More Restroom Issues and Our Visit with Ellen

I am glad to report that I was able to get Kate up with sufficient time to arrive at Maggiano’s fifteen minutes before our noon reservation. I want to say in passing that Kate did not want to get up but was in a cooperative mood and got up with a little urging. After going to the bathroom and starting to get dressed, she wanted to lie down again. She seemed quite tired, and I gave her a few minutes to relax.

Before arriving at the restaurant, I decided to use the valet. Previously, we have found parking easily at that time of day, but it is getting to be more trouble for Kate to walk. In the past, I tried to give her this opportunity to walk because she needed it. At this stage, my priority has shifted. Now I am influenced more by Kate’s convenience than her need for exercise. That worked well yesterday, and I will use it next time we are there.

Our meal went well. We had an appealing server, and the manager whom we have met on previous occasions dropped by our table to speak. Ellen’s memory care facility is located about forty minutes from there. I suggested that it would be good for both of us to use the restroom before leaving. As we arrived at the door of the women’s room, a lady was coming out and told me no one else was in there. I walked in with Kate and took her to the stall. Then I went to the men’s room and returned to wait for her just outside the door. In a couple of minutes, a woman came out and asked if my wife was inside. I told her she was. She told me it sounded like she may have been having some trouble and that no one else was in there. I went in to check on her. She was still in the stall. She said she was all right and was just coming out. She wasn’t sure how to open the door that she had locked with the latch. I was able to poke my finger between the door and the side of the stall. That enabled me to show and tell her how to lift the latch. That went smoothly.

She came out and I was about to walk out when she said, “Don’t leave me.” She looked a little panicked as though I were forsaking her. I remained with her and helped her dry her hands and arms. This may seem like a little thing, but when she washes her hands or brushes her teeth, she almost always washes her arms and, sometimes, her face. In the process she can get pretty wet.

We finished up and left the restroom before anyone else came in. Then we made our way to see Ellen. She was sleeping in her wheelchair in front of a football game on TV along with several other residents. She awoke quickly and was glad to see us.

The visit went well, but it was different that those in the past. During the past year and a half her speech has declined significantly. We could understand very little of what she said. We only picked up snatches here and there. Once in a while, she would say something in a short complete sentence. Then we wouldn’t understand anything that followed.

Ellen may have recognized the problem as well. I know she wanted to move around more than in the past. Previously, we have stayed either in her room or one of the other public spaces. This time we started out in the activities room. It wasn’t too long before she wanted to go to the main open area between five or six resident rooms on one side and an equal number on the other. From there we went back to her room. Then she wanted to go around the entire interior of the facility that consists of two other “neighborhoods” identical in design to the one in which she lives. She is wheelchair bound, and this may be her way of “walking around” the way other residents in memory care walk “around and around.” We ended up at the table where she eats her meals. It was about forty-five minutes before dinner, but she wasn’t the only resident who had taken a seat early.

Just before we left, another resident in a walker stopped by and told us she was having a bad day. She mentioned several things that had happened to her that day including losing her purse. I doubt if any of these things happened, but Kate and I sympathized with her. She seemed to appreciate that and said so when we left. We had another conversation with a resident as we entered. We had seen her on a few of our previous visits.

We were there almost two hours and around a lot of other residents as well. Sometimes I am concerned about how Kate is responding to being in a memory care facility. She could easily qualify to be in memory herself. Does she ever think about this? I don’t think so. I haven’t seen the slightest indication that she sees herself like any of the residents. Does she even understand that all the residents she sees have some form of dementia? Again, I think not. I doubt that she has a grasp of what dementia is. She knows she has problems, but I believe she still sees herself as normal. When Kate was at an earlier stage, I avoided taking her with me to visit friends in memory care. Now I don’t think she processes much about the nature of the facility itself or the residents who live there.

Despite the restroom incident, the day had gone well. Nothing happened that would make me think we should stop coming to see Ellen. I say that even though Kate can’t remember who Ellen is before we get there. While we are there, she seems to sense the connection. That, and the fact, that Ellen clearly remembers us is enough for me to continue our visits though I know we are approaching the end.

A Few Thoughts on Restrooms and Travel

I am writing this morning in our hotel room in Nashville. We came up yesterday afternoon to visit with our friend, Ellen, who had a stroke four years ago while visiting her daughter who lives here. Ellen has never returned to Knoxville and is now in memory care. She and Kate were best friends at the time of the stroke.

We cut out international travel in 2015. We made what I believe is our last trip to our children’s homes (Memphis and Lubbock) for Thanksgiving and Christmas last year. But we have continued day trips to Nashville and have recently made them overnight trips. That has been much easier because it is so difficult to get away early in the morning. I consider it a nice treat as well. Sometimes we meet other friends who live in the area on Saturday afternoon. We have a nice dinner and get to bed at a decent hour that night. Then we visit Ellen right after lunch on Sunday afternoon. We usually stay with her an hour or two and get back home in time for dinner.

Each time we make a trip, I reflect on how travel is going and wonder how long we will be able to keep it up. So far, I have been optimistic about continuing. With the changes that Kate is making, I am becoming more doubtful. I’m not sure at all, but I have the impression that other couples in our situation don’t generally continue to travel as long as we have. Travel can be very disorienting and disturbing to the person with dementia. In addition, the logistics place a greater demand on caregivers. It’s enough to get ready for one person. Packing for two is a greater challenge. When one person has dementia, the issues double.

Yesterday we had lunch in Knoxville before leaving. Each of us went to the restroom at the restaurant. As always, I walked Kate to the door of the ladies’ room. I opened the door and looked around to see if anyone else was in there and to identify the stall that Kate should use. I pointed it out to her, but that wasn’t enough. I had to walk her to the stall and direct her to the toilet. Then I stood outside the door in case she might need me. When she didn’t come out in what I thought was a reasonable length of time, I opened the door. She got a look of relief when she saw me. She couldn’t explain to me what had happened. My guess is that she didn’t see the door to exit the restroom and didn’t know where I was. This would not have been the first time this has happened. Usually, however, she calls for me. She might have done that this time, but I probably opened the door earlier than I have done on other occasions. What I do know is that it was a frightening experience for her. It was a little thing and forgotten quickly, but in that moment, she was really scared. It reminds me of being in a house of mirrors when I was a child. I was frightened. It seems to me that Kate, without a memory or the rational ability to deal with the situation, would be even more frightened. It was another reminder of what a security blanket I am to her. She generally doesn’t know what to do in a situation, but she counts on my knowing for her.

The drive to Nashville was an easy one. We relaxed at the hotel about an hour before going to dinner. We had a pleasant dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Kate was up at 5:00 this morning to go to the bathroom. We were back in bed by 5:30, but I don’t think either one of us was asleep again before 6:00 or shortly thereafter. I got up at 7:00, dressed, ordered and ate breakfast in the room, and checked email. I have lunch reservations at noon but hope that I will be able to get Kate up early enough to get there by 11:30. That would allow a more leisurely lunch before our visit with Ellen.

As I think about it, I don’t believe overnight trips like this are any more stressful for Kate than being at home. Yesterday’s incident in the restroom was in Knoxville before the trip. That is an issue that will have increasing implications whether we are home or on the road. I also find that she is confused about where she is when we are in a hotel, but that, too, is something that regularly happens when we are home. If we were to discontinue our trips, it would probably relate to the extra challenges for me. I don’t believe we are there just yet, but we may be getting closer. In the meantime, I am also trying to be more sensitive to how she feels when we travel. If I sense that she experiences anything more discomforting than being at home, that will be a clear indication that it is time to stop.

Sunday in Nashville

We had a nice day in Nashville yesterday. I had made noon reservations for lunch at Maggiano’s near our hotel, but we got there at 11:15 because Kate woke up earlier than I expected. I always like it when she wakes up on her own. That means I don’t have to be concerned about waking her and the challenges that sometimes presents.

We had a good meal and a pleasant time. The last time we were there it was Father’s Day and a little noisy. It was much quieter yesterday and very relaxing.

Before leaving, Kate went to the restroom. I took the opportunity to go to the men’s room rather than waiting outside the ladies room. Moments after I went in, I heard her call me. When I opened the door I saw her looking around for me. She expressed a big sigh of relief when she saw me. I felt bad about not being there as she walked out, but she came out so quickly. She could not have used the toilet. I suspect she got confused and just turned around and came out.

As we left the restaurant, Kate saw a poster with a photo of Frank Sinatra. She stopped to look and naturally asked me who it was. We had been to this restaurant several times before, and neither of us had noticed it. I chuckled because she always asks who he is in posters on the wall at Andriana’s when we are there. She said something to the hostess who told her that Sinatra died some time ago. Kate said, “He did. I didn’t know that.”

Our visit with Ellen went well although understanding her is a big problem. She hadn’t declined since last time, but it is hard to have a good conversation when you can only understand about 10% of what she says. I relied on YouTube videos that she and we enjoyed until Emily, the music lady, arrived to entertain the residents in Ellen’s “neighborhood.”

As we gathered around the piano, one of the staff dropped something that made loud noise at the nurse’s station. Kate is getting increasingly sensitive about surprises, especially sudden noises. She responded audibly that was almost as loud as the noise that frightened her. One of the residents spoke up quickly and told Kate that she had the same problem.

Remembering how Kate had sung, danced, and cheered last month made me eager to see how she would react to the music. She did enjoy the music and sang along rather quietly but was never tempted to do any of the things she did last time. I guess she was just in a different mood. She was more like herself than the previous visit.

Later as we drove to Knoxville, I told Kate we were close and would stop for dinner before going home. She said, “I don’t have any money.” I told her I had money. She said, “I will pay you back when we get home.” When I parked the car at Andriana’s, she again told me that she didn’t have any money. I told her that was all right. It was all “our” money. She said, “I guess that’s right.” She quickly forgot, however. As we walked from the car to the restaurant, she told me she didn’t have any money. I told her I would pay. She said she would pay me back. One other time she mentioned it while eating. This was something unusual. I don’t ever recall her saying this before.  Of course, it fits if she thought I was a friend instead of her husband. It would still be the first time she has raised a question of her paying for anything when we are together. On quite a few occasions, she has been concerned about not having money when I leave her with a sitter. In those cases, I have always told her that I left money or a card with the sitter.

While we were waiting for our meal, she asked our server if she knew her name. The server said, Yes, it’s Kate.” Then Kate asked the server’s name. This was shortly after the server had introduced herself since she sensed that Kate had not recognized her. The server said something about “your husband,” and Kate said, “We’re friends.” I said, “Very good friends.” Kate said, “Yes.” All of our servers know about Kate’s Alzheimer’s, but this particular server has had the opportunity to observe her memory problems more than any other. I don’t think it’s because Kate is more comfortable with her. I believe it is just a chance occurrence.

I mentioned earlier that Kate had taken interest in a poster of Frank Sinatra when we had lunch at Maggiano’s. At dinner, she may have set a record for the number of times she said, “Who is that?” while looking at a poster of him at Andriana’s. I didn’t count, but I am sure it was well over ten times, some in rapid succession.

When we got home, she started going through two of the guest rooms. She acted as though we were moving, and she needed to decide what to take with us. She went into a guest room and picked up a couple of things. I suggested we relax a while and that she could work on that tomorrow. She agreed.

When we got to the bedroom, she asked what she should do. I told her she could start by taking the pills I had put on her bedside table. It looked like she was going to do it but started to undress for bed. It seemed like she was just randomly selecting what to do although she was asking me to tell her. She didn’t seem to follow any of my instructions after asking for them.

While I was brushing my teeth, she called to me and said, “Where is he?” I asked who she was talking about. She said, “You know.” I told her I really didn’t and that she and I were the only ones in the house. She was puzzled but didn’t pursue it further.

She went to bed almost an hour before I did. When I got in bed, she was still awake. We talked about having had a nice day and that we have many nice days. That led to a comment or two about our marriage. Then she said, “We are able to talk to each other. We’re able to be really honest with each other.” Then she suggested something I never fully understood. She talked about how our relationship could grow even further by talking with other people about it. I said, “Do you mean a counselor?” She said, “That could be, but I was just thinking about people we know.” At first, it sounded to me as though she thought we had a problem we needed to work through. The more the more she talked the more it sounded like just improving on the relationship we already have. I don’t know how long she talked, but she sounded very thoughtful as she considered the benefits of exploring ways of enhancing our relationship.

This conversation and a couple of others we have had recently has impressed me with her rational ability to think through something like this. Sometimes she says that I underestimate how smart she is. She may be right.

Another Overnight Trip

These days it is quite unusual for us to travel two weekends in a row, but that is what we have done. We are currently in a hotel in Nashville where we visited yesterday afternoon with a longtime TCU friend and former housemate of mine. It had been a while since we saw him last, but we have communicated by phone, text, and email. He met us at the hotel.

It was a good visit. Of course, Kate couldn’t remember him, but when I told her he was a friend from TCU, her eyes lit up. She participated in the conversation and enjoyed herself as she has done on several other out-of-town visits with people she had never met or not remembered. Although she needs to ask people to repeat and explain themselves, I take it as a good sign that she is interested. Yesterday’s experience reinforces my belief that she is heavily influenced by the situations in which she encounters people. She does better in small groups, only one or two others besides us, and in situations where there are minimal distractions. Large groups like those at a reception are intimidating for her. Our music nights at Casa Bella are typically an exception, but that is because we are often at a table with only one other couple. It was very quiet in the hotel yesterday afternoon. That was great for conversation.

Travel is no longer something special for Kate. After checking into our room, she was ready to go home. She does still enjoy specific experiences while we were away. For example, she loves the flowers around the hotel. As we walked to and from dinner, she stopped multiple times to admire their beauty. When we got back after dinner, she mentioned going home. When I told her we were staying overnight, she frowned.

What she doesn’t realize is that I have only chosen to stay overnight so that she can sleep late on the day we leave and the next morning before we visit Ellen. It makes the trip much more leisurely and enables us to have a nice dinner out as well. I’m trying to make a special occasion out of it, but it is working better for me than for her.

We will go to lunch after checking out and then visit Kate’s friend Ellen at her memory care facility. Last time we visited, we joined the residents in a music program that Kate enjoyed. The woman in charge said she is coming periodically on Sundays. I hope she is there today.

Our Weekend Trip to Nashville

Kate and I don’t travel much any more, but we did make an overnight trip to Nashville this past weekend. I have pretty much ruled out trips of anything more than a couple of days, so I’m glad to say that this one went well. We had a nice dinner at McCormick and Schmick’s after leaving the Davises. Kate turned in early while I watched the Texas Tech/Michigan State game.

When Kate woke up Sunday morning, she looked over at me at the desk where I was working on my laptop. I got up from my chair and walked toward her. She said, “Richard?” I said, “Yes, did you think I was someone else?” She said, “I was hoping it was you.” I said, “That must have been scary if you thought I might be someone else.” She said, “Not really scary, but . . .” She couldn’t think of the words to say what it was like, but she was definitely relieved to know it was me. This is just one more occasion when I try to imagine what it is like to wake up and not have any idea of where you are. Even though this happens to her at home, I feel sure there is a certain amount of comfort in being in “familiar” surroundings. Being in a hotel doesn’t offer that.

From there we went to brunch at Maggiano’s. When we checked in at the hostess stand, the managing partner was standing there. I don’t know what he said, but he and Kate got into a brief exchange in which each was kidding the other. I had a difficult time getting her away to follow the hostess to our table. It was one of those times that I pulled out one of my Alzheimer’s cards. Shortly after we were seated, the manager came to our table and thanked me. He said he had an aunt with dementia, and something Kate had said made him think she might as well.

Kate had brought a TCU magazine with her. He noticed that and said that he had worked in several restaurants in Texas. He and Kate connected once again. She enjoyed hearing him talk about her home state, especially since he had enjoyed his time there. Our server was very helpful with the menus that included both brunch and regular menu items. She was also very attentive. We were off to a good start. About mid-way through our meal, an assistant manager dropped by to check on us. We had a good conversation with her. When she left, she dropped a card for a free dessert. We took advantage of the offer and had an enormous piece of flowerless chocolate cake.

After eating, we were off to Ellen’s memory care facility. We had another good visit with her. We chatted for about an hour before turning to YouTube for music. This time we viewed segments from several Andre Rieu concerts. Once again, music played an important role in our visit. That is becoming more important as her ability to talk continues to decline though not too much since last time.

It was a successful trip. I will consider making Nashville an overnight trip in the future – at least as long as it works for Kate. Seeing friends in the afternoon, having a nice dinner that night, brunching at Maggiano’s, and visiting Ellen makes for a nice weekend.

Remembering Texas

Although Kate has always valued her Texas roots, it has never been as significant as it has been in recent years. Part, maybe most, of this feeling for her home state is tied to our reflections of the past as we get to our senior years. I know of lots people who find themselves reconnecting with friends from their childhood and sharing old memories of their time together. I suspect that Kate’s affection for Texas also relates to her Alzheimer’s. Like other people with dementia, she lost her short-term memory quickly. Now she retains only long-term memory, and most of that is gone as well. The fact that she is a Texan has stuck with her though she sometimes forgets her birthplace and has to ask me.

After returning from a trip to Texas several years ago, Kate’s feeling for the state got a significant boost. It wasn’t long after we were home that I discovered she thought we had discussed and decided that we were moving back. At first, I thought I was the only one she said anything to. Soon friends were asking me about our move. At the time, I didn’t want to burst her bubble, but I also didn’t want to reinforce her thinking. I supported her desire and explained that I would enjoy living in Texas as well. I also told her it would be a while before we could make the move because there were a lot of things we had to do to get ready. I was hoping that her memory of a move would drift away like so many other things.

I was wrong, but I was successful in getting her to think the move would be sometime in the future. Gradually she said less and less about a move. During the past couple of years, she has rarely said anything about it. Now it is coming back. This time she is expressing it as a desire to live in Texas, not something we have decided to do.

I have been quite interested in how she has brought it up. It almost seems like a calculated way to spark my interest. For a while, she would say something like, “I know we aren’t planning to move to Texas, but do you think that could happen?” In the past few days, she has also gently brought up the subject. Yesterday afternoon at Barnes & Noble, she asked where we were. When I told her, she said, “So we’re not in Texas?” I told her we were in Tennessee. She paused and then said, “Where do you think we will end up?”

I told her that depended on a lot of things, that we might stay right here in Knoxville. I explained that we were happy here, like our home, and were comfortable getting around the city which offered a lot of the things to do. Then I added that a lot might depend on our needs as we got older. I suggested that if our needs became significantly greater, we might move to Texas. I reminded her that our son Kevin has spent his whole career working with seniors and has access to all the resources that seniors need. She was pleased to hear that.

I must have been bolstered by her response because I mentioned a possible trip to Texas. Our granddaughter graduates from high school in June. I would really like for us to attend, but I have felt it is very unlikely. I considered our trip to Texas for Thanksgiving to have been our last visit. At the moment, I am keeping an open mind though I still think it is doubtful. One of my memories of our last visit was that she didn’t respond to being in Texas the way I expected. It didn’t seem to mean anything. She didn’t recognize anything and never knew where we were. I am torn now and will probably be the same way when I have to make a commitment to go or stay here. I definitely don’t want to deprive her of one more trip home. It’s just too early for me to make that decision.

There is one thing in the back of my mind that might tip the scale. It’s the apocryphal story of a man who pays daily visits to the nursing home to see his wife who doesn’t remember him. Someone asks, “Why do you visit everyday if she can’t remember you?” He answers, “Because I remember her.” As I consider that story, I think that even if she couldn’t full appreciate the trip, I would know that I brought her back home one last time for a special moment with family.

Our Trip Home

Yesterday was a travel day for us. Kate made it easy by waking before 10:00. That allowed us to meet Jesse and her family at 11:30 at Panera to say our goodbyes. We visited while Kate and I had lunch. It was a nice way to end the visit, one that I believe was our last in Memphis.

It was cold and beautiful when we left and throughout the drive back to Knoxville. That made the drive an easy one. In addition, the traffic was not as heavy as I expected. We ran into one trouble spot. It must have been an accident. We were nearing an intersection and noticed two things. The traffic was coming to a stop and that some of the traffic in front of us was exiting the highway. We did the same. We stopped to get something to drink and checked my Waze app. It showed the problem spot and a path around it. We took it, and it worked. I’ve only used Waze a few times before. This time it really helped.

Our only other stop was in Memphis for an early dinner. That added another hour to the trip, but it was good to have a break. Kate didn’t say much on the entire drive home, but she was very relaxed and content.

We don’t have much on our agenda today. We get our hair cut this afternoon. It’s Thursday but not a night for music at Casa Bella. We’ll just relax. That’s probably a good thing.

I have already felt more at ease since being at home. There are always things to attend to with Kate, but they seem to increase when we are traveling. I’m just thankful we were able to make the trip and that it went so well.

Our Last Day in Memphis

On all our previous trips to see Jesse and her family we have gotten up early, or at least not late, on Christmas morning. That meant “really” early when the children were younger. As they’ve grown older, we have been ready to open presents between 8:00 and 10:00. This year was clearly different. Ron and Randy knew all the presents they were going to receive, so there were no surprises in store. In addition, Kate’s sleeping pattern caused us to get together whenever she was ready. Since we were not eating our Christmas meal until 5:00, I let Kate sleep as long as she wanted. She got up close to 1:30, and we arrived at Jesse’s at 3:30. I had told them to go ahead and open their presents, so it didn’t affect their plans.

That made for a very short, but nice, day for us. We enjoyed being with Jesse and Greg as they prepared the meal. Most of the time the boys were upstairs playing with their new Christmas presents. Jesse’s turkey turned out to be superb, just the way it has been the past couple of times she has cooked it for us. At the end of the meal, we took our plates to the kitchen. Jesse asked Kate if she would like her to take her plate. Kate accepted. As Jesse walked to the kitchen, I said, “Isn’t it nice to have your daughter take care of you like that?” Kate said, “My daughter?” I said, “Yes, your daughter.” She said, “What’s her name?” Before Jesse returned to the room, she asked her name two more times. Despite that, Kate handled herself beautifully. She participated in our conversation and didn’t say anything unusual. She didn’t walk around the downstairs rooms again, but she did comment on how beautiful the house is.

It wasn’t long after dinner that we came back to the hotel where we relaxed over an hour before Kate wanted to go to bed. She was in bed by 9:00. That should bode well for her getting up earlier today. We plan to meet Jesse and her family either at the hotel or some other place for lunch and then leave around 1:30.

I had wondered for a long time if we could make this trip. I am glad to say that it worked out well. It was very different from those in the past. We had considerably less time with Jesse and her family than before. Some of that arose simply because we stayed in a hotel rather than at their house. Just as important was the fact that we paced ourselves. I don’t think we were all together more than three hours at any one time. That was good for Kate who usually likes to do something different after a couple of hours.

Kate was able to enjoy herself. There was only one time when she seemed a little restless. That was yesterday afternoon just before we ate. For more than an hour, we had been sitting at the bar looking over the kitchen while chatting with Jesse and Greg as they prepared the meal. Kate got up and walked into the family room. I followed her. She asked me when we were leaving. I told her we would go right after dinner. Apart from that, she appeared quite comfortable if not enthusiastic. Of course, she had been very enthusiastic about Jesse’s house and Christmas decorations our first night there.

As for future travel, I believe I will limit it to one-night stays. I’m not sure how many of those we will have. If Kate continues to sleep late, going to visit Ellen in Nashville becomes a little more challenging. If we stayed overnight, that would make the trip less rushed. At the moment, I am not planning anything. I’ll just see how things unfold in the months ahead.

The only family event that I know of that could prompt another trip is to Texas is our granddaughter’s high school graduation. I would like to make that, but I don’t believe it is in the cards for us. I hope I am wrong.

Christmas Eve

We had a nice day yesterday. It matched the activity level we have at home. We got out and had good times with Jesse and her family, but we had breaks that make it easier for Kate.

She got up before 10:30. That got us off to a good start. I don’t like having to wake her. That worked well for our plans to meet Jesse, Greg, and the boys for lunch at a new diner downtown. We met them at 12:30 and had a good time as well as a good lunch. Kate got a very large Turkey Club sandwich. It was about 4” high. I thought she might have trouble getting through half of it, but she ate “the whole thing.” She did it her way starting at the top slice of bread, pulling off one layer at a time and working her way down to the bottom. She wasn’t unusually talkative, but she enjoyed herself. All of us had a good time.

It was after 2:00 before we left. Jesse asked if we wanted to go back to their house or to the hotel. I decided to go back to the hotel for a little break and join them at the house around 4:00. Breaks like that seem to work well for Kate, and Jesse needed to run some errands. I tend to think of these breaks as something solely for Kate, but I also think they are for me. When we are in social situations, I feel a bit of pressure to be attentive to her as well as to enjoy myself with those we are with.

After the break, we returned to Jesse’s house for about an hour. Once again, Kate took great interest in the house. She made the same circle from room to room that she had done the previous evening. For her, it was like the first time she had seen it. She told me that it looked “much better than when we lived here.” That was almost identical to something she had said about our own house a couple of months ago when she took an hour going through it the same way she did at Jesse’s.

As the sun began to set, we went to see the Christmas lights at a seniors nursing facility a twenty-minute drive from their house. They have a large piece of property circled with a light display that Jesse described as “tastefully tacky.” As a fund raiser, they open the yard to the public. I expected Kate enjoy it more than she did. She didn’t say much. It was certainly nothing like her reaction to the décor and Christmas decorations at Jesse’s. From there we drove back into town for dinner at a small Italian restaurant near Jesse’s home. It’s a great neighborhood restaurant. We’ve eaten there quite a few times over the years and enjoyed it. It was perfect for last night.

When we got back to Jesse’s, it was 8:00. I thought it was a good time for us to say good night. We went back to the hotel where I watched a portion of the Broncos/Raiders game while Kate worked on her iPad. She was in bed before 9:30 though she was still awake when I joined her at 10:00. It had been a nice day.

She got up at 3:00 to go to the bathroom. I had trouble getting back to sleep after that. The last time I looked at the clock it was 4:05. I made up that hour by sleeping until 6:45. Continue reading “Christmas Eve”

Happy Moments: Part 1

Earlier this morning I mentioned that Kate was in a very good mood yesterday. That made it a good travel day. I never imagined what was in store after we arrived at Jesse’s house. The best was yet to come.

I certainly didn’t expect it as we were about to leave the hotel. She asked me where we were going. When I told her we were going to Jesse’s, she frowned. I asked what was wrong. She said, “I thought we were going to have dinner with just the two of us.” I told her I would like that too but that she would love seeing Jesse, our daughter, as well as our grandchildren, Randy and Ron. I am sure that she had forgotten that Jesse is our daughter, or she would have been more eager to go.

We ate dinner soon after getting there. Jesse, a vegetarian, had smoked a brisket on their Big Green Egg. This seems a bit ironic for a vegetarian, but her husband, Greg, travels a good bit, and her boys are meat eaters. She is accustomed to preparing non-vegetarian meals. The key, however, is that she takes great interest in entertaining and food. She cooks all kinds of things. Some time ago, she had actually talked about starting a catering service.

After our dinner, Kate started walking around the downstairs portion of the house while Jesse and Greg cleaned up the dishes. It was very much like the time she spent an hour walking around our house one night after we returned home from dinner. She asked Jesse how long they had lived in the house. Then she commented on what a nice house it is. The next thing I knew she had gone back to the dining room. She reacted as though this were the first time she had ever seen it, and we had just spent at least an hour eating and visiting in it. I walked with her as she took in all the Christmas decorations as well as the furniture and design of the house. She was amazed at what she saw and enthusiastic in her praise of Jesse’s house. I was never clear whether she realized that this was a house that Jesse and Greg had built or if she thought they were renting or had bought the house from someone else that had built it. Sometimes she said, “They really thought of everything.” Other times, she said, “The builder really thought of everything.”

Kate noticed most of the decorations, but I pointed out some that she seemed to miss. When she finished the circle from the kitchen to the dining room, to the living room, to the family room and back to the kitchen, she went around again. Each time she entered a room it was like the first time she had ever seen it. Several times she said, “I wish we had seen this house before we bought ours.” Off the kitchen there is door that leads to the laundry room and to the pantry. The door to the pantry was open enough for her to see in. The door to the pantry was closed, and she didn’t open it. She did, however, look at this area several times and called me to look. She commented on what a good job the builder had done. One time I opened the door to the pantry. That gave her something else to praise.

I don’t know how long this went on. It was quite a while, perhaps twenty or thirty minutes. She had a wonderful time. Jesse and I had just as much fun watching Kate enjoy herself. It was a surreal experience.

We left a short time later. As we backed out of Jesse’s driveway, Kate said, “That’s a beautiful house. Who is that lady?” I told her that was Jesse. She said, “She is really nice.” She asked her last name, and I told her. She asked about the man. I told her that was Greg, Jesse’s husband. Then she said, “How do we know them?” I hesitated a moment. What should I say? Then I told her that she is our daughter. She was taken aback. I immediately felt that I should have said something else. I could tell it bothered her momentarily that she hadn’t remembered that Jesse is her daughter, but it didn’t last long. That was the beginning of another story.