How are you all doing? Life, as we know it, has been set aside while the world fights the Corona Virus. We’re in Michigan and have been ordered to stay home, except for absolute necessities, like groceries, and medicine. I don’t mind staying home since it helps me to focus on things that I have been letting go. I tend to start projects have them almost complete, and get drawn away for something else, and the first project never gets done. For example: three years ago I pulled up all of the carpets, tore out the old rusty furnace vents, put down new laminate floors, bought new vents, cut, sanded and stained the woodwork, but the new vents and wood work have never been installed. The floor looks nice, but the job is not finished. We decided to get, or make, new kitchen cupboards, I pulled down the ones between the refrigerator and stove, put a temporary shelving unit in, and nothing else has been done. When the governor of Michigan ordered me to stay home, I decided to finish those projects. However, first I am installing a new water softener, in line filter and reverse osmosis unit. Then, I promise, to get back to the other projects.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably noticed a real lack of articles. I was surprised at how long it has been, (February 14), since my last posting. This happens to me because I am trying to take care of something that seems very urgent, and the most important thing gets set aside and are ignored. Let me share with you what has happened since Valentines’ Day.
Harriet had two important appointments, which kept us from going to Florida in February. The first one was scheduled for February 27, at the Pain clinic in Ypsilanti. Harriet is on blood thinners and was supposed to stop taking them 4 days prior to this procedure. However, she got a phone call about 2 weeks before the appointment in which, she was sure, that her appointment had been cancelled and would be rescheduled after we returned from Florida in April. Sadly, she misunderstood what was said. On the twenty-sixth she got a call confirming her appointment the next day. When she said that she had not stopped the blood thinners, the doctor cancelled the appointment and said to call and reschedule after we returned from Florida. I have asked the doctor’s office to replace Harriet’s cell phone number, on her charts, with mine. However, they still call Harriet who cannot remember, or understand, what was said. For that reason, she was not ready for the pain clinic appointment. Now that we are back from Florida, all elective surgeries and procedures are set aside until after the pandemic.
Wednesday, March 4 – The second appointment was on the fourth of March for a PET Scan. She was to fast from 8:00 PM the night before until the procedure at 9:00 the next morning. At 7:00 AM she was supposed to drink 3 sixteen- ounce glasses of water, which she faithfully did. We drove the hour up to St. Joseph, and Harriet was feeling so dry that she decided to chew some sugar-free gum. Once we were there Harriet was taken back for the Pet Scan while I waited in the lobby. However, it wasn’t long before the nurse came back and asked me about the gum Harriet had chewed on the way to the hospital. I assured the nurse that it was sugar free gum, but he asked me to go to the car and bring the gum back so that the doctor could look at it. I did as he asked and after the doctor examined the gum, he made a decision that the PET Scan would have to be cancelled. The Doctor explained that the gum could cause a false reading and that is why the test was cancelled. This was a real disappointment to Harriet, since she had been looking forward to the test and the answers it could give.
Thursday, March 5 – Because we have a large family in Florida, who couldn’t attend Dad’s funeral in Michigan last September, a Memorial Service was planned for Sunday, March 8. The plan was to have the car packed and leave for Florida right after the PET Scan on Wednesday. Of course, that isn’t what happened at all. Thursday found us packing bags and getting everything in the car. We left home late Thursday afternoon and drove for about six hours stopping for the night in Georgetown, Kentucky. We had decided to get an early start the next morning, which for us would be anytime before the mandatory 11:00 check out time.
Friday, March 6 – The next morning, we were on the road by 10:30 and drove as far as Beria, where there is a college and the Kentucky Artisan Center. The Artisan center has local, student, and folk art, crafts, and books for sale. There is also a restaurant attached which is why, we always attempt to stop there on our way to or from Florida. The food is wonderful, and this time was no exception. We had roast pork, mashed potatoes and gravy, collard greens, with pie alamode for dessert. We left Beria, full and happy and continued our trip south. I hoped to make it to Valdosta Georgia, before stopping for the night.
Just North of Atlanta we stopped for dinner at the Marietta Diner, a favorite destination whenever we’re driving through Atlanta. The meals are so large that we shared a seafood pasta dish. This included, angel hair pasta, lobster tail, shrimp, grouper chunks, mussels, squid, and scallops in a wine sauce. It was fantastic. Dessert was oversized as well. I ordered baklava and Harriet ordered the carrot cake. Both were so huge that we had to take more than half to the motel for breakfast. About an hour later, we were back on the highway heading south. I really wanted to get to Valdosta, which is about five-hours from Ft. Myers. However, by the time we got to Cordele, about an hour north of Valdosta, I was beyond tired, and since Harriet couldn’t stay awake, we decided to pull in for the night and get an early start the next morning.
Saturday, March 7, – We left the motel later than usual. Harriet had a bad night and was having difficulty waking up and getting ready. We had a six-hour drive, not counting gas, bathroom, and food breaks, so I hoped to be in Ft, Myers by 8:00 P.M. For some reason that I cannot remember, both lunch and dinner took quite a bit longer than usual. Around five O’clock, I received a text message from my sister Carol, “Where are you Dave? A group of us are going out to Bonita Bill’s for dinner and Karaoke. If you get to Fort Myers before seven, please, join us.” When Dad was alive, we would all go to Bonita Bill’s for dinner and Karaoke at least once a week. It is located on the intercoastal just below the bridge that goes from the mainland to Fort Myers Beach. There is always a fun crowd around. However, it was around a quarter after nine when we pulled into the driveway at the Folk’s house. Isn’t it funny how much quicker cars are to unpack than to pack? We had the car unpacked and were settled and in bed by midnight.
Sunday, March 8 – The Memorial service was scheduled for one O’clock at the American Legion, with a potluck lunch after the service and karaoke following lunch. The service was not real long. I spoke about how Dad came to Christ and was baptized on his eighty-seventh birthday. I shared about his health issues and how he was looking forward to going to heaven. Following my presentation, cousins, grandchildren, and friends, stood and told stories, and there was a lot of laughter. After the memorial service there was a red-neck wake with lots of beer and potluck dishes. The rest of the time was taken up with karaoke and catching up with long lost relatives. Harriet seemed unusually reserved, and didn’t seem comfortable with the whole thing. It took quite a while for her to get up and sing karaoke. Both of these are unusual because in the past she would love hanging out with everyone and was very outgoing. She said that part of it was the Corona virus and she just didn’t feel like her old self. I have noticed that she seems more and more reluctant to leave the house and visit friends and relatives. I think part of it was her fear of the corona virus plus the dementia makes events like this exhausting.
Monday, March 9 –Saturday March 21 – The Memorial Service exhausted Harriet who slept most of Monday. Her energy levels seem to be low most of the time and yet sleep at night eludes her. I believe she is entering the stage known as Sundowners. This is where a person with dementia will be awake most of the night and nap on and off all day.
My plan was to stay in Florida until after Easter Sunday on April 12. During that time, I was going to sort through all the closets, the laundry room and shed, to sort through all the things my parents saved. I was going to, throw away, give away, or organize these piles of stuff. My mom, like a lot of people who came through the Great Depression, was a hoarder, but not an organized one. For example, my mom loved Christmas, and there were Christmas trees, ornaments, lights, and nick-knacks, in the Laundry room, the Florida room, the guest bedroom, and the dining area. I knew that my sisters wanted to go through the Christmas things, and so I moved all of the Christmas things into the guest bedroom closet. (That was after I cleaned out the closet and the bedroom.)
The worst room to clean and sort was the kitchen. Last year, just before dad returned to Michigan, a rat got into the kitchen. This rat would chew the drain hose from the dishwasher and the dishwasher would drain all of the water onto the kitchen floor. Traps and poison were put under the sink, around the dishwasher and anywhere else the rat left a mess. It took three dishwasher hoses and a month and a half to finally get that rat. A few days after the rat died, dad was on a plane headed to Michigan. I had no idea that the rat had been in, and crapped on, every cupboard in the kitchen. Every cupboard had rat crap in it. Therefore, I washed every dish, pan, bowl, glass and mug in the place. I also threw, or gave away, quite a few pans, dishes, and other kitchen utensils. For the remainder of our time in Florida, we filled up four huge recyclable bins, and four huge garbage cans and filled the van up twice and took the things to the Good Will.
Harriet focused on cleaning the Master Bedroom, which was a huge job, because of a large closet, and many dresser drawers. She also cleaned out the linin closet, which had towels that were so thin you could see right through them. Harriet decided to cut them into smaller rags that could be used for cleaning.
The news about the coronavirus was getting worse and worse. Like almost everywhere else, the stores soon ran out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and alcohol. Florida’s Governor called for a partial shut-down of the State, (Bars were ordered closed, but restaurants could remain open with limited seating) and asked people to stay home.
On Sunday, March 15, I attended Mass at St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church the priest there is a Spirit filled missionary from Ireland. I was looking forward to Easter Sunday, since he was able to make the Bible texts come alive. However, the Coronavirus was spreading like crazy and, because people were not cooperating with his attempts to control the virus, by Thursday, of that week, the governor had shut down every bar, restaurant, beach, and church in the state. Gatherings were limited to no more than 25 people.
Harriet was becoming more and more concerned about the virus and didn’t want to go anywhere for any reason. Something that is completely new with the dementia, is she can no longer tell when she should seek medical help. She was drinking quite a lot of Cranberry juice and would comment that maybe she was developing a UTI. I encouraged her to go to urgent care, and she would refuse. Finally, things got so bad that there was nothing else to do and so we went to the urgent care. Because of the Coronavirus I could not go into the clinic with her. Fortunately, everything went well and soon we picked up her prescription and were safely back home.
On Friday, March 20, I went to Walmart and picked up enough food for the next couple of weeks. I also took the propane tank from the Grill and exchanged it. I was going to grill a number of times in the next few weeks. My plan was to begin cleaning the outside of the house, including raking the yard and clearing the bank on the Lake. I was going to do that on the week of March 22. What I didn’t know was that the coronavirus was going to send Harriet into such a panic that we would be heading home on Tuesday evening. I will tell you all about that in my next post.
May the Lord continue to bless, strengthen, guide, and give you peace during these trying times