Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve, Hawaiian Style

Hawaiian/Asian style, the new year is ushered in with fireworks and food. In Hawaiian homes, the food is traditional. In my mother's home, it is always laulaus and poi. For the uninitiated, a laulau is usually a hunk of pork and a smaller hunk of fish wrapped in taro leaves a.k.a luau (lacking taro leaves, spinich is an acceptable alternative) which are then bundled into two ti leaves (not the stuff you put in a tea pot ...) set at right angles to each other and then brought up around the pork/fish/taro leaf bundle, tied and then steamed. These are always served with a bowl of poi, which goes with everything -- like rice or potatoes in other cultures. Additional dishes can be added -- chunks of brine-soaked salmon served almost like a relish with fresh tomato and green onion; chicken stewed in coconut milk and cooked with long rice; poke -- chunks of raw ahi seasoned with assorted stuff (my favorite of the traditional seasonings is inamona, ground up kukui nut; crunchy seaweed is also popular), always best when eaten with poi. Sometimes there is opihi, the Polynesian version of oysters on the half-shell. Opihi are those little shells you see on the reef that look like a Chinese hat. It takes a sharp knife and a quick hand to pick opihi off the rocks, always keeping one eye on the waves for safety. Pop the animal out of his shell and serve. Cooking spoils the flavor, not to mention the texture. Haupia is a basic cornstarch pudding made with coconut milk, cooked thick enough so that the finished product can be cut into squares and eaten as finger food. Luau Cake is a white cake with haupia filling (not cooked so thick, tho) between the layers and frosted with gooey white frosting and lots of freshly grated coconut. Since there were just two of us tonight, Mother and I settled for the laulaus and poi with no frills -- served at regular dinner time instead of at midnight.

The popping of fire crackers began shortly after dark - about 6:30 p.m. It's now 11 p.m., and the booms of the bombs and crackles of the strings of firecrackers are getting more and more frequently. It's difficult to tell whether the flashes in the sky are light from someone's fireworks or lightening from more storms promised by the weather folk. We've had bits of rain -- some of it quite defeaning on the metal lanai roof. Ray and I, with Larry and Leonore from Sacramento, spent the 2005-06 transition 23 stories up in a condo in Waikiki. I'll never forget Ray and Larry looking out across the city about this time of night at the flashes and pops and bangs and air thick with smoke. "It looks like a war zone!" said Larry. Wait until midnight!!

The smell of gunpowder and the sight of bits of red paper littering the ground remind me of happy childhood times when we hung strings of firecrackers -- literally several dozen strings -- in the mango trees to set off almost all at once at midnight, along with the sparklers and firecrackers. There was the anticipation of midnight, being allowed to light one or two strings at a time earlier in the evening. Sometimes we went to my grandparents' in the country, where kids went to bed early and then were awakened just before midnight to watch the neighborhood display -- always better in a largely Japanese community than in our staid Caucasian Kahala neighborhood.

So 2008 is nearly a memory. We're about to open a new calendar. May our share economic and social stresses allow us to focus on those things that are really important -- the people around us, those who we care about and who care about us. Reach out and let someone know you care. Look hard for something positive even in the most difficult relationships. Think global, but live local. Give thanks. Don't forget to pray ....!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


It's hard to loose someone you care about. It's hard when they have been battling cruel disease of one kind or another. It's hard when they are aged and infirm. It's hard when the the mind is gone. And it is hard when they are snatched away suddenly at the prime of life.

Lindsay was my father's friend, although he was only an insignificant number of years older than my children. They fished together for years. Lindsay, the jack-of-all-trades but mostly carpenter, worked on the boat. If the boat needed something, Lindsay was usually there to make it happen. Recently, he's been the one in charge, for the boat was to become his one day. He stopped by the house about once a month, usually bringing freshly caught mahimahi or ahi or something equally pleasant. He's been twice to the hospital to visit my dad. There are several men of about the same age who fished with Daddy, but Lindsay is the only one who visits regularly and frequently. He once offered that my dad made a difference for him, trusting him and giving him a reason to turn his life around. Guess Lindsay had spent his share of time fighting the world. Now he was giving back.

But Lindsay is gone now, snatched away by a careless driver who didn't see Lindsay's motorcycle. He -- or perhaps she -- turned across a lane of moving traffic to get to where he wanted to be, cutting Lindsay off (say the newspaper reports). Then he fled. Lindsay dumped the bike, messing himself up in the process. Alone, he lay there on the side of the road -- or perhaps in the road -- critically injured. The newspapers say that instead of trying to help, bystanders stood around arguing about who was at fault. Three hours later, Lindsay died at a nearby hospital. Just a local guy with long hair and riding a motorcycle. Nobody special. Except to his family, his friends -- and my dad.

We've decided this is not a piece of news my dad is ready to hear. If we don't tell him, will he wonder why Lindsay no longer comes to visit? Will he realize that Lindsay is no longer visiting? Will we have to tell him one day that Lindsay is gone, and give him the circumstances of Lindsay's passing? Will they fish together again in another bright ocean?

Care about someone else, as Lindsay did. Give thanks for his life. Pray for his family and friends. Keep praying ....

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Post Christmas Letdown

We have survived Christmas Day and are now working down the 12 days. Merry Christmas to all, and best wishes for a 2009 filled with peace and love. The “officials” will tell you that Hawaiians say Mele Kalikimaka and Hauoli Makahiki Hou. Old-time locals are more apt to say, “Happy Nu Eee-ah!” That’s what it sounds like. It’s spelled “Happy New Year”!

So besides care-giving, have I done anything since arriving in Hawaii? Sort of. I’ve discovered a cosmetology school where I can get my hair cut for $10 -- including the shampoo and blow dry. I’ve rediscovered 2 real quilt shops, a dry goods store that has a huge array of fabrics and decorates their walls with finished quilts (good for selling the kits!), and a craft shop that sells patterns and miscellaneous supplies. I’ve connected with several cousins – some who live here, others who have visited. Plus several more who I know only online.

Am quite proud that I’ve registered myself as Hawaiian, the equivalent of tribal registry for other Native Americans. Now, when I go somewhere that I want to be recognized as Hawaiian, I wear the bright red Kau Inoa bracelet. I’ve done too much genealogy work for folks who are unable to register as a part of their hereditary tribe because grandparents or great-grandparents chose not to register. That failure is seen as rejection of Native American heritage, and cannot be undone. I don’t what that to happen to my granddaughters. If you are a Hawaiian living on the mainland and would like to register, you can do it online at the OHA website. Go to or Google on OHA and see what you find.

We had just finished dinner last night when the lights went out. Oh-oh. When my brother called from his home at the other end of the island asking if we had power, I knew we were in for the long haul. He had discovered that power was out over most of the island, but had not yet heard why. I had to call California to learn that most of the generators on Oahu had shut down following a lightning strike and power surge somewhere on the system. Thank you, Nancy.

With only a limited number of generation stations, one line out means most of the system is out of service. This outage left the tourist centers in temporary chaos. People were stuck in elevators, especially in the high rise hotel, condo and apartment buildings. Tourists couldn’t get dinner and were standing in line at ABC stores all over Waikiki looking for those awful pre-made sandwiches. No traffic signals or street lights. At the airport, security screening had to be done by hand. Hawaiian Electric sent a generator out to the home the Obama family is renting in Kailua. I worked on the computer until the battery ran down to critical mode, then watched a movie on the iTouch before falling asleep. Mother had a glass of Kahlua and went to bed early. By 7:30 this morning power was back on and we began functioning normally once again.

I wonder if the Obamas will have fireworks at their house for New Years? Will he have to get the permit from the State in order to buy fireworks? Wonder what the Secret Service thinks about fire works???

More laundry. Then a hospital visit. Took yesterday off, best get there today.

Look for positives. Give Thanks. Don’t forget to pray …..

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve. I have just listened to a very early broadcast of the Service of Lessons and Carols from Kings College, Cambridge. It's only early for me -- Hawaii is a full half a day behind the UK, timewise. My favorite way to begin Christmas Eve.

Still need to wrap the gifts for my father to give to his roommates at the nursing home today. That Christmas Party starts at 10:00 a.m. Then there are the still-unwrapped gifts for my mother, brother and sister-in-law for this evening's gathering. Wrapping is definitely not my favorite task.

To all of you I send wishes for a blessed Christmas. It is, after all, a religious holiday. Be still for a moment, allow the Love of Christ to fill your heart and mind over the next 48 hours. If you come from another tradition, celebrate the now-lengthening days, the promise from nature for new life, new promises of spring. Light a candle in the darkness. Become a light in the darkness.

Look for the light. Give thanks. Keep praying .....

Friday, December 19, 2008

Catching Up

I have just realized that the dribs and drabs I have written over the past month have not gotten beyond the Word file where they were created, to be shared with the rest of the world.

My father's perspective of the last month is both accurate and skewed. He asked me yesterday if the police had been to the house. It seems that he "was driving someplace" and "got stopped". The other people involved [they were very rich people] "weren't very nice" so he "wasn't very cooperative, either". He "got a ticket and had to sign a paper", but I had to sign a paper, too. Then, somehow, he got taken to an apartment belonging to those "rich people" and was given a bedroom where he was very comfortable and slept for about 12 hours. Now he is "incarcerated".

So what is reality? People in uniform -- fire dept. and EMS -- picked him up off the floor and ultimately helped him to the car. He was combative and uncomfortable in the Emergency Room, so staff was very assertive with him. He probably saw that as mean. He signed at least one consent for treatment form in the hospital, and I am sure that I signed something on his behalf. Once admitted to the hospital, he was placed in a private room on the neuro/psych floor and placed in restraints "to remind him that he needs to have someone close by when he gets out bed", as he is a significant risk for falling. The food at Queen's was good, quite unlike any hosptial food I have encountered anywhere else, with the entree actually served on a china plate. He spent two weeks there, and was moved 10 days ago to a skilled nursing facility.

So he's gone from a private room in a 500+ bed hospital to a 4-bed ward in an 82-bed facility where he is one of perhaps 6 caucasians among patients and staff combined. Initially, he was extremely uncomfortable. Then he discovered that whatever he asks for (except his freedom!) he gets. This pleases him. He enjoys the physical therapy, and is discovering how much strength he has lost. He wants to know when he is coming home. It is unlikely that he will recover enough to ever come home again, especially with the incontinence and instability. He would have to be "reminded" at home that he cannot get out of bed without help -- thus, back to the restraints which make my mother very uncomfortable. I've not seen him in a walker, just a wheelchair. This house cannot accommodate a wheelchair. He is not free to come and go at will, or even get out of bed by himself. I can understand how he feels incarcerated.

So as Christmas approaches we give thanks that he is well cared for and reasonably happy. We continue to look for those silver linings. We keep praying ....

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Turning Points

I'm still running on adrenalin. After all, it's just after 5 p.m. and I've had less than 2 hours sleep in 36 hours. Why, you ask? Fall victims, especially those not seriously hurt, even those with dementia, do not have a high priority in emergency rooms.

My dad fell again last night. It must have been about 7:30 p.m.; I remember looking at the clock at 8:00, and the fire department first responders had already arrived. This time he hit the back of his head on the edge of a bookcase, and scraped the skin off two spots on either side of his elbow. It took three brawny fire fighters to get him from his bedroom to the car -- probably 40' total distance. Another team of helpful young men at the ER/Ambulance loading dock got him out of the car and into a wheelchair. I don't know who got him from the wheelchair into the ER gurney. Took Mother home just after 10 (it was going to be 2 hours before the CT scans would be read), and was back in the ER by 11:30. The ER doc (who looked like a teen-ager) called his own doctor at midnight, who asked that a Hospitaler (a doctor who treats primarily inpatients) admit him. It was 4 a.m. before we climbed to the top of the Hospitaler's priority list. He saw no clearly defined problems, although there was enough of a suggestion of pending pneumonia to justify admitting him. That and the fact that it was all two strong nurses could do to keep him standing upright long enough to take a blood pressure read. No way was I going to get him back home by myself. There was no evidence of major stroke, no concussion, no skull fracture. Just the goose-egg where his head hit the edge of the bookcase.

The admitting doctor ordered another chest x-ray later in the day, a physical therapist to work on mobility and check his ability to swallow, and evaluation by a geriatrician. We'd been unable to get an appointment with a geriatrician before April 2009, so this order was an welcome relief. We agreed that he should be kept comfortalble, but that no heroic measures should be taken to prolong his life. I left at 4:30; Daddy did not get to his room until about 6 a.m.

I learned about something called 'sundowning'. After dark, especially in unfamiliar settings, dementia patients tend to get more agitated than usual. The IV lines and monitors, all with associated cords and cables, often trigger agitation and aggressive behavior. So I became the bad guy, because I was the one who agreed to his admission as an in-patient.

Ian did the hospital visit thing today, arriving on the heels of the geriatrician. Did Daddy remember what happened? Of course. He was thrown out of his airplane seat. Did he remember being in the ER? ER, he wasn't in the ER. He was on an airplane, and didn't get home until 6 a.m. Who was that man standing over there (pointing to my brother)? I don't know, but he's been around for awhile. What year is it? 1986. Do you know where you are? Blank stare.

Our father is in an alarmed bed to warn the nurses when he tries to get up. When seated in a chair, he is connected to the chair with a mesh vest-like device to "remind" him that he cannot leave the chair. Today he had to be spoon fed before he would/could eat. When alone in the room he wears large mittens that look like boxing gloves to keep him from pulling out lines and monitors. He got pretty good at that trick in the ER.

The expectation is that he will remain at Queens until at least Monday. I think Mother is relieved. We meet with the social worker on Friday morning to discuss options.

Give thanks for the geriatrician. Look for those silver linings. Keep praying. ...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Emerging from a Bad Spell

Going it alone. Not going well. Some of you manage life alone very successfully. You thrive. I wish I could. I recently read a letter written to my mother by her aunt mentioning my grandmother’s loneliness as a widow. Neither of them really understood. One of their mutual friends, a widow, had said, “I just need something alive in the house.” I find it is more than that. A pet qualifies as something alive; a pet you enjoy does make a difference. The radio and TV provide another human voice. I need something alive that can carry on an intelligent conversation, share things we both enjoy. I would appreciate someone who can walk all the way to the back of Home Depot without wearing out. I’m looking for someone who would enjoy a day in Yosemite or at Cherry Lake or exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Maybe even visit New Zealand and Scotland. Someone who can share the driving.

Maybe this most recent slump (which I am finally beginning to climb out of) has to do with the futility of care giving in my parents’ home. Very few people who have lived independently into their 90’s are willing to take direction from a child who has been only an occasional visitor in their home for 45 years. We haven’t “grown up” together. We haven’t shared an adult life or adult interests. They don’t know my interests, skills and competencies. I am just learning about their weaknesses. Our tastes are different. When did my parents start enjoying beets or split pea soup? When did they stop eating thick-crusted, hearty breads, or rocky road ice cream?

Then there’s the dignity issue. My father came to the lunch table today in obviously wet clothes. After lunch I stripped and re-made his bed and emptied his hamper, laid out a clean change of clothes for him, and told him I needed everything on his body for the washing machine before I could do the wash. He was insulted.
On what do you base your judgment?
Maybe I should just move.
Where will you go?

He called Mother into his bedroom where they could talk privately. I heard her say, “You are wearing them and you are still wet?” Then realization struck. He was wearing Depends. He does not understand that they only absorb a finite amount of fluid before leaking. He does not understand that it is not wasteful to change them several times a day. He did not want to hear that if he wears wet clothing all the time, his skin will break down and he will get sores – diaper rash with a vengeance.

Before he could even get them on his body, the fresh clothes were wet.

It’s hard to tell whether my dad’s willfulness is anger and vengeance, or if his dementia is cycling in again. Yesterday Mother told him his car is no longer insured and he cannot renew his driver’s license. Yesterday he was angry because both Mother and I told him to wipe up the bathroom floor after he peed on it. Today I think I am seeing dementia at work. Which means we are heading into another downhill slide.

Give thanks for the good times. Keep praying …

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Getting Even

The question is, who needs care? What kind of care? Who decides what care to give?

Mark, the caregiver from Options for Elders, was supposed to come on Wednesday last week. Through a series of crossed wires – and the absence of an answering machine on my parents’ telephone – we didn’t get the message that he had a Wednesday conflict and would not be here until Friday. That set a sour tone for my mother. On Friday Mark arrived exactly on time – and right on the heels of Glenn, who mows the lawns. It’s a good thing Glenn works unsupervised!

Afterward Mother commented, “I agreed to this because I thought he was going to help me. Apparently he thinks he is supposed to help your father. Seems to me your father can get along just fine. He can get outside, sit on the lanai, look at the yard. He doesn’t need someone to take him out. I need help with things like heavy cleaning. I asked him to clean the counters in the kitchen. He wiped them down, but there are stained spots that need to be scrubbed and the stains are still there.” But he also scrubbed down the woodwork and diagnosed the problem with the overhead kitchen light.

Meanwhile, Daddy still needs to feel useful, even if he really is creating more work for someone else in the process. He is entitled to some quality of life. If I think about it, I can appreciate the thought process going on. He’s spent most of the last 70 years – probably most of the last 94 year – considering only his pleasures, not the consequences of his decisions. While he’s been enjoying life, she has been hurting. Are we playing “get evensies”?

We are seeing obvious signs that Mother is slipping, too. There was the charge on her credit card – the one for which she remembered writing the order, but not putting it in the mail. At dinner last night she asked about her “meat pounder” – one of those hammer-looking devices used to tenderize meat. Said she looked everywhere for it, but it was not to be found. I found it right where it was supposed to be. Yes, it was buried under a spatula, but still in the box. Took the box out to show her. She was chagrinned. He quietly said, “Thank you.”

What about me? I am getting restless. I think I need to find a friend or two, someone to have coffee or lunch with occasionally, someone who is interested in craft fairs or special exhibitions or just exploring, or someone who would enjoy an occasion afternoon movie. Now what?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Owning vs. Renting

We have spent the last week looking at Senior Communities.

We went back to Pohai Nani, where my dad passed the "assisted living" test. He can live in the regular apartments with help -- as much or as little as he needs, with the appropriate associated fees. Pohai Nani is operated by a unit of the Lutheran Church specializing in services to seniors, both in transitional care and independent living settings. Decisions on services are made by local management based on what corporate experience suggests is popular or desirable for resident care. For example, they are transitioning all their tub/shower units to step-in showers (i.e., small curb to contain water). Roll-in showers represent a higher level of care and are available in both the small group cottages and skilled nursing facilities. Pohai Nani is in a suburban community on the windward side of Oahu; all apartments have lanai and magnificent views of the mountains.

One Kalakaua is much newer than Pohai Nani, and has a very urban apartment complex feel. Units there are privately owned, and compactly designed. Each has a full kitchen and washer/dryer. The master bedrooms are spacious; where there is a second bedroom, it is tiny. All the common rooms are on two floors -- there are no common areas on the residential floors. With your apartment comes covered, secure parking for one car. There is no community bus; the City bus and taxis are readily available. Your monthly service fee includes only 1 meal in the dining room daily, and the lunch and dinner menus are identical. Many residents do not use even their 30-day allotment of dining room meals preferring to eat in their apartments or in another restaurant in town. Everyone wears an emergency call bracelet or necklace, and there is 24-hour coverage at the front desk. You cannot sneak out the front door without being seen! Someone set on escaping might be able to get out through the garage, but there's a lot of walking involved in that exercise. An interesting concept is that the hallway door to each apartment is alarmed nightly from the outside by the facility security staff. If the door is not opened to break the alarm circuit in the morning, someone will call and ask you to open your front door. If they do not get an answer by telephone, they will come into the apartment to check on your status. The down side is that since the units are privately owned, all decisions for services (except on the medical floor) are made by the Homeowner's Association members -- i.e. the residents. If the majority of those interested in the decision-making process are from the young-and-active crowd (anyone can live there as long as the primary resident is at least 55), policy will reflect their preferences. They do have active residents in their 90's, and are proud of them. There are more off-premises activities here, reflecting both the more active status of the average resident and the location right in town.

So here's the Question of the Day -- at 95, is one better off to (1) stretch really hard, purchase a unit, pay a smaller monthly service fee, and have a piece of real, inheritable property or (2) make no initial investment, rent for a much larger monthly fee -- which is affordable now, but may be more difficult for my mother alone -- and have no investment at the other end. Your perspectives are appreciated.

Today's trivia: Barach Obama spent most of his growing up years living with his grandparents only a block away from One Kalakaua in another apartment building where his grandmother still lives.

I learned a new Hawaiian word this week: mokulele. Moku is a boat. Lele is jump, or jumping. Mokulele is airport. Thus an airplane is literally a jumping boat! Interesting concept. I wonder if other cultures describe them similarly?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Special Days

Perhaps it was a blessing that I did not pay attention to today's date until late this evening. Only then did I realize that this was Ray's and my 31st wedding anniversary.

No, going on alone is no fun. I still get drippy-eyed whenever I am reminded of the reality of his absence. I miss his level-headed practicality while at the same time being an incurable dreamer. Now there's an impossible combination! He used to tell me, "If common sense really were, more people would have it." He kept me grounded and real, not caught up in the abstractness of theory. He focused on the positive, convinced that anything is possible if you want it badly enough. I miss the companionable times, of walking together hand in hand almost anywhere, of sharing the beauty of the world around us. He even found beauty in the desert.

I miss the conversations, the teasing, his ability to find humor in everything -- even our own weaknesses. It wasn't laughing at, it was laughing with. We cannot take ourselves too seriously, he would remind me. He was intensely spiritual, but not enamored of institutional religion. He attended church regularly because it was important to me. Through the church he learned to accept unconditional love, to love unconditionally, and to forgive both himself and those who hurt him. Yet he was not tied to a particular church.

I miss dumb things -- my right-handedness to his left-handedness. Great for doing a 4-handed job in a tight space; we didn't get in each others way. I miss his love for long-distance driving, so that we could visit people and places more than 50 miles from Groveland. I miss his ability to strike up a conversation with anyone, to sell any idea that caught his fancy. I wonder if anyone in Groveland remembers that the two most popular exhibits in our little museum are there because Ray Stevens saw Stu Heller's working models of sawmills at a craft fair, then dragged me over to talk to Stu because "those would be really great in your museum". Ray was right.

I miss his spontaneity. I miss his eclectic taste in music -- although some of it now resides on my iPod. I miss his artistic eye, and his suggestions for when and where to haul out the camera and take pictures. I miss the days when he could turn handsprings and walk backwards on his hands. I miss the walks and easy hikes, fishing trips and fresh trout.

I remember the holidays when he used to go out and bring home for dinner the Highway Patrolman or Sheriff's deputy on duty -- on condition that THEY carved the holiday turkey! I don't know now many turkeys one uniformed officer or another carved in my tiny kitchen because Ray hated the task. I miss Halloween in Groveland -- first the kid parties that we (was that a Boy Scouting service project?) did at the community hall and then at the elementary school because it really isn't safe for kids to trick-or-treat in the country the way they do in the cities. That eventually grew into the trick-or-treat trek from merchant to merchant in town, with hot dogs and cocoa around a bonfire at the park. I miss the elegant pumpkins he used to carve, not to mention the holiday yard decorations he created for every season.

I told a special friend today, "Where ever you are, he is always with you." I need to remember that myself. But on this special day, the day that was ours, it's hard to be alone.

I give thanks for the time we had and the love we shared. I keep praying....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Make Room for Quilts

Here's my in-process version of the Mystery Quilt for our Guild in Groveland. A Mystery Quilt builds from directions coming one step at a time. You never know where you are going until you get there -- thus the mystery! Wish me luck!!

I found myself a space to cut my quilts. It's not traditional, but it works. Unable to make a reasonable workspace indoors, I appropriated one of two of my father's workbenches on the lanai.

The pink and black is fabric laid out for cutting or recently cut. The green is a plastic tablecloth, courtesy of Wal-Mart. Under it is a blue tarp, designed to block any grease or other really unacceptable stuff. Under the table is a funky, painted wooden box, my father's trunk packed into his car when he came to Hawaii in 1939. My grandfather, a shipwright, may have made it for him. The white blob on the right of the photo is a towel, draped on a stationary bicycle to keep it out of the dirt until it is again called into use as an ironing board cover. The iron, perced on the stool so it won't melt any of the plastic, plugs into an outdoor extension cord running across the width of the lanai to to the nearest outlet. If I need a design wall, I'll rig something using the clothesline. Now, where can I put the sewing machine? Workbench is at a good standing height, but too high for sitting.

Meanwhile, it was a difficult day for my dad. When left alone at the breakfast table, he was carefully examining my mother's prescription meds. Fortunately, he doesn't have the hand dexterity to open those bottles. But the temptation shouldn't be there. He didn't want to dress in more than underwear. When I asked him about putting on trousers, he said he was dressed. He is sleeping far too much -- at least 20 hours each day. He has not been talking to unseen persons. He's visibly loosing weight and rejecting many foods. He is not taking direction well, or easily distracted. I don't know whether it is harder to loose your body or loose your mind. It's certainly easier for a care-giver to deal with a rational patient with a deteriorating body than a physically sound patient who is irrational.

Be positive. Look for the good. Keep praying!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I've been watching the birds in the bird bath -- like this Red Vented Bulbul, who is a relatively new immigrant to Hawaii. I love how they come in and splash, throwing water all over everywhere. The Bulbuls and the Mynahs seems to have the most fun and are always the first to arrive, but even the little birds enjoy bathing. Yesterday I got out my garage sale tripod and the camera, and waited. Not every patiently. And managed to snap this image before Mr. Bulbul got himself out of the image frame! All that "snow" is water that he sprayed as he was leaving for a nearby tree. I love the way the sun shines through his wings in flight. Yes, that multi-hued blob in the upper left corner is Mr. Bulbul.

If you've lived with a dementia patient, have you noticed a behavior start, begin to do something wrong, then stop as if recognizing there is a problem, taking an extended period to think what needs to be done, and then acting more or less appropriately? That's what I've been noticing my dad doing over the last two or three days.

So --- look for that silver lining. Give thanks ... and keep praying!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


A couple of weeks ago something ate a 2" hole in a papaya ripening in the dining room. Mother insisted it was the house gecko. A few days later something ate through a plastic bread bag and ate about a 1" hole in a loaf of Portuguese Sweet Bread. "Surely," said Mother, "a mouse would need a bigger hole than that! It must be the gecko." On Sunday morning she caught sight of Mr. Mystery, trying to escape out the front door. Mr. Mystery is not a gecko. He is a rat.

Off to Long's we went for a rat trap -- the traditional wooden platform with a metal spring. Mr. Rat turned his nose up at the potato chip on Sunday night. Last night he ate the papaya, sprung the trap, and left. This morning while vaccuuming I found rat droppings and chewed up carpet behind my father's chair. Back to Long's, this time for an environmentally correct sticky trap. Rat is supposed to get his feet stuck in the glue. Just what I need before breakfast. A live, unhappy rat that needs to find a new home outdoors. If that fails, we go for the big guns -- poison bait.

We had an appointment at my mother's preferred residential facility for next Monday. No can do. It's yard man day, and she works with him in the yard while he is here. Can't do the following Monday, Daddy has a doctor's appointment. And their part-time helper starts that day. She doesn't want to do it at all. Now she thinks maybe she wants something in town since their doctors are all in town. Never mind that their primary care physician says he has patients at Pohai Nani and would probably see them there. She says, "We shouldn't be do the assessment now, anyway. If we don't go for six months, everything will have changed." I opined that they should just do it and get it over with, they can always say "No, thank you." if they decide to do something else. She figuratively threw up her hands, and literally said, clearly exasperated, "Well, do what you want to do."

Today I am in disfavor. Breakfast was OK. She spent most of the morning at the ironing board. For lunch she mixed up some chicken and mayonnaise, but announced that she couldn't stand up any longer. If anyone wanted a sandwich they would have to make it themselves. The only thing on the dinner menu that I considered edible was the salad. I had been warned in advance about the beets, so bought myself some peas -- which she has served once in the last year. She put peppers on her's and Daddy's fish, but none on mine, thank goodness. Had to make up some tartar sauce -- the fish had been too long in the freezer. She is unhappy that we are pushing this residential care assessment . She is unhappy that Ian has ordered a new, fancy walker for our dad. She says, "I don't know why he needs a walker that he can't open and can't lift. How much is it going to cost?" Conveniently, I didn't order it. Even if I had, I would not have asked the cost. If it's a needed piece of durable medical equipment, I just buy and figure out later how to pay the bill. In this case, I think insurace pays the bill. She is unhappy that her hip hurts.

Ray adored my mother. But when I got in moods like this he used to say, "You're sounding just like your mother!" That was usually enough to get me headed in a more pleasant direction.

Look for the silver lining. Give thanks. Keep praying!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Critical Mass

Whole Foods Markets have arrived in Hawaii. Today they opened their first store, in our neighborhood mall, replacing the locally-owned market that opened with the mall way back when I was in high school. Mother and I went to the opening. It was a zoo! There was barely room to move a cart without hitting someone. Lines at the checkout stands ran up the grocery aisles from the front of the store back to the meat counters along the back wall, making it nearly impossible to browse the shelves. Prices are high, even for Hawaii. Although some local farms are represented, most of the produce and fish comes from California. We shopped for 40 minutes, then waited 40 minutes in the check-out line.

I've been having second thoughts about leaving my dad home alone. Over the last week he's been doing some things that would benefit from monitoring. Like trying to make telephone calls. Like trying to find his car, which he variously says is on Kauai (some 90 miles from Oahu) or lost in an unspecified parking lot. Like the day we came home and found him putting on his shoes in preparation for running errands. Like trying to fix himself a meal, turning the stove on high and walking out. Like turning on a water faucet and leaving in running. Forever.

In her bitter moments Mother says, "He's the one who wants to stay here and take care of himself. Well, let him take care of himself."

Today when we came home from the market Daddy was sitting on the floor in the doorway to his bedroom. He did not have the strength to get himself up. He is large enough that I cannot lift him by myself, and he couldn't help me. "OK," says I. "It's time to call for help." He balked. "No, not yet." He ordered a straight chair. He asked for his cane, and for his walking poles. He thought about pulling himself up by the door frame. All good ideas, but no cigar. Not this time.
"Here are your choices," says I. "You sit here, or you let me call 911. The fire departments do this all the time. Fire assist, they call it, man down. It's part of their job." Ultimately, practicality won over pride. We called the fire department.

Afterward he commented on how good the firemen were. They treated him with respect. They checked to be sure there were no injuries that needed immediate attention, or signs of heart attack or stroke. They were gentle and caring. They did not drag him off to the hospital. It could have been worse. But we already have an appointment tomorrow with his primary care physician, so he is going to be re-checked. We are also going to talk about leaving him alone without supervision, in-home care vs. residential care, the level of residential care we should be considering, about adding a geriatric specialist to his roster of doctors, and possible medications to extend his lucid moments.

Yes, we have reached critical mass.

Look for the positives. He can afford to pay for care in a skilled nursing facility -- at least for several years. Even without long term care insurance. He may not like his choices, but he showed today that when the facts are laid out before him he can accept the inevitable. Give thanks. Keep praying ......

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Little League and Trusts

Did any of you two or three faithful readers happen to see any of the Little League World Series last month? It ended the weekend before Labor Day with a spectacular game between the US champions and the International Champions -- Mexico and ... da-DAH!... Hawaii! The kids from Waipio hit well, but they were spectacular in the field. You've gotta' be proud when you watch any of the 11- and 12-year-olds from all over the world playing their hearts out in Williamsport PA for that week. They are all great ball players. Lots to be said for the coaches who get them there, too. And for the parents who put huge $$$ out there in equipment, uniforms, travel, coaching, etc. because they care about their kids. Not to mention the time commitment. Oh, yes, the series was in direct conflict with the Olympics. I almost missed it, and was specifically watching for it.

Ian and I dealt with our father's bank today. It turned out to be remarkably easy. Can't easily modify the credit card, so it will stay put. The fuel bills for the boat go there. Not much else. Don't have to take the card away from him. Added debit cards on the checking account for Ian and me because that's in the trust. Also rolled over the savings account, another piece of the trust. Over in the Investment Banking department, we initiated the process to direct deposit his annuity check. He needs authorize that, though. Two more accounts are already part of the trust, and will be restructured in the same way as the Checking and Savings accounts. We can keep his $$$ safe and his bills paid. Now if we can get him to give at least one of us access to his safety deposit box ....

He is getting instructions about his bodily functions (this one will be normal, that one will not) from some invisible entity. His words, "I got the message that this one will not be normal, but I felt that it was ...." I asked him who he was getting the message from, and the "invisible" part is his term.

Bought a package of super-absorbent Depends today. Hope we can get him to use them.

Look for the good. Laugh at yourself occasionally, just to keep life in perspective. Give thanks! Keep praying.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Loosing It

When Ray was ill, he was lucid and himself -- weak, but himself -- until just a week or two before his passing. Hard as it was, we had that time together. Others have gone quickly, without warning. Those who love them remember them as whole, healthy, normal -- right to the end. It's a reminder that we must part as we mean to go on, never knowing if that person who is so important in our lives will come home at the end of the day, or wake up in the morning. Let each parting reflect your love, your caring ....

I decided that it would be much harder to loose someone bit by bit, loose the person but still have the shell, the living body, to deal with long after the personality has left. Now I am watching it happen in my father. Last night, uncharacteristically, he sat in the living room, a blank look in his eyes, for 15 minutes or so after Mother went to bed. I asked him if he needed anything. He said no. A few minutes later I found him standing in the hallway, looking at a light switch. Two lamps were still burning in the living room. Again I asked if I could help. He said no, he was going upstairs to bed, but (with emphasis) needed to make sure the lights were out before he went up. I realized he was not in Hawaii. He was in his boyhood home, the house that his father built at 3718 Vista Street in Long Beach, California.

He started down the hall, away from his own room. I felt that he was heading for my room, where one light was burning. After all, I was still awake! He had also left the light on in the bathroom, and wondered aloud if it was occupied. It took considerable coaxing to get him turned around and aimed in the direction of his own bedroom. Then he decided he needed a shower before bed. I listed to the water running in the bathroom, then watched the light in his bedroom. Eventually I went to check, and found him asleep -- sheet pulling off all four corners of the bed, blanket (wool, at least 75 degrees in the house ...) carelessly thrown over his body. I tiptoed back to bed.

It was the end of a trying day. He wasn't really with us at breakfast or lunch. He came to the table to eat, then went immediately back to bed and to sleep. At dinner he turned down barbequed spare ribs, usually something he likes. He said he couldn't quite figure out what they were. In general, he eats green salads with tomato (but not cucumber or other crunchy additions), and soft foots that go down without much chewing. His dentures are spending most of their time in their little bowl of water in the bathroom. He eats anything sweet, but cannot open sealed containers, including those pesky chip bags. Hey, we've all been having trouble with those for years!

The time is fast approaching when we are going to have to find alternative care options. I was concerned about leaving him awake and untended last night, so deliberately stayed awake with the door to my room opened to make sure he didn't wander out of the house. He will be livid if we elect to move him, but this house is not capable of accommodating full time care givers with any degree of privacy for anyone. But the resources are out there to help us, and we are becoming more aware of them.

So -- look for the good. Give thanks. Keep praying .....


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Small Pleasures

It's nice to take great pleasure in small things. Finishing a quilt for a special person. Birds in the garden. Birds who eat the fruit in the garden are not quite so pleasing. Birds at the beach. A phone conversation with a granddaughter or a good friend. Those are the things which have filled my day today. I found a Google Gadget today that adds a slide show to this website, so you can see some of those small things that bring pleasure. If you want a closer look, you can see them at Look for the photostream belonging to TutuBonnie.

Today is my brother Ian's birthday. Suffice it to say he is 4 years younger! He leaves on Saturday for the Democratic National Convention where he is the official blogger for the State of Hawaii. Check his website,, for his take on the whole event. Check here to find the blogger representing your home state, or pick bloggers at random to see different views of the events.

Keep looking for positives. Give thanks. Keep praying .....

Monday, August 11, 2008

Time to Move???

My brother Ian and I visited one of the senior housing facilities here on Oahu -- Pohai Nani, operated by an arm of the Lutheran Church. It's in Kaneohe, on the opposite side of the island from Honolulu but relatively near Ian and Meda's home in Ka'a'awa. The setting is lovely. Think Pacific Estate -- or gracious southern plantation. There are lawns, gardens, tall trees, and all buildings but the tower (the main building) nestled inobtrusively among them. The apartments range from 350 sq ft studios to 850 sq ft 2-bedroom units, including 15 duplexes of 1-bedroom apartments spread over the grounds. In the public rooms there is lots of glass and light. This is the only facility on Oahu serving 3 meals dailty. Most include 2 meals daily, or in one case 30 meals per month, included in your monthly fee. There is a kitchenette in each unit -- refrigerator and 2-burner cooktop, you add toaster-oven and microwave if you want them. There is a full kitchen in the common area on each floor if you occasionally need more cooking space. Likewise the laundry. Sheets are changed weekly, and someone does light housekeeping twice weekly. Washers and dryers are on each floor for personal laundry. Pohai Nani has a long-term care unit, but not a memory (aka dementia/alzheimer's) unit. There is a small but well-put together library, and a community-operated bus making regular trips to Honolulu, Kailua and Kaneohe. A nice feature are the guest units, which guests of a resident can use up to 14 consecutive days for $95/night -- a rate that includes daily breakfast!

One Kalakaua has long been Mother's preference, but it is operated by a homeowner's association, with all the political prejudices and intrigues typical of homeowner associations everywhere. After living as a part of one for more than 30 years, I don't think I would want my life care decisions left to such a body. As one of the Honolulu papers pointed out several years ago, in this homeowner's association the average age of members is 85 years, all wealthy, none having much better to do than fuss about petty annoyances. It will be at the bottom of our list of places to visit.

Kahala Nui is in the neighborhood, just a mile up the road. They have a larger percentage of large units here -- both 2- and 3-bedrooms available. They advertise "You are never asked to leave", and include assisted living, long term care, and a memory unit as part of their facility. Of course, you pay extra for those services. Actually, Kahala Nui is practically a neighborhood in itself, but is very urban in character. It's quite a contrast with the look and feel of Pohai Nani. Here you buy your apartment, pay a very large monthly service fee in addition, and get 90% of your apartment cost back when you die or leave. Mother goes into sticker shock at the price. They would definitely have to sell this house to go there. Or at minimum, take a reverse mortgage.

The last alternative is home care. There is an outfit Ian found that does case management, including helping you hire and making your payroll, assuring that all the appropriate taxes and withholdings are paid. I don't know whether they can make this system work without live-in assistance. That's another pricey option ....

Ah, yes, the third option. Bonnie. Am I prepared to do this for an unlimited time? I don't know. I had intended for this to be a part-time deal, 6 months at a time. ...

Look for the good. Give thanks. Keep praying.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Mother's Day Off

Someone said to me yesterday, "You really need to take care of yourself. You need at least one day off every week when you only do things that please you." She was right -- to an extent. It's back to that taking-care-of-the-caretaker issue. But one important fact had escaped me. My mother is a caretaker, too. My father sold his business 9 years ago after he was hit by a bout of dizziness that nearly made it impossible for him to function, at least for a portion of the day. Mother has been caretaking ever since -- cooking, cleaning, shopping, and doing all the other tasks involved in running the house. Daddy has had some regular chores. The floors. His own laundry. The bathroom. Some of the yard work -- like the lawns. The dishes. The garbage. But the household functions because she is here. And she has taken on that role faithfully for all this time without recognition and without respite.

Yesterday she came to me in the morning and said, "This is one of those days when I really don't feel like cooking. Can you do dinner tonight?" She added that her arthritis was bothering her a little. Not a problem. I was supposed to cook dinner today, and we had all the components in place. Besides, this was easy. Fajitas. All done at the last minute. I had invested in a package of Fajita mix from Penzey's Spices specifically to bring here. Found some locally make tortillas. Made a salad. Added fresh mango for dessert. In retrospect, a fresh mango salsa might have been interesting.

I expected that if the arthritis was a problem she would have spent the day in her chair working on her genealogy. But what did my mother do? She spent the entire day in her garden. She repotted orchids. She putzed. She checked the status of everything in the back yard. She watered. She washed some of the pots handmade by Carey D. Miller, her University of Hawaii mentor. Miss Miller grew miniature orchids, hand crafted her pots, and created her own glazes to match the blooms that the plant in that particular pot would bear. She didn't come near her chair until late in the afternoon. In short, she allowed herself a respite day.

That, my friends, is progress. My control freak mother was able to let go of her responsibilities for the day and do what pleased her. If she can finally allow me to take on some of the responsibility, at least for the day, if we can allow this to happen on a regular basis, then we can eventually transition up to the next level of letting go even if I am not here.

Look for the good. Give thanks. Keep praying.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Elderly Quirks

Been back in Hawaii a week, and it's going from hard to difficult, rapidly working toward impossible.

Daddy has shingles. He won't take his meds, says that they make him sick. Ask what kind of sick, and he moves his hand in circles around his ear -- the sign we all used when we were kids that someone was "crazy" or "out of their mind". Mother says he never takes a full dose of any prescription med.

He's not eating. Yesterday he made a piece of toast for breakfast, but forgot to take it out of the toaster. Also forgot to get his coffee. At lunch he at 1/2 of a chicken sandwich made on a dinner roll. Had to force the glass of water. Dinner was a bowl of soup, a piece of toast, another glass of water, two scoops of ice cream, and a piece of chocolate angel food cake. Dehydration may be contributory to the weakness, etc., but he gets stubborn and won't drink what you give him. Cannot leave a bottle or glass at the bedside, it will either spill or get broken.

Mother says he could get better if he wanted to, he just wants to be waited on and doesn't want to do his chores. She says we don't need an in-home medical needs assessment. She says it will take her a year to be ready to move anywhere. She won't call for a 911 assist or ambulance, even when one is appropriate -- said she didn't know you could. Neither wants to pay the bill for an emergency room or doctor visit.

So I document. And pace. And pray. And try to focus on what needs to be done. Ian is flying back from California today, but leaves at the end of August for a week in Denver. We are supposed to talk to the folk at Kahala Nui and Pohai Nani (both multi-level residental facilities) tomorrow, see the trust attorney on Friday. Maybe that will begin to draw things into perspective. Next week I will push for the home care needs assessment/services match.

At least the services are out there. Keep praying.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Post Failure -- slow connections?

I really, truly posted here about 10 days ago -- but the computer fussed, and clearly something failed. Then I was inundated with my friend Verna, who was well enough to do a lot of things her own way, but not well enough to do them by herself. The fires had begun to lie down (if not go away altogether), it was still hot and somewhat less smokey.

Today I have dumped Verna back in her own RV/home, once again closed up the house in Groveland -- this time with no expectation that it will be used by anyone, but certainly in a bit better state than it was last September. By mid-afternoon California time, late morning Hawaiian time, I will be back in Hawaii. My parents have realized that they cannot continue as they have been. The topper for my mother was the cold oatmeal (as it uncooked) that she was served for breakfast last Friday morning. The capper for me was that the previous Sunday he fell, didn't hurt himself but couldn't get up. After 45 minutes of arguing she left him on the floor and went back to bed. What happened to 911 assist?

We all need your prayers, candles, flags, dances or whatever. Remind me to look for the good and not the negative. Give thanks. Don't forget to pray .....

Monday, June 23, 2008

Smoke in the Air

Ah, the sweet smell of California summer: smoke from nearby wildfires. The nearest is about 25 miles away by road, if I am listening to the scanner correctly, up in the Cherry Creek drainage. That means on the OTHER side of the Tuolumne River. That’s a good thing, as resources statewide – manpower and air tanker support – are all working fires in populated areas, fires that threaten homes, farms and livestock. The fire rule you hear all the time is that during the day fire burns up slope and up canyon. At night, when the air is cooler, the fire settles down and smoke drifts in other directions. So while our days are often relatively smoke-free when a wildfire is burning nearby, we wake up to smoke in the morning. It’s now nearly 9:30 a.m. and the air is still heavy with smoke, enough so that the houses across the two lanes of Ferretti Road are visibly obscured and the sky is a uniform grey.

Air quality warnings are out all over northern California. We are urged to stay inside, not to exercise too heavily, especially is we are elderly or have breathing or heart problems. The original smog, competing with Hawaii’s vow (volcanic air pollution).

From downstairs I am hearing, “Hello. Hello? Hello! Hello?” For the first time since she arrived just over a week ago, Goldie the Parrot has decided to speak out. She has been muttering for several days, but today she is calling for Verna just as she does in her own house.

Got a badly needed “animal fix” yesterday afternoon, visiting a friend who has two cats and two Golden Retrievers. After petting the cats, I was reminded that I really do have an allergy to some cat dander – sneezing, itchy eyes, and all. It got better once I washed my hands and opened a window. The dogs did not seem to create the same problem. They are wonderful, but I love Goldens anyway. The younger male is curious, into everything, wants to chew on small, plastic objects like clocks, timers, and cell phone chargers …. I was careful to put my shoes out of his reach! The female, Abby, is older, more mellow, better behaved, and seemed a little jealous when Andy got too much attention.

Onward. Look up! Give thanks for the good, don’t waste time feeling sorry. Don’t forget to pray!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Verna -- and fire weather

Have I mentioned Verna? Our relationship began more than 25 years ago when Christie left and I moved to existence mode for five years or so. No time is a good time for a non-custodial parent to snatch a child. On the advice of attorney, we did not fight, although we would have won – at the cost of very legal fees and a very angry teen-ager. But Christie is another story not properly told here. Suffice it to say that Vera was the mental health counselor who worked Groveland at the time. Ray went on to assist her in group therapies, and we became good friends. Ten days after I got back from Hawaii, Verna wrecked her car and landed in the hospital. She was discharged to transitional care (read rehabilitation) five days later, and left transitional care eight days after that. I have had her here for a week. She had nowhere else to go. Her daughter is in Illinois, one son is in Arizona, the other 4 or so hours away in Napa Co. Nobody has time for Mom. OK, Roger came from Arizona and dealt with the car. I am very thankful that I didn’t have to do that. But he runs a small, private school in Sholow, Arizona and had to get back for summer session. Admittedly, Verna is difficult at best. She is strong-willed and stubborn, lonely and loud. She needs to feel like she is the center of attention – although she will deny that to her dying breath. She didn’t break anything and has no major lacerations, but did get a severe concussion that has an intermittent effect on speech, balance, mobility, and memory. So she is on a walker, using the tub transfer bench and bathroom grab bars, and depending on me to cook and do the heavy stuff involved with caring for Goldie, her 50-year-old parrot. Thankfully, Verna can get to the bathroom on her own, and can bathe and dress herself.

Meanwhile, the cold weather has lifted and severe fire weather has arrived with a vengeance. We have already had several major fires between Sacramento and Redding, one in Stockton, and several in Santa Cruz Co. There is one burning now near Watsonville on Hwy 1 north of Monterey that in less than 24 hours had destroyed several multi-million dollar homes. The strawberries in your market probably came from Watsonville if they were grown in California. About 1:00 this afternoon the temperature here was 89° outside and 90° inside -- 95° in my all-but-attic bedroom. So it’s beach shorts, bare feet, and all the fans operating. Suddenly the sky got very dark, the thunder began to roll, and a parade of fire engines started up Ferretti Road. Everyone is on lightning lookout – Groveland Community Services District, California Department of Forestry (or whatever they are calling themselves these days), Stanislaus National Forest fire crews, and the folks at Yosemite National Park. Nobody wants a fire in our neighborhood. The scanners are running again – this, after all, is why we have them. We learned it is important to know WHERE the fires are, and WHAT they are doing. So far, the only fire call has been a fire on Oak Grove Court at the other end of the subdivision and 5 or so miles away. Not far enough when the wind in blowing in your direction. Now I’m hearing something about smoke east of Pine Mountain Lake. There’s a lot of country east of the subdivision, but we’re on the northeast end … Thank goodness we’re on the road that is the last line of defense for fires coming up the river canyon – they will not defend houses on the other side of the street, but will defend ours to keep a fire out of the major part of the subdivision.

Darn. In my current chaos/non-order, I have no idea where to put my hands on some of the most precious pictures and other important stuff. Best also make back-ups of my genealogy files for the safe deposit box.

Pray for the fire crews out there on the lines, and for those who have been burned out. Give thanks that you and I are not among them. Pray for rain. Look for those silver linings! Keep praying …..

Monday, June 9, 2008

Order from chaos? I doubt it!

I am NOT an organizer. Not an organizer of stuff, anyway. And now I am paying the price. Reaching bottom in my chaotic upstairs is requiring endless hours of sorting, filing, shredding, and finding new homes for what is left. I have to be brutal. If it doesn’t have a home, it cannot stay. If someone else can use it, it must go to Good Will, or Salvation Army, or Helping Hands. If it specifically relates to Groveland, it gets to go to the Museum/History Resource Center. If it is garbage, it needs to find its way to the garbage can. If it is precious, it needs to find a home – which may mean determining the relative preciousness of two different objects. I find the process both tedious and painful.

There’s that clipping about the man who codified the game of baseball – who later moved to Hawaii, became the first fire chief of the City of Honolulu, and is buried at Oahu Cemetery in Nuuanu. My great-grandfather Cathcart is also buried there. …. Pack-rats don’t throw wonderful tidbits like that away. So … it’s interesting, but is it really important in my current life? Toss it.

There’s the $.5 million itemized hospital bill for Ray’s 6 weeks in the hospital in 2006. Damned hospital spent all that money to keep him alive, then 4 months later put in a catheter he didn’t need, caused an infection, and ultimately killed him. I’m past the worst of the bitterness and hurt, but not ready to discard that bill. Yet.

There’s the magazines he subscribed to – Hawaii, Scotland, Body&Soul, Yoga, Smithsonian, Southwest Art, ChipChats – and the ones I subscribed to … assorted journals from genealogical societies and other charities we support. There are the ones that were gifts – Prevention, Guideposts … Will I eventually read them? Past practice says not.

Mr. P, there’s still years worth of accumulated Christmas cards. Does that teacher friend of yours still use them? I hope so!

There’s a small mountain of photographs that need to find their way into albums – either hard copy albums or digital ones. Can’t do that until I have waded through the rest of the accumulation.

Lord, help me to see through the clutter to the wonderful space I will have when this is done. I give thanks for the garbage service (can’t begin to match what they have in Honolulu, but at least someone empties the can if I remember to put it at the top of the driveway …) – and for all the wonderful times Ray and I had together while this stuff accumulated. Keep me praying!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Back in Groveland

I think it is good to be home. It’s strange – from home to home. But this is my own space, usable in any fashion I like whenever I like. I can watch movies or listen to the radio whenever and where ever I like. There is room to move around and spread things out – although I do need to part with some of the things that were spread out BEFORE I went to Hawaii!

It took three days to get here. Monday was flight day. Left 934 Kealaolu Avenue at 10 a.m., and zipped quickly through the check-in process thanks to something Hawaiian Airlines calls Drive-Through check-in. For those who might have occasion it use it, follow the airport signs for Hawaiian Airlines ARRIVALS. As you approach the terminal, stay in the RIGHT lane and continue straight ahead to the first stop sign. There will be a parking lot at the end of the building on your left (the terminal) and you will see a tent-like canopy area. Under the canopy agents will take your (bags), confirm that you have a boarding pass and seat assignment, and send you on your way. They take care of the agriculture inspection. They label your bags. They get them to the aircraft. They must get them there quickly, because mine were about the last bags to be Unloaded in San Francisco. You went your way through the various security checkpoints with ONLY your carry-on pieces.

Hanai daughter Nancy/Ruth met me in San Francisco. I almost didn’t see her. I was looking for the BIG white Ford pick-up – 5 passenger, long cab, diesel …. But diesel fuel is now significantly more expensive than gasoline, so she’s driving a more efficient, gas-fueled sedan. We talked until midnight, and I slept until 3 a.m. – then couldn’t fall back to sleep. Eventually we took Joseph to school, picked up Ruth’s walking partner, and went out to the track at Stanford University for a morning walk. Even without my walking shoes (left them in Hawaii, needed replacing, no room in suitcase!) and being grossly out of shape, managed to keep up with both of them.

Kimo picked me up on Tuesday afternoon and we drove to Manteca. The twins went of to soccer practice; Kimo, Lu, Brianna and I went to dinner. After everyone else went to bed, Lu and I talked – and talked – and talked … until 2 a.m. We cleared up a lot of misunderstandings and are better friends now.

Wednesday. Lu and I had another opportunity to visit after Kimo and the girls left for the day. I finally left about 10:30. After some obligatory stops in Modesto – Best Buy to deal with my fussy iTouch, the mall for new walking shoes, Costco for groceries, another grocery store for those things I was unwilling to buy in Costco quantities – I finally got home at 5 p.m. Exhausted.

Thursday. Change addresses at Pine Mountain Lake. Pick up the mail. Stop at the library/museum, meet a friends, prepare for the cemetery walk tomorrow, lunch with Rolene, purchase fabric for Sarah’s quilt …. By now it’s 4:30 p.m., another day gone. Where did it go?

Friday. 10:00. I’ve been at this machine since 5:30 a.m. The cell phone has apparently died – cut out in the middle of a phone call this morning, politely says “unable to charge” when plugged in. Oh, darn. Now what? Can’t just run to the mall a mile down the road – now it’s 60 miles down the road. Harumph. There must be a reason.

Look for that silver lining. Give thanks. Keep praying …..

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Aloha and Aloha

It is real and diagnosed. He may have been told a year ago, but either didn't understand or didn't want anyone to know. My father is in early stage dementia. It's not a surprise -- the behaviors are all there -- but it is somehow reassuring to have his doctor say it in so many words. It also alters how Mother deals with him, makes her more tolerant.

Yesterday was the memorial service for my cousin Michael McPherson who died in April at his home in Kamuela. This is the same cousin that I visited in February when on Hawaii with the Waughs from Chicago. It was a beautiful memorial, held at the Unity Church of Hawaii on the slopes of Diamond Head. The opening prayer was given in both English and Hawaiian by a cousin of another of the McPherson lines who also happened to be Taylor McPherson's 3rd grade teacher. Taylor is Michael's only biological niece, and his sole heir. The prayer was followed by brief sharings from some of Michael's close friends: a lifelong friend and surfing buddy, who last surfed with him at Kawaihae just a few weeks before he passed; three friends from his Univeristy of Hawaii - poet - novelist - editor days; and the local judge from Kamuela who described Michael as brilliant as a trial lawyer. "If you as a judge or an opposing attorney did not listen to every word Michael said, as he said it, then you were somehow behind him and in very serious trouble." That's high praise indeed. Each speaker touched on Michael's need to find resolution to conflict, and gave examples of how that drive shaped their own lives. Since his own growing up years were filled with conflict -- between his father and grandfather, between his parents, between himself and his father, likely within Michael himself -- I can see where that drive might have taken root. Also, conflict resolution is a very Hawaiian concept. It is called ho'oponopono, and is one of the fundamentals of Hawaiian medicine. Michael was very much in touch with his Hawaiian heritage.

The service ended with a hula danced by Taylor and one of her friends ... "Where I am there are rainbows ... " and a slide show of photographs of Michael growing up.

I had a very difficult time getting through the service. My tears were only in part for Michael. They were more for my own emptiness at Ray's passing, for going on without him. There is thanksgiving for the wonderful time we had, and regret that we did not have more time together. There is still a huge, empty hole. He and Michael are somewhere else now. They are healthy, active, laughing, caring ...

Look forward. Give thanks. Keep praying ........!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Being Mom

I've talked over and over again about families growing in many different ways. If we limit ourselves to our biological parents and children, we miss out on so much of the world's beauty! So this morning I made breakfast for my biological mom, then called and talked to another mom who worries about me just as much and has had a very strong influence on my adult life. Emails arrived from my (adopted) son and (hanai) daughter. Christie remains silent, didn't even call her grandmother. Jeff (another hanai son/grown up foster kid) called last week to share news about his daughter, and added, "Happy Mother's Day, I really miss you!"

We had visitors! WE had visitors -- the came to see me as well as my parents! "They" are John and Tweetie Lind. They are cousins on my father's side. John's grandfather and mine were first cousins, making us 3rd cousins. But who'se counting? They live in Kipahulu on the island of Maui, and came to Oahu to visit some of their children, deal with some business, and to attend some special events. To understand John and Tweetie, you have to understand where they live.
Those who visit Groveland complain about "the grade", that 2-mile (or 5 mile, depending on the road) climb from Moccasin to Priest Station -- with its 1800' elevation gain. You say it's enough to keep you away from Groveland altogether. Now stretch that road out to 52 miles and delete the elevation gain. Add 13 bridges -- then add 42 more, but make these just one lane wide. Instead of traveling along a canyon, you are traveling along the flank of a dormant volcano that rises more than 10,000 from sea level to crest. So ... on one side of the 2-lane road is mountain. But on the other side you look straight down to the ocean. Or a mountain stream. Or across into a waterfall. Don't be in a hurry. It takes AT LEAST 2 hours to drive to Hana from the airport at Kahului.

Hana is cattle country. There is a store. Maybe even two stores! Perhaps you've heard about Hasegawa General Store. It gets perishables -- milk, bread, veggies and meat -- twice a week. Tuesday afternoon is a bad time to run out of milk or bread. There's a luxury hotel, the Hotel Hana Maui. It's been up-scale since long before the term was coined. There are a couple of motels now, really more like condos for rent. Better bring your groceries from Kahului or Wailuku. Or stay at one of the B&B's. There's a tiny but interesting museum, locally run. And a beach park on the bay, where you can go to fish and canoe (bring your own) or have a picnic. Ray ate one of his most memoriable meals there -- at a gathering of the Lind 'ohana to meet the Lind cousins from the City. Hana town is built in tiers, just as you would expect a town built on a hillside. Behind the hotel, across the street from the church, the cattle graze on a hillside. It's the side of that same volcano, Haleakala, that you drove part-way around to get here.

Kipahulu is a community more than a town. Charles Lindberg chose to be buried here. You know that you're in Kipahulu when you get to the stables. As in rent-horse-go-riding stables. If you get to the National Park, you've gone too far.

Now visit This is John and Tweetie's baby. It's living history, cultural awareness, and historic preservation/restoration all at the same time. But John and Tweetie are like small farmers anywhere. They are real people who do what they love, and they love what they do. No airs, no pretense here. They are Hawaiian to the core, and will share with you if you care to listen. I'm proud to claim kinship.

Give thanks -- for mothers, for people like John and Tweetie who help preserve traditional ways. Look for the good. Keep praying .....!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Packing up -- again

As I write, I am taking a break from the dreaded chore of packing up. It's a task that I genuinely H-A-T-E, witness how much I put off before leaving California. So now I am heading back, at least for awhile, and am having nightmares going through a mere 7 month accumulation with limited space to accumulate. Some I can leave. More NEEDS to go back. As my cousin Andrea said when she moved back to Scotland last year, it's amazing how much you accumulate is such a short time.

A couple of years ago Mother announced that she was going to have the dining room chairs refinished. It would cost about $160/chair to strip and refinish the wood, then another $50/chair for new upholstery on the seats. Then she thought about buying 6 Martin-McArthur chairs (they are a local manufacturer of fine wood furnishings), but discovered to her horror that she would pay more than $200/chair even at Martin-McArthur sale prices. Daddy had a fit and said he would refinish the chairs. She bought some stain and some polyurethane finish, but he never did the work. Oh, he scrubbed them down with soap and water, but that wasn't what she was looking for. Some time after my birthday she finally allowed me to start the stripping and refinishing. I had been trying for some time, but met with all sorts of excuses. Now we have three chairs finished, one drying in preparation for a final coat of stain, one drying after its first stain, and one more to strip. It is the stripping process that takes time. I'm spending 2.5 or more hours per chair. But she and daddy are both pleased with the results. That's good.

Now that I am about to leave, I am discovering all sorts of places/organizations that I should have visited months ago. Joined the Quilt Guild, and purchased a kit to make a pretty appliqued top at home which I will bring back to quilt next winter. Or maybe I will have it quilted in California. Depends on how I feel. Re-discovered Ben Franklin -- which used to be a "5 and dime" store and is now a craft store. Need to find the needlework shop on King St. across from McKinley High School, for needlepoint and cross stitch. Found another, similar, shop, but am not particularly pleased with their selection or service. Am very spoiled by the shops in California and Nevada that sell you fabric, then as a courtesy give you a new needle and surge the edges of your fabric for you before you leave the store. In other words, no more prep work when you get home. Still have to get to the highly touted Bhutan exhibit at the Art Academy.

Am tempted to visit the Humane Society to see what kitties they have available for adoption, but know better. The adoption fee is the same as in Tuolumne Co., where for your $60 you get an animal and a $15 coupon towards spay/neuter. Here your $60 buys you a spayed/neutered animal already microchipped (I paid $30 for that service last year) and a free vet check to confirm you have received a healthy animal. Also, animals that originate in Hawaii don't have to do the extensive bloodwork required of an animals from communities where there is rabies.

So -- onward. Tomorrow I do my before-leaving-Hawaii doctoring bit. Had to find a GYN here when I needed the follow-up mammogram last fall, and turns out I liked both him and the Women's Health Center at The Queen's Hospital. So -- since all my mammogram data is currently here, I will continue to have my routine checks in Honolulu. The rest of my medical care can stay in California, at least until my doctor retires.

For now, keep looking for the positives. Give thanks. Don't forget to pray!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

guilt trips --- whose problem is it?

Another week gone, and I’m not sure where it went. I’ve learned a bit about computer hardware, am crossing my fingers that my laptop survives until I get back to Groveland, and am still struggling with the taking-care-of-the-caretaker conflict.

We found a note on the breakfast table this morning in my father’s shaky hand: “No breakfast for me today. I’m ILL.” He’s having another bout of constipation which he treats with generous portions of Milk of Magnesia and lots of time in bed. He doesn’t stray far from the toilet, either. Mother copes by ignoring him.

On Friday Daddy started out for a destination near the airport, on the other side of Honolulu. He got as far as Sears, at the Ala Moana Center on our side of Honolulu. Yes, he was driving his UNSAFE car, just as he told his doctor he would if the car were in the garage and he wanted to go somewhere. This time, he apparently got onto a hill and the car would not stop. It scared him enough that he turned around and came home, announcing that he didn’t think he would try that again. Further, the corner gas station has installed a new credit card system at their gas pumps, and he cannot figure out how to work them! No one is going to help him learn. This should just reinforce his need to give up driving.

Mother is having some health bouts of her own. She gets a sharp, stabbing pain in one hear – the one with the hearing aid. An ear doctor, whom she doesn’t like, told her it was a jaw problem – TMJ, or a glitch in the connection between the jaw and the skull. She says it doesn’t make sense that a jaw problem should cause this kind of pain in her ear. I believe this is the third time this had happened since I have been here. On Friday her arthritis got the better of her, and she was having enough difficulty walking that she accepted my offer to prepare dinner. Has anybody had any experience with stabbing ear pain or TMJ issues?

I have to keep reminding myself of the mantra, “Assign the problem where it belongs. If it is not your problem, let it go.” Definition of your problem? One where you have control over the outcome. If you can’t change the outcome, it’s NOT YOUR PROBLEM. I can’t change my parents’ relationship. I can’t change whether or not my father will drive – he will drive without license plates, safety sticker, or drivers’ license unless HE decides to quit. I cannot make my mother more communicative. So I cannot feel guilty about leaving. I just have to take care of myself for right now. And keep reminding myself, “Not your problem.” Taking care of my house IS my problem!

Look for the positives. Give thanks. Keep praying!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Too Long ... and not long enough

I have been telling myself for several days, "It is time to post again!" but grab the computer and get distracted. This week's distraction was the birthday. After years of hints, this was the one that finally says "You are REALLY a senior citizen."

We -- my parents, brother and sister-in-law -- enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Reef Hotel smack on Waikiki Beach. I sat next to the outside "wall". This is one of those low walls that in another setting might mark a walkway. This one has a track in it, so they can close off the dining room to keep out intruders or bad weather. Most of the time it's like being on my covered deck in Groveland. If I had dropped something over the wall, it would have landed in the sand of Waikiki beach about 4' below. My view was of Diamond Head. From across the table, Meda looked out towards the harbor and the setting sun. Too bad the sky was too cloudy for one of those remarkable sunsets.

Last year the quote of the day was, "Happy birthday. Your car needs $1700 in repairs." This year the tune was only slightly more modest, but no less disconcerting. It came from the Groveland Community Services District. "Happy Birthday. Your house used 33,000 gallons of water last month." At least they called to share this bit of good news. Then Leda from the front desk added, "But the meter was not spinning when they read it, so it is not a continuous flow like a pipe break. Let us check and see if the meter is working correctly. I'll call you back." That was Thursday. I'm still waiting for the call-back.

I jumped on TheBus (Honolulu's mass transit system) yesterday morning and took a ride out to the other side of the City to collect one of those Senior Benefits to which I am now entitled: a Senior Bus Pass. Google Maps calculates the distance as 9 miles door-to-door by freeway, with a travel time of 9 minutes. Note that Google Maps does not understand Honolulu traffic. First, maximum freeway speed is 50 MPH. Average speed is something less, especially during commute hours when the freeway can turn into a real mainland-style parking 6-lane parking lot. So it probably takes more like 20 minutes with light traffic and no missed turns to get there by car. By bus? Google Maps says about 70 minutes. It took us more like 90 minutes. At the Kalihi Transit Center (TheBus Headquarters) you fill out a simple form, pay your $30, have your picture taken -- and, new photo ID card in hand -- ride the bus for free for the next 12 months. Last week this pass would have cost me $440. No, probably not. I probably would have been told by everyone in the office to come back AFTER my birthday! Hawaii works like that. The average service person pays attention to the client/customer and helps them get the best possible deal.

A bit of sad news. While on Hawaii in February, we visited my cousin Michael McPherson. He was looking forward to his 61st birthday later in the month, but commented that he was "prematurely makule" -- prematurely old. Yesterday emergency responders found his body after a call from a concerned friend. He apparently lay down for a nap a couple of days before -- and never woke up. Aloha, Michael. We will miss you.

Look for the good. Give thanks. Keep praying .....

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Tunnels ... and lights

There is light at the end of the tunnel!

My father's car needed it's annual safety inspection. Yesterday he took it to the neighborhood service station, where the mechanics told him once they replace the master cylinder and the rear brakes (from the drums out and for a hefty price) they can tell him if the car can be certified safe. He said, "No thank you." and drove away.

He announced at lunch today that he was going to get a safety sticker on his car. Mother decided that was one of the funnier stories she had heard this week. Then she proceeded to tell me about the bootleg certificate he got a couple of years back. Immediately the images started racing through my head: my father in an automobile accident, maiming or killing some innocent person while driving a vehicle that we ALL know should not be on the road, followed by a lawsuit that wipes out everything they have accumulated over 94 years of living and nearly 70 years of marriage. When the Nissan pulled back into the driveway 2 hours later, all I could say was "Oh, s----."

He had gone to Midas, expecting them to make him a better deal than the neighborhood mechanic. The Midas Man showed him the worn out master brake cylinder and the completely destroyed rear brakes. He pointed out problems with the front wheels, and the transmission that is about to die. He commented on all the body rust, the doors that won't open, the exposed electrical system in the passenger area ... you get the idea. He said the car was not worth putting any money into and is certainly not safe to drive as it is. It has no resale value except as parts.

On the computer I found that Hertz in Honolulu has a front-wheel drive (not 4x) Ford Escape in their current resale inventory, printed it out and gave it to my dad with the comment that if I were going to buy something, that vehicle would be a strong candidate. He responded that he really had better start using a taxi, he really would have a problem learning to drive a new car, and that he really doesn't see well enough to be driving. This is a huge admission for someone who values his independence.

Give thanks! Keep praying ....!!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Taking Care of the Caretakers

A number of years ago I tucked a refrigerator magnet into my daughter-in-law's Christmas stocking. It said, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" In retrospect, I don't think she understood what I was saying. I think we found one of those unexpected cultural gaps and she heard me telling her that it was her role to keep ME happy. In fact, I was trying to tell her to take care of herself in between taking care of three teens, three pre-schoolers, and a much younger husband.

My friend Jo Ann needs to find ways to take care of herself. She is the wife and sole caretaker of a spinal chord injury patient who came home this week for the first time since his accident. She needs to find a way to sleep a full seven uninterrupted hours. She needs to find things she can do at home that please her, but which can be put down whenever and picked up two hours or two weeks later without loosing her place or train of thought. She needs someone to take in a meal occasionally, someone to visit, someone to do routine stuff like put the machines (the dish washer, washing machine, vacuum cleaner) to work. She needs someone else to take care of the yard so that she can concentrate on her husband. She needs to understand that she cannot do the things her husband needs if she is exhausted and resentful of the time and energy he requires.

I am reminded that I, too, need to take care of myself when I am thrilled just by walking at a brisk pace. I am reminded when I find an able-bodied someone to share a shopping trip, a day in the library, or an afternoon at the Art Academy. I am reminded when I enjoy listening to the teen-agers on the City bus.

And I am reminded when it takes several days to get beyond my father's criticism that I spend too much time on the telephone. Excuse me? What does he expect me to do with my life? You don't make a lot of new friends taking your parents to the doctor. Or to the grocery store. Most of my friends are somewhere else. They -- YOU -- are an essential part of my support system. I need to visit with you periodically. Besides, it's MY telephone, not theirs. I use it when there is nothing else planned, in the empty hour of time here or there, and especially on weekends. I don't use it in the living room while he is there. I shut the door to my bedroom when I am talking inside. I try to do a lot of my conversing outside so I won't be intruding on his space -- or my mother's space. I've even gone to the mall to make telephone calls. I've learned to multi-task -- do routine household chores like setting the table, filling the washing machine or emptying waste baskets one-handed so they get done despite my being on the telephone. (The NEXT phone, due in June, will be Blue-Tooth ready!) But my calls last more than the alloted 1 minute, and therefore are offensive to him.

Then there's the issue of recycling. My father won't. Won't compost. Won't consider a less polluting vehicle. Won't hold garden waste until green garbage day. Won't plan ahead to cluster his tasks. Won't consider public transportation. Won't conserve water. Won't recycle plastic. Won't use energy-efficient CF lighting. But today is Turn Out the Lights night in support of the fight against global warming, and he was offended that Mother -- who is extraordinarily proactive in issues of environmental protection-- wouldn't turn out the lights.

A wise and experienced lady told me this morning, "Honey, that's all senile behavior. Don't let it get the better of you."

Look for the good. Give thanks! Keep praying ........