Of Then and Now

Monday night.  Carol dozing in her chair after supper. Before long, I will transfer her into her bed for the night.  Time enough to start a writing session and see where it might lead.

I’ve said more than once that weekends, actually the period from Friday afternoon when the week’s last relief aide leaves until Tuesday afternoon when the first aide of the week arrives, that four day stretch is difficult for me, although I doubt Carol is aware.  Ryan’s Monday night visits for dinner shortened that stretch but he is working six full days in the restaurant during this summer season and comes to mow the lawn and perhaps join us for a meal when he can find the time, usually later in the week.

These last four days have been different.  Tomorrow is an election day for primaries for state and local positions, and the phone has not stopped ringing with political robo calls. One such, which my caller ID told me was from Hamatrak, Michigan, by itself caused the phone to ring four times.  I did not total the number of such calls but I am confident that twenty for today alone would be a conservative number.

The calls started slowly on Friday and crescendoed about two hours ago.  Not the kind of human interaction I would prefer.

Late Saturday afternoon.  Carol and dog sleeping.  Just finished the Times crossword puzzle.

Through open, screened front door comes the constant sound of traffic going up and down Center Road.  Most of the vehicles are clearly those of tourists heading back and forth visiting the lighthouse and Hessler Log Cabin in the park at the north end of the Peninsula. They are driving fast along this state road that passes by our house.  In the spring, they move more slowly because they are looking for cherry blossoms; in the fall, they also travel at a leisurely pace checking out the colors of the turning leaves.  Only in the winter is this road quiet.

Yesterday was our anniversary.  It came and went like all other days.  Not surprising.  Carol and I used to celebrate by going out to eat, usually at an upscale restaurant.  We didn’t swap presents, nor did we encourage our daughter to congratulate us, which, is, when I think about it, a kind of silly idea anyway.  Why would she be congratulating us?  For conceiving her?

Maybe I’m being too literal, so I’ll leave that point alone.

Because Carol has lost weight, she no longer wears the diamond ring I bought for her years after we married when finances permitted.  One day I found it on the couch cushion where she was then sleeping.  I figured out a way to have it properly sized by using one of those ties that can be adjusted to a certain circumference.  I wrapped one around her ring finger until it fit securely as I would want the ring to do.  I thought I would take it and the ring into a jeweler and have the ring downsized.

I gave up on that idea after a while, and just put the ring in a safe place.  Seeing her finger sans the ring bothered me, but not for long.

I did tell Carol that it was our anniversary.  I do not know if she processed that fact.  I could not see any obvious reaction.

Some motorcycles just roared by to provide a different external audio.  If I were to keep track of the traffic, I would guess this would be one of the busiest days of the year.  There is barely an interval of quiet.  I need to draw on my ancient city mind set to block it out.

I have been thinking of writing again about what seems to be the central fact of my life now.  The thought was prompted, as it usually would be, by the appearance of something,  an object, innocent by itself, but emblematic to me.

In this case, the thing appeared when on my way into town I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw hanging from the mirror in the car behind me the kind of handicap placard we used to display, and which I still have in the brown paper bag into which I loaded stuff from the lease car I turned in last December.

There was no point in installing the placard in the new car so it remains in the bag.  Maybe I should just toss it.  Somehow, however, that act strikes me as being significant in a way I don’t feel like confronting.

Time to think about preparing supper.  Will pick this up later.

Sunday night. Watched a repeat of Sherlock on PBS.  Forgot how the series had fallen in love with special effects to reveal inner turmoil.  Find the technique somewhat distracting and irritating.  I prefer my Sherlock straight up.

Will try to pick up where I left off and see how far my limited energy tonight will carry me.

Seeing that handicap placard in the car behind me, and recalling the one we still have now in a paper bag rather than hanging in our car encapsulates the then and now mixture ever present in my mind.  However, that binary formulation is a little simplistic

Because the then, itself, is composed of various layers.  There is the then of the time before Carol got sick.  Objects reminding me of that then are all over the house, in her towel still hanging on the rack next to mine in the upstairs bathroom where I shower, in her glasses, which just the other day I took up to her dresser after they had been lying on the cocktail table in the living room for the past year and more since it became clear that they were no longer needed, in objects small like those and large like the piano she used to play.

I could make a very long list of such objects.

Or in the occurrence in some context of a particular word that resonates because of its association with the Carol of then.  For example, in a crossword puzzle the answer to one of the clues was “gist.”  Whenever Carol was trying to puzzle something out, she would say she was after the “gist” of the thing, as though she was seeking the hard kernel of fact or truth hidden somehow from her grasp.

Or a different kind of word association, such as reading in the daily newspaper’s column that gathers tidbits from a century ago, the name of Frank Edgecomb.  He was Carol’s grandmother’s first husband.  His family built the farmhouse in which Carol grew up.  He was not, however, her grandfather.  He died in the great influenza epidemic, and Carol’s grandmother remarried the man who became her grandfather.

But Frank was a presence in our house.  On the shelf over our bed is a book I bought for Carol about that influenza epidemic, and there is a picture of him on a shelf of the bookcase in the bedroom.

Perhaps more poignant are those things that mark the responses to the increasing debilities of her disease, such as the handicap placard, but also the grab bars in various places in the house, the walker, the shower stool, and the shower bench, the white plastic ruler sitting on the little table between the chairs in the green room, which we thought would enable her to keep her eyes focused on a line of text so that she could continue to read, these and others like them, signposts along the way toward the hospital bed in which she now spends a good portion of her life

Will try to wrap this up next session by moving into the now into which these objects intrude like guests overstaying their welcome

Tuesday evening after an eventful day.  The morning was ordinary, rising, breakfast, checking in with the world large and small.  Once the relief aide arrived, however, things got ta little more intense.

I had squeezed in a necessary appointment with my attorney to sign the papers setting up the trust.  Of course, that bit of business took longer than I had anticipated as I should have known would be the case based on previous life experiences in which I had spent  time conducting legal business

After leaving the attorney’s office, I still had the week’s grocery shopping to do.  Although I accelerated through that task I could not find, as usually I did, time for lunch out.  So I came home, tired and hungry and irritated.

Irritated because the Pandora app in my spiffy new Camry refused to load the program.  And worse, as I fiddled with it, it froze in its loading mode and blocked all other audio inputs from working, so I had to drive home in silence

I had a little rest before the speech therapist arrived to check out Carol’s swallowing.  More of that below. 

After she left and before preparing supper—frozen dinners for both of us—I addressed the Pandora problem in a long telephone conversation with Toyota’s tech support only to learn finally, after all strategies failed, that Toyota was aware of, and trying to find a solution to, the problem in the app that is part of its Entune suite.  I took small comfort that the problem was now out of my reach.  The tech gave me a work-around with which I had to be content.

The visit from the speech therapist was in recognition that difficulty in swallowing is a predictable occurrence in the course of the progression of Carol’s disease.   On the advice of the nurse practitioner some time ago I began adding a thickener to her liquids to prevent them from eluding the flap that keeps them out of her lungs.  Anything that doesn’t belong there that gets into the lungs is likely to lead to pneumonia.

But aside from liquids I had noticed that occasionally solid food would get caught in her throat going down, producing a coughing fit and once or twice the forcible expulsion of whatever had been trapped going down.

My daughter Tracy, who in her practice as a malpractice attorney has become aware of danger signs, had encouraged me to see about having a swallowing test administered as she has seen performed in a hospital setting

It turns out that kind of test demands a hospital setting.  But the therapist did  have Carol drink both thickened juice and straight water and observed how her throat managed these.  She did not see anything alarming.  I also told her what kind of food she ate without problems for the most part, such as chewy protein bars.

All of which leads to turning this line of thought into a positive direction.  Belatedly, I had realized that part of Carol’s problem was excessive phlegm in the throat.  This should have been apparent sooner.

Because I have the same issue, no doubt caused by all the dust and mold in this century old farmhouse.  I find myself blowing my nose throughout the day.

To clear the mucous.

Carol cannot blow her nose.

My theory, confirmed by the therapist, is that the mucous drips down into her throat, or perhaps just gathers there, where it has no place to go and where it becomes a kind of food trap.  Supporting this idea, again from my own experience, is that I occasionally have coughing fits from bits of  food caught in my throat.

I recalled that my physician some time ago had recommended Claritin for my running nose.  I had forgotten that.  I found we still had some pills.  I began giving them to both of us, once a day.

I blow my nose with less frequency.

And more important, occasional difficulties with trapped food bits have almost disappeared.

That is the beginning of the positive light in our situation.

About done for the night.  Will resume with relating a more significant improvement.

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2 Responses to Of Then and Now

  1. Kathleen Ann Flores says:

    My eyes focused on the strange spelling of phlegm. Hmm. Sounds like you have your hands full! Only love could keep up that kind of schedule. Take care now☺

  2. trudy carpenter says:

    Your identification of the phlegm problem really impressed me. You are an amazing care giver. I’m so glad the Claritin is helping some.

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