Summary Notes on Trip to Texas

We are nearing the end of our trip. Here are a few observations of things that have happened.

Kate has been confused about when and where we are going the entire time. Fortunately, she has not been frustrated or depressed., but she keeps asking me where we are. I know that has been a special problem because we have been going from one place to another visiting family and friends. We flew into Dallas where we visited two childhood friends, one of mine, Carter Owens, and one of hers, Meg Wright. Then we drove to San Angelo where we are stayed two nights with Kate’s brother, Ken, and his wife, Virginia.

From there we went to Lubbock to spend Christmas with our son, Kevin, and his family. Then we drove back to Fort Worth where we visited one of Kate’s cousins and his wife. We also made a day trip to Waco to visit the Magnolia Market that has gotten so much attention on HGTV. Considering all of this travel, it is not too surprising that Kate has been confused.

When she has had the opportunity, and she did almost every day, she has rested in the morning and the afternoon. She has also gone to bed at a decent hour. Only the first night in  San Angelo did she get to bed late as did I. That is a good thing. She has needed her rest.

One afternoon we called Laura Williams, a high school friend of Kate’s. She was uneasy about what to say to Laura when she got on the line. She didn’t want me to leave her alone in the hotel room to make the call to Laura without me. I stayed.

In a number of conversations she asked me to tell a story to others instead of telling it herself. She seems to remember the gist of stories but can’t remember enough details to relate them to others.

One of those stories goes back to the days of our dating. It involves a phone call that Kate’s grandmother took one night. As I recall the story, when the person asked for Kate, her grandmother (a very proper person) said, “She’s not here. She’s at a dinner party at the funeral home.” Recently Kate has been telling it as a call her mother received and that her mother said to the caller, “She’s not here. She’s at the funeral home.” One night at dinner with a former professor of mine she said that her mother received a call for her and her mother said, “She’s not here. She’s gone out of town with Richard to pick up a body.”

One morning in San Angelo before Kate came to the breakfast table, Virginia whispered in my ear that she really felt for me in terms of what we are going through. I told her we had been fortunate so far but that the tough times lay ahead. She nodded in agreement. I know that she is observing Kate’s behavior closely since Ken also has Alzheimer’s having received his diagnosis about three years after Kate.  That is about the same difference in their ages.

During the trip even this afternoon and evening she has expressed some irritation with me. This afternoon it involved shopping at the Magnolia Market in Waco. I told her she needed to set some priorities on what she bought because we were flying home tomorrow and would not have room for a lot of things. She also got annoyed when I was about to reach the checkout counter after waiting a while in line. Kate had wandered around. I saw where she was and called to her to come to me. She was irritated. We have not had a lot of moments like this, but they occur frequently enough for me to notice and comment on this behavior. I am wondering where this will lead.

While the trip has gone well, I am glad that I made the decision to make it. I believe we are likely to visit Lubbock and San Angelo again, but I am less confident about Fort Worth.

I continue to feel confident about our trip to the Caribbean in January and optimistic about the trip to Europe in May and Chautauqua in June-July. I don’t know after that.

Successful Day

We got to Kevin’s house this morning and went to lunch at The Egg & I for a lunch/breakfast. We had a good meal and a good time. Brian drove all of us back home as he did yesterday. He is hoping to take his driving test this week. If he passes, he will have his driver’s license.

The afternoon was spent watching football. Kate worked on her laptop until around 3:00 when she asked Kevin where she could go to take a nap. We suggested Brian’s room. She rested until I went up to get her at 4:50 so that we could get to the bowling alley for our appointment. Neither Rachel nor Kated bowled. The rest of us did and had a grand time.

We finished at 6:00 and came back to the house where we had chili that Rachel had been cooking in the crock pot all day. It was a simple but good meal. We got back to the room by 7:20. Kate commented on what a nice visit we had had. I agreed. Right now she is in bed with her laptop. I am washing and drying dirty clothes in the guest laundry right around the corner from our room. I also have the Vikings/Giants football game on.

Our plan is to get to bed at a decent hour so that we can get a good night’s sleep before we depart for Ken and Virginia’s home in San Angelo. My goal is to leave around 9:30 unless that pushes Kate too much.

A Day With Family

Yesterday Kate and I remained at the hotel until shortly after 11:00 when we drove over to Kevin’s. After a rocky start with the bad dream around 5:30 a.m., she rested a while, had a little breakfast, and went back to bed as she often (usually) does. I think it was good for her to get up leisurely in this way. We still had plenty of time to be with Kevin’s family.

We went to Lonestar Cheeseburger Company for hamburgers. We enjoyed ourselves, and I don’t recall anything unusual happening while we were there. We went back to Kevin’s, and Rachel prepared to go out with Heather. Kate went went along. I knew that they were going to a shop where Kate might want to buy something; so I talked privately with Rachel and gave her $40. I thought perhaps Kate wouldn’t think to ask me for money. That would mean she could ask Rachel to pay for what she wanted. I was wrong. Kate did ask me for the money; so I got it back from Rachel without Kate’s knowing.

While they were out shopping, Kevin and I went to Starbucks. I gave him an update on Kate. We discussed the future and Kate, his job, etc. When we returned to the house, the ladies had already finished their shopping. I asked Kate if she had been shopping. She said, “No.” I said something about thinking she was going shopping. She recalled, and said, “”Yes.” I asked if she bought anything. She first said no and then said a couple of things. I learned from Rachel that Kate had spent the $40 I had given her and another $20 she borrowed from Rachel. She said that Kate hadn’t bought anything nice and asked, “”I hope that is all right.” I told her it was and that that is how I look at her purchases from Lowe’s. It is therapy for her.

Later in the afternoon while we were watching TV, Kate got up from the sofa where she had been editing photos on her laptop. She said, “”Excuse me a minute.” She was gone for about an hour. I went upstairs to check on her and told Kevin that she was probably resting. I found her in Brian’s bed resting just as I thought. A short time later she came downstairs.

As we got ready to go out for a Mexican meal, we started to gather our things to take back to the hotel. Kate couldn’t find her shoes. Thinking that she probably took them off before she got into Brian’s bed, I went to his room to look for them. They were beside the bed. I also noticed the things she had bought that afternoon and picked them up. Kate had come upstairs behind me. I gave her the shoes. As we were walking toward the stairs, she asked, “”Where are our things?” I was puzzled and asked what things. Then she said, “”Our room.” I said, “”At the hotel.” She then gave me the customary look of remembering and said, “”Oh, yes.” These types of experiences are becoming more commonplace. It also bothers me because I sense that she is troubled by each occurrence. It is not something she sloughs off. She knows it is a sign of her Alzheimer’s.

This morning as we were about to walk out the door to go to breakfast, she was trying to recognize my taking care of so many things for her and said, “”My P.” Immediately she knew that was not correct and said, “”My M.” Then I jumped in and said, “”M whatever.” She then said, “MM. You take such good care of me.” MM” is what she sometimes calls me. It stands for “My Memory.”

Christmas Day

Our Christmas with Kevin and his family went well. We got over to his house shortly after 10:00. Kate was a little slow getting going but got up from the bed when I told her it was time to go. She enjoyed the day. We were there until almost 6:00 p.m. As we were driving back to the Residence Inn, she said it had been a nice day. She seemed to have enjoyed everything.

Back at the hotel, she worked on photos on her laptop until 8:00 when she went to bed for the night. This morning around 5:30, she had a bad dream. I woke her up. She looked up at me and asked, “”Who are you?” I answered, “”Richard.” Then she said, “”Oh, good. Who am I?” I told her, and she said, “Good.” “I wanna go home.” The other morning at Sharon’s house she said something similar, “Are we going home today?” When I told her we were going to Lubbock, she remembered. She remained in bed a while as I held her. In a few minutes, I got up and prepared to go downstairs to the exercise room. Before leaving, she seemed a little unsettled. I got into bed with her and held her again for a while until she seemed calm. Then I went to the exercise room.

After finishing on the tread mill, I dropped by the breakfast buffet to pick up some yogurt for the two of us. As I was doing so, I saw Kate who had brought her computer downstairs with her. I gave her some yogurt and went upstairs to dress and get my iPad. I went back downstairs and got myself some eggs and sausage. We were down there together for about an hour when she was relaxing in her chair with her eyes closed. I asked her if she wanted to go upstairs. She said she would. So here we are. She got right into bed, and I am on the iPad making this journal entry. I am going to let her rest for the next hour or so before we go to Kevin’s house.

Several times since we arrived in Lubbock she has asked about her iPad. Each time I have told her we had left it in Fort Worth. Each time she quickly remembers. She continues to have trouble seeing things. While we were sitting in the lobby, her laptop needed charging. She glanced around the room to locate an electrical outlet. I saw one and pointed it out to her. She got up with her laptop and put it down in the chair beside the electrical outlet. The lamp beside her was clearly plugged into the outlet. She didn’t appear to see the outlet and started looking around on other nearby walls. I pointed in the direction of the outlet, but she still didn’t see it. I walked over to it and showed it to her. She felt “stupid”. And said, “”You’re the only one who would put up with me.” I told her I was not putting up with her but loving her.

Despite these things, I would say the trip is going well, but I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t wonder if she will increasingly feel more comfortable being at home. I wonder how she will deal with our upcoming cruises.

Christmas Morning

Kate was quite tired last night. After returning to Kevin’s house after dinner, we came back to our hotel around 9:00. She worked jigsaw puzzles on my iPad for a while and then went to sleep. She slept well and got up around 8:15 this morning while I was at breakfast.

When I got back to the room, she was getting dressed. I wished her a Merry Christmas. She said, “It’s Christmas?” Then she wished me a Merry Christmas. For me this was a sad moment. It is not a surprise at all that she didn’t remember it was Christmas; it was simply another reminder that life is different now and will never be the same again.

I am just thankful that she and I continue to enjoy so many things. It has been an especially good trip. As we returned to the hotel last night, she commented on how much she had enjoyed the evening even though I thought she might not have. The restaurant had misplaced our reservations; so we had to wait about 30 minutes before getting a table. It was also noisy; so it was difficult to have a conversation. In addition, the children played mostly among themselves. The fact is (apparently) that she simply enjoys being with people she loves. I am grateful for that.

Not as Good as Yesterday

This morning while we were eating breakfast at the hotel in Fort Worth, I received a call from my former sociology mentor at TCU, Arthur Cotti, telling me that Kate had left her sunglasses in his apartment when we visited him yesterday afternoon. I told him we would drop by on the way out of town. We had just bought the sunglasses at Walgreens just before lunch as we were headed to meet the Greeleys.

Kate had wanted to drive by the house where she had lived when she was a young child; so we did that. We saw the owner getting a few things out of her car and told her that had been Kate’s home from 1941 to 1949. She told us she and her husband had bought it in 1991. I had my camera out and had planned to take a picture, but she talked so long and her husband came outside. I felt we needed to move on to my mentor’s place. After I pulled away, Kate said, “You didn’t take a picture for me.” She was obviously upset. I told her that we had taken a picture on the last trip to Texas. That didn’t set well. The irony is that she had never said anything about taking a picture; so I thought it was only something I had thought about. I would definitely have done it if she had said something.

When we got to Arthur’s place, I noticed that she had her iPad in her arms and suggested that she leave it in the car. She was annoyed and gave me a dirty look and got out of the car with the iPad. Arthur was sitting in the lobby waiting for us. He gave her the sunglasses. Then we had someone take a couple of pictures of us with him. We then left for Lubbock. Early in the trip (but too late to turn around), Kate asked, “Where is my iPad?” I told her it was probably back at Arthur’s. She kept looking and suggested it might be in the trunk. I told her we hadn’t opened the trunk when we left Arthur.

At a stop, I called back and left messages for Arthur and David, the man who had taken our pictures. Later, David called to say that he had found the iPad and had given them to Arthur. We will pick them up next Wednesday when we are there.

During almost the entire trip Kate was still unhappy with me about not getting a picture of her old house. I told her I was sorry and would make sure we did so next week.. That didn’t seem to carry much weight. She hardly spoke a word until after lunch. She has been depressed over leaving her iPad as well as being angry at me. As we were entering a McDonald’s to get something to drink early, she said that I wanted to control everything she wants to do (referring to my not taking a picture of her 34th street house). She has rested about an hour and a half. I am sure she will come around when we meet Kevin and his family at later this afternoon.

Things continue to go well.

Today we came over to Fort Worth after spending 3 nights in Dallas. Kate has enjoyed every social contact we have had. That continued today when we had lunch with the Greeleys at their favorite barbeque place. That was followed by a visit with Arthur Cotti, the former chair of the sociology department at TCU and an important mentor to me. Finally, we had dinner with another cousin of Kate’s, Chester Hendricks and his wife, Polly. Kate hadn’t been interested in going out tonight. She rested in bed for about 45 minutes following the day’s activities. When we got out to the car, she asked, “Where are we going?” I told her to meet Polly and Chester for dinner. She said, “Oh, I want to see them. I didn’t know.” This is a case in which I should have known that she would not remember. Then I could have told her that we were going to meet them as I told her it was time to go in 15 minutes. I have found that even though I know her short-term memory is weak, I still often respond to her as though she is perfectly all right. I think that is because she has not reached the stage where she always forgets. She forgets most things, but she sometimes remembers.

He memory problems cause her to get stories mixed up when she is talking with friends. While we were at lunch with Scott and Jan, she said something about Roger Rosenblatt whom we have seen several times at Chautauqua. She told them that he is a ghost writer for celebrities who have a story they want to tell but lack the time or necessary skills. I heard her tell someone else the same story in the past few days. He is actually a former journalist and writer who writes only for himself. This is just a small thing that matters little. I mention it only as an example of the kind of confusion she experiences.

Successful First Day

In planning this trip I was guided by the belief that this trip might very well be the last trip to Texas where we were able to visit so many people in different places. For that reason I arranged for us to see Sharon Billings, Kate’s cousin, and three friends in Dallas (Carter Owens and his partner, Michael, Meg Wright, and Nancy and Charlie Hardwick). Tomorrow we drive over to Fort Worth where we will have lunch with Scott and Jan Greeley who are in Fort Worth visiting with her parents. We will also have dinner with Polly and Chester Hendricks. On Thursday, we drive to Lubbock where we will spend Christmas with our son and his family. Next Monday, we drive back to San Angelo where we stay 2 nights with Ken and Virginia before going once again to Fort Worth where we will have lunch with Naomi Richardson.

You never know how things like this will go, especially after Kate’s confusion when getting ready for the trip. The good news is the first day went very, very well. We had breakfast at the hotel (fresh orange juice, coffee, and eggs Benedict). I was eager to move on to her cousin Sharon’s house right after breakfast; however, Kate wanted to get her iPad and spend some time in the lobby working jigsaw puzzles. We spent about an hour on our iPads.

We arrived at Sharon’s close to noon and immediately jumped right into conversations that Kate enjoyed so much. We talked through a long lunch and got back to the house around 3:15. Sharon wanted to rest a little and Kate happily did the same. In fact, she remained in our room until close to 5:30 when we were getting ready to go to Carter’s house before dinner. Kate loved everything.

Although I have known Carter since 1948, Kate has only met him 2 or 3 times over the years. In 2012, we went out for coffee with Michael and him. Apart from that occasion, neither of us had spent any time with Michael. No one would have guessed it by how much we were enjoying ourselves. We didn’t get back to Sharon’s house until 11:00 or shortly thereafter. In fact, we were the next to the last table to leave the restaurant. There was not a break in the conversation from the time we arrived at Sharon’s until we left Carter and Michael’s last night. I would say it was a perfect day.

Today should be interesting. We are going to visit Charlie Hardwick and his wife, Nancy. Charlie also has also has Alzheimer’s. Neither of them is aware that the other also has the disease. Nancy and I are not planning to tell them. We are just going to visit as though things are just as they always were. I’ll report on that tonight or tomorrow.

Lunch With Sharon Billings

As we were walking by the front desk to check out of the hotel, Kate engaged in a conversation at the front desk. While it was not long, it was another illustration of her desire to engage in interaction with people.

We got to Sharon’s house just before noon. We had some refreshments and conversation before going to a French restaurant for lunch. At one point Kate stepped to the ladies room. While she was gone, Sharon told me that she thought Kate is doing very well. Her perception is that she didn’t see anything that would even cause her to seek a diagnosis. This is yet another reminder of how well someone with Alzheimer’s can hide the problem. It is remarkable how I could see the kind of confusion I observed over the weekend and how well Kate could “”perform” today. The key is that her greatest strength is in the area of social skills. In most social situations that is what really matters. It is other skills that are called on in other situations. These are the ones that are affected most.

Making Friends

We are in the lobby of the Marriott Las Colinas in Dallas. We came in last night from Knoxville. Within the next hour we will make our way to Sharon Billings’ house where we will stay 2 nights before moving on to Fort Worth on Wednesday.

After breakfast, Kate said she would like to come back down to the lobby and work on her iPad for a while. That is what brings us here. About 10 minutes ago, she got up from the sofa where we were seated. She walked over to a painting with blue bonnets. Then she struck up a conversation with the valet who was stationed nearby. They continue talk. She has been telling him about growing up in Fort Worth, that I am from West Palm Beach, and, I believe, her cousin, Tina, who lives in Alaska.

This is something of a pattern with her. She often strikes up conversations with people when we are out. It was one of the good things about our getting out to places like Panera Bread or other restaurants. It really doesn’t matter where, any public place will do. The only time I ever think of it as a problem is when I am ready to leave a place, and she continues talking with someone. I find myself conflicted by wanting her to continue having a positive experience and our “needing” to move on.

As always, I try not to find ourselves in a hurry and just let her take her time. That is what I am doing right now. I know she would like to spend as much time as possible with Sharon, but she is moving very slowly to get ready to leave. She still hasn’t finished packing her suitcase and shows absolutely no sign of hurrying. I will let her take as long as she needs since we really don’t have to be there at a particular time.