“Put Your Shoes On.”

I want to describe how life is here … my interactions with Pete.   Interactions are relatively passive on his part …  I push him to places in his wheelchair;  I get him up in the morning; I fix him coffee; I get him coke or 7-up … he chooses!  A very few times, he speaks.  Let me describe a couple …

I will begin with last  Saturday morning.  While Pete is eating his breakfast, I showered and put on jeans and a shirt … no shoes!   He ate breakfast, and I brought him over in front of my chair.   He looks at me and mumbles something … his first vocalization since he got up … 3 1/2 hours ago!!   I ask him what he said.  He clearly says, “Put your shoes on.”  

I related this story to everyone who came into our room.   It made my day.   Craig brings some mail.  He hears the story.  I am “all smiles.”   Pete’s showing any communication skill is just wonderful.  Thus, my day is good!!!   It is also worthwhile … while I have this story on paper … to note the level of his communication.  This is a very good example of his speaking at a very concrete level … about something that is visible in the current time.   Craig and I know not to ask him for the definition of a “group.”   (Just a little  inside joke!!!)   

An example from last  Thursday:    Pete wakes about three o’clock in the morning.  I tell him it is too early to get up.  I ask him to go back to sleep because “it is not time to get up.”   He does go back to sleep!!”  He wakes for the day around 6:00 or 6:30 A.M. … I do not remember.   He is adamant that he get up right then.  I ask him, “Why do you have to get up right now?”  He tells me, “Because it is time to get up.”   It is going to be a good day!

Still Thursday.   Therapy is cancelled.   Barb, the therapist,  has the beginnings of not feeling well;  we all know that this is not the place for someone who might be getting some shareable illness.  Pete and I should use the time.  We will go for a walk … I push Pete in his wheelchair.  About a city block away … but still part of this complex … is a lovely collection of individual gardens … a community garden where residents have their own plots.   This part of the complex houses residents who are capable of taking care of themselves … basically individual apartments with very minimal services.  The gardens are lovely … tomatoes, marigolds, petunias, pumpkins … and a lovely squash that seems to be on a race to be the largest “thing” in the gardens.   Pete and I had done the gardens the day before … and he had clearly told me … when questioned … that that object was a “squash.”    I expected the same lovely reaction on this Thursday.  Instead, close to the gardens, he says, “I do not want to go there.”   So much for the walk … but he talked.   I smile and relate this sentence to everyone I see.

I have been thinking of other examples to add to this essay.  Pete’s favorite line these last few days is “Close your mouth.”   Now those who know Pete know that the old Pete would never say anything “nasty” to me.   I wouldn’t think the existing Pete would either … and he wouldn’t.   I was apparently sitting in front of the television with my mouth open … literally “Close your mouth.”   It is apparently the dryness of Colorado … and not my astonishment at some pathetic television show!!!

Another example … a little deeper.  The staff apparently woke Pete too early from his nap.   I came in soon after they woke him.   We were close enough to dinner so when he asked to go back to bed, i explained that we would go to dinner … then he could go back to bed.   He asked me: “Why won’t the girls come back and put me in bed?”   That sentence is pretty much in tune with what was happening at that time … and it was not really concrete … more like a reflection on … then current … activities.   I have pondered over that sentence quite a few times.   Those times make me so happy that Pete is getting such good care.

Keep in mind that words are so beautiful … and I grab everyone of Pete”s.

Love y’all.

 

“It Is What It Is!” (Nancy, 2018)

I went to a Caregivers’ Support Seminar last night.  I went two weeks ago, also.   I am not sure what I expect to get from the seminars.   The “blurb” indicates that the purpose of this group is “to be an ongoing support group and a safe place to process the many facets of caregiving including …”     Craig has been a little surprised … and I guess I have, too … at how easily I have accepted this role … both in my actions and in my mind.  Let me recall the first few months here.

During the first months … January to mid- March … I was very emotional whenever I tried to talk about the past.  Friends, Ann and Denny, called me often, and the conversation was difficult because I was so emotional.  Then, toward the end of March, Denver and this place began to take over my emotions.   Craig and Stephanie left for our Louisiana home the middle of April … the purpose being to bring back anything we wanted and to get the house ready to be sold.

The decision to sell the Louisiana home had been made and would not be changed.  Before Craig left, he and I mentally went through the Louisiana home room by room, and I would indicate furniture or such that I wanted here in Denver.   We had no room for IMG_0897large beds in this apartment; we had no reason for the  Louisiana recliners in our apartment living room … we already had recliners in the apartment;  dishes, clothes, kitchen things … nonsense to carry any of that to Denver.  We either buy here, or we really do not need them.  Conclusion … I have here in Denver one piece of furniture … and several paintings.  The piece of furniture is a two – shelf small, glassed in cabinet in which I keep my buffalo collection.  (See picture)  And, I do have some of my collection of buffaloes here in the apartment.  The rest are still at Craig’s.  I also have my Hemmerling … “Palm Sunday”.   Hemmerling is an artist IMG_0892who totally reflects the Cajun-Creole culture of Louisiana.  (Again, see picture:  My picture of a picture!!)  I have my South Africa Rug … our souvenir from South Africa.  See picture.)   I have two Sarah Rogers, an artist from Wyoming, … her  paintings have yet to find their places in our apartment.   One is “Hot and Cold Buffaloes ” and  the other is a beautiful representation of three occasions for flowers.   I had a fantastic Sarah Rogers’ drawing of a native American … it is already in Craig’s home.   That’s it!!!  “It is what it is.”

Ruby took the entertainment center … one of my favorites … it it so good for me to IMG_0893know she has it.  Michael … our lawncare person … took the mowers and other lawn equipment … good play!!!  Craig contracted with the “Estate Center” in Hammond to take everything left in our house and garage and either sell it or give it away.  We closed on the Louisiana house just a couple weeks ago.  The Louisiana home and the Wisconsin home both belong to other people!!!  And, I am quite content.  I am not getting calls on repairs to the house; I am not getting calls on lawn care; I am not getting bills for gas, electricity, water, phones, insurance, pest control,  trash, …

Pete and I have a lovely two bedroom apartment in which my paintings can be displayed — I love it!!!   And … Pete is getting the care I have wanted him to have.   One aspect of our moving to Denver that is as rewarding as possible is being close to Craig … we have gone from about two visits a year to about two visits a week.  Craig is so supportive of my being here.  He is my “Caregiver Support.”  I can’t change the outcome of Pete’s fall — mostly mental changes.  His legs had begun to weaken before his fall/stroke.   The dementia is really tough for me … but it is not going to change.  I keep pushing his physical rehabilitation.  It is the only way Pete can increase his ability to get out of his wheelchair with minimal help.  The admin here have decided that the staff should use the machine to get Pete in and out of bed.  I discussed the machine in a previous essay : “… or we could do that.”   We shall see how Pete’s physical abilities are affected by using the machine.  “It is what it is.”

We have fallen into a acceptable pattern of living.  I am probably void of concerns to discuss at the Caregiver’s Seminar.  On the other hand, maybe the admin using that machine with Pete all the time will weigh on me.   Is it what I thought our lives would be???  Of course not.  Can we  live this way.  Of course.  I really consider us fortunate to be in this assisted living complex.   As Nancy says, “It is what it is.” 

Love y’all.

Visitors Create Memories

In a sober, philosophical mood, I could say that all we have left are our memories.  At times, I feel that is really true.  Friends came to visit this summer … and created new memories … memories set in this new environment!!!   They are good.  The visits also brought forward some of the old memories.  Let me share new and old!!!.

Pete’s niece, Connie, her husband, Marty, and their daughter. Maddie, were in this area July 16th to 22nd … approximately.   Connie is the daughter of Pete’s sister, Margie … and went to South Africa with us in the early 1970’s.  Connie and her family had dinner here with us in the general dining room on July 16th and did lunch with us in the private dining room on July 22nd.  Guests are nicely welcomed here at the assisted living.   I guess it is my midwestern upbringing…I really enjoy having guests join us for meals.

Connie, Marty, and Maddie also visited us last summer … in Hammond.  Pete was in the “memory care” unit of  “Belle Maison. ”  He had been at Summerfield assisted living, and he was definitely not ready for their assisted living.   We had a wonderful doctor, Dr. Picou, who worked to get Pete into some nursing home in Hammond.  He succeeded with what we had : Belle Maison memory care.  Connie saw both Belle Maison and our current Village at Belmar.  Of course, Village at Belmar was so much better at meeting Pete’s needs.

On Monday, August 6th, my cousin, Charlotte, flew in from Austin, Texas.  The conversation was so good!  And, Charlotte adjusted her plans with the idea that she and I would drive to Breckenridge on Tuesday.   The staff would take care of Pete during my time away.  That is part of what we are paying for — I can leave and know that Pete is receiving good care.

Charlotte and I left about 10:00 AM, and the drive was so beautiful,  When Lori and Craig were young, we visited Pete’s sister, Maurine, and her husband, Bud, out here (Denver) every summer.  I know we did drives through the mountains on those visits … but I do not remember the beautiful views Charlotte and I saw.  Green …real green.  We stopped in a little town, Frisco, thinking we were at Breckenridge.  It was a wonderful mistake.  First stop in Frisco … latte!  Seriously, it must have been months since I had a latte.  The stores were darling … and the sidewalks were smooth and wide.  Bought a darling pair of earrings … I brought three pairs of earrings with me from Hammond!!!  Then we found our choice for lunch … something “5th Avenue.”   Since Charlotte was driving, I could have wine with our fabulous “flatbreads.”   Our lovely waitress and one of the wait staff settled on a chardonnay from Mer Soleil.  You must be getting the idea that this was just a marvelous day.  Of course, the chardonnay was great.  I bought the rest of the bottle … and have the empty bottle so I can be sure to get more!!!  After lunch, Charlotte and I decided that we should really visit Breckenridge.  We found it about 20 minutes further.  Of course, houses, stores, ready for skiers!  It was nice, but I will visit Frisco over Breckenridge!!!

We returned to the assisted living complex about 4:00 PM.  Pete was napping.  Charlotte joined us for dinner.  We planned a quiet, conversation dominated Wednesday … and Charlotte flew back to Austin on Thursday.   A wonderful visit … and memories.

The next visitors … Pete’s great niece … his brother, Art’s, granddaughter … and her husband and their three lovely children … ages 4, 6 … almost 7 , and 8.  I know we met Mary … “Little Mary” I called her to differentiate from Pete’s Mother who was Mary … we surely saw “little Mary” with our visits to Pete’s Mother and Dad.  We really got to know Little Mary when she was in College and would come to Mardi Gras with school friends … and they would all stay with us.  I loved it … and I really liked Mary.  Beautiful, intelligent, and quite caring and giving.   A lot of Mary’s personality reminded me of Lori … and such traits were also in Pete’s Mother … a good memory!   When Mary received her Master’s Degree from University of Nebraska at Omaha, we were at the Lake so we could attend the graduation.   Next was Mary’s wedding … to extremely nice Bryan …. probably the best personality you could meet!  And, we were there.   The summer that Mary and Bryan’s children were around one and two years … Anna and Gregory … they came to visit us at the lake.   We stocked up on children’s furniture!  It was so much fun.  I remember the two little ones on the living-room floor … we have pictures!  Next summer after that, I called Mary and asked her to gather up the children and fly up for a visit … at which time Mary tells me that she has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  Little Catherine is born within the year — and during the next summer … again, we are at the Lake … we drive to Omaha for little Catherine’s Baptism.   Memories so big and meaningful.  Mary and family visited us last year in Hammond and this year in Denver.   Mary is an important part of our being in Denver.  During the Hammond visit … August, 2017 … I am undecided on what to do to get Pete the medical care he needs.  Mary and I are coming back from something.  She is in the back seat.  We are obviously talking about Pete.  Mary says, “How do you think the medical care in Denver would compare to the medical care in Louisiana?”   Two weeks later, I remember that statement.  It is obvious that he will receive better care in Denver.  I make the decision to move to Denver.

(Any readers still with me on this essay … thank you.  It is clear that many old memories are brought back by my writing about new memories.)

Next visitors are Barb and Denny … probably our best friends … we have known each other since early days in Carbondale, Illinois — our first jobs (1965) … Southern Illinois University.  Pete and Denny were both in Kiwanis.  With another couple we did plays, dinners, Pete’s desserts, Pete and Denny and others playing pool.  We moved to South Dakota in the early 1990″s.   Then, Hammond, Louisiana.  Denny and Barb visited Hammond several times; we made it back once to Carbondale.   The Lake turned out to be a good place for visits.  Barb and Denny had grandchildren in Milwaukee, Fargo, and in Alaska/Ohio/etc.  Our place was a good meeting and stopping point during trips to Milwaukee and Fargo.   Barb and I usually discussed our children and grandchildren while Pete and Denny drank fine whiskey and smoked cigars — not to excess — but just keeping memories alive.

Throughout our visitors’ coming, I think Pete recognized Connie and Little Mary.  Denny walks into Pete’s room … Pete in bed … just waking up … and his smile at seeing Denny is bigger than any emotion since he fell.  It is wonderful!   Denny tries a conversation … but there is only a smile in return.  Barb and Denny were here over a Friday and the week-end.  They ate dinners with us .. and maybe a dessert for Denny!  We took many walks.  Denny would push Pete in his wheelchair, and Barb and I would walk at our slow pace and, again, talk about children and grandchildren … and about Pete.   Barb left a gift of Illinois peaches and strawberries … canned, frozen, and ready to eat.  Pete has enjoyed them for breakfast … and more left!!!

Barb and Denny have reservations for Breckenridge over Christmas.  They will spend a night close to us  both coming and going.  If the weather is OK, we may visit them in Breckenridge … we will see.

Writing this essay has been great.  I have revisited so many good memories … and I know more were created through these visits.  Thank you’all so much.

Love y’all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Couldn’t Tell Him!

Of course, I could tell him, but he would not understand.  That is certainly the worst part of Pete’s condition.

A couple afternoons ago, I fell asleep in my chair.  The clock showed 6:00 when one of the staff, Bella, came in and asked me whether we were eating in our room — or were we going upstairs to the dining room.  I was still in my jeans and shirt, but I did not think too much of it since I was falling into the habit of just sleeping in my clothes.  Coming out of my stupor, I indicated we would eat in our room.  6:00 was certainly early, but O.K.  I started with Pete’s usual order … 1/2 bowl oatmeal, with brown sugar and milk, English muffin with two strawberry jellies, three strips of bacon…  At that comment, Bella looked at me and asked if the dining room served breakfast at all times of the day.  “Of course not … only mornings.”   I then  realized it was 6:00 in the evening, and I had just been asleep a couple hours.   Bella and I smiled deeply and commented on my thinking I had slept all night!

The first thing I wanted to do was tell Pete that I thought it was morning … and had begun to order his breakfast.  It was the kind of occurrence that you share with someone, and you both smile.  The conversation then usually goes to other times either one has confused AM time and PM time.  That does not happen with us any more.  It is what I miss the most.

Pete has physical therapy here … Mondays and Wednesdays.   Last Wednesday he was working with Karen, and they were having a good morning.  There is a great emphasis on getting Pete to help himself get out of his wheelchair.  He is to have his feet close and then try to lift his body with hands on the arms of the wheelchair.  After trying to get up several times, Pete said distinctly, ” My fifteen minutes is up.”  Now, of course, the session is 45 minutes, but Pete said a sentence relative to what was happening, and he was understood.

At lunch today, one of the most lovely and kind persons I have met in my life stopped at our table…Toni.  Toni was the first person here to include me in one of her activities … her church invites peoples to use their activity hall once a month to play cards … and a group uses that occasion to play bridge.  I have played bridge with this group since I came here.  Anyway, Toni stopped at the table and included Pete in our conversation.  She distinctly said, “Hello” to Pete, and he immediately answered, “Hi!”  We were all thrilled!

For some time, I have wanted to communicate to my readers and friends the minimum skills that Pete has retained.  Maybe this essay has allowed me to do that.  His mathematics is gone.  Most memories are gone.  He is  not Pete … but he is Pete.  I love him, and we are together.  I never thought life would take such a “twist.”

 

 

” … or we could do that.”

It has been difficult deciding answers to questions involving Pete’s care.   If you noticed, we went from hospital to rehab, then to home, then to assisted living, then to skilled nursing, then to assisted living (Denver/Lakewood) and then to assisted living again (also Lakewood).   When Pete and I were in Louisiana, Lori, Craig, (our daughter and son) and I had conference calls every week … usually Friday evening or Saturday morning.  I  had found myself trying to argue … with myself … two sides of a question.   Know what?  It doesn’t work!!!   The problem of making decisions is certainly one of the reasons Pete and I moved to Denver.

Let me use a situation from these past few weeks as an example of using the administration of the assisted living complex to help come to a reasonable decision.  I would suggest you make sure the administration in the assisted living complex in which you or a loved one is residing … or plan to reside …  discusses questions about “what do we do” in this manner.

Pete is built like his father…  short, stout, heavy shoulders and body … his father came to the States from Denmark and was very much a Scandinavian.   In March of this year, Pete could walk a few steps with a walker.  When physical therapy  was stopped, Pete began to lose ground and ultimately could barely stand with a walker.   Pete also was on a medicine to help him sleep.   He became like a zombie and did very little to help the staff get him in and out of bed.  Some of the staff suggested that they use a mechanical “lifter” to get Pete in or out of bed.

About a month ago,  a mechanical “lifter” was brought into our apartment to see how it would work.  I almost screamed.  I did not examine the “lifter”… I just reacted.  Back in Louisiana one of the homes had used a “lifter” to get Pete into bed …AND IT WAS THE MOST HORRIBLE SIGHT I HAD EVER SEEN.  I had to leave his room every time they used it.   So here we were with a “lifter” again … and I really did not want it used on Pete.   It was, most assuredly, a different “lifter” than they used in Louisiana.  And, I along with one of the therapist, was worried that he could lose any IMG_0886strength he had since he would be lifted place to place.*

This is when a discussion with another advocate is so important.  Moving to Denver has put Craig, our son, in almost daily contact with Pete and me.   And, I value his opinions so much.  We approached using the “lifter” as trying to find a way to use the lifter, but still letting Pete be involved in moving bed to chair and back again.  The method used could be the choice of the staff person doing the transfer … bedIMG_0884 to wheelchair or back.   This was not a verbal proclamation of the administration; it developed from leadership from the nursing staff and their willingness to include Craig and me  in the discussions.   At the direction of the Administration, all of the staff who worked with Pete were given a  workshop on how to use the lifter.  There was a morning staff workshop and an afternoon staff workshop.   I was so proud of the staff …. honestly taking part in the demonstration and asking questions.   It was like I had, again a group IMG_0885of teachers in a workshop!!!

So, we now have educated individuals who are able to choose their method of moving Pete … the “lifter” or helping him go bed to chair or back with the strength of his arms and legs … and with the help of the staff, of course.   Pete has begun to leave his “zombie” state!  It is wonderful to see him standing … with the aid of a walker … as he moves his body onto the bed — or onto his wheelchair.   I am so pleased.  The lifter is in his room and is available to any staff member.   Would your assisted care facility have included you in the discussion?   Would your assisted care facility have allowed the staff to use their choice of method of transfer?   Or, would they have insisted on “their way” … the lifter?  It really makes a difference when your loved one cannot speak for himself or herself.  And, when you yourself do not want the lifter to take away any strength still left!!!

Love y’all.

The top  picture is of the “lifter.”  The grey suit  is one of the harnesses used to “lift” Pete from bed to wheelchair or back.  The blue harness is made of net and can be used in a shower or such.

 

 

Let’s Take a Look.

When I wrote the essay, “What is Assisted Living?”, describing our current living arrangement, I did not include any pictures.  Thanks to our grandson, Mark, I was able to include a picture of Ida in a past essay … and am able to add some pictures to this present essay.   It is a pleasure to share our apartment with all of you.

The apartment consists of a nice, wide entrance hallway, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a relatively large living room with high ceilings.

IMG_0851

 

 

 

 

This is my bedroom/my office .

  

IMG_0855

 

 

 

We have a wide hall as you enter the apartment.  This table is in the hallway.

 

IMG_0853

 

 

Looking at the hallway from the living room.  You see the kitchen sink to the right in the picture.

 

 

IMG_0850

 

 

 

Looking from the living room, Pete’s bedroom on the right  and my office on the left.

 

IMG_0848

 

 

 

In the living room, looking into my office.  Bathroom to the right.

 

IMG_0846

 

 

 

Looking into the living room from the hallway.

 

IMG_0849

 

 

Looking into the other side of the living room from inside the living room.  The refrigerator is to the left of the picture.

 

 

I am really enjoying writing this BLOG.  And, I am learning so much about this piece of software.  As I commented to Craig, our son, the other day, “This is a good learning experience for an old woman!”

Love y’all.

Let Me Tell You About Ida!

I introduced Ida at the end of  the essay:  “What is Assisted Living?”   Ida is too “large” a presence in my life for me not to give you the opportunity to get to know her … certainly on paper!!!   Let me tell you about Ida!

When we first came here, Ida was assisting Pete most days.  She was caring, knowledgeable, efficient…and so sweet!    The top priority in finding a place for Pete and me was that he receive the care I wanted him to have.  We did not find it at our first assisted living facility in Lakewood (Denver).   So, we started our search again.  We did know more questions to ask this second e IMG_0858around!

Now, every staff person here is helping Pete.  Each one of them could be the “star” of an essay.  But, I have to start with Ida…

Because…how often do you meet a 4 foot 8 inch, 75 year old caregiver … with championships in    pool and in golf???  Once in your life — if you are lucky.                                                                                             (The picture is Ida with Pete.)

Yes … that is Ida!!  Ida took CNA courses in high school and started working in a hospital at age 17.  She soon joined respiratory therapy working with the little babies.   For the next 33 years, she was at two hospitals (that ultimately merged) taking care of little ones in respiratory therapy.

During these years, Ida’s recreation was playing pool.  Her team … of which she was team captain …  won several local competitions and qualified to go to Las Vegas tournaments three years in a row.  As Ida tells it, the first year competing in Las Vegas, the team was so aghast at being there, they did “nothing” in the tournaments.  The second year, they made it to the finals of the competition ,,, winning some money!  The third year … they did “nothing”  again.   Ida put her pool cue down and never played again!!

At age 55, Ida began doing private patient care … and learning how to play golf.   A local clubhouse was offering free lessons.  Ida took the lessons and was soon recognized as a “natural.”  She joined the Notre Dame Women’s Golf League and began to win competitions … e.g., “overall best shooter”, “closest to the pin.”  Ida played with the Women’s League for 17 years.  She now plays golf for fun … about twice a week … and keeps her average in the 84 – 92 range.

Ida’s private care work was quickly noticed by acquaintances wanting help with family members.  When our facility here opened in March of 2017, Ida was recruited to come here … it so happened that Ida had cared for the mother of our marketing person!!

And, that is how Ida came to be taking care of Pete.  She talked to him; encouraged him; she combed his hair; she had high expectations.  And, she was my assurance that there was a facility that would take care of Pete in the manner I wanted.  Expectations are positive; all caregivers practice the same methods; successes by residents are complimented; time is spent with the families of residents.

And, Pete and I are together.

We are very fortunate.

 

 

 

What is Assisted Living?

Maybe I should not be writing this essay.  Maybe third time will be “charmed!”   My first essay about assisted living was from the point of view of the sequence of facilities Pete has been in.  That is, after his stroke/fall, he was in rehab, home, in assisted living in Hammond, in skilled nursing, in assisted living in Denver, and in another assisted living in Denver.   Such an essay did cover this past year, but it did not have a place for details.

 Thus, I wrote a second version!

The second version discussed just the assisted living facility we are in now.   I liked that better, and I was really content with the resulting essay.    So, I “saved” the second version.  At the same time, I deleted parts of the first version that were still in the essay.   You can guess the result:  the poor little program could not decide what to do…and did nothing…and I lost my second version!!!

So…third time is charmed!!!

Now, what does our assisted living look like?  In general, assisted living implies an apartment consisting of bedroom, living room and bathroom.  The bedroom might be part of the living room.    Our apartment consists of two bedrooms, a separate living room, and a  bathroom.  The living room has a nice high ceiling.  I am thinking that we will probably be here 4-5 years…and I do not want to feel closed-in sometime in the future…and I do not want to move again.    A kitchen sink and a relatively large refrigerator are in the living room space.  The living room holds two recliner chairs, the television, two desks, and a table and two chairs…and my small 2-shelf piece of furniture that holds my buffalo collection…my only piece of furniture from both of the houses!

Assisted living also implies that some services are available.  Our facility takes care of administering Pete’s medicines.*  Three meals a day are provided for both of us.  Aides come in around 6:30 to 7:00 in the morning to wake Pete and dress him for the day.  Three to four times a week, he is given a shower.*  The aides take him to breakfast.*  He and I do lunch and dinner together.  The aides get him ready for his naps and for the night.  Weekly, all of his clothes and my clothes are washed, dried, folded, and put in their place in the apartment.   The apartment is cleaned weekly.   Cable TV and WiFi are provided.

There are also activities in which the residents can participate.  A selection of activities available here includes off-site walks, gardening club, trips to the grocery store (three times a month), trips to Wal-Mart (once a month), Tai Chi, Cheese and Wine Social (Fridays, 3:00 PM to about 4:30 PM), craft projects, off-site trips (museum, local restaurants, scenic sites), lectures and movies.  It took me about two months to select playing bridge and the book club.  I was just not use to choosing something to fill my time—and it was difficult accepting a mind-set that this was my neighborhood.  There is an indoor exercise center with a treadmill and bicycling machines — available to all physically appropriate residents.

When assisted living is discussed, the conversation usually centers on services and activities.  All other things being relatively equal, it is the staff that makes all the difference.  It is the staff that gives that shower when the resident needs it; it is the staff that brings a food tray to the room when a resident does not feel well enough to get out of bed; it is the staff that takes your wash twice a week because almost all of your clothes are soiled; it is the staff that gives you a hug when you need it.   As we were putting our Louisiana home on the market … with the lake home already sold … I commented that now all we have is a 2-bedroom apartment.   Ida, one of the aides here, immediately added, “,,, and you have all of us.

* Services denoted by a * are a la carte.

Saturday, July 14th, is our 57th wedding anniversary.

We were married Friday, July 14, 1961, in the Loyola University Church in New Orleans, LA., at 4:00 in the afternoon.  I am Catholic; Pete, my husband, is not.  So, at that time, we could only be married in a small ceremony at a side altar…and no mass.

Pete and I were graduate students at Tulane University…right next door to Loyola University.   We chose the wedding date to be between summer school semesters.  We were both teaching summer school.   And there began a pattern of our lives being quite similar.   We each received a Ph.D. in mathematics…Pete. in 1966, and me, in 1969.  We had two children during that time.

I remember one of the first anniversaries:  we laid cement for a sidewalk beside the garage.  We probably went out to dinner most anniversaries…we certainly did in these last 10 – 15 years when we spent summers in Wisconsin.  Pete had his stroke/fall in March of 2017.  So, last year, our 56th anniversary, Pete was in an assisted living community in Hammond, LA.   And, I was in our Louisiana home.  We were not together.  I had tried to take care of Pete at home and soon realized I could not…even with Ruby helping.   Around August or September (of 2017), I made the decision to move Pete and me to an assisted living community in Denver.  Our son is in Denver, and it became clear to me that I needed help with all the decisions that were to be made with regard to Pete’s health.  And, I wanted a place that would let us be in the same apartment.

And we are.   The Assisted Living staff here is providing the medical and physical support for Pete so that we can be together in our apartment.   I  tried to tell him just a few hours ago that Saturday was our 57th wedding anniversary.  He made a circle with his wheelchair; looked at me; and said “57th ?”  Nowhere along the way had I ever thought we would be in an Assisted Living Community in Denver for our 57th anniversary…and many more anniversaries to come, I am sure.

 

I forgot the ice cubes!

We have been in this assisted living community 6 months.  My mind goes between what we might have been doing in our past lives…and what I am doing now.   I don’t compare…I just think about the difference.

I have a pot with a few succulents in it.  A small pot, and it sits on the windowsill in my “bedroom” here in our assisted living community apartment.  I really like the pot and the arrangement of the plants.  The pot was a gift from my cousin which was sent after we arrived in Denver.   I had a beautiful arrangement of cacti back in Louisiana..on a deck.  Ruby, who helped me with so many things in Louisiana… always reminded me that I needed to be careful and not water the cacti too much.   She told me a trick she used.  Regularly water your succulents with “just so many” ice cubes.  I put two ice cubes in my pot here every Tuesday morning.   And — every Tuesday morning watering my pot is close to my first thought as I walk into my “bedroom.”   “Ruby, the succulents, and two ice cubes.”   But, this past Tuesday, I went the entire day in the moment…in the assisted living community.  I played cards with friends here; I napped; I did lunch and dinner with my husband; I watched the Rockies lose a baseball game.   And I did not think of my plants.

Wednesday morning…first thing when I walked into my bedroom:  “I forgot the ice cubes.”  I put two ice cubes in the pot and wondered how I could have ever forgotten to water my beautiful pot!!  It is the one thing that takes me back to Louisiana and our home there.