Off to Fort Worth

Kate and I are at the Knoxville airport waiting to board a flight to Texas via Atlanta. This was not a planned trip. We were saddened this week with the death of one of Kate’s cousins, the senior member of the Franklin family who still live in Fort Worth. They are having a graveside service with the family tomorrow and a memorial service at the church Sunday afternoon.

As I was making the flight arrangements, I was attentive to the challenges of rushing Kate in the morning. I felt a 12:15 flight would present little trouble. I was mostly right, but it was a morning when Kate didn’t want to get up. Shortly after 9:00, I went in to wake her. With some gentle encouragement, she was up about 9:20. To make things as easy as possible, I laid out her clothes on the bed in her office. I had everything from underwear to shoes and socks.

I gave her enough time to have a leisurely shower. Then I went back to check on her. She hadn’t dressed, but she had thrown the clothes I put out into a pile on the bed. I showed her the clothes and left to give her time to dress. When she came out, she wasn’t wearing the top I picked out. It was a very light weight summer top. Knowing that we were heading into cold temperatures in Texas. I suggested she change tops. She groaned but agreed to comply.

She always walks very slowly, but this morning she seemed even slower. The person at the security check point noticed and asked if she would need a wheelchair. Kate was insulted. After going through security, I noticed that she was not wearing matching socks; so I knew she hadn’t worn the socks I put with her shoes. Then I looked more closely and saw that she was not wearing the shoes I picked out. Fortunately, these kinds of things are minor, but they also are a sign of the challenges of travel. I really don’t know how long we can take airline flights. I want to make one additional trip back to Texas in the spring. At the moment, I feel good about the possibility of being able to do it. That could easily be our last trip by plane.

More Firsts

We’ve been regulars at Panera for quite some time, now. Kate often gets up from our table and goes to the restroom. She has always found it without asking me for help. I am unaware of her asking anyone else, although that is certainly possible. Our regular table is right around the corner from the restrooms, so I am inclined to think that she hasn’t had to ask. Until today, that is. This afternoon before we prepared to leave for dinner, she asked me the location of the restroom. I took her part way there (we were not seated at our regular table which may account for her not knowing where it was) and told her to turn left. I watched for her so she was able to return to our table without difficulty.

This morning, however, she and I went to our regular table where I put my iPad and my cup on the table, got my computer out of its case, and sat down at the table. She had her iPad with her along with her cup. She went directly to the drinks which is in a direct line from our table only a few feet away. After a few minutes, she hadn’t returned to the table. I didn’t see her anywhere around the area in which our table is located. Then I thought she might have gone to the restroom. I looked around the entire dining area and found her in the front section sitting there with her cup and working puzzles on her iPad. I went over to her and asked if she would like to join me. I didn’t say anything else, and neither did she. She closed her iPad, picked up her cup and coat, and walked with me to our regular table.

I am quite accustomed to her not being able to find me when our regular table and the ones around it are occupied. In those instances I stand and wait in a place where we can see each other when she has gotten her drink. Prior to this, she has not failed to come directly to our regular table; so we had two firsts in one day. These two events notwithstanding, we had a really nice day. Again, she was in a good humor all day.

Good Moods Make for Good Days

In my previous post I failed to note that Kate was in an especially good mood yesterday. I am sure that played a significant role in my own sense that we had had such a nice day. It is not that she is usually irritable. She does continue to show more irritability than before her Alzheimer’s, but those moments don’t last long, and, fortunately, at those times she is not difficult to get along with. That said, sometimes she is especially happy and cooperative. That is the way she was yesterday.

She also continues to be reflecting or thinking a lot. Over the course of her illness she has occasionally said something that sounds like we had just been talking about something and expects me to know what she is talking about. There were a couple of those experiences yesterday. She said, “I’m going to be very careful.” Instead of acting puzzled and asking what she was talking about, I said, “That’s a good idea.” She said, “I’m going to stick close to you whenever we are in public.” I told her I would watch out for her. She said, “I know you will. I feel safe when I am with you.”

When she says things like this, as she has done in recent weeks, I tend to impute more to her actions than may be justified. In this case (as in others recently), I believe that she is grappling with a sense that she is less and less in touch with her environment and the people around her. It may be her way of expressing her own insecurity. Overall, she seems not to associate her challenges with her diagnosis, but she still knows she is not normal.

Kate’s Obviously Having Some Imaginary Conversations

In my earlier post I noted that it appeared that Kate thought she and I had had a prior conversation about the Wisconsin professor for whom she worked while I was a grad student. That was not a unique occurrence; she had another such experience as we drove to dinner tonight. She said, “I’ve always felt comfortable being with you.” It was her tone of voice, not the words themselves, that made believe she was responding to something I had said although I hadn’t said a word. I looked at her but didn’t say anything. I was just puzzled by her comment. Then she said, “I always know that when I am with you that you won’t let anything happen to me.” I agreed.

Both her afternoon and evening comments made me rethink some earlier comments she had made at home. It is as though she is doing a lot of reflecting and/or reminiscing. I often wonder if and what she is thinking during her long moments of silence. Today’s experiences may provide a brief glimpse. I wish I could know and understand more.

Christmas in Lubbock

We had a very nice Christmas Day. It was special in several ways. This was Brian’s first Christmas at home as a college student. It was also the first time that Kate’s brother, Ken, and his wife, Virginia, had joined us for Christmas dinner. Rachel’s parents, Linda and Scott Livingston, who live in a small town outside of Lubbock also joined us. It was hard for me to get out of my mind the thought that this might very well be the last Christmas that Kate and I will be here. As noted in my earlier posts, the way things are going so far I suspect it will not be possible (or wise) to bring her back two years from now. I am not even sure that we will make it to Memphis to be with Jesse’s family next year. My only regret is that we didn’t get to spend more time with Virginia and Ken. I’m already thinking about the possibility of another trip to see them in the spring.

It is very difficult for Kate to follow what is happening in a group situation like this. She responds by being quiet and tuning out on much that is going on. She continues to have difficulty remembering that we are in Lubbock. She pulled me aside at the gathering today to ask, “Where do these people (our son and his family) live?” Although she doesn’t say much, I do think she enjoys being in the company of family, especially for Christmas.

We started the day earlier than previous days. Kate was ready for breakfast by 8:00. I had brought breakfast back to the room for myself a few minutes after 7:00. We went back to the breakfast area where Kate had some juice and yogurt. We were there about forty-five minutes before she wanted to go to Panera. We did, but it was no surprise that they were closed. We came back to the hotel until time to leave for Kevin’s house. We were there just before 10:00.

Everyone chipped in to make the Christmas dinner. As usual, we had plenty to eat and good conversation. Kate’s brother and his wife as well as Rachel’s parents left not too long after dinner. We spent the remainder of the day relaxing. Kate worked on her iPad while I watched a little football. We also played a game or two. Kate didn’t participate in the games. She was happy with her iPad. Before coming back to the hotel, we enjoyed some of the leftovers. It was a nice Christmas.

To Lubbock for Christmas

Kate and I left for Lubbock this morning. For a couple of years, I have made it a point to take later flights than we used to. That is because she can be slow to wake up in the morning, and I don’t like to rush her. That creates a bigger problem than it solves. I’ve learned that from experience. Today’s flight was a little earlier than I had wanted (11:00), but later flights would have gotten us in later than I wanted.

I had done almost all of our packing the day before, just saving a few things that needed to be done at the last minute. I skipped my walk so that I could avoid any surprises. The one unknown was whether or not Kate would wake up early as she sometimes does or if I needed to wake her. It turned out that she woke up about 7:40. I wanted to leave for the airport by 9:15. I was encouraged until she went back to bed. Before 8:30, I decided to get her up. She didn’t want to get up but said she would. I made a trip to Panera to get her a muffin and brought it back home. When I got back, she was in the shower. I picked out clothes for her and put them in the bathroom where she had laid out the clothes she had worn yesterday.

After she dressed, I noticed that she hadn’t worn the top I picked out. She picked out one that was fine but wouldn’t be as warm as I thought she might need for today. When I explained she accepted my suggestion. It turned out that we got to the airport in good time for us to sit down and relax. She ate her muffin and drank some orange juice.

The only slight issues we had involved going through security. Although I like to carry both her ID and boarding pass along with my own, sometimes they request that each of us hold our own. When the main checking ID asked her to scan her boarding pass, she didn’t immediately understand how to do it. She placed it so the bar code was not over the scanner. I helped her, and we got through that part. The next part was not being sure what she was to do when they asked her to walk through the body scanner. I walked her to the scanner and pointed the way through and told her to walk through it.

After we boarded the plane, she picked up my jacket that was across my lap and put it over her knees and legs. I asked where her coat was. She had no idea, and I didn’t see it. I couldn’t remember seeing it where we had been waiting and thought we might have left it going through security. I spoke with a flight attendant who said I couldn’t get off the plane, but the agent working the gate could look for it. Then it was time to go. They said if they found it, they would leave it with lost and found. When we landed in Atlanta, I asked Kate for my jacket. When she gave it to me, she was also holding her own. It turned out that I had worried for no reason.

The rest of the trip went smoothly although I lost her twice for just a moment. The first time occurred in Atlanta as we started out for our gate. I looked back and could not see her. It turned out that she didn’t see which direction I had turned coming out from the plane. I looked back a short distance and found her. She was just standing there looking around. That happened again as we left the plane in Lubbock. She was right behind me as I was getting ready to turn and walk through the door of the plane. As I walked down the ramp, I looked back and did not see her. It turned out that she had gotten into a conversation with the flight attendant at the door. These are little things that had no serious consequences. They do, however, reveal how easy it is to get separated especially in large crowds. It reminded me of why I feel under more pressure when we travel.

One other thing happened in the Atlanta airport. We walked to the escalator to catch the train to another terminal. I looked back to help her get on the escalator because she has had some trouble recently. She didn’t want my help. I got on the first step and reach out my hand for her. She didn’t want to take it. I started going down, and she wasn’t getting on. I tried walking up but it was moving down faster than I was walking up. Fortunately, a woman came by at that time and helped Kate. Later in the Lubbock airport, we took the elevator instead of the escalator.

As on other trips, I noticed some confusion. In the car from the airport, I mentioned our seeing Kevin and Rachel. She asked if they were staying in the same place that we are staying. I told her they would stay in their own home, that they live here in Lubbock. Then she asked, “What are their names again?”

For dinner, we all went to a Mexican restaurant. As we walked out of the restaurant, we said good night and said that we would talk in the morning about our plans for the day. Kate asked, “Aren’t they staying where we are?” I should add that this comes after we had been at their home less than two hours earlier.

I am happy the day went as smoothly as it did. I am optimistic that we will have a grand Christmas.

Amidst the Joy of Christmas There Are Moments of Sadness.

This has been a special Christmas season for us. My feelings are no doubt influenced by the belief that next Christmas Kate may be less able to enjoy it. Since her diagnosis we have tried to “live in the moment.” That has carried us through the rough spots along the way and continues to do so. At the same time, there are moments when the progression of Kate’s illness is evident in new ways. When this happens, I feel sadness overtaking me for a short time. That happened in the car after lunch today.

It occurred when I told her that we had plenty of time before our haircuts at 3:00. That would give her time to work in the yard. She tried to get the words to tell me she wanted to do something else. They wouldn’t come. At first, I didn’t guess what she was trying to say. Then I asked if she wanted to work on her albums. She did. I told her I would be glad to get out her computer. She paused for a moment and then said, “First, I would like to pull a few leaves.” I told her that was fine. She could do whatever she wanted. I knew the moment she said she wanted to start by pulling leaves that she would forget the albums. That is exactly what happened. She has been doing something like this periodically. Not once has she actually started on her albums.

These family photo albums are very important to her. She frequently tells me to “remember that for the album.” She says that in response to all manner of things that come up in our conversation. When we are with other people and someone asks her what she has been doing, she often tells them she is working on her albums even though it has been at least two years since she has done anything. Long before that, she was only editing photos, not taking any steps that led directly to assembling the photos for her album.

It is not just this episode that makes me pessimistic about next Christmas. It is many other things that I take to be signs of her decline: Her more compliant nature when I make suggestions, especially about her clothes, her growing dependence on me as reflected in her asking for permission to do so many things, or to help her with her clothes, and more.

We have been very fortunate for such a long time, but I see our quality time together diminishing as she moves into another stage. I will continue to be thankful for the many good times we have had, but I already feel sad about the prospects for the future.


Health Update

Kate and I have been fortunate not to have had any significant illnesses since her diagnosis. Almost two weeks ago, we both got colds. They were the first this season and very mild at that. Neither of us felt bad. The primary symptoms were a post-nasal drip and a mild sore throat for me. Kate had no visible signs of her illness except for a periodic cough. As of today, we are almost completely well.

The most troublesome health issue for Kate has been her eyesight. We have been monitoring the growth of her cataracts for the past two to three years. Monday afternoon she had her latest ophthalmologist’s appointment. She is now ready for surgery to remove the cataract in Kate’s left eye. For the first time, she was tested as “legally blind” in that eye. Situations like this require consideration of the value of the surgery versus putting her through the process. For me, it was not a difficult decision. We scheduled her surgery for January 23. For some time I had been concerned about her insecurity when she walks up or down steps. This is especially true at night when she walks much like some who is blind. I have also noticed her having difficulty looking at photos of family and friends. My only question has been how much of this is a function of her AD and how much is her eyes. There is no way to determine the future, but I felt being able to see better would improve her quality of life.

An Experience With Ladies’ Intimate Apparel

Kate and I are now at Barnes & Noble where we are awaiting a call from Jan and Scott Greeley, our long-time friends who live in Nashville. They are in town for the memorial service for a friend. We are going to meet them for lunch after the service. Since my last post, we dropped by the bank to get some cash and came over to Belk’s to buy Kate a new bra. For almost the entire time since her diagnosis, we have faced a number of issues involving clothing. Some of those have been partially resolved, but there are always new ones. Here is one that occurred about 45 minutes ago.

I should start by saying that my knowledge of women’s apparel has never been good. That is especially true when it comes to bras. Today was not my first experience shopping for them, but it was the most challenging one. A writer for a situation comedy could have a field day describing what transpired. It could make for quite a funny episode. I, on the other hand, didn’t take it that way at all. For me, it represents one more sign of how far Kate is on this journey. Thus, I see more sadness than humor.

Today, perhaps all week, Belk is having a sale on all their bras. They are fully stocked for the occasion. In some ways that might make it a good opportunity to make a purchase. Instead, I found it overwhelming. Despite the store’s best efforts to have things in order, I could not identify a consistent pattern to the way they were arranged. I know it must have been overwhelming for Kate. She didn’t even make an effort to look for anything. She trusted and depended on me for that.

Finally, I picked out what I thought was the correct size. I have done this at least twice before, once at Belk’s and once through Amazon. It turns out that the size I bought last time must not be the right one now. Kate tried on at least five different ones without finding the right fit. It took her quite a while to try them on. When she came out after trying the first two, she couldn’t tell me much except “they didn’t fit.” Then I went back for a couple more with the same result. Finally, I suggested that I go into the fitting room with her. She thought that was a good thing. After looking at the way this fit, I felt it was still too tight. I suggested we try to get something through Amazon. It would be easier than picking through all the items hanging on the racks.

I should also mention that each time Kate came out of the fitting room she had put on the two tops she was wearing. The problem was that she kept putting them on backwards. One time she left one of them in the fitting room. She is getting so very confused, and it is very sad to see. These are the kinds of things that make me pessimistic about the upcoming year.

Another Mood Change

I have mentioned before that Kate is particularly sensitive to lots of things like temperature, noise, music, etc. It seems to me that this sensitivity is even more noticeable now than in the past. It doesn’t take much to startle her. She often responds audibly to someone’s sneezing or coughing. I have to believe the people around us sometimes hear her reaction. She is frequently hot in the house and likes to have the overhead fans turned on regardless of the temperature. I compensate by wearing a sweater.

This morning she wasn’t in a particularly good mood when we went to Panera. It wasn’t long before she complained about a particular rendition of a favorite Christmas carol that was playing. After forty-five minutes, she asked when we could go home. She said it was too hot there. We left to come home. Since it was a little before 10:00 and too cold to work in the yard, I told her I would build a fire and put on some Christmas music. She seemed to like the idea but didn’t express great enthusiasm.

When we got home, and I had the fire going, I turned on the music, Handel’s Messiah. I had the volume too loud for her. It startled her. I turned it down to a more acceptable level. She came into the room and has been working on her iPad for almost an hour. She has enjoyed both the fire and the music. We are back on track now. I think we have averted any further problems, at least for a while. We will go to lunch in another thirty minutes or so. This afternoon we are going to the Bijou where they are putting on a production of Miracle on 34th Street. I expect that will provide another good experience.