Sweet talk.

Valentine’s Day crept on me, but I decided not to rush out to buy a card for my husband. Instead we’d go to our favorite spot for coffee. Oh, yes, I did cut a big heart out of newspaper and put it in his chair this morning and, yes, I did leave a message on his little white board. He didn’t notice either of them.

When I suggested we go to Our Daily Bread, his eyes lit up. We walked so I could justify one of their beautifully decorated heart-shaped sugar cookies. The place was bustling, as always, and even at 9:30 we were too late to get Valentine cookies. Peter eyed a strawberry-studded chocolate gateau, but in the end, we settled on our favorite apple turnovers.

After repeating his usual questions several times — “any news from upstate? ” and “how’s the big guy?” — he wanted to know what he could say that wasn’t the same old thing.

“How about ‘Happy Valentine’s Day?'” I said.

“When is it?”

“Today.”

“I didn’t know,” he said. He patted my hand and shook his head.

“Oh well, this is better than a card anyway. Two apple turnovers and two coffees for only eight dollars and forty-six cents.”

“Cheaper than a card,” he said.

“You’re a cheap date,” I told him.

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2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest, second place, blog category.

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Trouble with a capital T rhymes with me!

My friend Bette made it a point to tell me she’d seen Peter at the grocery store recently. She figured I must be in the store somewhere, although she didn’t see me. Bette introduced herself to him because she knew he wouldn’t remember her name. His response was quick and so typical of him. “Don’t tell ‘anyone’ I’m here. I’ll be in trouble.”

Anyone meant me, of course.

She didn’t remember what day it was, but I figured it was probably the Tuesday he snuck out without telling me he was leaving, nor where he was going. When I realized he wasn’t here and that he had probably been gone well over an hour, I went looking. By the time I got home, he was back. “Where’ve you been?” he asked, greeting me at the door as if he’d been out looking for me.

“You didn’t tell you were going out,” I said. “I’ve been looking for you.”

“I didn’t know where I was going,” he said. “I just went for a walk.”

“Where?”

DSC01592He shook his head. “Can’t remember.…that was a long time ago.” He uses the “long time ago” line a lot in attempt to joke his way out of Trouble. His only Trouble would’ve been if he had gotten lost for real!

That evening I found a Hershey bar wrapper and deduced that he’d gone to Kroger’s.

Several days later someone else told me she’d seen Peter at Kroger’s and he seemed confused. She saw him leave and decided to call me — it was that same Tuesday. I didn’t see her voice mail until after he’d “found himself,” but it is comforting to know we have friends to help me keep track.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 11.56.06 AMI am researching personal tracking devices. There are several types on the market, but he wouldn’t use any of them willingly, and I know he would find ways to “lose” them. He’s crafty that way.  I wish someone would come up with a microchip like veterinarians implant in dogs. The idea would make Peter laugh…I think that will be my little secret.

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Breadcrumbs?

 

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists contest winner, 2016 —
online, blog, & monthly under 100,000 unique visitors category.

No such thing as too much chocolate.

Being a caregiver to an adult who has some form of dementia is a bit like being the mother of a two-year-old.

We’d been to Lowe’s, stopped off for a coffee and scone, then went to Home Depot. I was on a mission to find a new exhaust fan that met certain parameters. Quick in and out, that’s my motto for running errands. I was speeding through Home Depot when I realized Peter was no longer tailing me.

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 2.39.47 PMI turned around a saw him studying a display. It was a rack of candy bars. He saw me coming, gave me his innocent little-boy smile and said, “Just seeing what there is.”

“You just had a huge scone…” I said, ever the grumpy mum.

“That was ages ago.” (Fifteen minutes is a long time in dementia years.)

I had one more stop before heading home, but because Peter seemed in such a good mood, I suggested we detour to the shoe store. “Do I need shoes?” he asked.

“You’ve complained for weeks you ‘have no shoes,'” I said, steering him to the men’s section.

“What am I looking for?” he asked.

“Replacement for those worn brown ones,” I said.

“I like them…”

“We’ll find some you’ll like just as well.” I zoomed in on the style he’s always favored, something between a sneaker-look and a semi-dressy casual shoe.  I pulled several out.

“What size do I wear?” he asked.

“I don’t know! Eight, I think,” I said, frustrated because he didn’t know. He tried them on, but became obsessed with finding his toe under the leather. “Lace them up, then walk in them,” I said, as I would’ve said to a toddler.

“But my toe!”

“Does it hurt? Aren’t they comfortable?”

“No, doesn’t hurt. Yes, they’re comfortable.”

Hallelujah. “Great! Let’s buy them in black too. They’re really nice,” I said.

He grimaced. “No, not the same shoe.”

I tried the rationale I use on myself. When I find a pair of shoes I like, and if they are available in another color, I buy both pairs. I added that the second pair would be fifty percent off.

We bought one pair.

I was so exhausted I went directly home without finishing my errands. Maybe if I’d bribed him with a Hershey bar?

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Chocolate-dipped Adidas Yeezy 750 Boost sneaker designed by Kanye West.

Header: Shapeways edible chocolate shoe

It was a date.

“I know what the date it,” Peter said suddenly, “but I don’t know the day.”  We were having coffee at our favorite bakery. We go there fairly often, but this was a special day.

“Mmm,” I said, “what is the date then?”

He nodded towards the large hanging blackboard that had specials listed. February 26, 2016 was written across the top. His birthday.

Version 2

I laughed. “That’s why we’re here. It’s your birthday. And it’s Friday by the way.”

Version 2

“My birthday? I didn’t know…”

“You didn’t know even when I said ‘Happy Birthday’ when you got up, nor from the message I put on your board…?”

“When was that?”

“First thing this morning,” I said.

“Oh, that was a long time ago.” Thirty seconds is a long time ago for him these days.

It turned out to be one of his best birthdays ever, I think. We went to see the newly released “Eddie the Eagle” followed by fish and chips at Red Robin. I figured the movie — about the young Englishman who decided to compete as a ski jumper in the 1988 Calgary Olympics — would be a sure bet. And it was. Most films with English overtones catch Peter’s fancy, and this one laugh-out-loud funny and punctuated with Olympian excitement and hope. We laughed at Eddy who had no fear, and groaned and yelped at his spectacular crashes. We trained and strained with him as he worked toward his goal. The movie was the perfect antidote for the week I’d had, and a perfect birthday treat  for my husband.

Later, he pronounced his fish and chips “good as always.” We even shared Chocolate “Fruffles”™ to drench in fruit “ketchup” and whipped creme. What’s not to love?

“So you liked the movie, then?” I said. “Good, wasn’t it?”

“What movie?” he asked, then shook his head disgustedly. “Sorry, I’m sorry. I don’t remember.” I gave him clues — “English…skiing…Olympics…Eagle” — but nothing sparked his memory.

He noticed his message board for the first time when we got home. Later, he jotted a note to me: THANK YOU.

Even if he couldn’t recall what he was thanking me for, that made my day.

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‘Consider yourself reminded.’

He stood at the kitchen table and puzzled over the red envelope I’d tucked inside the morning paper. “Is it my birthday?” he asked as he opened the card. It showed two goldfish smiling at each other from their side-by-side bowls. When he jumps into her bowl they live happily ever after, presumably.

Right month, wrong date. “No, Valentine’s Day,” I said.

“Oh, I didn’t know. Why didn’t you remind me?”

happy-dancing-red-heart-cartoon-isolated-on-white-background-valentine-s-day-greeting-three-dimensional-character-render_123656113I pointed to his message board where I’d put frolicking red hearts every day this past week. He shook his head and shrugged his apology. In fairness, the card isn’t a Valentine, strictly speaking. It’s teal and gold, not red and pink, and it’s a general purpose card about happiness. It could be a birthday card.

I picked it because of the goldfish. They’re known to have exceptionally short attention spans. Peter is my goldfish.

Leslie, on the other hand, delivered a red and pink, glitter-encrusted card that said, “Happy Valentine’s Day…consider yourself reminded.” She often reminds me to be as direct as possible with my husband, no complicated explanations, no double meanings. He had no trouble remembering  she’d brought a shiny red, heart-shaped box of chocolates. We each had one with our breakfast porridge.

I said it was OK that he didn’t remember the day. “You gave me the best present Wednesday…”

“I did? What was it?” He looked pleased with himself.

“…extra-special hugs after our dinner at India Garden.”

“Why’d I do that?”

“We hadn’t been there in a while. You cleaned your plate and mine, it tasted that good to you.”

“I don’t remember.”

“We’ll go again before too long. Maybe I’ll get more hugs…?” I batted my eyes.

He took the hint and hugged me. “Don’t get used to this,” he said, as I knew he would.

Maybe there’s something to be said for predictability.

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Chocolates for breakfast. What a way to start the day.