Christmas Music And A Fire

This is a cold, rainy day with the prospect of some snow. We made our usual visit to Panera and Kate seemed to be having a good day. While we were at lunch, I checked something on my phone. Kate asked what I was doing. I told her. Then she said, “Why don’t I have one.” I hesitated a moment trying to think of just the right thing to say. I said, “You used to have one. We may have an old one at the house.” She gave me a disgusted look and said something about having to depend on me to drive her where she wanted to go. I realized she was talking about a car and not a phone. Then she said something that indicated she didn’t want to talk about it any further. She looked very depressed.

She was very quiet for the balance of the meal. I began to think of the afternoon and her not being able to work outside. That led me to check the Live in HD at The Met performance. We have frequently attended those in the past but have not gone this season. I saw that Hansel and Gretel was scheduled. I asked if she wanted to try it. She said she did. We continued with our meal. At one point she asked, “What am I going to do this afternoon?” I reminded her about the opera, and she accepted that.

The theater that usually has the operas was diagonally across the street from the restaurant. We walked over after lunch to discover that they were not showing the one today. I hope that doesn’t mean they have discontinued them. That left us with another option, to go home and sit by the fire. Both of us thought that sounded like a good idea.

On the way home I played a recording of Fiddler on the Roof. When Kate heard “If I Were a Rich Man,” she chuckled. That completely changed her mood. She continued to chuckle throughout the song. Once we were home, I got the fire going and turned on some Christmas music. She had her iPad in her lap, but she was so taken by the music and the fire that she put it down. At one point, I looked over at her and saw that she had her eyes closed and a smile on her face. She was happy. I must admit that brought a tear to my eyes. I love seeing her enjoy herself.

After a while, she got up and left the room. She’s been gone about 45 minutes. I walked back to the bedroom. She was in bed with the cover over her.

A Bad Start, But a Great Finish

Yesterday was our first cold day of the season. That follows a lengthy period of time when our temperatures have been well above normal. Apart from the cooler temperature, it rained on and off the entire day and into the night. I don’t think the weather is likely to have affected Kate’s mood, but she didn’t begin the day as cheerfully as she has been doing lately. She was up earlier. That meant an earlier visit to Panera. After an hour she had a very dejected look on her face that made me surmise (correctly) that she was ready to go home.

On most days, she would have wanted to go directly to the yard to pull leaves. In this case, the weather prevented that. I told her I would build a fire in the fireplace and that we could pull up our chairs and enjoy the first fire of the season. She seemed to like that. We have a lot of wood that is left over from the past two years when it was much warmer than usual. The fire was going in a flash, and both of us commented on how good it felt to relax in front of the fire. After almost an hour, Kate appeared to have had enough. She got up from her chair leaving her iPad behind. She started re-arranging some of the knick knacks on the entertainment center in the living room. It was obvious she was ready for something else. I suggested we go to lunch. She accepted.

I began to think about the rest of the day. She had a facial scheduled for 4:00, and we were going to attend Jazz Night at Casa Bella at 6:00. That led me to think about her getting a manicure and pedicure. It had been a while since I had arranged that for her. I mentioned that to her on the way to lunch. She was not enthusiastic but accepted the suggestion.

We had a nice lunch at a place near our home. When we got back to the house, I called the nail shop and discovered they could take her right away; so off we went. It’s located a few doors down from Panera. While Kate was getting her nails done, I went to Panera with my laptop. She was finished about 3:15. That left us only 45 minutes before her facial. I decided that we should go back to Panera until time for her facial appointment. By this time, her mood had begun to change. She wasn’t overly cheerful, but she was not down the way she had been in the morning.

The spa where she gets her facial is a few doors from Whole Foods. I usually go there with my laptop while Kate is getting a facial or massage. About a year and a half ago, I signed her up to have a facial and a massage once a month, each about two weeks from the other. She has seemed to enjoy that. Yesterday was no exception. She was relaxed when I picked her up.

When we got home, we had less than an hour before leaving for Casa Bella. I listened to the news while she worked on her iPad. I had downloaded photos from our recent trip to Texas to her iPad. Her puzzle program allows her to create new puzzles with any of the photos. Again, she was not overly enthusiastic, but she did get a kick out of seeing the pictures. She hasn’t figured out how to select the photos and create a puzzle, but I can do that for her. After she completes each photo puzzle I have created, she selects one of the stock puzzles that come with the program. Each time she runs into a road block, I create a new photo puzzle for her. I am going to continue adding new photos to her iPad so that she will have a large selection from which I can choose.

We got to Casa Bella a few minutes after 6:00 and sat at our usual table with the parents of the owners of the restaurant. Kate and I like both of them, and last night no one else joined us at the table. That meant it was much easier to enjoy the conversation. I am sure this made the experience a better one for Kate. As I have noted in previous posts, we attend Opera Night on the first Thursday of each month as well as Broadway Night on the third Thursday of the month. Jazz Night is a new musical program that began a few weeks ago. Last night was only the second time we have attended.

The program was superb. We had heard that a clarinetist we know from the local symphony was going to be playing but nothing else. It turned out that he was part of a trio of extremely talented musicians that included a an outstanding female vocalist and a guitarist. The music consisted of many familiar ballads. We and the rest of the audience were thrilled with the performance. To top things off, we ran into several other people we know who had not attended before. That made the evening very special in a variety of ways. A day that had started out rocky ended on a high note. The events of the morning were long forgotten. Of course, that was especially true for Kate.

The Value of Social Engagement and Activity

I am happy to report that Kate’s mood began to change before we left for home after our haircuts. Dawn is a big talker and a cheerful person. I believe the interaction (listening? <g>) with her as well as that among the three of us provided Kate with a needed lift.

The big change came with our evening at Casa Bella for Opera Night. The conversation was especially lively last night. I should point out that we gather around 6:00, but the program doesn’t begin until 7:00. Kate does not talk much herself, but it appears that she benefits from the stimulation of being with others. As I have mentioned in the past, we sit at the same table as the senior couple of the family that owns the restaurant. The wife, who is 92 and the daughter of the woman who started the restaurant, and her husband, who is a year older, are both delightful people.

Last night’s singers were especially talented, and the program was also very appealing. I sat across the table from Kate. That gave me the opportunity to see the expression on her face the entire time. She was just beaming, and when she applauded, she did so with gusto.

The evening reinforced my own belief in the importance of social contact and activity. I have worked hard to provide a good bit of that through eating out and our attendance at so many live performances. That, of course, represents only a portion of a day. Up until now, working in the yard and the jigsaw puzzles on her iPad have filled in the rest of the time. With the cooler weather, the leaves are not growing as rapidly. That means there is less to do outside. She is also encountering more difficulty with her iPad. This may be a time I need to look to other avenues for social connection. One of those could be to visit some of my former Sunday school class members, something I would like to do but haven’t done as much because of the time I spend with Kate. I think I could combine both of these needs.

Sad Moment

We’ve had a great time with Kevin over the past few days. We dropped him off at the airport a couple of hours ago. There were several highlights while he was here. One of those was the Knoxville Opera concert on Saturday night. Another was a trip to the zoo yesterday afternoon. We had gone to the zoo in March when Kevin was here with Taylor. Kate had loved it, and I had been looking for a good time to return. It was too hot during most of the summer. The weather cooled off when Kevin came, and I thought it would be worth a try again. It really worked. She was as fascinated with the animals as any child would have been. I will certainly think about another visit to the zoo this fall
After returning from the airport, Kate remained outside. She got a little warm in less than an hour and came inside. It wasn’t long before she came to the kitchen with her iPad and a look of boredom on her face. I said, “You’d like to go someplace.” She nodded. I got my iPad and two cups for drink. We headed for Panera.

As we entered the parking lot, I noticed that she was wearing one brown shoe and one black shoe. I didn’t say anything. Once we were seated, she looked down at her shoes and noticed they didn’t match. She said, “I have one brown and one black shoe.” I told her that would be all right. She looked bothered but didn’t say anything. I watched her for another moment, and she started to cry. I said, “I don’t want you to be bothered. It’s all right.” She pulled herself together, but it was clear to me that it was one of those moments when she realizes that she is changing. It is so sad to watch this. I feel much better when she doesn’t recognize the symptoms.

Ups and Downs

After that rough day on Monday, Tuesday turned out to be a good day. All day she seemed to be in a better mood.

Yesterday  was another matter. Once again, it involved (at least partially) her problems with the iPad. She continues to hit something that take her to a different screen (window) from the puzzle on which she was working. In almost every instance I have been able to see a button that will get her back to the puzzle. I hand it back to her, and she goes back to the puzzle. Eventually, sometimes in minutes, she encounters the same problem. It does no good to explain how to get back to her puzzle because she can’t remember what I say. In addition, I can’t explain how she got out of the puzzle because I am not working the puzzles and don’t know the layout. Even if I did, she wouldn’t remember it.

We went to Panera three times again yesterday. Kate got up early and was ready to leave before 8:00. We got there about 7:45. By 10:00, she wanted to leave. We came back home where she pulled leaves for a while. Then she came in. She asked me what she could do. I asked if she wanted to go back to Panera. She said she did. We remained there until 11:30 when we went to lunch.

When we came home she pulled leaves for a short while. Then she came inside and worked on her iPad. She grew bored again and wanted to get out of the house. We went back to Panera where we remained until shortly after 4:30. We were home until 5:30 when we left for Casa Bella for Broadway night. At home she worked a while on leaves until I called her into the house to get ready to leave. She forgot and remained outside. I had to go back two other times. When I reminded her we were going out, she said she didn’t know what she would wear. I told her I picked out her clothes. She came in and started to take a shower. I told her we didn’t have time for that. She then asked again about her clothes. I took her to her room where I had put the clothes on the bed along with her shoes and socks. I left her to get dressed. Soon I heard the shower. I went in, and she was about to get in the shower. I reminded her we needed to leave. I took her back into her room. She had not remembered that I had put out clothes. I remained with her while she dressed. At one point, she apologized for making me wait. I told her I didn’t want her to worry about that, and that I was fine. I told her we were going out to have a good time together.

We got there on time and had a good evening. The Adairs, with whom we usually sit, were not there; so we sat with another couple that we had met a couple of times before. We had a good time although Kate did not appear to be as enthusiastic as she has been after some of these evenings. It makes me wonder if the difference was a change in Kate or, possibly, that we were sitting with people she didn’t know as well.

Back to Lowe’’s, and I’’m happy.

I never thought I would say that I was happy to hear Kate say she wanted to go to Lowe’s again. Last year, we spent a good bit of money on plants. I accepted this without resistance because I knew that working in the yard (and having plants to plant) is a major activity for her. It is truly her therapy. Today’s visit was the first since January. While it has been nice not to make several trips a week, it left a void in Kate’s activities. For that reason I was thrilled when she mentioned an interest. When we got home, she changed clothes and has been working outside for almost 2 hours. I finally had to call her in to get her shower and dress for dinner. We will probably go to her favorite Mexican restaurant.

On the way to Lowe’s we did have another mini-crisis. We had just been to a movie where she had gotten a Mr. Pibb. She still had most of it left when we left and brought it with her to the car. She put it in the cup holder between the driver and passenger’s seats. In a few minutes she picked up the cup to take a drink. When she did, it slipped from her hand and spilled her drink on both seats but mostly in the two cup holders and, I am sure, the carpet at least on the passenger side. The upset her tremendously. Once again she took this as a sign of her failing. She has commented before on not being able to do anything right. There is a good bit of truth in this conclusion, but I hate for her to feel so badly about it.

Perhaps I should explain a little of the back ground to her being so upset. She knows that I am very particular with my car. Years ago in previous cars when they were new (from just purchased to 3 years old), I didn’t permit food or drink in the car. I have loosened up on that over the years, but I still try to keep the car in great shape (as I do with most things I own). So it is not just knowing that she is getting a bit clumsy that causes the panic; it is knowing that keeping the car clean is a high priority for me. She is correct that it troubles me, but I have learned to accept this as I have learned to accept so many other things that are not part of my own personality preferences.

A similar incident occurred last week. This time it had nothing to do with my own concern about taking care of things although I must admit it was something that bothered me a little. I was helping her with something in the bedroom when she started to put a glass of Diet Coke on her bed table. She put it on the edge of the table and the mostly full glass spilled on the carpet and the iPad and power cable for it. Fortunately, not much hit the iPad, and I wiped it off quickly. I did the same with the power cord which got much more. This and today’s spilling of her drink in the car are good example of the kind of childlike things that occur much more frequently than in the past. They are also a good example of the kinds of things about which I am making adjustments, and I think I am doing so successfully. I admit that it starts with my taking a rational approach to whatever happens. Then I am better able to minimize the emotional reaction that I have inside. I find, however, that Kate knows me so well that she knows the things that bother me even if I don’t express it..

The Rest of the Day

I started the morning early thinking about Kate and the future. I am now ending the day feeling better than I did at that time. However, not everything has been encouraging during the day. The good news is that when she got up this morning, she walked into the kitchen smiling. It was the kind of look I have grown accustomed to over the past 52+ years.

After my morning walk, I worked at the computer in the kitchen for a good while. Some of that was writing the earlier post today. Kate had looked at the memo pad I keep on the island and saw that this was the day for our houseskeeper to come and also the day we were going to visit her friend, Ellen in Nashville. I reminded her of these things. About 9:30, I thought I should check on her since I had wanted to leave shortly after 10:00. When I went back to her office, I discovered that she was still in her nightgown. She was sorting through and hanging up clothes that were on her bed. I think they must have been from the cruise. I told her we were going to leave in 35 minutes and that I needed to mail a couple of letters and would be back after that. I bumped into a friend at Starbucks and chatted a few minutes with him; so I didn’t get back to the house until almost 9:50. She was still in her nightgown. She asked how much time we had. I told her 10 minutes thinking that 15-20 would be all right. About 15 minutes later, she came out dressed for the day. I was surprised she was ready. She seemed a bit panicky. She said something about my being angry with her for being late. I assured her (unsuccessfully) that I was not angry. It was no use. She started crying. She told me she was trying so hard. She repeated that she knew I was angry and was just trying to be nice. What she didn’t know is that I had called our friends whom we were to meet at at 11:30 and told them we were running late but would be there. In other words, I wasn’t angry at all. In fact, although I often find myself frustrated, I don’t believe I ever get angry with her. I genuinely believe I am understanding of why she behaves as she does. That makes all the difference in the world. At any rate, we left in the car with her feeling really bad about making me angry. We didn’t talk the entire way to Nashville. I put on a playlist of music I have created just for moments like these. I have used it quite a number of times. It played all the way.

After parking the car, we walked to the restaurant. Kate left her coat in the car, and it was windy and 41 degrees. I said, “Don’t you want your coat?” She looked at me angrily and said, “”No.” We hadn’t walked too far when she said she needed her coat. I gave her mine. Although I had a sweater, it was pretty chilly. When we got in the car after lunch, I asked her when she was going to give me back my coat. Once again, she looked at me angrily. I didn’t pursue the subject, and she wore the coat until we got home. By that time I feel sure she didn’t even remember that she was wearing my coat. She was in a good humor, however. At 7:50 p.m., she told me she was going to bed. I told her I loved her, and she said she loved me. She was relaxed and very comfortable in bed. All is well.

Ups and Downs

Kate was down all through lunch. When we came home she immediately lay down in bed. I spent some time on email.

Prior to lunch I had looked for a movie and saw that The Flick was showing Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at 3:00. Kate said she would like to go. It seemed like it would be a good one for her. She loved it. When we were in the car on the way home, she said the movie had really lifted her spirits. It is a rather hokey 1950s movie. I enjoyed it as well from an historical standpoint. I was just pleased that it brought her out of her depression.

We had a couple of memory issues. We saw in the credits that Howard Keel and Jane Powell had starred in the movie. We commented that they were the only people we knew. In fact, Kate had said that the female lead looked like Jane Powell. As we were driving home, she was reading a brochure with information about the movie. She read that Jane Powell was in the movie. When I mentioned its being in the credits, she asked me what part she played. She had completely forgotten in that short time. Another incident occurred that has been common for most or all of the past 3-4 years. We past a pizzeria that I had not known before. When I pointed it out, she said, “Oh, I remember our passing that on the way to the movie.” We had not come that way going to the movie. She commonly says I have told her things that I haven’t told her.

Crisis Over

Kate’s PEO meeting went well. Her club enjoys coming here because they have more space for their meeting than at most of the other homes where they meet. This meant that Kate received much appreciation for hosting the meeting. She was pleased and happy when I returned to the house. This meant that I felt much better myself. It is amazing how my feelings rise and fall with hers. It reminds me of the ups and downs I would have after visiting Dad each day..

Yesterday she approached something else that troubled her although nothing like the meltdown the night before PEO. She was picking out clothes to wear to a benefit for a summer camp experience for cancer patients at one of our local hospitals. She couldn’t find anything to wear. She has gained weight that is making it especially difficult or impossible to get into her slacks. Earlier in the week I had brought home 3 new pair of slacks that we had purchased 2 weeks earlier. She had no idea where they were. Her office where she keeps her clothes has clothes thrown on the floor and bed and chairs, not in nice tidy ways but just thrown there. It is not surprising she can’t find anything. I feel discouraged because I we just bought 4-5 new tops and 5 pair of slacks, and we can’t even find them in the mess. Actually, we still have to pick up 2 remaining pair of slacks. I’ll make sure I know where they are.

One of my problems is that I have been so slow to take over things like her clothes closet. I think that is largely because it doesn’t come naturally to me as well as the fact that she doesn’t want me to do everything. Yesterday I did tell her I would help her organize her clothes so that she would know where to find them.

That doesn’t address the fundamental problem concerning her weight. She thinks she is cutting down, but she continues to eat more than she needs to sustain her weight. I asked her last night if I could help her. She said she wanted to do it herself and that she didn’t want me to stop her from eating things she chooses. This is the position I have taken up to now. Perhaps this will just work its way out. I fear, however, that this won’t happen until she has gained even more weight.

Continuing Ups and Downs

The past two days with Dad have been super ones. On Monday he was up when I got there. Yesterday he was still asleep but awoke easily. This has been a pattern for 3 weeks or so. Prior to that he had always complained that “I’m still asleep.” I am beginning to wonder if the change in his medicine might have made a difference. That’s the only reason I know of.

Both of the past two days he has been alert with no delusions. In fact, he entered into a conversation with the daughter-in-law of a woman who eats at the next table from Dad. I turns our her father was from Rogersville where Dad lived while a boy. They chatted about familiar things. He was amazingly clear headed. He also has continued to eat well. I think they are following up on my concerns about his diet and giving him things that don’t choke him as easily. For the most part, however, he has generally been eating well for several weeks starting about 2 weeks after coming back from the hospital.

There are several things to report about Kate. First, I hurt her unintentionally last week. It was a Monday night, and I had brought home something for us to eat. It was a beautiful afternoon; so we decided to eat outside. She wanted to eat at the table, but when I went over to the table I notice that it was messed up with potting soil that she had spilled while potting plants. Some of the soil had spilled over onto our new cushions. It had also rained earlier so there was a slight mess on the chairs. I said something to her about her having promised that she would watch out for the news cushions so they wouldn’t get messed up. I didn’t want them messed up so quickly, especially since we had done this in preparation for Dad’s birthday party.

I thought that I had made my remark as gently as I could, but it hurt her deeply, and I felt miserable. One of the things I have discovered is that she is very sensitive. I also believe a major part of this is that each event like this is another sign of her inability to do certain things. She is finding fewer and fewer things she can do well.

One example of her difficulty doing things is posting a message on Facebook. She asked me to show her how; so I brought up the screen with the space to enter her message and left the room. I’m not sure what happened, but she let me know it didn’t post. I set it up again, and she ran into another problem. Finally, on the third try with me by her side, she did it.

The really good news is something that I have mentioned before. In most respects, people would never know that she has Alzheimer’s. She is good in conversation. She only slips up on remembering who people are, but it is usually easy to get around that by being pleasant and acting like she knows them. The other day a neighbor, pulled up in the driveway when she saw Kate working in the front yard. Kate didn’t recognize her at all. She asked Kate for a copy of our neighborhood directory to give to 2 new families that have moved to our street. Kate told her to see me and that I would give them to her. When she asked me about the directories, I told her I was unaware that we had any remaining directories. I did this because Kate had been unable to locate any several weeks ago when we were working on the information for a new directory.

The directory is another of those tasks that is a problem for her. I have taken that over, and she hasn’t said a word. There are many things like that. She takes most of them very naturally. Other times she is bothered by my trying to help her with something she feels like she is able to do.

I am re-listening to a book by Barry Peterson called Jan’s Story. It is an account of his experiences with his wife who had Alzheimer’s. One of the things he mentioned is the change in conversations that he and his wife used to have. That is definitely happening to us. Kate cannot follow anything that is the least bit complex. I am quite accustomed to her saying, “Let’s not talk about it.” Often it doesn’t leave much that we can talk about except to reminisce – past experiences, places we have been, special moments shared together.

I am also noticing more memory loss. That is something that most people see as the key problem with Alzheimer’s, but I have felt that in the early years it is the inability to function well on everyday tasks that is the real problem. Before I really believed she had Alzheimer’s, I thought she was having a problem with depression. I have no doubts now that the problem was Alzheimer’s.

I continue to believe we are better off for having learned of her diagnosis. It has given us the opportunity to take advantage of our time together. I think we have both been committed to this end, and it has worked. We continue to enjoy ourselves. When we go to dinner as we did last night, it becomes a special moment for us even though it was just a Tuesday evening dinner. I am optimistic that we will have many of these times ahead even as she declines further.