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.