Saturday, October 31, 2015

My Two Cents

Silence; though not absolute, surrounds me. As Buddy moves I hear his tags rattle on his collar. The fan makes a slight wind rushing noise as it cools my office. The sound of the keys as I strike them on the computer. The computer itself adds a slight hum sound as it works. I could/should mention the whirring, clacking pop and whistle of my brain as I work at this blog post. Oh those wonderful noises in my head.
Buddy has grown from a 5 pound puppy to just at 50 lbs. No longer a lap dog but he does still try. He is in training now for basic skills; sit stay, lay down. pay attention and so on. We are at week 4 of 8 and Buddy seems to like being in class. Of course he is the teachers pet/star of the class. We're working on leash training and his potty alerts. He is pretty good with that and hopefully it will be sooner than later that we con count on him 100% of the time to let us know he needs to go out.
Mary has recovered from her broken ankle enough to walk without the aid of a cane. She was so proud last night that she had walked around the block, then came back and walked buddy up to our local cemetery and back.
There are moments/days where I feel over whelmed by negative thoughts around living with Alzheimer's. For the most part I don't think about it and go about my day's worry free. Mary and I watched the Glen Campbell movie about his descent into forgetfulness, paranoia and restlessness. A very emotional experience for me. When I traveled a lot Glen Campbell was an artist who I sang with in the car. Lord-lord how we rocked out with each other. Now either I can't remember the words or hit the notes but I still love the songs.
There are a number of ways to stimulate the brain to retain function. Lumosity is one, a series of puzzles to wade through. And that's just what it feels like to me, wading through syrup. I don't enjoy them so I don't participate. Crosswords are a staple around here. A small table with a thick crossword book in the bathroom, is a joint project. Another book on the kitchen table that really is Mary's domain. She does picture puzzles on line. That gives me a headache. I've learned to love my e-reader and I read until 2:am every night. Thrillers and murder mysteries. Oh boy!
The birds chorus is laud and lively this morning. They are calling me to get outside, sit in my chair and just listen. My coffee has gone cold and I'm stretching to add more to this epistle. So, it's time to stop and go make more coffee.
Time wasted is time lost. Take/make the time to show a loved one just how much they mean to you. Write a note, give a call, share a hug, kiss or pat on the back. A kind word expressed to another works wonders for esteem, your and theirs. What we give comes back to us a thousand fold. jack.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Epiphany

( I listened to a webinar last night about how to write a best selling book. The commentater, Jerry Jenkins of the Left Behing series, warned against start with the back story. That's when I realized I always start with the back story. There you have it, why I'll probably never write a best seller.)

A woman I was good friends with back in the the 80's passed away on Monday. I'd only recently re-connected with her. For twenty years we lived in the same city but never crossed paths. I saw something about her on FB and sent her a message.  In "before I broke my ankle days" we met for lunch and to get reacquainted. We spent close to three hours talking about our lives, our kids, our grandkids, our illnesses. There were so many blanks to fill in.

We also retraced our steps to those days when we were Navy wives whose husbands were deployed for months at a time. That was before the Internet, email, cell phones, and social media.  The only contact we had with our seafaring husbands was snail mail, Red Cross Emergency telegrams, and the infrequent, usually drunken, calls from an exotic port. I don't know what it's like now for Navy wives. Back then we became sisters. Not too many wives worked. We were stay at home moms. We shopped at the Navy Exchange and Commissary. We had long phone conversations. We hung out together on Friday nights playing bridge, smoking cigarettes, drinking wine. We laughed. We cried. We held each other up when our kids were sick, the toilet backed up or the ice maker broke. If, God forbid, there was an emergency the circle grew even tighter.

Donna and I shared cloudy memories of which time had erased the fine details. Like the time Donna got stuck in the doggy door. She had locked herself out of the house. At the time crawling through the opening meant for her Schnawzers, must have seemed like a good idea. For the life of me, I have no idea how she got unstuck.

We also shared more honest versions of those times. Close as we were, we didn't always let others into our private worlds. That was one of my darkest times. My then husband and I had been married for 12 years. He was on his way up. I was on my way down. I'd suffered from depression for years. I'd been in therapy to many times to count. This time when the darkness descended I had trouble believing there was a light, let alone catch a glimpse of it.

When I think on those years when my world fell to pieces I wonder how I made it through. As Sue Bender said, "Miracles happen after a lot of hard work." I did work hard. I also made some big mistakes, said things I regret, lost the respect of my husband, along with my marriage. But here's the thing, not many people knew I was so depressed. How was it that I was able to keep my pain hidden?
There were times I wished for a multiple  personality diagnosis so I had someone else to blame - the Mary people saw and the "Real" Mary.

On the outside I functioned. I drove car pool, had parties, socialized, made love, cooked meals, took my kids to the dentist, sewed quilts, decorated for Christmas, baked pies from scratch, and joined a bowling league. It's when I was alone that I didn't function so well. I cried all the time. I slept too much. I drank too much.(Jose Cuervo you are a friend of mine). I smoked too much. I exercised and ate so little I dropped to 115 pounds. I lied to the world and I lied to myself. I rebelled against the "establishment" like a teenager. I said the "F" word a lot. I cheated my family out of the wife and mother I had promised to be. I thought I wanted to die.

Mostly I wanted to end the pain. The pain of self-loathing. The pain of not being smart, pretty, or good enough. The pain of being so needy.  When I looked in the mirror I could see the outside Mary put her make up on, dress in fancy clothes and high heels. But I knew what others didn't know. That person was a fake.

Fast forward a bunch of years. I'm still inclined to be a bit of a depressive. Sadness can creep up on me, but I no longer try to hide it. I cry easily but no longer apologize for the tears. I also laugh. I believe in the me who cared for her parents and held their hands when they passed over. I'm proud of the writer and bear maker and Grammy and friend I've become. Am I still my biggest critic? Sure. Am I still scared to try new things or go new places? Sure. Am I okay?  You betcha.

As I have spent time remembering old times with Donna, I discovered that those times were NOT all black. I can see now that there was light all the time. The light was there in friendships that lasted over the years; in the happy dance Wendy did when she scored the winning field hockey goal;  at Sunnyland Farms when John rode Nutmeg around in circles;  at my sister's house for holidays surrounded by family; in the John Denver songs I played over and over again; in the relationship with my then husband that may not have survived marriage but continues to this day; in the big white cat and stinky black dog; in the things I learned about myself and the people who helped me grow.

Today I am filled with gratitude for the life and friendship of Donna Stoddard. May she rest in peace. I'm grateful for hindsight that lets me see now what I couldn't see then.

I promise even if you can't see it, there is always light,
Merry ME

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Gentle On My Mind

Sweetie was in his office the other night so I had complete control over the remote. I spend more time scrolling through Netflix than I do watching a movie. I decided to watch the documentary about Glen Campbell and his life with Alzheimer's Disease. I'm still trying to figure out if it was informative or more like watching a traffic accident. You don't want to see what happens, but you can't keep your eyes away from the horror.

Maybe horror is too strong a word. In many ways the movies was beautiful, touching and funny. But there's no getting around the fact that Glen Campbell is forgetting more than he's remembering (last year, I believe he was admitted to a memory care facility in Nashville).

At the beginning of the movie, Glen and his wife, Kim, were sitting on a couch looking at family pictures."Who's that?" he'd ask. Then she'd tell him it was one of his children or another family member. I cried. I honestly cannot imagine doing the same with Sweetie.

There were a few surprising things in the movie. For instance he looked old. And tired.  I think during the filming he was 76. That's only 6 years older than Sweetie. Of course, Campbell lived a much more, shall we say "exciting" life than my hubby. Maybe that accounted for some of the aging. Sweetie ended  his love affair with Scotch and cigars many years ago. He's no spring chicken, but he doesn't look old to me.

The other surprising thing to me was Campbell's amazing musical abilities. He had some trouble with some of the song lyrics. He used teleprompters. He kind of wondered off during some of the performances. Nothing, however, got in the way of his fingers when he played his guitar. I knew a man who had played the trombone in a band for years. Even when he couldn't remember where he lived, he remembered how to play. It's a mystery to me that a person's brain can be so full of plaques and tangles that memories can't be retrieved yet other parts still as act if they were brand new.  Sweetie doesn't have music to fall back on, or art. I wonder how we'll fill his days in the future.

Midway into the movie, Sweetie came in to watch. The room stayed pretty quiet as we each processed our own feelings about what we were seeing. Sweetie obviously looked at things from a different perspective than I did. I watched on two levels. I paid attention to the affects of the illness on Campbell, and studied how his wife/caregiver/children interacted with him. The movie showed that Campbell could be belligerent at times, wondered hotel corridors, was somewhat paranoid, fitful. All symptoms I've read about. I think probably there was a lot of editing of the family's reaction to these behaviors.  I didn't see the degree of exhaustion and sadness on their faces that I expected. Perhaps that would come as the disease continued to progress.

Both Sweetie and I felt sad when it was all over. And big time scared. While there are reasons for it - denial, forgetfulness and my ankle, to name a few - neither of us have succumbed to the fear that we felt a few months ago. It crosses my mind every day. But I'm not holding on to the what ifs like I did. The more information, the better. Zeroing in on the things  he does remember (like how to talk "mortgage") works a lot better than worrying about what he doesn't.  I think having Buddy around has helped both of us think about something other than ALZ. The upside of housebreaking a puppy!

If you ever had a thing for Glen Campbell and/or his music, or if you just like documentaries, I think this is a good movie. The numbers of people who are expected to be diagnosed with ALZ, the cost of treatments and effects of the disease on caregivers are staggering. Chances are pretty good you're going to know someone who is affected. This show might help give you an idea of what it's like.



And it's knowin' I'm not shackled
By forgotten words and bonds
And the ink stains that have dried upon some line
That keeps you in the back roads
By the rivers of my memory
That keeps you ever gentle on my mind
Merry ME