email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Late December

I wish everyone a Happy Holiday.  Mine was a few days ago, but that doesn't matter.  I enjoyed it.  This is for most of the rest of you.

May this be a day that stays in your heart the year-round.  Holidays exist for reasons.  We need times to reflect and think about what makes us a society.  We have Christmas but also 4th of July.  We have Easter, but also Thanksgiving Day. 

We even have Groundhogs Day.  Do you know why?  It's the midwinter day...  Please feel free to check your calendar.

All the oldest holidays have a reason.  It doesn't matter that Christmas is a steal from the Winter Solstice, we ALL NEED a holiday at the shortest time of the year.  It keeps our hopes alive of longer days to come and the annual promise of warmth and successful planting.  We NEED that, because without the promise of new crops we would all die. 

The lengthening days told our ancestors that there would come a time to sow the seeds again.  Ritual days helped them to know when those seeding days would come, and to help us endure the hungry nights until then.

Some people grant the days of planting (and harvest) to deities.  Others don't.  But we have learned to plant seeds at the proper times, and historically, that was at certain holidays (and that was the reason for the holidays).

I wish you a Happy Solstice holiday for whatever reason you give it.  I will celebrate it for the reasons our ancestors did. 

A Happy Holiday to all for all reasons.  May hope and promise of better days follow you all the days of your lives...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dad Again

Oops, I mentioned that Dad didn't remember to put butter on his potatoes, and it was rightly pointed out that it was a minor matter.  I didn't explain well.

I had made shrimp and fish sticks for dinner and made cocktail sauce to go with them.  And I provided Dad's daily potato and put out butter.  He always puts butter on his potatoes (a family/cultural thing).

The other day, he couldn't remember what he usually puts on his potato!  And he has been eating a potato with almost every meal for all his life.  He has always put butter on them.  (OK, sometimes there was probably gravy).  But for the first time I know of, he couldn't connect butter with potatoes.  Its just one more thing he is forgetting that I find hard to understand.

I would say that I am learning from Dad's experience what I will be forgetting myself one day, but obviously by that time, I won't be remembering these days myself either.

These posts are only helpful to other elderly caretakers, I suppose...

Dad has worse memory failures than butter on potatoes.  He doesn't recall the daughter who died in 2010, he recall recall the least detail of the house he lived in before he moved in with me (and even that he just sold it 2 weeks ago - he seems to think he sold a rental condo in NH).  He became annoyed at a tax bill from NH because "I never lived there" (he lived there for 25 years).

Sometimes he thinks he has lived with me for "may years" and sometimes he thinks "about a month".  In practical terms, it doesn't really matter where he thinks he has lived before, but it does make it difficult getting him to pay bills and taxes regarding places he doesn't remember.

And something else I really need to explain for those of you who are just beginning to take care of an elder parent(s); they can remember things in detail one day and have no recollection of the same things the day after.  Dad can describe his previous house in FL one day right down to the color of the carpets, and not remember ever living there the next day or week or sometimes in the same day.

Don't let it get you down when that happens.  I am still struggling with that, but I AM learning.

Your elder parent has the memories of the hour or day FOR the hour or the day, and there isn't anything you or they can do to change it. (I keep reminding myself of that, I keep reminding myself of that, I keep reminding myself of that...)  Doesn't help, I keep forgetting and expecting consistent memory or non-memory.

The fluctuations in memory are going to be what drives you the craziest.  You never know what to expect for day, one hour, to another.  It is for me at least.

Dad is also failing physically rather fast.  A few months ago, he could walk in straight lines.  A few weeks ago, he could walk in straight lines with a cane, but had trouble turning in any direction.  Now it can take him 10 minutes to walk from the TV chair to the bathroom.

There are lots of turns involved, and he tends to freeze in place then.  And he tends to freeze in place under doorless doorways.  I don't mean there are doors involved, just that opening between rooms baffle him because there is some choice to be made as to where to go.

Any technology baffles him.  The "elder-friendly" remote control doesn't help much.  There are still too many choices.  I am going to cover most of the buttons with opaque tape and see if that helps.  That's a clue, "simplify everything".  It won't help completely.  Couple weeks ago, Dad was flicking light switches trying to get the drapes to close...

Your elder will eat less as time goes on, but get confused about whether he/she is gaining or losing weight.  Dad equates tight waists on his pants with "eating too much", but he is eating less these days.  And some random days he decides he is not eating enough and so needs ice cream.  Hey, if Dad wants ice cream after dinner, that's fine with me.  I always keep some available.  But the confusion is that it has nothing to do with his weight.

Relations with older relatives will also be confusing.  Dad says he calls one SIL  (LOL!  I had to stop and think of the term for the relation between Dad and one of my aunts) almost every week for the past months.  I know he he hasn't because he can't figure out my phone.  Yet even when I mention that, he remains convinced he calls her every week.  He doesn't, because he CAN'T.  So tomorrow, I will help him call her and HOPE that he makes some sense in the conversation.  I MIGHT listen in with the aunt's permission.

Enough for today...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Food Toppings and Hand Washing

Dad constantly surprises me these days.  Mainly about things that I never thought anyone could get confused about.

Like butter...  Dad's memory is weak about recent events but reasonably good about longer-ago events.  Dad loves potatoes, and has been putting butter on them all his life.  Until tonight, when he forgot (for the first time I am aware of).

I made shrimp and fishsticks, potatoes, green beans, and a salad.  So I had cocktail and tarter sauce out long with the butter.  For the past couple of months, he has asked me which of the sauces go with the fishsticks vs the shrimp, and I always tell him that either sauce if fine with either meat, just personal preference.  I've gotten used to that question being asked every time.

But he couldn't figure out what he put on his potatoes?  That is probably the most basic thing he has ever forgotten, because it goes so far back into his past.  He remembered he wanted it on bread...

I'm glad his body is working better than his mind these days.  Answering questions about what to put on potatoes is a lot easier than having to help with personal hygiene.

Hygiene is probably the next problem, though.  I didn't hear sink water running the last time he  used the bathroom.  I think I won't be sharing bowls of chips or nuts in the future.  Seriously, I know he washes his hands sometimes, but I think he is forgetting more often.

I'm not in the habit of doing this degree of monitoring an adult's personal practices.  I can make meals, do laundry, give him his pills, arrange haircuts, write his bill checks for him to sign, arrange taxes, house sale, get him to a dentist or doctor, buy things he needs, etc, etc, etc.

But I can't do the more personal stuff...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Small Victory, But Concerns

Dad got his last haircut in late August.  He hates doing that, but I got him to go with me today. 

I learned something about Dad today.  He loves looking good.  But he is also a cheap tightwad.  Well, OK, I knew that before about his spendig on family, but I never knew about it regarding tipping.

He won't.  The barber said it was $13 and Dad counted out 13 $1 dollar bills like it was pulling fingernails.

I had my haircut and I tipped the barber 15%.  Dad didn't.  So I slipped my friendly barber of many year another $2 as Dad left.  I'll add that to Dad's monthly personal costs for the month.  LOL!

But I hope I don't get like that when I get older...

Dad talked to my BIL Corey today.  Dad has been paying for a portion of a grand-daughters college tuition. 

But this time he didn't remember who she was.  Or who her mother was (a daughter of Dad).  Or who he talked to (the partner of my sister).  Nothing.

And yet, he agreed to send a check, not knowing any of the people involved.  It was a good reason to send a check, but a bad reason not knowing who he was talking to.

I think I better make sure to answer the phone every time.  Dad is in the "sucker" range now.

Monday, December 3, 2012


I had a good day outside!  Temps around 60 and sunny.

Today was the day for cutting down all the spent flower stems (that didn't have good seeds for the birds).  I cut down the mums, the asters, the sedums, the other asters, the coneflowers, the monarda, the goldenrods, and the black-eyed susans.  And I am leaving them in cages in the empty annual beds in case the birds can get something from them.

I filled the birdfeeder with sunflower seeds, the finch feeder with thistle, and set out suet.  I have plans for a board to spread organic peanut butter on. 

I swept the patio of blown-in leaves and dumped them on the lawn where I can shred them with the mower. 

And I just stood outside looking at the yard.  My yard.  Lots of things still to do, but I was done for the day.  The weather is supposed to be better the next few day.  I'll be out there...

Saturday, December 1, 2012


This week, I got Dad's 2011 taxes finalized and sent.  It was horrible.  Dad seems to have decided last March that he didn't need to keep tax documents anymore.  And I have spent months searching out all his investment companies and banks to get replacement documents.  HE had no idea who they were, of course, but thank goodness for required quarterly statements and postal forwarding!  I finally found them all and contacted them for replacement tax forms.   Some needed several requests, but in the end, all were GOT!

AND I got the sales documents for Dad's house in FL signed, notarized, and witnessed.  And FedEx'd to the realtor (an adventure in itself).

So, how did Dad thank me for these months of effort?  He asked for a listing of all his funds.  And then he quizzed me about how accurate they all were.  Like I would know if the monthly or quarterly statements were lies?


I spent an hour sitting by his chair after dinner answering all his (often inane) questions patiently and repeatedly.  Did I mention repeatedly?  And repeatedly?  And often?

He is SURE I missed some investment fund somewhere.  I explained that all investment funds send regular statements of net worth, but he is sure there are some I haven't (had the wit) to find.  Old people are maddening...  And Dad is (and always has been) stupidly insulting.

But at least I have the taxes and house sale finished.  Everything from here on out should be just repeated stupid questions and I spent years in my career answering repeated stupid questions.

I just never thought I would have to keep doing it after I retired...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Busy After Thanksgiving?

I mentioned going grocery shopping previously, as that was about the least busy day of the year.  I used to eagerly volunteer to work the day after because the commute was so easy.  It was worth driving to and from work just for the pleasure of driving on nearly empty roads (and it always scored me major points in the office for "giving up" such a valued "off" day).

The regular commercial grocery store was indeed nearly deserted!

But I also shop at a strange local market.  Its a butcher counter, a serious deli counter, a huge beer/wine/liqour room, and a small assortment of fresh produce at great prices.

I love the butcher counter.  They have small packages of meats like any other place does, but they have whole big chunks of meats too.  You want an entire filet mignon?  They will trim it professionally and custom-cut it into steaks.  Same with del monico, NY strip, or pork.  They wold butterfly chicken breasts if I wanted one.  And they have a dozen kinds of sausages.  Its the only local place I can get a beef brisket or a whole pork butt.

The deli section is immense.  I don't buy porcciutto often (and apparently can't spell it either LOL!), but they have 3 kinds!  They sell several kinds of fresh turkeys and the line is out the door the few days before Thanksgiving Day.

I discovered Pomegranate liquor there too.  Now I make what I call a "Cavebear Sling".  Ice, 1 oz gin, 1 oz pomegranate liquor, 2 oz pomegranate juice, fill sling glass with ginger ale...

But I told you all that to tell you this...

The day after Thanksgiving is NOT a slack day there!  They have their own Black Friday sales.  They sell whole slabs of beef (whole, not cut).  Delmonico for $2.88 per pound (just for example), and all meat is on supersale!  People were in a frenzy.  I despaired of getting just some regular meat for a few days of cooking (while my turkey thawed out.

But, you know how they used to say "get to know your butcher"?  It works.  The number I pulled was 12 down the line, but I have been comoaring gardening notes with her for 3 years.  She saw me and asked what my number was.   When I told her, she looked around and said "what do you need?"  Fortunately, I just wanted a couple meals until the turkey thawed, so it was 2 chicken thighs and 2 hot italian sausages.  But there was also some unindentified "pork roast" on supersale.  I asked, but she didn't know exactly what cut it was either.  I took one because it looked like it was good for stir-fries.

And I'm experienced at the place.  Get the butcher number and go get a deli number at the same time.  The deli turns over customers faster.  My deli meat order was ready before the butcher order was.

If that last part doesn't make sense to you, you haven't shopped around here.  Nick's of Clinton (existing only in Waldorf these days) is an unusual place.  But I bet some NY folks are familiar with the idea.  Other places too, but I only know this kind of place otherwise from visiting a friend in NYC.

The chicken was dinner tonite, the italian sausage will be dinner tomorrow, there will be a good pork strir-fry Sunday, and I will cook the turkey (I hope) on Monday.

Oh I STILL forgot why I mentioned all this!  The people in the store filled shopping carts up COMPLETELY with MEAT!  I've never seen that before in my life!  Complete racks of "wholes" of several cuts of steaks, 10s of pounds of hamburger, 6 whole chickens.  I can't even describe it all!

When things calm down the next time I shop there, I will ask them about it.

I WISH I had my camera with me...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkeyless Thanksgiving Day, Sorta...

I bought a turkey today...

Dad and I were invited to have Thanksgiving Dinner at my sister's.  I don't usually make a big deal out of holidays.  Having lived alone for many years, I find they start to seem a bit pointless.  But I do usually visit my sister on Thanksgiving every few years.  In fact I probably like Thanksgiving most of all the holidays.  When I was a younger adult, I enjoyed making a holiday dinner for my bachelor friends.  New Year and Fourth of July are good ones for me, too.

So when my sister invited Dad and me this year, I thought it would be a good idea.  I don't LIKE driving, especially on holidays, but Dad seemed interested and my sister thought it would be nice for the younger generation to see Dad (since he had been down in FL for 4 years).

But Dad's decisions are always temporary.  A few days beforehand, I mentioned the trip again.  That's usually the best way to keep him "on board".  The trip suddenly seemed like a LOT to him.  He asked what state she was in and what day we would have to leave.  I explained it was only a 2 hour drive there and 2 hours back.  He decided that was too much car time and decided not to go.

He may have been concerned about the "car time", which can be annoying in holiday traffic.  He may have been concerned about a busy house with lots of noise and commotion.  He may just have not wanted to leave the house (he hardly walks even a step outside much anymore).

So I expressed our regrets to my sister (his daughter of course, but that sounds oddly circular).

But it also meant no turkey on Thanksgiving Day.  I would have needed to find a fresh turkey the day before Thanksgiving and I've gone grocery shopping that day before and try to avoid it.  Fortunately, I had some Filet Mignon in the freezer, asparagus, and corn on the cob, so we did have a relatively "fancy" meal. 

Which also leads to being happy to go grocery shopping today.  I always figure that the day after Thanksgiving HAS to be about the slowest grocery store day of the year.  And it was at the regular store.  I never saw so many shopping carts available before, LOL! 

I also bought a turkey.  88 cents per pound!  Can anything be less in demand the day after Thanksgiving?  Well, maybe champagne on Jan 2nd...  But the turkey is frozen, so it will be a few days to thaw out.  I'll do the basics.  Mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing...  Dad doesn't eat much at a time these days, so I can't go "whole hog" on it.  But he will probably remember it as "Thanksgiving Dinner" for a few weeks.

The sad part is that after we had our steak dinner Thanksgiving Day evening, after we watched the parades on TV, after we watched a traditional football game, Dad asked me when Thanksgiving Day was going to be.  I froze for a few seconds trying to think of what to say.  I finally said "In just a few days, and I'll make your favorite stuff". 

So, that's why I bought a turkey today... 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Having to Smile Sadly When...


1.   Asks who is knocking at the door when I tap bowls into the trash.
2.   Sees groundhogs outside where there are only piles of leaves.
3.   Suddenly walks all around the house looking for me and forgets there is a basement.
4.   Watches me making lunch (where I routinely make a large sandwich and cut it in a half for each of us) and asks (in seriousness) if one half is for him.
5.   Shuffles in tiny tiny little foot movements, freezing in place a minute at a time, and thinks he is "w alking normally".
6.  Needs to listen to the TV at volume 20, when 15 is normal, and then assumes that I can't hear it because his "hearing is excellent".
7.   Thinks that walking to the bathroom and back is "good exercize".
8.   Asks about the "explosion" when I drop a knife on the countertop.  Yes that contradicts #6...
9.   Asks for a calendar so he can tell what day of the week it is (think about that for a few minutes)...
10. Tells a cat to get off his chair and gets annoyed when they can't understand his words.
11. Doesn't undersand why not taking a shower once a month is a problem because "he doesn't do any work".
12. Believes in everything Fox News says because "they are the most-watch news show".
13.  Worries hours about medicare statements that say "THIS IS NOT A BILL", because it might be a bill.
14. Asks how to open the drapes every afternoon this week, after I've shown him how to open them every day this week.
15. Can't use the very simplified TV remote I bought "specially for old folks" to change the volume.  "Yes Dad, its that button labeled "volume".
16.  Can't turn ON the TV with the simplified remote.  I wrote on an index card for him.  "Press PWR Button and wait until picture appears".  He can't do that.
17.  Flips deck light switch on and off rapidly hoping to get the drapes to open or close.
18.  Calls all the cats "he" and "dogs".
19. Refuses to go to bed until I do.  No "me" time.  Sometimes I can pretend to go to bed then get on the computer if I am REAL quiet.  I close the room door, open the window, and let in some wonderfully cool air...
20. HAS to have corn AND potato, AND bread with every meal.  All those starches!  But it probably doesn't make any difference at his age.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Back To Dad

Well, it seems like I am talking about Dad almost all the time these past months.  It IS the major focus of my life.  I can't avoid it; just having another person in the house is strange.  Having an adult who is becoming less able and more confusing is even stranger. 

I understand, intellectually, that Dad is forgetting more and more things.  But its the THINGS he is forgetting that are most confusing.  I understand that older memories are more stable and new ones are iffy.

Last week, the sun started setting so that it shined on the chair he sits in and he wanted to close the drapes partially.  I happened to walk into the room, and he was flicking the deck light switch on and off trying to get the drapes to close.  I showed him the cord on the side that you pull to open/close the drapes.  OK, he hadn't had to do that in months, maybe years (picturing his FL house).

The next day, I had to tell him again.

Today, he pointed to the toolshed in the house next door and asked when they built it.  I said about 15 years ago.  He said "No, this is new".  I looked at it was the same old shed.  It might have been a bit brighter from the lower angle of the sunlight.  He said "NO, it wasn't there yesterday".  I mentioned that he had looked at it a couple months before and asked me what that yellow box was attached to my shed, and that I had explained it was the neighbor's shed. 

OK, so he forgot that and the different sunlight made it stand out more.  But he said that he looks out that window every day and it wasn't there before.  I said "Dad, I KNOW my yard and the views from it.  That shed has been there many many years".  He insisted it hadn't been there before. 

Sigh...  OK, I'm not the most diplomatic person in the world.  I told him his memory was failing.  I've been honest about things like that with Dad.  Not to be cruel, but to be realistic.  It seems important to me, as his caretaker, and for him, that he accepts that I am always going to be right on simple factual things.  Things like day of the week, time to take pills (and whether he has or hasn't), when he needs to change his clothes, what he can safely do himself or not do, etc.

I also understand that trusting other people on factual stuff is hard for him.  Even decades ago, in the prime of his life, he never thought ANYONE else was right about ANYTHING he didn't know personally.  I used to spend a lot of time researching factual disagreements to prove him wrong.  Me 100, Dad 0, and that never affected him in the least!  He had that kind of selective memory that forgets all lost disagreements.

Could I have that same kind of selective memory?  No.  I remember all my mistakes all too well.  I hate being factually wrong as much as Dad does but I acknowledge it and remember.

So when Dad got overly insistent that the neighbor toolshed had NOT been there a few days ago, I tried to relate the situation to the drapes (see above).  I was direct about it.  I simply asked Dad if he knew how to close the drapes to keep the sun out of his eyes in the afternoon.  He looked at them, but he couldn't recall.

So I pointed out that he had asked me how to close the drapes every day the past week, and I had shown him every day the past week.  That his short-term memory wasn't working as well as it used to.  That he didn't remember seeing that neighbor's toolshed there while looking out the window previously.  That he had to start trusting me on those simple things...

I'm not trying to score points against Dad.  That's as pointless as beating your 5 year old at chess.  It isn't a contest.  Its about getting Dad to accept that he can't remember some kinds of things.  Does he want to acknowledge that?  Of course not.  Neither would I.  But can he accept that?  I think he can. 

I need him to trust me.  Because as he gets less able, that is going to become more important for him than for me.  When he gets too difficult to take care of (or live with), he is going to have to move to an assisted-living facility. 

I haven't mentioned the idea ever.  And I won't until I can't bear the situation any longer.  I wouldn't ever threaten him with it or even hint at it.  But I am always aware that the day will come. I will both hate that day, but also be relieved.  I both love him and want to take care of him, but he s also driving me nuts and completely upending my life. 

I hope you understand the conflict.  I you do, then you've "been there".  If not, I hope you get your turn taking care of an elder relative so that you will understand...

Its a valuable life experience.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Post Election Thoughts, Part 2

The campaign money from anonymous sources is bad, but it didn't actually determine this year's election results overall.  I expect there are a lot of millionaires and billionaires who would like to have their money back and will re-think contributing so generously next time.

But the real problem it modern politics is re-districting.  That's the decisions that are made about the borders of districts in your state.  You vote within your assigned district.  In a very real sense, you are competing with all the other voters in your district to make YOUR vote count.

Let me give an example or two.  If you are in a district that has an equal number of Republican and Democratic voters (and a smidgeon of 3rd party voters) your vote matters a LOT!  It could be the ONE that decides a state or local election (rare, but it has happened).  More possible, you and a few hundred voters make the difference in a state or local election.  That really does happen more than you would think.

Statewide candidates come from local winners.  National candidates come from Statewide winners.  Presidential candidates are usually Governors or Senators and they almost all started in local elections.  That local County Comissioner who won by 100 votes Tuesday may rise to the Senate or even President some day by that few 100 votes the first time.

Here is where the redistricting comes in.  The winners want to get re-elected; they can't play in the game if they don't stay in the game.  Did you know that district borders are NOT set in stone?  They can be changed.  And they GET changed.  The winners get to redefine their voting districts almost at will (well, there are ballot questions, but they almost never lose).  Their goal is to redefine their voting district to include as many of their own party/voters as possible.  That insures that they will stay in office until they win a higher office or until their cold dead bodies are pried from their chairs.

In a general sense, I don't blame them.  In the course of my office career, I had to defend "the existence of my job" through arguments and tactics I would not defend in my retired life.  Every organism strives to live...

Originally in the US, voting districts were defined by close-knit communities, logical geographical boundaries, and county lines where possible.  Then, some "genius" got the idea of arranging the voting districts to his benefit.  His names was Gov Elbridge Gerry and he did this in 1812 in Massachusetts.  To preserve his party control, he redrew the voting districts, one of which resembled a salamander.

It was dubbed a Gerrymander...  The head, wings and feet were added for effect by a newspaper, but you can see where the image arose.

The practice has continued for all the years, but with the advent of computers,  has become much more  precise and effective.  Today, registered voters can be identified by party affiliation right down to street level, so Gerrymanderying is routine.  It has even been beneficial to minority groups in the recent past.

But the process has gotten out of hand.  The original idea of local campaigns was that several qualified individuals, all well known to the communities, would be considered, and one chosen.  Today, routinely gerrymandered voting districts are arranged by incumbents to assure that they will seldom, if ever, lose office.  Incumbency reigns supreme!

Gerrymandered voting districts means that each one is more and more of one party.  And when the district is more one-party controlled, it encourages the kind of extremism we see today (on both sides).  The only vote that matters is the one-party primary, and that encourages the candidates to take position on the far edges.

I suggest a solution.  A simple one, just for discussion.  I want a great big inked grid stamp.  Allow some one person to push it down on the state map blindly.   Demand that the PRIME PURPOSE of district borders be "political competitiveness".  Then demand a NON-partisan committee to arrange adjustments according to general population evenness for voting districts in best alignment with that grid.

Honestly politically competitive voting districts in every state would go VERY far in eliminating the extremism of candidates and winners in both parties and promote political competition.  I can't think of anything else that would improve US politics so immediately and positively.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Post Election Thoughts, Part 1

I'm not saying this to be mean.  It's because I think the country is best served by having 2 major parties with differences but close enough together that co-governance is workable.

The Republican party has been moving steadily to the right for a couple of decades.  Over those years, they have managed to bring most of their constituency along with them.  But groups have been falling (or jumping) off the wagon for years.  The party has survived by improving the turnout of its base in recent elections.  That can't continue; there are limits to the "turnout strategy".  If ythey were to (impossibly) achieve 100% turnout in a shrinking base, where can they go in the future.

Extremism is a strength and a weakness.  Yes, it improves the percentage of the turnout, but it increases the opposition turnout as well.  There were some startling examples of the extremity in the Republican party this year.  Looking back on the primary elections, it is clear that almost all of the candidates were actually to the left of the base.  This drove all of them to make ever more extremist statements.  Whoever the eventual nominee was to be, he was going to be dragging extremist views (and perhaps more importantly, soundbites) into the general election campaign. 

The extremism also affects campaign planning.  I saw an interview with some Republican strategist (forgive me I lost track of the name) who was genuinely shocked by the election results.  He had watched all the Fox News channel discussions, he had followed the Rasmussen polls carefully.  And they were WRONG!  Shocked, he said, SHOCKED...

I hope I am not saying anything controversial here, but Fox News was created to be a media outlet for (and controlled by) conservative Republican views, unfiltered by standard mainstream news channels.  The idea was originally proposed by top Republican strategist Roger Ailes to fellow Republican leaders in the 1990s.  Guess who is the president of Fox News?  Roger Ailes.

Equally, Rasmussen appears to be a polling company created to present positive Republican spin on voter preferences for the political benefits of influencing voters who can be swayed be wanting to support a "winner".  They are politically (as opposed to professionally) convinced that Republican voters are under-represented in the mainstream neutral national polls.  So they deliberately over-weigh their own Republican poll numbers to "correct" the perceived inequity.

So when Rasmussen gets ties, they increase the Republican support a few percentage points.  If behind, they make it tied.  If ahead, they make the Republican candidates more ahead.  Their professional Republican customers know this, but then they believe it!  So when Rasmussen said Romney/Ryan was ahead by 5% in most of the "swing states" where they were actually slightly behind, and had an even chance in other states where they were actually well behind, the Republican leadership and candidates acted on the Rasmussen polls and ignored ALL THE OTHER (more professional) polls.

The results were a substantial Presidential electoral defeat and shocking (to them) Senate and House defeats.

Next time:  Why this is all happening...

[Disclaimer:  I have an undergraduate degree in "Government and Politics" (with a minor in History - American Politics), but mostly, I have maintained a possibly unhealthy interest in the practices and strategies of modern political campaigns.  My favorite book is 'They Also Ran' the story of the men who were defeated for the Presidency, Irving Stone]

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Results

Well, I'm pleased.  I know some people won't be.  In fact I'm sure some people will be positively angry.  I've been on that side of the fence more often than not, so I know the feeling.

Fun Fact:  Who was the last Republican elected president WITHOUT someone named Nixon or Bush on the ticket?  (see end)

To a great extent, I'm SO glad that this election is just plain OVER!  I'm sure there have been nasty, more negative campaigns, but I don't remember them.  Hopefully, this election will teach us that anonymous money needs to be removed from political campaigns.

And maybe some degree of bipartisanship will now return to national politics... 

(Fun Fact Answer:  Herbert Hoover, 1929.  Nixon was on the winning ticket in 1952, 1956, 1968 and 1972; a Bush was on the ticket in 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

You Can't Fall Off The Floor

But Dad can now fall out of bed.  Happened last night for the first time.  I was just sitting here typing at 4 am (I take free time when I can find it and I wasn't tired) and there came a THUMP from Dad's bedroom.  I ran straight over, to find him on hands and knees on the floor.

Its awkward trying to get Dad up.  I'm not trained at it.  I could just lift him up brute force, but that's not what he needs...

I learn gradually (maybe as slow as a giant tortise walks).  He wants help to let himself get himself up onto the bed again.  Pride matters.  But he knows what he needs to do better than I do, and that matters too.  He says he gets cramps when I lift him myself, for example. 

I can't tell what he feels when I try to lift him.  If he says lifting him my way causes muscle cramps, I have to believe him.

Are there classes I can attend for this stuff?  He weighs more than I do.  I know emergency techniques.  I could get him upon my back and carry him out of the house if needed even if it hurt him.  But him as dead-weight on the floor, non-emergency,  baffles me.

I am sure I am doing all this elder care stuff wrong.  I thought common sense would get me through these stages.  I THOUGHT I was smart enough (and able enough) to know what to do when the falling-down stages happened.  Apparently, I'm not.

And I should have known.  Years ago, a friend did that cartoonish unbelievably stupid "foot on the boat and foot on the dock while the boat moved away thing".  Yes, he fell in the water.  But I could NOT get him onto the pier again.  He was just too heavy.  OK, if it had been ME, I would have just heaved myself up on the dock and never mind that it wouldn't have happened to me in the first place.  But I'm not a total klutz like my friend.

Dad is now officially a klutz.  Its not his fault, he can't help being old.  But he is and I have to deal with that now.

The point is that Dad was dead weight and I couldn't begin to lift him without cramps on his part.    You don't realize what lifting dead weight is until you fail at it...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Problems With Standing Up

Dad has trouble getting up from chairs.  I understand why.  His balance isn't what it used to be and it takes strength to get up.  I actually sat down in the same chair and made myself think of what's involved to do it.  Not to be insulting, but Dad is making it harder than it needs to be.

First, he puts his feet too far forward.  So he has to push himself up AND forward way more than he needs to.  Second, he won't lean his body forward when he STARTS to stand up.  He tries to start leaning back in the chair.  I normally just watch and observe in case he starts to fall.  He is very independent, and whatever he CAN manage to do is a good thing.

But a few days ago, I made him put his feet closer to the chair and slide his body forward in the chair so that his center of balance is closer to being over his feet to start with.  It worked GREAT!  He was thrilled.  He forgot the next time.  I reminded him.  He forgot the next time, I reminded him again.

He will never remember that...

He will never remember that the same way he will never remember that I eat my dinner on a TV tray on front of the TV.  The way that he will never remember that he gets TWO monthly statements from a bank because he has two accounts there (he always thinks they are duplicates).  The same way he will never remember that he can't look at a calendar to tell what day of the week it is.  The same way he can't look at a map and tell that a hurricane in Cuba isn't hitting us later that day.  The same way he thinks he is living in FL (or PA, or NH or VA) but never in MD (where his is).

Helping him pay his bills is an exercise in frustration.  It has been for months, but it is getting worse.  I write out the checks and all he has to do is sign them.  But he insists on entering them in his check register (well, at least he remembers that needs to be done).  A few months ago, I did that with purpose.  Last month, he did that when reminded.  Today, he barely comprehends what to enter.  I had to point out each white space today for check number, date, recipient, and amount.  He still got some parts wrong.

I am going to have to take over with that completely...  I hate the idea.  It would make things simpler for ME, but its one of the few things Dad actually has left to do in important matters.  If I could just pay Dad's bills myself it would be SO MUCH EASIER!  For me, for sure, but for Dad too.  He struggles to understand the simplest bills now.  I know he doesn't want to give that up.  But I also know it would be a lot easier on him.  He HATES getting bills in the mail.  He KNOWS they are confusing.  But he can't get himself to ask me (a mere child, LOL) to do it.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ah, Dad...

I thought today was going to be the end of my struggles to finish up Dad's 2011 taxes.  His tax prep firm (not as impressive as it sounds) thoughtfully filed an extension request in April when they realized they had stopped getting tax info from Dad.  By the time I learned the forms hadn't been filed, it was July and I thought there was plenty of time.  When I finally (it was like pulling teeth) got through Dad's records, I realized there were problems. 

I sent all I could find to the tax prep firm, thinking they could get the missing stuff.  A couple months later, I learned that WE had to get them (hey, MY taxes are simple and I'm not familiar with Dad's finances).  They sent me a list of missing documents.  Some of them were ones I was sure I had sent, so I concentrated on the ones I didn't know about.  Some requests went unanswered.  When it takes weeks to find out there was no response, that uses up a lot of weeks.  2 govt forms were to take 3-5 weeks for reply, so when they didn't show up...  ARGH.  Apparently website requests don't work very well.

By today, I had all the forms I thought were needed.  "THOUGHT were needed" is the operative phrase here.  After all was compiled, I discovered that the property tax payment receipts for 2 rental condos in NH were only HALF present.  I pay my property taxes annually, and I had his condo tax forms for 2011.  Even had it checked off the list.  But HIS are twice a year and he didn't have the one for the 2nd half of 2011.

No problem, he writes a check for them, it will be in his checkbook.  Now, understand that Dad doesn't actually balance his checkbook.  He just writes in the dollar amount and trusts the bank to get it all right (and they do - I haven't found an error in a bank statement in my life).  Except that he didn't write down the amount of the check in his register.  2 failures of that in the entire check register and THAT had to be one of them.  OK, maybe no problem.  I'll just look at his monthly bank statement and get the amount from there.

Right...  No such luck.  Dad thinks monthly statements aren't worth keeping for long.  The check amount I needed was for November 2011.  His records go back to December...

Three completely independent ways of getting one single dollar amount, and he has none of them.  

Since he moved here in May, I have constantly fought with him about keeping financial documents.  He doesn't like to "because the folders get too fat".  He could live to 120 and not fill up the file drawer...

I know the check number of the missing property tax payment, and I called his bank to see if they will just tell me the amount over the phone.  But that will be tomorrow at best.  And now a stock form I got last month is missing.  I may have left it on the table.  In which case, Dad may have decided he didn't need it or stashed it in a folder somewhere.  I'll have to search through his entirely unorganized folders and hope he didn't just trash it.  It gets stranger than I can actually describe.

Did I mention that he has started putting grapes in his martinis.  He is thinking of olives, I assume.  Well, the grapes ARE green and round...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dad vs The Hurricane

The newest surprise has been hurricane fears.  It's happened before.  Dad hears a weather forecast about a hurricane or other serious weather and wants to take immediate action.  The problem is (among many, of course) that his sense of distance and time are pretty much all shot now.

One time last month, there was a tornado alert.  The path was a good 30 miles away and no threat.  But either "30 miles" seems "down the street" or he thinks tornados are very large.  I can't tell by asking.  But he wanted to know where we should seek shelter, what foods we should bring into a shelter, etc.  I explained that the tornado THREAT was quite far away, and I did explain to him that the house shelter is under the basement stairs.

Its a reasonably good shelter, for not being constructed as one.  The basement is cinderblock walls.  The basement stairs go down from the front door.  The space under the basement stairs is covered with 1/2" T1-ll plywood on one side and a heavy workbench on the other. I made a 2'x3' cutout in the T1-11 panel for access years ago.  So an area about 4'Wx3'Hx8' (sloped under the stairs) is surrounded by heavy plywood, cinder blocks, cement steps, and stairs above.  Not that I expect to ever need it (it was all happenstance of construction),  but its nice to have.  Still, it took a while to calm him down.  Now his concern is that it might take too long to get into it, LOL!.

Hurricane threats aren't all THAT sudden, but I said I would drag him downstairs and into the basement shelter if necessary (with a smile in my voice) but such drastic steps won't be required. 

It really started when I was smoking a pork shoulder on the deck on Friday.  He came out and said my plans were about to be ruined.  I asked why (looking at the sky for a thunderstorm). He said a hurricane was coming and would ruin the cooking.  He said it was on the TV, so I went in to look.  Hurricane Sandy was down level with  Florida and about 500 miles east.  Moving at about 4 miles per hour...  I told him it was about 3 days away if it even came past us, but he didn't believe me.  After all, CNN was warning about a hurricane and "it was close".

Actually, I was glad for that because I knew it wasn't an immediate threat.  But Dad was convinced we were going to get hit by Hurricane Sandy that afternoon.  Again the worries about power loss and no food.  We had to make preparations for being without food and power for days, he insisted.

I went through the drill.  We have underground cables and almost never lose power.  We have plenty of food frozen and that will stay good at least a whole day.  I have canned food.  Potatoes and corn are good for days at room temperature and I could cook on the grill on the deck if we needed to (not that we would need to).  Heck, if I had to, I could trap a few squirrels and cook them in the fireplace!  I've skinned and cooked a few squirrels in my life.  And the closet has a few weeks worth of cat food (for the cats).

Dad shouldn't be all that worried about hurricanes.  He never had a traumatic experience with one (well, OK, he lost a boat to one in 1968, but it was never a personal threat).  Its the developing fear of "threats" that I am seeing now.  I do my best to make sure he feels secure and safe these days.  There isn't much more I can do to convince him that I will take good care of him that I'm not already doing. 

It saddens me that he does not trust me factually or in my judgement.  I understand that he fears things that won't actually happen because he has difficulty understanding that a hurricane striking Cuba isn't going to strike us here in Maryland later that day.  But I guess it is difficult for a parent to realize that a (adult) child is knowledgeable and experienced.  Even when the "child" is 62.  LOL!

Living with an elderly parent is a lot like living with a young child.  Only opposite.  They both don't have knowledge.  The difference is that a child will slowly become more competent and an elderly parent will not.  Its that "not" that is so hard to deal with.   

Living with a child is (generally) seeing it learn. Living with an elder parent is seeing it forget.  Watching the forgetting is very hard.  Very frustrating.  Very confusing.  Children don't even notice a sound in the kitchen.  A parent is in there, so it must be OK.  Dad reacts to every strange sound.  If a knife falls off the cutting board, he hobbles in and asks what that "explosion" was.  If I tap the veggie scrap bowl into the compost can, he thinks someone is "banging on the door".  Yet he can't hear the phone ring.  I think he hears better when he is dozing off in his chair and a sound gets into a semi-dream.

I'd sure rather be raising a child with some promise for the future than dealing with an elder parent for whom things are only going to get worse...  Knowing that things are only going to get more confusing in the coming months is sad.

I'm trying to get past arguing with him when he says things that don't make much sense.  But he SEEMS rational most of the time.  The change can happen without a sign one moment to the next.  I have to "let go" (thank you Nellie's Mom) and not be corrective about the small things.  That's going to be difficult.  Father/Son dynamics, and all that.

I guess that, in this matter, the hurricane is a good thing.  There ARE serious concerns that are not basically irrational, just mis-estimated in time and place.  Well, better something real than him worrying about Black Helicopters and Aliens...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

More Dad

Yesterday it was "acorns".  We have a huge basket oak over the house and deck.  The acorns are falling like hail!  Dad asked me what all those "things" were on the deck.  When I said "acorns", he said "no, no, I know what acorns look like.  Those are something else."   

Here we go again...

I assured him that they were acorns, they were falling from an oak tree, and oaks make acorns.  "From tiny acorns, mighty oak trees grow", and all that...  In return I get "I know what acorns look like and those aren't acorns, and that's not an oak tree." 

Well of course they're acorns, and it is an oak tree.  I let it go because I don't want to upset him and in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter.  But acorns are one of the first seeds children learn to recognize and since elderly people remember older memories better than new ones, it really surprised me.  Dad ought to remember acorns.  Its like forgetting what grass is, or a bicycle, or a mailbox.  Some things just seem so basic.

Today, he raised the issue again and was insistent about it.  He kept fussing about them not being acorns and it not being an oak tree.  He tends to do this when I'm busy, of course.  He can watch TV for a couple hours and be nearly absent, but when something gets at him, he doesn't care what I'm doing.

So I lowered the book on him.  Literally.  I went out and pulled a leaf off the tree (one branch is in reach of a corner of the deck).  I grabbed an intact acorn.  I got out my Petersons Tree Guide.  I opened it to the white oak page and showed him the picture of the basket oak leaf, the acorn associated with it, the actual leaf from the tree, and the actual acorn from the tree.  I showed him that the page said "acorn".  He had to allow that "those things" appeared to be acorns and that the leaf seemed to be from the picture I showed him.

I'm not trying to be mean...  But there is a deeper issue here.  As Dad's memory fades and he loses track of what things are, I need him to trust me on things.  If he can't trust me that an acorn is a acorn, what is he thinking when I discuss his finances?  Is he secretly thinking that I am stealing his hard-earned money but that just what happens when you are old?  When I give him his daily prescribed pill with dinner, is he (or will he soon be) worried that I am poisoning him? 

The acorn thing is just symbolic of where things are going.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dad and Cat

Dad has always claimed that he doesn't really like cats.


I looked out the window today and Dad was on the deck looking out toward the back.  Iza was sitting up on the rail right next to him.  And Dad reached over to scritch her.  Not "scratch", "scritch", he knows how to do it right.  But by the time I got the camera, they had separated. 

But the special thing was later, after dinner.  Dad sat in his usual chair, and had to evict Iza from it to sit down.  Iza is getting used to that routine and doesn't complain as much as she used to.

The special part is that she stood up next to him and hopped up!!!  First time she has really done that, though she has made a couole of tries before.

This time she curled up on his lap.  The pictures show it all.  Don't mind the uneven photography; I had to try some different settings to get a few good ones.  The point is that Iza curled up on Dad's lap and he enjoyed it, stroking her furs "just right". 

He's a natural cat person, even if he WON'T admit it...

Super-special picture!
And Dad seemed thrilled...
And "thank you Iza".  You'll get extra treats later...
I switched to non-flash so as not to disturb them.
Maybe my discussions with Dad about the wonderment of having a wild animal happy on your lap have had an affect...
Dad fell asleep stroking Iza!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Not About Dad

Well, I don't want to go on and on about Dad.  He still asks strange questions and makes no sense sometimes, but let me leave that alone for today.

I DO still have a life, and things to do all my own.  Projects especially.  The house is 26 years old, and now that some things like roof and siding have just been replaced, I can go on to other maintenance issues.

The framed raised garden beds are 20+ years old and are falling apart.  The deck is 20+ years old and, well "not falling apart", but was never great or "to code".  I started flooring the attic 15 years ago and only did half of it (the other half had electric wires resting on the joists and I never could quite decide what to do about that).  My utility trailer has exterior plywood sides but they are rotting.

So there are those things that I have put off in favor of the larger needs.  Now it is time for those smaller ones. 

I've designed new framed garden beds.  They will be wider and higher (15' H x 4' x 8' instead of 10" H x 3' x 8'), have 6" of sheet metal flat on the bottom to stop grass growing up against them (for easier mowing),  and have boards on the top edges for sitting.  With 4" x 4" posts along the outsides to suport the board on the sides and on the top.And I will be cutting down some trees to allow for more sunlight on the garden.  I regret losing the trees, but I have too much shade as the trees have grown taller for 26 years.

The trailer will get higher sides, and a solid bottom.  And of ACQ treated plywood.  The previous plywood rotted to fast and the bottom was boards with gaps.  I had to keep using tarps to keep compost and sand from falling through.

The attic came back to my attention when I had to "duck walk" across 30' of joists when the roof started leaking to place collection pans under the leaks.  I've figured out how to avoid the electrical wires of the joists without making them inaccessible for repairs.  I have 1" x 2" x 8' boards that I will cut into 6" lengths.  I'll screw those on top on the joists next to the wires and along the outer edges of where plywood can be screwed in place on top.  That may not be clear...  I'm raising the plywood just above the wires on the joists, but using screws so the plywood can be removed if there is a need to get at the electrical wires.

I need a new compost bin, too.  The old one is in shade (it wasn't in the shade when I built it), was too small, has no top to keep varmints out, and leans over badly.  It wasn't my best design...  So I am designing a better one.  Larger, more air circulation, tops, in sunlight.  I drew up a framed hardware screen panel 4' x 4', and I will just make 6 of them to attach to sturdy 4" x 4" posts set in the ground, hinged on the front and top.

There are other projects too, but those should take a few months, LOL! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


The continuing voyage of Mark and Dad (and 3 cats) through the changing universe of ElderHeisenbergish uncertainty.  Stardate 2012.10.16...

SOCIAL SECURITY CARD - When getting Dad's 2011 Social Security payment tax document, I found a place to get replacement social security cards.  I lost mine years ago (lost wallet).  So I downloaded the form twice.  One for me and one for Dad.  I asked him (then) and he wanted a new one.  When I got around to filling out the form for Dad, I didn't have all the information.  I had no idea where Dad was born!  And it asked his parents' SSA numbers which I didn't have, plus needed Dad's birth certificate (which I couldn't find.  So I waited until we sat down to pay his next bill (that focuses his mind on documents).

We paid his FL house electric bill today (house still unsold because Dad WAY overvalues it) and I brought out the replacement SSA form.  He decided he didn't want a new one because his was "in great shape".

I challenged him to show it to me, because I hadn't seen one in his wallet.  I should know better...

He spent an hour fumbling through his wallet (stopping to shave for 15 minutes in the middle), and FINALLY came out with his Medicare card.  Well, it does have his SS# on it.  I went around and around with him about that NOT being his SS card.  He said it was the original SSA card and I pointed out that Medicare didn't exist when he was issued his SSA card!  Blank stare...

Eventually, he refused to sign the replacement card form and I shredded it (there was personal information I had filled out).  THEN, he says, "well, there are some other cards in my jewelry box".

Other cards?  After 5 months of asking about cards?  Argh.  Well, he went and brought them out.  Most were useless cards.  Old hunting license, golf club membership from 20 years ago,  etc, AND a beat-to-death SSA card.

So he said "see, I TOLD you I had it"!  This after insisting over and over that his Medicare card WAS his SSA card...  Well, at least we found it.  And it IS beaten all up and not very readable.  So he decided he could use a replacement after all (because I suggested that his beaten-up card was historical and should be saved while he used a replacement card for "everyday".

Now I have to find the replacement card form again because he REALLY wants one now...  LOL!  I'll do that happily...

2011 TAX FORMS - I've been struggling to get replacement forms for Dad's 2011 taxes (overdue as of yesterday).  I had sorted out ALL the documents he said he had months ago, found his tax preparer a while ago and contacted them about missing documents, and gotten a list of documents the tax folks still needed.  The problem was that Dad seems to have decided back in March that most documents were just "trash" and he stopped keeping them.

I value govt workers.  Thet do the best they are allowed to do.  I was one of them.  But I can see why some people don't like govt agencies.  I went NUTS trying to find how to get replacement 2011 tax forms for SSA and OPM annuity tax forms.  It took weeks.

When I needed the same from 2 banks and one investment firms, they emailed the documents to me the same day.

I don't want to blame the govt workers because they are constrained by laws passed by Congress to protect private information and businesses can just send it to anyone immediately*.  But the last documents I will get are govt ones.

Dad is convinced I am wasting time by not just using last year's numbers (which he also doesn't have because they seemed not worth keeping at the time),  He doesn't believe that false numbers are worse than no numbers.  He might be right; I doubt the IRS will throw a 90 year old guy in prison for filing taxes a month late, or even assign penalties (the tax preparers say penalties are also very unlikely given his age).

But he drives me nuts with the irrationality.  I know he isn't to blame.  I can see he is doing the best he can.  I bite my tongue a lot and sit patiently for an hour while he fusses through things most times.  OK, I invent excuses to leave the table (bathroom, mail, cats, laundry).

WHERE DAD LIVES - Dad has lived in 4 places in the past 32 years.  One is here, for 5 months.  The others are almost completely lost to him. Vague memories if specific facts are mentioned. 

There's more, but I'll save it.  This is getting too long...  And the one most lost to him is the immediately previous one.  If Dad went to assisted living (not that he will be any time soon) he would not recall living with me after about a month...

* All the businesses needed was an account number I could have gotten from a neighbor's trash and an old guy who claimed to be Dad on the telephone.  The govt agencies practically needed a life history and fingerprints.  Think about that when you complain about govt...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

More Sads and Confusions

I should mention that I'm grateful for all the recommendations from readers/friends/family.  They are all good, but all situations and personalities are different so some fit with Dad and I better than others.  For example, respite care is suggested often, and I don't really need respite care yet.  I will one day, but I can get away for a couple of hours at a time now because Dad can take care of himself for hours at a time.  I can go grocery shopping, work on the computer, or spend time out in the yard without much problem.  So I'm not desperate for small amounts of time "off" yet.

The meal preparation, laundry, and cleaning is not a problem either.  I like to cook and have always spent time on it for myself.  Cooking for two is not much extra work.  Although I will say that preparing meals on a set schedule is new to me (and annoying).  I've always been an "eat when hungry" person, plus its never bothered me to skip a meal when I was busy.  With Dad, I MUST make lunch at noon and dinner at 6.  That part's hard, but not something I'm willing to hand off to a professional.

Perhaps the best routine gain Dad has from living here is the food.  When I picked up Dad in FL in May, I discovered he was living on hot dogs, frozen fish and ice cream.  Now he has a healthy cereal for breakfast (his effort not mine), a sandwich of home-made bread, some meat, lettuce, and onions, with sliced tomato, carrot sticks, radish, and a pickle on the side.  Dinner is some few ounces of fresh meat with lots of veggies over rice or spaghetti, tossed salad, green veggie, and potato or corn.  He wants sweet stuff for dessert (and gets some) but I get a lot of fresh fruit into him too.

Cleaning is different.  As a bachelor, I don't clean like my mother did.  But from seeing Dad's place in FL, I clean a bit more than he did.  I watched him clean a table once and some dishes once, and there is no way I will let him do that again.  If he cleans something, I thank him and then clean it properly later when he isn't paying attention.  The weird thing is that I would clean MORE often, but he wants to "help" and that is worse than doing it myself.

Laundry is not much more than just for me.  Like many old folks, Dad wears the same clothes too long.  Well, its not like he works up a sweat sitting in a chair watching TV all day, but I image that dead skin cells add up.  I change outfits every day; Dad would wear them for a week.  Its not TOO hard to remind him that he wore "those clothes" for 3 days.  I do my own laundry often enough that I can "offer" to do his at the same time.

Memory-Fail example:  EVERY time I mention laundry, Dad wants to accompany me down to the basement to see how the washer and dryer work.  He never recalls that he has done that every week for 5 months...  Sometimes I get off easy when he allows me to "just wash his".  There is a reason his laundry hamper is in the main bathroom.  So I can see that it gets fuller and when he has run out of clean underwear...

And I should admit right out that I don't have Dad here because I am lonely (as Dad [and some friends] sometimes imagines).  I LOVED living alone (with the cats of course).  And I look forward to living alone again some day.  I understand that it won't be this year.  It may not be next year (but that will be stretching my perseverance thin).  Dad is here because I was told he could no longer live on his own, The day poop dribbles out the bottom of his pants and he doesn't notice, he will discover assisted living facilities.  I am many things, but I am not a bodily nurse.  I don't have the stomach for it.  If I see a kid throw up on TV, I throw up.  There are things I can do and things I can't.  Its all I can do to flush the toilet when Dad forgets to (which is always now).

I'm doing this because it is required, I am the best child to live with at this specific time, and I don't know how to get out of it.

I get Dad now because my sister Susan and I agreed years ago that she would take Mom and I would take Dad if one or the other needed elder care.  Sexism makes sense sometimes.  50/50 chance, and I lose.  Thats normal for me.

No, the new stuff I intended to write about was about Dad's mental lapses.  The above was just all an  indroduction to why the physical stuff wasn't that important but the mental stuff was.

As Arlo Guthrie said, "Ive gone on for 20 minutes, I can go on for another 20 minutes.  I'm not proud.  OR tired."  Or something like that...

Today Dad forgot how to count money.  I saw him take cash out of his wallet, and he started writing down numbers on post-it sheets.  I knew what he was trying to find out.  How much cash he had.

It deeply saddens me that he could not add OR count.  He tried counting directly and came up with different numbers.  He tried listing the amounts of the individual bills.  He kept coming up with different numbers.

I like it when Dad gets obsessed with things because it keeps him harmlessly occupied.  Watching golf, listening to silly Fox News, reading the new privacy documents from his credit card company, deciding what to do with the address labels that all charity groups send.  When he gives up, I explain them in simple words and trash them (well, I save the address labels; he likes those).

But back to the money-counting.  Dad can't count money annynore.  He confuses the denomination with the quantity of them.  He wrote down 10 lists of bills.  Every one was wrong.  The specific falure is that he writes $20 no matter how many of the 20s there are.  He can count the other bills right.

My frustration is when he can't THINK straight.  Thats what drives me crazy.  I cant blame him, but it still makes things so hard for me.

Dad was always factually-oriented.  So am I.  But he is losing it SO badly and SO fast.

We were watching a show about dinosaurs after dinner.  He said (as he so often does lately)  "they don't know the size of those reptiles.  They could be ten times or one tenth that size".  I mentioned that "they" have the bones.  Dad said "yeah, but they still can't tell"!  He dismisses everything that he does not know for sure himself..  OK, he ALWAYS has, but he's getting WORSE.

He confuses me.  When I said "but they have the bones", he didn't care.  The fact had no importance to him.  He has lost all analysis ability.   And THAT'S what is hardest for me to deal with.  The loss of mental existence.

He exists physically, he can walk (and better with the cane we bought last week).  But his mind is going, and that is the part I am struggling with.

He thought Sarah Palin was in the vice presidential debates this year.  When I said she was 4 years ago he said I was "all wet".  He thought Reagan was president.  Then he thought McCain lost, but not Palin as VP.  Then he decided he wasn't sure who McCain's VP was.  Maybe Romney.

Anything I say is wrong.  I should ignore that but I can't.  My whole life has been factually oriented.

Time to start ignoring everything Dad says, isn't it?  But how?  I need to talk to him because he talks to me.  I don't know how to ignore him.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

More Confusions

I brought Dad to Walmart to pick up the prescriptions for high cholesterol and Vitamin D yesterday.  The drugs came with papers describing problems.  I should have hidden those!

He spent several HOURS reading them over and over.

The basic instructions were VERY simple.  Take ONE provostatin pill daily.  Take ONE Vit D pill weekly.  Not 2 daily, not 2 weekly.   Yet he sat reading the fine print accompanying the pills for HOURS. 

The problem seems to be that he has two other meds .  He hasn't taken them in the 5 months he's been here, but NOW, he wants to take them.  On the advice of a DR he hasn't seen in 2 years.  And for problems the new DR doesn't see...

I should steal the old pills, right?

Actually, I need to call the new DR and ask about the old pills.

But I need to set up a scheduke for the new pills.  No way Dad will remember to take that weekly pill.  And there are other things that need to be done.  Weekly showers, daily water drinks.

So  have an idea.  Weekly pill and weekly shower - Friday night.  Daily pill at lunch with a full glass of water. 

And he chose a cane.  Walmart had 2 basic canes in the store.  There are many better ones online and I found a place that had many to choose from locally .  He refused to visit the "many cane" place. 
On the other hand, the one he chose is good enough.  He walks better already (when he uses it).  Getting him to keep the cane around is hard. 

He fell 3 times this week without the cane.  He didn't with it.  But he doesn't want to use it.

That drives me nuts.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sister Visit

My sister Susie and hubbie Walt visited Saturday.  Naturally, I never thought to take pictures.  Well, it's always so busy and good when they visit, I forget.

They loved the new look of the house.  I asked Susie for her opinion about what color to paint the garage and front doors (the siding is gray/green and the shutters darker green.  I was thinking the doors should match the shutters.  Susie has great color sense.  Florist experience, and she has a Martha Stewart tendency (a good thing - you should see her house).  She said leave them white, so I will.  The more I picture the green vs white doors, the more I like the white.

I cooked a chicken and extra parts in the slow smoker.  It turned out great (for once - I get lucky sometimes).  Susie brought a potato salad that was oddly familiar.  I make mine spicy and vinegary.  Susie said it was Mom's old recipe.  The dressing is mayo with powdered mustard and a bit of catalina dressing.  Ahh, a touch of flavor and memory from my youth!  I will sure make it that way next time...

I love Susie and Walt. Even if they weren't related, I would love to have them as next door neighbors.  I mean, if they were strangers and moved next door, we would be friends.  And I bet ours cats would get used to each other too.

[Marley - No we WOULDNT!]  Quiet Marley!  Yes you would.  Because the fence would be down between our yards and you would get used to each other.  Lucy is NOT evil!

Anyway. it was a great family visit, and Dad and I are going to visit Susie at Thanksgiving.  Dad doesn't know that yet.  There is no point in telling him until a a day before.  Eldercare sometimes means just announcing things suddenly.  LOL!

[Ayla:  Well, we all hid unner the bed fer a reason]  Yeah, you are are all CHICKENS.   Susie and Walt are "cat people".  You should have come out and got scritchies.  THEY know how to do them too, you know.

[Yeah but...]   Treat time!  All come out to the kitchen...  [YAY!]

Whew!  But the visit was great and it was so nice to see family again...


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Back To Dad...

This is probably repetitive, but Dad is getting worse.  I don't mean to say that I expected him to get better, but in good weeks he stays at least the same.  This was not one of those weeks.

I'm almost feeling bad writing about his problems.  Those who are experiencing elder care (spouse or child) already know how the weeks go, and those who don't can't quite understand it.  But the last week has gone downhill, and I have to write about it.  Nothing especially "horrible".  It just the increasing confusion that makes things so difficult. 

I'm not sure whether I imagined this in a dream or whether I saw it in print somewhere, but I have this image of a 1 panel cartoon with a grampa, a middle-age adult, and and a baby.  Each has a thought balloon...

The middle-age adult's says "they are driving me crazy".  The Grampa's says "I'm getting worse".  The baby's says "I'm going to get more able".

I'd rather have the baby, but I have the Grampa, and I didn't get to choose.

Lest you think that this middle-aged adult doesn't know what babies are like, I do.  I was the eldest child and my youngest sister was born when I was 15.  Guess who was the constant babysitter?  I'll bet I changed more diapers and cleaned more bottoms than many fathers.  Not "all" but "many"...

Dad is more confusing almost every day.  I both wish and don't wish that he would reach the point where I can't care for him 

1.  The "wish" part comes from the way he is so confused sometimes that he confuses ME and I don't know how to respond.  I would love to be relieved of the confusion.  The simplest things are baffling him, and he seeks explanations.  I give them as simply as I can, of course, but simple isn't always complete and he can still detect that "sometimes". 

An example:  It is the time of year here when days stay warm but nights get cold.  I am used to turning on the heat at night and the AC in the day to keep the house between 7 and 73 year-round (yes, I'm a temperature wimp - I have a very precise comfort zone).  Outside, temp variations are broad because there is wind and open air.  Outside, I am happy between 60 and 80. 

Anyway, Dad has insisted that the floor vents in his bedroom and the TV room (where he spends ALL day) be blocked "from that damned freezing air".  Which worked well all Summer...  But now the temperatures fluctuate.  Yesterday, he called me in to look at the floor.  He was horrified to find COLD AIR pouring up from the vent! 

There was a reason.  The day before, I advised Dad that I was turning on the heat at night so he wouldn't feel too cold.  But that he would have to replace the closed vent cover in the daytime when the AC came one cuz it got over 80 degrees.  He said he understood that.  But he forgot that of course.

Tonight, we had the exact same discussion, and he (angrily) said he understood the vent had to be changed each day,  Tomorrow, we will have the same discussion again, because he won't recall any of it (and more importntly, won't understand WHY the vent has to be changed to suit his comfort zone.  I understand that he will NEVER remember about the vent...  I accept it.  But it drives me nuts to explain the same thing day after day.

2.  The "don't wish" part is that I don't want Dad to lose his mind.  I am used to him being angrily conservative while I am unapologetically progressive (not always "liberal", there's a difference).  But him being "nuts" (technical term, LOL) is very different.  He asks me the weirdest things sometimes.

Is the chicken cooked?
Do you have a sandwich for yourself?  (He has the other half of our mutual lunch sandwich - It's a big loaf).
Same with giving him a half a peach after a meal.  "Do you have some for yourself?"  (Yes I have the other half and its on the plate right next to me).
Are you having dinner too?  (seeing two chicken thighs cooked and one on each of our plates).
He won't eat a snack of potato chips if he doesn't see some on my plate.

But those are the minor examples.

He knocked on my bedroom door last night at 3 am and asked if I was warm enough.  Warm enough?  I was sweating from the heat of 73.  And at 3 am?  And does he not think I can mange the temperture of the house?   HE can't.  He has no idea how the thermostat works.

He asks the same questions EVERY day.  Did I get enough sleep? Am I hungry?  Do I see a groundhog outside?  Did I hear someone knocking at the door?    Have I washed?  Can I hear the TV? 

He's basically insane.  I sleep well; if I'm hungry, I eat; If I'm cold, I wear warmer clothes (he doesn't), if someone knocks at the door, I will answer it (seldom happens), I wash my hands a dozen times a day (cleaning kitty litter boxes or handling raw meat).  I can hear the TV across the house at the volume Dad needs it at.  I think he thinks I am a child again. 

I have learned to answer most of his questions YES/NO.  Explanations beyond that baffle him.   Two thoughts in one sentence is one more than he can follow.  

This is too long a post, but it is not long enough to express all my confusions with Dad...

Here is Dad complaining of being cold.  Wearing shorts and the thinnest possible knit shirt...
I CANNOT get him to wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants! Sometimes he will put on a windbreaker  jacket, which is utterly weird!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The New Outside, 6

Well, here it is all done.  The gutter guys were in and out so fast, I hardy got any pictures (and I was pretty worn out by that time).
The house looks GREAT!
The neighbors have commented on it (favorably).
I am thrilled!
See the downspouts?  I have 6" gutters and downspouts, and a gutter cover that will keep leaves out (finally).
And this siding is smoother than the old siding.  No place for mildew to get into for a long, long time.  A lot easier to keep clean!

And something else.  The workers were very careful about my plants all around the house.  Very little damage.  I watched them moving the ladders around, and they really worked to not damage them.  That matters.

I will be giving them an "A" rating all the way on Angies List.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The New Outside, 5

The New Siding (finally):

They worked on the front first.  That went slow because of all the windows.  They were VERY careful about fitting the siding around those...
 It was the same on the back.  More windows...
The sides went a LOT faster.  No windows, LOL!  But the angles for the roof took time.  They were VERY careful about THAT too.  In fact, one guy did all the angle werk.  He seemed to be a specialist in a couple other parts of the job too.  And maybe they do the sides last because its easier to measure the amount of siding still needed.  That seemed to be a concern (but they had leftover siding they left with me).
I know the siding loks a bit gray, but it is greener than in the pictures.  Maybe because it was cloudy.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The New Outside, 4

So, he first thing they did was start puting new soffit on the undersides of the eaves.
I was surprised at how much work was involved.  They did more than the original builder did!  They added anchor strips and checked for it being level in all 3 directions.  I enjoyed listening to them calling the measurements down to the guy doing the cutting.  "5 4 3" is 5 feet 4 and 3/8 inches.  No wasted words, LOL!

The results looked great!  (This is before they screwed the outside edge to the bottom of the overhang).  But I don't have a good picture of that.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The New Outside, 3

The House, stripped of the old siding...
And the new underlayment/insulation on.

Unlike the original builder, they covered every square inch with insulation. 

End of first day...

They arrived the next morning, when the new siding was to be delivered.  It wasn't.  They did what they could, waiting.  There were some soffits still to be removed, and electrics (like my motion detector lights over the front door) to be detached and capped off for safety.

But the new siding still wasn't delivered.  They called about it and were told it wouldn't be there til after noon,  so they left.

But the delivery came immediately.  A delivery driver called in sick, but an office guy loaded up a pickup and drove it over. Fortunately, the siding guys saw it coming into the neighborhood and followed it back here.

So they unloaded...

And they went right to work!  YAY!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The New Outside, 2

The debris was amazing!
 They cleaned everything up every day.
They could have waited to the end of the work.  I would have thought that OK.  But they like to leave the place clean every day.

I was impressed!  They are professionals, and have pride in their work.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The New Outside, 1

OK, I took enough pictures of the changing of the outside of the house, so I an sure going to show them!

This is how bad the siding looked.  It got so abraded in 26 years that the mildew couldn't be blasted off with housewash spray and pressuse rinse.  It would look good for a month, then mildew grew again (the front faces north, so no sunlight to kill mildew).

I tried sprays, I tried mopping, I gave up.  Vini, Vica, Surrendre!  And 26 years of blue was enough anyway.

"There is a time, (turn turn turn)
To have a new look (turn turn turn)
To have another color, under the sun."

"A time for a change,
A time for new,
A time for color other than blue,
A time to re-flect a new clean of viewing."
So the guys are stripping the old siding off. They really knew their business.  Without words, they moved together or apart to do the job perfectly!

I knew the house was built badly just by living here.  But I learned new shortcuts about it when the old siding was pulled off.  See the raw plywood?  That was all supposed to have been covered with insulation.  It wasn't.  But when the house was buit in 1986, I could only visit on weekends.  I didn't see that part done poorly.
 The new work was what the old work SHOULD have been.  Insulation put on every square foot.  And the guys tapped every spot to make sure that they nailed not just into the sheathing, but the interior wall studs for greater strength.
They did such GREAT work.   Watching them measure the flashings around the windows (as they took the old stuff OFF was wonderful.  They checked the levels of all windows several tines before they attached anchors for the new trim and siding.
I knew as I watched them merely REMOVE the siding, that they knew what they were doing!