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Posts Tagged ‘words’

January 15, 2015

An amazing day with Dad!  I didn’t have enough energy and patience to try playing Rummykub with him, but I was determined to get him to write again.

drawing of Dad's room at Chelsea

Dad’s room at Chelsea

Typical resistance to taking a shower … no surprise.  When he came out of the bathroom wearing a clean shirt and smiling, I was ready to challenge him to writing a few words.  My only hope for success was to have him draw something first.  For whatever reason, drawing allows him to access his reservoir of words more easily.  he chose to draw the bottle of cough medicine with the disposable dosage cup turned upside down over the cap.

Dad's drawing of his cough medicine bottle

Dad’s drawing of his cough medicine

Certainly not a drawing that one might see hanging in a gallery, but that wasn’t the goal. When I asked him to try writing a few words, there was no hesitation, no resistance, no excuses.  Dad picked up the pen again and started writing.  I didn’t care what he wrote … he was finding words to write on the piece of white paper!  I thought I might never see that happen again.

Upside – down cup

Capping the bottle

Handy for a sip

In the middle of battle

Ah – ah – ah

Now we go 

To another venture

Either fast

Or slow

“What battle, Dad?” I asked.

“What battle is that”

She asks, quite puzzled.

“The battle of life —

Don’t you see?”

After expressing my delight in the words he found, I apologized for being such an ornery daughter.

My daughter’s not ornery, —

Just very interesting

Only fifteen more pages to go and Dad will have filled his green sketchbook with words and a few drawings.  I thought for sure, after a month of not being able to get him to write at all, the pages would never be filled.  You can’t imagine my joy.  All I need is energy and patience and the pages will be filled.

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Not Willy Nilly

December 6, 2014 – a rainy Saturday afternoon

It’s that time of year again, time to decorate Dad’s room at Chelsea for the upcoming holidays.

Dad's Ceramic Christmas Tree

Dad’s Ceramic Christmas Tree

 

While Dad showered I unpacked the ceramic Christmas Tree that Jane had carefully wrapped and stored in a box with the garland of red ornaments.  I hung the garland on the lamps and set the tree up on Dad’s card playing table.  Even after straightening up his room a bit, there was time for a quick drawing before Dad rejoined me, fresh and clean.

Ink and Watercolor sketch of Christmas Tree

Ink and Watercolor Sketch

Each time I visit with Dad, I learn more about how a brain processes information.  Before playing cards, I asked Dad to write a poem.  Expecting the normal response of being told that one needs to be inspired to write poetry, I suggested he write a poem for Jane that I could put into a Christmas card for her, a special gift from him.  He surprised me by immediately picking up his pen and writing quickly in his green book that I had placed on the table in front of him.  Much too quickly the task was completed. He put down his pen and closed the book.

“Wow Dad! That was fast!  Could you read your poem to me please?”

He opened the green notebook and stared somewhat blankly at the page.  After a few false starts he managed to read what he had written…

” Merry Christmas to Jane, My Jewel! AND May we have many more Together! Dave 2014″

Hmmmmm.

“Dad, That’s lovely. But…. it’s not a poem.”

I had suggested he write something I could put in a card for Jane.  That’s exactly what he did.  I decided to try again. He took a little longer this time, but not too much longer.

Christmas Time 2014

Oh my Jane, –

My message is the same, –

as last year. – :

A VERY Merry Christmas, –

and

a H A P P Y New Year !!

Much, much love, –

Dave

Once again, Dad struggled to read what he had written.  His second try was a cross between a greeting card message and a poem.  One more try…..

The weather is quite dreary

In fact, a bit chilly

You want from me a poem

But words coming seem silly

Now, the season is everything

But silly, –

It’s Christmas season for all

and that’s NOT will nilly

So light the candles, –

Ring the bells

It’s happy season for all, –

Well, do tell, do tell.

Dad closed the green notebook. I shuffled and dealt the cards.  My heart was smiling.

When Dad walked me to the door to wave goodbye, we searched the Chelsea Christmas Tree for his ornament.  Each year the staff makes an ornament for each of the residents.

photo of Dad's Christmas Ornament

Dad’s Christmas Ornament

Tis the season to be jolly…. and that’s NOT willy nilly.

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April 17, 2014

No walk today.  Dad had an appointment with Dr. Bagley to have the Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Situ scraped and burned from his arm.

As might be expected when time for a shower is limited, Dad took an extra half hour in the bathroom.  We made it to the doctor’s with four minutes to spare.  We waited another ten before we were called to follow the nurse down the hallway.  While waiting, Dad  reluctantly agreed to draw and write.

Chair on floor, table on wall

Chair on floor, table on wall

Now, how did that happen?

The table ends up?

On the wall

Hmm, hmm

Though unable to comprehend the need for another visit to a doctor, Dad followed directions and climbed into the “procedure” chair.  The lovely nurse lifted the leg rest, bid him “Make yourself comfortable” and left the room.  Dad scowled and called out to her.

“I need this leg rest to be moved out!”

“I’m sorry Mr. Carter.  It doesn’t move out.  You’ll just have to shrink a bit.”

“If it doesn’t move out, then it’s a poorly designed chair.”

Dad trying to make himself comfortable in the poorly designed chair

Dad trying to make himself comfortable in the poorly designed chair

He lasted all of two minutes before flopping his legs off each side of the leg rest.

“It’s a terrible design.  It cuts off the blood circulation.”

Dr. Bagley arrived and the four of us enjoyed a short conversation regarding the chair.  the procedure took less than ten minutes.

Dr. Bagley performing the Scrape & Burn procedure on Dad's arm

Dr. Bagley performing the Scrape & Burn procedure on Dad’s arm

As the wound on Dad’s arm was being scraped and burned, the nurse shared her story of disappointing her engineer father by not being able to draw in perspective when taking classes toward an engineering degree (that she didn’t want to pursue anyway.  Her father had designed the GM facility in Linden, NJ.  During the design stage, a scaled model of the building lived on her dining room table forcing the family to eat in the kitchen for several months.  One evening her father was perplexed and asked what had happened to all of the bathrooms.  All fifty of them had been moved away from the elevator shaft area.  Her brother explained that her really didn’t like the way the bathrooms looked located next to the shaft and had taken it upon himself to make the layout a bit more visually pleasing.  Her father explained the reason for locating the bathrooms next to the shaft was that all the plumbing could be run through the shaft, saving a great deal of expense.  The brother  acknowledged that the reasoning was okay and took it upon himself to return all fifty bathrooms to the location in his father’s original design.

Priceless story, Priceless glimpse into the lives of others, the lives of children who grow up in families with inventive parents who include their children in the thought process from planning through to execution.  The nurse’s brother has followed in his father’s footsteps, designing the plumbing and ventilation systems in corporate buildings.  Just as her story ended, the procedure was completed and we headed out into the beautiful, sunny but chilly afternoon.  The smell of fresh cut grass, the first of the season, filled our nostrils and brought smiles to our faces.

Another good day with Dad.

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May 30, 2013

It’s difficult to predict how many more walks my father and I will take together.  It could be a hundred …. and it could be only one. Dementia of any kind is such a puzzle, and totally unpredictable.

Do I really need both?

Do I really need both?

Dad appeared to be in another world today, distant, unengaged.  Though he had a great deal of difficulty getting out of his chair.  Once he was on his feet, he moved slowly……. very s-l-o-w-ly, but well-balanced and cautious. His standard remarks were left unsaid.  He didn’t glance at the sky until I mentioned it to him.  He didn’t ask about my family, or how I’ve been, or where we were going. He voiced only one concern.

“I don’t need both of those, do I?”

The opportunity to ask that same question came up at least six times before we headed to the herb garden at Lord Stirling Park.  I continued to simplify my answer until I ended up with.

“Either both or a walker, Dad.”

He surprised me the last time by saying, “Oh, I pulled you down, didn’t I?”

Months ago I had stopped mentioning the episode of his falling and yanking me down beside him on the ground.  It had only distressed him to think that he might have hurt me.  Perhaps memories continue to be made, only to be called into action at random.

I handed Dad his green sketchbook and pencil as we sat side by side in the herb garden.  As usual, he began reading his previous poems.  I assumed that he was avoiding writing something new.  Because of his extreme silence and lack of response to anything we passed on the way to the park, I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t remind him to write a new poem.  I began to draw….

Birdhouse beside the pond, Lord Stirling Park, NJ

Birdhouse by the pond, Lord Stirling Park

No more than five minutes passed before Dad settled in and put pencil to paper!  He didn’t even glance around at his surroundings.  He bent his head and focused on the words that poured from his pencil.  I suppose he doesn’t need to look around anymore to know what he would see. He feels the air on his cheeks and he knows he is outdoors.

Dad writing a poem

Dad writing a poem

On a Bench in the Park, Chris and Dad

The solid blue sky

Hovers overhead

While one tiny bird

Chirps a nice tune

The song of the bird

Is the only sound.

The leaves wave

But no breeze is heard.

That’s about all

There is to be said.

Enjoy the quietness

There is to be had.

I checked for the date

But my computer is dead.

So we’ll enjoy the silence

That is to be had.

June 30, 2014

When Dad’s phone appeared to be dead, he asked me the date.  I told him it was June 30th (my mistake…. it was still May).  For more than a year now he has thought it is 2014.  I was puzzled by his phone being dead since he had unplugged it from the charger right before we left Chelsea.  His phone was charged.  He just forgot how to turn it on.

Fortunately the bugs are not out yet at Lord Stirling Park.  We had a lovely, silent, s-l-o-w walk along the somewhat soggy paths.  Dad watched his feet the whole time, never looking up to the sky or out into the marshes.  It appeared that moving one foot in front of the other demanded all of his attention.  I’m glad I captured him square dancing a couple of weeks ago.

We took a short path, but not the shortest.  I spotted a bench and asked if he wanted to rest.  He shook his head and kept walking.  The day had grown quite warm and I feared Dad might overheat.  He had refused to change into his shorts, insisting that he would be fine in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.

“Big sips, Dad, not tiny mouth sips.”

Each time Dad handed the water bottle back to me the water level looked about the same.

The trail brought us back to the herb garden where I found a bench in the shade of a grove of trees.  Out came the green sketchbook and pencil.  Again Dad read a few of his previous poems, and then set his mind to writing …. without any coaxing or coercing from me!

At a Later Date, Another Stroll in the Park

It’s quite warm.

Sweat runs down my right cheek.

Tiny birds flitter by.

A spider crawls across the page.

Tree’s leaves

Block the rays

Making it cool

To sit on the park bench

Resting the legs, —

Soothing the soul.

Nibbled Leaf

Nibbled Leaf

On occasion I’m asked why I draw rusty pipes, run-down shacks, lopsided trees and eaten leaves.  Why not draw lovely, new houses and perfectly shaped trees and leaves?

“Because real life is never perfect, except in its imperfectness, in its struggle and celebration of survival.”

I remember my first job, picking strawberries at Johnson’s Farm when I was fourteen.  I ended up being hired to work at the fruit stand where I sold the berries picked fresh each morning.  Most people wanted the large, perfectly shaped strawberries.  I sold them the big, beautiful berries wearing a smile on my face. They were practically tasteless, beauty without flavor.  I knew that the most delicious berries, the odd-looking little runts called “Sparkles” were the sweetest, most delicious of all the varieties and they would be the ones that hadn’t sold at the end of the day.  The Johnsons and I would be feasting on Sparkles for dessert after supper.  Some of the best moments are disguised by imperfections.

In the end, my walks with Dad will be among the many highlights of my life.  Fast or s-l-o-w, we walk together, sometimes talking, sometimes not.  Each step is so precious.

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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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Patience is not one of my strengths, especially on a hot, humid day in the middle of July in New Jersey.  I do my best to keep a sense of humor throughout the weekly, bizarre visits with my dad.  His eternal optimism and positive outlook on every aspect of life saves the day every time.  If he wasn’t so damn much fun to be with I might just strangle him to get it over with.

If you have a judgmental look on your face right now, you have not yet dealt with a loved one suffering from dementia of one sort or another.  Hopefully, you will be spared that challenge.

Thursday, July 12, 2012:

Feltville General Store, Church and School

I emptied my refrigerator into the big yellow, thermal bag and tossed in a few ice packs.  Peanut butter and jelly is easy and lightweight.  Dad loves whatever I bring for lunch.  Unfortunately, I was out of bread.  It gave me the opportunity to make up for the lousy lunches of the last few weeks.

Where would we go today?

Criteria #1 …. (really the most important criteria of all from now on) …. Restrooms!

Criteria #2 ….. picnic table for the fancy picnic

Criteria #3 …. somewhat even ground and trails that offer a small enough loop to get back to the car before fatigue changes the odds for falling.

Criteria #4 …. somewhat close to Chelsea so we aren’t driving around in a hot car too long.

Criteria #5 …. someplace we haven’t been in a while.  I needed a change of scenery. Dad doesn’t.  We could go to the same place every week and it will be new for Dad.  He doesn’t remember going to any of the trails we’ve explored over the past year, even the ones we go to on a regular basis.

We headed for Feltville. (read more about Feltville from the post of our first visit to this fascinating place.)

Meeting Criteria One

Modern, clean restrooms are located at the back of the main building, the General Store.  I checked to see that they were unlocked and in service before we walked further down the road to the picnic area.

Picnic Tables, Criteria Two

Dad thought the bottle of dressing was a juice drink (I think).  When I explained that it was dressing, he poured it over his pasta and vegetables rather than his salad.  I’m sure it tasted yummy.

Salad, Pasta and veggies, Cherries

Unlike last week, Dad initiated conversation, of sorts, on the drive to our destination.  Last week he was utterly silent and relatively unobservant of the surroundings as we passed them by.  Today, his dial must have been set to Standard Conversation Number Two – Clouds in Sky, Large Trucks and Tall Towers.  After our lively car conversation I was hopeful that our after-lunch brain games might be less frustrating for me than last week.  I began with a few follow-up questions.  I wanted to know if he really did meet Amelia Earhart and I wanted to know if his degree in electrical engineering was essential for his research and development of building materials for Johns-Manville.

No, he doesn’t think he ever met Amelia Earhart.  He did touch the controls in her plane when it was on exhibit at Perdue.  He turned the knobs to watch the dials move and was reprimanded by a guard.  The connection between electrical engineering and building material research and development left me sinking into the abyss of frustration.  I opted to redirect the conversation with a variation on last week’s brain stimulating game of tapping into the area of imagination.  At one point he had said that he would like a job that would allow him to travel with his family.

“If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go.”

“Indiana, I guess.  Back home to Indiana.  It would be nostalgic.  I’m familiar with Indiana.  And maybe the South Pacific.  That’s familiar to me, too ….. and Australia.  And I wouldn’t mind going back to Indiana and visiting some of my old, familiar places.  Maybe I could find some of the people I used to know.”

“Anyplace else?”

“I think I would like to go back to Indiana.  I know Indiana.”

“Are there places you haven’t been that you would like to visit?”

“Hmmmmmm.  I’d probably like to go back to Indiana.….. Oh, places I haven’t been?  Maybe China.”

“Any other places?”

“Hmmmmmmmmm…….hmmmmmmmmmm……..hmmmmmmmmm…..hmmmmmmmmmmm.  What was the question?”

I repeated the question.

“Places I haven’t been?  hmmmmmmm …. I’ve always enjoyed action.  Maybe a place where business is prospering, maybe parts of Europe and places I don’t know about…… and China ……  and I think Indiana.  What was the question again?”

I could cut and past the above conversation half a dozen times more.  I tried to move it along.

“What are my options, Chris?”

“We’re playing a game, Dad.  You have ten seconds to tell me to buy a ticket to anyplace in the world.  If you don’t pick a destination, you will sit on this bench for the rest of your life.  Those are your two options.”

“What was the question?”

I repeated, several times.

“Indiana, I guess.  It’s familiar.”

At some point, Dad clicked into another part of his brain.

“China.  Maybe the Himalayas.  And maybe, if I didn’t have to stay there too long, the Sahara Desert.  If I could stay a little longer, I’d pick a place where I could meet and chat with the people.”

“Where would that be, Dad?”

“China.  Maybe South America…. or China.  I have curiosity …. not to live, but to visit Africa.  I’m interested in how the people live and how I could improve their way of living.  I used to do that.  I sold Real Estate to help people better their lives.”

“You didn’t sell Real Estate for very long, Dad.  If you liked helping people that way, why did you stop selling Real Estate?”

“I don’t know.  What did I do after that?”

Dad definitely seemed stuck in Indiana.  I gave him a hint.

“I was born in Indiana, Dad, but I didn’t grow up there.”

“Hmmmmmmmm.  I went to work for Johns-Manville, didn’t I?”

The conversation turned to Dad’s transition between selling Real Estate and his job at Johns-Manville.  I was exhausted and pulled out the sketchbooks.

“Time to write, Dad.”

First poem of the day

It Is What It Is

The silence is deafening

In these woods —

Ah, now there’s a plane overhead

And the pattering of footsteps

As joggers

Go jogging by.

Chris contributes to the silence as she sketches away, —

While sitting at the picnic table, —

Across from me this warm summer day.

I pop another grape in my mouth, —

And sip a sip of Poland Spring water

Hoping more exciting words

Will come for me to write down, soon.

It might be a quite long wait

For words that somehow make some sense

Until then it seems a bit wasteful

To sit here pushing pencil on paper

It is what it is

Dad … a day in the woods with Chris

Dad’s illustrated poem

I asked Dad to draw a few cherries (we didn’t have any grapes) on the page with his poem.  That led into more drawing.

Cherries and Words

We played with writing words along the cherry stems in our drawings.

bending words along cherry stems

The expression on Dad’s face changed as he wrote the words along the cherry stem.  I presented another graphic word game to him.

Dad’s second attempt at word game

Dad’s third attempt at word game

I think he would have been happy to be stuck on the bench for the rest of his life playing this game.  Maybe he would choose that next time instead of sending me to buy a ticket to Indiana or China.

Waiting for my return

We packed up our picnic and continued our walk, stopping first at the restrooms.  The yellow, thermal bag, filled with pottery bowls, ice packs and bottles was too heavy for me to carry through the woods.  I left Dad on a bench while I brought the bag back up the steep hill to the car.  I left him with pencil in hand and green sketchbook open on his lap, hoping I would see words on the page when I returned.  Even more importantly, I hoped I would see Dad still sitting on the bench when I returned.

The wooded area speaks history

Of trees reaching high

Search for Sun’s rays

Coming down from the sky

The green grass below

Carpets the ground

And prevents rains from the skies

Leaving big ditches all ’round

I can’t help but believe that drawing helps Dad to put words together poetically.  There is a dramatic difference between this poem and his first poem.

Lost somewhere between tree tops and sky

The afternoon light distracted me and I snapped dozens of photos of a pipe while Dad drifted into the tree tops.

Beautiful pipe

It was getting late.  After a very short walk through the woods, we trudged up the hill to the car.  Dad needed to stop only once to rest.

Dad with pencil in hand

Next week I’ll tuck a few sheets of graph paper into Dad’s sketchbook.  We’ll play the word game again.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

No walking adventures today.  Jane, Dad and I spent the day at the V A Hospital.  It was time for Dad’s annual physical.  The facility is clean and bright, filled with friendly people who go out of their way to help.

We had short intervals of waiting between exam, EKG, chest X-ray, blood test and signing up for a new internet program.

During our last waiting period I handed Dad his green notebook.

Wow!  Major resistance to the idea of writing anything.

“I know one word, a two letter word and it’s spelled ‘N-O’.”

I am dreadfully persistent.

Dad writing …. reluctantly

I’m glad I insisted …

How beautiful she is

The lady, across the table

I wish I could tell you, —-

If only I were able

And the lady on my left, —-

My daughter, I can tell you

They are the beauties

I find by my side

They make my days lovely

I hope theirs are too, —-

Making it unanimous

Nice.  I think that to be true.

Dad! With Daughter Chris, —- and Lovely Jane

6-14-2012

And then we waited again….. more resistance.   I reminded Dad that if I hadn’t insisted, he never would have written the lovely poem.  He read the poem he had just written, smiled and said, “I wrote this poem?”

One more poem

Searching For Words

It cannot be true

That there is nothing to write about

For I am with lovelies

Chris and Jane

Days are full

Of events to cherish

How fortunate we are

For what more could we wish?!

I am searching for more

Words to express it

But the words above,

Pretty much say it.

As I waved goodbye, Jane and Dad were headed for a stroll around the Chelsea Pond.

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