Monday, August 25, 2008


When I have been thankful for my health, I always thought about my physical health. After living with my Grace, I have become more and more thankful my mental health. Physical deterioration is inevitable; mental deterioration is not and I pray I will not put my children through this.

Physical pain is tough. Mental pain is worse. There are ways to discover the causes and find solutions to most physical pain. Mental pain is more complicated. We don’t completely understand depression, sadness and loss.

Grace is deteriorating on both planes. We have to decide which is more important. If we address the physical health, she will be put in situations where her mental health will slide even faster. We can make her eat what she doesn’t want to eat, make her use a walker yanking the last shadows of pride from her heart, make her brush her teeth every night by standing next to her and walking her through cleaning each and every tooth, but she will be beaten and miserable.

She has so little left to make her happy. Her dog gives her comfort. She loves sleeping with him and if he steps away, the search begins. Her friends have abandoned her. I understand why, but it is just another loss in her life.

She likes to watch the activity of the house and to know where everyone is. The birds outside the window entertain her. The sounds of my daughters’ friends make her happy and she remembers their visits long after they are gone.

It isn’t easy having her here. Don’t get me wrong. She is ornery, she is exhausting, she is contrary. She is desperate for me to talk to her but she struggles to understand me and think of something to say.

But, I can’t imagine her living anywhere else and surviving.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I think going to the bathroom has become a new hobby for my mother (flush optional). She must go about 10 times each hour. This is a mystery to me since she really doesn’t eat or drink hardly anything. I’m not sure what could be coming out if nothing is going in.

Sometimes she remembers to use toilet paper. Sometimes not. Whether or not she remembers, she still wipes. You do NOT want the details. Use your imagination.

She has a perfectly wonderful bathroom in her room, yet her favorite is right off the kitchen. This is fine except she has given up closing doors. So nothing like getting a glass of water and waving hi to a 85 year old woman with her pants around her ankles.

She has a favorite sink too. No, of course it’s not actually in the bathroom; it is in the kitchen. When she shuffles out of the bathroom, she expects anyone at that sink to jump away and yield to her. We have four bathrooms. Ok, two are upstairs and out of reach. But WHY do we have to duck and cover when she is coming to the sink?

The trip from the couch TO the bathroom is part of the fun. On a recent trip she got up and immediately face planted on the floor. Fortunately she was not hurt but the bruise pattern was one above the eye and one right above her lip and below her nose. Unfortunately, it looked exactly like the moustache of Adolf Hitler.

We are not mean people, but it was hard not to giggle.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Umbrella to the Picnic Theory

I love thunderstorms and we had a dramatic one Sunday night. I wasn’t sure how Grace would react. The last time it frightened her. This time she laid on her favorite couch on her back looking out the window.

Every once in a while she would ask if it was raining. It was. The lightening was nearly constant. The thunder drove the border collie into hiding. There were sirens that I hadn’t heard before or at least didn’t remember. My neighbor stuck his head out the door too with the same reaction.

We woke the next morning to no power. My personal crisis was where would I plug in the blow dryer. My larger crisis was managing Grace's food for the day. I got ready for my day.

Everytime I went into the bathroom, my brain remembered the lack of power, my hands did not and hit every light switch. My brain thinks my hands are very dumb.

Grace: “Are the lights out?”

The garage door, of course, didn’t work so I got the key for the door. We never tested this after it was built last summer and much to my pleasure the knob and deadbolt were keyed differently. No key for the dead bolt. Back inside I go

Grace: “Are the lights out?”

I went to the grocery store to get milk and bags of ice for a cooler. I also dried my hair in the bathroom there. Yeah, that’s me. I did my hair at the grocery store. Doesn't everyone? At home, I took the essentials out for the day… Ensure, Ice cream, milk, cottage cheese (she doesn’t chew) and put it in cooler with the bags of ice in front of the refrigerator. I then put a sign on the frig reminding the caregiver to use the cooler.

Grace: “Are the lights out?”

I got out a lighter for the stove since the electric start wouldn’t work, left her a cell phone and called the agency explaining that she would be unable to use our house phone to clock in.

Grace: “Are the lights out?”

I waited for the caregiver to arrive and went out to greet her. I told her that we had no power. She asked if the outlets worked. I had to ask her to repeat that question to make sure I heard it correctly.

Grace: “Are the lights out?”

As we walked in, I explained what I had set up, showed her the cell phone, and so on and just as I finished showing her how to light the stove, the power came on.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ramblings from the couch

Her entire life is spent on the same moderately ugly flowered couch. Occasionally she gets up to go to the bathroom (and I’m excited to say that toileting is still not a huge problem), but for the most part, she lives on a couch.

Fortunately it is well situated. She catches any traffic going up and down the stairs to the second floor. And with me, that’s a lot of traffic. Just getting ready to go play soccer takes about 300 trips. I go upstairs to get my shin guards and see that there is laundry. So I grab it, come downstairs and throw it in. On my way out I notice that I left folded laundry and run it upstairs. But the dishwasher needs to be emptied so I come back down to take care of that. Meanwhile it’s getting close to when I have to leave and still need those shin guards.

Each time I pass by, though, there are questions.

“Where are you going?”

“What are you doing?”

And my very favorite….”What’s going on?”

How do I answer that? What do you MEAN ..’what’s going on?’ Do you mean current events? Upstairs? Backyard? Kitchen? My kids? What???? Usually I stop and look at her trying to think what she wants to know. I have tried different things, but haven’t found it. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.

I guess when you live on a couch, you have to get your news from anyone who appears to be mobile.

To mix it up, sometimes she lays down and stares out the front window. There are very popular bird feeders right outside the window covered with sparrows that double as little feathered clowns. I don’t think she sees that. I don’t know what she looks at.

This is her first destination in the morning. She comes out dressed for autumn even though it’s in the lower 90s. Hobbling to the couch, she has her shoes and wears her strange slippers. It takes quite a while to go from slippers to shoes and some mornings we wear a slipper on one foot and shoe on the other. Hey, it’s a fashion statement. It all happens on the couch.

We try to get her to go outside. No chance. We ask if she wants to sit in the other room. Uh uh.

We live on the couch.