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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!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012



I mentioned last time that "Dad is losing his mind first (though physical incompetence is catching up rapidly)."  Dad thinks his biggest problems are that he can't get his feet to move easily, that he forgets individual words, and that he doesn't get much sleep. 

If only he knew...  He can't move his feet because his weight is planted firmly on both of them.  He can't do the "shift weight to one foot, fall forward slightly, and swing the unweighted foot forward" that is walking.  When I suggest a cane, he refuses saying it wouldn't help.  When I suggest he just try a simple piece of closet pole (no cost involved) as a quick test, he refuses.  He has two walkers; one a 4 wheel type that can be a simple pushable wheelchair, the other a dedicated walker with 2 wheels in front for pushing.  He looks at thos every couple dsys, but will not try them out.

I understand why.  In the immediate sense, using them is the final surrender to old age.  In an indirect sense, Mom used a walker, then went to assisted living, then died.  Using a walker would be an acceptance of the sequence.

It sure makes life awkward though.  He is SO slow moving through the house without support!  Fortunately, the living area of the house has a circular design, so I can always go around him by walking through the other rooms.  Its usually much faster.

I don't want these posts about Dad's problems to seem like criticism or humor.  Yes, I sometimes fail to understand how he can think or do something so obviously non-sensical, and yes, I often make light of some really difficult conversations or actions.  Frustration slips in between the lines sometimes.  I'm doing this partly as a record of events, and partly so that others may see these things developing with their own elderly parents and understand its not unique.  There are patterns...

The latest...

1.  Dad has been either putting used food dishes in the sink or washing them and puting them in the dishwasher for months.  Today, he suddenly asked where to put ihis used coffee cup because the dishwasher was running.  I said "in the sink".  In the sink was a small tupperware container with a few small cat food bowls soaking in soapy water.  He said the sink was "full".  When I said there was plenty of room in the sink, he tried to push the coffee cup into the full tupperware container.  Seeing his confusion, I said to just put the coffee cup next the the container and I would take care of it.

2.  Sometimes before Noon, Dad will ask if I plan to make lunch that day.  Not that I've ever not made him lunch.  But lately, the conversation goes either of two directions. 

A.  Version one, when I present him with his sandwich and pickle/chips/carrotsticks/etc, he asks if I have made one for myself too.  Its an odd question because I make one large sandwich (my bread loaves are large) and cut it in half for each of us.  If there is one half a sandwich, there must be a 2nd half. 

B.  Version two, when he sees me making our lunch sandwich, he asks "are you making one for me too"?  Again, 4 months, and I have never failed to make his sandwich.  Now, that could be an attempt at humor.  But humor has certain inflections and facial expressions designed to clue us in on a joke.  He looks slightly woried, so its not that.  He's actually worried I won't feed him. 

3.  The yellow box on the toolshed...  Dad is constantly asking me weird questions about things he thinks he sees outside.  Today, he asked what "that yellow box on the side of the toolshed was".  He described where it was by referencing parts of the shed and giving directions from those.  I can usually figure out what he is looking at.  Never mind that IF there was a yellow box attached to the toolshed (150' away) , I would surely know about it...  If a sparrow fell on the roof, I would notice.  I can see when there is a hummingbird at the feeder on the toolshed.  There was no yellow box on the toolshed.  None.  At all.

4.  Dishwasher...  If you or I were visiting a friend and added dinner plates to the dishwasher helping to clean up, we would notice the the host placed plates in one area, bowls in another, glasses in another, etc.  Dad can't see patterns anymore.  He puts stuff in the dishwasher anywhere (when he tries) randomly.  I don't mind that much, but when he catches me rearranging things, he acts disrespected.  He nests spoons together, too (dangerous).  My point is that he can't detect patterns or organizations, and he was an engineer.  Among the many abilities he has lost, his sense of logical organization may be the saddest.

 5.  Did you notice details in the picture of Dad outside at the top?  He complains about being cold in the house, wearing shorts and a thin golf shirt.  I keep the house at 74F (too warm for me too cold to him).  But I have learned to wear shorts and light shirts to adjust as best I can (my perfect temperature is 70).  Notice that ir was 82F outside.  Dad put on a sweater to go outside in warmer temperature!  When he came back inside, he took the sweater OFF and complained about being cold again.

You know, he used to live in NH.  He knows how to dress for the cold.  He just WON'T anymore.  I bought 3 nice light long sleeved shirts today.  Technically, they are for me.  But maybe I can get Dad to try wearing them.

I can't believe its only been 4 months, it seems like Dad has been here a year...

Friday, September 14, 2012


I thought I knew what dementia meant.  I thought it was about forgetting things.  I thought if someone had it REAL bad they tended to wander away or forget who you were and that was Alzheimer's. 

Well I was wrong.  I didn't realize the degree of unreasonable self-orientation involved in dementia! 

I've gotten used to Dad breaking in with a trivial question involving past or future events while I am trying to get dinner on the table.  I am used to him bugging me about having lunch ready promptly at noon and dinner at 6 pm.  He was ALWAYS fussy about schedules.

I am used to him complaining unsensibly.  If the TV shows a poor news video, he complains that my (Big Screen HD Plasma 1080) TV is poor quality.  If there isn't anything he wants to watch, he complains I have a poor cable system (1,000 and "57 channels and nothings on"...).  The sink water doesn't get hot immediately. 

My favorite last week was that he needed a calendar because he couldn't tell what day it was.  He couldn't figure out why looking at a calendar wouldn't tell him what day it was.

But today was a new low.  I don't mean that he said he had another family for a decade or that I wasn't his son.  Not THAT level.

But...  I have people here putting new siding on the house.  Its noisy work, and they have a job to do.  Dad is normally happy watching Fox News and listening to the talking heads.  I've been mostly staying outside watching them work (its fascinating), and I make sure to ask Dad how things are going every hour or so. 

Well, apparently Fox News was replaying a speech by Paul Ryan and all the hammering annoyed him.  When I came in, Dad was ANGRY.  "They should have stopped all the hammering during his speaking (sic), out of respect"!

Me:  "What?!?

Dad:  "They should have stopped when someone important was speaking"!

Me:  "Dad, they have a job to do.  They have a schedule".

Dad:  "It was disrespectful"!

Me:  "Dad, you're being unreasonable.  They didn't know someone was speaking and they wouldn't stop working if they did.  I don't care if a politician is speaking.  Most of the world wouldn't care.  People have to keep doing their jobs.


US:  (Some repetitive back-and-forth angry/calming words)

Me:  "Dad, please sit down, watch your political TV.  I'm busy!"  (leaves house)

I was completely surprised by the whole event.  I accept the daily forgetfulness, I accept his confusion about bills, etc (and I can deal with that); but I hadn't seen the irrationality involving a real-time event on such a personal level before.  And it wasn't at sundown...

Mom became physically unable while still mentally competent.  Dad is losing his mind first (though physical incompetence is catching up rapidly).  

More about all that next time.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

This Day

No terrible act is remembered forever in history.  But I will remember THIS day 11 years ago all MY life.

December 7, 1941 is etched in my memory, though I was not alive them.  I know it from history, but what was recent history to me when I aged enough.

November 22, 1963 is part of my childhood memory as a day of great sadness.  I remember looking up at the public address system of the school when it was announced that the President had been killed.  The PA box was blonde wood, rounded square shaped,  slightly wider at the top than the bottom, with brown cloth covering the speaker.  You remember the strangest things sometimes.

I was older of course on 9-11.  The day started with an announcement on the radio about a small plane crashing into a World Trade Center Building.  I mentioned it in passing to my supervisor.  The next few reports made it seem worse.

Then I felt a THUMP under my feet at 9:37.  I didn't know that the Pentagon had been struck.  But I realized after that, that I had felt the strike. I happened to look at my watch.  Seared in memory.

My govt office had some Emergency Management functions, so there was a special TV in a conference room.  Most of us ended up in there.  I was out on the roof at the time the first Tower went down, so I didn't see it in real time.

I saw the 2nd Tower go down though.  Most thought it a replay of the 1st Tower, but I saw the difference and called attention to it.  We all stared in horror.

There are evil vicious cruel acts occurring all over the world on a daily basis.  Victims have their lives shattered every day.  No one is free of them.  I will not make guesses on "worst".

There are reasons given for all destructive killing acts.  Most of them are pathetically weak.  But some are more unsensible and evil than others.

I have a background in history.  Phenomenally and nearly innumerable horrible acts abound through the ages.  Pol Pot, Nazis, Colonialism, Inquisitions, Witch-Burnings, European Christian Crusades, Islamist invasions, Mongol and Hun attacks, Viking slaughters, and back on through the lost times of history.  No age is free of vicious and pointless deaths.

But I will remember 9-11 all my life with a line I read in the book 'Dune'.  "Never forgive, never forget".

But I should.  When I read about some cultural group angry about something that happened 500 years ago, I have to wonder about the "never forgetting" part.  There was the December 7th attack, but we think of Japan as an ally now.  As Germany is a democracy now, as is Italy.  Forgiveness is possible.

There may be a day when I will forgive the Islamists for the 9-11 attack.

But today is not that day.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Salad dressing is "paste".

The cats are "dogs" and they (2 female 1 male) are all "he".

Paper clips are "safety pins".  Or do I have that backwards?  He wanted safety pins for his pajamas and saw paper clips, thinking they were safety pins.

Any pile of brown leaves in the back yard is a "groundhog".

The paperclip/safetypin one was the strangest this week.  He came out looking for safety pins.  He said he had seen 2 on the dining room table.  For those of you with organized rooms and lifestyles, I should mention that our "dining table" is only partially for eating at.  Its also our general desk for bills and newspapers, etc.  So after Dad fussed around with his bills and seemed to be trying to  attach them together, it occurred to me that Dad might actually be looking for paperclips, of which there ARE 2 on the table, but hidden behind the napkins.

So I picked them up and showed them, asking if these were what he was looking for.  He said "yes" so I dropped the matter.  For a minute...

He WAS actually looking for safety pins, and thought the paperclips WERE safety pins.  5 minutes of awkward discussion followed.  Wherein I finally learned that he really DID want 2 safety pins for his pajamas, and he was convinced that the 2 paperclips I showed him were what he needed.  I'm used to him getting the wrong word for things, but not the wrong actual object! 

The low point of the discussion was DAD:  "I've been alive a lot longer than you, and I know what a safety pin is (looking at the paperclips)! 

OOO-KAY...  He finally mentioned there were safety pins on the pajamas in his hamper.  So I got them and he went off and did whatever he wanted the safety pins for (I haven't asked - YET).

Thats when I noticed his toenails are all about an inch long...  I hadn't seen him barefoot.   Got to do something about that, since I guess he can't reach his feet anymore.  I don't mind clipping them for him, but you would think he would have mentioned it before.  Or not.  I'm still learning to be a caretaker.

Its all quite confusing.  Every day is a new learning experience.  In one way, that's good for me; new challenges are good for the mind.  Clipping Dad's toenails might not be quite the mental experience I would choose.  But what needs to be done WILL be done...

Well, some day I may have to help him wash in the tub or even wipe his butt.  I can wait...  Computer games are a sufficient mind challenge for now.  But it seems I'll be getting different challenges than I expected soon.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Roof Replacement

Well, it sure got noisy around here today.  Last week, a branch fell and poked a small hole in the roof, so I had a person come out to take a look at it.  He did a quick patch job, but we discussed a fuller replacement job because the "20 year" shingles were 26 years old.  I found him on Angie's List and he had top ratings in every category, so I decided to get a quote for replacing the shingles. roofing paper, and any plywood sheathing that needed it in his opinion.

And since the vinyl siding was the same age, and abraded by weather to the point were even pressure cleaning it every few months left it dirty and ugly, I got a quote for new siding and gutters with covers.

The roof work was done today.  The crew did a thorough efficient job and the crew manager explained what they were doing every step of the way.  The siding has to wait about a week, because the trim color I selected had to be special ordered.

There really isn't too much to show about a roof job.  It's too flat (and high) to get any really good pictures.

It was amazing watched them go up and down the ladder, walk along the edge of the roof, toss stuff up to the roof from the ground, etc, though.
Here is a guy shoving plywood sheathing up a ladder.  I would have difficulty just carrying the plywood on the ground!
And if I was the guy on the top, there is NO possibility I could get it the rest of the way up.
So "let it rain"!

I can't wait for the new siding and covered gutters...