The difference between living and existing

04/28/2019 I’ve struggled with the thoughts rumbling in my brain, putting them down for others to read is difficult. I was recently back in the states visiting with my 98 year old Father. I’m so happy that I went, despite the fact he may not even remember I was there. He does not remember that I moved out of the country 6 years ago, he does not remember that my Mother, his wife of almost 70 years has passed away. He does not remember going flying with Bill in his plane, he does not remember time spent with the boys in the Outer Banks. The only thing he seems able to recall is WWII. Something he never spoke of when we were young.

My Dad was always a strong, intelligent hard working, well respected business man. He taught the 3 of us to be responsible, to be honest and kind and to always work hard. He (and Mom) taught us to be good parents, they led by example. To see him like this is so hard, my proud Father reduced to this man who doesn’t remember if he ate breakfast. What a horrid disease dementia is.

My trip there was uneventful, I got bumped to first class on the way to Houston.

Wine and apple pie..

I realized on the way to Houston that my AT&T sim card did not fit in my new phone which meant I had no internet when I arrived at Reagan International airport near DC, my final destination. This posed a problem because this was the first time I ever flew into there AND I had to find my way to my sisters house in the dark with no GPS. I was stressing. I tried to find somewhere to get my sim card cut at Houston but had no luck. They called my flight and had us waiting to board when someone (thank you whoever you are) noticed that the plane had a flat tire. We had to wait until they changed it. Fine with me, it would really suck to take off in a plane with a flat tire.

Thank you tire Gods.

Finally, @ 10:30PM we landed at DCA in Washington DC, well, really Arlington Va. My foot was throbbing in my always super comfy Skechers that I wear to travel. I could not find where I was to go to get the rental car and walked the length of the empty airport looking for someone to ask. Finally, I was told I had to go outside and get a bus to the rental facility. When I got there I was number 9 in line with 2 agents and it was 11 PM. I was a little stressed. When it was my turn I poured my heart out to the agent and he said he would fix me up with a car with a nav system in it for 11 million dollars more. At that point, after paying for insurance (because I no longer have insurance in the US) I didn’t care if it was 15 million dollars. I just wanted to get the hell out of there. I found the car in the deserted parking garage, the kind you see on movies that muggers and rapists lurk about in. I didn’t see any keys for the car but noticed a push button start, which didn’t work. I had no clue, I’ve never driven a key less car, remember, my car is 13 years old. I found an attendant who reached to the very front of the dash, over the lip, grabbed the key fob and told me; hold this in your hand, step on the brake and push the button. I’ll be damned, it started. Then I had to program the route to my sisters. Once I was on the road I was OK but still really stressed. I was driving on the poorly lit, riddled with potholes, George Washington Memorial Parkway, then I was on I 495 and I saw signs for Rte 200, which I know is a toll road. I’ve driven on it before and ended up being charged $45.00 each time because I don’t have one of those pass things. I pulled off the road and figured out how to set the GPS for no toll roads and was back on the highway again. I don’t know what time I made it to my sisters but I was frazzled.

FRED, my Ford Flex. I actually liked this car a lot. It reminds me of something Fred Flinstone and Barney would cruise around in, hence the name.

I went over to see Dad the next day. He was sleeping and I tried to wake him but he didn’t stir. I decided to go take care of my phone and buy a new sim card for it. Once I had that I felt a whole lot better. I realized that on my drive from the airport to my sisters, I couldn’t even call anyone if I needed to, it was like 1970 with no cell phones.

I had a foot doctor appointment at noon that day so I did a few things then went to see the podiatrist. The unusual thing was, my foot has been so much better since I went snorkeling a few times, I was barely limping. The Doc was very nice, read my list from the 5 previous orthopedic surgeons and their thoughts on my ailment. He said he wanted to take his own X-Rays, I said OK. He took the X-Rays and came back in to see me. His opinion was I had severe arthritis in my big toe. The one that was operated on Dec 3rd. He gave me 3 choices: a cortisone shot, orthopedics to wear in my shoes (flip flops 24/7) or surgery. I told him I would think about it and call him back. When I checked out they said my medicare number was not correct so I told them I would follow up on that.

I left there and went back to see Dad and decided to wake him up. He was so surprised to see me, he recognized me right away and sat up. His socks were tucked into the nightstand drawer, far be it for my Dad to ever throw anything on the floor. His shirt was hung up and his dress pants were over the chair. He got up and dressed and we went out to the main room where people congregate. He is on the top (3rd) floor in a memory care center. None of the residents can operate the elevator, for their own safety. They have a key pad by the elevators for the workers to use. There is a lady named Shirley who thinks it’s a phone and uses it to call her Mother every day. She also tries to get on the elevator to go downstairs and escape to freedom, so you need to tell her it is going up.

That afternoon they had a nice man come in to play some music. I recognized a few of the tunes, obviously Dad did not and quite loudly said, many times, “well, he’s trying but he’s not very good.” I could have crawled under a chair.

Dad and I sat for 3 hours in this room and as happy as I was to be with him, it was heart wrenching to see my strong intelligent Father sitting there wondering what was going on around him. I saw a younger man who seemed very with it, I assumed he was a visitor but he was a resident. There were a few couples where the one partner was mentally fine but their spouse was not. One couple in particular, I really admired the man who was there because of his wife. The sacrifices he made to be with her. I wondered if he would leave and move out if and when she passed. My sister said there are many people who she never sees anyone visiting and she would know as she is there almost daily. She and her husband Mark are my Father’s angels, and sometimes he is a very difficult man to deal with. They know it’s not him, it’s the disease, it was something I had to learn again. Despite the fact of knowing that, it still hurts.

When I got back to my sister’s I got online to the Medicare website, turns out I never got the “new” medicare card. I didn’t know because I’ve never used it. I called Medicare and of course, they could not give the number to me over the phone. I decided to go to the Medicare office that was close by and get the number. I waited almost 2 hours in the most confusingly numbered system I’ve ever experienced. When I finally got up to the window the girl said she could NOT give me a new Medicare card. I assured her that I knew that but could she give me the correct number pretty please? Yes, she could and did. I was in there so long the weather went from cool and sunny to cold and rainy. I think I may have gone shopping to ease my pain. The following morning I went back to the Dr and got a cortisone shot in my big toe. It didn’t hurt but by the next day I had developed a new pain in my foot and I had a hard time walking. Great. From bad to pretty darn good to a new kind of bad.

This was my first trip to TJ Maxx where I believe I set a world record for filling a cart the fastest. Don’t even ask me what I bought, I know there were dog toys and a pair of shoes. ONLY 1 PAIR OF SHOES THOUGH.

I went back there a few times with my sister. We share the same shopping skills, inherited, passed down from our Mother. Our wallets thank her.

My sweet adorable nephew’s wife came over to see me and she and Missy and I went to Target in Gaithersburg. O M G. I miss that store. I wanted one of everything. Missy, Sofie and I did a substantial amount of shopping, I was feeling good, I love to buy new stuff. We got back to Missy’s and Eric, Sofie’s hubs and my favorite (only but still favorite) nephew came over to see me. He made some kick ass guacamole and we had another amazing meal.

I’m sure I’m getting my days mixed up but I’m allowed to, I’m not on a schedule. My BFF Olivia lives in Bel Air, MD and we have not seen each other for too damn long. She took a sick day and met me at TJ MAXX in Columbia, MD. We did some shopping and then went to a fabulous place for lunch. We were debating going in when a cop walked by us and said, “have you eaten here?” We said no, he said, “try it, it’s fabulous”, so in we went. My BFF Olivia is a foodie, she lives to eat. I eat to live but we have found common ground and it works for us.

Everything was fresh, made to order right in front of you. It was delicious.

I made sure my nephew Eric and his wife knew about this place since they just bought a new home in Columbia.

I called Dad late one morning to see if he wanted to go to McDonald’s. He has always loved a plain cheeseburger with fries. He said he didn’t know what I was talking about. So I repeated myself. He started shouting that he didn’t know what I was saying and why was I bothering him with this. He didn’t know what I was talking about and didn’t want to go. I said, “Dad, why are you yelling at me?” He said you are talking crazy talk and he hung up on me. My brother in law heard the conversation and came out and said, give him an hour, he won’t remember a thing. I waited until after lunch and went over. Mark gave me a can of Coke for him and a straw. He did not remember talking to me and he guzzled that Coke down so fast. I got him to go out and walk around a little bit. Not for long though, he wanted to go nap. He came to Missy’s one night for spaghetti and meatballs. He ate a good meal but was ready to go home before we even ate.

 

Dad and I.

Missy, Dad and I. Sorry these are smaller, can’t make them any larger.

Dad taste testing the spaghetti to see if it’s done.

Missy had some cards made for him with photos of family and flowers and other things. Two cards of each photo and he tries to match the cards. He really enjoys playing it but can not, for the life of him, remember where the matching cards are.

Mark, Eric, Missy and I went out for dinner one evening to Cava. It looks very nondescript from the outside, it is in a strip mall, but once inside, OMG.

More bar seating but we were at the actual bar, of course we were.

My first ever Moscow Mule made with Vodka, Ginger Beer, crystallized ginger and lime juice. These things are dangerous.

Eric and his dad Mark. So much fun to hang out with them. I love that Eric wanted to spend time with me.

Me, Eric and Mark at Cava.

They serve Naan bread and some hot spicy dip and oil and tzatziki dip, we got chicken skewers, fries, grilled brussel sprouts and lamb sliders. I did not eat Mary’s Little Lamb. The rest was delicious.

Missy, Mark and I outside of Cava.

The next day my brother and his daughter Devon came down for Easter. They came a little early so they could see me too. We all went over to see Dad one afternoon. Missy and Devon found a puzzle so we helped Dad put it together in the dining room. He was very upset because we were in the dining room and people didn’t usually hang out in there.

Dad had a difficult time with the puzzle but Devon helped him.

Yep, I look like my Dad.

Dad and his kids.

PJ and Devon. She is such a happy girl, always smiling, unless PJ is making her do something she really doesn’t want to do, like turn off the computer. I’m so glad they came down and I got to see both of them.

We were sitting out on Missy’s deck when I got an alert from United saying they were expecting severe thunderstorms in the afternoon on the day I was leaving. I called Bill and he said to call them and reschedule. They put me on a 10:10 AM flight, which meant I had to leave at 7 to return the car and find my way. I went over to the memory care center at 4:20 that afternoon to say good bye to Dad. He was in bed and would not get up. I wanted him to go eat dinner but he said he wasn’t hungry. I gave up, didn’t want to upset him so I hugged him, kissed him good-bye and left with tears in my eyes. It sucks to leave, you don’t know if that’s going to be the last time you see him or not. He still doesn’t understand that I am not close and can’t pop over for lunch on a whim.

Missy took this of me on her deck.

Me, Missy and PJ

That night we all (minus Dad, he doesn’t do trips more than 10 minutes very well) went to Eric and Sofie’s new house for dinner. They just moved in a few weeks ago and were excited for us all to see it. It’s a great house, lots of room and a beautiful back yard. They made parmesan chicken and stuffed shells. Missy made a salad and I took wine. It was delicious.

Sofie has hit the ultimate coolness factor with me. She has a T-Rex sippy cup. I was in love.

Devon took this of Missy and I. The first one she took was hysterical, it was of her thumb. This is a picture off of a phone.

Eric, Sofie, PJ and Mark, waiting to dive into a fabulous meal.

Getting ready to dig in.

PJ, Devon, Sofie, Me, Eric and Mark.

We helped them clean up and then headed for home. I still had to pack. UGH. We sat around and talked for a short time after we got home but I had to get up early and get on the road so I said good night.

I was out the door at 7 AM, stopped to fill up the tank and then got lost in VA trying to return the rental car. I was pulled off the road cursing at the Nav system because it just stopped and I was clearly nowhere near the rental return. Just then a cop pulled up and asked me how I was. I was stressed and lost. He was so nice, he told me exactly where I needed to go, repeated it several times and said, don’t take this turn…I finally found it, dropped off the car and made my way to the airport. Once I was checked in I got something awful to eat (donuts) and went to my gate. My foot was hurting so much I could hardly walk. Once I got on the plane to Houston I was able to sit back and relax. I arrived in Houston much earlier than scheduled due to my flight change times. I was spending the night at the Marriott at the airport. You have to get your luggage then go down a level and catch the subterranean subway to the hotel. I made it to the hotel a few hours before check in, they said no problem. I got checked into my room, took my shoes off and opened my suitcase only to realize they had ruined my suitcase, the zipper pulls and the TSA lock were missing. Now that it was opened there was no way to close it. I called United and she told me to take it back to Terminal C and they would replace it for me. My foot hurt so bad I asked if there was anyway they could deliver it. She said no, but she had just been in Roatan on vacation and loved it. YAY. I emptied everything out of it and trudged back over to Terminal C. I spoke to a man at the United luggage desk. I expected it to be a lot more difficult than it was. He got some info then walked me over to these glass door closets filled with NEW suitcases. He asked if I wanted a hard or soft side, I said hard please. He gave me a brand new 28″ suitcase and sent me on my way. As I got on the subway to go back to the Marriott a girl said, “you must have come from somewhere warm.” I said, not really, I’m going home, I live on Roatan. She said, OMG, I just got back from there and am going again in August. Then she proceeded to pick my brain for the short 4 minute ride to the hotel. I got back to the room, re packed, took a bath, called room service and ordered a chicken ceasar and opened my box of wine.

Brand spanking new and I adore new suitcases for some odd reason.

Cracked open the box before I even got home!

I couldn’t figure out how to work the remote in the hotel room, (it had 300 buttons on it and was more than likely handled by very germ laden people) so I went to sleep. I was up by 7 and at the airport by 7:30 and checked in. 10 minutes later I was at my gate for the almost uneventful trip to Roatan. All was fine until we got ready to land and the pilot could not see the runway. He was way too high to even bring it in if he could see it. We flew over the ocean for awhile and he came in for another landing. This time I could see the runway, phew. I just wanted to be home. I was waiting for Bill when he walked up behind me. He had Max with him, once Max saw me he went crazy. He missed his momma. We came home and when I unpacked I realized the TSA agents stole my damn Skechers. I couldn’t wear them because my foot hurt so much, so I hid each in a separate travel cube. My cubes were open, clothes strewn all over and my shoes gone. Another call to United, they are taking care of it.

The dogs were so happy to see me and to get their new toys. When I got home my foot was way worse than it was when I left and I didn’t know what to do. I called the podiatrist in Maryland and he said it didn’t sound like a cortisone flare (I had googled that and it was not the issue), he suggested I see an ortho doc. Thing is, I’ve seen 5 and none of them helped me at all. Wonderfreakingful. I was talking to my friend about her results from seeing Mary Mason, a chiropractor from Austin TX who has a practice here. She suggested I go see her about my foot. So I did. My friend Steph and I went together, she is having neck/back issues. Dr Mary has a much different approach to chiropractic work than I am used to, I’ve seen chiropractors for 50 years. She worked on some bones behind my ears, the backs of my legs and my hips. She had me go out for a walk while she worked on Steph. Then she gave me another adjustment before I left. I was really sore (and still am) but I can walk without a limp. I’m going back to see her again tomorrow, hoping that one more treatment is all I will need.

Boys having a swim.

Lola getting comfy.

I wanted Dra Diana, the vet from Tegus who gave us the miracle cream for Max’s wounds, to check Max’s ear, he seems to be shaking his head a lot and we wanted to get both he and Highway tested for heartworm and erlichia. Max and Highway were in the back of the truck, Max sat there perfectly quiet and Highway howled the whole damn trip (25 min) to the vet. I was losing it to the point that Bill threatened to turn around or let me out. I had him drop me at the vet and he went to the plumbing store. After they were tested and Dra Diana tested the goop in Max’s ear, we were ready to go. Bill suggested I sit in the back with Max and allow Highway up front. UGH. Fine, whatever. Can you believe this idiot dog didn’t howl once on the way home? He must have called SHOTGUN in dog speak and I didn’t catch it. He was howling BECAUSE I WAS IN THE FRONT SEAT. He really pushes my buttons..

Highway, the howler. This dog is lucky he didn’t get thrown out of the car when we went to the vets.

Max was perfect, as usual.

I have company coming on Thursday and I can’t wait!! I haven’t seen Tammy since 2013, looking forward to catching up with her and showing her around the island. I have a zillion things to do so I should probably post this thing and get moving.

It’s hot and humid, my weather app says: OMG, It’s so hot and humid. Who the frak even needs clothes today. Forget clothes. It’s 9:45 AM and already 86 but feels like 97. Luckily, we’re up on the hill top so we have a nice strong breeze blowing through the house.

Happy Monday everyone!

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7 thoughts on “The difference between living and existing

  1. Oh Deb, my heart saddens for you. My parents
    are both gone for a while now but life is not the same since. I still have Bruce and Chad thank God although we dont see each other much. Life marches on everyone with their own things going on.spread out everywhere. But I do love reading your blog.Would love to start one myself but have no idea how to do that. I never did figure out haw to print that picture I took from back in the day. But good news Sue Velott and I have rekindled our froendship and get to spend time together. I hope your foot feels better soon.my whe body aches all the time. Getting old aint for sissies. Love you my friend.

  2. Meredith Morrow says:

    As always, your posts leave me both smiling and with tears. Your dad’s memory of only the war is very common, I understand. It was such an awful part of their lives yet this whole generation kept mute about it. The memories must be so overpowering. My tears came imagining Max seeing you upon your return. Both Tom and I love how excited our pups are when they see us. That was a nice suitcase you got! Your photos are heartwarming. Your dad is so lucky to have a loving family. Somewhere in the recesses, he knows that and remembers. Hugs.

  3. Timothy Selleck says:

    Another great narrative of your life! Always enjoyable to read your writings even though hearing of your father’s condition brings back memories of my father’s similar state dealing with Alzheimer’s. I like the Bette Davis quote that Dolli mentioned — “getting old ain’t for sissies.” Those photos become such valuable things, too. Thanks and keep on writing!

  4. rosemarie says:

    As usual your letter was interesting….

    My mother was 92 when she passed and hadn’t know me for years. She started slipping around the time Bernie & I moved to the island. My daughter took full responsibility for my mothers care in my absence. I can’t remember the last time my mother & I interacted, so the experiences you had with your father was of great interest to me.

    Glad you have found some relief for your foot. Hopefully it will continue to improve.

    Why would the person from TSA take your shoes?

    Guess you lucked out with the suitcase, smart of you to think to call the airlines, I more than likely would have gotten some gorilla tape and made it home that way.

    Take care,
    Rosemarie

  5. Love your letters, know what you are going thru, mu mom had both dementia and alzheimers, she lasted 5 years with it. BTW, my Santa mobile is a 2015 Flex, black over red, LOVE that car. It tows behind the motorhome with no adjustments needed, very comfortable. Best to you and Bill.

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