email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

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...

Dad...

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.

Mark

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...