Parental Journal 116 from Planet Elderly – Second Major Lockdown: No Visitors

Monday, November 9, 2020 – 8:30 a.m.

With the number of COVID 19 cases rising worldwide, I wasn’t surprised to receive a call telling me that in-person and chatterbox visits will be cancelled for this week. Someone (or some people) tested positive. I’m guessing it was staff, but one never knows.

CHATTERBOX

Mom and I have transitioned back to using the chatterbox system which takes place in the room that was used for physical therapy.

There are two chatterbox set-ups in the physical therapy room. Mom and I have never had a visit when another chatterbox visit was taking place. That’s a good thing. Mom can hear well, so we don’t use the walkie-talkies. We just gab. Well, these days I do most of the gabbing and she responds most of the time.

Wendy brought Mom in last Thursday. Wendy only stayed for a few minutes because things were busy. Donnie came in to relieve Wendy. Toward the end of our visit, Activities Coordinator, Anna, relieved Donnie and spent some time chatting with Mom and me.

Wendy and Mom
Donnie and Mom

The photo above with Wendy bringing Mom into the room shows the kind of expression Mom usually has when she first sees me. It’s as if she is ready to cry. A few times she has.

The photo with Donnie shows how relaxed she is during most of our visiting time. What’s nice about chatterbox visits is that we can take off our masks. We both enjoy seeing each other’s maskless faces.

This second chatterbox visit went well. Mom was engaged for nearly the whole 30 minutes. Since these visits start at 2:30, it’s a sleepy time of day and she is tired. At our first fall chatterbox visit, she was dozing off about 10 minutes into the visit. But that’s okay. If she ever just wants to rest, I’ll play some music from the Pandora app on my phone, and just let her rest. It’s quite common for Wendy and Donnie to join us in our conversations. We chat and laugh about a lot of things and it’s good for Mom to be part of that socialization, even if she just listens.

I’m not looking forward to the winter months ahead. I’m concerned about the rise in COVID cases everywhere and the possibility that my visits with Mom may be sporadic, depending on how often the community finds a positive case among residents or staff. One day at a time.

Mom still knows me and we have good visits. Each one is a gift. I am grateful for this time we still have to enjoy each other’s company. I am also sad to witness her cognitive decline, that long, dark shadow that looms larger as months pass. But she still knows me; that’s how strong her love is.

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Parental Journal 115 from Planet Elderly: Socially Distanced Fall Visits

Saturday, October 3, 2020 – mid-morning

When my friends ask how visits with Mom are going, I am delighted to tell them that we are having so much fun. I do most of the talking, but Mom reacts and responds appropriately, even if she can’t get all the words out.

Since it’s up to me to do most of the talking, lately I’ve been yammering about the fires in California, doing fall garden clean-up, the shocking first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, getting my flu shot, getting weekly allergy shots as an experiment, and reading about photography. She is all ears and reacts with wide eyes, frowns, laughter, and short comments like, “That sounds terrible,” or “You will like that,” or “I hope you’ll be okay.” In my book, that’s terrific.

I am very fortunate that she still knows me, can understand conversations even if she can’t remember what was said five minutes later, and laughs with me. We are growing old together in a way I never imagined. It is so meaningful.

Our socially distanced visits are in an enclosed porch area. We could go into the garden area, but Mom likes to be warm. We had one visit on a lovely day outside in the courtyard, but the rest have been in the sheltered porch area away from the wind. Now that day temperatures are getting a bit cooler, staff have made sure she has her winter coat on when we visit. Like many elders her age and her size, her preferred indoor temperature is at least 82 degrees. Ugh.

Masked and in her winter coat. There is a smile behind that mask:

We have scheduled days and times through October. Most likely, the weather will cooperate and we’ll be able to have our enclosed porch visits. Once colder weather arrives, I hope the community will resume the indoor “chatterbox visits” where we are separated by a plexiglass barrier.

At the end of each visit, we give each other big air hugs and we blow each other masked kisses. I leave smiling behind my mask and a little misty-eyed. She is a gem.

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Parental Journal 114 from Planet Elderly: This Is Your Life via Photo Album

Thursday, September 10, 2020 – early afternoon

The twice-a-week visits with Mom are going well. We meet at about 11 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays and visit for 30 minutes. We are both enjoying them.

Although it took a long time, I finally got around to sorting through boxes and envelopes of old photos. I went through them three times before I was able to reduce them to a chosen group with which to make a photo album of Mom’s life. The album is large, so when I took it to share with Mom, I gave her individual pages so that she could more easily view the photos.

Mom is looking at a page from the photo album

Overall, she was very curious about the photos and did not recognize most of the people in the photos. There was one photo she saw and she immediately said, “That’s my brother.”

I did not include photos of her first husband, Walter, who was my biological father. I’ll put those in the album I make for my life. That said, at one point I mentioned Walter’s name and Mom quickly said, “I don’t think I was ever married to Walter.” All I said was, “Oh…okay,” and I let it go. When she saw a photo of her and my stepfather, Victor, she said, “I don’t think I ever married Victor.” I just showed her the next photo of their wedding day. She looked a bit perplexed, but she did think the dress was “very pretty.”

Here are some of the album photos my 94-year-old mother with dementia has seen recently…for the very first time, according to her.

Mom’s mother’s wedding: Jeanette and Arthur Peters. Jeanette and Arthur had three children, but their marriage didn’t work out.

Mom as a toddler:

Mom, left, and her older sister, Martha:

Love poem I think Victor typed for Mom:

Wedding Day – 1954
Wedding day: Mom, Me, and Victor

Photo of Mom on her honeymoon:

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Pandemic Times: Soil, Sun, Rain, Beauty

August 24, 2020 – mid-afternoon

Blooms

In addition to all the baking people have been doing during these pandemic times, growing things has also becomes more popular than ever. Whether it’s deciding to put out a few pots to grow herbs or flowers…suddenly becoming interested in growing orchids…or even tilling up half the backyard to grow a ton of vegetables like grandma and grandpa used to do, plenty of people around the world worked with soil, seeds, and plants. Some have done so for decades. Others planted for the first time.

I’ve always been a flower gardener, but this year I did put some potted herbs and vegetables out on the back deck.

Romaine lettuce – regular and red

The lettuce did well and I had plenty of salads for a while. Of course, I had a neighbor who insisted in coming over to inspect things.

Fortunately, this neighbor was not interested in lettuce

My one potted cherry tomato plant became a favorite snack item for squirrels. My attempt to grow peas and beans didn’t work out well, but I did get a taste. The spinach was fine, the basil was terrific, and the rosemary plant is tall and still out on the deck soaking up the sun. At least I tried.

The garden areas turned out quite nicely this year. We had an ideal amount of rain this spring and plants thrived. The soil, the sun, and the rain did, indeed, provide a lot of beauty to enjoy:

Coneflowers and Balloon Flowersgarden area by front mailbox
Hosta Blooms
Clematis
Delphinium
Coneflowers
Black-eyed Susan
Crocosmia “Lucifer”
Coneflower and Balloon flowers

For anyone who sees this post, I hope these blooms give you a sense of beauty, tranquility, and hope for the future we will have after COVID 19.

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Parental Journal 113 from Planet Elderly: The Birthday Tee Shirt Arrived!!

Yesterday, the tee shirt I ordered for Mom’s birthday arrived, so I was able to give it to her today during our Thursday visit.

She has always loved my dandelion/heart shirt, so now we have matching shirts. She was so surprised and delighted!

(This tiny post took me quite a while to compose because WordPress changed to a block editing format and I had to hunt and peck to find how to do things. My first impression is: Crap! I hate this! …and I had even looked at some tutorials the other day. Eventually I will learn how to use it. However, I miss the old way to edit…because I am OLD and learning a new block editing setup will have me bitching and moaning every time I try to write a post.)

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Parental Journal 112 from Planet Elderly: She’s 94 and Still Spunky

Monday, August 17, 2020 – mid-afternoon

Extended Birthday

Mom’s birthday was yesterday, August 16.  Visitors aren’t allowed on the weekend, so we celebrated early during our Thursday visit and again today.  On Sunday, she had specially made birthday cake and a celebration with staff and neighbors.  So it is during these COVID times.

On Thursday I brought her a lovely bouquet of flowers from me and her cousin, Carol.  When I told the florist at the store about my mom’s birthday, she removed a tired daisy and replaced it with 5 bright and beautiful sunflowers.  Way to go, Schnucks Customer Service!

Mom flowers for 94 birthday 2020

I also brought her a card from me and a card from Carol.  She can’t read well, so I read the cards to her and she looked so happy.

“How old are you going to be on Sunday, Mom?” I asked.

She paused to let the question sink in, wrinkled her brow a bit, and replied, “OLD!”

When I saw her today, I brought my 15-year-old cockapoo, Cinnamon.  I adopted him when he was 11.  He doesn’t see well these days and he’s basically deaf, but Mom always enjoys seeing him.  Today was no different.  It took her a minute to associate who he is and who he belongs to, but it wasn’t too long before she reached out to pet him.  Eventually, he got close enough for her to pet his head and then he could smell her.  I let her hold the leash a bit and I told her to hold it tightly.

mom and cinnamon 081720

It was then that Cinnamon took on the role of guide.  Before I knew it, he was walking around and pulling Mom with him.  She enjoyed the ride and we laughed.

There is one more gift to give her…as soon as it arrives.  She loves my dark blue tee shirt with the heart dandelion design.  I ordered one for her and I can’t wait to give it to her.

Assessment

I brought Mom two additional birthday cards today:  one from the bank and one from friend Sharon in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  I had opened the card from the bank, so it was just placed back in the envelope.  The card from Sharon had not been opened.  I wanted to see how well Mom could maneuver getting access to the cards.

She managed to get to the card from the bank fairly easily, except that I had to keep reminding her that there was a card inside.  She preferred to focus on reading her name on the envelope.

The unopened card was exactly the challenge I thought it would be.  She was easily distracted by the different stamps, her name on the envelope, and had difficulty distinguishing the front from the back.  I let her work on it for quite a while and coached her with some suggestions about how to open it.  At one point she started to get a piece of the envelope opened, but she was more interested in what Cinnamon was doing.  After it was clear she had forgotten the card in her hand, I offered to help her.  I opened it and read it to her.  She liked the message, seemed to recognize Sharon’s name after I said, “Sharon was married to your cousin Grant.  They moved to Las Vegas for a few years.  Sharon returned to Wisconsin to be closer to her family after Grant passed away.”   That statement did not go unnoticed.  Her expression showed concern after hearing the words, “passed away.”

Old Photo

A couple of weeks ago, I brought Mom a photo that I believe was taken her senior year of high school.  It looks like a senior high portrait.  She was surprised to learn that the person in the photo was her.  Donnie, one of the supervising staff aides, texted me today to say he got a frame for the photo.  He included this photo:

Mom’s wedding cake topper from her marriage to my stepdad next to her high school graduation photo.  Pearl is, of course, wearing a pearl necklace and pearl earrings.

Mom HS graduation photo

When I look at that photo and think about Mom’s life journey and where she is now, I am so proud of her.  She is a survivor..a spunky one.  I am also grateful that we are having these later years to grow old together.

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Pandemic Times: THANK YOU, JOE!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020 – early a.m.

Biden and Harris

I woke up this morning with a sense of hope. Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s choice for a running mate, is the reason for that.  I am beyond thrilled.  I am moved to tears and a sense of hope for our country and for all women of color.

My desire to see a female president in the White House before I die will likely happen.  I just have to keep healthy enough to live and witness it.

With so many pandemic, economic, social justice, political, and racial issues creating havoc in the US during these dire times, Kamala Harris will help Joe open our hearts and minds and restore dignity to the leadership of America.

THANK YOU, JOE!

 

kamala

 

 

 

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Pandemic Times: Yes, I Joined the COVID 19 Bread Making Craze and Returned to Reading Books

Tuesday, August 11, 2020 – mid-morning

Using My Stay-at-Home Time Constructively

I know I’m not alone.  We’ve all been adjusting to and living with various COVID 19 developments and restrictions for over six months now.  We want it to end.  As the saying goes, “Buckle up, Buttercup.”  I’m convinced we’re going to be living in these uncertain COVID times for many more months, if not an additional year or so.  But that’s just me.

COVID 19 came for a visit, and the realization that this was a historic worldwide event made many of us wonder, “How can I use this mandated stay at home time constructively?”  Among the various options, bread baking received plenty of press.  So I joined the craze.

Ingredients

When the baking craze started, it soon became difficult to find yeast and flour.  I went to three stores, found a bit of all-purpose flour but no yeast.  I turned to Amazon and purchased some yeast, but because of the demand, it took a while to arrive.  Bread flour and whole wheat flour?  Finally found some in May.  Quality rye flour?  Ordered from Amazon.

Recipes

No problem finding recipes online, of course.  I researched recipes for sourdough starter, French bread, Italian bread, rye bread, rye bread rolls, Jewish rye bread, Russian rye bread, sourdough pizza crust, bread, and rolls…hamburger buns, English muffins, and Naan. (Yes, I have a carb addiction problem that I try to keep in check.) I refer to all my attempts as “experiments,” so when I tried a recipe, I shared the results with a neighbor.  Nobody got sick.

Results

Of course, I took pictures.  These are historic times, and before I die I wanted to make sure my friends and family knew that I had, indeed, succeeded with some of my baking experiments.

 

One of those bake-in-a-Dutch-oven recipes:

042720 for Scovilles

 

Getting kind of fancy with the sesame seeds.  This one I did not share.  Delicious.

043020 Italian with roasted garlic

 

Two loaves of Italian bread.  Not too bad.  Yes, I shared.

051920 Italian Loaves

First attempt at French bread.  Not bad.  Certainly not traditional baguette quality.

Bread 041320 (2)

Lemon meringue pie.  Ok, I had a sweet tooth episode.  Crust made with olive oil in an attempt to make it healthier.  Shared with my neighbor, Bonnie H.

041320 lemon meringue pie

I think this was my first attempt back in April.

Bread 041320

Becoming familiar with a high-quality serrated knife has consequences:

041320 serrated knife incident

The first loaf of rye bread I ever made.  There will be more.  I love the flavor carraway seeds create.

first rye bread 073020

Experiment with sourdough pizza crust.  Great taste.  A bit too thick for me, but it provided three meals.  About 14 inches in diameter: onion, tomatoes, red pepper, black olives, and homemade pizza sauce.

20200808_152020-1

Next experiment:  “Pain de campagne” (French country bread) that requires using sourdough to make a levain and letting that sit for 20 to 24 hours…then preparing the dough and letting it sit in the fridge to rise slowly overnight. It uses sourdough starter, rye flour, whole wheat flour, and bread flour.  A bit of a challenge, but I can taste it.  The levain will be assembled to rest for 24 hours at 7 p.m. tonight.  I think I’m going to love this one.

 

Slowing Down to Enjoy Literature Once Again

My baking craze has slowed down quite a bit because I’ve turned to reading these past several weeks:  The Underground Railroad (2017 Pulitzer Prize winner) by Colson Whitehead…The Nickel Boys, 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner also by Colson Whitehead…This Much I Know Is True by Wally Lamb…The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (a must-read to begin grasping the meaning of black Americans’ demand for justice in an unjust society)…and currently fascinated with The Overstory:  A Novel by Richard Powers.

Ending Comments

I believe I’m quite fortunate to be elderly during this pandemic.  As a retiree who lives alone with an elderly dog and an aging cat, I do not have to deal with the craziness of juggling work and children that millions of others must face, plus I will not lose my job.  I bake, work in the garden, read, watch things on Netflix and Amazon Prime, Zoom with a few folks, gather with gal pals outside where we chat about life and world events while socially distanced, and I get to visit my mom twice a week.

But I also weep for the suffering others around the world must endure. I read and watch the news every day to witness and learn what is happening to others around the world during this time of COVID 19. News of world events are at my fingertips one click at a time. It is overwhelmingly tragic and frustrating.

I weep and I feel guilty.

 

Winston and Cinnamon 080920

Winston, the cat and Cinnamon, the dog chilling while I watch the evening news Aug. 8. 2020

 

 

 

 

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Six Weeks after Knee Replacement Surgery: Going Rogue Worked for Me

Saturday, August 8, 2020 – mid-morning

Going Rogue

After 4 1/2 weeks, I decided to go rogue.  I was no longer taking narcotic pain medicine, I could bend my knee fairly well, so instead of having my neighbor drive me to physical therapy, I decided to try driving myself.  It was just a two-mile drive.  No problem.  Been driving ever since…without the surgeon’s permission.

Then I decided to take back the walking of my dog.  It was good physical therapy as long as I kept control of the leash and walked carefully.  As a 15-year-old Cockapoo, my angel dog, Cinnamon, is not prone to darting around.  Together we are a slow and steady team of elders.

Cinnamon 042319

By 5 weeks I was mowing the front lawn.  It’s not large, it’s fairly even, and I just took my time.  No problems.  I started doing some simple gardening by then, as well:  weeding, digging up baby starts of Black-eyed Susans and potting them, deadheading this and that, etc.  It felt great to be working outside, and it was wonderful to go visit Mom and start our socially distanced/masked visits in the courtyard.

Six-Week Follow-up Visit with Surgeon

This past Wednesday I met with Dr. Hockman.  He reviewed x-rays taken just before the visit and said they looked excellent.  Then he had me walk, extend my leg, flex my leg, and he did some manipulations to assess strength.

I was absolutely delighted when he told me that at six weeks, I was at where most people are at 4 months.  Really???? 

No talk about prescribing additional therapy. He knows I have been serious about doing the exercises every day and will continue to do so.  No announcement to tell me that I could drive. He probably assumed I was already doing so.  Just, “Okay!   We’ll see you in 10 to 12 weeks to see how things are coming along.”  Happy surgeon; happy patient.

Moving Forward

In addition to continuing the repertoire of physical therapy exercises I was taught, I added a new activity this week:  Working with an Xterra fitness folding bike.  The best price I found was on Amazon: under $140 delivered on June 18.  That price is no longer listed.  With COVID 19, it seems this has been a popular item for so many people stuck at home.

 

20200806_162003

I like the new bike toy a lot, and I understand why it has so many favorable reviews.  It is extremely quiet, sturdy, very portable, once out of the box, it only took about 30 minutes to assemble.  The Chinese manufacturer did a superlative job setting it up for a logical and efficient assembly.

I’m starting with a simple routine:  two miles in the morning and two miles in the late afternoon on level 4 of 8.  Baby level, I know…but I’m old!  As that becomes easier, I’ll increase my distance.  This will be great for the knee, and with it getting my heart rate up, this will be an excellent exercise option for the fall and winter weather ahead.

Plenty to do to keep me physically active in the months and years (I hope) ahead.  And the best part is that I can engage in these activities while keeping up with world events, listening to a podcast, or binging on Netflix.

grandma clipart 01                        knee hug

 

knee reconditionng

 

lets get physical golden girls

 

 

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Parental Journal 111 from Planet Elderly: Covid Greetings from Mom

August 5, 2020 – early afternoon

Terrific Visits

Once I began driving after my knee replacement surgery, I was able to resume some “chatterbox” visits with Mom, and they were terrific.  They are held inside, which was awesome because outside we were having many days of 90+ degree weather.

It was wonderful to see her recognize me, smile, chat a bit, and listen to me gab on and on about various matters…my new knee…physical therapy…baking…socially distanced yard visits with my gal pals…Zoom visits with my cousin, Bob.

When I asked how she was doing, she said, “Pretty good.”  She is eating well, doesn’t take many pills, still likes to be up quite late at night, and she still manages to assert herself with staff at times (and they know how to handle her anger and stubbornness–just get a different person to ask her to do the same thing and she’ll go along with it)  Considering Mom’s general nature and feisty personality, she just seems to be going with the flow. On August 16th, a Sunday, she will turn 94.  I can’t visit on weekends, so we’ll have an early celebration on my scheduled visit the Thursday before her birthday.

Mom and Donnie 073120

Mom with a super gifted angel staff person, Donnie.  He works with her so well and with such care, respect, and humor.  She’s not fond of the mask.  Can you tell?

 

I’ve been bringing in some flowers once a week.  She loves them and I know her neighbors and the staff enjoy a bit of color also.

Mom chatterbox visit 073120

 

Outdoor Visits

More recently, Mom’s community initiated in-person visits outdoors.  Residents and visitors must be masked and must be six feet apart, but the visits last for 30 minutes instead of 15 for Chatterbox visits, and there is no screen or plexiglass barrier.

We had our first outdoor visit Monday of this week.  It was wonderful. The weather had cooled off and sitting outside was quite nice.

It was also difficult because we could not touch each other…no hand holding, no hugs.  It’s something people worldwide are experiencing during this pandemic outbreak.

But I just chatted away about my physical therapy sessions and the two-part documentary about Frank Sinatra I saw the other day.  Of course, I could not resist asking her about how she reacted to Frank Sinatra as a young crooner when she was a teenager. She said she thought he was okay; she liked his songs.  When I said the film showed old footage of screaming girls in the audience, Mom just shook her head.

teens and Frank sinatra

“I mean, it was just like teens acted when Elvis became popular…and then the Beatles, Mom!”

teens screaming Elvis                        teens and the beatles

Her reply:  “All that isn’t necessary.”

Nice to know we are two peas in a pod, so to speak.  Both of us enjoyed popular singers as teenagers, but neither of us got swept up in the hysteria.

Mom kept fiddling with her mask during our visit and exposing her nose.  I kept gently reminding her to “pull it up.”  After my fourth or fifth reminder, she pulled the mask up to cover her eyes; then she pulled it down.  I just shook my head and laughed.

Before I left our first outdoor visit I took a photo.  It’s Mom’s COVID wave.  Despite the progression of her dementia, she is well, she responds to conversation, she has a great sense of humor, and she tells me she loves me when I tell her I love her.  I feel blessed.

Mom covid greetings 080320

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