He’s still my cup of tea.

The Cambridge English Dictionary definition of kettle reads: kettle, noun, a container for boiling water, that has a lid, handle, and spout and is made from plastic or metal. put the kettle on. to start to boil water in a kettleIt had happened twice before and was only a matter of time before it happened again. Since his life-changing crash last month Peter has seldom made tea without my supervision. Monday evening I watched him, hawk-like, from the family room as he made tea without me hovering. I saw him fill the kettle, put a tea bag into his cup, and set it beneath the heat lamp above our stove. He stood in front of the stove longer…than…I…STOP. DON’T DO THAT!” I yelled. Peter had turned the gas on and set the electric kettle on the flame. By the time I got there, the kettle’s plastic bottom had melted. It resembled a reentry module from a space shuttle. He’d managed to turn the gas off, but didn’t really understand what had happened.
“This is an electric kettle,” I said, more frantically than I should have. “You ‘fried’ it,” I added, attempting a feeble joke.
“It’s fine,” he said, “still works.” I shook my head, showed him the damage and dumped the kettle into the trash.

“No tea tonight,” I said, guiding him back toward his chair.

Ten minutes later he got up and asked if I wanted a cup of tea. I reminded him the kettle was toast but he didn’t understand that little joke either. “Burned up…like burned toast,” I said.

Yesterday I shopped for a another kettle. I thought about an old-fashioned stovetop one, but bought another just like the electric one we’d had.  Then I second- guessed myself and continued shopping, this time for a regular kettle like the one he’d grown up with.

Later, after showing him the new kettle that whistled like his ol’ granny’s did, I urged him make a cuppa. When he held the kettle over the cup to pour, he forgot to pull the whistle cover back. Most of the water went onto the stove and counter top. He tried again, with similar results but with me beside him to prompt.

Then, before bed I went to prepare the coffee maker for this morning. A smell? SMELL…OMG GAS!  I hadn’t supervised his last cup of tea and although he’d turned the knob to the left as he should, he hadn’t turned it all the way to “off.”  Gas hissed, though I couldn’t hear it in the other room, and I didn’t smell it until I was in the kitchen. I think Nobby knew something was wrong. He’d been nudging us for some time as he often does in the evenings. I think he was trying to warn us that we needed to get up and fix it.

When I explained to Peter what had happened, I tried to make light of it. “Good thing we aren’t smokers!” I said. He didn’t get that either, but he was quite pale. Then I remembered what I never would’ve thought my husband  would remember. His granddad Alf, then in his mid-nineties, had started having trouble making his tea. The final shot that forced Peter’s dad, John, into finding a nursing home for Alf was when he found the kettle on the gas hob, flames shooting to the ceiling. A pot holder had caught fire. John, widowed, had Parkinson’s Disease and needed help himself. He could no longer look after his father.

The electric kettle I bought yesterday went into service today, as have cookie sheet barriers across the top of my range.

The English are known for offering calming cups of tea in crises, but last evening, when we really needed a cuppa, I’d already hidden the stovetop kettle and was too shaken up to find the electric one that I’d stashed somewhere. It seeing action today though.

Header photo: the melted bottom of our electric kettle.

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 


What can I do?

My brain had short circuited. I clutched my head and tried to figure out which problem to tackle next.  Just then, Peter peeked around the door. “Can I do anything to help?” he asked.

My pitiful smile didn’t reach my eyes. “Could you give me some peace of mind?” I asked. “That would help.”

He chuckled. “You want a piece of my mind?” he said.

The tears that had threatened dried up. Just that brief exchange lightened my mood.

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Photos: Sailing to Alaska (2006)

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

‘The stuff that dreams are made of.’

“Any good movies on?” Peter asked. That’s one of several questions he repeats every single day. “No” is my usual answer because most movies these days, especially summer releases, aren’t our cups of tea. We watch Netflix a lot which suits me — the popcorn is better at home. Recently though, after a stressful week, I surprised him. “Let’s go see ‘Jurassic World’,” I said.

We headed to the huge new movie/bowling alley/arcade/restaurant hub with a stop at Wendy’s first. We snuck into the complex, chocolate Frostys tucked close, and huddled in the gloomy lobby to eat them. The place was a madhouse. And we had to choose seats and buy tickets on a touch screen computer thingie. Ack.

When we entered the theater I burst out laughing. News of summer’s blockbuster hadn’t reached our little burg — only one other couple was there. As the lights dimmed, piercing music jarred us upright in our reclining seats. We plugged our ears and wished we could mute the previews for movies we’d never go see.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.43.30 AMWe’d liked the original “Jurassic Park,” but this fourth iteration was at least two too many. The story line was weak and the characters were shallow. “Claire,” the park’s operations manager, raced from one catastrophe to the next wearing a white linen suit and pumps — no dirt, no muck, not even a wrinkle. If the wardrobe designer had any Oscar dreams the white shoes helped dash them.

The evening was the stuff of nightmares.


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Sam Elliott and Blythe Danner dream.

“I’ll see you in my dreams” was playing at our lovely restored Lyric theater downtown last week. We had chicken kebabs at a favorite restaurant, got frozen yogurt up the street, then walked to the Lyric. In its pleasant, well-lit lobby, we exchanged hellos and hugs with several friends. Civilized. Perfect.

I asked Peter to hold my yogurt cup while I bought the tickets at the quaint old kiosk. Charming.

The refreshments stand often has homemade baked goods, but theater management doesn’t mind outside treats brought in. I was looking forward to my frozen yogurt. I savor it slowly; Peter finished his before we walked in the door. Tickets purchased, I looked around and saw him leaning against the wall scraping out…wait…my cup!  I knocked people aside to grab it. It was two spoonfuls away from empty.

“That’s mine, you bugger,” I yelped. Heads swiveled in my direction. Oops. There were enough Brits in the lobby to have heard my naughty “B” word. Poor Peter’d forgotten he’d finished his yogurt and that he was holding mine. He was bewildered by my carrying on, but he suggested sweetly that we run back to the shop to get another. “Not enough time,” I grumbled. “I’ll get one on the way home.”

When the movie started — absolutely delightful, by the way — I stopped whining. Nothing better than a romantic comedy to encourage sweet dreams.

My husband is the one with the failing memory, but I’m the one who forgot all about a replacement frozen yogurt after the credits rolled. In the end, Peter had the last laugh.

Header photo: Jurassic Park memory.

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

Debit or credit?

About a year after my husband was officially diagnosed I discovered a big error in our checking account. Since I almost never wrote checks it was a double whammy — I hadn’t made the mistake, but I knew who had. Quicker than I could subtract what had been added, the bill-paying and taxes-doing landed in my lap.

I’d always relied on Peter, so good with numbers and so logical, to take care of everything involving money matters, never my forte by any stretch. Until that day I had no inkling that he’d lost those skills. Taking over those tasks was no laughing matter for me, a words person. People laugh when I say, “I don’t do numbers,” but I don’t…didn’t.

Now I do.

I found a CPA to help with the taxes, and son-in-law Martin set up automatic bill paying to ease things for me. This created suspicion, a common dementia symptom, in Peter’s mind. He did not like that I had commandeered the checkbook. He didn’t trust “automatic” and,Screen shot 2014-09-21 at 4.32.55 PM worse, he didn’t trust me, with good reason — my own bookkeeping history before we were married was abysmal. It was months before he was even moderately comfortable with the idea that I had taken over his job and that the checkbook was no longer his domain. He still doesn’t understand that the need for anyone to write checks is all but gone.

I’d write a check for any amount if I could reverse Peter’s mental decline.

He had always been in charge and suddenly he wasn’t. Not easy to deal with. Now he’s forgotten there are even any bills to pay, taxes to file, or investments to manage. And I’d never been in charge of such matters, but now I am. Not easy to deal with either. I wanted to scream and sometimes, oftentimes, I do. Or I go to the basement and throw sneakers at the wall.

Screen shot 2014-09-21 at 4.39.24 PMThen one day, I told Peter to cut-up his bank debit card because I thought it was his old, expired credit card. When I realized my mistake, I said, “I owe you an apology,”

He didn’t miss a beat. “That’ll be ten dollars, please,” he said.



Header photo: Graceful anemones, Montreal Botanical Gardens, 2010

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist.