In Sickness and in Health: Dec. 23, 2019. Anniversary Day

Today, the 23rd of December is our 60th wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe a decade has passed since we celebrated the 50th with a roomful of friends and family. We enjoyed food and champagne and laughed at the photos of us in our teens when we were so young and foolish. Quite the occasion.

We were in reasonably good health then, looking forward to many more years of enjoying retirement, a little traveling, photoshoots, kicking back, watching the birds,  cussing the cats.  (Well, I’m mostly the one cussing the cats.) leisurely walks in the park, going out to eat, movies, visiting friends. And it was like that. All was well until somewhere in the late 2015’s or early 2016’s when I began to notice little oddities,  things I’d never known Ruth Ann to do before.

Following a recipe became a struggle. Item’s that were normally kept in the food pantry were finding new homes in the refrigerator. Her closets, normally neat and tidy, began to look somewhat like a hoarder’s heaven. Then, and most scary, traffic signals became confusing and I had to take her keys away, a very dark day. At first, I tried to reason it away as a normal part of aging, but too many signs pointed straight to the dreaded Alzheimer’s.

Today, there is no doubt about what we are facing. It’s not pretty. Rarely can she recall the names of our children without prompting even though she still knows them by sight.  She cannot tell you the date, the year, the season, or the president of the United States although she’s quick to say, “That guy I don’t like.” She cannot follow the plot or keep track of the characters on a TV drama and prefers shows such as simple romantic comedies or afternoon programs like The Talk or Ellen.

Her short term memory is for all practical purposes, non-existent. If I were tp ask her to please bring me the yard rake from the garage, I’m apt to get a wheelbarrow. She knows I wanted something, but forgets exactly what.

She tries so hard to keep her mind straight and it’s heartbreaking. She becomes frustrated, then angry. Something as simple as a phone call is now difficult as she struggles to find the words. She never calls her friends anymore. It’s not that she doesn’t want to chat and swap stories and laugh, she is simply unable to string coherent thoughts together for more than a sentence or two. It embarrasses her. “I don’t like this,” she’ll say. “I’m  no good anymore.”

At least the urinary problems are improved, much improved. Catheters are down to about once a week. I’m convinced that the primary reason for all those months of pain and interrupted nights of being unable to go on her own were mostly due to a complex blending of Alzheimer’s and anxiety along with a few symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis. I’ve learned to be super aware of anxiety triggers and try to ward them off when possible. But it doesn’t take much. Leaving the house. Losing her glasses. Can’t get the TV to turn on. Or the mother of all anxieties,  a cat is missing for more than ten minutes. No, seriously, I’ve seen her searching room to room because a cat that was asleep in a chair ten minutes ago, isn’t there anymore. How do you deal with that?

Her latest thing is pouring over old photos. Now she’s doing it every day, sometimes as much as five or six hours at a time. She digs them out of boxes, spreads them across the bed, and then puts them back in a box, but not always the box they came out of. That’s when I hear, “I just had this picture of, of, my…and now it’s gone.” I tried to help. I bought storage cases with drawers, big enough to hold a few thousand 4×6’s. (Yes, she has that many and more.) To date, there are maybe a half dozen pics in the new case. The rest? Still in shoe boxes. But here’s the thing: the fact that I got the new cases and suggested she change her filing method brought on another round of anxiety. Hello, catheter.

The new plan? There is none other than leaving her alone to do as she wishes. Clutter? Boxes stacked in closets so thick you can barely get the door open? Wall to wall clothes she hasn’t worn in years and never will? Yeah, but so what? This her world now. Why should I insist that she change it to what I want? Better to stay the course and keep the Alzheimer’s demons at bay as long as possible.

The sad fact is, our 60th wedding anniversary will be nothing like the five-oh. Ruth Ann doesn’t know it’s our 60th even though I’ve tried to plant the date of the occasion in her memory a time or two. No, instead of champagne and music, my plan is to take her to downtown Sand Springs to the Old Towne Cafe, a Mom and Pop joint, for a chicken fried steak or a hamburger or whatever she wants. A big bowl of ice cream would be a good bet.

This December 23rd. will mostly be like every other day around here…however many of those days are left.

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on December 23, 2019 at 9:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Brat Cat

The Brat Cat has been a constant source of consternation since arriving here at the humble abode for more years than I can remember. She hates other cats and most people. For some strange reason, she has latched onto me as her favorite human. I’m guessing that we share a commonality of certain personality traits; one of which is the pleasure of disappearing for parts unknown with no estimated time of departure or arrival. When it comes to vanishing acts, the Brat is a master magician.

On more than one occasion I have been roused from a peaceful slumber to join the search for the missing Brat. If you follow this blog at all, you’ve heard the story many times. The Missus walking up and down the street hollering, “Kitty, kitty, kitty,” while I, with my trusty flashlight, check the ditches for bodies.

At some point, I declared, “ENOUGH!” If the cat comes home, it comes home. If not, may it enjoy an eternally clean litter box in kitty heaven where the cat toys are made of gold or fuzz or whatever. This decision has not come without consequences. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase shit storm.  It’s a quite accurate description of the atmosphere inside these walls I call home when I refuse to join in on the search and rescue mission.

“How can you sit there in front of the TV when our pet could be lying in the street in agony and bleeding to death?”

“Uh, because I’m comfortable here?”
Well, miracle of miracles, on each and every one of those feline Amber Alerts, the Brat has always, repeat, always showed up. Granted, it may not be until dawn, but eventually, she makes her appearance. Until she didn’t.

She was observed by no less than two witnesses to be home, in the house, warm and safe, shortly before dark. Soon thereafter, kitty dinner was served. Not just some bland kibble mix mind you, but the good stuff, Friskies Saucy Seafood Bake if memory serves. The Brat did not attend. This is highly unusual. Brat does not miss a meal. Not to worry. At least by me.

Hours pass. The local TV news comes and goes. I’m nodding in my chair. Almost time to call it a day. But wait! Where’s the Brat? The Missus is now in High Anxiety Mode 2, only one level from Mode 1 which is utter uncontrollable, hair-on-fire panic. I check the normal hidey holes: under the kitchen table, on the computer (her latest favorite), the window sills, the doll room. No Brat. Crap.

I amp up the search with a flashlight now looking in kitchen cabinets, bathtubs, under the beds, closets, the garage, searching every nook and cranny sizable enough to conceal a cat. No Brat. Did she somehow get on the stairs and up to the attic? No sign of her there. I grab her food bowl and shake a little dry food around in it. Brat can hear that sound from a quarter-mile away. Nope.

It was time for a new approach, something radical. Curiosity might not kill the cat, but it should make her come out of hiding. I go to my iPad and the birdcall app. I try Great Horned Owl, a crow, and a screaming Bald Eagle all at full volume. No curious cats. A no-show.

Outside? No way, but I check anyhow. Maybe she got passed me when I opened a door and I didn’t notice. Now I’m out back on the little trail, in the dark, poking my light in the piles of leaves I have yet to deal with, and like an idiot, calling “Kitty, kitty. kitty”  knowing damn well the Brat Cat has never responded to a kitty call in her life.

Back inside the Missus is now in High Anx. Mode 1. It’s late. I’m tired. “We’ve done all we can,” I say as gently as possible preparing her for the worst. “We’ll look again in the morning. She might be under the porch messing around with that damn possum again.”

And then, strolling down the hall without a concern in the world, comes the Brat Cat. I swear I could read her little mind.

“Hey, guys. Whassup?”

 

 

Published in: on December 9, 2019 at 7:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

iPhones, who needs ’em?

I didn’t want or need an iPhone, or so I thought. With my little pocket flip phone, I could make and take phone calls. That’s all I needed and even then I didn’t need it very often. Average talk time per month? About five minutes tops.

“I’m on my way home. Do you need anything from the store? No? Okay, bye.”

Most of the time, my little flipper was at home resting comfortably in my sock drawer with it’s dead or dying battery. An iPhone with all those buttons and apps with features I would never use? Pay an extra cost for broadband usage? No way. If I need to lookup an address, for instance, I go to the desk computer, click on Google Maps for directions. Done! Don’t need no stinkin’ iPhone.

But one day, the #1 son calls me with the proposition that he would give me an iPhone, an older model he no longer used if I would be interested. I said no. And yet he persisted, “Once you have one, you’ll love it.” Yeah, right.

Okay, I’ll admit it, the messaging thing was kind of cool. No more phone tag.

You coming by today?

Yes. Around five.

There was that. Then I found out about the push bottom/ give command thingy.

“Call #1 son.” And it did. Amazing.

Fast forward to yesterday. The white cat, aka Snowy, aka S_ _t Head, aka Tripod, the three-legged cat, had a problem. With only three legs, she has a hard time grooming herself. There are spots that she simply can’t reach, lick, or scratch. The result is lumps of matted hair, very thick lumps of matted hair. Brush her? Is that what you said? That will solve the problem? Obviously, you do not know the nature of the white cat. Make a wrong move with the Snowy cat and you will draw back a bloody stump. Guaranteed. So no, I don’t do brushings.

I call the local vet.

“Let’s see; bath, clipping, rabies shot, possible sedation, comes to…$180.” Hmm. I’ll get back to you.

I check the yellow pages, actual pages made of paper, yellow paper, not iPhone pages. I find a pet groomer about ten miles away.  I make an appointment. I look on Google Maps for directions. Take a right off Hwy. 97 to 158th street, go left a half a block. Easy, peasy. Except it wasn’t.

I’m running late. I make the right turn, but the streets are not numbered! They’re names, like Willow and Peach and Dead End, no 158th, not even close. Damn you, Google. I keep going. No joy. Did I bring the phone number with me? Did I bring the actual address with me? Did I make a copy of Google Maps? No, to all of the above.

But I did bring the iPhone. Yes, I did. I wonder, can the phone find it? I push the magic button and tell it to look for pet groomers in Sand Springs. AH HA! There it is. Do you want directions, it said? Directions? Oh sweet Jesus, yes.

Five minutes later… destination.

iPhones. Gotta love ’em.

 

Published in: on November 27, 2019 at 11:00 am  Comments (1)  

A Minnie Bath

Ever give a cat a bath in the middle of the night? Neither had I until last night. Okay, so it was only 10 p.m., but still…

The story begins about a month ago when I noticed Minnie frantically digging, scratching, and biting at herself. Uh oh, a sure sign of fleas. Minnie, with her very dense coat of fur, makes an ideal vacation spot for the little buggers. An inspection confirmed it, the tiny hoppers were everywhere. Flea eggs, looking like dozens of tiny black pepper spots, were obvious on and about all of her nipple areas. Ever try to mash a flea in your hand? Unless you have a vise-like grip and fingers of steel, it can’t be done. Nothing short of a two-pound hammer can deal a death blow to those annoying hard-shelled pests.

Since I couldn’t use a hammer on Minnie, I scrounged around in her box of stuffed mice, squeaky balls, and brushes hoping to find anything that looked like flea meds. Luckily, there was a single dose of Frontline for Cats. Now, I had used Frontline in the past and it worked fine for the Brat Cat and Snowy: Minnie, not so much. But there it was and I gave her a dose per the instructions.

Days passed and Minnie’s misery continued. It was unnerving to watch as the poor cat licked and dug at her skin, getting hardly a minutes rest. I call the vet and learn that they no longer recommend Frontline. A product called Catego should have better results, she said, and yes, that had it in stock, but with this warning. “Since you’ve recently used one flea med, you should wait about ten more days before administering the Catego.”

A couple of days later, I became convinced that Minnie might lose her little kitty mind unless she could get some sort of relief and right damn now. The Internet listed a few home remedies for fleas. Only one seemed feasible for me, a cat bath using either a flea shampoo or a home concoction using a mild soap and vinegar. We had never given Minnie or any other cat a bath so I Googled it. The first one I read was this:

1. Thoroughly clean the toilet.
2. Add the required amount of shampoo to the toilet water, and have both lids lifted.
3. Obtain the cat and soothe him while you carry him toward the bathroom.
4. In one smooth movement, put the cat in the toilet and close both lids (you may need to stand on the lid so that he cannot escape).
CAUTION: Do not get any part of your body too close to the edge, as his paws will be reaching out for any purchase they can find.
5. Flush the toilet three or four times. This provides a ‘power wash and rinse’ which I have found to be quite effective.
6. Have someone open the door to the outside and ensure that there are no people between the toilet and the outside door.
7. Stand behind the toilet as far as you can, and quickly lift both lids.
8. The now-clean cat will rocket out of the toilet, and run outside where he will dry himself.

Sincerely,

The Dog

The Missus rejected this method out of hand, so we went with the old hold-her-down-in-the-utility-sink procedure. It went rather well, considering. Minnie is such a laid back cat that she barely whimpered during the whole lather and rinse cycle.

The results were immediate as well as positive. There was a little biting and licking, but nothing compared to her previous state of agony. This peaceful state of kitty bliss lasted about four more days until last night. As her symptoms returned, I made the decision that even though the full recommended ten days hadn’t passed, it was close enough.

The label read, Begins working in 6 hours. Sounded good. A squirt of Catego to the top of the neck and there you go, Minnie. Relief is on the way.

Something began working and it wasn’t good and it wasn’t six hours. First, it was the drooling. That’s never a good sign when a cat starts drooling. Then the scratching and biting and licking increased to an intensity I’d never seen before from this cat. She couldn’t hold still, not even for a few seconds. At one point, she jumped to the floor and began running around the house, yowling as if in great pain. Oh, crap. Had I given the added dose too soon? It’s Saturday night. The only vet I know of at this hour is an all-night office 14 miles south of here who demands that you put up your home for collateral before they show you the bill.

I tried to hold her still (no easy feat) while once again checking her fur. The fleas were everywhere! Maybe the meds were working and they were abandoning ship! No matter, this cat was on the verge of hysteria. Something had to be done.

Another bath. That was it. Temporary relief and drown as many of those little flea bastards as possible. I don’t know if cats know when you’re trying to help them, but Minnie seemed to. One little half-hearted lurch from the standing water and after that, peace in the valley. We moved her to the top of the dryer (no, I didn’t even think of throwing her in) and began wiping her down with towels. Minnie doesn’t dry easily. Too much fur, too thick. I decided to try the hair dryer to speed the process. This would be a first and no telling what Minnie’s reaction might be.

She gave the dryer no more than a glance. Back to the towels to finish up. Wait, what’s that sound? Purring! The cat was purring in contentment. I smiled.

With no indication that she was unhappy with her new spot on top of the dryer, Minnie appeared to settle in for the night. I awoke at 3:30. She was sleeping the sleep of the dead which I thought she was for a moment. “Minnie?” She opened one eye and then covered it with a paw as if, “Go away”. I gave her fur a couple of strokes. More purring.

Here in the Kingdom of the Cats, all is well once more.

 

Published in: on October 6, 2019 at 10:42 am  Leave a Comment  

In Sickness and in Health: October 2019

I thought I had it figured out. After thinking about Ruth Ann’s history of urinary problems, unable to go on her own, I came to the conclusion that it was all related to anxiety. Well, maybe not all. I still believe that interstitial cystitis has a role in this. But thinking back, I realized that almost every time she was unable to urinate by herself, it involved some sort of perceived stress.

Such a simple thing as preparing to leave the house to visit friends or relatives was enough to shut the plumbing down, close the valves. Once home, the system relaxed and all was well. At least in that department. Occasionally, we still have a bedtime catheter. No stress involved, just an ordinary day, but she has come to believe that she should use the bathroom at that particular time of day. The collection bag shows an average of 50ml or about a 1/4 cup. Not a bladder buster at all, but she insists.

What seems to be working is a 10 mg nightly med for anxiety. We had tried this particular med before, but not on a consistent schedule. It was only when I sat up the Alexa app to remind us This is a reminder for Ruth. Ruth Ann, take your pill, that it began to show some benefit. Ruth and Alexa don’t always get along. “Okay, okay. I’ll take it.” Sensing hostility, Alexa never replies.

Compounding the dementia problem is trying to hold Ruth’s anxiety to a minimum. This is never-ending, not to mention slightly maddening on my part. Examples:

  • A lot of her day is spent going through the thousands of photos she has accumulated through the years. Then I hear this, “I can’t find that photo of aunt whoever and I just had it and now it’s gone. It’s gone.” She then spends hours looking for the photo that I saw in her hands maybe five minutes ago. “What particular photo are you looking for?” I ask. She doesn’t know. Actually, she does know, but can’t articulate it. Result? Anxiety.
  • The constant need to know where the cats are is another problem. It doesn’t matter if they were all at her feet an hour ago, a search and rescue mission will be initiated and remain in effect until every cat is present and accounted for. I awoke on a recent morning at 4:00 a.m. and every light in the house was on. “What are you doing?” “Looking for the Brat Cat.” “At four in the morning?” “I don’t know where she is.” “Oh, okay.” (sometimes I do know when to shut up and let it ride…but rarely) Result. Anxiety.
  • She often pushes every button on the TV remote only to inform me that her recorded show is gone. Disappeared. Anxiety builds until the TV goes black and she asks”Did you take it off?” “No, dear. It’s there. I’ll find it.” But the damage is done. Anxiety.

How do you deal with that?

Her confusion continues and as feared, worsens as the months go by. Her short term memory is practically nonexistent. If I were to ask her to bring me a glass of ice water while I’m working in the yard, I might get the water, but no ice.

Last night I caught her putting leftover food in the cupboard instead of the fridge. Oh, and she can no longer distinguish between a refrigerator and a freezer. I find the damndest things frozen solid these days.

“Did you enjoy playing cards with your sister yesterday?” “What card game?” (She now refers to her sister as her friend.)

Dirty dishes have become a big problem. She tries to help out but bless her heart, she wants to wipe the dishes off with a wet paper towel and call it good. She no longer remembers where dishes go in the cupboards. Every day, I find dishes and utensils sitting on the counter. Dishwasher clean or wiped off? Who knows? To the dishwasher they go. One day, I found her actually eating out of the cat dish. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? She shrugged it off. “It’s clean.”

These days, reasoning with Ruth Ann is like trying to reason with the cats or as the old adage goes, Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig.

I might start hitting the anxiety meds myself.

 

 

 

Published in: on October 2, 2019 at 10:48 am  Comments (1)  

A Little White Ball

Watching some golf over the weekend, I was reminded of an incident back when yours truly used to hit the little white ball and chase after it. I was never good at it. Never took a lesson. There might be a connection there. Mostly, I went out with the boys on a Saturday morning, put a few beers in the golf bag, whacked my way around the course and had a grand old time. Scores, if kept at all, were irrelevant. If memory serves, the incident took place on some course somewhere near the town of Muskogee, the same Muskogee that Merle Haggard did not smoke marijuana in.

The tournament was a yearly event sponsored by my former employer AT&T then known as Southwestern Bell, or more commonly, Ma Bell.

There was a trophy for best team score, best individual score, even a trophy for best dressed golfer. Employees, working slobs as well as upper management from the entire state of Oklahoma, attended in great numbers. R. Bubba, my perennial partner and old drinking buddy, entered several of these events but failed to qualify for a single prize. Not once. Not even close. In fact, R. Bubba and I considered it a personal victory to simply finish the round. The following narrative is typical of our golf outings.

If we had a handicap number, neither of us knew what it was, nor cared. We managed to show up at the appointed tee time and rented a cart (perfectly legal within the Rules of Ma Bell) and loaded it down with golf bags and a well-stocked cooler the size of Alaska. Hey, eighteen holes makes for a long day. There were two signs on the dashboard of the cart. One had the logo of Harley-Davidson. As an old biker, this pleased R. Bubba to the nth degree.
“We be riding the hog today, bro. Doin’ it in style.”

The other sign on the dash was larger, in bold black and white, big type: DO NOT DRIVE INTO ROUGH! If our driver noticed the warning, he made no mention of it.
It was a hot day. We arrived at the ninth hole tired but doing our best to stay hydrated with multiple cans of cold Coors from the cooler. I took a peek under the lid and expressed my concern that we might be understocked. R. Bubba agreed, suggesting we should probably stop by the clubhouse before boldly taking on the final nine holes.

I approached the tee with the confidence of any golfer with a few beers under his belt, took a mighty swing, and watched the little white thing take a hard left towards the mini-jungle lining both sides of the fairway.
“Not to worry,” Bubba says, “Get in the cart. We’ll find that sum-bitch.” And off we went. Top speed, doing all the Harley-Davidson would do. We hit the weeds in a cloud of dust, bouncing over deep ruts no doubt left by previous wagon trains, all the while keeping a bleary eye out for the errant ball.

“There it is,” I cried, pointing to the right and down a steep grade. The Bubber jerked the wheel, made a hard turn, trying his best to follow my directions. But between the ruts, the bumps, and the beer, our beloved Harley failed to negotiate the desired maneuver and overturned, flipped on its side. Golf clubs flew. Ice and beer were lost in the brush and bugs, never to be seen again.
Since it’s impossible to hurt a drunk in a golf cart, R. Bubba and I thought the whole thing to be hilarious. We tried, honestly, we did, to turn the machine upright, but the laughing made our knees so weak we were not up to the task.

In hindsight, my driver could have picked a better place to ignore the DO NOT DRIVE INTO ROUGH sign than within sight of the golf course pro shop. Inside, the resident pro (or whatever his title) witnessed the whole thing. The Bubber and I correctly assumed the man was not pleased with our behavior due to his body language, the florid red face, and the speed in which he approached our little accident in a cart of his own.

Hands on hips, the man with the polo shirt, tan slacks, and sporty shoes did his best to stare us down before saying, “Can you boys READ? he sputtered, jabbing his finger at the smoking cart. “What does it say right there on the dash in big bold letters?”

R. Bubba raised his hand. “Harley-Davidson?”

We were told to leave the golf course and never return, banned for life. We got to keep our ice chest though which was really the only part of golf we cared about. It was one of our better days on the links.

Published in: on August 26, 2019 at 7:21 pm  Comments (1)  

In Sickness and in Health: May 24, 2019

Again, I write these blogs about my wife’s condition seeking neither sympathy or advise. The sole purpose is to keep the family and her friends up to speed on the latest changes, good or bad. Oh, and for my own mental health. There’s that.

Mother’s Day has come and gone. The kids came out and spent some time with their mom. I appreciated it. Not sure Ruth Ann knew what the occasion was. Pretty sure she did not. My fear is that it will be the last Mother’s Day that she will know who they are.
This evening, we were sitting on the deck with a nice breeze blowing, temps a little over eighty, but comfortable. I had some chicken on the grill with beans and slaw in the fridge, a simple meal. That’s about all I can deal with anymore. I’ve lost my ambition to be much of a cook.

I made some comment about our son. Something to do with his proposed camping trip this weekend. Ruth Ann says, “Who are we talking about?”
“Our son, you do remember his name, don’t you?” I get that all too familiar look these days, the one of confusion and fear, a fear that she’s forgotten something very important.
“It starts with an M,” I prompt. No reply.
“M-A.” Still nothing.
“M-A-R”. She’s drawing a blank. I think I’ve mentioned before about the old Mike Tyson joke where somebody claims Mike couldn’t spell “CAT” if you spotted him a C and an A. It’s no longer funny. Mike might have  Alzheimer’s.
“M-A-R…M? she asks.

Another alarming incident took place yesterday. She comes back to my office space and declares that she has been to her friend’s house one block over, but that her friend wasn’t home. “The dogs were glad to see me,” she said. The friend has two large dogs, one being a Pit Bull. RA went inside the fence with the dogs. Luckily the Pit is as gentle as a lamb. But for all she knew it wasn’t or maybe her friend had taken in a new dog. Could have gotten ugly. I had no idea she’d gone anywhere. This hasn’t happened before. Up to now, she’s always told me when she’s going for a walk. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’ll volunteer to go with her. Either that or she tells me exactly what street she’s going down. That 99% just changed to 100%.

Two days later: She did it again. I was reading on the deck and when I looked up, she was gone. I drove to the friend’s house. She hadn’t seen her. Found her a couple blocks over just walking along the street. It could easily have been Highway 97.

But what really broke my heart recently was yet another incident, one of those that makes tears in your eyes. One that I’ve heard about with dementia patients but haven’t as yet seen. I was talking about saving money and made the wisecrack, “Your daddy would have driven across town to save a nickel.” She smiled. “I know. I need to go see him.” I felt the air leave my body. I came up behind her and held her close. “Honey, your daddy passed on years ago. But we still talk about him and remember him.”

She wanted to argue the point. “No, I’ll show you. Get in the car.”

Within the past week, she insisted that Clint Eastwood was dead. “I just saw it on TV. He died. He gave his car to a neighbor boy.” She was referring to the movie Gran Torino. When Mark was here, she said Neal Diamond was dead. Mark went to Alexa. The robotic voice proclaimed that Neal Diamond was alive and well and gave his age. No, he’s dead. I know he is. End of argument.

As to the ongoing urine problem, my least favorite subject, she’s been doing much better. For the past few weeks we’ve been getting by with one catheter a day, but every day, and always at bedtime. To me, this confirms that at least a great portion of this symptom is mental. I once voiced an opinion that her bladder does not wear a watch. It does not have eyes to tell daylight from dark. It does not have a plumbing crew that goes off duty at 10:30 every evening. Big mistake and a complete waste of breath and did nothing but make her mad. Too often, I can’t seem to put the brakes on my innate sarcasm in time to stop. It’s like a twisted version of the adage; Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig. Same with dementia.

I’m getting tired. The duties keep piling up. Laundry, cooking, cat care, house cleaning, kitchen cleanup after every meal, the lawn, grocery shopping, home repair, and on and on. The mental part, the caregiving, is also having an effect. I have to watch everything I say so that it doesn’t offend or irritate her. The irritation causes stress and stress is another source of her urinary problems. A flare-up follows and here we go again. It’s like taking care of a six-year-old. For example:

The doctors have repeatedly told me (and her for whatever good that does) that she should avoid acidic drinks, namely Cokes and orange juice, two of her favorite beverages. After many verbal battles, I finally drew the line and insisted there be no more Coke or oranges in the house. Well, guess what? Over a few weeks’ time, her urinary problems diminished, drastically so. I was getting a full night’s sleep. No more two a.m. and four a.m. and six a.m. catheters. Just the one at bedtime when the aforementioned plumbers shut down. This was great, until a week ago at the grocery store when she stops me at the checkout line. “I forgot something.” Minutes pass and then here she comes down the aisle with a carton of Coke. I felt like the daddy whose little girl threatens to throw a hissy fit. “I WANT IT!!!” She got her way and I’ve regretted it since then.

Even though I am an only child and somewhat of a loner that enjoys his solitude, I feel like a single parent with only a child for a companion. These days, a talk with Ruth Ann is like talking to the cats. The response is about the same. I try to talk about the old days when she and her sisters were small. Things she might remember, dolls, a ride in the car, pleasant times. Her usual reply is, “I remember that.” But she seldom elaborates. She simply can’t find the words to express herself. It is heartbreaking.

Some days are better, some are worse. My caregiving skills, whatever I have left, are fading as well. Not sure how much longer either of us can continue with this.

The Times They Are A-Changin’. Bob Dylan

Published in: on May 24, 2019 at 7:43 pm  Comments (2)  

In Sickness and in Health: March 29, 2019

Came across this today.  It hit me pretty hard.

Do not ask me to remember,

Don’t try to make me understand.

Let me rest and know you’re with me.

Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.

I’m confused beyond your concept.

I am sad and sick and lost.

All I know is that I need you

To be with me at all cost.

Do not lose your patience with me.

Do not scold or curse or cry.

I can’t help the way I”m acting,

Can’t be different though I try.

Just remember that I need you.

That the best of me is gone.

Please don’t fail to stand beside me,

Love me ’til my life is done

by Owen Darnell

Published in: on March 29, 2019 at 2:18 pm  Comments (1)  

Go With the Flow

It’s raining as we speak. Three-quarters of an inch in less than an hour. What the old folks used to call a toad strangler. It’s letting up, but the view out my back window is less than encouraging, downright depressing in fact. There must be one or more inches of standing water in the lawn. Why the depression you ask? I’ll tell you why. It’s because I’m shelling out some major big bucks to some landscapers to fix that little problem.

The workmen showed up around noon yesterday knowing full well that the forecast was for rain that night. The job consisted of installing a French drain along the length of my driveway. It’s a fairly wide driveway.  Two downspouts from the roof add to the problem. Over the years, the grass and topsoil have slowly migrated toward the storm drain at the bottom of the slope, ending up, I suspect, somewhere in the middle of the Arkansas River.

For those unfamiliar with a French drain, it consists of a trench with a gravel bed, a plastic pipe with holes in it, covered by more gravel. The water seeps down through the gravel and enters the pipe where it’s then sent along the intended path to a safe discharge area. That’s the theory.

In addition to the French drain in front, the rest of the job consisted of a layer of dirt in the back of the house covered with Bermuda sod. The idea was to grade the new dirt at such an angle as to let the rainwater move away from the house and drain from there as it normally does, albeit poorly. Did I mention that I have more than an inch of standing water at that very spot, at this very moment?

The guys knocked off work around six last night and headed for the bar. I’m not sure that’s where they went, but I know what I’d do. Left to do was spread a truckload of dirt, fill the French drain with gravel (they did get the pipe in), and lay out the sod. Forecast? Heavy early morning thunderstorms. Did the boys know this? Did their boss know this? It was common knowledge. I’m sure all of them had iPhones with a weather app. Did they stick around using every drop of daylight to get the material in place? Noooo, they did not.

I awoke to sounds of thunder, dark skies, and the occasional flash of lightning. The crew arrived shortly after eight o’clock. Thirty minutes later, the deluge began. They gave it a few minutes, saw the futility of waiting it out, and headed back to the bar. I’m standing at the front door, watching the drainage ditch at the bottom of the slope rapidly rise with flood waters, much higher than usual even with that much rain. Now it’s backing up and forming a small lake on my neighbor’s property.  Uh, oh. The next thing I see is my neighbor’s pickup pulling in my driveway. He does not look happy.

We discuss the matter. He opines that the storm drain might be partially clogged due to the activity at the bottom of the slope. I was quick to agree with this. Truth be told, my theory is that added flow from the new French drain is more than the storm pipe can handle.

Having given this considerable thought, I’ve come to the conclusion there is only one logical course of action; get in my truck, find the bar where those guys went, and join them.

Published in: on March 29, 2019 at 10:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Cat Crisis

If you are at all familiar with the daily routines of my humble abode, you will know that a cat crisis is not unusual, not one bit. In fact, they happen almost like clockwork. A cat crisis is defined as a cat going unseen by human eyes for any measurable amount of time. If the big hand makes more than sixty ticks on the clock without the patter of little claws or a whiny meow, it’s 911 time. Alert the media. Post a feline Amber Alert.

OMG. Missing Cat. If you see this cat, or any cat, call the Sheriff’s Office immediately.

If not for the cost and the questionable results, I would equip each of the three little darlings with a GPS tracker. Maybe someday.

I know when a full crisis mode, a Cat-Con 4, is in effect by reading the body language so evident with the Missus; the furrowed brow, the quick glances behind the many nooks and crannies, the quivering, anxiety-filled voice.

Kitty, kitty, kitty? Where are you?

My failure to realize the severity of the situation does not go unnoticed.

Are you just gonna sit there? Why aren’t you helping me look?

No matter how much I try, I cannot stay neutral in these things. Either way, there will be consequences.

Such was the case just last evening. The Brat Cat was missing…again. To add to the urgency, it was dark, way past her curfew. Very unusual for this cat, unless the weather is warm, which it was, and which I tried to point out to the Missus. I may as well have been talking to the wind.

I join the search, probing all the usually hidey-holes; the garage, under the cars, under the table, behind the curtains, the closets, the laundry room…no Brat Cat.

She must be outside. Oh, oh. The poor little thing.

I grab a light jacket, get the flashlight, and here I go again. Geez. I no sooner get outside to look for a furry lump in the street when a neighbor pulls hurriedly out of his driveway. Is he going for the law? Is he moving his wife and children to a safe place, away from the axe murderer wandering up and down the neighborhood looking for victims? Fearing red lights and sirens, I pick up the pace, but no. No lumps. No cats.

As bedtime approaches, I sense a movement at the window. Yep, it’s the Brat Cat.

“I’ve been so worried. Where have you been, sweetie?” the Missus laments.

I have a theory about that. We have an opossum that appears on a nightly basis. He (and I’m sure it’s a he…wait for it) searches the ground beneath the bird feeders long about dark thirty for any overlooked sunflower seeds. This same possum, I am quite sure, lives beneath our patio deck when he’s not raiding the feeders. I know this because, when startled, he makes a dive for a gap between the ground and the bottom of the deck. This same gap, the very same one, is also used by the Brat Cat when she’s hiding. Are you getting the picture? Yes, evidence suggests that the possum and the Brat Cat are having forbidden sex under the patio. Why else would the cat break curfew and not return home for a tasty meal at suppertime? Of course, she’s ashamed of it. Why wouldn’t she be? Inter-species sex? Just as much a taboo here as anywhere in the world. Well, maybe not quite as much in Oklahoma.

What to do? We forgive her of course. We respect her choices and try to understand. But when it comes to “coming out” we just wish she would come in.

Published in: on March 9, 2019 at 1:12 pm  Leave a Comment