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Posts Tagged ‘Alzheimer’s’

Just a quick photo post…… I have two wonderful new poems to post tomorrow!  A trip to Lord Stirling Park seems to inspire the words to flow….. Check back tomorrow!

Dad and Jane, Prom Sweethearts!

Dad and Jane, Prom Sweethearts!

Dad fancied up with a different sort of Gramps’ tie.  A string tie wasn’t quite right for the event.  Never to0 old for a prom!

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May 14, 2013

Dad has been having trouble with his balance.  Walking is sometimes difficult even on level ground.  I’ve wondered why he hasn’t fallen when square dancing with Jane.  I decided to see for myself….. and here it is!  Amazing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFzq4DrZRjE&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

I awoke to one of the most beautiful mornings I’ve ever experienced.  A layer of snow on every branch and cornstalk, illuminated by veiled sunlight created a fantasy world of exquisite beauty, a perfect vision setting the tone for a special day.  Valentine’s Day, a day focused on loved ones, brings out the best in people.  After a quick stop at the Califon A&P where a crowd of people broke into smiles as I bought an “I LOVE YOU” balloon for Dad, I headed to Chelsea.

Dad, Bunny and John

Dad, Bunny and John

Dad was still in the dining room with his table mates, Bunny and John.  Dad looked perky and happy.  I joined them for coffee and the four of us….. all four of us had a delightful chat.

Valentine-Candy-from-Chelsea-wwd-021413-web

A Valentine’s Treat from the Chelsea staff

The snow had not been cleared from the path around the pond, making it unsuitable for Dad’s daily walk.  Having had such a great experience at the Califon A&P, I decided to try out the Basking Ridge A&P at Dewy Meadow Village, just up the road from Chelsea.  I hoped that the parking lot would not be as hectic as the one down the road in Warren.

A new place to walk

A new place to walk

It turned out to be a perfect place to walk with Dad.  We made four giant loops around the lot without danger of cars hitting us.  Surrounded by trees, we felt close to the woods.  I took advantage of Dad’s memory loss by telling him over and over again that he was riding in the K-car for the last time.

“Why?” he asked.

“I just bought my first brand new car, Dad!”

“How wonderful, Chris.  I am so happy for you!”

A huge smile crossed his face as he asked me all about it.  We both grinned from ear to ear as we walked around the lot talking about my new car, again and again.  He liked the idea of not squeezing himself into the front of my K-car anymore.  My blue-rasberry FIT doesn’t have a bench seat.  Dad will be able to adjust his seat any way he likes.  He’ll finally be able to stretch out his legs as we drive to and from Lord Stirling Park!

One last photo of Dad and the K-car

One last photo of Dad and the K-car

After Dad had successfully crunched himself into the front seat I couldn’t resist taking a Valentine’s Day photo of Dad’s red jacket, the bright red vehicle next to us and the fragrant pink roses Dad had picked out to give to Jane.

Really Red and Roses

Really Red and Roses

We returned to Chelsea in time for Dad to sign his Valentine’s Day card for Jane and to shower before Jane arrived to play cards.  As Dad showered I did a little drawing of the card from Jane that sat on his table.

Zing! Woo-Woo! Boing!

Zing! Woo-Woo! Boing!

When Jane arrived, I handed Dad the card he had just purchased at the A&P to give to Jane.  He smiled and began to take the card out of the envelope.

“Why thank you, Jane!”

Jane and I smiled at one another…..

“Dad, that’s for Jane… You bought her lovely roses, too.”

I retrieved the fragrant flowers from the water glass in the sink.

The cards were shuffled and another game of Rummy 500 began …….. Neither Jane nor I could keep track of whose turn it was to deal out the cards.  In the game of life, it doesn’t really matter.

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Last week, Thursday, February 7, 2013 in preparation for Valentine’s Day

Without hesitation, Dad began to write ……

Dad writing love poem for Jane

Dad writing love poem for Jane

A poem seems fitting

This Valentine;s Day

For someone I love

Who’s name, I say

Is Jane

Whenever I think of her

I picture a smile

For, it is there,

All the while

It’s her style!

Focused on love

Focused on love

Dad has forgotten so many things, so many people, so many years of his life.  What he has not forgotten are the children of the world  and the loved ones who bring so much joy to his life.

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Thursday: January 17, 2012

My visit with Dad today was short.   Better a short visit than no visit at all.

Hygiene is top priority these days.  We started off with a good shave.

Dad's pleased with his electric razor

Dad’s pleased with his electric razor

Dad doesn’t remember that the electric razor is next to his toothbrush, but when reminded, he’s happy to use it.  Those Carter creases present a real challenge for him with a straight razor.

He needed a shower and a change of clothing, but I decided we would play cards first and shower afterwards.  I’d already sent him into the bathroom several times for this and that.

Queen of Diamonds

Queen of Diamonds

Unbelievable….. he won again at Rummy 500.  He’s better at Rummy than he is at Crazy Eights.  Grrrrrrrrrr.

It was a long game, an excellent game.  Little time was left for a shower, but a clean Dad is important.

“I promise I’ll shower as soon as you leave.”

Hah…… I knew better.

Half an hour later I kissed a fresh and clean Dad good-bye.

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Dementia is baffling.  The workings of the brain are beyond anything I can understand.  I am simply in awe of it’s power and flexibility.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dad was a bit more than reluctant to take a shower and change into clean clothing.

“I already showered this morning, Chris.”

That might have been true, but unlikely.  I wasn’t going to take his word for it.

“Two showers a day is simply ridiculous.”  Grumble, grumble, grumble.  Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle……

Panic Button and Electric Razor

Panic Button and Electric Razor

Jane found Dad’s new electric razor in pieces on the floor earlier in the week.  I put it back together. Luckily, it still works!  Amazing.  While Dad showered, I sketched his panic button necklace and his razor.

Dad came out of the bathroom smiling.  Embracing the mood change, I suggested we draw together before playing cards.

Playing Cards waiting to be dealt

Playing Cards waiting to be dealt

For the first time in months, he offered no resistance at all.

“Oh, you mean a drawing where I don’t look at the paper?”

“Yes.”

I was stunned that Dad remembered how to do a contour drawing.  It’s been more than a year since he’s known what a contour drawing is.  I asked him to pick one of the three objects on the table.

Dad's contour drawing

Dad’s contour drawing

He drew all three, the clock, the panic button and the electric razor.  He even drew the numbers on the clock without looking once at his paper.  He was on a roll.

“Dad, do you think you could write a short poem next to your drawing?”

“Sure.”

Again….. no resistance.  I began to wonder if I’d stepped into the Twilight Zone.

While Dad wrote, I drew the nail clippers purchased on one of our Indiana Trips by way of the Smoky Mountains.

Smoky Mountains Nail Clippers

Smoky Mountains Nail Clippers

Though Dad’s hygiene leaves a lot to be desired these days, he still takes excellent care of his fingernails.

Dad-writing-poem-in-green-sketchbook-011213-web

Dad writing a poem for his drawing

Looking in space

With pencil and paper

Leaves some sense

Perhaps

It just remains

To be seen

Hm-m-m

To end an exceptional day together, he won playing Rummy 500.  Amazing Dad!

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dad and I both needed a good walk in the woods.  I hoped that at least one of the trails at Lord Stirling Park had been cleared of fallen trees.  Hurricane Sandy devastated the area, uprooting giant trees as if they were blades of grass.

Chatter of Children on Trail Lord Stirling Park

Preschoolers on a field trip

Dad wore a giant smile as we trailed along behind a group of chattering children.  He commented on the fun they were having, splashing in the puddles, finding seed pods and running to catch up with their guide.  Eventually, we passed the group when they stopped to learn about the habitat of the blue herons.

Waling alone in silence

Walking alone in silence

Dad’s smile left his face as the silence of the woods replaced the laughter and chatter of the children.  My thoughts raced back to my childhood. I remember Dad smiling at me while giving me rides in the wheelbarrow.  I remember the airplane rides in the living room as he lay on the floor and lifted me up with his feet on my tummy.  When he knew I was safely balanced, he let go of my hands and let me fly above him with arms spread out like the wings of a bird. I remember riding on his shoulders.  I also the remember the piggyback ride he gave my daughters, Nicole and Alexis (both at the same time), when we spent the day together on the beach at Wildwood.  Dad has always loved children and loved playing with children.

Toppled and tilted trees

Toppled and tilted trees

Nature also brings a smile to Dad’s face.  He usually makes comments about the trees, their height, their straightness, their condition.  Today, he seemed unaware that something dramatic had happened in the woods.

Uprooted by Hurricane Sandy

Uprooted by Hurricane Sandy

Not once did he remark about the uprooted trees.  When I pointed them out, his expression never changed.  I wondered if his thoughts still lingered with the children and his own memories of childhood, his own, his children’s, his grand children’s and his great-grand children’s.

Hazardous Conditions

Hazardous Conditions

I had intended on taking a short loop, but Dad’s stamina was great and he opted for the longer loop.  By the time we reached the caution tape blocking the trail, Dad was ready for a rest.  Naturally, when one needs a bench or a log to sit on, in spite of fallen trees everywhere else, there wasn’t one in site.

Finally ..... a resting spot

Finally ….. a resting spot

Dad began to shuffle his feet, sway a bit from side to side and reach out to grab me for extra support.  Still no bench or log…… he stopped to lean on a tree, looked surprised that he was leaning on a tree and promptly started shuffling along again on the trail.  At last, we made our way back to the aromatic herb garden and a multitude of benches to rest on.

I didn’t have the heart to force Dad to write a poem.  He was happy to sit and rest.  In the distance we could hear the sound of the children preparing to return to their school.  I saw a smile return to Dad’s face.

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While I was checking with Ashley to see how Dad made out at Chelsea during the three days Chelsea was without heat during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Dad slipped into the dining hall for lunch.  I panicked when there was no response to my knocking on his door.

“I think he went to lunch” remarked a woman in the hallway.  She was correct.  The dining hall had been empty when I arrived. Dad now sat alone, reading his paper.  I whisked him away before he could place his order.

Deciding on a suitable outer garment for the day’s adventure presented more of a challenge than I might have expected.  We settled on his red sweater and his yellow sweatshirt in spite of the fact that the sweater is missing three buttons.  Fortunately, there are four extra buttons sewn to the collar ????  I’ll cut off the extra buttons and use them to replace the missing ones.

We stopped at Muscle Maker Grill for lunch before exploring the condition of the Hofheimer Grotto trail.  Dad quickly decided on a chicken breast sandwich as well as a baked potato as his side dish.  Wow!  No indecisiveness today!

“And would you like a beverage?” asked the woman behind the counter.

“Coffee, please.”

“Dad, they don’t have coffee here, would you like water?”

“What?  No coffee?  That’s impossible.”

“Dad, they don’t have coffee here.”

“They have to have coffee …. everybody has coffee.  What kind of a place doesn’t have coffee?  How can a place stay in business if they don’t serve coffee?”

I grabbed a bottle of lemon water and led Dad, still carrying on about the coffee, to a table where I distracted him by pulling out his green sketchbook and pencil.

“Dad, please write a poem about not being able to order coffee.”

No Coffee?

What? No Coffee?

Unheard of, —

What is a restaurant like, —

That has — NO COFFEE?!

I do not ever, ever

Remember going to a restaurant

That does not have

coffee!

Woops. — Chris tells me

That we have been here

Seven (well at least five) times, —–

And they have never had coffee.

(Hey, —- how do they

Stay in business? Hmmmmm?

Men at the Muscle Maker Grill

While Dad wrote, I drew the men sitting at the counter enjoying their food and non-caffeinated beverages.  He finished his poem in record time.  I hoped to burn off the remainder of his disgruntled mood by asking him to draw the bottle of lemon water.

The DASANI bottle of lemon flavored water

Dad devoured his lunch, all but the potato skin.  I thought it best to squeeze one more poem out of him before we took our walk.

Opportunities

Opportunities

Minutes of each day

Are full “to the brim”

With opportunities.

We can write

We can sleep

We can sit and think, –

But once the minutes are gone, –

They’re gone.

“Are you done?”

Chris asks.

“I’m not done.’

That’s my answer.

I’m still at it.

Thankfully

Dad

Opportunities

Staying “at it”

Is the key.

Always having a goal.-

Is food for the soul.

Food for the soul.

We left the Muscle Maker Grill and drove up the road to the grotto trail.  In spite of the multitude of trees fallen from the winds of the hurricane, we made it to Hofheimer Grotto by starting at the end of the trail loop rather than the beginning.

Trying to make sense of the fallen trees

Dad has a habit of knocking off dead branches and attacking limbs that are in the way of paths.  I imagined Dad creating a domino effect of falling trees with his good intentions of clearing the path.  I’ve become more cautious while walking with Dad, hoping to keep him safe from falls and injury.  Rather than walk the trail through the woods, climbing over fallen trees and risking more trees falling on top of us, we walked around the five ball fields.

Ball fields

“Did I ever tell you I used to pitch softball?

Thinking about pitching softball

“I practiced by throwing the ball at a knothole in a board on the side of the barn.  I got pretty good … until someone accused me of throwing sidearm.”

“What happened then, Dad?”

“I didn’t know I was throwing sidearm, but you’re supposed to throw underhand.  I lost both speed and accuracy.”

“How old were you?”

“Oh, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.”

We made our rounds of the ball fields and ended up back at the bleachers.  I suggested to Dad that he write a little bit about pitching softball.  I had jotted down a few notes about him pitching sidearm.  Instead of writing in my sketchbook, I had written in his by mistake.  He appeared baffled by my notes.

Reading and re-reading my notes

After a lengthy spell of reading my notes, Dad put pencil to paper.

Reviewing his words

He wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote.  He reviewed his words and wrote more.  He turned the page and wrote more.

Dad writing about pitching softball …. or so I thought

What a strange day.   Dad fought me tooth and nail, not wanting to write at lunch, not wanting to write after our walk, yet there he sat scribbling away.  Occasionally he stopped and looked as if he had finished.

“Could you read me what you wrote?” I asked.

“No, I’m still at it.”

I picked up my pen and sketched Dad’s gloves peeking out of his pocket.

Gloves in Dad’s Sweatshirt Pocket

Somehow, Dad had switched gears…..

Softball Pitcher at age Fifteen

Trapping For Muskrats in Indiana

A near-one-mile-long creek ran through our farm in Indiana.  It ran through our corn and wheat fields.  The banks were 1-3 feet high, perfect for muskrat “runs”.  I would set steel traps at the base of these runs.  They were very effective in catching the muskrats.  A chain would run from the trap to a stake driven in the middle of the stream.  The muskrat would start down the run, get trapped at the base of the run, and get tangled up with the chain wrapped around the stake in the middle of the stream.  The muskrat would drown trying to escape.  I would sell the muskrats for $1 each.  Our hired -hand, Owen Connor, lived in an upstairs bedroom, ate three meals a day with us, and was paid $1 per day.  He was a bachelor who was born and raised in Kentucky, and smoked Tuxedo tobacco in a pipe.  He wore out two or three pairs of gloves a year, “shucking corn”. He would “shuck” a wagon-load in one day, working perhaps 10 hours, – drive the horse-drawn wagon to the corn crib, – come in the house to eat supper, then go out after supper and shovel the load of corn from the wagon to the corn bin on the barn.  It was a long day – a typical day.  My job was to feed and milk the cows, and run the milk through the “separator” (separating its cream from the milk). About once a week, I would churn a batch of butter from cream skimmed each morning and evening from the milk.  I loved the taste of the buttermilk from the butter jar.

Well then ….. walks with Dad get more interesting all the time.  Maybe next time, after we talk about trapping muskrats, Dad will write something about pitching softball.

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October 25, 2012 ….. Happy Birthday, Jane!  With love from Dad and Chris.  Poems written by Dave Carter.  Drawings by Chris Carter

Jane reading the collection of love poems to Dad

Dad and I combined our skills and presented Jane with a handmade, coptic bound collection of love poems Dad wrote specifically for the special woman in his life, Jane.  I added drawings I’ve done of Dad writing while on our Thursday walks.

page 1

page 3

page 5

page 7

page 9

page 11

page 13

page 15

page 17

page 19

page 21

Happy Birthday, Jane!

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

In spite of having purchased the length recommended by the chart on the back of the package of shoe laces, the laces were about ten inches too long.  I should have taken a photo of the clown-like bows that topped off Dad’s shoes before I cut the laces down to size.

New laces and polished shoes

While I was in the polishing mood, I gave his hiking boots a good oiling, getting them ready for our fall and winter walks through the swamp.

Ready for adventure

My visit with Dad was short.  Jane was scheduled for her shot in the eye at 2:30 and I had the honor of being her chauffeur.  Technology and medical advancements continue to allow our bodies to do the simple things we love to do, like walk and see.

The Black Hole

Unfortunately, we’ve found no way to reverse the tragedy of dementia.  Today was not one of the good days for Dad.  I think that changing the laces and polishing the shoes pushed him over the edge.  His world of words was as blank as the page of his green sketchbook.  The pencil and paper could not connect and Dad was lost in a vapor.

Apples and Oranges

While Dad struggled with to find a word or two, I counted the fruit in his room.  Apples and oranges were everywhere.

Orange sections

Orange sections in a bag in the bathroom with a toothbrush and toothpaste.  I was concerned that Dad wasn’t making it to any of his meals and that the fruit was left over from the trays of food brought to him when he didn’t show up in the dining room.   Much to my relief, Jane explained that he picks up a piece of fruit from the bowl next to the coffee pot every time he gets himself a cup of coffee from the coffee/snack area.  Whew!

I grabbed his pile of newspapers, kissed him goodbye and headed to Jane’s.

pencils, baskets of fortune cookies and a stack of trays

I joined Jane in the waiting room until she was called for her treatment.  At that point I had at least two hours to myself.  Having skipped lunch, I drove to the China Wok and ordered steamed broccoli and brown rice.  With my take-out lunch I returned to the parking lot of Greymark to wait for a call from Jane.

View from the parking lot beneath a giant shade tree.

Lately, I find myself drawing in parking lots quite often.

A view of the back parking lot

My phone rang.  I stashed my pen and paints and drove around to the front of the building where Jane, with patch over one eye, stood smiling.  She is such an inspiration and a great example of the power of positive thinking!  In spite of back pain and wet macular degeneration she is headed to Texas in a month for a tennis tournament!

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