When Memory Fades

How cognitive degeneration in a loved one can cause self-doubt

Hello gentle reader(s). This one is a bit of a wallow. I hope you continue reading, but you will not be thought less of if you stop reading now.

Although I’m not really the eternal optimist (can you be both a cynic and an optimist?) I guess I always figure it’s going to get better. No matter how bad it seems, it will eventually get better. Eventually. So here it goes.

Tonight I invited my mother, father and aunt over for dinner. The average age of this group, excluding me, is about 90 years young. My mom (87) and my aunt (91) are both still with it, but my dad (90) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago. He’s fading, not fast, but more noticeably.

We were all at the table, dinner was done, and the talk was about my house and the improvements I could make, and what the house might have looked like before the previous owners made their changes.

Dad was trying to participate in the conversation, but it was soon evident that he had forgotten where he was and who I was. Despite the fact that I have been his son for a long and intentionally-unrevealed-to-the-reader time, and despite the fact that he has been coming to my house on a nearly daily basis for the past six months, he continued to tell us how much this house we were in reminded him of his son’s house.

My aunt dealt with my uncle’s Alzheimer’s for more than 10 years. His care became too burdensome for her and he recently passed after 18 months in a memory care facility. She recognized what was happening in the conversation, and I’m sure my mom recognized what was happening as well. Mom’s been coached by my aunt and by her caregiver’s support group throughout dad’s struggles.

I also recognized what was happening, but it didn’t keep me from trying to bring him back to the present reality. I introduced myself, reminded him where he was, but try as I might it didn’t seem to work.

As they left I walked them to the car, but I still don’t think he knew who I was, or that this was the same house he would come to tomorrow. I’m pretty sure that when I see him tomorrow he will remember who I am and that this is my house. At least for a while. But he will never remember our conversations tonight.

I hope I had enough conversations with him when he could remember. But I will never know. I think we’ll be talking a lot more from now on. Even if he can’t remember.

Hey, Is This Thing On?

Or, the next installment of the Perils of rudyblues

Hello gentle reader(s), it’s rudyblues here. I know, I know, where have I been. It’s been a year or more since I’ve been here. Might have something to do with my fear of commitment. Or being a Pisces. Or a lazy slug. Enough with the soul searching, get on with it.

A lot has happened with old rudyblues in a year. Not just another year older (note to self, check that About page) but thousands of miles from where we last conversed. Is it considered a conversation when I type and you (maybe) read and type back? Seems a little disjointed.

Old rudyblues has pulled up stakes and moved his sorry behind from Illinois to Arizona. Me and Cat Master Jenna jumped in the rental truck filled with the precious bits that I wouldn’t entrust to the movers and made a three day drive from snow in the Midwest to sand (and gravel) in the Southwest. I think I once made a somewhat disparaging remark about ocean front property in Arizona. And maybe one about moving and something about not being a Rockefeller. I hope anyone here who read those remarks will forgive me.

Since old rudyblues has no wife (divorced) and no children (that he knows of) he has taken up the mantle of relocating to help care for his ailing father. Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years back and old rudyblues is in a position to help Mom take care of him. I bought a house that’s two short blocks from theirs and Mom brings Dad over so I can watch him while she gets some time off. He mostly sleeps but when he’s awake you have the same conversations ad infinitum. Come on, he’s nearly 90 after all, you can’t expect sparkling conversation all day!

I arrived here on November 2, 2019 after selling my house in Illinois and buying a house in Arizona in about one month’s time. It was a whirlwind. Mom found the place, I flew down in October to see it after I had already made an offer on it (I know, not smart), and we closed in a Starbucks in Joplin, Missouri while I was driving through on my way to Arizona. Lucky for me nothing fell through. Living in a U-Haul is not on my bucket list.

Did I mention snow in Illinois? Yes, the Midwest weather had to get in one last slap in the face when it heard I was leaving. I woke up on moving day to three inches of lovely, slushy snow. Thanks, Mother Nature!

But we arrived in Arizona in one piece. With a house. But no furniture. Furniture didn’t arrive until the end of the following week. The sellers left a couple of recliners (I love the product name BarcaLounger for some reason) but after a couple of night’s sleep(?) in those I broke down and bought an air mattress. Best. Purchase. Ever.

I arrived in Arizona during the meteorological sweet spot. Lows around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, highs around 75, sunshine, blue skies, an occasional rainy day, just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas with Mom and Dad and aunts and uncles and cousins in the area. I had abundant fresh oranges and grapefruit on the trees in the back yard and life was good.

Today, it was 109. Humidity was 9%. It looks so nice through the windows. But I know I shouldn’t succumb. On the positive side, I installed solar panels on the house. I got my first electric bill last month after turning them on. It was negative! I’m an energy magnate! Woo hoo!

And With Spring Just Around the Corner …

With apologies to the Southern Hemisphere

Let’s face it, gentle reader(s). If you live in the more temperate latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere on the Third Rock from the Sun, it’s been a long, hard winter. We’ve had long stretches where a temperature of zero felt warm. I’m talking in Fahrenheit here!

Even though the Vernal Equinox has come and gone, I still feel like meteorological spring is a long way off. And frankly, I’ve had it! As if that’s going to change anything.

Now I know that those of you who live nearer the equator may be saying “Well rudyblues, you could move.” Really? Move because I couldn’t stand the weather? What, you think I’m a Rockefeller or something?

My house this winter

And there’s probably some of you farther north who are saying “Wimp! You call that cold? Come up here, we’ll show you cold.” And all I have to say to all of you is “Hey, it’s my rant, I’ll cry if I want to.”

But there’s always been something about spring that I enjoy. Like that first really warm day, when everyone climbs out of their winter lairs, all wan-eyed and pasty-faced, and say to each other “Holy crap, that was a long, cold winter, wasn’t it?”

Or like the way the grass in the lawn goes crazy, but it rains so much that the mower sinks up to the gas cap when you try to mow. I hope pin-striped yards are a hit this spring.

Or like when those spring storms sweep in, with hail the size of acorn squash and winds that peel the paint off your car. And then, the next day, it’s warm and sunny, so you can clearly see all the damage.

Or like those “pneumonia fronts.” Not familiar with those? That’s a weather change where the temperature drops more than 18 degrees in an hour. In case you’re math challenged, that’s three degrees every 10 minutes. Try dressing for that change!

And there’s always that spring where it snows three feet of snow in early April. That’s always a joy. Especially since the next day it’s always 65 degrees and sunny and flash flooding. Woot!

Come to think of it, maybe I should just stay inside until July or August. I’ll let everyone else usher in spring. Summer’s more my style anyway. Just saying.

Home Repair with rudyblues

Another reason rudyblues won’t be on This Old House anytime soon

Life threw everything at me this morning, gentle reader(s). Including the kitchen sink.

Old rudyblues, your humble correspondent, woke up this morning at the usually appointed hour for a weekend (somewhere before the crack of noon) with big plans and high hopes. Well, plans anyway. Not really so big, just the usual weekend domestic stuff that I hope to get done every weekend, but usually don’t accomplish. You know the kind, right?

He padded downstairs in his stocking feet and tried to make some coffee. Stepped up to the kitchen sink to fill the water carafe for the coffee maker and stepped square into something cold and wet.

Now stepping into something cold and wet is not altogether unheard of here at Rancho Retardo. After all, my Cat Master Jenna occasionally leaves me little fur origami figures in little puddles of something that resembles weak broth.

Cat Master Jenna

But this was completely different. Hair balls make a wet spot on the bottom of one foot. It’s disconcerting, but you’ve got one foot left you can still dance to when you encounter one. This was both feet, and I swear it was knee deep!

So rather than jump quickly onto the dry foot, since there wasn’t one, I looked down at my feet and discovered that a body of water the size of Lake Erie had collected in the night. Oh joy. And me with no coffee.

I thought I would make some coffee before tackling the cleanup and repair work that had suddenly appeared in my schedule, so I put the carafe below the spout and turned on the water. That’s when I realized the nature and severity of my dilemma. Water ran harder under the sink than in the sink.

The sink has one of those lift-out spouts that doubles as a sprayer. It had developed a leak somewhere in the armored hose, so each time you turned the water on it sprayed water all over the inside of the cabinet below the sink. Woo hoo!

Now I can hear you saying right now “rudyblues, you moron, that had to be going on for a long time to collect a body of water the size of Lake Erie, how could you not have noticed.” Yeah, well, stuff happens, okay? I heard something funny, I just never made the connection.

So my first order of business was pumping down Lake Erie. Well, actually it was a couple of bath towels, but I’m working the body of water angle here. Once the kitchen floor was dry I tackled the cabinet.

I opened the door and saw that the usual array of soaps and cleaners and sprays were all suited up with little life preservers, bobbing about in the bottom of the cabinet. Well, maybe not bobbing. But they were wet. A saturated cardboard box of Brillo scouring pads makes a real mess, ya know?

Unloaded the cabinet, sopped up the water, shut off the water to the faucet and then assessed the damage. Not too bad, and since I had plans to replace the faucet eventually, a trip to the big box home improvement store was indicated. My diagnosis, my treatment.

Now if you’ve ever been to the big box home improvement store with rudyblues, you know that every trip means some repair or improvement is imminent. Well, imminent might be a stretch sometimes, but today it was imminent. And every repair or improvement requires a new tool. It’s how I roll.

But today I was on a Mission from God since I still hadn’t had my coffee. I know, I should have stopped at Starbucks, but I wasn’t thinking straight. Did you know that you can spend the equivalent of the GNP of some developing countries on kitchen faucets? Who buys those things? I actually left the big box home improvement store without a new tool. The manager asked if I was feeling okay. That’s how unusual this was.

So I’m back home, facing the sink, thinking okay let’s get the old faucet off. Replacing a faucet is something akin to playing Twister with drain pipes, water pipes, a double sink and a garbage disposal while lying on your back in a space that’s tight for hobbits, let alone normal, slightly overweight (hah!) middle-aged men. Needless to say, blue words were spoken. Too bad Cat Master Jenna doesn’t have opposable thumbs, I could have used her help.

Shiny!

So, some scraped knuckles, a few colorful phrases I didn’t know I could string together, enough ups and downs to crush my step total for the day, and I’m now into that period of satisfaction that comes after accomplishing something in two plus hours that professionals accomplish in mere minutes. Don’t touch it! It’s just for formal occasions.