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A Journey of a Thousand Backwards Steps

Recently I visited my dad in his memory care facility. Dad has been at his current home for a while. He is getting less and less communicative and even responsive. At this last visit, neither of us got much comfort out of face to face time, so I stood behind him, gently massaging his back and neck. I remembered when my brother and I were little, and giving dad karate chop massages was a regular art of our afer dinner shenanigans. This felt different, of course, but you cling to associations.

Nearby, a man was visiting a woman, his wife, I later learned. I hadn’t seen either of them before, and it quickly became clear that she was a very new resident.  He was worried about her. You could tell he had been her caretaker and felt somewhat adrift.

He had brought her a toy, he told the attendant. He thought she might like it. It was a stuffed animal she’d always had on their bed. The attendant smiled kindly, admired it, and gently advised he put her name on it.

He hadn’t yet learned that objects grow legs in an Alzheimer’s ward, as everything looks both familiar and foreign to the residents.

He mentioned that she needed a bath. He said “I don’t know if she’ll mention it.”

The wife sat quietly, perhaps asleep. She clearly would never again remind someone of her hygiene needs. She was limp — except for the pillows the attendant had used to prop her up. Said she seemed to like that.

The attendant said his wife had eaten a good breakfast. That seemed to take one worry line out of his forehead.

Until he realized, and my heart wrenched with his as he quietly said, “The last thing we did together was eat supper.”

Becasue even though she was still alive, their relationship, as he knew it, died the morning he moved her to the memory care unit. I saw this as my mom must have, and remembered the pain in her voice, and even in her posture. The guilt, the certain surety that she had failed him as a wife. I knew he felt this way now.

“I don’t know what to bring for her,” he said.

“Just a little bit at a time,” the attendant softly responded.

“Maybe I’ll put some butterflies up on her wall,” he said, to himself mostly, all the while patting her hair, adjusting her blanket, caressing her hand.

From where I stood, one wheelchair over but trying to give them privac, I saw an older couple, a man bereft and a woman sliding into her own end, one forgotten memory at a time.

But from his vantage point he saw the young woman he had romanced, who had made his home nice, whom he now wanted to repay in kind.

I cried in the parking lot when I left, thinking of my parents. Of me and my husband. Of my daughter’s face as she asks me if she, too, will someday be like Grandpa. I, of course, can’t answer her.

I can only hope she always has someone who wants to put butterflies on her wall.

What I Love

80s Hair Metal

Unexpected compliments

Making people laugh

Hearing babies laugh

Cheese

People with differing opinions listening to each other, respecting those differences and learning from them

The way my son now wants to go to theater with me

The way he loves his girlfriend

The way my daughter loves her boyfriend

Makeup

Madeline Island

Scolding my husband and my BFF for being too silly together (the time they almost knocked the tree over, though…)

Getting Christmas cards

First flowers blooming in spring

My new car

Sweatpants

The full moon

When my nail polish stays on

People’s reactions when I hand them puppies at a puppy party

Game night

Planning travel

Books and the people who read them (shout out to my book club!)

Food and the people who eat it (shout out to my Gourmet Club)

Volunteering and the people who make it happen (shout out to my Senior Party staff!)

Dogs and the people who save them (shout out to Secondhand Hounds)

My husband’s commitment to French lessons with me, even though he hates it

Taking off my bra at the end of the day

Wine with my girlfriends

Cheese

That I forgot I’d already said cheese, which kinda shows my true feelings

The smell of asphalt after a rain

The Oscars

Historical dramas on BBC

Seeing a formerly traumatized dog become what it was meant to be, and finding the perfect forever home

The sound of a champagne cork

Crossing stuff off my list

Making a new list

The way my daughter teaches me things

The way my dad still says I love you, even though he isn’t sure who I am #fuckAlzheimers

That my mom still wants to help me every day in every way

That I am still in contact with friends made when I was a toddler (thank you Facebook)

That people who I used to fear/be intimidated by/look up to/have massive crushes on in high school have become my friends (social media plus time: the great equalizers)

Discovering new links on Ancestry.com

Not caring if people think I am weird

Being recognized for my accomplishments

Hair dye (shout out to Chelsea at Spalon Montage)

My Vegas group (shout out to the Unicorn Poop Squad)

Online shopping

Mom and Pop stores

People who don’t untag themselves from photos

That my son asks me for advice — even when the subject matter makes my butt  cheeks clench

40 degrees in February

Puzzles

Lake Tahoe

Watching the parents of Olympic athletes realize it was all worth it

Sunsets over the water with a glass of Chardonnay

A clean house

All the laundry done

Cooking for my family

Having them all there to eat it

Having a long, hot roll … at craps

Free champagne in Vegas!

Massages

Surprises

Someone else planning everything, rather than asking me what I want to do

Big fat scary pitbulls that are really lapdogs who want to give kisses and receive pets

My dog’s patience as a foster-trainer

The “unfollow this post” button on Facebook

Being retweeted

Having random people in cities I am visiting decide I am the bomb and follow me on instagram

Being a fly on the wall during fun school activities

The pile of shoes near the door when there are kids in the house

Watching Singer Girl do her thing

The look on a family’s face when they take home a newly adopted, once-my-foster dog

That my kids both bring soup to their significant others when theya re sick

My kids righteaous indigantion over the mistreatment of others

Doing new things

That my husband remembered that one of my dreams has been to dance on the Champs Elysees on my birthday — so is taking me there for my 50th

Sailor Boy wanting to be the party host (gets it from his mama, ya know)

Everyone’s excitement about my annual Halloween party

My friends’ disappointment when I can’t host Dec 23rd

Dressing up for any and all holidays and events, whether it means black tie or bunny ears

Knowing that my kids have amazing lives in front of them

Knowing that I have an amazing life in front of me

And did I mention cheese?

Enjoy all that you love this Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can I be done driving yet?

Not a particularly amusing day — and while productive in some ways, not so much in others!

My hairdresser par excellence, Chelsea, helped me pick a pair of cool readers today.  Is that an oxymoron? “Cool readers?” I choose to think I’m just hip — and I don’t mean of the broken variety.  As we always do, we discussed my next color, and how we will go about achieving it.  I like my bright blue Muppet look for sure, but I am thinking something more sophisticated for my trip to Paris (mais oui!) in April.  Gonna go berry wine.  She’s intrigued…

Hit the library, where I checked out far too many books to read on this schedule, but oh well.  I’m reading a great one right now: Goodbye Vitamin, by Rachel Khong. It’s a sad, funny novel about a gal who moves back home on mom’s request — just for a year — as dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  My dad has Alzheimer’s and so many of the stories she tells remind me of when mine started declining.  My Dad always got busted for stealing silverware.  We’d be out to brunch and he’d be slipping a knife up his sleeve — and he usually had multiple watches on under that sleeve.  Mom was forever bringing me ziploc baggies filled with stuff he had taken from my house.  Anyway: so yeah, it’s a horrid disease, but if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.  Which does seem to be how I make it through my days no matter what.

Next it was the CAR WASH.  Why the caps? You must not be from a winter state.  We just finished three days of melt after two weeks of temps so cold my nipples could cut glass.  So that first car wash is like taking off your bra at the end of the day. It shouldn’t thrill you to the tips of your toes, but it does. For me, the car wash was also a quiet place.  I read for about 10 minutes, while someone else was cleaning.  That is a bit of heaven right there, my friend.

HWSNBN does not feel the same about car washes.  See, he is wicked afraid of clowns (not teasing him; we all have our things.  For me? Escalators. No I am not kidding.  Hate the things.  And my kids know it: they love to walk backwards on them, pretend to trip, whatever.  They joke that someday they are gonna fill escalators with clowns and wet themselves watching their parents try to climb over each other to see who can get out of the way first.  They are hilarious, my offspring.). Anyway: back to car washes and clowns. Yes, there is a connection: HWSNBN feels that car washes are where baby clowns are made.  He points out the multi-colored foam.  Yeah…I got nothing.

Car all sparkly, I pick up three Old English sheepdog puppies and drive to an elementary school in St Paul (about 40 minutes away) for a party of sorts.  The puppies were fluffy, the kids squealed, the grown ups smiled, the puppies peed and pooped.  I cleaned it up.  It’s what I do.  My partner got excellent video footage of me — from behind (thank goodness for her wide angle lens) –cleaning up pee.  That’s a lovely piece of video floating around the rescue page right now, lemme tell ya.

Rushed pups back to foster and me to my house, where I picked up Sailor Boy and we sat in traffic for an hour to go see Dad/Grandpa.  It was actually a good visit; the last ones haven’t been as happy as he hasn’t been super responsive.  But this time he actually chatted, and even cracked a joke.  No one knows what was so funny, but in the middle of eating he looked across the table accusingly at the aide, and said: “You! You’re a liar!” We were shocked — then noticed he had the biggest grin and was even laughing.  Sometimes the best jokes don’t have a punchline.

We all laughed out loud a few minutes later, when he decided that he liked his dessert a bit too much.  Sailor Boy had been helping him with his eclair, and Dadpa decided he’d had enough.  Speared the whole thing with his fork and tried to shove it all in.  Wiping tears from our eyes, we promised we weren’t gonna try to steal it from him, and helped him with a piece that actually fit.  It was a good visit, and I am glad Sailor Boy got to see him like this before he heads back to his duty station.

Now I am dying of hunger.  There’s a new restaurant in town that I am dying to try.  But we are waiting on Singer Girl.  I guess I should be proud of her, as she is supporting Drummer Boy as he does his Major Presentation.  So as a parent I am pleased.  As a tired woman who just wants to eat pasta and drink wine, I am annoyed. I am ready to take off my bra.

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