Thursday, June 9, 2011

Check Your Attitude

“Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes.”
-William James
Everybody has an attitude. Some brandish it like a weapon ready to wage battle with those of opposing attitudes or wills. Others may have a multitude of attitudes that can be switched at will depending on the situation at hand or the population being faced… thus the saying “Check your attitude at the door.” I don’t believe “attitude” is necessarily negative or bad or destructive, as when someone might say, “Watch out for someone he/she has an attitude.” To me this quote simply refers to our outlook on life.
For me I do have to be constantly checking my attitude, examining my emotional barometer and adjusting my outlook on life. I’ve been accused of being too optimistic, happy, or positive. Quotes like, “Aren’t you the little Miss Sunshine today.” Or “God who gave him the happy pill today.” Or simply, “Cheer up already!” (with a heavy dose of sarcasm). As if I may not have a firm grip on reality, who the hell really does? Yeah I know life can suck big time, and it just plain aint not fair. Life and those who live it can delight in kicking ya when you are down and know just… where … to … place that kick to wreak the most havoc. I’ve had to haul my ass out of the deepest pit of depression one claw at a time. I’ve survived suicide, and found that drugs don’t take the pain away just deaden the nerves. It aint pretty and I don’t deserve any awards or praise. We all have to face our demons and must do it in our own way.
But I can not afford to slip down that slippery slope again, it is much, much too easy to start with a pity party and end up alone at the bottom of a deep dark pit. I have to FACE the obstacles and all the chit life throws my way. The other day my love and I went for a walk, I had set the lock on the door but was still looking for my key when I stepped out to look at something she had pointed out. Before I knew it the door was shut with my only keys indoors. I know… where’s the spare key dummy. I knew my wife would panic if she knew the situation, there was a time this would have sent me in a tailspin of anger, frustration, rage, and then escape. But I can not afford to harbor such an attitude now. I knew that our neighbor sharing the other duplex might be able to let us into her side and there was a solution. Rather than mention the dilemma we simply continued on our walk, stayed out an about until I was fairly certain our neighbor was home and headed back.  All was well, crisis averted, and we managed a wonderful evening out and about town. The altering influence was my attitude.
So how often do you have to “check your attitude? How often do you judge others according to their attitude. I wish you a most excellent day that will not challenge your attitude too much. Enjoy the gift of the day.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Smooth Seas...

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”
-African Proverb
She awoke at 5 AM with terror in her eyes. Dawn was beginning to push the first light into the shuttered room. Panic raced her heart. Gazing around the dimly lit room her mind, still groggy from sleep, struggled to comprehend her surroundings. “Where?.... What the? … How did?... Why?” Too many questions crowded her mind and refused to solidify, surface through the muck of her utter confusion. She lay there, her breathing ragged, eyes darting everywhere desperate to recognize something. Where in the hell was she? Why couldn’t she remember how she got there? Sitting up on her elbows she turned to look at the man sleeping next to her. He stirred, turned to look at her and smiled. “Good morning my love.”
What is it that draws me out from a deep sleep on mornings like this when my love is fighting through her panic attacks? Can I somehow sense her panic? Feel the fear radiating from every pore of her body? This is the toll to be paid for the awesome time we often have when travelling to visit family and friends. During this particular trip we had such an awesome time the day before, visiting her sister, leisurely strolling through the King Tut Exhibit, imagining ourselves back in time with the Egyptian pharaohs, sipping cold drinks while the city sweltered around us.  I dread going to bed in a strange room, waiting for the mixed results after sleep has reset her brain. What will this damn disease erase, how will it reconfigure her memories? Then there is the dread, will she even remember me in the morning?
The day before on this particular trip, when she awoke, all was fine, there was no blank, terrified stare and the child-like frightened voice that kept whispering… ”Where AM I? Why don’t I remember how we got here?” It is always a crap shoot what the morning will bring when we travel. Oh dear sweet Creator I know that these trials and heartbreaks are part of life and will make me a stronger person but how many times can I repair this vessel? I am bailing as fast as these little ol arms can. A few storms will build my skills but how many hurricanes must I endure?
But then I chastise myself, “Quit your whining you wimp! Do you think you are the only one sailing on these seas? Grab the tiller, hoist that sail, full steam ahead. You’ve still got a passenger and your all she’s got… and visa versa.” So I swallow my own terror, frustration, and grief… paste on a smile and begin to slowly draw my beloved out of the dark pit of despair that often accompanies her confusion. Once it took me four hours to calm her when we were staying at our daughter’s house. I just have to remind myself it is worth it so she can be with those relatives and friends who can still elicit such joy and trigger deep rooted, fond memories. To hear her laugh, see her beam, sit back and listen to fragments of conversation that remind me of my beloved that I fell in love with those many years ago. Those are the smooth seas, the calm before the storm where I can rest and rejuvenate, readying for the next patch of rough seas ahead.
Wishing you smooth sailing this day and the skills and company to get you safely through those rough patches of water. Sail on!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Birth of a New Day

To those few new, brave followers who have come over to give me a look see thank you and I dedicate this entry to you. It can be tough to wake up every day as a caregiver for a loved one and maintain a positive attitude. Yet I truly believe the BIG A makes all the difference in how we approach life and how life approaches us. I can NOT afford to remain positive and hopeful about my day. My job is a demanding one that requires daily interactions with many people who will be reading and reacting to my mental state. Yes, I weep at my loss and rage against a world that seems so cruel and unfair at times. Yet in the end I must draw strength from my Creator and the gifts offered to me in each new day. And so I offer up this muse and observation in the hopes that you too will find joy and hope in this new day, despite whatever trials and challenges life throws your way. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy!

In the quiet pre-dawn light I emerge from my home to journey to work. I’ve decided to hoof it today; the 45-minute trek is such a relaxing, and soothing way to begin a hectic day. It is a luxury I rarely partake in these days as it leaves me a distance from my beloved if she should be in need. Plus I need to come home for lunch now to insure she will eat. Therefore, today I will walk both ways and pray all will be well at home. The streets are mostly deserted with the exception of some early risers taking their canine companions out for a stroll. A jogger bounces past being led by an energetic chocolate lab obviously enjoying the morning scents and sights. An elderly woman stops while her dog, that resembles a dust mop more than a dog, stops to carefully select a spot on a neighborhood lawn to fertilize. After the deposit is made the woman removes a plastic bag from her pocket and with gloved hands gingerly cleans up after her dog. Awesome citizenship madam, nothing worse than to find dog-doo on one’s lawn or stumble into a pile while looking the other way. A brief shower passed by overnight leaving a sheen to the streets and sidewalks along with a few puddles for me to practice my leaping. To accompany my stroll to work there are the encouraging tunes of songbirds, singing in the new day.

 As I continue on my way I witness the birth of a new day in a fiery display to the east. And so I have another shot at life, the slate is wiped clean and I must open this gift to appreciate all it has to offer… including the joy of friendship, new and old, near and far. So I give thanks for you my new-found friend, and wish you a most excellent gift of a day… may it bring a spark of joy, a ray of hope, and a hint of dreams realized.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Dear reader,

When you live with someone diagnosed with a terminal illness you will do anything, go anywhere to find a cure, ease the pain, keep that loved one comfortable and with you as long as humanly possible. How about when that terminal illness is incurable, and the march to death's door is a slow, and steady spiral down an unknown and darkened path?

For me that means doing whatever I can to cling to the hope that I/we can slow the progress and keep a loved one close and cognizant as long as possible. Certainly that means medication, vitamins, but also ... for me, dance and movement.

Research on neuroscience tells us that movement stimulates neural development and creates unique "motor memories" stored in different areas of the brain compared to other memories. In all the years my love and I have been together we have never been into dancing, of any sort, size, or type. In the times I tried to coax her out on the dance floor it was a struggle, that might end with one quick spin around the boards. Can't blame her as I was born with two left feet, complete lack of rhythm, and a propensity to dance ON the feet of my partner.

However, something has changed and now my beloved truly enjoys dancing. For me the drive to dance is fueled in part by watching her come alive when we hit the dance floor. She is more alert, more verbal, smiles and laughs, and for those few amazing hours when we let the music carry us away there is a glimpse of my old beloved come back to visit. I know in my heart of hearts this is no cure, and that bastard Alzheimer's will eventually sweep my beloved off the dance floor. However, until he dares to wrest her from my grasp we will dance our way through life... in the living room and the kitchen, down the street and along the riverbanks, and in the gin filled honky tonks and bars of this one horse town...  we will dance and swing, jiggle and jive so I can can keep my beloved alive.

I wrote this poem awhile ago after a particularly poignant dance session with our favorite local band, the Downtown Horns. I share it with you now in the hopes you will enjoy. As always thank you for stopping by and giving me a read.

I’m no Fred Astaire
You’re no Ginger Rogers.
Dancing with the Stars
Would give us a quick boot.
Simply put, I am me and you are you.
Wouldn’t have it any other way.

For we are not dancing for dollars
Nor seeking international fame
Our prize is much higher than a glittery-ball.
We dance for our lives.
Stumbling across the boards
To wrest the memories
From that bastard…

Out on the dance floor,
Among the drunks, the alcohol
The exuberant youth
We clutch to each other
Seeking sanctuary in a quiet corner
Or at the outer edges
Where jitterbugging lovers
Or whirling dervishes
Are less likely to sink our ship.

No matter the tempo…
Slow and sensual
Rock and roll
Rhythm and blues
You hold on tight
Gazing into my eyes so intensely
My head hurts.

And finally you do it…
Lean forward
To whisper sweetly in my ear,
“I love you Michael.”
Tenuously I reply
Hesitant to break the spell
“I love you too my darling.”
Then… those two words you utter
That send me soaring with the angels
“I know.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sometimes I can get so frustrated looking for the same things again and again. One night we were up until 1 AM looking for my beloved's lost book. Another night I ended up getting out of bed,dressing in my winter gear, and heading out through the subzero temps to look for her purse that had been lost in the car. I knew it was there, told her repeatedly it was there and would be ok... but seeing and holding the lost item is sometimes the only thing to comfort. Whenever I get frustrated I just have to remember what she has done for ME and I stop my fuming and thank the Creator. Here is a muse I scribbled about this topic.

Lost n Found Hide n Seek Hero 

It’s a game we play quite often
Several times a day
You will hide it
I will seek
You will lose it
So I can find
No item in the house
Is immune from this
Amazing vanishing act

Your glasses win the prize
For the most trips
Into the Twiight Zone.
They have cooled off
With the frozen yogurt
And ridden on a micro-merry-go round
I’ve found them beneath your pillow
And tucked within a dresser drawer
Wrapped in your underwear

Then there are your keys
That slip beneath the cushions
Fall into a shoe
Or slip into a potted plant
To take a little nap.
The can opener was not content
To hide in just one place
So it popped into a pan
That slipped into the stove

Every time I make a find
You cheer me and my success
“Oh thank you, thank you
You’re me hero!”
But it was you who first found me
When I was lost and hidden away
You brought me into the light
And loved me into the living
For you are MY
Lost and found, hide n seek hero.


The Rose

My love enjoys flowers and all things beautiful. I try to bring things home that she will enjoy looking at and will brighten her day. So one day I brought home a single rose...

The Rose
Brought you a rose
The other day.
You smiled
And giggled like a schoolgirl.
Stretching out a forefinger
Stroking each velvet petal
Your voice hushed:
“She’s so beautiful.
I will keep her forever.”

We secured a vase
Gave her water
Found the just right spot
On the table
Adjacent to your chair
Where you doze the day away
While Ellen dances across the screen
And Oprah fulfills dreams.

Found you weeping today
Eyes red and swollen
Shriveled petals carpeting your palm
“She’s gone!
I couldn’t fix her.”
On the table rests
A tangled mass of tape and petals.

Oh my rose
I see the petals
Of your life
Slowly slip away.
With all the tape and pills and prayers
I can’t fix you
God knows I’ve tried

Holding each other close
We weep
For the loss
We can not retrieve.

Perhaps next time
I’ll get you a cat.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Going Going COme Back

Going… Going… Come Back

You are leaving me.
I’ve known it for awhile
But closed my eyes to reality.
But why?
What did I do
To deserve such abandonment?

Don’t you remember all the good times
We stored away?
Like Glacier Park
When we swam in our tent
After three days of rain.
Or wandering the rocky coast of Maine
When I pointed to the surging ocean
To declare: “My love is as vast
And deep as the sea.”
With rolling eyes
A snickering laugh
You hit my arm
“You are SO full of it!”

What about the children
So devastated they rarely call
I was there when your water broke
In the cashier’s line at J.C. Penny.
We drove through the snow
While you counted contractions.
We danced in the moonlight
At our daughter’s wedding.

Can’t you stay a little longer?
Must you run blissfully
Into his clutches
So unaware how he steals
And distorts your most precious memories?
With every breath I take
A curse upon the name
Of the one who drew you away
Only to destroy you in the end.

You are leaving me
But I love you ever more
And will forever fight
To keep you by my side
And out of the clutches
Of that bastard…

Getting Started

Sometimes life compels us to act, respond, do something! My beloved is dying of Alzheimer's. She was diagnosed with Early Onset of Alzheimer's when she was only 55 years young. I am younger, still need to work, and have a very intense & demanding job. What to do? Move forward.

When referring to her husbands battle with Alzheimer's Nancy Reagan labeled it "The Long Goodbye." Not sure is she coined this phrase or borrowed it from another. Either way it fits quite well for me. So I shall aptly name this blog, "The Long Goodbye."

Much of what I share here will be poetry... for those who dislike this form of expression... oh well, I hope you will bear with me. I am hoping this blog will not only create a release for me but educate others on the bastard we call Alzheimer's. Thank you for reading my blog.