that B&R gift certificates would be a very appropriate treat — for both Mary Ann and me.

Gratefully, Mary Ann had a pretty good night again last night. She was up for a while today, mostly in the sitting with her head in her lap position.  Friend Jeanne came over to spend the afternoon with Mary Ann.  Unfortunately, Mary Ann ended up folding and going to bed for a nap shortly before Jeanne arrived.

Jeanne stayed for the afternoon while I picked up coffee to go over and visit John who is recuperating from a back surgery, not yet able to get out much.  It was nice to have a couple of hours free to spend just talking about nothing in particular.  John has great stories from lots of interesting work experiences.

When I returned, Mary Ann had slept through Jeanne’s visit entirely.  I was able to get Mary Ann up for a while as Jeanne waited for her ride.  They did get a few minutes of visiting.

Mary Ann ate a reasonable amount for supper.  She stayed up for a while and ended up in bed at about 8pm.  Since she slept a number of hours during the day and didn’t get up until after 4pm, I am again expecting a difficult night.  I expected such a night last night, but it did not materialize.

You know that feeling when coming up to a traffic light that has been green for a very long time (I think called a stale green light), the feeling that the light is going to change just before you get there?  That is the feeling I have about the the good nights and reasonably good days we have had for a while now.  I am expecting the light to change any moment and the intense hallucinations to return.

The good thing is that I have been trying to get to bed earlier each night in anticipation of having a long and difficult night, hoping to squeeze in some sleep before, in between and after the bouts of dealing with the hallucinations.

I just went to check on her.  I think the light is at least turning yellow.  She said she was having dreams about the people again.  The journey goes on.

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Again last night she slept from around 8pm to 9am this morning.  She was very sleepy, but she got up for pills and food before Bath Aide Zandra arrived.  Zandra chuckled that she seemed to sleep through the shower, hairwash and dressing time.

While Mary Ann was with Zandra, a friend from our Kansas City crew of friends of some 35 years called just to check in and provide some words of concern and support.  It helps to know there are people who are aware and concerned.  There are so many who are in difficult times, many worse than ours by far.  A word of support to someone you know can make a difference.

After her time with Zandra, Mary Ann sat in her chair, head down, dozing more until I got her to the table for lunch at about 1pm. She ate reasonably well at lunch.  When she eats on her own with no help, it takes her almost an hour to eat a meal.  Then she watched television for an hour before we took a trip out that we have been waiting at least a year and a half or two years to take.  The nearby Baskin & Robbins that closed then, has been remodeled and enlarged. It opened today!!!

Mary Ann had two scoops in a cup, Gold Medal Ribbon and Peanut Butter and Chocolate.  I ordered what I have been planning for weeks to have the first day it opened, a Hot Fudge Sundae made with Nutty Coconut ice Cream.   Yes it was as good as always.  Mary Ann allowed me to feed her the ice cream even though we were in public.  Ice Cream trumps pride.

I assured the owners that I would be one of their best marketing people.  I had met the owners when we were forced to drive to the other side of town to get our Baskin & Robbins fix when the one close to us closed.  They now own both franchises.  Owner Steve mentioned that the day or so before, he had been outside the new store when someone drove by, opened her window and yelled out that her old Pastor was excited about them opening.  That would be me!  Maybe, if I play my cards right, there will be a free dishes of ice cream for Mary Ann and me some time.  I am not counting on it.  They are likely to need every penny they can find to make this work.  I seem to remember hearing that ice cream places have generally fared well during the downturn in the economy.  I may be wrong about that, but it would not surprise me.

After we returned home, Mary Ann sat in her chair and moved back into dozing position.  She did grab a large stuffed frog that Becky and Chloe had brought for her Saturday night.  Our Daughter, Lisa, who supervised the building of a state of the art dementia building at a large CCRC (multi-layer of care facility for the older population) she helped administer, mentioned to them that sometimes it helped residents with dementia to hold a stuffed animal on their lap.  It helped keep them from trying to get up and it gave them something to hold on to.  Mary Ann hung on to the frog and it ended up serving as a place on which to rest her head.

Mary Ann ate supper by herself, another bowl of the meatball, sauerkraut, and veggie soup.  She went in to get changed for bed shortly after eating.  She has now had her meds and seems to be sleeping soundly.

The last two days have been easier caregiving days for me.  I still would like for her to be more active during the day so that we could get out and do some things.  I get out some when Volunteers are here, but that does not get her out and active.

I am still sort of reeling from last weeks craziness, and certainly do not want to risk repeating it.  At the same time, I want her to have the best quality of life possible at each point in her trip with this disease as a passenger. I will give this medication time for her body to adjust, then look at the possibility of reducing the dosage some to see if she can be more alert without triggering the hyperactivity and hallucinations.

My motives are at one level selfish.  I have a need to feel good about myself, to have purpose and fulfill that purpose successfully.  For those selfish needs to be met, I need to provide Mary Ann the best possible experience.  What is good for her fulfills my selfish need.  I also do love her very much, and it hurts my insides when she is not okay.  In addition I was raised in a family that holds honor and honesty in high regard.  Our last name can be traced back centuries, Norman originally, settling in Cornwall England. I have a great, great…Grandfather who was a hero of the Revolutionary War. We pass his sword from oldest son to oldest son. It is in my oldest brother’s closet.  Our ancestral Coat of Arms has written on it “Honor and Honesty.”  All that is to say, I keep my promises.  Mary Ann and I meant our marriage vows.

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