Better than a dozen roses.

The weekend was perfect for so many reasons. First, Leslie orchestrated a tea party Saturday on the porch at the end of the corridor where Peter lives. Grandson Miah was the surprise guest. What a treat all ’round.

Then, on Sunday, I organized a walk in a favorite park for Peter, Nobby and me. My husband actually remembered having been there, “Once,” he said. I told him we’d been there many times over the years.  “Many times?!” he asked with raised eyebrow. He shook his head. Nobby remembered too, romping as if he were still a puppy instead of an old fellow of ten.

As we meandered back to the car, Peter lagged behind. I kept glancing over my shoulder to make sure he was following — he has a history of getting lost or hiding to scare me. When he caught up, he held up a bouquet of maple leaves. “Would you like to have these?” he asked. His eyes twinkled and he had sweetest smile.

Would I ever!” Thank you,” I said and took his hand, something he usually hates. He actually leaned in to kiss me but knocked both of our caps askew. A laugh, a kiss and a bouquet on a beautiful orange and red afternoon. Better than a dozen roses any day.

I took the scenic route back. Peter laughed when I said I thought we were lost. “You never get lost,” he said, and indeed I don’t and I wasn’t lost then. Then I told him I was more worried about being low on gas. That really made him laugh because he remembered how much I hate to pump gas.

When I opened the door to his room he looked shocked. The space was unusually tidy and the bright potted mum in the window glowed in the sunshine. “Is this where I live now?” he asked. I nodded. “Good!” he said. He took his jacket off, tossed it on his bed, and gave me a hug.

I tuned his tv to a soccer match, parked him in his chair, and headed home to put my fanciful bouquet in water and reflect on the glorious autumn weekend.

Outside looking in, Nobby seems to approve my maple syrup “vase” and fetching bouquet.

 

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

Do you hear what I hear?

Peter and I were getting ready for bed. “I’ve lost me wallet and me keys,” he said. He patted his pockets to confirm his fears.

Peter sleeps.

“You had them earlier,” I said. He loses them so often that I’m immune to his panics. “Let’s go to bed. They’ll show up in the morning.”  Uncharacteristically, he gave up his search. He was as tired as I was, even thought he’d slept most of the four hour drive to Ohio.

We were there for grandson Miah’s graduation from Hocking College. The night before, eleven of us had celebrated with an excellent and jubilant dinner, followed by the ceremony Saturday morning. We ate lunch at place I’d frequented during my years at Ohio University, followed by a campus tour where I recognized only the oldest parts of campus and, later, pizza and a movie. Way more goings-on than Peter and I have in a week, much less a weekend.

Sunday morning, as we rushed to get ready to meet the family for breakfast, Peter patted his pockets again. “I’ve lost me wallet and me keys.”

“Coffee first, then we’ll look.” The strange locale, unfamiliar lodging, and hectic pace had muddled my already muddled husband even more.

At breakfast I mentioned the “losses” to Martin. He was positive Peter had them the previous evening.

“I’ll help you find them after we say goodbye to Miah,” he said. Suddenly, simultaneously, we  said, ‘trackers.’ Didn’t you put one on Peter’s keychain?” Martin asked.

“Yes!”

“Do you remember the password?” Martin was doubtful.

“Ha! Yes.”

TrackR™

A TrackR™ is an inexpensive gadget I bought to supplement the very expensive GPS/watch, PAL, that Peter hates. PAL (protect and locate) helps me to find him if he decides to take another five-hour walk away from home or gets lost on a short walk. He refuses to wear it inside; so far though, he hasn’t taken it off outside. In fact, he shouldn’t be able to remove it at all. The locking mechanism — I have the “key” — is foolproof, supposedly. It is not, however, engineer proof. He can and does remove it when he gets back from walking Nobby, but often “loses” it in the house. Hence, two 50-cent-sized TrackRs, one attached to his keys, one to Nobby’s collar.

So, there we were after breakfast, Martin holding my phone, already paired with the TrackR app, as we listened for the shrill beep.

“I hear it!” Martin said.

“I hear it!” Peter said.

“Hear it, Judy?” Martin asked.

“No-o.” (The one drawback to TrackR is, I cannot hear the beep, although I can locate it with my phone.)

“Bathroom,” Martin yelled. We crowded into the tiny space, laughing because there was nothing there except tub, toilet, two wet towels…and us.

“No, out by the sink,” Martin said. Nope.

“The bed.” Peter pulled the covers up and shook them. Nothing.

“The sound is right here,” Martin said, “so close. Where is the darned thing?”

“Wait, what’re we looking for?” Peter asked.

Martin and I were dumbfounded. “Your keys. Your wallet.”

“These?” he said, holding his keys up.

We howled.

“Where’s your wallet then?” Martin asked.

“Here,” Peter said. He pulled it out of his pocket. We’d never thought to check his pockets again because…well…because. When and where he found them we don’t know. We do know why he didn’t remember he’d “lost” them: he simply can’t remember anything.

It felt good to laugh uncontrollably after two-months with nothing to laugh at. Side-splitting hilarity was the perfect end to a fun-filled, celebratory weekend.

Header: Family and friends,Samantha, Kenna, Lucas, Leslie, Miah, Caitlyn, Martin, me, Peter, Mason, and Tim.

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-10-14-53-am

‘A good time to laugh is any time there is.’

“Any news from upstate?” Peter asks. It’s dinnertime and that’s the question he repeats over and over during our meals.

“No,” I say.

We listen to the evening news while we eat, me grumbling at the goings-on in Washington, Peter listening carefully to the weather report.

“Any news from upstate?” he asks again.

I start to shake my head, but instead, decide to try a different response. “No,” I tell him, “but Leslie and Martin spent the weekend at the river.”

“Really? In this…?” he asks. He nods his head towards the fog outside, the rain-streaked window. “What did they do?”

I laugh. “We were there, too,” I say. I’d hoped he might remember the two days, the cozy fires, the good food, log-wrangling with Martin, Leslie and me laughing hysterically over nothing at all.

He shakes his head disgustedly, but recovers with his usual line, “Oh, well, that was a long time ago. I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast.”

I nod, laugh, frown.

Laughter in the face of reality is one of the finest sounds there is. In fact, a good time to laugh is any time there is.”  Linda Ellerbee


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

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Do I know where I am?

Peter was unusually silent. “Something wrong?” I asked. I was driving along a narrow road so could only glance at him.

The silence lengthened. “Do I know where I am?” he said at last.

Whoa, what?  “Do you mean this instant, here, on this road?”

“Yes.”

“Well, we just left Carolynn and Bill…we’re heading home…we’ll soon be in Waterville…” I paused to see if my words rang his bell. “Remember last week, on the way here, we had to stop for a parade in Waterville?”

Nothing.

I thought back to that Saturday. The long drive north had been uneventful until we got to Waterville (pop. 1,548), where we were blocked by a parade longer than the main thoroughfare. Stuck, twenty minutes away from Carolynn’s front door. I fumed, but Peter said, “It’s a pretty day. We’ve got time.”

“But I want to be there, not sitting here.” 

Forty minutes later we were zooming along the downhill drive to — whoops — Road Closed and Detour signs. “OK, I know how to get there from here, I used to bike along this road.” Several miles later I turned left onto another favorite bicycling road. “Do you remember? We used to ride along here a lot.”

Peter sighed. “You seem to know your way around.”

“We lived here seventeen years!”

“You did. I didn’t.”

A right at the next stop sign, then a quick left and we were on their street. “You sure know your way around,” Peter said again.

“We lived here seventeen years!

“I didn’t,” he insisted.

When I turned into their drive, he sat up straight and smiled. “I didn’t know we were coming here!” His eyes sparkled and when Carolynn and their two Westies ran toward us he chuckled. He knew where he was.

I laughed. “I’ve told you for weeks we were coming to see them…”

“I. Didn’t. Know.”

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Bill and Peter in front of a rock-hugging tree.

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Big Guy and/or It.

Throughout our visit, his usual confusion at being away from home eased a bit. After a couple of nights he was able to get from our bedroom to the bathroom and back without going into their room or Carolynn’s office. He didn’t even try to remember Duffy’s or Lily’s names, calling them instead “Big Guy” and/or “It.” He didn’t understand how to use the Wii remote to play golf or bowl with Bill, but he had fun trying. He could still keep track of the dominos played and plan moves accordingly. Bill took him fishing, golfing, and shopping; Carolynn and I took him to the farm stand; I took him to the Polish butcher and past our old house. He remembered the butcher, but had no memory of living in that house. It does look quite different — terrible — minus the two enormous maple trees in front.

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Bill, Lily and Duffy follow Peter around Moss Lake as if he knows the way.

But now, headed south again, Peter had asked if he knew where he was. I reminded him of all the things we’d done, his outings with Bill, our hike in the Adirondacks with the dogs. He shook his head. “Sorry, I just don’t remember.”

But I do. I remember a visit special for the girl-time with Carolynn and her friend Robin, a visit with friend Lisa, time off from caregiving thanks to Bill taking charge, and the laughs. Always the laughs.

I won’t forget.


The National Society of Newspaper Columnists contest winner, 2016 —

online, blog, & monthly under 100,000 unique visitors category.

These bubbles don’t make trouble!


“Why are they all different colors?” Peter asks. Bubble-blowing is a new experience for him.

“‘Cause they’re soapy, I guess,” I say. Heck, I don’t know why bubbles look like floating rainbows in the round.

“But the stuff in the bottle is purple!”

Oh, I get it. He thinks the bubbles should be purple. “Food coloring maybe?”

“Why?”

“To make it look like grape pop.” The tiny bottles were made to look like look like pop — soda — bottles.

“Pop?”

“You know, a soft drink…Coke…Coca Cola….”

“Not me! I drink beer!” He smiled to see if I got his little joke.

GLYCERINE!” I say, inspired. “The bubble juice has glycerine in it, I’ll bet that’s why they’re so colorful.”

“How do you know that?” he asks.

“I don’t. I’m guessing. My mom used to make a bubble concoction with a cake of Ivory soap…and something else….” Back then, little kids had bubble pipes,, not plastic wands like now. I played with mine for hours because I thought I looked like my daddy. He smoked a pipe. The only bad thing with bubble pipes was, if you forgot and inhaled, you got a mouthful of soapy water.

I’ve since discovered that glycerine doesn’t cause the bubbles’ iridescence, the soap does. Glycerine makes the bubbles supple and extends their life. Either Karo or Golden Syrup can be used in place of glycerine. Who knew?

Peter carries on blowing bubbles, fascinated with a childhood pastime he never experienced. In war torn England, little kids didn’t have such luxuries, I suppose. Mums didn’t have extra Fairy Liquid and Golden Syrup with which to stir up entertainment for their children.

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

‘When life gets you down … just keep swimming!’

Dory, the brilliant blue, wide-eyed tang fish who stars in “Finding Dory,” has a problem with memory loss much like my husband does. I’d forgotten that Dory was a supporting player in “Finding Nemo” (2003), so I didn’t realize forgetfulness was key to the storyline for the new movie when Leslie took us to see it.

Peter didn’t remember Nemo at all, even though we saw the movie in a theater and have watched the video several times. Nor did he remember “Finding Dory” on the Thursday after he’d seen it on Sunday. But he liked it all over again.

Dory, who hasn’t seen her parents in years, remembers the importance of family, but little else. We just enjoyed a week with family that was filled with raucous laughter and good food. Peter hasn’t forgotten the good times we’ve all had in the past, though specific memories have faded. He can’t even remember much about the past eight days.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 5.17.39 PMAnytime either of is down in the dumps, I look for reasons to laugh. According to Dory, swimming would help too…if Peter knew how to swim. He can’t even float, except two feet below the surface. That’s always makes me laugh, though he doesn’t think it’s funny at all.

Credit: Disney•Pixar “Finding Dory” (2016)

 

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Perfect do-nothing day.

“Do you want tea or coffee for ‘second breakfast’?” I asked my husband. “I’m fixing waffles.”

“What? Tea or coffee? What are you having? What are we having?”

“I’m having tea, we’re having waffles…and fruit, lots of fruit,” I told him.

“OK, tea then. What’s the occasion?” Peter asked.

“It’s Father’s Day.”

“You’re making me waffles?”

“Mmm-m,” I said, “it’s Father’s Day.”

“What can I do to help?”

“Nothing. It’s Father’s Day, do nothing until I tell you it’s ready.”

“I’m good at doing nothing,” he said.

“Yes, you are,” I said.

This day is perfect — a Crayola box of colors, balmy air, bright sun. I set the table outside, made a pot of tea, washed raspberries, blueberries and a peach, got out real butter and real maple syrup, and popped a whole package of frozen waffles into the toaster.

Peter ate as if he hadn’t had a meal in days. “I would like to have two birthdays every year…” he said, smacking his lips.

“This isn’t your birthday, it’s Father’s Day.”

“Not February? What is it then?

“June. It’s never warm like this in February,” I said.

“Well, I’d like two birthdays like this. This is good.”

“It’s still Father’s Day.”

“Are we doing anything special later?” He made a silly, little boy face.

“Yes, Leslie is taking you…and me…to a movie and dinner.”

“Wow, I’d like another birthday like this.”

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UnknownA card arrived from Carolynn yesterday. On the front, the unmistakeable silhouette of Mickey Mouse, Peter’s hero, and a “Hooray for Dad” message. He looked at it again and again, then put it next to his chair. When I looked at it this morning, I realized why he’s confused about today. The message says:

As far as dads go,
there’s not a more classic
character than you.
Hope your birthday’s
as special as you are.

Beneath that she wrote, I know you can’t remember all the cool things you did with Leslie and me…but we do! Happy Father’s Day!

Birthday? Father’s Day? Doesn’t matter. He’s loved by “his girls” and he’s happy.

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Mickey Mouse webgrab/Pinterest

Why is there a bun in my oven?

There was a hamburger bun in the microwave oven when I opened it to warm my coffee. It was the second time this week.

I didn’t put it there, but I’m pretty sure I know who did. I can’t imagine what he had in mind.

imagesMy skinny little husband does eat as if he were eating for two, but a dried out bun in the oven was way beyond his new normal. I laughed.

No matter what, a good cup of coffee and a side of giggles really hit the spot at 10:30 on this miserable rainy May morning.

 

 

Color me aqua.

Christmas 2015 is history. I “bah-humbugged” through the season, but the day itself was memorable for lots of reasons. Not only did Peter not remember it was the 25th, he didn’t know it was December.

For the first time in years, he gave me a present he selected, or perhaps “selected by omission” is a better way of saying it. Leslie took him shopping. She took him to one likely shop, but when he looked in the window, he said no. He walked next door  and went in. He’d never been in either place before.

She pointed out several sweaters but, rejecting those, he chose another in aqua. (Strange, because it’s a color he really dislikes.) Carolynn thought maybe he picked it because I wore an aqua sweater the night we met — I like that theory. I love the sweater, the color, and the white shirt he (or Leslie) chose for under it.

Next, they went to buy a card. When I opened it Christmas morning, I heard a lively voice say, “HI THERE.” We both startled. Leslie, watching, hooted. “Peter jumped every time he opened the card in the shop,” she said. By moving the snowman’s hat onto the snowman, LEDs flash and an orchestra plays the first phrases of “Sleigh Ride.”  What fun it was!

On December 26, Boxing Day in England and, not coincidentally, our anniversary, I spied a slim package under the tree. A very sweet card topped it, but I’ll keep the message to myself.

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The gift was a calendar, desk blotter-sized, to color. I don’t know which of them found it, but Leslie knows I’ve fallen in love with coloring all over again. Peter remembered enough about the childhood pastime to ask, “Is this enough? Shouldn’t I buy the…equipment…the stuff…to go with it?” Leslie said no, and told him, “Mom really has enough colored pencils and crayons.” (By my count, 150 coloring  implements, one art gum eraser.)

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The jolly snowman card was a hit with everyone on Christmas Day and the days since. I keep it on the kitchen table. Every time I open it, Peter jumps and we laugh.

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Memories of Christmas just past. Color me happy.

 

The 36-hour weekend.

“A change is as good as a rest,” is one of the many sayings Peter attributes to “his ol’ Granny.”  That bit of English wisdom carries a lot of truth. I was never exactly sure what it meant until I experienced it. Now I know.

Peter and I can no longer take the weeks-long adventuresome trips we used to, but we now have access to a place that rivals some of our long holidays, Martin and Leslie’s log house in the  mountains not too far from here. It’s a wonderful spot — serene, isolated, with a river running past. Calmness wafts over me as soon as we drive in.

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The island idyll.

Generally we arrive Saturday mid-morning and leave before dark on Sunday. Just 36 hours or so, but those hours really are as good as a week away.

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Leslie hides.

We don’t do much there. Sometimes we help with gardening or other projects, but mostly it’s a place to kick back, relax. Leslie and I play cards, and we’ve recently rediscovered coloring books and the concentrated joy they bring. We also spend a lot of time looking for mica-studded rocks that glitter in bright sun. The whole area shimmers as if a fairy godmother had just wafted through with brilliant sprinkles.

Martin fishes in season, but Peter excuses himself because he’s “not a water person.” In truth, he can’t swim. A few weeks ago, Leslie convinced him to put on shorts and water shoes, then wade through ankle deep water to  the stoney island where we have lunch, read, snooze, or just be.

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The fish were biting that day.

Leslie and Martin swim, but I like to float in an inner tube now that the river’s flow has changed just enough to create a calm spot that allows me to stay put rather than drift away to the Atlantic. A few weeks ago, the two of them tubed together holding hands. Cute until Martin yelped and jerked upwards. Leslie shrieked with laughter then she too cried out. Mart yelled, “THE FISH ARE BITING OUR BUTTS!”  They returned to the safety of the island, laughing hysterically.

Peter revisited his stone-skipping prowess that day. He’s still a champ, sometimes getting ten or eleven skips per stone. I watch him and think, our travels of several years ago were terrific, but really, it doesn’t get much better than this!

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Peter still has the technique.