Monday, October 31, 2011

The thief

One thing that is most difficult about living near my Aunt Muriel is that her memory takes her, most of the time, back to long past events and situations.

She's talking about people I have known and deeply loved who are now gone. Like my mother. And my grandfather.

She's talking about people I wish I could have met. Like my great-grandmother. And my Aunt Florrie.

Sadly, this sets up my grief cycle to some small extent all over again. A small flap of the tough skin that has developed over my losses keeps getting probed every time I visit with Aunt Muriel.

Yet I cannot, of course, ask her not to mention these people. Her memories of the long past are pretty much all the memory that is left to her. Recent events are forgotten before the day is over. Even the memories of the last two to three decades of her marriage and of the homes she shared with Uncle Bob are all but gone. When she talks of New Jersey she nearly always places herself in her childhood home in Newark or at the Long Valley farm where she and her siblings spent all of their childhood summers. To Muriel, the years of the 1920s-1950s are only yesterday.

I have seen a lot of Aunt Muriel in the last month and some of my very unwelcome depression is returning to me -- partly because these people, no longer part of my life, are ever before me in conversations with Aunt Muriel, and partly because I see Aunt Muriel's sense of the present and her short-term memory growing worse with each passing week.

Dementia is the terrible thief that is taking my Aunt. It robs her of enjoyment in the present, simply because she cannot remember the next day how much fun she had or that she even did anything out of the ordinary.

Dementia is what causes her to tell me she is bored, even though I know she was just in an animated conversation with another resident out in the day lounge of her assisted living facility.

Dementia is beginning to nibble at her assurance that I am acting in her best interests because she cannot always remember how I came to be her niece (that one fact -- that I AM her niece -- is still with her, thankfully).

Prayer and a conscious striving to revel in the present are my only defenses. Dementia is cruel.

- Catherine

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Raising Charley, Part V (?)

We were on our last camping weekend of the year, enjoying each others company and the peace of a weekend away. Friends drove the half hour to meet us for a nice dinner and a great evening out together in the little town where we were camping.

We walked the three blocks back from the restaurant to the campsite, all of us stuffed to the gills. Lots of chatter. Lots of laughter.

As we neared the RV, I saw movement at the lighted window over the kitchen sink. Puzzled at first, I finally realized it was Charley standing up on the kitchen counter!  "Lovely," I thought to myself as I hurried toward the RV, "another scolding for Charley." At the door, we found water steadily dripping out from underneath. And I could hear more water streaming from somewhere underneath the RV itself.

Upon opening the door, a cascade of water poured out, with more still coming. I stood motionless, trying to wrap my head around what I was seeing. How could there be a flood in the camper? We hadn't left anything on. Had a hose or fitting broken open somewhere? What on earth happened here?

Number 7, bless his teenage soul, leapt into action, grabbing the rubber broom and using it to push water out the door. Tim went one way and another, trying desperately to find the source of the flood. And all the while the water continued flowing out of every sink, out of the shower, and out of the toilet (don't worry -- the black water tank was still sealed off).

Finally Tim grabbed the cap on the gray water tank (shower and sink drainage) and opened it. Gallons more water flowed out of that hose than could possibly have gone into the tank in the 24 hours we'd been there.

But we remained puzzled. And frazzled. Still we could not find any breaks in the water lines. But what else could have caused the flooding?

Then I remembered that Charley had been up on the kitchen counter when we came home.

And it dawned on me that Charley had to be the source of our problem. Sometime during the evening the dog got up on the counter and managed to flip the kitchen faucet handle from the off to the on position. Water poured down the kitchen sink drain into the gray water tank. And the rest is history.

He weighs 80 pounds. He stands at least three feet tall while still on all fours. He's nosy and slobbery. He's thick as a plank. His tail is lethal. He can ruin your slacks in one second flat with his humongous wet nose. He means absolutely no harm at all and he's a teddy bear inside and out.

Charley is a force of nature.

We're still cleaning up.

- Catherine

Hodgepodge Wednesday

1. Have you ever been 'asked' to report for jury duty? Were you chosen to serve? If not, were you happy or disappointed? Twice in my life I have been notified of jury duty. The first time I was a young mother and they were still allowing that as an exemption from duty, so I didn't have to serve. The second time, my employer wrote a letter asking them to postpone the duty because it would fall during the annual summer conference that I run -- the county exempted me and never asked again.  The first time, I really didn't want to serve. The second time, I'd have been happy to come back and serve in the Fall if they had asked me.

2. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being very), how mechanically inclined are you? Give an example to back up your answer. I believe I've never come to my full mechanical potential because my husband takes care of all of that for me. Thus, in my underdeveloped state of unrecognized potential, I'd say I'm a 2 on a scale of 1-10. I can use a screwdriver effectively.

3. Beets-cabbage-cauliflower-butternut squash....of the four, which is your favorite fall vegetable? BUTTERNUT SQUASH!  Ahem. Pardon my shouting. I really (really) like butternut squash, followed by cauliflower and then cabbage. Beets not so much.

4. What do you recommend to overcome self-pity? First, prayer. Follow that with service to someone else along with a healthy dose of uplifting/fun music.

5. Do you enjoy classical music? Yes. I took my Aunt to the symphony a couple of weeks ago and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We do have a classical station on the local radio scene, however I don't listen to classical on a regular basis -- I prefer popular music most of the time.

6. October is National Book Month...what's on your reading list this month? Mrs. Dunwoody's Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping (I've just started that one). I also have The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff lined up, as well as Patchwork: A Story of 'The Plain People.' I just finished an excellent book entitled Annie's Ghost: A Journey into a Family Secret, by Steve Luxenberg.  This is a fascinating true story that is part family history research, part coming to grips with family secrets, and part redemption of a young woman put aside and forgotten in the early years of the 20th century.

7. What is your idea of 'cute'? Something that is pleasing to the eye at the same time that it evokes a cozy feeling in your heart. How's that? No one has ever asked me to define "cute" before!

8. Insert your own random thought here. Randomly speaking, Charley-o is a year old now and remains as much a puppy as ever. Unfortunately all that puppy-ness is bound up in an 80 pound body that stands three feet tall when he's on all fours.  Life with Charley is never dull, that's for sure.


- Catherine

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Well, here we are again!

I have a blog! Good heavens, yes I do!

Greetings from our annual last-camping-trip-of-the-season. It's partly cloudy, as usual. It's cold, as usual. And we are happily squirelled away in our cozy camper on this October weekend. As usual.

Okay, we had some electrical malfunctions when we first set up last night, resulting in a VERY cold camper this morning because the heat had gone off. But we finally found the problem and got it fixed. So life is good again. A big thank you to the guys who work at the service garage next door to the campground -- they provided us with replacements for the fuses that were blown.

The "gladiator games" have been going on all day. That's what I call the play between Hank Williams Jr. and Charley -- gladiator games. Teeth are bared but tails are wagging. They clash chests together, then one grabs the other with his teeth, there is snarling, and then they break apart and it starts all over again with another chest clashing. Tails still wagging. They've wandered all over the campground today, taking their gladiator games with them. I hope they sleep like logs tonight!

I've happily spent most of the day indoors, working on some of the finer details of my family history research (it takes time to search through the 1910 census schedule for the entire city of Newark, NJ!).

The guys have been to the mineral hot pools in town. I like the pools, but my hot flashes don't, so I've avoided soaking this year. Sigh. Soaking IS really relaxing, but the horrible hot flashes aren't worth it to me at this point in my life. Terrible to get old!

Instead, I kept the dogs company and allowed them a few more bouts of gladiator games outside.

Life has been crazy lately, and having this weekend completely off is lovely. What with trying to take care of my family, trying to spend time with my aunt and take care of her financial affairs, trying to get back into racquetball, and trying to work 40 hours a week at my job, I am completely tapped out. I might sit down at 8:00 at night and watch something I've recorded on the DVR, but more likely I'm heading to the bedroom and a good book before turning out the light.


But God has brought me to this moment. And here I am, somehow surviving.

In all the hulaballu, I have managed to put up some 25 pints of peach jam and 24 quarts of frozen corn off the cob. We still have apples on our trees out back and, although most are wormy because we didn't spray properly, there are enough for me to put up some apple sauce or apple butter. Just hope I have the time to get to it.

Last weekend I sold one of the horses and purchased another -- one that will be more suitable for me to ride. Since then, the weather has been awful, so I haven't had the opportunity to try her out yet. I have played a bit with her in the pasture though, and her temperament seems quite lovely. Looking forward to this new baby in our herd!

Think that's the brief catch-up.

Hope you too are enjoying your weekend!

- Catherine