Thursday, July 5, 2018

So Here's the Deal

Tom's birthday is today and anybody who has followed this journal for any length of time may remember that he and Walt's sister's husband always host a huge beach barbeque to celebrate.  They go to Costco and heap 2 big carts with all sorts of meats and condiments, take over a BBQ section of the beach in Santa Barbara and some 50-60 people come, bring side dishes and have a big celebration.  I go to the store and get a big cake.

With the granddaughters growing up and having their own activities, it conflicts with the normal time schedule.  Brianna's soccer team qualified for the finals in San Diego and so having the picnic on the weekend of the 4th was not going to happen.

Instead, the picnic is going to be next Sunday (the 8th) so instead of being in Santa Barbara over the 4th, we are driving down today and have to return on Monday, since I have a show to review on Tuesday night.

As usual, Ashley and her wonderful husband (and now their son Gabe) will be taking care of Polly.  Polly has been so tolerant of Jeri and Ned lately that I hope she will finally be tolerant of Ashley too.
BUT, each time I go to Santa Barbara and fire up the ancient laptop, it is SO terribly slow and so frustrating that I end up pulling my hair out.

SO here's the deal.  I am going to write the journal articles daily, as I usually do, but I am not going to post them until Monday night, after we get home.  I will write a generic entry with that message to post while we're away, and then after I get home you'll get all the entries and the photos and everything else.  I will sleep better that way!


I haven't been to Atria since Jeri left.  The thought of walking that l-o-n-g hall was just painful and I knew that she would not remember how long I'd been there anyway, but I wanted to be sure to see her before we left for Santa Barbara, so Walt and I went to Atria to have lunch with her today.

The aide who let us in said that she was dressed, but she didn't want to get up for breakfast, so she was still in bed.  She was sound asleep when we got there.  So sound asleep it was almost impossible to wake her, but Walt (lord, was he a godsend today!) was able to get her to come to consciousness, but she woke up calling for "Mommy."  (which in itself is unusual because she frequently asks abut her mother, but usually calls her Mom, so I guess she was even younger in her mind today).

She was totally out of it, but Walt eventually got her to a sitting up position.  I sat next to her and she grabbed my hand and kept crying "Mommy, take me home!"  She never actually looked at me and had no reaction to "your daughter" or "Beverly" but she did finally look at me when Walt asked her who I was and her face was blank when she said she didn't know who I was.

She said she needed something to wash her face, so Walt found a washcloth, got it wet, brought it in to her and she screamed "take it away!"  It was wet and he was torturing her.

She, who absolutely hates doctors, said she needed to see a doctor, but couldn't tell me where it hurt.
She said she was going to fall over.

At one point I decided we should just let her lie down again and go home, but when she got onto her pillow, she yelled and got up again.  Walt got her shoes on her and we got her standing up and walked her to the dining room.  While I was struggling to get up out of the chair I was sitting in, she glared at me and said "aren't YOU going to do anything?" (Most coherent sentence she had uttered to that point!)

We got her to the dining room and they sat us at a table in the adjacent room, where we could sit together.  Our first course, a nice corn chowder was served.  Lemme tell you, the one thing you NEVER have to worry about at the memory unit is burning your tongue on food that is too hot.  Tepid is the usual temperature of everything, though it is tasty.

But as she started getting something into her (especially coffee), she began to be a little more alert.
There is always music playing in the background and the song that was playing was "You picked the wrong time to leave me, Lucille" (I guess the title of it is probably "Lucille") by Kenny Rogers.  Walt checked Shazam to check on who was singing.  I thought that he had connected with Shazam too late because the song was just ending.  But then it started up again...and again...and again. The song played so often that I fear it is going to be an ear worm for a long time!

The aide said my mother ate more than she normally does--and she finished it all.  A good All American meal of hot dogs, mac 'n' cheese, potato salad, corn, chili and topped off with a slice of apple pie.  She finished everything and though still confused, she was at least out of her delusions and no longer asking when her mother was going to come and see her.

Tony came by while we were eating and gently smoothed the hair out of her eyes.  He also gave me his usual stare, which always unnerves me.  I was afraid he was going to lean down and kiss me.
We moved to the community room, where they put on a Lawrence Welk program of patriotic music and my mother kept looking around.  I know she was looking for Tony.  She sat with us for about 10 minutes, then got up without a word and walked out.  This is her new way of ending a visit these days, but it was a positive thing because she was sure footed and single minded and that was a total difference from what she had been an hour before.

We didn't wait for her to return, because I knew she would not return.  Walt went to her apartment to get my purse and said when he got there he found Loretta, her neighbor, sitting in a chair there.  Loretta and my mother have dementia that has worsened at about the same level.  Walt just chatted with her and left her there.

Walt went and got the car and I went and sat outside waiting for him, realizing as soon as I got into the chair I chose that it was a mistake.  It was too low and I knew I would not be able to get up.  Walt had to help lift me up, which is so embarrassing.  I sure hope this knee business gets better soon!  I DID get both legs into the car unaided today, though, which is great progress.

Walt was such a good guy today and I was so grateful he was with me.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Patriotism vs. Politics

Before I start, I want to report that my doctor's diagnosis was apparently right.  The CK test checks the level of the enzyme creatine kinase, which is found in heart tissue and skeletal muscles.  

When my doctor took the first blood test my level was 2644 (the last test before the 2644 level it was 15!).  Normal is 20 or below.  The next test she took after I went off the Atorvastatin it was 2293 and the test I had this week it is 1851  So I'm getting there.  Some things are better, but I still can't lift heavy things, get out of a chair easily or lift things off of an overhead shelf -- but I can lift one leg to get it in the car (still need help with the other).  But the results of the test show me that her diagnosis seems to have been right and we are headed in the right direction.

I was not raised to be patriotic.  We never owned a flag or went to Independence Day parades.  We did see fireworks, but I don't remember where we went.  We didn't do traditional things on the 4th of July (and we didn't visit graves on Memorial Day either). 

And, the product of Catholic school, we weren't overly patriotic to the country in school either, our patriotism reserved for the church.

We didn't barbeque, though sometimes we did go on a picnic. I don't remember it being tied to 4th of July, though.  We didn't have traditional foods tied to the holiday.

The only thing I remember us doing on the 4th of July was having sparklers, and writing words in the air while they burned.  We may have had simple firecrackers, but my father had to light them.  My sister and I were not allowed to touch them.

I asked Walt what his family traditions about the 4th of July were, and his are similar to mine.  He remembers sparklers and setting off firecrackers under cans, but he doesn't remember parades and his family never had a flag either.

In retrospect this seems strange for both families since both of our fathers were life long government employees!

In this day and age, it's difficult to find patriotism.  I have often agreed with people who say "I'm ashamed to be an American" but in reality I'm just ashamed to admit that our country elected a president who seems hell bent on destroying everything we worked so hard to get (clean air, national parks, oil-free oceans, a woman's control over her own body, the right to marry the person you love, etc., etc., etc.), who has no problem separating parents from children, and whose heroes are any "strong" dictator, no matter what he does to his own country.  Secret meetings with Putin, giving in to all Kim Jong Un's demands without proof of anything in return, etc.

A friend told me recently that she doesn't much like Trump, but he is the president and she respects the office.  It's hard to separate the man from the office but I understand what she means.

Truth is I'm not ashamed of being an American.  I'm proud to be an American.  I just am not proud to have this president.  I really want to read John Meacham's book, "The soul of America," where he discusses the bad times we have weathered in our history and how we have survived.  He apparently gives hope that we will survive this black period in our history too.

It makes me proud to be an American when I see the goodness of other Americans, the ones who march by the thousands to protest the separation of families, or who raise money to help an asylum seeking mother find her child, which involves a long flight for which she has no money (of course the government has no responsibility for paying to return the kids they kidnapped)

It makes me proud at the legions of attorneys who have volunteered to appear to represent 4 year olds who would otherwise have to appear before a judge with no representation at all.

The goodness of Americans warms my heart when I see people coming together to help other people in distress.  You see a lot of hate on Facebook, but you also see a lot of love and that is a good thing.
It makes me proud to know people like Kevin Desmond, who has served the country for many years, in the middle east.

There is much about this country of which we can be proud and if history can be believed we have weathered bad periods in our time and have survived.  I hang on to the promise that we will again.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Little Kindness

The line across the top of this poster is "A little kindness makes a world of difference."

Isn't that a wonderful motto for these days when kindness seems to be in short supply.

We went to see this movie yesterday and what a marvelous tribute it was to a special man.  There was a recent PBS special, but this is longer and much more complete.

It's impossible to believe that at his funeral he was picketed by the odious Fred Phelps clan.

(Ironically, I learned this morning that Fred Phelps died on Fred Rogers' birthday)  The sad thing about this photo is that it is children holding those signs.

Rogers message was a simple one...that children needed to be loved and feel safe and to know that they are special.
It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair–
But it’s you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you–
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys–
They’re just beside you.
But it’s you I like–
Every part of you,
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself,
It’s you, it’s you I like.
In 1969, Mr. Rogers is credited with saving PBS, when the government decided to pull the plug on funding.

After a day and a half of impassioned speeches read to the Congressional committee by better known people, Mr. Rogers took the microphone and began to answer questions from Senator John Pastore. Rogers said rather than read a speech, which he had prepared and he hoped the Senator would read later.
In six minutes, he explained what his philosophy for his program was and in the end, the crusty Senator said it was the first time he had been moved since the hearings began and he would vote to continue the $20 million funding for PBS. 

The more I watched this movie, the more I realized how childhood has changed since the days of Mister Rogers and I wonder if in this era of super-heroes, and war games and CGI movies a simple message such as the one that Fred Rogers repeated every day would even be accepted.

Would children sit still and watch 30 minutes of a gentle man telling them how special they are, and explaining, difficult things like death, divorce and violence to them.

Does the message "when you are in trouble, look for the person in charge. They will always help you." still ring true in an era when a black child can be murdered in seconds for carrying a toy gun?
It saddens me to think these thoughts and saddens me even more to think that Mister Rogers probably would not find an audience these days.  I feel so happy that my kids knew Mister Rogers -- and probably happier that I, too, was a fan.

Go see this movie.  For 2 hours, forget that 7 children can be knifed at a 3 year old's birthday party, that 5 year old can be murdered in their school,  and that our government has ripped >2,000 children away from their parents.  Live for a moment when all children were special, loved, and protected and when the people in charge were there to help them.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Another Day, Another Doctor

I couldn't get off the couch when I woke up this morning.  My body wouldn't move.  This has happened a couple of times before and I'm now set up for it, with the heavy coffee table within reach and the cane handy.  I didn't get up easily, but I eventually got upright.

Today it was the neurologist. 

I managed to get myself in a panic because I did what one should never do:  I went internet surfing and checked out the symptoms for ALS, most of which I have.  So I went into the appointment halfway expecting him to start more extensive testing for ALS, but no, he agreed with my doctor that the cause is probably the bad interaction with the statin drug she prescribed last year sometime.
He also agreed with me that her follow up blood exam 2 days after stopping the drug was silly.  The normal creatnine level is under 20 UL; mine is 2,644 UL.  There was going to be little noticeable result in 2 days.

The bad thing about this condition is that when I'm sitting, I'm just fine.  Nothing hurts and I don't need to use any muscles, so I look just fine.  Everybody who passes through the room or writes to me asks how I'm feeling.  Well, ask me that when I'm struggling to get UP and then hobbling down the hall to the bathroom!  (I think of this every time I see the ad for fibromyalgia where the affected woman says "when most people look at me they see...most people, but inside I'm in great pain."  or words to that effect.)

The doctor also checked my CT scan and showed me my brain, telling me it "looked fine for a 75 year old woman."

He checked my reflexes by tapping my knees in several places, forgetting that I'd told him that I'd injured my right knee.  That tapping definitely caused a reflex as he hit the knee smack where it hurts the most.

He has ordered weekly blood tests for the next several months to see if my numbers begin to fall.  If not he will order some sort of nerve conduction study which he warned me several times that I don't want it because it hurts.  A lot.  And warned that "some ladies cry."  So I'm hoping, of course, that it won't be necessary.  I had a nerve conduction study many years ago for my numb fingers and I remember how innocently that started out and by the end of half an hour I was feeling that I was undergoing a long electrocution.  I don't think I cried but I certainly said a lot of not very polite words in my mind!

We drove back home to take our respective nap.  I had fired up the battery in the iPod so we could listen to the book we started some time ago.  I thought I had the right book, but it didn't sound familiar.  We listened to it for an hour, hoping to remember the plot.  When we got home, I checked the plot summary on Amazon and discovered that no, we had not been reading that book.

After our naps, Walt asked if I wanted him to cook dinner again.  What a guy!  The meatballs he made were delicious and, I have to admit it, better than mine.

We had a quiet evening watching TV and then Walt went off to bed.  I've decided that until this...whatever it is....passes, I'll be sleeping exclusively in the recliner.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Anniversary that Wasn't

Yesterday was our 53rd anniversary.  Walt's sister, who loves knowing what people are doing to celebrate events, called in the afternoon to wish us a happy anniversary and I think was disappointed that I had nothing to tell her.

The previous day had been so Kaiser and house heavy that we just didn't think about the fact that the next day was our anniversary.

We don't do anniversary gifts, but always exchange cards and Walt, who is suffering from the cough I had earlier this month and not feeling at all well, forgot to get me a card.  I had a card for him, but only because I buy cards ahead of time and sometimes have more than one anniversary card in the card drawer.  I don't know how long ago I bought this particular card, but was glad I had it.

In the morning Walt took a nap, since he felt so crappy and I spent a good part of the morning writing the review for the show we saw the other night.

I finished up our cottage cheese and strawberries for lunch, so Walt went out to buy more, and when he got home, he was exhausted, so he went down for another nap, and I slept too.
Neither of us was particularly hungry at 5:30, which is when we would have to eat if we were going to have dinner, so we both picked at leftover and then headed off to Sacramento again to see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

It was billed as a "daring, dazzling choreographic extravaganza" and they did not lie.  Short on plot but oh...that dancing!

I particularly liked the "girl flipping."

I'm getting to where I hate going to shows like this because at intermission people want to leave their seats and go out to get refreshment, which means I have to get up to let them out, but my knees sometimes don't want to unbend and they have to figure out how to get around me.  I hate this.  Poor Jeff, my colleague, who is not a small man, had to literally climb over me.  Not sure which of us was the more embarrassed.  He later helped me stand up. 

During the finale, I was hoping for lots of applause and a standing ovation (which they got) so I could struggle to my feet...which I was able to do eventually, though with all the jostling of the crowd leaving the theater, I felt very unsteady and had to hang onto Walt.

We got home, had ice cream bars, watched jeopardy and went to sleep.  Happy anniversary!

Today I have an appointment with a neurologist.

This is what marriage is like when you reach a certain age!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Jeri's Busy Day

We all had cold pizza for breakfast.  Phil taught Walt the joy of a pizza-egg combination, which looked tasty.
Jeri and Phil then headed off for coffee with a friend.  They then planned to go to Atria to have lunch with my mother.  Ned was coming here to be with Walt when a pest inspector came to check the house.  I opted out of the Atria visit.

But then Atria called.  My mother had fallen on the patio and they were sending her to the ER in Vacaville.  After lots of tries at all sorts of phone numbers, we managed to connect with Jeri and Phil and plans changed.  Jeri would go with me to Vacaville to the ER, Walt would stay home to wait for Ned and the pest guy.

We got to the ER and, of course my mother didn't know where she was or why she was there.  Jeri, bless her, was just so good with her grandmother.

There was no bad news about results of her fall and she was free to go.  They sold us a walker, which I didn't think my mother would use, but she actually did.

(like mother; like daughter)

Poor Jeri had to both get her grandmother into the car each time, but also get her mother into the car each time, since I cannot lift my legs high enough to get into the car.

We decided to go to Fentons Creamery for lunch and it was the perfect choice.  The noise level was deafening, but my mother ate all of her lunch and had more of a good visit with Jeri.

After lunch, we indulged in hot fudge sundaes.

 Then we went back to Atria, where we handed my mother off to one of the attendants there and Jeri drove me to the Davis Kaiser, where I was supposed to have my blood tested again.  She has been so wonderful about getting me into the car each time.

We finally got home, as the pest guy was leaving.  Ned and Jeri went back to Sacrament (where Phil was already) and the Bostonians will be flying back home this evening. 

Having Jeri and Phil here this weekend, and Ned around to provide all sorts of help, made the weekend much easier.  Tomorrow, we are on our own again.

And tonight, my wonderful husband cooked dinner for me.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Why You Have Children

If I ever wondered why we have children, this weekend erased all doubts.

As I write this it is late Sunday afternoon.  I have pretty much slept most of the day.  My body seems to be getting worse.  I've been having some physical problems--getting very weak, progressively, so that I have difficulty getting up from a chair and then walking, can't reach things overhead in a cupboard, have to hold a coffee pot in two hands because it's too heavy, etc. In the last month, it has gotten significantly worse and I saw the doctor this week. Ned and Walt came along to make sure all the questions were asked.  The doctor ordered a CT scan (since I had that glorious fall last weekend), ran lots of blood tests and two came back extraordinarily high, both of which are affected by the statin drug I'm taking for cholesterol. So I'm stopping that and drinking lots of liquids to flush it out of my system, but until I can actually get my legs into a car without assistance, I am not safe to drive. I feel fine sitting down, but the second I stand up, it's like all the energy drains out of me.

Ned has been feeling bad because I don't take showers, but take sponge baths, since it's so difficult for me to get upstairs.  He decided I need to take a shower at Atria.  So Jeri and Phil took my mother to lunch and Ned stayed behind to help me take a shower.  He had bought a shower chair and was just so dear...he put the chair together and presented me with a spa basket with towels, 2 kinds of shampoo, soap, and a bath robe.  He also brought a fan for the bathroom, so it didn't get too warm.  I was so wonderfully moved at his thoughtfulness...and the shower felt wonderful.

After the shower, we were chatting together when my doctor called to give me her suspected diagnosis.  Walt was overwhelmingly relieved.  Me too.  Now we just have to see if dropping the medication works.

Jeri has been driving me, since I don't feel I am safe to drive, and she is very good about helping me get my legs in the car, since I can't do it myself.  She and I stopped for sushi on the way home, and then we all drove to Ned & Marta's, where Ned fixed a soup-and-salad buffet.  Lemme tell you -- Trader Joe's tomato and red pepper soup is to die for.

We left Phil with Ned and the other 3 of us went to see a play at Capital Stage.  It was a great play and a good one to share with Jeri.  Then back to Ned's to get Phil and come home.

In the morning, everyone descended on the kitchen.  I had hoped to cut up strawberries when I woke at 6, but I fell back asleep and didn't wake up until 9.  By then breakfast was in full swing.  Jeri made a fabulous smoothy with every fruit in the house.

Phil was up to his elbows in waffles.  Ned and Marta brought their dog Bouncer, and Polly got uncharacteristically very protective of me.  Whenever Bouncer got too close, she snapped at her and then sat right by my feet to make sure everything was all right.  As moved  as I have been by how good and caring the kids have been, I was equally moved by Polly's care of me.

I am feeling like a real invalid, since I feel absolutely fine when I'm sitting down, but getting up takes a major effort and I hobble around the house, leaning heavily on my cane.  But breakfast was wonderful.

Jeri and Phil were going to a memorial for Phil's stepmother and I took, Walt tells me, four naps this afternoon.

I am feeling all warm and fuzzy about how good  everyone has been this weekend.  It's good to have children!  Especially good, since Walt seems to be developing the cold/bronchitis that I had for the last 3 months.