Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sat on the porch

Saturday Judy was out of town performing all day. I slept late, at least for me. I am still so tired. I told someone I felt like I was recovering from some really awful wound. I walked outside again. I didn't jog but just walked. I wanted to see things around here. It was 66 degrees and so very beautiful.

When I returned I read the paper and sat out on the porch a while. I thought how much like so many other Saturdays this was. Except that there is no dad to go upstairs and check. I have things to do. I still have my will I am supposed to have already reviewed. Hard to get really interested in a will.

I created a spreadsheet for the names and addresses of people who sent flowers to the funeral. While I was at it I added a sheet for the cards and another for the guest book. Used Google Apps so I could collaborate with my sister-in-law. Judy and my son both thought it was a splendidly geeky thing to do. Cards are still coming in and both I and my sis-in-law added to the list today so geeky or not it is pretty useful.

The funeral home called on dad's number and left word that the death certificates are in. My brother picked them up. I dropped by his place after buying my camera from Best Buy.

It is a Canon PowerShot SD870 IS. It is basically a point and shoot kind of digital camera. I thought about the SLR types but decided I would be better off with one that was smaller and simpler. It isn't really simpler by any objective standard of course.

The first thing I had to do was charge the battery. So that took a couple of hours which really isn't bad. I've taken a couple of photos with it but just playing and deleted them. The first digital I bought was back in 1995. This new one is a considerable leap forward.

This is one lonely, depressing house now. It was lonely before but this is worse. I had the security people out Thursday and they will come soon to install a better system. I want the house better secured before I begin staying all the time at Judy's. I also had the demolition company out for an estimate. It will be a while before I have to tear it down but I needed the estimated cost. It is going to be very hard on my entire family to tear it down but it has to be done. That's what men do: things that are hard and painful and have to be done anyway.

Soon my brother and I will begin to go through things in the house. There's quite a lot of stuff.

When I go to my bedroom I pass dad's door. I leave the door closed and one of the lights on in there. He liked the door closed and the light on. I left the door slightly ajar and still leave it that way. I always look over at the door as I pass it. There's no one in there.

I have to figure out what I am going to do at Judy's with my exercise equipment and desk and computer equipment and clothes and stuff. I think I'll lease one of those construction office deals and put it out back. I can do that quickly and buy some time until we figure out what we want to do more permanently.

Checked the place we were going on our trip and they are booked up nearly from now until the end of the year. So we're going to see Judy's daughter and family in Omaha.

Sunday I stayed at Judy's until 9:30 pm. I napped most of the afternoon. I carried some stuff around with me in my briefcase but never looked at any of it.

My cousin called and we visited a long while. Her mother and my dad were the same age about. They were the last ones and my aunt died in June. She had been nearly helpless for almost 2 years. I am glad dad was spared that. We talked more than an hour. At the funeral my other cousins talked about a cousins' reunion. I want to do that. We talked about grief and how long it had been that we had really been able to talk to our parents and how much we missed them and how glad we were that their suffering had stopped.

I need to find some kind of routine to get into. I have several things to do on Monday including a lawyer meeting.

Seems impossible it is October already, or nearly so.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Snakes and spiders

The night that Dad died there was a snake at the front door when the people from the funeral home arrived. That incident reminded me of other snake events. And then when I've been out walking around I've noticed all the spider webs strung around everywhere. It always happens in the fall here and some of the webs and spiders are just magnificent. Well, not so much if you become entwined in them.

When I was a little kid I was rather fascinated by any kind of creature. I remember once I was really little and I ran into the house and asked for a hammer. I was given one and immediately returned to my outside world followed by my mom and granny who were undoubtedly curious about my purpose. There was this huge tarantula and I was following it. I would hit at it with the hammer and it would jump and then I would run after it. They rescued the poor tarantula and it escaped off into the pasture. Probably the Oklahoma Brown which are not poisonous and are very helpful.

Dad had built a barn that among other things sheltered the car. One day when I was little I remember mom screaming and running out of the barn. There was this big old chicken snake on the hood of the car and she had not noticed it until she climbed in the car. My pop killed it with his big hoe. We had chickens then. The rooster especially hated me and would run after me every time I would be out there. I would have gladly fed the rooster to the chicken snake.

Another memorable snake event occurred at a family reunion at our house in the early 80's. A group was sitting outside in the breezeway area between the house and the garage. I was sitting on the house side and across from me several people were sitting right up against the Arkansas Ledge Stone wall. Suddenly I noticed a little movement and behind those people and actually on the wall was this really big snake, well over 6' long. It blended in with that stone so well that it was just unnoticeable unless you really looked to see it. I told everyone to move away from the wall slowly. Dad saw it about the same time I did and went to get his rake while I was moving people away. He got it off the wall with his rake and took it down to the fence and released it into the pasture. By that point in his life Dad no longer killed anything.

Then there was the time I came to live with Mom and Dad in 1998. It was after Mom was out of the hospital so probably in 1999 sometime. I heard Dad hollering for me and I ran out to his office as quick as I could. Forgot my shoes I was in such a hurry. A really large snake had come in the back door. He (or she and I don't know or care) was about 4' long I think. It is a little hard to measure a snake from across the room and with the snake all coiled up and hissing at you. But it was really thick around and so muscular.

It had made a beeline for some cabinets over against the wall and Dad had intercepted it with his broom and was holding it so it couldn't get away. But it was fighting and he was losing. So the first thing I did was close the door into the house so the thing couldn't get inside - hopefully. Dad was trying to get the snake out the door with a broom handle. I jumped up on the boot bench. Dad said "come over here and help me" so I got my own broom and wished I had something on my feet other than socks.

Snakes are surprisingly strong is all I can tell you. The two of us managed to get the thing back out the door where it coiled up and hissed and struck at us. We decided we'd leave it alone and maybe it would leave on its own. And sure enough it was gone a little later.

We've always called these spiders that build these giant webs in the trees and around the eaves tiger spiders. I think they are actually wolf spiders but really I don't know. They are kind of scary and if you get tangled up in the webs it is awful. But they are beautiful creatures. This doesn't really look exactly like the ones around here. Maybe if I buy my new camera today I can take some photos of the real ones. But I found this one on the Internet and it resembles them.

In all my life here I've only seen one Black Widow spider. And that little red hour glass they talk about to identify them is really unique and interesting and pretty obvious.

We have lots of Brown Recluse spiders here. Definitely a good idea to leave those alone!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Special Friend At Funeral

A long while back Dad and I went grocery shopping together. We did everything together of course but grocery shopping was kind of a special thing I guess.

For one thing it was regular and periodic. We always went to the same store and we generally saw the same people. I always began at the produce area next to the door we entered and then we moved up and down each aisle to the other end. They added the self-check lanes after we stopped going. So sometimes we even knew the checker, especially in the beginning.

The first store we patronized was one that had been in business many years and was mom's favorite. When she was alive she would tell me to be sure and get meat that was about to expire because it was the cheapest. I always thought that was funny but she was very serious about it. She always thought I was a little less than frugal. But that store finally closed. The family that owned it just finally became tired of it and sold to a bigger company. Soon afterwards it closed for good. And really it was pretty much time because the place had really gone downhill in about every possible category.

Then we switched to a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market that was just across the street from the old store. It was new then and even a new concept for Wal-mart. It was and is the right size store for me. It is large enough to have most everything but not so large as to be overwhelming. I tried to go when there were not too many people there. Back then dad was doing pretty well with people but already too many people made him a little nervous.

One day I noticed this fellow who was sweeping the parking lot. I thought I might know him and finally came up with a name. I walked over to him and asked him if he was who I thought he was. And he was. His name is Danny and he was a classmate most of grade school through high school. Back then we called him "slow" and most everyone kind of helped him along. There weren't any special education classes then, at least in our little town. His cousin and I were really close friends and his cousin helped him the most.

When I returned to Moore in 1998 and 1999 I located a teacher who had been so important to me during high school. Her name was Mrs. Raine. She was always Mrs. to me regardless how old I got. She told me to call her Bennie but I really never did. It just seemed wrong. Mrs. Raine taught me The Old Man And The Sea by Hemingway among many other things. I still treasure that time. She always introduced me as her student and I was ever proud to be one of her "little darlings" as she fondly called us. A group of us got together before she died and raised enough money to endow a scholarship in her name. She even attended and spoke at the first ceremony. She died shortly after that. I think she was 95.

But I mentioned to Mrs. Raine one day that I had seen this fellow, Danny, at Wal-Mart. She told me several stories about him and how the teachers there at Moore had helped him individually so he could graduate. She told me about his cousin helping him so much. I hadn't known any of it really.

But Danny was working for Wal-Mart. Apparently Wal-Mart has a special program for people like Danny. He did a great job. His parking lot was absolutely clean. And if anything was spilled inside the store he was right there to clean it up.

Danny would smile so big when he would see us and he would come over and shake our hands. And then he and dad would talk a few seconds about various things. Danny knew that dad had Alzheimer's but it made no difference to him at all. Sometimes I would walk off a little ways and watch them visit with each other. Dad knew Danny was slow but it seemed to make no difference to him. Finally, Danny would excuse himself to get back to work.

I knew when his birthday occurred somehow. So we would buy a card for him and usually Dad would have me put a $20 in the card. I would change our shopping day if necessary so we could see him on his birthday. Dad would give the card to him. He would open the card and read it and then handle the $20. He always seemed so happy and grateful. But not any happier than Dad.

I was so surprised on the day of the funeral to look up from my greeting duties to find Danny in line waiting to shake my hand. He had on his normal Wal-mart clothes. He's my age but he looks much older. He ignored my hand and came right over and put both his arms around me and hugged me and told me he surely missed seeing us. We haven't been there in several years. I was surprised he even remembered.

After the service he found me again and said he couldn't stay any longer because he had to get back to work. He explained his manager had granted him time off to attend dad's funeral. He told me he would try to see me again sometime.

Danny is a very special friend.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Walking Outside

It has been more than a year that I was able to jog and walk outside.

So Wednesday morning I dusted off my Garmin GPS monitor and put on the chest strap. I thought at first I would just jog around here but then Judy had a package to pickup at the UPS store so I drove over and retrieved it. Then I delivered it to her and we visited a few minutes.

She's all involved in this big performance the orchestra is doing this weekend. An arranger is sending her all the parts for the different instruments and she has to print them and distribute them to all the musicians. It is proving pretty stressful for her.

I have no idea how that's done in the first place. She has to figure out which instrument goes with the arranger's work. I asked her how she knew and she explained some stuff but I still don't have a clue.

There's a great park out by her house that has an excellent track and is usually nearly deserted. So I drove there. I left my phone and my water in the car. I think I could really get used to not carrying the phone with me everywhere. It was really humid but not terribly hot. I got in about 42 minutes before I decided to call it quits. I decided to refrain from doing too much outside the first day.

I drove over to Starbucks and got a tall dark roast. I find it interesting still that Starbucks' sizes are Tall, Grande, and Venti. Well, there is a Short, but you have to ask for it.

I made an appointment for a hair cut. I made it for the morning. That was deliberate because I haven't been able to make a morning appointment in a while. Felt pretty good.

Worked out some more and prepared for some business meetings coming up. I'm thinking I'm going to devote some time to getting myself back in shape. I've gained some weight since Dad's been in hospice and this would be a good time to concentrate on losing it.

My daughter let me know her father-in-law is in the hospital. That made me wonder if there would be more deaths in my little various circles of friends and relatives. I've noticed over the years that things often come in threes. I hope not. In my Alzheimer's blog group I was the third.

Later Judy called when she was done at the church. She came over and we went out for dinner! No reason. No planning. Just doing what we decided to do on the spur of the moment.

So today I have a haircut, business meeting, lunch, and a meeting with a security group to add some additional security to the house.

I think I can really get the hang of this.

Blessings to all.

PS: I'm still praying for all of you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rainbow

Out the window of my exercise room Tuesday morning appeared a really nice rainbow.

I took the picture with my phone.

I don't have a digital camera any longer. But if I had one it wouldn't have been there when I needed it. Still it seems wrong to take pictures with a phone. Although it seems more wrong to talk on a camera.

I managed 80 minutes of exercise Tuesday morning. It was an unhurried morning. Eventually I showered and shaved and clothed myself. I selected black: black shoes, black socks, black pants, black belt, black coat, black tie with little shapes but they were kind of black, too. I put on a white shirt. I used the only tie tack I could find. I am unsure where the others have gone. I adorned my left wrist with the Seiko with the Roman numerals and the gold band. I am not partial to Roman numerals and really do not understand why we use them. And I slipped on my gold and titanium wedding ring. (It was not exactly Judy's first choice but it was my ring after all. Titanium is the metal of choice for geeks and nerds.)

It was noon when I headed for Judy's. She was finishing her own dressing chores when I arrived and not long after we left for the funeral home. We arrived before 1:30 pm. But my son was there already and a couple of cousins. It took a few moments to park properly.

I had to hunt down the attendant and I asked him where I should park. He asked if I was immediate family. I said "well, I guess it depends on how close you want. I am a son." I know it was smartalecky. He told me to drive through the garage and line up with the brick wall on the other side. I did that and then we went through the door that had the "No Admittance" sign.

Down this hallway next to the family room that was adjacent to the little chapel area we walked to the main hall. There were already cousins and their children and their children gathered there. I am awkward at these greeting things and hugging and so on but I did what was expected. "So glad to see you and thanks for coming" was my most common statement of the day I think.

I went down to check on dad, and to get away from what I knew would be a growing crowd. I am one of those introverted chaps and I literally feel my energy being drained away when I am in a crowd. I've wondered before if the crowd were large enough and packed tightly enough if I would actually die from it. But it is a distasteful experience for me so I avoid crowds as much as I can.

Those people that gain energy from crowds are objects of envy to me. I think we had a lot of them because, standing away, I could detect the increasing level of energy present there in the midst of the crowd. There were hands stuck at me here and there and people coming from all sides. Many of these people I had not seen in a long while. So the immediate recognition is absent and my mental Rolodex is struggling to find the name and update the image stored there and I stall until the name finally makes its way to my mouth. Still I did not shake hands with or greet everyone present. And some I did not even know were there until my brother read me their names this morning.

Several times the director let "friends" know that it was time for them to be seated and that the casket would be closed shortly. Then it was time and he had to raise his voice to get our unruly lot to quit talking. My brother told me I should go first since I am next of kin. For some reason that struck me mildly amusing. I had not thought of myself as being next. But I suppose I must be. Next is a loaded word at a funeral.

So we made our way to the place they had for us. Judy's son sat beside her. He had asked me if it was okay for him to sit with the family. It was okay with me so I suppose that's all that matters. I think I must have missed the etiquette class on family sitting together at funerals.

It was a really nice service. At one point they ran the video presentation. Everyone laughed at the picture of very young Dad smoking his pipe with clenched jaws. I'm not sure why that prompted a laugh. My brother did a nice job of remembering dad's life from youth to old age. There were not many images of him after he was diagnosed and none of him recently. Neither of us wanted them. Some people noticed how few pictures there were of this one or that one. I never think to notice those kinds of things. I must be a more "big picture" kind of guy.

The first song, which was playing as we walked in I think, was "What A Lovely Name" and it was from a CD by our preacher, Dr. Stan Toler, and his brothers.

Stan told personal stories about dad. It had been 25 years since he had met my dad. He was 32 then he said. That makes him two years younger than I am. It is always a nice touch when the preacher knows the person. Stan has been preaching now for 40 years. I wondered to myself how many funerals he had preached.

His brother, Terry, sang "He Touched Me" and "What A Friend We Have In Jesus." The last music was "Amazing Grace" in violin. My brother chose the music. The last one was special because dad's favorite song was "Amazing Grace" and his favorite instrument was the violin. He owned a violin and said he learned to play it some when he was a child. We have it still.

Afterwards we drove the 2+ miles south to my brother's addition's club house. It is a really nice homey facility and made an excellent place for all of us to gather. There was some food and cookies and soft drinks and stuff like that.

We visited until about 5 or so. The cousin from Houston had to fly back and the one from New Mexico who had flown in via California was trying to get out the same evening. Most everyone had something to do or somewhere to be.

I thought about that. I have no place to have to be. I have nothing that has to have my attention. I remember a few times in my past feeling this way.

I am still so tired. I could have slept more this morning but my brother called to tell me he had visited the grave and that all was fine. How I appreciate him handling all this for me. I will drive over to the cemetery sometime today. What I will remember is all the times I took dad there after mom's death. For a long while we went every day. Sometimes we went twice. We took our weed eaters and shears and trimmed all the family graves. Sometimes we just walked and read all the monuments.

Once we even helped a couple who were looking for someone. Cemeteries are peaceful places. Except for this one section where there are very young children buried. It isn't peaceful to me. Grief and turmoil seem to linger there.

All through the day and even now though I think of yesterday morning's rainbow. I think it is my covenant sign and I am grateful for it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tired and Surprisingly Busy

Yesterday, Sunday, I not only took Judy to church but spent the day with her; took her to orchestra practice; met with my brother and the pastor who will officiate the funeral; visited Dad's body in the funeral home; and, went out to supper with Judy.

It is still so hard to get my mind around the idea that I can do these things without making arrangements for someone to stay with dad.

This morning I was so incredibly tired. I am still sleeping here at the house because my clothes are here for one thing and for another I am uncomfortable leaving things unattended. We're going to add some additional security though and Judy is supposed to be "finding" me a little space at her house.

I slept a good 9 hours which is a lot for me. Sleeping is another thing that is actually proving to require an adjustment. There is nothing to listen for. I apparently am adjusting pretty well though since I slept as long as I did.

Funerals are still quite expensive.

Everyone has some different story or stories about my dad. Usually it is stories. The pastor shared one with my brother and me yesterday evening. He was a young pastor when he came to Oklahoma City from West Virginia more than 25 years ago. He said that the second stop on his journey from the airport was to Dad's and Mom's home.

Things were not good in Oklahoma City then. The church was saddled with a great deal of debt and his first job was to manage that. A group of men of the church had formed themselves into an unofficial team to resolve the crisis. My dad was one of those men. And they did resolve the crisis. That was a story I did not know.

I thought it was very much like dad though. I do not know how many individuals and organizations he and mom helped over the years. But it would be a large number. And they never expected anything in return and almost all of their acts of generosity and benevolence were unknown except to them and the recipients.

My brother and I, just the two of us, visited this morning. We discussed how we want to proceed. We're on the same page. I'm so grateful that I have no discord within my own family and I feel so badly for those that do. Our family has just never been that way and I'm hopeful that my brother and I can pass that same ethic on to our children.

Judy and I are planning a trip. I would like to get in the car and just drive and I would do it just after the funeral if I could. But Judy has a performance next weekend so we'll leave together for somewhere afterwards. She has plans for our anniversary, too.

More really nice condolences yesterday and today from so many people. One particularly bad email today though about made my head explode from anger. But I'm calmed back down now and there is no point in thinking about it.

The preacher asked if dad had any common sayings. One saying was "You don't hit your sister" and he would most often say this when we would be watching TV and some news story would come on about a case of domestic violence. Dad would wonder out loud why the perpetrator hadn't learned better in his childhood. Apparently "you don't hit your sister" was a pretty significant lesson in his early family history. In our family you didn't hit your brother either nor did you use any derogatory names!

Dad wasn't much for movies. He would say "in the land of make believe" whenever some movie came on. He really never understood how people could be so wrapped up in fictional stories. He was definitely more practical than romantic.

I've blogged previously about his use of "dot com" and Mom's birthday.

I suspect I'll think of more as time goes on.

I am so humbled by the comments I've received and the emails from my forum and blog friends. I just want you all to know how much I appreciate you and how often I think about you and pray for you all.

Blessings to everyone tdday.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Obituary

The obituary appeared in our Sunday paper and online this morning.

I thought it was interesting that my brother chose a photograph of dad wearing his Army Air Force uniform. It will be a closed casket service. We will not have a graveside ceremony either.

I remember my dad the way he looks in this photo because he was that way when I was little. So I think that's the way my brother remembers him, too. And that's probably the way we think of him most frequently.

He was probably 28 when the photo was taken. Of course he didn't look like this at 90.

We get a say in our dreams and memories. I was noticing today that already my memories of the bad times have begun to fade. I think that's as it should be.

I'm not on the porch today. I'm at Judy's. May have to build a porch out here though.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Do'n Fine

There is such concern for my welfare. "How you do'n?" I am asked. Not so much in person but by text, email, cell, instant message, and voice mail. It is astonishing the number of ways we have to talk to each other now. And I tell them in my normal Okiespeak "Do'n fine."

I don't really feel a sense of loss. I know most people think I do and when I tell them I don't, then they think I'm in denial. It is possible because I am pretty good at self-deception. I think not though.

My dad's been gone awhile. Part of him was here but more and more of him disappeared over time. So last evening was more like the last few lines in a long novel than a book or a chapter or even a paragraph. I've been grieving losing him a long time. In a way I suppose I've been grieving him for most of the nearly nine years I've been here.

That's a lot of grieving I think. I know others who have grieved longer for infinitely greater losses. So I think I have it in some perspective. I know my situation is really pretty good compared to most.

I'm very grateful for that, too. That's one thing that's changed about me in nine years. I am a whole lot more grateful.

I thought I would be upset about the loss of the work itself, that is the work of caregiving. I am surprised that I am not. I think it is like the time I was in the army or maybe even the time of my divorce. I can look back now and see that good has come from those things. But I don't want to do any of it again. I will, of course, if I am needed and if that were to happen I would be enthusiastic and happy about it. I am not the best at it but neither am I the worst. Regardless though I really don't feel the sense of loss of the work that I expected.

Everything is done for now. My brother and sister-in-law handled all the arrangements. Most everyone that should already know now. The equipment is gone. I'm blogging from the porch.

I'm heading for Judy's right after I finish this entry.

A cousin just called and wanted to know where she could bring the food she had prepared. I thanked her profusely but told her if she brought it here there wouldn't be anyone to eat it. She's calling my brother. We had a nice visit.

Here's part of an email I received today from a friend:

Is there anything I can do to help you or your family in any way? I would love to assist if you have a need. I am at work now, but will be at home later and you can phone me the remainder of the weekend or at work again on Monday. I will not bother you unless you let me know, but will come at a moment's notice for anything.
What in the world do you do in the face of such selfless love? Thank you Lord.

Do'n Fine.

Caught by surprise

Thomas was the LPN's name who brought me the Roxanol. There were two bottles. There was an eyedropper but I was only to fill it to the least little line. So I had to insert it and squeeze the little bulb and way too much fluid filled the tube. So then I had to squeeze some out until I had it down to the line. I thought it would have been easier to use a pipette.

It wasn't for pain so much but for helping dad's breathing. The doc explained how concentrated it was and scared me enough of it to where I put on gloves. Because he said that it really didn't have to be swallowed and not to get any on me. I didn't want to find out what it did so I was pretty careful.

Thomas watched me as I administered the first drop. He graduated from my high school but 22 years later. He had callouses on his knuckles. I asked him if he was practicing karate. But he said he was a boxer. He was also a psych nurse. I can see having a boxing hobby if you work psych.

I showed him dad's knees and asked him if that was the mottling that I had been told was a sign of impending death. I had not known about the mottling as a sign. He said it was just the beginning and that as death approached the mottling would become darker and cover more of the legs and arms. He was planning on returning before his shift ended to check the progress.

He showed me how to count the breaths per minute and we talked about that a little. The concentrator was so noisy and hot that I had turned it off two days earlier. But I thought I might need it so I moved it over in the dressing room area and put it on top of a bathroom rug to keep it off the wood floor. Then I unwrapped the air hose and put it there on the side of the bed.

Later when I checked dad and his breathing was more labored I decided to turn it on and hook him up. I counted breaths and gave him more Roxanol. It seemed to help some I thought. Or maybe it just helped me by making me think I had helped him.

After I called hospice it was Thomas that arrived first. He pretty much did the same stuff I had done earlier. Except I had already turned off the concentrator so I could make certain there was no breathing. And he had a stethoscope and I just used my hand and my ear against dad's chest. He looked at dad's legs and remarked the mottling had not changed. But dad's arms were mottled now. They weren't that way though when I had given him the Roxanol. I was surprised how cool dad felt already. I think Thomas said his temp was 93 but I might be wrong.

Thomas said we had to wait for the RN on duty. Apparently an LPN can't really tell that someone is gone but an RN can. Her name is Donna and she was the one that put in the 2nd catheter the previous night. I liked her a lot actually. She arrived at 8:55 and said she was so surprised.

She was a little apologetic about it but said that the earliest time of death she could record was 8:55. I didn't see what difference it made. She called Doc Adams and the funeral home and did a bunch of other stuff. They took the ABH, Roxanol, hydrocodone, and Temaxepan and disposed of them. Thomas had to squeeze all the cream out of all those little ABH packets. I thought that was interesting. Doc was surprised and sent his condolences. He told Donna he had expected a couple of weeks at least. Guess that's why there was so much Roxanol.

Then my regular nurse called and she just could not believe it either. I think the hospice people feel a little badly that they had not been there.

The funeral home people came all dressed up. It was a man and woman. They were trying to offer condolences along with introductions when I opened the door for them. But I became distracted by this snake that was crawling on the stone right there at the door and just above the floor of the porch. Snakes have a way of distracting me. Distracted them, too.

I suppose the dressing up is a way of showing respect. But they had quite a little bit of trouble getting their gurney and dad's body down the stairs. I bet dad had lost 25 lbs in the last 2 or 3 days. I think the gurney outweighed him. I don't think they could have handled someone my size. I noticed they checked for the snake when they left.

Judy (that's Mrs. Flinty) had already left for her house before they came. We didn't know how long it was going to be and there wasn't any point of her staying. Thomas was there and he wasn't going to leave until another nurse came to relieve him. So I wasn't alone. Everyone seemed really concerned about me being alone. I figured I would just spend the night here because the equipment people are coming today to pick up the bed and concentrator. But after everyone left Judy sent me a text message and told me to get my butt over to her house.

This thing about people being concerned about me being alone and sad and grieving and stuff is understood and appreciated. But honestly there is no difference. I bet Lori understands this.

It struck me suddenly that I could go anywhere I wanted at anytime I wanted and I could stay away as long as I wanted. I think that's the biggest adjustment I'm going to have to make. I haven't been able to do that in so long. It quite disorienting.

So I (my name is Terry by the way) went to Judy's and spent the night and then drove back over here this morning. I'm sitting on the porch and listening to the CD player. It is exactly the same as so many other Saturday mornings. Except there is no patient upstairs that requires my attention.

My brother will be here in a bit. I'm going to exercise a few minutes now.

I'll post more about all this.

Thanks to everyone for the good wishes and condolences and prayers and all the love and care.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Peaceful Transition

We decided to grill out tonight. I had taken up the food and went upstairs to check dad before we ate supper.

His breathing was a little more labored but otherwise there wasn't much change. I decided to put the oxygen concentrator back on him and gave him another drop of the liquid morphine. I know what time that was because I recorded it. It was 7:48 pm.

We held hands and prayed. I do not recall exactly the words I said. But I prayed that Dad's passing would be easy and that he would soon slip into the arms of his Savior.

When I returned upstairs and opened the door I was so surprised to see that dad was already gone. I had not expected that. I turned off the concentrator so I could make sure he wasn't breathing. And I put my hand on his chest and caressed his face. And thanked the Lord for granting our request.

Thanks everyone for your prayers and thoughts.

New Normal

Hospice has not yet arrived as I write this. But they told me they would be late so I am not surprised. They are to bring the morphine.

My daughter came and started crying immediately upon entering dad's room. She wanted to come because she didn't see my mom just before her death and it has fueled regret. It's irrational because she had a newborn and 2 other young children at the time but it still bothers her. She worked with dad for a while and she's always felt close to her pop.

She brought me photos of her 4 kids. They all look so much older now. I can't remember when I saw them last. My son's second child's birthday is today. He turns 8. And Mrs. Flinty's youngest grandchild turns 13 today. That's still a momentous occasion I think.

My brother is leading the planning for the arrangements. He offered. I accepted with extreme gratitude.

My aide has been here and left. She cleaned up for me and made things more presentable. And finished some laundry, too. I told her I'd call her about Sunday because I don't know right now.

One of our pastors called and visited and more people will be praying. Mrs. Flinty will let her orchestra mates know.

Dad will not wake today and he has had neither food nor drink.

I am in my usual spot in his room. I think this is my new normal for a while.

I am so very grateful to each one of you who have left comments. Your encouragement and love and prayers and good thoughts are incredibly generous and supportive. I see that Nancy's Russ has made the journey and I offer my condolences as well as my thanks for answered prayer. I continue to hold you all in my prayers.

I am doing well now. I am truly blessed.

Words

It is strange because I've had no unruly words frantically running around in my mind trying to escape the fences I've built. Usually they are there but for a while they've been gone. And then suddenly they are back and too numerous and energetic to hold. They are all milling about and they remind me of cattle.

Was it the doctor visit that prodded them? Or, that my brother and son were here with me then? Or, perhaps it was Mrs. Flinty's two visits? Or, my daughter's phone call? Or, the friends' text messages? Or, the emails I've read just now? Or, the comments left on my blog from friends I know only by the word? Or, is it The Word? Or, the prayers from untold numbers?

I do not know really but the words are there and they all want out in a jumble and flood of thoughts and ideas and schemes and emotions. And I cannot hold them in.

I am old enough and ornery enough to admit that facing the impending death of my dad is causing me emotional turmoil.

It's certainly not death itself that causes me anguish because I've met that one many times already. He is an ever present foe regardless how he hides himself. And we are willing collaborators to his impersonations. We even help construct the thin facade of civilized veneer that hides his hideous and evil presence. We think we can insulate ourselves from him but we only climb the mount of self-deception. Yet as awful as he is I do not fear him for myself or for those I love.

There is that sense of defeat, that idea of losing, that still I find so distasteful. It is upsetting. I cannot help it even though my mind knows better. Why should there be that conflict between thoughts and feelings in the first place?

I suppose Dad feels this even more acutely. Dad has not given up. He fights on still. It is in sleep that he is trying to repair whatever it is that happened. The outcome is uncertain still I suppose.

I think he should quit fighting. It is not such a bad thing to die now without going all the way to the finish line and there be met with the kiss from Alzheimer's death. But he has not seen the videos nor has he read the stories. And he has never quit anything. Even now he will not listen to me. I marvel at his perseverance while crying for his stubbornness.

Perhaps it his struggle that contributes to my anguish.

The doctor did much to release the words. He lost his father last year. He says "if he were my father I would ... " and for some reason I find it comforting to hear him say that. He showed me the test he gave dad back in 2001. It was dated October 31. I remember that day and that test clearly. He turns over the paper and there are the little geometric shapes that dad drew. Next to them on the right is his beautiful signature in his own hand. Oh God my heart leaps when I see that signature because I have not seen it in so long! He remarks on it and my son and brother talk about Dad's handwriting and how distinctive and legible and beautiful it was. I nearly cannot stand to see it.

But the next line contains the same objects where he tried to draw them connected and could not. I remember how angry he became and how he threw the pen on the floor. The rest of the test is there. He knew he was at home but he did not know the city nor the state. He did not know the date. He guessed the year and he guessed it wrong. He did not know why the doctor was there. But he knew all of us by name.

I sit there reliving that experience. Mom was on the hospital bed next to where dad was sitting with the doctor. She would be dead in six days but we did not know that then. He would be holding her hand when whatever happened to her. Dad knew her birthday then and sometimes just blurted it out to my astonishment. And he told and retold the story of their meeting and his falling in love. I did not understand then and it mildly irritated me to hear it again and again. But now I understand it was his tactic to preserve the memories. Those must have been the ones most dear to him and he must have felt them slipping away.

Earlier when my aide arrived I left. I had no place to go. I had a contract to read so I took it with me. I wanted to sit in the sun. I wanted to feel the heat on my face. I needed to be outside. I went to our Starbucks and got a dark roast coffee and went out on the patio. There was no one else out there. It was high 80's and there was a little wind. I picked a table in the corner and took the chair against the rail I felt so alone.

The sun felt so good to me. And the wind and the smells and sounds. There were noises and some traffic. I tried to look at the red line but I could not make it really focus.

Then Mrs. Flinty came. I saw her drive up. She came and sat with me and we talked. I think I mostly talked and she mostly listened. She knew I needed a friend just then. So perhaps it was her visit that released all these words.

Today the hospice sometime will tell me what is going to happen and give me a new schedule. Probably someone will come this afternoon I suspect. Doc said he wanted dad to be cleaned out. He said if it were him he would not want to die full of stool. I thought that was funny that he said it that way. He said he had a reputation with hospice about that and they had a few nicknames for him.

My daughter wants to come today and see her pop. My brother wants to bring his kids over. Sometime I want to leave and be with Mrs. Flinty. She was going to spend the night but I told her to go on home.

The house is sad. It has been sad a while. But I think it is sadder now and maybe it knows. There is something terrible about a house that has rooms that are no longer used. It's like it is dying, too, right along with dad. First there's one room that no one goes in anymore and then there's another and another. One by one they lose the life they used to contain and when you walk in them they don't feel right anymore.

I'm going back to sleep for a while now. I've thinned the herd of words and I think I can rest some more.

Thank you my friends for your prayers and comments and good wishes. I am praying still for you all, too.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Doctor Visit

The catheter came out sometime overnight so had a bit of mess to clean up this morning. I still remember how to work with the patient in the bed though.

Dad ate some breakfast this morning and drank his juice and went right back to sleep.

Doctor arrived late in day and spent about 40 minutes with us. My brother and son happened to be here at the same time so we all were present. Doc thinks dad probably had a stroke last week and explained why. Probably the jerking movements last week were symptoms of what was happening.

I asked if he thought dad was in the active dying stage and he said not yet but close. On the other hand he remarked about how tough dad is and said it is possible that he would stage a comeback but unlikely. He told me to discontinue all the drugs and he is writing new instructions for the hospice team that will include morphine. He said they will not yet start continuous care but that he would begin getting them ready for that.

Not too long after he left a nurse came and inserted a larger catheter.

Dad is again asleep and seems to be pretty comfortable.

Thanks so much everyone for you love, concern, and prayers.

Nothing to do

I was up several times last night to check dad. I walk in there and it is all the same and he is the same. He is asleep. And there is absolutely nothing for me to do except stand there and look at him.

He doesn't seem really comfortable but he is definitely asleep. At least his eyes are closed. I hate this oxygen concentrator. When its lighter out I'm going to remove it and turn the thing off.

I'm thinking about how I'm going to manage his care. How I'm going to feed him and what and when and how will I give him meds and which meds. The doctor will come but he will leave and it will be up to me just as always. I've done this before. And just what constitutes good end of life care in this situation? I have a book on palliative care I need to read again.

I wonder if this really is a permanent decline and if it signals the end of his days. I've wondered before these same things. But this is the first time for a catheter since the hospital.

I am surprised but not surprised I am surprised.

I'm going to get a shower before I go in there. In a way it almost makes no difference at all if I go in or not.

If it is dad's time then it is different from mom's death. Her time was filled with so much activity that it could not be accomplished. This is the opposite.

Thanks to all my friends who each are dealing with their own issues and my prayers for all of you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Catheter and Concentrator

Dad's condition deteriorated today.

He's definitely more rigid and he is exhibiting some of the jerky seizure symptoms. I talked to the nurse this morning by phone and she thinks the doctor might prescribe Cogentin. That is if he thinks it is something to do with long term anti-psychotic use.

Dad ate some banana in yogurt this morning and 8 oz of juice. I had to have help to change him this morning but my son came over.

He took about 6 oz of juice at lunch and nothing else.

By late afternoon it was apparent that I was not going to be able to really change him by myself and that he was weakening more so I called Hospice and ordered a catheter. It is in now and the nurse hooked up the oxygen concentrator. He was also able to get blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. First time anyone from Hospice has ever been able to do that.

No fever and blood pressure was 138/72. Pulse was 88 but that was before we hooked up the concentrator and after the catheter so probably not so high all things considered. He fought us on the catheter but he's not nearly as strong as he was just a few days ago.

The doctor is supposed to come out tomorrow.

This concentrator thing is horribly noisy but it does seem to be helping him rest more comfortably. His color improved when we put it on him. The nurse helped me position him in bed and he is sleeping so hard. He has his eyes partially open and his mouth open. His lungs are still clear but he is definitely having some drainage as he tries to clear his throat.

Talked to my brother and my children.

Thanks everyone for your concern and prayers. I'll update again tomorrow.

My own prayers for all of you, too.

Faith and Death

Alzheimer's is a disease that makes you think about death. It can last a while. Sometimes it is something else that kills you. Sometimes it is Alzheimer's. There is a widely held perception that Alzheimer's isn't fatal but it is. Oh, it doesn't kill you suddenly or even within a short time. It is patient and cruel and kills you little by little. It doesn't kill you uniformly but snatches life in tears and hunks here and there. It raises hope and then dashes it again and again.

So if you are a caregiver for an Alzheimer's patient you think about death. Sometimes you think about your patient's death. Sometimes you think about your own. Of course we all are going to die but Alzheimer's makes us focus.

A long while back now I met someone who changed my life. Afterwards I made the conscious decision to study the Bible and learn its lessons as best I could and to live the remainder of my life accordingly. That was quite a surprise to those who knew me. It was shocking to me.

There's a passage about death that has been on my mind lately:

All these people were still living by faith when they died.
Hebrews 11:13 NIV
Previously the author has mentioned several men and women whose lives were marked by significant events which were accounted as acts of faith. Afterwards many more, named and unnamed, are described. Some died in agony because they refused to renounce their faith.

It is not the where of death, or the when, or the how, or the what, or even the why that is important.

It is how we are living when it occurs that is important. All of those men and women died in faith.

I want to live that way myself and when I die I want to be yet living in that same faith.

Update on Dad:
It seems we are back once again to where we were in January and February except he seems even worse to me.

It is nearly impossible for him to get out of bed. Even standing for me to change him is too hard for him without some assistance. I'm holding on to the pullups for now though. He is drinking his juice still but by straw. I was able to feed him a little yogurt, applesauce, pudding, and ice cream yesterday. So I've managed to continue the medications. He pretty much stays in one position in bed. He is sleeping with his eyes partially open and his mouth is open a little. He looks really awful. He has some stiffening but it loosens with ABHR and Hydrocodone.

I suspected pain and gave him Hydrocodone. But I don't trust it. I am suspicious that it causes additional weakness. I don't know how to prove it. It is just a feeling. So I use liquid Tylenol except when I sense he is really hurting. And I do think he is hurting but I have no idea from what.

His speech is slurred and more unintelligible and he rarely attempts any speech. His voice is more hoarse and raspy and weaker than it has been. He does not always follow commands now and seems less aware.

The personal care aide yesterday was able to bathe him in bed. First time he's been able to do that. I think he felt good at finally being able to help do something for dad. I was surely glad for the help.

My respite volunteer was so surprised by the change. I told her to keep a close eye on dad because I do not want him to try and get up. He last tried at 3:15 AM Tuesday morning. It is dangerous now for him to try to get up.

Our nurse was here and still could not get vitals. I suppose he will resist that to the very end. But she was able to do more with him. She thinks it may again be a pain issue that we do not understand. She also wants to discuss all dad's meds with the Dr. She is suspicious of a some long term affects from either the Geodon or a combination of the other drugs. She's still trying to get the Dr. out for a personal exam. He will come when he can. I know that because he and I have been together a long while now. He always comes but I never know exactly when.

We are concerned about his lack of BM's, too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

In Between

It was 3:15 when I heard him. He was trying to sit in the recliner and he was trying to hold onto the old hi fi while he sat. But it was too far away and so he was kind of caught in between sitting and bending and reaching.

He is having these spasms - really not sure what to call them - where his left leg just momentarily gives way and then it catches again. Different from the jerkiness of a few days ago. This is something I've seen before a few times.

It is difficult for him to stand upright now - only bent over. And I have to use my head to push against his back while I'm changing him. He doesn't seem to be able to help me.

Got him to the bed but then he tried to do something at his window. I don't know if he was trying to get out or something else. He seemed interested in the electric cord but maybe it was just the awkward, bent over position.

I finally got him back in bed and he at least has his eyes closed. I think he slept but I don't know. I think he is asleep now but really hard to tell. He slept yesterday with his eyes open.

He is drooling a lot now. And I haven't noticed his mouth being open as much before. His voice is hoarser and he is having so much more trouble making any kind of words.

I can't decide whether I should sleep or get up.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Unintended Consequences

It is 3:30 AM and I am sitting here with Dad. I hope he is able to go back to sleep. He is as comfortable as I can make him and he even took a little water by straw. But his eyes are open still so I thought I would just sit here for a while and maybe he can sleep again. No sign of that happening so far. But at least maybe he can stay in bed.

About 30 minutes ago I heard him. I was asleep but something roused me. I met him at his door. Earlier, yesterday about 10 PM, he fell at this doorway to his room. His coordination is seriously compromised. He was getting up and walking out into the hallway and then returning to his bed and then repeating. He's been doing this over and over.

The Temazepam was prescribed to try and help this. It worked really well. But last Wednesday afternoon dad began to have these really wild jerky movements with his hands and feet. Wednesday night was the last Temazepam I gave because I didn't need any Thursday and by Friday I suspected it as a cause of the jerking.

Sunday the jerking had disappeared entirely. So that further makes me believe the jerking was a side affect.

I've noticed how often we employ solutions for certain problems and then find, sometimes years later, that our solution actually caused some other problem we neither intended nor anticipated.

We do it in all areas of life.

For instance in an effort to conserve oil there's been this big push to use ethanol in our vehicles. But increasing ethanol demand has caused an increase in the price of corn which has caused producers to switch from other products to raising corn. And so there's been a ripple across a broad spectrum of other products.

I see a lot more hybrid vehicles on the road now. So I wondered the other day what will happen 7.5 years from now when all those batteries begin needing replacement. I wondered if that would prove to be some new problem.

There's been a lot of talk about global warming lately and the part that human caused emissions play in it. It is interesting to me because much of the scientific community that studies such things believe we are in between ice ages in any event. And that's whether humans were here or not.

There's a better than even chance that all of them are wrong but it doesn't stop us from talking about tings as though we were eyewitnesses, either long ago or far into the future.

It is pretty predictable that we will enact legislation of some kind to try to limit human caused emissions. It is just as predictable that whatever it is we do will cause other problems about which we are now blissfully ignorant.

I was reading the other day an article were someone was lambasting evangelical Christians for holding the pessimistic view that the events described in the Book of The Revelation of the Bible were literally going to happen. I wondered if that person had ever watched The History Channel.

At least The Revelation ends with a new heaven and a new earth and a thousand years of peaceful life on Earth preceding it. The History Channel just has everything ending. Depending upon the program the means varies from gigantic volcanic eruptions, extraterrestrial collisions, earthquakes and tsunamis, mountains of moving ice, or simply the eventual return of all matter in the universe to that infinitesimally small whatever it was that existed before the big bang.

I see I've been typing an hour or so now. I'm tired. Dad's still awake.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Teeth

Something that I've had a lot of trouble with is dad's teeth.

At first it was the problem of convincing him to go to the dentist. I managed once in the three years preceding mom's death. One morning at breakfast I was sitting down at my plate after serving both of them and there was a tooth in my plate. I said "where did this come from?" and dad said it came from mom's mouth - more or less at least. So I convinced dad that mom needed to go to the dentist and he might as well go too. I visited the dentist office personally and let them know the situation. I asked them for a wheel chair and we arranged simultaneous work in side-by-side chairs.

Dad wasn't diagnosed then so I told them that he was sometimes a little peculiar acting. While I was there I reconnoitered - as any good soldier - and planned my best strategy.

On D-Day (Dentist Day) I loaded both parents into my trusty Honda Civic and we drove the 1.2 miles to the dentist's office. I parked as close as I could get and told mom and dad to wait on me and prayed that the Lord would see to it. I went to the office and picked up the wheel chair and returned to the car. Dad helped me get mom into the wheel chair and he pushed it with me leading the way to the elevator. Once inside we were taken right to the adjacent chairs - all planned out in advance and flawlessly executed. As long as dad could see mom he was fine. I flitted between the two chairs. I remember being so nervous.

The dentist had assigned 2 hygienists to work on them simultaneously. It was pretty difficult getting mom into the dentist chair. Dad was standing there rather bewildered but his clued-in hygienist quickly ushered him to the next chair.

Then "Dr. L" did his thing. He asked dad something but I've forgotten exactly what. Dad reached into his pocket and puled out a little red coin purse with "OU" printed on it. This is, after all, Oklahoma University football country. He opened it and poured out in his hand several dental appliances. I was shocked. I did not know those existed.

Dr. L said they were useless. I don't know where that coin purse is. He also told us that there really was not much of anything he could do for dad.

But at least both of them had their teeth cleaned. I found out that it is not possible to brush someone's teeth if the person refuses to cooperate. I also found out that it is very difficult to brush someone's teeth if they are cooperative.

Then after mom died in 2001 dad was a lot more manageable for a while. His grief was just so heavy. I used that as an opportunity to get a lot of stuff done that had been impossible previously. It sounds really awful now as I write this but looking back that's what happened. That's when I was able to get my big POA and a lot of other stuff that has been really important. He was amenable to signing documents then.

That time I took him to the dentist he had been going to all along instead of the closest one. I thought that guy might be able to do a little more but the results were pretty much the same.

Dad's outlived several dentists and doctors.

The occasion of this post is that the other morning (beats me which morning) dad and I were at breakfast at the little breakfast nook table and when I sat down he handed me a crown.

That made me think of that time with mom.

Dad's much, much better this morning. Sundays are usually bad days for him but this one is starting off pretty nicely.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Waiting on the doctor

Thursday Dad had this "jerking" - involuntary movements of both hands and his right leg. Really it began Wednesday afternoon but became much worse on Thursday. The jerking - which is the best word I can use to describe what was happening - was severe enough that he could not feed himself. I don't know if it is Tardive Dyskinesia or not but it is kind of like I imagine that to be.

He let me feed him breakfast and lunch but by supper he was very combative and refused to let go of the spoon. I put a pad in his lap (turned over - see how clever I've gotten!) and tried several times to feed him but it just made him really angry at me. I think he believes that I've caused this. Of course that's my great fear, too, that I've caused it with some medication. So it doesn't take much to make me feel guilty which makes me angry which makes everything else worse.

Finally I gave up feeding him and just let him do the best he could which was what he wanted. It was so hard to watch him. His determination remains. The disease hasn't taken that so far. I can imagine myself fighting to retain the ability to feed myself. I would just stop eating if I lost that ability, if I could think about it and will it so. But that's the question isn't it? Will Alzheimer's leave you with thought and will? If anyone can it will be my dad.

I called my hospice nurse Thursday afternoon. She was in an all day seminar so I had to talk to her supervisor who has never seen dad. That angered me. Again I'm on knife edge. I described the jerking and discussed the drugs we're using. All she knew about Dad was the chart they had. Angry. Angry. Angry.

I believe the Temazepam is the most likely suspect since it is new. I counted the capsules and only 5 have been used and they are the lowest dosage. I don't really find that symptom listed as a side affect but there was a mention of "tremor" on one web site.

She arranged a doctor visit for Friday. On Thursday I thought to myself "that won't happen and if it does there will be nothing to see." She wanted me to keep the drugs the same but that's ridiculous. I omitted the Temazepam since I suspect it and it is definitely not needed for sleeping. The other drugs I left as is. I don't really think it is the Geodon but that's my other best suspect.

Then I started worrying about telling Mrs. Flinty that our time together would again be lost. Another disappointment for her. Sometimes my entire life seems to consist of disappointing people I love.

Dad went to sleep about 9:15 Thursday evening and slept until about 11:30 Friday morning. I checked him several times during the night and he really was sleeping so hard - with his mouth open - that's new - doesn't look good to me. I figured it would be a big mess Friday morning but it wasn't. Probably because he didn't eat or drink very much. Lack of urine output is never a good sign. That's kind of funny.

I canceled my aide until evening. Canceled my brother for overnight. I do a lot of canceling stuff.

Dad made it to the porch on Friday afternoon. He slept in his chair and occasionally noticed a jogger or car or a big truck. His communication is worse. I waited. I do a lot of waiting.

We listened to music. My brother got dad a CD recored by Dad's last pastors. It is really quite good. My brother told me he wanted to see if we could get them to sing at Dad's funeral. I'm not going to plan Dad's funeral. I don't have the energy for it. My brother can do it. I don't even want to go.

Doc never showed. I got dad upstairs again and changed - again very little output but very little input - and fixed supper. He fed himself - almost no jerking - but still some. He ate about 1/2 of his normal - took almost an hour.

Aide arrived at 5 pm. She put up dirty dishes the other day. Really irritated me and I spoke to her about that and a few other things. I think I've succeeded in making her afraid to do anything now. Probably my scintillating personality. May need to talk to the agency.

I left to pick up Mrs. Flinty and her mom and sister. Her mom's 86th birthday is Saturday and we took her to her restaurant of choice for supper Friday evening. It was a relatively new restaurant of a pretty good local, small chain. One man of our party returned from the men's room and announced that there were flat screen TV's mounted above each urinal. The girls didn't really understand this and so I tried to explain some of the unwritten rules of being a man and needing someplace to fix your gaze during the process of urinal use. I don't think they really got it. They were wondering why there weren't flat screens in the doors of the women's room.

This isn't a photo from the restaurant but one I found on the Internet. Thought I needed a picture. I learned a lot about urinals writing this post. More really than I wanted to know. There are even urinals for women. And there are pictures of urinals posted on the Internet from all around the world including the Taj Mahal.

Who would have thunk it?

During my Friday waiting time forum and blog reading I happened to think about my favorite Dallas area restaurant, Javiers. Gosh I haven't been there in so long.

Then it was back to my mother-in-law's house for some ice cream and cake courtesy of Mrs. Flinty. She said when she ordered the cake they asked if she wanted butter icing or whipped icing and she said "white icing." I didn't realize there were choices with icing except color. I thought her response was funny - something I would have said. We had the whipped icing and whipped icing is pretty good.

We didn't sing happy birthday. I would have except that I don't sing plus I've been working on when to keep my mouth shut.

I made it home about 10:15. Dad was asleep in exactly the same position I left him. I was gone 5 hours and 15 minutes.

He called for me this morning at 4:45. Well, he was hollering something anyway. I changed him. Still not much output but definitely some. He went right back to sleep.

I think I'm up for the day - probably head down to exercise an hour or two. I feel like I need to just exercise until exhaustion sets in.

This is kind of a whiny, needy post - not sure I want to publish - oh what the heck.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Forums and Blogs

I am tethered to my father. It isn't a physical tether but it is certainly real. Sometimes the tether is longer and less rigid and sometimes it is shorter and more rigid. Regardless I am doing a lot of sitting with Dad.

It is different than being in the hospital or even just sitting with someone at home. In the hospital you are in the same room alright but you can leave and the patient can't follow you. But "tethered" is when you leave and the patient leaves with you. You go to the bathroom and the the patient wants to be right there with you. I've read it called "shadowing" and that's a pretty apt name. At other times when I've been in the hospital or when I've been house-bound but not really tethered I read books, usually novels. But for some reason I find reading books really difficult right now. So most of the time when I'm sitting I read a few forums and blogs and I write entries to my own blogs.

I've noticed that all forums seem to have a few people who are just really difficult. There is even a name for them: Trolls. Basically the term has come to describe people who post in such a way as to draw argumentative responses.

The consensus seems to be that Trolls are people who crave attention. I think love, recognition, and respect are absent in their real lives and so they try to compensate in the virtual world. The busy forum seems to be the ideal venue for Trolls. Many visitors provide a continuing source of targets for the Troll and if there are always new people around then it is easier for the Troll to lure the unsuspecting newbie into his or her trap.

The Troll may or may not actually care about the subject at hand. But it is the response from which the Troll derives energy. It is much like feeding I think. So I think the warnings about "Don't feed the Trolls" are entirely appropriate.

I have read another viewpoint. It was to actually feed the Trolls. The idea was that since the Troll craved attention then it was better to just lavish praise and attention on the Troll and that would "keep him in his cave" so to speak. I haven't really seen that done.

Usually though what happens is that the Troll is successful in getting someone to feed him by posting an angry or hurt response. Then the Troll escalates the entire thread. Finally someone, often not the Troll, violates the forum rules and is suspended or banned. This, of course, is the Troll's greatest victory.

I am certain that psychologically the Troll suffers from a severe lack of self-love, self-respect, and self-identity. I've noticed before that sometimes the people who talk most about love are the ones who seem to show the least. Some Trolls talk on and on about their honor and reputation. Someone once said if you have to tell everyone how great you are then you aren't really very great. Or they tell you that they are so open minded and liberal (hardly anyone ever says they are closed minded - they say they have values) when in fact they refuse to tolerate anyone with differing opinions.

I've noticed it with the racists I've known. If someone tells you "I'm definitely not a racist" over and over then a lot of times there is a "but" that follows it and they tell you some story about themselves that shows they are racist.

Trolls are pitiful creatures. They are not only found on the Internet. They come in real life versions as well.

"Don't Feed the Trolls!"

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mrs. Flinty

This is Mrs. Flinty with Jett.

Someone asked her yesterday if we were still together. It hurt her feelings and makes me feel guilty and angry.

Caregivers for Alzheimer's patients have a tough time and a lot has been said about that. But the caregivers' families also have a tough time.

Some people don't understand and are insensitive. Others do understand and are insensitive out of stupidity and/or meanness.

I don't have a house. I live in my dad's house. It's very different than my dad living in my house or our house. Mrs. Flinty has her own responsibilities for family and she owns a home. When we married we decided to keep her home.

I'm glad we did, too. I like going out there on Friday evenings and spending the night. There's something about being here in Dad's house that makes me always "on duty." Sometimes I can go out there and just fall asleep in her recliner. She would like to have a new home and I would, too. Someday we will. We will either buy or build a home together. But for right now that's just not possible.

She remodeled my bedroom over here at Dad's house and she used to stay some over here. This is a photo of my room after the remodel. The guy that did the wallpaper said to me "you didn't pick this paper out did you?" Those are little roses and flowers and stuff. I like it though - kind of proud of what she did in fact.

But it isn't very easy living over here. I think a lot of people think it must be something like two old men just being bachelors together. But it's not like that. So when she stayed over she would always leave in tears. I understand that, too, because sometimes I feel like leaving in tears myself.

I love Mrs. Flinty.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Unbelievable

The last several days have not been very good.

Tuesday afternoon dad decided all of a sudden to wear a pair of my glasses. He has glasses but he has not worn them since he was diagnosed in 2001. I have no idea.

The hospice nurse came. She lost a patient over the weekend. Dad was lying crosswise on the bed, about 1/2 on and 1/2 off, but still was able to kick at her when she touched his ankle. Last Thursday I showed her that his ankle seemed swollen but more like injured than fluid. Today it was back to normal. I suppose we will never know what happened if anything. She managed to listen to his chest though. I told her he seemed to have a head cold and was coughing some. Of course he didn't cough while she was here.

She asked when his last BM was and I told her it was yesterday. We discussed that he had not used the toilet or beside toilet in a long while. I told her I didn't think he really knew how any longer.

At 2 pm my hospice volunteer arrived and I walked across to the office. About 20 minutes elapsed and the volunteer called and asked me to return. Dad was trying to run her out of the house. She finally had to go up to my room to get out of his way. Then he calmed down. It upset her and probably scared her a little.

The same thing happened last Thursday to my other aide. She told me "That's the first time he's been mean to me!"

I realized I have gotten so accustomed to it myself that it is normal for me. I've forgotten what it is like for a "civilian" to experience it. I am not very empathetic with my aides. I need to be more aware of them and their needs.

Later the aide called again and asked me to return because she said my dad was in the bathroom. I thought she meant he had just walked in the bathroom. But when I walk in the door I find dad on the toilet in the small bathroom! He has his depends down and is obviously having a bowel movement. I could not believe my eyes.

The volunteer said "I didn't know he did that anymore." I told her he hadn't for weeks or months maybe. After she left I finally got him cleaned up. Actually he did a pretty good job. Amazing.

But at supper he couldn't feed himself so I fed him.

So he was aggressive with several today, went to the toilet on his own, couldn't feed himself, and began wearing my glasses.

Plus we're still having sleep problems. No exercise today for me and barely any yesterday and none over the weekend.

Just amazing.

This is Dad and his Palomino mare, Babe, about middle 1950's. I always thought Dad was a striking figure when he was riding Babe.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nine Eleven

It was a Tuesday morning in 2001, just like this year. It seems impossible that 6 years have so quickly passed.

Mom and Dad and I were sitting at their little breakfast table. It was coffee break time. We had been having coffee break at 9:30 every morning since I had come to live with my parents. I had prepared coffee and a few cookies. That morning Dad had opened the gate and retrieved the paper and it was on the table. We were enjoying each other's company and visiting. Mom was using her fragile china cup and dad had his insulated plastic cup.

Mom's health was declining. I did not realize how much until I looked at photos. But that was something that happened later. Today, as usual, the TV was tuned to the Today Show. Mom really liked Katie Couric.

It was only a few minutes after I had poured the coffee that I heard someone on TV say that a plane had hit one of the twin towers in New York City. I thought it must be an accident. I envisioned a small plane flying into the building. I also thought of the restaurant, Windows on the World, that was on top of the north tower. My daughter had won a trip to New York City as part of a school competition and had dined there. I wondered if anyone was there this early and if it had been hit. I could not help but think of other parents with other daughters who undoubtedly were visiting New York City.

In just a few minutes the TV was showing images of the twin towers and one was on fire. While we were watching, a large, fast commercial airplane crashed into the other tower. It was flying so fast. We knew then it wasn't accidental. This photo is from the observation deck of the south tower.

Not long after we heard about the Pentagon and we understood it was an attack on the United States. For the next several days I found myself unable to do much more than watch the coverage. I tried many times to do something, anything. I had projects that required my attention. But I could not tear myself away from the images on the TV screen. And I watched much of the coverage repeatedly, again and again.

I recall walking outside and it was so quiet. There were no planes. I remembered the Oklahoma City bombing just a few years earlier.

There are many ways to think about the event and to write about it. But there are three thoughts that always dominate my thinking about Nine Eleven.

The first is that so many lives were spared. Honestly when I saw that second plane slam into the building I thought to myself that there might be tens of thousands of casualties. I wasn't the only one that thought that either because not long afterwards I heard people on TV speculating about how many people might be trapped in the buildings. Later it was learned that more than 17,000 people were in the two buildings at the time of the crash. That there were fewer than 3,000 deaths seems amazing to me. United 93 that was crashed into the ground in Pennsylvania had 37 passengers out of 182 seats; 81 on Flight 11; and, just more than 50 each on the other two flights. Only 125 people were killed at the Pentagon, the largest office building in the world.

The second is that so many people were willing to give their own lives trying to save other people. More than 400 of the deaths were fire fighters, police, and other officials. There were so many individual acts of heroism. Their selflessness, faith, and regard for human life stands so starkly in contrast to the selfishness, despair, and disdain of life shown by the murderers.

The third is the story of United 93 that was crashed near Shanksville, PA. The 9/11 commission concluded that the passengers of this plane attempted to take control of the airplane from the terrorists and the latter crashed the plane as a result. Much of what is known is because of cell phone calls made by various passengers. It is also clear that the passengers learned what had happened to other planes from these same cell phone conversations. So they acted together to save themselves and others.

I do think of the victims and the families who lost loved ones. I learned that Windows on the World was open and serving breakfast. Murdered there were 73 restaurant staff members, 16 waiters, and 71 guests, a total of 160 human lives.

Invariably I remember that in just over 1 month from that date I will celebrate the birth of a grandson. And in just under 2 months I will mourn the death of my mother. The woman who would become my wife 3 years later had just buried her father and was going through difficult times with her son's health. And my dad's diagnosis had just been accomplished. 2001 was a difficult year.

This rendering is what the Freedom Tower is supposed to look like. It is proposed to be 1,776 feet tall. It will contain some 2.6 million square feet of space.

The observation deck is taller than the twin towers.

Construction began in 2004 but was then delayed until 2006. It is still ongoing and is expected to be topped out in 2010 and completed by 2012.

The cost is projected to be in excess of $3 billion. That works out to some $1,150 per square foot.

It will not be the tallest building in the world but the 1,776 foot number was selected to symbolize the year of United States' independence.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Love and Companionship

Mrs. Flinty gave me this photograph for Valentine's Day one year.

I like it a lot. It sits in its frame on my desk. Unlike me who no longer sits at my desk.

The couple in the picture reminds me of us. They aren't kids anymore but they aren't ancient either. They are positioned side-by-side with each other. They are working together on an ordinary chore. They have that easy familiarity. They are sensual but the appetite is not voracious.

They are washing more plates than two would use unless they've let them accumulate and that's very possible. Or maybe they've had a party. Mrs. Flinty and I would like to entertain someday. We both miss being able to do that. Maybe we could have our children over with all our grandchildren. Or maybe we could have the church orchestra over sometime. Or a Bible study perhaps. Or just some old friends and grill out.

I like the window, too. I can see a tree outside the window and it seems to be sunny outside. That's a window I can imagine standing at in our new home - wherever and whenever and however we get to have one. Except the kitchen has to have a dishwasher. I like the really light room. Light makes me happy.

That fellow is wearing those over the calf socks, too. They are both quite fashionable to be washing dishes. I think they might be going somewhere. Maybe it is early Sunday morning and they're getting ready for church.

Church was good last Sunday. I really enjoy church. I think I like the singing part the best. Singing is not my thing really but I like listening. Sometimes I can sing and sometimes I just enjoy standing there and listening and watching and feeling.

There's just something really wonderful about standing there in the midst of a so many people all praising the Lord and lifting their voices together in worship and praise. I look around the congregation and many are holding outstretched their hands and arms. Some are dancing and many are swaying or rocking. Most are clapping.

There are many down front praying with the elders and the staff. There are so many needs and hurts and pain in a congregation this size.

The orchestra is playing and the choir is singing. The worship team leader moves us all together seamlessly from one song to another. There's a real sense to me of being enveloped in love.

That's the same feeling I sense from that picture.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Family Caregivers

This photograph was taken in 1986. Mom is on the left and Dad is on the right. In the middle is my granny, my dad's mom. She was 96 at the time. Mom was 73 and Dad was 69 then. So my parents were 10 years older than I am now.

At the time dad and mom were taking care of my mother's mom, my Mamaw. She lived with them for a long time but near the end they had to put her in a nursing home. They both regretted the decision and said they would not do it if they had it to do over.

I remember that time. It was a terrible time for my parents and my mom especially. It took both Mom and Dad to bathe Mamaw and she kept running away. Once she took off all her clothes and dad caught her in the road in front of the house. He had on a red Owens-Corning windbreaker and he took that off and put it around her and talked her into coming back. And then she got a lot worse.

But the first two nursing homes couldn't seem to keep track of Mamaw. She was pretty deceptive because she seemed so frail but somehow she could climb a pretty good fence. She got away from them more than once. She died in the third home. She cared for her husband for a long time when he had his stroke - about 5 years I think.

I was closer to my granny though because she lived across the driveway from us. Seems strange because it is the very same driveway that I live on now. Sometimes I think I should be able to walk outside and see Pop with his pith helmet and his big hoe and Granny with her bonnet and apron come walking in from the garden. I should be ten again and Pop should be playing catch with me.

The foundation of their little home is still there along with the walnut trees they planted. Sometimes I tell people about playing in the corner there with Granny and how she would make these little corrals out of nails and twine and we'd have other nails and things that were horses and cows and stuff.

Granny took care of Pop when he had his stroke back in 1959. She was 69 then and Pop was 80. They had been married nearly 50 years. She took care of him at home, too. She had a hospital bed for him. He had a catheter and I remember seeing it once and I felt so badly for him. He died the next year. I was 12.

My Aunt Larry took care of Granny when she could no longer live alone. Aunt Larry had owned a grocery store in Dallas. When she would come visit us she would bring comic books and coins for my coin collection. We had to be careful with the comic books because she took them back with her. And I had to "buy" the coins I wanted. But I got some really good coins.

Not too long after after this photo she had a little place come up on her leg - really not much more than a little bump. She died 6 months later. My Aunt Oleta and her husband moved in with Aunty Larry and Granny when she was diagnosed to take care of her and Granny. When Aunt Larry died then they took care of Granny.

Granny died about 2 years after that. She was 98 I think. Mamaw died the year this photo was taken though and she was 95.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Exercising

The elliptical machine was delivered February 15, 2005. So I've had it about 30 months now. Up until January, 2007 I had missed very few days on it. But the fist 7 months of this year have been pretty tough with dad so I missed a lot. But I started over in early August and have a good record going.

The "basement" is a half-basement since this is a split-level house. So I have it there by the window so I can look out.

Much earlier I had a gym membership. The gym was nearby and inexpensive. It was great as long as I could leave the house. It was a little intimidating because during the day there were a lot of professional lifters there.

Then when I couldn't leave the house I started walking and jogging outside on the driveway which is a big, roughly circular thing. Ten laps is a mile about.

When I started exercising I was pretty out of shape. I could walk a mile but certainly couldn't jog one. That was my first big goal to jog an entire mile without stopping. I like walking and jogging outside. Really nothing like it. But weather is a problem and I can't really afford injuries. I had some ankle injuries and hurt my knees a few times and fell once on some ice. No ice on the elliptical. So right now inside on the machines is better.

I would really like to say "run" but I am not really in the "running" category. I think when I was in the army we had to run 1 mile in 7 minutes and 40 seconds or something like that. That's running. What I do is definitely jogging.

Across the room I have a little TV mounted high and connected to cable. There's a fan and a bookcase and a scale. But my favorite thing is a print of a painting of the Grand Canyon. The painter is Thomas Moran and the title of the painting is Grand Canyon of Arizona (I think). It has a date on it of 1912. I don't think it is particularly valuable and it has some damage evident through the glass. (The image isn't mine but I found it somewhere on the Internet and it was easier to acquire.)

I so enjoy looking at that thing. I imagine I'm there and then I try to see things in the painting that Moran must have seen when he painted it. I'd like to visit the Grand Canyon with Mrs. Flinty sometime and maybe do some hiking. I don't know if I'd really want to ride the donkeys down to the floor or not. I want to go in the off season I think.

Exercising is one of the things I do that really is the difference between being depressed and not. If I can get in an hour or so of exercise every day then everything else rather amazingly falls into place and I can handle any number of other crises.