Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Loving Gummy While Dementia Storms the Castle





This weekend I hung out with writers. We talked books, writing, slept on couches, went to see The Glass Castle (debated the movie versus the book version), and in an unexpected twist, we all joined family for a Gummy lunch out. She wore her Steelers jersey. It says GUMMY on the back. The staff preps her on Sundays because Juan often takes her out to eat. 

Having a table full of people is one of her favorite things. It still is, although she's not often sure who is who or even if she knows us at all. The jokes are familiar to her and she accepts the love just the same.

Someone asked me afterwards, "Was this a good Gummy day, or a bad one?" 

When you're not used to dementia, how do you know what either looks like?


The thing is, that's a tough question.

Maybe because any day or moment in which Gummy isn't in the ER, angry, or in the depths of despair, is a good day or moment now.

It might not look like a good day, but it is.

She ate her salad and her food with little help. Occasionally she joined the conversation. Lowering my expectations has become a game plan.

Maybe I should say lowering my expectations has helped me get through this. Finding joy in those rare moments when Gummy remembers a name is how I'm rolling. If she smiles, it's a win. If she doesn't remember or doesn't smile it's not a loss. It's a time to look for something else to put on the joy list.

Throwing caution to the wind and taking her out in public is our Russian Roulette Gummy Game Plan. 

Not all days are good days to go out, but some are.

Being out among people going about their normal lives is good for extroverted Gummy. She slips into autopilot. She's doing something normal too. I can see her energy level rise.

Sometimes I take her out of memory care in a wheel chair and she walks back in. Not always. Positive energy isn't enough to make her stop forgetting how to walk. Positive energy can't help her remember. But it can stop dementia from draining her in any given moment. It can help her find her smile.

Being left alone in her confusion drains her. 

Watching life and laughter recharges her, especially when she's the one getting a hug or kiss.

If Gummy's outing goes poorly, therein the problems lie. Then getting her back to a comfortable place is paramount. Thank the heavens her comfortable place has become her room at memory care. 

When she returns she at first doesn't know this place. It's been going on a year, and she doesn't recognize the building from outside.
     Now where are we?
     Am I getting out of the car? Nobody told me.
     What is this place?
     You're not dumping me here, are you?

    
Physical Therapy rearranged her room again. She never notices. The idea is to make it as safe as possible in the hopes she won't fall. My biggest win this entire summer has been getting her a new chair she actually uses. 

Clothes, toothbrushes, even soap, can be ignored. Maybe she doesn't like it. Maybe it's not familiar so she won't touch it because she thinks it might not be hers. Maybe it is familiar so she packs it up and hides it. After the doctor visit this week, she sat in her new chair in memory care and talked to me. When I swung by for an impromptu visit the next day, she sat in that chair and ate a few bites of pizza I brought her. When I didn't come by because a rashy virus has been taking down family members like an army of Orcs, she sat in that chair and talked to me on the phone.
     I haven't seen you in so long!
     It hasn't been that long, Gummy!
     What are you talking about? It's been at least ten years!

The doctor said she needs more salt. Her blood pressure drops when she stands. Gummy loves what I call her pizza potato chip diet. When I visit I bring one or the other. 

Spoiling a child is a bad idea. I don't see the downside to spoiling someone with dementia.

Seize the day?
Hah. Seize the moments. Seize the nanoseconds. Seize whatever you can find despite the fact that we're laughing while the enemy is at the gate. 

I mean if you look hard enough everything has a silver lining.

The castle is under siege, but you can eat whatever you want until the dragon fire gets to this room! I mean this side of the room. How about this chair? 


Now I sit on her bed, and she sits on that chair and we talk. Her words are stifled sometimes, and they evaporate on her. She doesn't always know who the heck I am, but we talk anyway. 
     The guys are driving me nuts, Gummy.
     My car broke down today, Gummy.
     The baby has a fever, Gummy.
Semantics don't matter. We're two women talking. For a moment she focuses, and even when she doesn't know me this conversation happens. 
     Guys do that, you know. Mine drove me nuts. Do you know where he is?
     What kind of car do you have? I don't know where my car is.
     What baby? Is she okay? Is she here?

There's less space to maneuver in now, but we tuck our feet up under us. I've been writing by hand lately, so the tendon problem with my middle finger is flaring up again. It reminds me how to deal with dementia once more. I don't think Gummy has forgotten that part yet. Even if she does, I've got her back.







Monday, August 28, 2017

Ellen Island Camp—Lady Evelyn Lake, Canada, and Princess Fishing with my Husband


Lady Evelyn Lake, Ellen Island Camp, remote fishing trip
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt





My husband calls it Princess Fishing.

I call it compromise.

He baits my hook, suggests the best way to cast, and when I get a fish he takes it off for me. 

Hey.

Don't judge. Fishing isn't my thing.

You don't see him hanging out at a writer's retreat with me, pen in hand, do you?

We have our things. This remote fishing trip is his blue heaven. 



Lady Evelyn Lake, Ellen Island Camp, remote fishing trip
Hubby's Blue Heaven



It's pretty obvious why, isn't it?


Every year we pack a small mountain of supplies, most of it mosquito repellent, and head for the Wilds of Canada. 

After driving all day, and spending the night in a hotel in New Liskeard, we head for Mowatt Landing. It's at the end of a long unpaved road, where the land meets the water. 

Once there you take a raft or boat ride to the bottom of a dam. You get out and hike to the top of the dam. There you get another boat to Ellen Island. The portage isn't bad. In fact it's fun.


Road? There are no roads where we're going.


This year I was at a writing retreat so I showed up a few days after my husband had already gotten to Ellen Island. It took me longer, one ferry ride, two propeller planes, another two jets, and a drive from the North Bay airport to Mowatt, but I was flying from Alonissos, Greece this time.

The travel gods were kind. While it took a few days and a few airports, eventually I found myself standing once more at Mowatt Landing. This time I had all the luggage I'd been hauling around Greece for a month. It got heavier every single step. Rain clouds approached. But I barely had time to sit on a suitcase and take in that amazing feeling you get when a long journey goes smoothly, before the sound of an approaching boat broke the solitude.



Lady Evelyn Lake, Ellen Island Camp, remote fishing trip
Mowatt Landing



Dear Hubby arrived and we were off to the bush so he could fish and I could sleep the first couple of days. The days are long this far north in summer. The weather can be anything, and it usually is. This year was an extra helping of rain, but the mosquitoes weren't too bad, so no complaints. Hubby doesn't mind fishing in the rain anyway, (he says it's good fishing weather) and I had plenty of reading and writing to catch up on while waiting for my idea of boat weather.

Ellen Island is beautifully rocky and covered in evergreens, with smooth paths, individual cabins and spectacular sunsets. The cabins are new and boast separate kitchens and bedrooms and a bathroom with a compost toilet. Compost toilets aren't my favorite thing, but they're well tended to here. The bathroom also has hot water all day long, but electricity is usually only available from around dinner time until about midnight via island generator.

On rainy days and Saturdays when most people tend to come in from fishing earlier, it is usually available longer. 

There are good paths around the island, and I hike them, spending time enjoying the solitude, quiet, and the views. 

Eventually the sun came out and the Princess Fishing commenced. I get more photos than fish, but I'm cool with that. He gets more fish than photos, and most of his photos are of fish, but that's his thing.


Lady Evelyn Lake, Ellen Island Camp, remote fishing trip
Water Lilies on Still Water



My family has been fishing Lady Evelyn Lake for years and the guys have their favorite spots. Usually they fish for Walleye on dark or rainy days, and Pike on sunny days—but they've caught both on either days. 



Lady Evelyn Lake, Ellen Island Camp, remote fishing trip
Water Lilies on Sunny Water


There are islands to have a shore lunch or picnic on, and landlocked lakes where you can fish for Bass (Angler Lake) or where wily fish rarely see fishermen (Sugar Lake). Those both require a hardier portage than getting to Lady Evelyn does. I have been to both and wasn't interested this year. 



Lady Evelyn Lake, Ellen Island Camp, remote fishing trip
Water Lilies on Dark Water


My kids love Angler Lake because it's crystal clear and you can watch fish after fish bite your line, but it's necessary to hike in with gas and a boat motor to access one of the available boats. You'd also need to book it with your camp so you don't get all the way out there and find someone else is using that boat. Usually the way to Angler is rough due to thousands of mosquitoes descending on the only human they've seen in a couple weeks. You. Believe me all your DEET is salt and pepper to hungry insects. The path is always rough. It is worth the effort just the same.



Lady Evelyn Lake, Ellen Island Camp, remote fishing trip
Water Lilies on Clouds


On sunny days when the water is still and fishing isn't so great, there's plenty of other things to do. Franks Falls is beautiful, and you might get lucky with a fish just the same. Sometimes we swim there. Willow Lake is also spectacular, nearly empty of all but an eagle or beaver, and sometimes a moose. Its also dotted with shady coves where fish like to hide on hot days. Those fish wanted nothing to do with me this trip, but I don't care. I love floating over the quiet water and picnicking on empty islands. 



Lady Evelyn Lake, Ellen Island Camp, remote fishing trip
The sky and water change daily, but it's always beautiful.



There's fishing right around Ellen Island too, and you can swim right off the dock. Sometimes there's a bonfire at night, and I've glimpsed the Northern Lights during visits. 



Lady Evelyn Lake, Ellen Island Camp, remote fishing trip
The swimming raft at Ellen Island Camp



Some of the camps provide meal plans. We've stayed at one in the past, but we prefer to make our own schedule and meals at Ellen Island. All the cabins have water coolers and fresh water is provided. There's wifi available in the office area of the owners' (Jeff and Jane Landriault's) cabin. There's also helpful staff who come by at least once a day and see to the cabins and visitors. 



Lady Evelyn Lake, Ellen Island Camp, remote fishing trip
Leaving Lady Evelyn in the foggy morning this year.


Leaving is the hardest part about visiting Lady Evelyn Lake, even for those of us who aren't wild about fishing. For my hubby and kids it is downright painful and they're already planning next year's trip before we're off the water.



Thursday, August 24, 2017

Alonissos, Greece and the Weird Writer Who Goes There


Karfelt, WRA, Leftos, Beach, Favorite Beach, Alonissos
S.R. Karfelt/The Glitter Globe
My Favorite Beach





Nobody wants to hear about my trip to Greece. For the last few years I've been going there to attend a writing workshop. At first I tried to tell people about it. Here's the thing though, there is nobody who wants to hear about anyone's magical multiple week long vacation to Greece. 

Nobody.

Shut up. Some people have to work for a living. The kind of work that doesn't give you weeks to travel.

Do not make us kill you.

Do not ruin our time at the beach by a lake with your amaze-balls Greek photos.

I totally get this. 

So I stopped talking about it. After posting a freak ton of photos to Instagram I mean. But that's showing, not telling. Nope. I tuck it all up inside the magical olive tree growing beside my favorite beach, and set it just under my heart. I hope with all my wishful dreams that I can return again next year, and I know how fortunate I am to have gone at all. During the year I look at that secret wonderful and can barely believe it happened. I often wear a silver ring from Alonissos, and I don't wear rings. But it's beautiful and lightweight, and doesn't bother me as much as most rings do. 

Writing events are difficult to explain to non-writers. The best I can say is this. Writers are weird. We know we're weird. People like to joke about how weird they are, or how weird other people are. But writers are no-joke, to the bone, weirdos. 

When you're a genuine weirdo, being weird isn't fun. It got old somewhere around grade school. When you see the world differently, and take in overwhelming amounts of data every waking moment, and process your thoughts on paper to even get them into some type of order, well, it can be a deeply lonely experience.

At least until you start making up imaginary characters and having a blast with them.

Controlling your own universe is way cool. 

I digress.

Getting together with other writers is how I imagine most people feel when they truly connect with other people. I don't mean loving people. We love people. I adore my hot husband. I think my kids are the coolest. My friends put up with my crap and have fun with me.

But my writerly peeps understand my weird ass. They don't just tolerate my shit. They have the exact same weird shit. It's like being an alien and finding your people. I wish it for all writerly types.

You should see a writer conference. Everyone is talking at once. Like freaking extroverts or something. (Although there are plenty of writers who ARE extroverts. Talk about weirdos.) 

At writer gatherings I can hardly sleep I'm so excited and wired. Afterwards I really need a vacation to recover. Writers don't make me tired like most social interaction. Lack of sleep does. The magic of the gathering is that I can plug the cord to my freak flag in and be as weird as I can (it's a lot of weird). They don't even notice.

This shouldn't make those who love writers envious in any way. As much fun and connection as we have when we gather together, if it lasted too long we'd probably go cannibal or something. It's like a matter anti-matter thing. At first it's a blast, and then the universe is imploding.

We don't love each other more. We just share our weird. It's a relief. If you love a writer, I highly recommend getting them with other writers. It's like sending them to therapy. Everyone benefits.

Still. Nobody wants to hear about my kick-ass Greek vacation. I can probably tell you about the bus tour I took before the writing workshop started. I spent a couple days in Athens and went up to Meteora to see those monasteries in the clouds. But if I launch into the real reason my house looks like this and how I use my money on a trip that takes me nearly three days of travel just to arrive at the destination, and how I end up spending days on end huddled knee to knee with a bunch of other women writers, barely looking up, and just writing and then reading it aloud, well, that'd just be weird wouldn't it?




  

Monday, August 21, 2017

Taking Care of Gummy—When Dementia Goes Down the Rabbit Hole, Sundowning

Taking Care of Gummy, S.R. Karfelt,
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt


Sundowning.

Gummy keeps forgetting how to walk. If it happens while she's standing, and she falls, she winds up in the ER. It's happening more and more often now. Twice this week. 

We have ER visits down to a system. Finish your conference call. Let me get the caregiver paperwork. Brush your teeth. Stop for gas if necessary. Until this week it worked.

This week we had to change our Dementia Plan. Again.

All dementia game plans are made out of sand in a windstorm.

It's necessary to have one, for all the good it does.

This game changer found Gummy standing on TOP of her bed in the ER, one leg wedged between the railing and the mattress. Teetering.

She'd been left alone for entire seconds, you see.

She was leaving, you see. I've been here for hours. This is ridiculous. 

Sundowning doesn't have to make any sense at all. It is completely logic-free. The hospital bed rails were in Gummy's way so she'd decided to walk over them. Never mind the fact that she'd take a header onto the floor diving off in the process.

Hubby caught her just in time.

In the time it took us to get there, the ER workers had to catch her and take her back to her room five times. Not including her swan dive out of the bed attempt.

Now we have new guidelines we've implemented. If it's sundowning time, get there. FAST. Because who knows what she'll do if left alone for even a brief time.

Gummy's dementia presents in the way that she can't hold any new information. You can tell her she's in the hospital, and she'll nod and seem to take it in. 3-2-1. Gone. 

If left alone, five minutes might seem like hours to her. She'll decide to leave. Home, home, home seems to be a recurring dementia mantra, and when Gummy isn't trying to figure out what the heck is going on, she's working on going home. 

Home, of course, is an elusive apparition of when life made sense.

You can't get home from advanced dementia. 

They're stuck forever with this uncomfortable desire that can't be fulfilled. Like human ET's they're forever longing for hooooome. 

It's worse during sundowning.

Everything is worse during sundowning. 

Sundowning is a dementia term, but I'm not going to give you a technical definition of it. I assume you have the google and know how to use it. 

What I'll tell you is what I've seen first hand. 

There are many degrees of dementia, and every individual who has it has a unique presentation too. 

Later in the day, when sundowning kicks in, everything gets worse. In the morning Gummy is at her best. She wants coffee, makes her bed, what's she doing in this place? And why are there noodles in her purse?

During sundowning she drops down the rabbit hole so far that sometimes I'll sneak away when she goes into the bathroom. I know she won't remember I was there by the time she comes out in sixty seconds. Sometimes I can't bear the looped conversation any longer. 
     Where's that man I'm married to?
     I don't know. It's your turn to watch him. (We don't go over who is dead during sundowning. She can't hold onto it, and my goal is to make her as comfortable as possible.)
She gives my little joke a polite laugh.
     But really? He dropped me off here to go look at animals. Will he come back tonight?
     I don't know.
     Have you seen my husband? He left me here at the pool and went somewhere.
     I haven't seen him.
     Who's going to take me home? When did you see him last?
We're standing in her room at memory care. 
This entire conversation happened within about a thirty second time-frame. 

It's much more difficult to pacify Gummy later in the day. Her mind can go anywhere, all pretty much at the same time.

Whatever the scientific theory is for sundowning, I can tell you this, everyone with memory loss seems to have it in some capacity. At least the people I've seen. 

Another thing is that Gummy's sundowning seems to kick in anytime after noon, usually by two o'clock. From then on it gets progressively worse.

Maybe people are solar powered. I don't know. By the time dinner ends sundowning confusion can range from tears to anger to Gummy's latest presentation, forgetting how to walk.

I'm curious if today's solar eclipse will instigate an early round of sundowning.

The aides earn their stripes in the evenings. They claim it's particularly bad during full moons. I told them once that I don't believe in that. They told me I was welcome to spend the full moon there and I'd become a believer fairly quickly.

Summer concerts are coming to an end and I wanted to make sure Gummy could go to another one. Last time I took her she spent the night in the ER because it was the first time she forgot how to walk. This time I put her in a wheelchair. 

There's nothing funny about the first time someone really has to use a wheelchair. I always try to look on the bright side and make a joke for Gummy, but sometimes you can't see the bright side when you're over your head in sucks. 

I thought she'd balk. I told her she got to ride in the princess chair. She plopped right down without complaint. An aide put her feet in the holders. I'd have pushed her away dragging her feet. I didn't know. I've said before the semantics of caregiving isn't my strong suit. My gift is my talent for whipping out the mental dog and pony show and entertaining her or making her laugh.

Going into the elevator I went too fast and she nearly whacked into the wall.
     Sorry, Gummy.
     Yeah, right. Why are you laughing so hard?
I was. She did too, thankfully. In the end we found something funny about the wheelchair, even if it was just my driving.

Inappropriate humor is my thing.

Gummy's too.

We'd both rather laugh than cry. 

There's nothing funny about dementia. All the more reason to laugh in its big effing face.

The music was Big Band. I think music helps, even during sundowning. Gummy had a soda and chips, and when my daughter came with her own bag of chips, Gummy took some of those kind too. She talked nonsense, and we rolled with it, allowing her to choose whatever reality worked for her at the moment.

By that I mean we didn't correct her about where she was, or when, or who anyone was. She thought everyone there was from her church. She looked for the kids every time a song ended, leaning forward in the wheelchair.
     Are my kids down there? Who's watching them?

At one point something inside the big top tent jingled. It sounded like metal keys clanging. Gummy sat up straighter.
     My husband's here! Did you hear that?
     Is that the sound he makes?
     Yes. Didn't you ever notice that?

Throughout the entire concert she peppered her granddaughter with questions.
     Where is my husband?
     Who is that woman? I know her!
     Get her attention. I want to say hello.
We tried to avoid that. It's usually an aide from memory care she's already quizzed about how she knew her. The aides are mostly busy trying to keep tabs on other memory care patients without family there to help corral them. 

After the concert I pushed Gummy back through the grass and upstairs to memory care. 
     Why are we going in here?
     What's this place about?
     Where did the kids go?
     Where are we going?
     You're not dumping me here are you?
     Oh, this room. This is the room my husband bought. He put it in the basement for when we get company. Is he coming to get me?
   

This morning memory care called at the crack of morning to tell me Gummy again was heading for the ER. I hurried up, took a ten second shower, and headed out the door in damp clothes because who has time to dry off?

I had visions of Gummy standing on that hospital bed.

Before I even got to the hospital they called to say she could go back to memory care. That took less than an hour. That has got to be an ER world record.

Don't think I'm complaining. I know they did their job. They just did it quickly. This time Gummy hadn't fallen. She wasn't sundowning. This trip to the hospital had no system. Like the first time, it was all new and extra worrisome. She couldn't get out of bed and hurt. 

Once more I pushed her out in a wheelchair. Once more I had no idea how to cope with the foot pads. I helped her step around them, although I'm sure there's a way to move them. I got her into the passenger seat in her nightgown and socks. She didn't want breakfast, but thrilled to a sausage muffin and coffee. A lowly fast food drive-thru never looks so beautiful as when you've a carload of preschoolers or someone with dementia.

Back at memory care another wheelchair appeared. This time with someone who knew how to drive it. Gummy wasn't sure where we were or what was going on, but she walked right into her room and sat in her new chair. The kind physical therapy recommended for her. A Queen Anne style with arms she can use to get in and out of. 


Even before sundowning the emergency room already faded away. She spent the day doing what she's been doing her past year in memory care, pacing the floor to go home. It's a specter of her earlier coups, a nebulous Gummy, but oddly reassuring. 

Come evening I returned to Gummy's sundowning wraith with my bag of tricks. She spiraled back to that chair and watched with bewildered eyes as I tended her nails and rubbed lotions and told stories illustrated with pictures on my phone.

In the quiet night they lassoed her and tucked her into bed.
     My dad, she chuckled, is a ladies man even though he's married.
Naughty secrets whispered in the dark, true or not doesn't matter. She doesn't know my name or hers right now, it doesn't matter either. For a moment she's here and comfortable. That's all that matters because we have nothing else with this disease.
     Dream of sailboats, I say like I used to say to my little kids.
     Alright, she whispered back.
And for one brief shining moment in the dark, we both found peace down the rabbit hole. 







Friday, August 18, 2017

Calling Bullshit on Nazis—A Poet's Take

Love isn't all you need, it's all you have, S.R. Karfelt
S.R. Karfelt/The Glitter Globe



When you say white pride
what i hear
is
We used to be boss
& it looks cool
on old TV
let's have that back again
cause work and books is hard

I wanna be Super Mario boss
Bowser big

The only time I entertain
clan genetics
is when you
talk
white pride
I worry for
your damaged helix

Crusty chromosomes
DNR DNA

But let's never judge
your family for
the stupid you
found in that bag
of Doritos
when watching
black and white
TV

Mustached hate
Free-ride fate

When the dim bulb lit
illuminating only
empty crumbs and white
fingers
tipped in cheeto orange
That's all I got
Stupid 'splained
to hungry brains
white and all gone

Pigment deficient
Me-mine proficient

You missed the memo
long delayed
nothing special's
in that skin
without work
uncomfortable effort
on a level colorful
playing field

My precious
As if

If your momma forgot
to say
you can do hard
work
you can 
not
rise and whine

I'll have what she's having
Shitter's full, Clark

White means
Ancestors from colder climes
Dark means
Ancestors from warmer ones
Tell me now
Who's was smarter

Frankly my dear I don't give a damn
Toto I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore

If'n you can't 
do words or work
get outta the way
of rainbow muscle
that will

Nobody puts baby in the corner
I feel the need, the need for speed

Yes
we pay
for the sins of
our fathers
everyone does

Elementary my dear Watson
You're gonna need a bigger boat


It's not fair
life
too bad.
ask the rainbow


you have been weighed you have been measured
and you absolutely have been found
wanting
brave new world





If'n I was foaming at the mouth a tad when I wrote this, it probably doesn't show.


The above picture caught my eye during my travels earlier this summer. It hangs on a wall in a MONASTERY

Translated from Greek, the blurb below it reads: 
A German soldier is taken down in an unsuccessful attempt to
raise the swastika flag on the rocky Megali Agia precipice
in Meteora

Can't you just picture a monk using a Gandalf staff to sweep the legs out from under a Nazi? Until the picture I would've assumed that'd be metaphorical. Monk says, as if.

Bam that brother. Fist bump if you can feel me. 



quotes from lord of the rings, clueless, when harry met sally, christmas vacation, gone with the wind, wizard of oz, dirty dancing, jaws, top gun, sherlock holmes, and a knights tale







Monday, August 14, 2017

Caryatids at The Acropolis in Athens, Greece—Women Holding Up Their Little Bit of the World

Women Holding Up Their Little Bit of the World, S.R. Karfelt
Caryatid Porch at the Erechtheion, Acropolis
Athens, Greece


Caryatid. It's pronounced, "Carry-ah-did".

The definition of caryatid is a stone carving of a draped female figure, used as a pillar to support the entablature of a Greek or Greek-style building.

These ladies speak to me.
     Don't mind us, just a bunch of anonymous chicks holding all the shit together. Nothing to see here. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Hey, ladies. I'm crushing on you. You're functional and lovely, with strong legs. Bet the TSA would double check those big calves too. You're just looking good and keeping things from falling apart. I feel you. I've met your descendants. 

Those Greek women are pulling double plus shifts during tourist season. I see them there at seven in the morning, and still working at two a.m. too. They're cooking the food, making it look beautiful, serving it, cleaning it up. They're running a business, raising a family, and looking fine the whole time. The economy is sucking out loud all around them. But they're smiling, nay, they're laughing. 

Caryatid women are everywhere. They're working two jobs, working at places that need them but make no financial sense—but someone has to do it. So they do it. They don't complain. Wait. Sure they do. But no one listens, so it doesn't count. They'll just keep doing all the things, and holding up the world. 

Don't make them come over there. Because if they drop all this weight they're carrying, the whole world's gonna come crashing down. 


Women Holding Up Their Little Bit of the World
The light changes, and the colors of the stones seem to change with it.


Back at home writing books, blogs, and juggling Gummy/dementia stuff I sometimes feel like a Caryatid. This week Rescue Kitty dragged a full-grown rabbit through the cat door. I didn't know this for a few days, but I kept scrubbing everything in the workshop thinking Oh, man, cat food smells. 

It wasn't the cat food. Rescue Kitty had wedged him an out of the way spot. I thought it was a eagle when I spotted it, that's how big it was. The reason I thought it was an eagle is I thought those were feathers covering it. They weren't feathers. They were maggots. 

I immediately went after hubby.
     You need to clean a dead thing out of the workshop.
      It's your cat.
      It's not my cat!
      You feed it.
      It's your mom's cat! That makes it yours.
      It's your cat now.
This went on for a time. We argued over who had legal responsibility of the cat in our marriage. If feeding something denotes ownership, I own him and I guess the kids are mine too. 

In the end I relented. My friend said that makes me an amateur marital negotiator. Not true. I am, after all, caryatid strong. I submit the fact that I write novels, tend to Gummy, and have a chronically agitated neck as proof of my qualifications. The reason I gave in is there's a big problem with the kitchen drains that now he has to snake and clean and fix, in exchange for my body removing services. I can negotiate.

Yet when I went into the workshop with a Pirates of the Caribbean bandanna over my mouth and nose with a shovel in hand, I remembered that I'm a smart woman too. So I negotiated with the neighbor boys. They said they like to watch Bones. I said, "Let's make a deal." They cleaned all evidence of bunny death for a few dollars and a box of cookies. I think they'd have done it for free.

Back to the caryatids. The ones in the above pictures are at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. The Acropolis is a citadel above the city. It's a rise with cliffs, and on top of it are many ancient ruins like the Parthenon and the Erechtheion where you find the porch of the Caryatids.

The Acropolis was built at a time when Athena and Poseidon were part of Greek religion. There are temples and statues on top or along the walk up. 


S.R. Karfelt, Solo Travel
The Acropolis at night!


Above is a picture of the Acropolis at night. It's lit up and you can see it from all around Athens. Just below it on this side is the Acropolis Museum. It's my favorite museum. One of the things I love most about it is that inside it has the feel and even the look of the Acropolis. The bottom floor is glass and you can see a dig beneath it. Also there's a cafe on a large porch upstairs. You can sit outside and have a coffee and see the Acropolis during the day. 

The photo below is the Parthenon. Isn't it formidable? Imagine standing there thousands of years ago? No television. No internet. Just this impressive building to stir your imagination. Something about being on top the Acropolis that always strikes me, is that there are columns and ruins littered all over the place. Ruins are everywhere in Athens. But it's strange to see so many ancient treasures laying about and exposed to the elements. 



S.R. Karfelt, Greece, Solo Travel
The Parthenon has been under construction every time I've gone, but it doesn't detract from the magnificence at all!


All the buildings on the Acropolis are impressive ruins. They're unexpectedly large and imposing. It takes a while just to hike the Acropolis and get to the top. So many feet have walked over the marble paths for centuries, in some places it's as smooth and slippery as ice. Like here just at the entrance on top.


S.R. Karfelt, Solo Travel
No, seriously. 


Walking the Acropolis, S.R. Karfelt
Stairs. Yep. Not an optical illusion.
You can go around.
But where's the fun in that?


This was my second trip to the top, so I planned my sandals more wisely than last time. I ordered well over a dozen pair online and returned all but the Mephisto's and Teva's. The Teva's are what I wore for this hike. There was no slipping and now I'm a fan for life.

This time I also hiked up in the late afternoon to avoid the heat and
S.R. Karfelt, Solo Travel, Walking the Acropolis
Dionysus
the blinding sun. I took the entrance by the Theater of Dionysus. A ticket to the Acropolis is 20€. There are discounts for students and such, but it's worth it even if you have to pay full price. The Acropolis museum is just below the Acropolis, and it contains many of the artifacts that have been removed. It's worth a visit too, plus air-conditioning and blank journals with caryatids on the cover can be had there.


S.R. Karfelt, Greece, Solo Travel
The Theater of Dionysus at the base of the Acropolis
I like to walk up this side.


Journals are my weakness, and museum shops.
S.R. Karfelt, Solo Travel, Greece
My haul from the Acropolis Museum

I easily pass by all the souvenir shops surrounding the Acropolis, and they seem endless, but I buy several of these for writing, and a couple books at the Acropolis Museum Shop. They're not online yet. You and I both wish. Then I spend a month hauling all my loot around Greece. 

It's so worth it. What more could a solo traveler want?


A Greek salad and a Mythos in Plaka is pretty excellent too. 

S.R. Karfelt, Solo Travel, Greece
I wish I could share it with you.
The best tomatoes, cukes, onion, pepper, olive oil, oregano,
and a block of feta. That's it.

Now I want to go back. I love traveling Greece. The people are wonderful. The food is spectacular. And obviously the scenery is legendary. You in?











Thursday, August 10, 2017

Gummy, My Impatience, and The Beast Called Dementia


Dementia, Karfelt, Gummy, Nobody Told Me
S.R. Karfelt/The Glitter Globe


My husband spent this week in Asia.

I cleaned cupboards. And didn't see Gummy all week. I meant to.

Planned to.
Promised.
Didn't.

It hits me like that. A near paralyzing exhaustion.

A glance around my house can do it. It's still crammed with boxes and bags of Gummy's stuff.

Not that I can blame my lack of housekeeping entirely on anyone or anything else.

Somehow I find time to write novels.
And travel.
Blog.

There are nine suitcases in Gummy's room of my house.
Only one is hers.
Let's not bring up the other three in my bedroom.
Obviously we're not counting the one with my hubby in Taipei. 

The regular phone calls from Gummy's memory care, physical therapy, and guilt keep me still taking care of behind the scenes dementia business. Physical Therapy is new. It's to build strength because she keeps falling.

Lately she falls almost daily.
Out of bed.
Walking to the bathroom at night.
Most of the falls are more slides, down the wall, down the covers in bed to sit on the floor.
When the staff finds her and asks if she's hurt she likes to say, "Only my pride."

How can you not love this woman?

But how do we prevent it? Short of strapping her into a backpack I carry on my back, it's not entirely possible.

Believe me with each episode an entire team tries to trouble shoot the problem.

Oh, sure there are opinions and suggestions.

   Take her mattress off the frame.
   But then the bed's too low and she can't get up or down.
   And likely that will make her fall.
   Put up bed rails.
   She won't understand and will climb over them.
   And wind up falling that way. 
   Install a handle on the bed so she can pull herself up.
   We did. She never notices it, until you point it out and explain the purpose. And then she says,
     What? Nobody told me.

She needs a new chair in her room too. Hers is too low, though it's her favorite. She's stopped using it because she can't get in and out of it. Thus there's more bed sitting, and sliding out to the floor. 

The new chair is to be a Queen Anne style, higher, and with arm rests she can use to push herself up. It should recline if possible, but there can be no handles or buttons. It needs to be the kind you use your body to lean back in, or lean forward to bring it up.

The chair can't have buttons and handles to make it recline. Unless it comes with someone to explain them 24/7, they're new and will never be learned.

When I think about shopping for that chair I get a visual. That gets me cleaning another cupboard. In my mind's eye I can't even get Gummy across the parking lot and through the showroom to the chair section of the furniture store.

This can wait for my husband's return.

It's a practical thing. That's his jurisdiction. Gummy will zone out or wander around a furniture store. I don't see her providing useful feedback. She'll look at the prices and then for her purse, and stress. We do need to make sure it's her size, that she's comfortable in it, and observe whether or not it confuses her though.

The whole idea makes me remember taking my dog, the Golden Retriever that had daily seizures, to the Vet. Everything was a Hollywood production with him. Just getting him there, in my car without air-conditioning in the summer in Texas, was a script for black comedy. 

Once we got stuck behind a funeral for a busload of children who'd died in a horrific accident. It must have been 120° F in that car while we sat along the roadside for an hour. 

Not long after our wedding that dog came home tucked inside my husband's jacket. A most excellent surprise. I adored him for it, and the dog. My adoration might have leaned slightly in the dog's favor. He was smart and clever, but within months he began to have seizures, and every one destroyed a couple IQ points. 

I thought I'd have one with him while we sat on that dusty road.

It seemed a small thing while watching all those hearses pass by with tiny coffins inside. 

Personal pain shrinks when viewed from a global scale.

Perspective is invaluable. 

So I clean another closet. I'm ashamed of myself when I find paper products so old they crumble, or Sponge Bob party hats. My kids are out of college and onto their adult lives now.

Please understand I've been super busy the past fifteen years.

Running a business.
Writing those novels.
Traveling.
Combating chaos.

When I get to Gummy's old room of my house, I put good suitcases away, throw the broken ones away, and run to the store to return the brand new ones that broke on their first trip. Let me point out that Gummy's suitcase is from the 1950's and it still works perfectly. 

Once I've done everything else I can possibly do to avoid it, I stand starring at eight (8!) EIGHT cardboard boxes filled with photographs.

What the hell am I supposed to do with fifty years of Gummy's photos? 

The sight makes me glad my tens of thousands of photos are on my phone.

It's now been eight months since these have landed in my life, and I've been ignoring them. For months no one has been able to come stay at my house unless they know me well enough to understand why they have to sleep on the couch, and walk sideways to get around Gummy's things. 

Something needs to be done here.

But I don't know where to begin, and I don't know where to put them even after I've sorted them. 

I googled it.

What to do with old photographs?

The entire first page of hits were for Pinterest.

I'd rather self-tattoo them into my skin than Pinterest anything. 

While I was traveling earlier this summer, and wishing for time to stop so I could avoid reality longer, I came up with a plan. Every cupboard and closet in my house must be emptied. Everything but bare essentials must go. I will simplify my life. This includes my books. All of them. Well. Most of them. Okay. Many of them. Let's be real. Some.

Like cookbooks.

Who am I trying to kid there?

A day after my husband left, the dishwasher backed up and flooded part of the kitchen. I stood staring at that swamp in the morning. My life hack is not to dirty any more dishes. It's happened before so I know that Juan will engineer it in ten minutes. Sure I could call a plumber, but experience has taught me it'd be simpler and cheaper just to move instead of dealing with plumbing repairs.

That night I ordered a salad and Black Tie Mousse Cake from Olive Garden for takeaway. I ate it listening to music and sitting on the kitchen counter eyeballing the swamp until about midnight. Then I drained the swamp with a mop and a roll of paper towels.

After that I couldn't stop. I've gone cabinet to cabinet and room to room with my cleaning mission since. 

Today I'm finally in Gummy's room. Part of me wants to unload these pictures without looking. I know. That would be wrong. But I still haven't gotten over the boxes of effing teacups yet. 

Since I couldn't find a way to avoid this job, and believe me I've looked, today is the day. 

Let the sorting commence. 

We'll be sorting you all into different houses. (Mentally I'm approaching this like the first day of school at Hogwarts. Only instead of Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, they're going to other family members.)

If you're in the picture, it's yours.

Now that I've decided these aren't all staying at my house forever I'm prepared. 

Except with dementia you're never prepared. Sometimes you just like to think you are. In the boxes are hundreds of photographs of my kids, hundreds of Gummy's kids, hundreds of Gummy as a kid. I go slowly. These pictures are a tidal wave of memories of the things we've done with Gummy and Poppy. They're fill in the detail props of so many stories or events I'd only heard about.

Pictures from the scenes in the book I wrote about Gummy and me are here in living color.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, and I have all these thousands of pictures, I guess I'm rich.

The memories are priceless. I go slower than slow, stopping to snap photos of photos and send them to other people. I call other people to ask questions. 
   Is Gummy the tall one in the middle?



Yes! Gummy's in the middle!
I wouldn't be surprised if that dance costume is in her pile of clothes. She saved everything.


When we were moving around the country, I used to send photos to family. Gummy saved every one, and a good many of the envelopes they came in. Not to mention the negatives. Remember negatives? I'd forgotten them.

It's so easy to forget the past.

Cards and letters from my kids are in the boxes along with crafts and notes from all Gummy's and Poppy's grandchildren. It doesn't stop there. If you ever in the history of the world, sent them a photo of one of your kids, they kept it. All Christmas cards and school photos have been saved. 

Including one from a family I don't know that all wore antlers (as in real moose ones) in their Christmas picture. Dude. I saved that one.


This task has become surprisingly comforting. Mostly. Let us never speak of the box sprinkled with cat litter and the evidence of mice.

Yet I sorted it just the same. 

The photos moved through time. Poppy riding mules in Morocco. Standing on a tank. Marrying Gummy.



This kiss!

Then their parent's childhood photos.


This stuff is like hitting the writer lottery


What a testament to a wonderful life. I didn't cry once. How fortunate Gummy has been to have had all of this. She had enough, and she loved. That makes a happy life. 


Isn't Gummy's expression priceless?
BAM. She choose wisely!

To me Gummy figured out happiness a long time ago.

So I clean Gummy's room, making way for friends to come visit me again, making way for all the wonderful memories I can cram into my beautiful life—and I'm just glad, so effing glad I've known this woman and shared some of her wonderful life for a time. 

So when my daughter calls and says, "Hey, let's take Gummy out to dinner tonight." I say, "Sure. She'd like that." 

Gummy's not making memories anymore, but we are, and she's still part of ours.