Wednesday, June 30, 2004

7 no more checkbook, cloning, The Notebook,

06-30-04 Mayatime: 2 Kan 7 Tzec (Portal)

It turns out my father can no longer balance the checkbook. My mother noticed he hadn’t done it since March and when he tried, he couldn’t, and got upset. Can’t say I blame him. My mom volunteered me to come over and do it. I don’t think so; I’ve never balanced my own checkbook in ten years.

I went to the library and got three books (the limit) on Alzheimer’s. I have to work on my novel today, yesterday I only did 2 pages. I have to paint the cellar doors and waterseal the front porch too, but that won’t be today.

Mom is of the opinion that her mother (my sharp-as-a-tack grandma) will outlive my dad. Grandma’s mother was 99 and her mind was fine when she died. She died of “old age” which to me means you just wear out. It’s like a copy machine making too many copies of copies, after a while it’s illegible. (Not to go off on a tangent, but I think that’s an issue with cloning. You’re starting out with an adult cell, not a virgin one. I’m 35 and if you clone me, you’ve started out with a baby Bert whose genetics think she’s 35. They had to put Dolly the cloned sheep to sleep and although the articles hedged why, it sounded like accelerated aging to me.) I have no problem with dying of old age. I don’t even have any problem dying of cancer, which is one of my other genetic options (via grandpa). This mind stealing, though, is awful. Damn you, beings from Orion.

My mom said my dad is really happy that I came over last week and had lunch with him and went to Home Depot. He also thinks the lunch he had at Red Lobster was the best he’s ever eaten (although he doesn’t remember it was at Red Lobster). She said sometimes he refers to me as “my daughter” and sometimes as “Berta” which seemed to bother her. I don’t think that means he doesn’t remember my name. Sometimes I say “my husband” and sometimes I say “Will”–it depends who I am talking to. If you know us well, I can say “Will” cuz you know who he is. If you don’t know me well, or don’t know Will (like my online friends, for instance) I say “my husband” because to those people, his name is less important than his function. Does that make sense? So I have no problem with my dad calling me “my daughter” as long as he remembers that’s what I am!

On a related note, I did go see “The Notebook” last night. (SPOILERS) It was a weep-fest, but not as bad as when I first saw “Titanic.” I probably would have cried less if less people were in the audience–hearing others sobbing tends to set me off, I’m very empathic. Beth said the same. Overall, the movie was not that good. The two actors who played the young Allie and Noah had no chemistry together–I never believed they loved each other. And her capitulation seemed too quick and without motivation. (I don’t remember how it was in the book.) A few of the Alzheimer’s scenes were pretty awful–one where she remembers him, and they’re dancing, and she says “How long do we have?” and he says “about five minutes” and within a minute she’s screaming in fear at him, “Why are you calling me darling? Who are you?” and the nursing staff has to sedate her while the husband sits there crying. And we’re pretty sure the book did not end the way the film did.

I am going to write some of my novel and then read all those books and take notes. My mother said my dad was drawing on his shoes. Maybe I’ll get him some nice coloring books. I love to color and he’s always colored in the funnies with his high lighters. I see no shame in coloring. I remember my father teaching me to color by cross-hatching instead of just filling in with solid color. I still like to color and I have about...hmm...maybe six coloring books. They are not kid’s books, but the kind you get at an art supply store, stained glass patterns and such. I could get him some nice bird and animal ones. It’s a thought. (738)

Monday, June 28, 2004

6 Father's Day, new dog

06-28-04 Mayatime 13 Ik 5 Tzec

Yesterday one of my friends called and I told her about my father and she cried. She didn’t say she was crying, just that she was sorry, but I could hear her. She is the first person to do that.

Will & I took my parents out for Father’s Day yesterday. (We never go out on the actual holiday–too crowded and we had a bad experience at a non-chain restaurant once, where they had a special hand-lettered “Mother’s Day” menu and all the prices had been jacked up.) We went to Red Lobster, since my father loves shrimp cocktail and clams over linguini and all sorts of nasty fish. I had my usual, chicken fingers and biscuits. I had repeatedly told him on Wednesday that we were going there and he could have his shrimp cocktail (“you know, dad, the shrimp on the side of the glass with the red sauce?”) but he couldn’t remember what the shrimp were. As soon as he saw the picture (thank god for pictures) he knew. He ate the whole order himself. It makes him happy. I wish I could afford to buy him shrimp cocktail every day. He also ordered linguini and clams (well, my mom ordered for him) but they were out. Horrors. So he got something else, which I think was probably better for him since it came with vegetables.

We had dinner with Grandma at night. He had already forgotten the name of the restaurant where we’d had lunch. At the end of the meal, Grandma was handing out ice cream but Dad was still eating his salad (for some reason he likes to eat it last, not first) and chicken. The platter of chicken was also still on the table. We asked him if he wanted more chicken and he said no so we cleared the table. A minute later, he’s looking for the chicken (he called it turkey, close enough, better than “that stuff” right?). I reminded him that he’d just said he was finished and my grandmother starts in on ME–“Don’t you correct your father!” Argh!! My family is going to drive ME crazy long before my dad ends up in the looney bin.

But my grandma (86 years old) is sharp as a tack, there’s no problem with HER brain, no sir. I wanted to get a stamp from her to mail a flyer to someone who saw my ad in Wisdom magazine. I had forty cents. She gave me the stamp and didn’t want the money. We’re walking out and I saw some change on top of her clock radio on the dresser (her door is in the bedroom, it’s an efficiency apartment) so I dumped the 40¢ on the clock when she was distracted by a box of ancient hats she wanted to show me. She showed me the hats (a drag queen’s dream) and then noticed the change. She made me take it back. As we left, Will dropped it in a different place on her dresser. We’d gotten about ten feet from the door and she yelled “Look at that, they left the money after I told them not to!”

My parents had been waffling over whether to get another dog like Alf (miniature long haired dachshund). I know someone who breeds them and she’s willing to trade a puppy to me in exchange for Reiki training. But my mom decided it will be too much for her to take care of my dad and a puppy and the insane Jasper cat. I would get the puppy for myself (I miss Alf) but Will doesn’t like dogs very much. He would want the dog to live outside all the time, and those dogs are too small to live outside year round (and they’re too cute). My grandma doesn’t want a puppy or a kitten (she’s allowed to have them); she’s happy to visit with Jasper (and occasionally my Zen-Zen) on Sundays. (665)

Saturday, June 26, 2004

5 reiki attunements, AD group online

06-26-04 Mayatime 11 Ahau 3 Tzec (Burner)

I did not realize today was a burner day when I made my plans to help my parents. I asked the gods what I could do, how I could help. The answer was, you help others by teaching them to help themselves. My question probably wasn’t framed correctly; I wanted a healing technique or a new symbol or something. But of course the gods were right (that’s why they’re the gods, after all).

So today I went over there and gave them both Level 2 attunements in Enhanced Shamballa Multi-Dimensional Healing. (I joked that it was an $888 gift–$222 per person, per level.) Then I conducted the world’s fasting training course: here’s how to turn the energy on, here’s how to disengage, here’s how to shut it off. Even if my father doesn’t remember those 3 things, the energy is inside him now and can do its work.

My mom said he was having a bad memory day. She had to take him to buy new sneakers. He’s always been particular about his footwear so I’m sure it was a fun experience. He’s got absolutely flat feet with almost no flexibility (I tried reflexology on him once. Notice I say “tried” not “did.”)–honestly I wonder how he can walk. There’s a thought, I should teach my mother the points to work for the brain and nervous system.

I have more thoughts, more questions, no one to turn to. The new yahoo Alzheimer's group I joined has nice people but except for recommending a book, I haven’t got much practical info. Should I get my father some kind of medic-alert bracelet for that day in the future when he gets lost? Should I register him with the police so they can help him get home if he gets lost? He’s still driving, by himself. That probably should scare me, but he doesn’t get lost, according to my mom. Then again, he’s still my dad, still has personality and thoughts and things, and taking away his car would be too mean. The stupid beings from Orion will eventually get everything as they steal his brain so why not leave him with the ability to drive for a little while longer?

Friday, June 25, 2004

4 home depot, aphasia, aluminum, euthanasia, good friends

06-25-04 Maytime: 10 Cauac 2 Tzec

Yesterday I had to run some errands. I spent about an hour with my mother-in-law, telling her about my father and talking about the loss of her husband when they were both 28. I have that firmly in perspective, which I’ve said before, but my mother doesn’t. I had to make some copies at Staples and pick up some stuff at Home Depot and I also did a lot of research on Wednesday night on Alzheimer’s and wanted to drop off a letter to my mom about what I think we should do. My dad was home so I decided to take him with me to Staples, Home Depot & lunch. He is a lot worse than I thought. Or maybe I was deluding myself.

I happen to be fond of the chicken fajita roll-up at Applebee’s (now I sound like a commercial, I’m sorry) and since it’s across from HD and down the hill from Staples it seemed a logical place to eat. But my father said he’d been there several times lately and didn’t want to go. My parents rarely go out to eat so I knew that wasn’t true–sometimes on a Sunday they go for lunch, but not during the week, and I don’t think they’ve ever been to Applebee’s without me and Will. So we went to Pappas, which is a little hole-in-the-wall pizza place in Meriden. Apparently my dad goes there almost every day and gets breakfast for lunch. Everyone knows him. He could not articulate his order but the waitress knew what he wanted. One of his friends, Ed, paid for our lunch. He said he owed my dad a favor. When we were finished eating, I went to make sure Ed had paid and to leave the waitress a tip. My dad couldn’t believe that Ed had bought us lunch and had no memory that an hour before he’d promised to do so. He couldn’t understand why I’d given the waitress money if Ed had paid, even though I explained it was a tip.

I wanted to put down a weed barrier and some wood chips in my yard around some cactus I just planted. My parents have a landscaped hill which includes chips and plastic. Before we left, I asked my dad about it and he didn’t know how it was installed. When we got to HD, I did my usual wandering around aimlessly (WHY can’t they have a store directory?!), looking for the things on my list. I found the weed barrier (which I didn’t even know was called that, I just wrote down “plastic”) but not the chips. My dad, who was pushing the carriage (yeah, that’s nice, huh, I make my old senile dad push the carriage–but he wanted to!), asked what I was looking for. I said, “wood chips, you know, like you have on the hill, we were looking at them before we left” and he couldn’t remember. :(

I am kind of mad at my mother. I only see my father for an hour, maybe two at the most. I had no idea that was the limit of his memory. I picked him up around 12:15 yesterday and stayed with him until 4:30 and his memory is shot. She let this go on too long. I thought it was just his speech (“Expressive Aphasia” is the technical name for it). But it’s his memory too. I had hopes that he just had progressive aphasia without any other symptoms. But that hope is ended.His hearing is also terrible. If he’s not looking at you, he doesn’t hear. That doesn’t help with his language difficulties-if he can’t hear words, he won’t remember them.

My strategy yesterday was just to talk to him. Talk AT him. Even if he didn’t respond, or responded incorrectly. I believe he responds incorrectly because he can’t hear and he’s guessing what was said. After my parents go on vacation next month my mom’s going to take him to Gaylord for a hearing test. (Gaylord is a famous rehab/nursing facility–the central park jogger was taken there, for instance. It’s right across the river from my house.)

Basically, it was good and fun to spend time with my father and I would have enjoyed it even if I didn’t know such times are numbered. I really believe, KNOW, his communication WILL improve when he can hear. I wish my mom would bring him NOW so he can hear over vacation. But I’m still only the kid, the child, and I can’t make her do anything.

One example of a conversation we had. . . .My mom always has 4th of July off and it’s become a tradition for her to come over and work in my yard. I have this wild rose bush in front of the bird room which gets out of control–it’s got to be seven feet high this year. And I used to have this weed-from-hell (it’s a climber with smelly orange roots) which last year we eradicated–it had grown up into the dogwood and was as tall as the 2 story house. So we prune the roses and destroy the weed-from-hell and cut branches off the trees and kill poison ivy and whatever. This year she’s bringing my father, since he’s retired now. I thought maybe he’d rather wash and wax my car than play with bushes. (That sounds mean again, like having him push the carriage. But he loves cars. He’s always saying “Do you want me to wash your car? I’ll wash your windows.” He’s always been like that. I am incapable of washing my car by hand because I was never allowed to–-he always did it for me.) So I asked him, several times, if he’d rather play with the cars than cut bushes. And he couldn’t formulate a response. He finally said he’d have to ask my mother, which is absurd. She couldn’t care less if he’d rather wash the car than trim the bushes.

So yeah, this is difficult for me. I decided I’m going to be a good child and while they’re on vacation I’ll put Thompson’s water seal on their new deck. Of course, that’s only because I haven’t put it on my “new” porch yet (the porch is 4 years old)!

The medicine the doctor gave my father came with a pamphlet. It says the pills should stop or mostly halt the progression for about 2 years, but the inside has testimonials from people who’ve been on it 5, 7 & 9 years and still function. I guess they’re in the minority.

I just talked to my friend from college online. She said her great-aunt had it and she’s read up on the disease. I thought it was caused mostly by eating food cooked in aluminum pans and that I’d be safe but she said there’s a genetic component. If that’s true, I look at dad and my aunt and know I’m probably screwed. That aunt is my father’s mother’s sister. (I never knew her--my father's mother-- & don’t think of her as my grandmother-my dad was mostly raised by that aunt.) My cousin (that aunt’s grandson) and I joke about how we’re going to be old and senile together. But that’s not true. I have no children. I would be a total burden on society. I would say my goodbyes and take myself into the light. A friend of mine, from my last job, said if she ever gets diagnosed with any disease that will leave her incapacitated and a burden, she will have a glass or two of wine, put on some nice music, and sit in the car in the garage with it running.

And that should be legal, and it should be everyone’s right, to die with dignity. I guess it’s time for this soapbox again. When Alf got sick and old, my parents put him to sleep. Same with Patches. But if it was my grandmother, or my father, who was incontinent and had dying kidneys and was in pain, the doctors would force that person to stay alive, past any point of wanting to be. WRONG.

I have no illusions about my childless state (after all, I chose to be this way). I can’t expect Beth’s kid to take care of me. Someday I’ll be old and sick and no one will love me anymore and I’ll not be able to contribute to society. Why should I be alive? If I’ve fulfilled my contracts here on earth, let me take my leave.

Chances are that my husband will die first. Genetics tell me if I don’t get cancer I’ll live to 90 or more (my great grandmother was 3 months shy of 100 when she died, her daughter–my grandma–is 86 and still healthy, my great-grandfather-grandma’s husband’s father–lived to be over 90.) Mom’s side has both cancer and living forever in the genes. Dad’s side, well, I have Alzheimer’s to look forward to. Let’s see, discounting the fact that I could die a thousand other ways not related to genetics (like having my leg bitten off by a shark while snorkeling in Grand Cayman, a persistent dream I’ve been having), that’s 33% living to 90, 33% cancer 33% Alzheimer’s. Hmm. What a grim future I have.

I have to say that my friends are being supportive. Ed is a lawyer with MS & a writer who I met through Writer’s Village University (and that IS a plug, I love that place!). I posted a message about my dad in the classroom (which is a bulletin board) and he sent me his phone number and told me to call him collect anytime day or night. I can’t say he’s a total stranger, we’ve been taking a class together for 2 months and even talked about a collaboration since our writing styles are similar. But that kind of outpouring of support is overwhelming. My at-home (in person) friends have also been good, one of them also has the “call me day or not” clause in our friendship now.

Anyway, I figure that any friend who’d drop me because my dad’s sick is someone I don’t need in my life. (1700)

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

3 unfairness, lawyer stuff, Jehovah's Witnesses

06-23-04 Mayatime: 8 Caban 0 Tzec

My mom’s freaking out. I can’t take this. I can’t have her losing her mind on top of my dad’s problems. She asked me if I was “okay” with what’s happening. I replied “I have to be” and she started yelling at me that it’s not fair. The same argument she used about her father dying of cancer at age 70. Yes, I’m unhappy that I lost my beloved grandpa when I was only 19. But my husband lost his father when he was 14 months old. That’s even more unfair. And when I want to scream and cry because my dad’s only 63, I remember that Bill was only 28. And a car crash is the most illogical death of all, a stupid fucking accident which rips a hole in your life you can never fill. THAT is unfair.

But it’s not fair for me to say that to my mom right now. I could yell at her and say that she got her dad until he was 70. My dad might LIVE to be 70, but at some point he will cease to be my dad.

So now we have to do lawyer things. Power of attorney. Crap I don’t want to deal with. I hate paperwork. Mom says that Dad’s depressed and wants to jump off a bridge. I can’t say I blame him. I probably would jump off a bridge. I love my mind, I love my intelligence. I can’t imagine having it taken--STOLEN (fucking beings from Orion). But at what point would the loss of mind be unacceptable? How long could I hold on? I can’t say. Do I want my father to die? Of course not. But I don’t want to see him as a mindless vegetable either. That’s a waste of resources.

My pagan feelings tell me at some point during the Alzheimer’s process, the spirit leaves the body. Why that should be so, why the contract should specify that the body remain behind in a state of pseudo-life, I don’t know. And yes, I intend to ask.

Some childhood memories: whenever my dad went to work, when I was very small, he’d always say “I’m going to make some dimes for you.” And we used to have a pole light with three bulbs, and he used to make shadow puppets and tell me stories about them; I mostly remember Jerry Giraffe.

I was just visited by my tame Jehovah’s Witnesses, Ron and Paula. They are very nice people. They know I am pagan. Funny you’d think that pagans and JW’s could never get along. But some of what they say isn’t that different from my beliefs. No, I’m not converting! It just shows how universal the concept of God is. And I wouldn’t give up my holidays. (450)

2 star beings from Orion, history, why

06-22-04 Mayatime: 7 Cib 19 Zotz (Portal)

So it begins.

Yesterday, it was official. The Beings from Orion are stealing my father’s brain.

(Only I could be funny at a time like this.)

All the times my mother & I, only half-joking, said, “you have to use your brain or it will atrophy,” we never knew how right we were. That is the official symptom, lack of words notwithstanding: brain atrophy.

Well, if a muscle atrophies, you work out and eat protein and build it back up. I guess that once a brain atrophies, you’re pretty much shit out of luck.

I think of all the stuff my dad used to know. Every car he sold, who he sold it to. He could recognize those cars on the road, recognize the owners if he saw them at the bank or Stop & Shop. I’ve never had that memory for faces. And then once he retired, he just went stupid. Maybe we waited too long to bring him to the doctors. But I honestly didn’t think someone’s brain COULD atrophy. Well, we learn something new every day, right? And it isn’t always pleasant.

Or maybe it wasn’t his fault. Maybe, no matter what he did, his brain was going to shrivel up. Damn those Orions. (What the hell do you call people from Orion? Orionians?). I have to laugh, or else I’d cry. I’ll probably do both a lot.

Thought that I could write this, and maybe someday publish it and someone else could learn. Maybe I’ll start a BLOG. I wonder if I can BLOG on my own web page? I’ll have to look into that. I guess I could just make a new page and add to it daily.

Ironic that next week the movie The Notebook comes out. I better bring a whole box of Kleenex. That’s going to be tough. Beth’s nice enough to say she will wait to see it. But it’s her favorite book, one of the few she’s ever read. It’s selfish of me to keep her from seeing it. And I’m too selfish to tell her to go without me.

The gods (or the beings from Orion) can take our loved ones from us in many ways. If they take a person quickly-heart attack, car accident–we are angry at not having the chance to say goodbye. When they take a person slowly–cancer, Alzheimer’s–we are angry that we have to watch the person suffer. I think this insidious stealing of my father’s brain has to be the worse of all. How do I say goodbye? How will I know when he’s gone? See, and now I cry.

When my grandpa had cancer my senior year of high school, it was awful to watch him be so sick and in pain. But through it all he stayed my grandpa. I could talk to him. And there was a limit on his pain–it would only last so many weeks, and it would be over. And that was how it went. He hung on long enough to see me graduate from high school (although he couldn’t attend) but regretted bitterly he’d never see me graduate from college. (I felt his presence, so maybe he did after all.)

My dad isn’t in any pain. I’m not sure he even understands. Is that a blessing? Here’s what happened. My father retired two years ago. He was unhappy selling cars. I honestly don’t think he’d been happy since he got fired from Valenti’s. That was a nasty thing they did. He had worked there 20 years. They had a party for him, with cake and everything. We still had leftover cake in the fridge when they let him go. He put all his salesman of the month and year plaques–and he had a lot of them–in boxes in the basement. Eventually he threw them away. I wanted him to save them.

After he left Valenti’s (This was when I was in college) he moved around half a dozen different dealerships: Harte Chevrolet, Alderman Cadillac, Barbarino Nissan-Kia, Meriden Hyundai...well maybe not half a dozen. Or maybe I forgot a couple. He liked selling Chevys, that was his thing. We were all surprised when he started selling Hyundais and really liked them-–liked them enough to BUY one, to buy a non-Chevy, non-American car. Now, of course, my husband & I have one too; they are much better cars then they used to be. Anyway, he retired about 2 years ago. He liked Hyundais, but they had a salesman rating system and he got burned a few times–customers had to take a survey and if the salesman got less than perfect marks, his future commissions on ALL sales would be effected. That kind of sucked-they should have dropped the lowest one. Someone gave him all the worse marks possible. That hurt his feelings.

My dad was never a high pressure car salesman. He was easy going. If anything, his fault was always over-explaining (yes, I inherited that). Very careful man, my dad. He’d highlight all the places on the contracts for people to sign, for instance. He has this extremely neat block-style all-caps printing and he would fill out all the forms by hand. Of course now, when a car is sold they push a button and a computer spits out a completed contract. Maybe that’s when he started to forget. When he didn’t have to do everything for himself anymore. Maybe it was the repetition of filling out forms over and over with the same information that imprinted everything into his head. I guess I’ll never know.

So after he retired, he really starting getting, well, stupid. That sounds harsh and mean, and it probably is. He’ll get into a groove and that’s all he wants to talk about. Like his raspberry bushes–he’ll go on and on about them. He probably still would–we just don’t bring them up anymore.

My mother and I thought it was because he doesn’t do anything. We are both avid readers, reading at least five books a week. My dad only reads the paper, and the paper he reads is USA Today, widely reviled as being written to an extremely low reading level (sixth grade? fourth grade?). He used to collect coins, and read coin magazines, but I don’t think he does that anymore. But that’s it, that’s the sum of his interests. And the cat, of course. We lost the Alf-dog (hotdog) and the Patches (cat) and that was hard on him. Patches was a Father’s Day present from me–hmm, 17 years ago? (And what a Father’s Day present he got this year-a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.)-- after Streaker (blue point Siamese) died from feline AIDS. (Right after Grandpa died–Grandpa loved Streaker and it’s always comforted me to think that they’re in Heaven together.) We got Patches when Alf was a puppy, at any rate. And now they’ve got Jasper the Bastard (seal point Siamese), who was an anniversary present from me in 2002 after Alf died. I thought maybe Patches wouldn’t be so sad if she had a new friend, but she didn’t even live a year after Alf went to dog heaven. And despite the amount of money I spent on him, Jasper hates me (except when he’s alone in the house, then I’m his bestest friend). But he loves my parents, and he’s their cat, not mine.

My dad got a non-thinking job as a crossing guard after he retired. I used to drive by and say hello and sometimes brought him a coffee–his “corner” was on my way to the bank. He didn’t like the job much. He did that for a little over a year, then Meriden Hyundai hired him back as a part time go-fer, which is what he wanted to do when he retired. You know, go to Motor Vehicle, bring cars to get washed, whatever. But he got fired a few weeks ago, maybe a month ago. (Time is fluid for me, I’ve been unemployed for over a year and a half.) I wonder if they’ll feel bad when they find out he has Alzheimer’s? (1350)

1 jane's addiction

06-21-04 (written) Mayatime: 6 Men 18 Zotz

"Had A Dad" (Jane’s Addiction)

Had a dad
Big and strong
Turned around
Found my daddy gone
He was the one
Made me what I am today
It's up to me now
My daddy has gone away...

0 Welcome.

06-23-04 Mayatime: 8 Caban 0 Tzec

Hello. Welcome to my “Had a Dad” blog. My 63 year-old-father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s the day after Father’s Day. I thought I would share my (our) story as it happens.

All material COPYRIGHT by me, GEVERA BERT PIEDMONT except lyrics to "Had a Dad" by Jane's Addiction. You may contact me by emailing geverabert(at)yahoo(dot)com.

All comments which come from the light appreciated on all posts. This is very hard for me to write and I don't want to have to endure any flaming. If there's a misspelling or error, point it out without being mean, okay?

Monday, June 21, 2004

(picture) Me & Dad

me and dad, 1987
I know it's a really old picture, but I like it. It was a happy day. Posted by Hello