The meal was good.  The eating was not.  Mary Ann got some food eaten, but not very much.  She would let me cut the meat and break the dessert’s crust into bite-sized pieces, but, again, she would not let me help her by feeding the food to her

This public place was tonight’s Parkinson’s Support Group Holiday meal.  Since everyone there is either a Caregiver or the one with Parkinson’s, I hoped Mary Ann might be more willing to allow me to help.  Not so.  The meal was catered by folks who do a nice job on the food.  They also had extra servers, more than would normally be needed when using a serving line.  The extra servers helped those of us who were trying to carry plates for two and those whose dexterity is limited.

We sat across from former parishioners that we have known for many years.  He has had Parkinson’s much longer than Mary Ann.  We enjoyed the various conversations. I guess to be more accurate, i enjoyed them.  Having retired from a profession filled with hours of converations and interactions with others, retirement has put a crimp in my opportunities to talk with folks.  As a result, when any opportunity arises, it is hard for me to shut up!

While I always tested very well in the quanitative portion of the standardized tests, the verbal scores were not quite as high.  That seems pretty odd to me since my life has always been about words.  I always loved words.  I used them to get out of fights with bullies (it helped that when I was in elementary school I was among the tallest and strongest of the kids  — I am still the same height I was in the Sixth or Seventh Grade).  I loved learning to use big words, always making sure I used them correctly.  Some people express their sadness with tears, their anger with violent actions, their frustrations by acting out, their happiness by shouting for joy, I talk.  I think and analyze and process and then frame the feelings with large quantities of words that help dissipate the pent up nervous energy created by the feelings.

At the same time, I love solitude.  I can spend hours just soaking in everything about the moment and the space I am in and the thoughts that fill my mind, often bumping up against one another.  I love the periodic retreats that provide almost three full days of utter solitude, walking, watching the wildlife, gazing at the clouds, smelling the scents, reading, thinking, journaling.

I guess what precipitated the above diversion from Mary Ann’s challenges  to my love for words is the fact that I need the time out with others more than Mary Ann does.  It is part of my therapy.  I am usually pretty ambivalent when outings are approaching, wanting to stay home to avoid the hassles associated with going out.  But when I get to the gathering, I thoroughly enjoy the interactions and conversations.

Back to Mary Ann’s struggles with eating.  When I asked Mary Ann about lunch today, she said she wanted BoBo’s for lunch. The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives did a special on BoBo’s.  We didn’t really have time to go into the diner to eat (it is the size of a postage stamp), so we got take-out from a drive-in stall.  I have to admit that it was a bit of a relief that we did not have time to go in.  One reason is that I wanted to eat the food we already have in the fridge (my frugal streak).  The second reason is that I have a hard time watching Mary Ann eat when the soft fish sandwich with tartar sauce is squishing through her fingers, dropping on the table, her clothes and the floor.  There, I said it!  I am ashamed to admit it.  Here she is struggling to deal with all she has been through, just trying to enjoy food that brings her pleasure, and I am so petty as to let a little messiness disturb me.

If we had had time, we would have gone into the diner to eat.  At least I usually don’t let my aversion to the messiness keep me from taking her out to whatever restaurant she chooses.  I am trying here to salvage a little positive self-image after admitting to such pettiness!

Mary Ann slept well last night — good for both of us.  She went to bed a little late tonight.  Let’s hope for a night filled with sleep!

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We splurged and ate at Texas Roadhouse.  It is not exactly a gourmet restaurant, but the beef is tasty and prepared well.  Most of all, those sweet potatoes are spectacular.  They have managed to make a veritable health food into a diabetic’s nightmare.  Gratefully, neither Mary Ann nor I have added diabetes to our collection of ailments.  Frankly, given the amount and regularity of our ice cream consumption, I  have no idea why we haven’t both joined the ranks of those with type II Diabetes.

Mary Ann chose the Texas style beans as her second side.  She had white slacks and a turquoise and white top. The combination of twenty-two years of Parkinson’s Disease, a light stroke that effected her right side, and the Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, a Lewy Body Dementia, has made negotiating eating utensils very difficult.  Both the stroke and this particular version of dementia affect the portion of the brain that organizes things in relationship to one another, spatially.  As a result, getting those beans out of that little bowl and into her mouth was no small challenge.

The rule when we go out is that Mary Ann does everything herself, unless it is absolutely impossible for her.  That is her rule.  She will often allow me to cut something into small pieces if it doesn’t come apart easily using only a fork.  She did allow me to cut the meat for her.  I could do that discreetly by reaching across the table.  Feeding her the beans would have been out of the question.

It is interesting to me that she seems not to be at all self-conscious about the food moving out of the dish or plate on to the table, where she chases it to try to get it on to the fork or spoon.  The problem with dexterity and the spatial issues along with her penchant for shifting to the left, with the food then traveling over her lap to get to her mouth, resulted in lots of deposits on her clothes the color of the sauce on the beans.

As soon as we got home, the spray and wash came out and a load of clothes went in.  (I just had to take a dryer break — it is all folded now.) There is seldom a load of wash that doesn’t include a few items sprayed with Spray and Wash.  The Plavix and aspirin combination that Mary Ann takes to help prevent another stroke thins her blood enough that there is often some oral and nasal bleeding at night.  Sheets are almost always sprayed before going in the washer.

I haven’t asked the online group of Caregiver Spouses how many others go through large quantities of Spray and Wash, or something like it.  I suspect that the few hundred in that group contribute a great deal toward the job security of those who manufacture it.

Just as a follow-up to the smoke alarm fiasco on Sunday morning, the security company phoned to say that there will be no charge for the service call coming this Friday.  They determined that our system is so old (almost twenty years), and we have paid for it for so long, that they will upgrade the system at no charge.  That is good news.  I am suspecting that the reason the signal was not received by the dispatcher when the smoke alarm went off was that the system is obsolete.  I am not so naive that I did not check and determine that there will be a contract available that day for me to sign, raising the monthly fee to provide ongoing maintenance.  I should still have the choice that day to decline the offer.  My expectation is that we will still receive the free upgrade.  We will see.

Last night was another restless night.  Here is hoping for a good night’s sleep tonight.

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.