27 March 2015

You Can Lead a Horse to Water...But You Can't Make Him Wear a Hearing Aid

This has been an extremely frustrating week. I've been battling through bronchitis and seasonal allergies and I don't take kindly to inactivity. It's also been emotionally frustrating because my 90 and 91 year old parents, who I take care of full-time 24/7/365/ad infinitum (or so it seems), have been completely oblivious to my not feeling well. I freely admit that I have wished and dreamed of what it might be like to just go to bed for a few days and not have to remember that in three hours I have to give the afternoon meds, or that I've had to listen for the clatter of my Mom's walker as it heads for the kitchen and intercept any attempt by her to play with the coffeemaker, because she has no clue whatsoever how it works and cleaning up her attempts is not a fun way to spend a half hour. I've still had to ensure their dinners and snacks were made and spent a couple of hours each night hearing my Dad "check" each door a gazillion times to see if it's locked; they are all locked, but he makes several rounds in a circuitous route which never fails to cause an outbreak of barking as Sailor and Cleo wonder if someone is trying to come into the house. This usually doesn't stop until I go downstairs and physically interrupt my Dad's path and tell him he's checked everything enough and it's all locked up tighter than a drum. It's compulsive behavior and some evenings it drives me completely nuts. I mean raving crazy lunatic nuts. I shake my head. A lot.

Last Friday a package arrived that I'd been waiting for with a great deal of hope. My cousins, who take 24/7/365 care of their mother, my Dad's sister, told me about a hearing amplifier that had made a positive and dramatic difference in their mother's hearing. They suggested I check it out and see if my Dad would benefit from it, so I stopped by Radio Shack and inquired if they carried it. Turns out they did, though it was out of stock but could be ordered and delivered to my home. It was only a 39.95 purchase so even though I had my doubts, I felt it would be worth a try. I also picked up a good set of pair of ear buds and a head set so that he would have a choice.

I went downstairs, opened up the package, inserted the batteries and popped in the ear buds and loudly explained (his hearing is probably 95% shot) how this would enable him to hear better. He sat at his desk and I went about setting it up for him and inserted the ear buds in his ears. Then, I did some tests - standing across the room I asked him in a normal voice if he could hear me? "Yes, I hear you fine.".  Great! With the television broadcasting at a normal volume I asked if he could hear and understand the TV? "Oh yes, I hear it just fine.". I was really happy!! I thought we may have had a break through. 

About fifteen minutes later I went back into his room and found the hearing amplifier and the ear buds neatly placed on his desk. "Why did you take it off? Did it stop working?" I asked in the loud voice required to communicate with him. "No, it worked fine, but those ear things hurt."

I quickly pulled out the small, lightweight headset I'd purchased and said, "I've got you covered - try this.". I put the device back around his neck and placed the headphones gently over his head. "Can you hear me? Does that feel better?". "Yes, I can hear you just fine."

I can understand where the ear buds may have been annoying and uncomfortable so the headset was the ticket. Except that it wasn't. I went back into his room about an hour later and there again was the hearing amplifier and headset neatly stacked side by side. 

"What happened? Why aren't you wearing this?"  He shook his head and swept his hands in a horizontal side-to-side motion as one might make if asked if they would care for another helping of a dish at dinner; you know, the one that says, "I've had enough of this - please take the plate away.". 

So that was that. Exasperated, I walked over to him and asked, "You don't want to hear what's going on around you? Don't you miss that? Do you know how loudly we must speak in order for you to hear us?" He looked up at me as if to say, "Not my problem."

Sometimes it is your circus, and these are your monkeys.

I left the gadget where he placed it and hoped he might reconsider and try it again, but it never happened. And it never will happen. Ever. It was a $40 experiment and it was a worth a try, but I could have predicted the outcome and it made me angry, frustrated, sad and tired.  There were moments in the next few days when, after having to yell and wildly gesticulate for him to understand that he needed to get up and come to the dinner table, I would feel so mad that he refused to do something small which would make a big difference in our daily life. Yes, it made me fume. I kept it to myself - well, no I didn't. My closest friends and my daughter patiently allowed me to vent and curse and vent some more. Not to mention I was still battling bronchitis and not feeling my best which can make anyone's fuse a little shorter than usual. 

I wanted to scream, but that would do no good at all except to make my throat feel worse than it did. The thing of it is, there have been so few times in my entire life where I can honestly say I've been mad or even annoyed with my Dad because he's been a pretty wonderful father and I couldn't have imagined a better one both as a child and as an adult. Barbe Cook has nearly always been patient, kind, funny, amusingly wry and reasonable. My dad's decision to pass on wearing a device which would save our voices and allow him to hear everything around him is not reasonable, but it's his decision. Have you ever tried to argue with a deaf 90 year old? It's a pointless exercise and I promise, you're not going to win.

That's not to say that I haven't wished I could superglue those ear buds into his ear but it wouldn't work and he'd figure a way to remove them. I'm so tired of playing charades.

I really wrestled with this and it still annoys me, but I took a step back (and for you BB followers, I remembered page 417 in the AA BB 4th Edition which reminded me that "acceptance is the answer to all of my problems...") and I had to let go of it. That doesn't mean I have to like it or that's it's easy and there aren't moments that I resent the holy living crap out of it, but I can't, in all fairness, judge my Dad's decision and action in this one case to color his entire stellar performance as my father.

Grappling with my disappointment and yes, my anger, I made a conscious decision: I needed to remember that this was still the guy who spent hours treading water in the Holiday Inn Wrightsville Beach swimming pool when I was 12 years old, waiting for me to summon the courage to dive off the board; the man who made me believe I could pass college chemistry when I was staying up all night worrying myself sick that I would fail miserably; the man who took me to the airport numerous times assuring me I would have a great flight and that I would be fine flying across the Atlantic Ocean all by myself; the man who embraced me with so much love after hitting the lowest point in my life courtesy of my drinking and took me home and loved and supported my journey into sobriety, never once allowing me to feel that I could fail or that I would be anything but successful.

I went searching for a photograph taken at that Holiday Inn way back in 1972 - me standing beside my Dad after triumphantly diving off the board and popping up in the water right beside him, where he promised me he would be when I surfaced. I put that photo right beside my bed and I've looked at it several times since the day he declined to wear a hearing device.

When put into perspective, declining to use a hearing aid is a mere blip in an otherwise amazingly warm, loving and precious relationship. Oh yes, I still get miffed, pissed and profoundly irritated that I have to yell in order for him to know that his dinner is ready or that it's time for him to take his meds and I imagine I'll need to remind myself many more times that my dad's current actions aren't a true depiction of who he is. He's 90 years old. He's tired. His abilities are waning at an accelerated rate and it's got to be intensely painful and difficult to accept. It's hard for me to accept, too. I miss my Daddy. He's still here, but he's not really the Daddy I've known and enjoyed and derived so many benefits from through so many years. I've managed to reassure myself that when this is all over, this whole "hearing device debacle" will barely register in my memory.

Until then, we do the best we can, and we continue with our game of charades.

21 March 2015

Reflections From the Sick Bed - I Remember Mama...

This has been a lousy week. Dr. Dewey Bridger warned me that I was cooking a batch of bronchitis but I was so sure I knew better and disregarded his good advice and, while I did get his prescriptions filled, I brought them home and left them unopened for four days. I was sure it was just a rising pollen count and seasonal allergies and I'd just save that antibiotic and super cough syrup for a future date when I was REALLY sick. I saw Dr. B on Thursday, 12 March. By Monday night 16 March, I discovered I was REALLY sick. I can just imagine him shaking his head and rolling his eyes - he's taken care of me for fifteen years and I'm sure he'd not find this surprising at all. I really wish I'd listened to him and these past four days, I've paid for it. Lesson learned? Probably not. 

I've spent most of this week pushing fluids, heating up canned soup and engaging in saline nasal rinses, gargles and lots of Vicks Vaporub - it's been a carnival ride. I didn't have time to come down with this mess because my daughter, son in law and twin granddaughters were scheduled to visit this week and I had carpets to steam, dust to chase, linens to wash and order to restore in high anticipation. When my fever set in Monday Night, I collapsed in bed, but it was a really clean bed and the upstairs of my home has never looked more put together. I decided to spend Tuesday resting since most of the work was taken care of and I was sure I'd be fit as a fiddle by their anticipated arrival on Friday. 

I woke up Wednesday and felt like I'd been knocked down by a wrecking ball (sans Miley Cyrus) but I had a hair appointment and sick or not, I had to have my mop modified so I would at least be able to see - my bangs had grown halfway down my face. I looked more like an Old English Sheepdog. 

On the way to the salon my daughter called to say their flight had been canceled and that she would text me when she knew more about the change in their schedule. Chilling, coughing and shivering through my haircut, I received a text that requested I call her after I was finished; plans had been changed - they could get a flight the next day but it would be routed through Boston, rather than the direct flight they had booked. A connecting flight through a city expecting yet another snowstorm with five month old twins. Ummmmmm, not an inviting prospect. My daughter and her husband decided to put the trip off until Easter week and while I was deeply disappointed at having to wait a few more days to see them, my body begged and pleaded with me to FINALLY get in bed. I finally gave in. My biggest fear was that I would convey my illness to the kids and due to some debris on a runway at JFK airport, I was given a reprieve to recover and I was so grateful because I want to be well and on top of my game when the kids arrive. 

Armed with a 750 ml water bottle, a huge glass of iced tea, a steaming mug of lemon/ginger tea, my cache of antibiotics and bottle of cough syrup, I wearily trudged up the stairs and took to my bed. Except for running downstairs to refill my liquids, make coffee for my parents and see that their meals were prepped (and a quick trip to Smithfields and CVS), I haven't really left my room. For me, that's pretty much unheard of because I can't stand being still but this bronchitis has (literally) sucked the air right out of me. 

I haven't been completely alone, thanks to the faithful loving companionship and concern of Sailor and Cleo. They haven't left my side or my bed. I'm grateful to both of them - once again my "rescue dogs" are rescuing me. 

I've managed to take care of the essentials in terms of taking care of my parents - they haven't missed any doses of meds, pots of coffee or meals, even though they've been eating takeout this past week - it's the best I could do. The funny thing is that each time my Mom has seen me, she says the same thing, "Are you catching a cold? You don't look well.". And for the 78th time I've reported that yes, I went to the doctor last week and I have bronchitis. She remembers this for maybe two minutes. Thursday Night I was summoned downstairs three different times because my Mom had told my Dad she hadn't seen me all day. She had seen me as I delivered meals, meds and checked on her when I'd run downstairs to replenish my fluids or heat up a can of soup, and when I'd walk into her room I'd remind her and then she'd laugh and say, "Oh yes, you, yes, I've seen you...", leaving me to wonder who in the heck she expected to see.

I Remember Mama. Really, I do. I mean, I know she's still here with me physically, but so much of her is already gone. 

I must confess, it's not fun being sick alone. My mother ruined me a long time ago. When I was growing up my mother turned illness into an occasion of care and nurturing and attention that made room service at the Ritz look lackluster and shabby. She'd prepare trays filled with homemade soup or her famous chicken and dumplings and she was always bringing in pots of hot tea. Mom would plump pillows, arrange blankets and run warm baths and to be honest, it was a lot of fun to be sick around Maxine Sturgill Cook. She was so amazing, creative and tireless. In fact, she was so good at it that in elementary school I would often fake illness and request an audience with the nurse so that my Mom would be summoned to come pick me up and lavish me with all of her great attention and treats. She eventually caught onto my scam, but I freely admit that I was never too sad to catch a cold or sore throat. Even if it meant a visit to the doctor, it was worth a little poking and prodding it if it meant I'd get my Mom's five star treatment. 

All of those memories flooded back to me this week and oh my goodness how they made me smile and brought no small measure of tears to my eyes. My Mom was great at a lot of things, but she excelled at spoiling both my Dad and me. 

"Are you catching a cold?" my Mom asked me so many times this week. Yeah Mom, I feel like crap. I need some of your hot soup, your perfect cups of tea, your hot oatmeal, your fried chicken, your mashed potatoes and hot rolls and could you arrange my bed like you used to and fluff the pillows as only you know how and if it's not too much trouble, could I have some ice cream and don't you think you should set up the vaporizer? God, I miss you Mom. I miss you so much it hurts but thank you for all those years you took such great care of me. While age has taken away your ability to do all those things you used to manage with such warmth and love, it can't tarnish my memories and how lucky am I to have those?

What I wouldn't do for another plate of your chicken and dumplings.

I love you, Mom.

17 March 2015

Excuse Me, You Did What??????

I didn't mean to drag the suspense out, but I've been fighting a little bout with bronchitis and I've had a ton of work to do so today I landed in bed and I can reveal "the rest of the story" from my Dad's Friday Night's escapades.

Last Friday was a pretty full day with babysitting, running to the store for prescriptions and cooking a family dinner and by the end of it, I was ready to collapse in bed, which I did around 9:30 (early for me). I don't know if it was the infection cooking or just general exhaustion but I laid down and within minutes I was sound asleep. 

Around midnight, my Dad burst into my room with the full knowledge that he had no business climbing the stairs. Had that been the only offense, I would have not come undone. Oh, but there was more - Friday evening it began raining fairly hard so it wasn't a night for anyone...much less a 90 year old man who can't walk well...to take a stroll around the pool to the corner of the backyard BEHIND the shed where I had mentioned Sailor had escaped a few days previous. Ah, well, not to mention the ground was covered in slippery leaves, mud and perhaps there may have been a few snakes hiding about and oh yes, he was in his house slippers. He was sure Sailor had once again "escaped" and he was going to look for him.  Sailor? He was inside the living room apparently watching the man walking unsteadily with a cane who was looking for him, having better sense than to be traipsing around BEHIND the shed. OMG.


It took a few seconds for my brain to snap to and comprehend what he was telling me and he was so amused to imagine that Sailor had "outfoxed" him. Me? I wasn't amused at all. Let me count the ways I wasn't amused.

Had he fallen into the pool or behind the shed, had I found him missing by the time I woke up, I would have had no idea where to begin looking and most probably behind the building would have been my last guess.

If he hadn't returned and my Mom had the rare temerity to have eventually realize he was "missing", there is no way she could have climbed the stairs to report that Dad was AWOL. I was asleep and there's no way I could have heard her. 

Say I had finally found him, had he fallen, there's no doubt it would have resulted in a broken limb or two and I would have had one of the "elder twins" in the hospital and one of them here at home, unable to go anywhere (my mother can barely climb into a chair, much less a car). There are two of them and there is one of me. Can you imagine how that would have all worked out?

Now yes, you're probably thinking, I could "hire" someone to attend one of them when I was with the other but let me let you in on a secret. My savings is dwindling and before this whole thing finishes there's no doubt I will be forced to put my home on the market, depending on how long things go on. I pinch pretty much every single penny twice. Yes, my dad has a pension and while it's certainly respectable, taking care of two parents full-time is expensive. Ah yes, I'll just quickly rejoin the work force (something I would LOVE to do), but do you have any idea how much it would cost to have a full-time caregiver in this house? Ummmm, yeah, pretty expensive.

When I factored in all the risks he took with this stunt I was horrified. As I was calculating the potential disaster we averted (by the Grace of God), I heard him regaling my Mom with his exploits - "and it was pouring the rain and I kept looking and don't you know that little dog was inside the whole time???". He thought it a fabulous tale. I didn't share his view. As for Mom, well, she strings maybe two minutes of thoughts together on a good day and I heard her laughing as he was telling his tale. I could only shake my head.

I didn't pick that moment to discuss with him all of the reasons he shouldn't have gone outside on a wet, rainy night to look for a dog that wasn't missing. I couldn't. I knew my admonitions would come out harsh, unkind and I also knew that no matter what I said, I would have as much chance of making a brick wall understand as I would my Dad. 

I'm still appalled by it all. I'll find myself trying to consider how I could discuss his actions in a such a way he would understand the danger and then I realize it's completely hopeless and the only thing to come out of such an attempt would be for my throat to hurt more than it does right now from having to shout each word something like eight times until he would be able to hear me. 

I've worked overtime the past few days trying to shake off what happened - hoping to busy myself to the point I don't have to think about it, which is probably why I feel like crap right now. I'm taking today off, inasmuch as I can take any day off. I mean, there's still meds to dispense, coffee to make, meals to prep and moments where I have to practice parental redirection to avoid more mishaps but otherwise, I'm laying low. I'm exhausted but it's equal measures emotional and physical. 

My friend Cheryl often refers to what I do as "herding cats". She's been here and she "gets it". Let me tell you, there are moments when herding cats would be a far easier proposition than ensuring the safety and care of "elder twins". 

So there you have it - and that's the rest of the story. 

Oh, one other aside. I spent the past couple of days steaming the carpets upstairs in preparation for my daughter, son in law and twin granddaughters much anticipated visit later this week. On three separate occasions my mother has dispatched my Dad to deliver the message that they will "go to a hotel, because I'm having company and she's sure I'll need their room.". I kid you not. Each time I stop what I'm doing and go into their room and explain that it's Katie and her family who are coming and that we have ample room without displacing anyone. I did this twice yesterday and once the day before and she processes the information for maybe two minutes and then poof, it's gone. 

I'm just so tired.

08 March 2015

"Don't Cry Because it's Over...

This past week, we lost a dear sweet family friend. Perl Tipper passed away Wednesday, 4 March. She was probably the last of my parents friends from the old days when they all worked together in Kopperston, West Virginia. Perl was a best friend to both my mother and father and they all worked together in the "company store". They knew her before she met the man she would marry and go onto raise six kids; one of those kids lives right here in Wilmington, North Carolina and is also a good friend - Christy Register. Perl came down several times a year to visit Christy and her family and we always looked forward to it because it meant Perl would visit us, too.

How to describe Perl - well, she was simply one of the most spry, engaging and witty women I've ever met in my life. My own history of "knowing" Perl is brief compared to my parents relationship with her, but oh how much better my life is for meeting her and tapping into her sparkling personality. 

She was tiny, extremely creative and talented and behaved much younger than her 92 years. I loved her hugs. Our last visit with her was this past June and I made a bit of a party out of it, fetching Smithfields chicken and lots of coffee and iced tea.  I sat on the patio after serving these three crazy "kids" and smiled as I listened to the reminiscing, the sharing of memories and the genuine laughter that wafted through the house. It was always a special time when Perl was in the house and I loved how these three good friends had renewed their connections through the 70 plus years they had known and loved each other.

When Perl visited us this past June, she asked me several times for a photograph and I didn't really understand why. In fact, when I didn't produce it, she had her daughter Christy text me to please send her a photo. I sent a snapshot that was taken at my daughter and son in law's rehearsal dinner in NYC. I didn't think much more about it. A few days later when Perl came over to join my parents for dinner, she presented me with a portrait she had painted - I was stunned. I had no inkling that this was why she wanted the photo. It turns out that as she was spending a couple of weeks visiting Christy, she wasn't one to sit idly by doing nothing - so she painted me! I can't tell you how precious this portrait is to me - how much I cherish it. 

I served my parents coffee this "morning" and by morning I mean 12:30 PM - since the time moved forward an hour overnight I knew they'd be extra late waking up. The sunshine was warm and I took my mother's hand and lead her out to the patio table where I had her coffee waiting. The sky was crystal blue and the trees look as if they are budding right before our eyes. Mom smiled in the warm sunshine and then looked at me and said, "Did you know my friend Perl? She died...". Over the course of the hour that we sat outside in the sunshine, my mother said this to me at least fifteen times. "Yes Mom, I know. We're going to miss her aren't we?". 
"She was my best friend. I knew her before she was married. We used to have so much fun working together."
I patted her hand and I tried to imagine what a huge loss this was to my parents because, quite frankly, she was one of the last of their old friends still alive. It must be deeply painful.

Last night as I was getting ready to make a speedy run for Food Lion, I overheard my Mom and Dad chatting in their room. "Barbe, what are we going to do about Christmas this year? I want to go home."
After repeating her question enough times that he actually heard it, he said, "Well, honey, I'll let you know in December - that's ten months away."
"I want to go home."

There was nothing I could pop in and say. I just listened. My mother's thoughts are scattered and she's not got a firm grasp of seasons or time, but it broke my heart. Right now I'm glad her attention span is brief and her thoughts are fleeting. It would be too sad to imagine otherwise. Everything she knew and all of the things she could do are long gone. Sometimes I wonder how they can possibly deal with it on those rare occasions of clarity. 

Perl visited us a week before Christmas 2013 and again, I served dinner for these three close friends. As I was getting ready to lay out the food I noticed they were all holding hands and my Dad was about to say grace, but what I noticed even more was that they continued to hold hands for several minutes after the prayer. 
Holding hands seems to be the very best way to get through these later years. In fact, when the Star News did a story on adult children taking care of aging parents in January 2014, this photo was on the front page of the Sunday Newspaper that day. It's so emblematic of their relationship.
My parents have always been warm, demonstrative people who never shied away from hugs and they've turned hand-holding into a natural part of their daily routine. I do the best that I can to make sure they are well fed, meds are dispensed as prescribed and I get their television back on several times a day because my mother LOVES to push buttons on the remote which frequently results in a blank screen. However, the most potent and essential secret to growing old, from my "up close and personal" vantage point, seems to be hand holding several times a day. There are so many lessons I learn, but this simple act of reaching out and holding onto each other is the most powerful mood elevator imaginable. Advil eases the arthritic pain, Lisinopril keeps the blood pressure stable and a small 50 mg dose of Zoloft may do something to stabilize the mood, but from where I stand, holding hands is powerful, preciously addictive and induces peace. The side effects of this act are quite amazing. I can't recommend it enough.

"Do you know my friend Perl Tipper?"
"Yes Mom, and we're all going to miss her so very much."

Godspeed Perl - thank you for sharing your life, your infectious laugh and your talent with us. We will always smile as we remember you with love and great affection. We will "cry because it's over, but we're all certainly smiling because YOU happened.

01 March 2015

The Green Mile...

"And I think about all of us, walking our own 'Green Mile'...Sometimes, the 'Green Mile' seems so long..."

To my closest confidants, I sometimes admit to feeling extreme anxiety when I first wake up each morning. I'm afraid of what I'll find. My parents are 90 and 91 and dependent on me for almost everything.

When I was a little girl, I used to live in a state of extreme fear because my Mom and Dad were a good ten years older than my classmates parents. My Mom had me at the age of 35 which, isn't anything close to rare, but certainly qualified them as older than the average age of most of the other parents I knew. I would lie in bed at night, scared that my Mom and Dad would die much sooner than most of those other parents of my classmates and this was a particular fear after 1973, following the sudden, unexpected death of my 23 year old sister, Becky. Her death was followed less than two years later by my 83 year old grandmother who had lived with our family from the time I was in first grade. As far as I could tell, my family members were dropping like flies and my response to this was extreme fear and multiple panic attacks. I lived a very fearful existence, just waiting for someone else near and dear to me to suddenly disappear from my life.

Obviously, this didn't happen - my parents have, in fact, outlived many of my former classmates parents.

I no longer lie in bed and fear the inevitable in the same way I did when I was 10 or 12 or 14 years old, but I know how my own movie ends. Death is non-negotiable for all of us.

When I hear the first stirrings of my Mom's walker in the morning or the clop of my Dad's cane, I'm instantly relieved and then in the very next seconds I gear up for another episode of "Groundhog Day", because frankly, this is exactly what my life is like right now. Every day I answer the same questions about 40 times (no exaggeration) and sometimes I must identify myself. The weather becomes a particularly hot topic because in the span of an hour at the breakfast table, my Mom will ask me, even with the weather on the kitchen television being broadcast in real time, "what's the weather going to be today?". Sometimes I direct her attention to the television set which she'll watch eagerly for maybe 2 minutes and then, as soon as a commercial comes on, she asks me again, and again, and again "what's the weather going to be today? Is it going to snow?".

Cloudy, cold days are the worst. Not only does the pain my Mom experiences in her joints increase as the temperature slides down, but her whole affect is much less amiable and cheery.

Today is the first day of March. I heard my mother remark earlier today that it's "looking like fall". There is no real grasp of time and space for her. I'm not sure if that's true for my Dad because his almost total deafness and inability to carry on a conversation unbroken by "what did you say?" makes small talk an impossibility. I hate speaking in a loud voice and while I made a good go of it the first year and a half, I must confess I no longer do. It becomes very hard. That doesn't stop my Mom - from anywhere in this house one can hear her repeating the same question or comment up to 10 - 15 times, directed at my Dad. Most of the time whatever it is she's saying gets lost in the yelling and given her own abbreviated attention span, more often than not she forgets what her original point was when she began.

Schedules become essential and one tangles with them at a risk. If I serve dinner an hour or so early - say at 4 rather than 5:30 PM,  I'll often hear the click-clack of my mother's walker heading to the kitchen, asking me what we're having for dinner tonight? When I remind her that she ate just a short time earlier, she regards me with a quasi suspicious and embarrassed look. Not quite believing me and embarrassed that I might be right.

Last night I was watching "A River Runs Through It" after I served my parents dinner. About an hour after they had finished, I heard my mother tell (yell) for my Dad to be sure and check the doors. As I was sitting in the living room which is situated right next to their room, I heard my Dad's footsteps and waited for him to "peek" into the living room. I told him all the doors were locked and everything was safe. He gave me a nod and then proceeded to walk to the side door, the door leading to the garage and the sliding glass door in the dining room. I guess he didn't believe me - this is his routine. I smiled to myself and continued watching the movie.

A few minutes later, my Dad appeared again in the living room - "Your mother said she heard some people talking in here and wanted me to check.".

"Dad, it's the television - I'm watching a movie. No one else is here."

He nodded and headed back to their room with the message.

Not fifteen minutes later, my Dad reappeared in the doorway of the living room. "Your Mom keeps saying someone else is in here."

I pretty much gave up watching the movie by this point. I walked with him back to their room and told my mother personally that there is no one in the house but the three of us, as it is most days and nights. I told her I had been watching a movie.

Not ten minutes later, their bedroom door opened yet again - it was at this time I believe I looked over toward Cleo and said, "I'm going to stab my eye with a fork!!".

"Did you lock the doors?"

"Yes Dad - everything is locked up tight."

"Just checking. Your Mom wanted me to make sure," so again he makes the rounds until I seriously find myself unable to sit still and I walk up to him, gently put my hand in his and tell him he's done this already tonight. The house is locked up. No one else is the house. It's time for bed.

Meanwhile, I go outside and make about fifteen revolutions around the pool and I do this for two reasons. To shake off the irritation and the rote quality of this and every evening for the past couple of years, and to drive up the steps on my Fitbit. I accomplish both goals in about twenty minutes.

Every single day is both the same and different. The routine is the same but cognition and mental status seem to degrade just a little more. It's sort of like watching paint dry, but it makes me very sad. The intangible loss, the deficits, will break your heart.

I drink a lot of hot tea in the evenings. I build a fire in the wood stove almost every single night and I have an alarm set on my iPhone set for 7:45 PM so that I can listen to the BBC 4 Shipping Forecast. I pull up the maps on my computer and follow along as I listen to the forecast for the gales that are expected at Trafalgar and Biscay, and then I close my eyes and imagine myself bobbing in the small teak cabin aboard a sailboat, holding a mug of hot, steaming tea, tethered to some marina off the Isle of Man, wondering if I'll be able to cast off my lines and head back out to sea. No matter what I'm doing, I listen to that forecast and I visualize that scene. It's a mental image that gets me through another evening after another day of heavy repetition.