Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hanging on by my toes.....

Well, this job of getting us out of this house and into something smaller is just plain overwhelming.  Everyday I throw out more, put more into boxes and then look around and see more and more that just can't go with us into any of the places we have looked at. Sunday I was just flat freaking out, today I'm a little better.

The Meridian on the Seawall in Galveston looks like the best option so far.  I've had some serious discussions with my son about the possibility of San Antonio and it just doesn't seem like the best choice for now.  He is so stressed struggling with the new job and trying to get his family situated that together we just don't see how he or his wife, Karen, can be of any real support for a year or so.  His family is on spring break in SA right now checking out schools and houses and I'm hoping they find something this week.  Their house in Birmingham goes on the market April 1.  

The Meridian has a nice apt on the 4th floor that is being renovated.  Renovation is going on on the 2nd floor to convert it to assisted living and memory care so if and when Ken needs it, I can just go downstairs.  My daughter and I are going down this morning for her to take a look and to put down a deposit which we can get back if we don't get the house sold by the time renovation of the apt is finished.  The mission now is to get this house on the market and get rid of 2/3 of what is in it...going from 2800 sq ft to 998 sq ft...ouch!  But the good news is Ken's doc is at UTMB, we have attended the UU church there and I have a lot of friends in Galveston.  Whether all this falls into place depends on when we sell the house...a big if, I know, but I'm laying it all on the Universe to provide in all good time.  I have a contractor who is putting together a bid...another is supposed to be...I will have to negotiate a loan to do all the repairs and pray that it will all pay off in the long run.  In the meantime, I feel like I'm trying to stand on quick sand.  And we aren't ruling out SA at some later date but having downsized, that move should be a piece of cake.

Daughter Karen and I cleared out the attic Monday and I am working on the kitchen today trying to get as much of the little junk in boxes for the church garage sale which we can start delivery on Sunday.  I threw away a big stack of art work but there is so much more!  I'm waking up at 4:00 am with thoughts of some other closet or drawer that needs flushing.  The realtor says eliminate all the clutter, pack away anything personal...whew!  The mask collection has to be packed, the flat file is going to a new home and the list goes on and on.  Thank God for my dear, wonderful friend, Susan, who spends one day a week with me helping to sort.  She is coming this week to help pack the art work I want to keep.  The plan is to get rid of the junky stuff via the garage sale, make repairs, paint, stage the house, sell it, move out and then have an estate sale.  Wish us luck and fortitude and hopefully we won't kill each other in the process.

Ken's progress on getting rid of his stuff is going SO slowly.  He sits at the breakfast table and reads every single paper in the pile he is going through and he has thousands of papers that he has printed off the Internet.  While he is sleeping, Karen and I grab a pile of papers from his office, put them in a bag and into her car.  She will take them home and go through them.  The other day our original wedding certificate in a binder from the church showed up.  Sunday it was the original mortgage papers with the survey so we have to go through each pile of Internet printouts to make sure there is nothing else of importance in them.  Talk about crazy-making!  And we haven't even started on the garage!  

I know I can live with a lot less...I lived out of two suitcases in Australia for 6 months but all this stuff was still there to come home to.  This is different and means going through everything and making a decision about it.  At least I have the memories, at least for now, though there are days when I question even that.  
Support group meets tomorrow, thank God.
Okay, that's it for now...I've been up since 4:30, cleaned out one file drawer and read emails.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Here we go again....

Oooh, my back is sore but I have planted tomatoes, squash, marigolds in the vegetable patch and impatiens in the front and red geraniums on the patio.  I just dare winter to make another comeback.  Curb appeal, curb appeal and the tomatoes just because that's what I do.

In the process I discovered that the potted plumeria that I had nurtured for a few years now that my friend gave me was killed by hubby, cut down to the top of the soil in the pot (if it doesn't have leaves, he considers it dead...damn..it was about 4 feet tall......no matter the many times I have told him that it loses its leaves in the winter, to just leave it alone, it will come back...well, not any more.)  Ouch!  When he gets the clippers in his hand, he just goes bananas.  I pray the crepe myrtles will recover.   Sheesh!  I've tried hiding the clippers and he finds them (when he could drive, he would just buy more).  I am sure a psychologist could go crazy with the obsession with the water hose and clippers. I am sad about the plant and can see it as a symbol of the loss of all the hopes and dreams of what we thought our lives might be at this stage, the future we had hoped for now gone.  Now to accept the reality of what is and isn't possible and find joy in it and gratitude for what we are able to do and be with each other.

More reason to get out of here though I wonder what form his compulsive behavior might turn to if we move into independent living...emptying the sugar packets on the table because they clutter????  I pray we find something to keep him really busy while he can still do some things.  In the meantime I praise him for his efforts to clean the flower beds and try to keep my cool and remain grateful that he is still the sweet, kind man I married in many ways.

Hubby is going through the piles and piles of paper in his office but it is slow going as he reads everything and highlights and then cuts them into little pieces almost like confetti.  I can't convince him to put the little pieces in a plastic garbage bag and he just picks them up one by one and hauls them outside to the large garbage can.  I'm sure this endears us no end to the garbage men who watch it rain confetti into their truck.  BUT he found our original marriage certificate in one of the piles...geezus, what the hell? He doesn't remember where he found it but thank God he knew to keep it and give it to me. At least it is now in our safe and I have the key.  I hadn't even missed it but it is clear that we must look through all the piles as God knows what else might be in there.

I called a contractor today to give an estimate on repairs...the same guy who did our remodel but he hasn't called back.  I have two more to give bids.  I hope to get more info on The Meridian in Galveston shortly.  I would feel more comfortable if I had a clearer picture of where we are going to land.  Guess there is always the Motel 6...I hear they keep the light on.

I am reading Where Two Worlds Touch, A Spiritual Journey Through Alzheimer's Disease by Jade C. Angelica.   The best I've read out of at least a dozen on Alzheimer's and caregiving:

     "This long journey home for persons who have Alzheimer's will eventually lead to a fork in the road.  One path leads them into silence, isolation, and loneliness.  The other path, relationship, leads them to a life rich with communication, connection, meaning and love.  Because of the dependent nature of Alzheimer's, especially during the advanced stages, family, caregivers and caring professionals will determine which path those afflicted will travel."  

I'm workin' on it but it ain't easy.

A beautiful poem by Margaret Gibson that says it all so well

Guest Editor: Marilyn Nelson, Academy of American Poets Chancellor, March 18, 2014
Losing It
by Margaret Gibson
What little I know, I hold closer,
more dear, especially now
that I take the daily
reinvention of loss as my teacher.
I will never graduate from this college,
whose M.A. translates
"Master of Absence,"
with a subtext in the imperative:
Misplace Anything.
If there's anything I want, it's that more
people I love join the search party.
You were once renowned
among friends for your luck
in retrieving from the wayside
the perfect bowl for the kitchen,
or a hand carved deer, a pencil drawn
portrait of a young girl
whose brimming innocence
still makes me ache.  Now
the daily litany of common losses
goes like this: Do you have
your wallet, keys, glasses, gloves,
giraffe?  Oh dear, I forgot
my giraffe--that's the preferred
response, but no:  it's usually
the glasses, the gloves, the wallet.
The keys I've hidden.
I've signed you up for "safe return"
with a medallion (like a diploma)
on a chain about your neck.
Okay, today, this writing,
I'm amused by the art of losing.
I bow to Elizabeth Bishop, I try
"losing faster"--but when I get
frantic, when I've lost
my composure, my nerve, my patience,
my compassion, I have only
what little I know
to save me.  Here's what I know:
it's not absence I fear, but anonymity.
I remember taking a deep breath,
stopped in my tracks.  I'd been
looking for an important document
I had myself misplaced;
high and low, no luck yet.
I was "beside myself,"
so there may have indeed been
my double running the search party.
"Stop," you said gently.  "I'll go
get Margaret.  She'll know where it is."
"But I'm Margaret," I wailed.
"No, no." You held out before me
a copy of one of my books,
pointing to the author's photograph,
someone serious and composed.
"You know her.  Margaret
Gibson, the poet."  We looked
into each others' eyes a long time.
The earth tilted on its axis,
and what we were looking for,
each other and ourselves,
took the tilt, and we slid into each others' arms,
holding on for dear life, holding on.
Copyright © 2014 by Margaret Gibson. Used with permission of the author.
About This Poem 
"In 2007, my husband David McKain, also a poet and author of a memoir, experienced significant memory loss and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. 'Losing It' is taken from a book of poems, Broken Cup, scheduled for release from Louisiana State University Press in September, 2014. The poems in Broken Cup, bear witness to the experiences of memory loss and of caregiving."
--Margaret Gibson

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Losing a "faculty"

It is a week of doctor appointments, check-ups or check-ins.  Hubby has had some very good days and the session with the geriatric team went well.  The new resident speaks better English than the last one which helps though I do occasionally have to repeat her questions for hubby to understand.  After a few back and forth questions and answers, she excused herself to go get her "faculty".  Geez, is hubby not the only one in the room who has lost a "faculty"?  Or where is she going to find one?  I could use a new "faculty".  We both could.
     Alas, she returned with her supervisor, a charming doc full of information that I found enlightening.  One, yes, research is coming up with a vaccine for Alzheimer's and two, researchers have found a marker in blood samples that appear to be able to predict Alz 3 years prior to symptoms but not yet approved for use.  In response to the last, I mentioned something about inheriting the predisposition.    My mother-in-law and all of her 5 siblings have had Alz or some form of dementia.  My husband's older sister (she is now deceased) and older brother suffer Alz.  The doc said that research has proved that if one's parent had Alzheimer's, one has a 50% chance of having it.  Wow!  No wonder the numbers are increasing tremendously.  He also said that once one reaches 80, regardless of the genetics, the chances go up to 40% for the general population.  Yikes, now that is real motivation to do our best to keep a healthy brain.
    I had to think if only when my mother-in-law was diagnosed, we could have had the information we have today and at least the medication to possibly slow the process down.  I feel sad that I knew so little when she was in my supervision in the nursing home.  But hopefully that experience is helping me make this a better experience for both me and my husband.
      Well, the weather has finally warmed up and guess what!  He's watering again....not the garage, thank God, just the backyard.  He can be so child like it is kinda cute.  Yesterday was a beautiful warm day and Tuesday is the afternoon I volunteer in our local library bookstore (believe me, this break is more benefit to me than the library).  So I left hubby with a snack sitting at the breakfast table going over a pile of the many piles of papers he must get rid of to get the house on the market.  When I came home, he was in the backyard looking at the crepe myrtles like he was going to trim them some more.  I walked out to greet him and saw that there was water standing all along the flower beds...a lot of water.  I said, "I wonder where this came from." and followed the swamp to a neighbor's fence.  He said, "Oh, it must have come from the neighbor's."  I had to laugh...yeah, right!  The hose was strung out across the yard but at least the water was turned off and I'm sure the plants loved it.  So here we go again...I will have to pay attention.  I think it is wonderful that on these beautiful days, he wants to be outside and contributing...I hope he can for a long time to come.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Touching poem by Anne Carson

Poem of the Day: Father's Old Blue Cardigan

Now it hangs on the back of the kitchen chair   
where I always sit, as it did
on the back of the kitchen chair where he always sat.

I put it on whenever I come in,   
as he did, stamping   
the snow from his boots.

I put it on and sit in the dark.   
He would not have done this.
Coldness comes paring down from the moonbone in the sky.

His laws were a secret.
But I remember the moment at which I knew   
he was going mad inside his laws.

He was standing at the turn of the driveway when I arrived.
He had on the blue cardigan with the buttons done up all the way to the top.
Not only because it was a hot July afternoon

but the look on his face—
as a small child who has been dressed by some aunt early in the morning
for a long trip

on cold trains and windy platforms
will sit very straight at the edge of his seat   
while the shadows like long fingers

over the haystacks that sweep past   
keep shocking him   
because he is riding backwards.

Anne Carson, "Father's Old Blue Cardigan" from Men in the Off Hours. Copyright © 1991 by Anne Carson. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.