Friday, September 27, 2019

You Have No Choice or Don't You?


Particularly during difficult times of my life,  I've been told "you have no choice".  Perhaps because the messengers were ones who I perceived to be authority figures, I believed, without question that it was true, "I had no choice."

Recently in fact, when someone said that to me,  I realized the ways in which my body instinctively reacted to those words.
Perhaps in an attempt to shut out the noise, my shoulders immediately contracted and rose up above my ears.  My eyes squinted tightly shut, while my fingers began to massage my temples anticipating the headache that would surely come.   My stomach began to flutter, shooing away my appetite.
My arms, legs and feet urged me to run, away.

Usually the "you have no choice" command is in response to an expression of frustration on my part.
"I don't think I can do this any longer" is what I might say.  Maybe that becomes conveyed to the messenger  as, "now you have to take over."

Maybe we both could have chosen our words more carefully.
If the "you have no choice" person  listened more carefully, they might  have heard that the fear in my voice was an expression of my lack of confidence in my ability to cope.
What if  I would have recognized that I was questioning my ability to cope and instead of saying that "I can't do this anymore" I would have said, "I can't do this anymore, without help."

A short time later that day, after hearing that "I had no choice",  I sat with chin in hand, staring out the window at the cloudless, brilliantly blue sky, the moon still visible in the middle of the day.

Perhaps the absolutely clear sky brought the clarity I needed to realize that, of course, I had choices.

I began to make a mental list of my choices.

I realized that "running, away" was a strong desire.  The more I thought about that choice I began to understand that I didn't want to run far.  But, a walk around the block, under the clear blue sky was a choice that might help me add other choices to my growing mental list of choices.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Silver Haired Lady

The other day we had an unordinary amount of errands to complete.   By nature, I am not a list maker.  I normally organize in my head and so far have been able to retain and access my "brain list" at will.

With all of the life changes we have had recently, my mind is in constant motion, sometimes it seems it is on the verge of spinning out of control.
That's why on this day, I sat down with pen and paper and made an actual written list. Also, because we had to make several stops at locations in different directions, it made more sense to see everything in front of me.

All of the errands required interactions with customer service people.  That's what prompted me to write this piece.

Last weekend, on Friday, my washing machine stopped working.  Of course it decided to quit right in the middle of a wash cycle.   That meant that I had a tub filled with water and sopping clothes.  I tried to manually coax it along, turning the dial mechanism gently, click by click.  No luck.
Obviously, the first thing we had to do was pull out and ring out each piece.  Then we had to bail out a full tub, bucket by bucket.
Since the machine is 17 years old, I didn't even bother to call a repair person. No I take that back, I did call a repair person.  I chose this particular company because they advertised an immediate call back.  They also had an answering machine with a message promising a call back.
They lied.
Perhaps it had something to do with the message I left telling my tale of woe about my "boo hoo" 17 year old, broken washing machine.
We went to Home Depot and purchased a washer and dryer.  My dryer still works, but it is also 17 years old, so I figured why not.  The new units could not be delivered until eight days after the day we purchased.

Which brings me to the first errand.   The laundromat.  I haven't had to use a laundromat in a long time.  The last time was probably twenty years ago.   Besides having self service machines, this laundromat provides a wash and fold service.  I chose the wash and fold.  Ross and I dragged our four full laundry bags into the building.  The guy at the register rudely shooed us away, telling us the person in charge would be back in 25 minutes. 

Off to a false start already. So much for having an organized and numbered written list.  So we dragged our four bags back to the car to continue onto number two on the list which now became number one.

After we completed list number two/now-one, we headed back to the laundromat.   Once again we dragged our four full laundry bags into the building.   Having never been in the laundromat, I wasn't sure where we were supposed to go or what we were supposed to do.
There was a woman behind a desk. I guessed she was the person in charge. 
You know how when you are in a place and a circumstance that you've never been in before, how it takes a second or two to acclimate to the new surroundings?  That's what I was experiencing.  I must have hesitated a second or two too long at the door, because Ms. Im-in-charge impatiently motioned us to her.
The woman was weathered looking, with short spiky black hair.  I would say she was in her fifties.  She probably spent her days off, baking herself at the beach.   She had a raspy voice.  She probably spent her breaks smoking out back.
"They have to be weighed," she said in what I felt was a tone of exasperation.
Not saying anything, I looked around, to see if I could tell where I was supposed to put the bags.
She pointed to a wire basket which sat on top of a scale.
I picked up one of the bags and placed it in the basket.
"Uh, do you have any blankets or quilts in there?" she asked.
I told her that I did have a quilt in one of the bags.
She said that I had to take the quilt out because it had to be weighed separately.
Not remembering which bag it was in, I rummaged through all four until I found the quilt.
I won't bore you with the blow by blow back and forth conversation which followed.
But in essence, she was impatient with me, even after I explained that I had not "done this before".
The rest of the "list" sort of went the same way.

There was the young man at the grocery store, staring off into space, waiting for me to realize that I had to re-enter my debit card because apparently it didn't take it the first time.
"Do I have to reinsert my card?" I politely asked.
After getting no response from the kid, I said "Hello?"
He turned toward me, I think he nodded.
He also reprimanded me when I put a head of lettuce into the bag with the dairy.
"No, no," he said.  "That goes in the bag with the vegetables."

The last one I will mention, number 5 on the list, was to exchange a pair of pants at our local department store.

Even though I was the only one in line at the exchange/return "customer service" desk, The guy behind the desk was apparently in hurry. 
I had one pair of pants to return, and two to purchase.
He wanted to know if I wanted a store credit or "put it back on your card".
Huh?  I said to myself.  What is he saying to me?
He repeated himself, the exact same way.
I still didn't get it.  What did "put it back on your card" mean.
I wanted to return one pair, and then buy the other two, is what I kept repeating.
He finally said, "I can give you a store credit or I could issue a credit on your credit card for the return.
Okay, I finally said, "Credit my card and then put the other two pants on my credit card."

When I got home, exhausted from all of the running around and dealing with "people", I began to wonder if having silver hair has something to do with the way I am treated by customer service people.

Do they assume I can't hear, or comprehend?  And if that were the case, shouldn't they be more patient?

By the way, the clerk at the bank, was an older woman with a pleasant manner.  The woman who does our clothing alterations was very helpful.   The young perky waitress at the diner was cheerful and served us with a smile.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

I Have A Story To Tell - Part II - The Beginning

This is the story of Ross and my personal Alzheimers Journey
In case you missed it, click here for Part I.

Part II - The beginning.

People have been asking me this question: "In retrospect, when you look back, do you now recognize that Ross may have been struggling with any kind of cognitive issues?"

Of course it's true, hindsight is 20/20.  What I am about to relay to you is apparent to me now. At the time, though, I didn't give it much thought.

All during our marriage of 18 years, Ross was the one who paid the bills, balanced the check book, did our taxes, etc. Although I understood how to do that task, I left it up to him.

 About a year and half ago he began to spend more time at the computer.  He was having difficulty balancing the check book.   At first, I didn't pay much attention to it.   At some point, though, I would jump in to help him.  Although he never missed a bill payment,  I noticed there were some errors in the amounts he was paying. 

About a year ago, I finally had to take over the task of the finances.  This year, for the first time in our marriage, I had the responsibility of filing our tax return.

Also, during this past year Ross was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  We became so engulfed in tests, biopsies, treatment options and ultimately a regiment of hormone therapy medications and a course of a nine week, 45 radiation treatment schedule that the cancer became our main focus.

Ross has always been an excellent navigator, with a terrific memory of places.  All he had to do was visit a location once and he could remember how to get there the next time.   He could envision where on he was on the map in his head.   He knew which direction he needed to head for get to our destination.

I always marveled at this skill.  Mostly because I have no sense of any of that.
I became a more relaxed driver when GPS became readily available.

The first time I noticed his navigation skills were faltering was when we had to start going for his radiation treatments.  Even though the route was an easy one, he could not remember how to get to the radiation center.  He also had tremendous anxiety about the daily trip.  I attributed that to the stress that anyone who was dealing with cancer would have.

About a month after the completion of the radiation treatments,  Ross began to experience hallucinations.  Our first thought was that it must be a side effect of his meds or radiation.
I also knew he was due for an eye exam, so I figured  he was just misinterpreting objects that were not well lit.

I have to say that we experienced much frustration with our health care community, as we were shuffled from doctor to doctor.  With each phone call we were directed to someone other than who we were speaking to. 

Eventually, on a late Friday afternoon phone call to our primary care physician, he suggested Ross go to the emergency room. 

It was there, in the hospital, that Ross had all sorts of tests to rule out other things that may have been causing his difficulties and hallucinations.  Through a process of elimination, the diagnosis was declared by a neurologist to be Alzheimers.

I suppose the bottom line here is that Prostate cancer took up all of our attention and energy, which apparently clouded and hid the signals that Alzheimers was trying to send.

So that is the end of the  beginning of our personal Alzheimer's story.

Now we are in the middle.

Part III next time.

By the way, my blog can not only be about Alzheimers.  I will also be writing about all or any other things that  inspire me to write.

Please feel free to comment.  We gratefully appreciate all of the support and encouragement that your generous hearts are sending our way.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

I Have A Story To Tell Part I

I have a story to tell.  I don't know where to start.  Normally it would probably be best to start at the beginning.  But the beginning to this story was sly and cunning.  She came dressed in familiar garb with only the slightest of costume changes.   
"Look over here," she whispered trying to get my attention brushing my shoulder with a gentle but firm touch.
Of course now, when I reflect back, back to the beginning, I realize she was not subtle or gentle or quiet. 
I know now that she had been grabbing me by the shoulders trying to shake me to an awareness that I did not want to see.
On Friday, September 13th, 2019 my beloved Ross was diagnosed with Alzheimers.
This space here, "Lynda Grace An Hour Away", has been my safe space.  It's where I come to tell my truth. 
I asked Ross if he would be okay with me telling our story on LGAHA.  He was kind enough to say yes.   
Ross not only always encourages my writing, he is my biggest fan and cheerleader.  "Do you know how good your writing is?"  he continually asks.   
He is the one I show my posts to before anyone else sees them.  I  intently watch his face as he thoughtfully reads each and every word.   He never disappoints.  "It's good, really good." he says.
That always makes me smile and makes me want to continue to write.
I'm not sure what paths our story will take. 
My hope is that you, my dear readers will be kind enough to thoughtfully read each and every word, and encourage me along the way.  My hope is that our story will help others who are struggling with their own stories.  My hope is that our story will inspire and confirm the spirt of what is our common human story.
Today I want you to know that Ross and I are able to continue to enjoy our life together. 
The next time, on the next post, I will reflect back to what I now know was the beginning and begin to tell our story from the beginning.

If you would prefer to reach out to me, by e-mail you can do so here ""

Thank you, friends.