Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fire Near the Parents' Home

They say the fire has been put "to bed" until tomorrow. Tomorrow afternoon is going to be crunch time. Alicia is spending the night with the parents tonight. I'll go back down in the morning. Alicia and Scott have taken almost all the pictures off the wall. The parents' car is loaded with the usual things. Tomorrow, if it looks like the fire is getting closer, I'll get the old photos and things into the Durango. I also need to line up a truck and some people to help move the antiques out of the house to safety.

Evidently this was not to happen.

My mother's friend, Rosa, lies about a block or so from where the fire broke down the canyon. I felt like a jerk pulling up in the Hondo Post Office parking lot (like every other yahoo taking photos). I saw her house, and just called my mother, "Start praying for Rosa!". I gather her house is okay.

This evening The Pink Flamingo had a call about 8:30PM that all you know what was breaking lose. Thanks to Josie and James, I finally realized that it was the inferno. Scott, Alicia, and Sydney beat me down to the house. I knew Maggie was there, so I went on down to Hondo to see what was going on. (local radio report)

Somehow the fire managed to gut Alamo Canyon, where my parents have 2000 acres for sale. I guess it's a fire sale now! It started to cross the Rio Hondo (nothing in it right now - unfortunately) right near the Hondo School where they were evacuating everyone!

If you listen to the radio clip, you will learn that the fire line jump was a total shock. When I talked to Jennifer Myslivy, PIO, for the fire fighting team, this was not in the cards. I talked to her about an hour before this happened.

Earlier in the day, the third lightning strike fire merged, creating something like a 50,000+ acre monster. Hondo is about 5 miles or so from the parents' house. They are between the river and Hwy 70. The fire has not topped the ridge behind them, where they are. There is a nice rosy glow. As I left home, I saw where it had topped the ridge between San Patricio and Glencoe.

With luck, some time tomorrow, their yard will turn pink from slurry. One good thing is the parents' get their irrigation water (if there is any) tomorrow morning. If it can flood the orchard, that will help, even more.

We need some prayer -
Homes will be saved
And - for my parents

About midnight, after Alicia and Scott left, my father was starting to get "fuzzy" as I call it. He was tired. He did not quite focus on what was happening. If they lose the house, he will not survive. I don't know how well my mother will do. He's now 87, with a little asthma. The medication for Alzheimer's is working quite well, but I don't know how well he can handle a disaster. My poor mother is exhausted. She has a very serious heart condition. Neither one of them need to be outside.

Funny thing, the smoke seems to be worse here in town.

This is turning to a monster fire. All the media can focus on is Los Alamos. There are those who suspect all the good resources are up north, fighting that fire, because all the media is there. They are sending out messages from Los Alamos constantly - but ignoring what is going on here.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Why Do People Think Alzheimer's Is So Dirty?

APR and B-2 Day Before He Turned 87
I was talking to my mother today.  She has started telling people about my father's Alzheimer's Disease.  The more you talk about it, the more obvious it becomes that some people just look askew at it.  Like she said, "Why do people think it is almost dirty?"

They don't get that way about cancer.

We were on something of a playback loop this morning. 
Have the taxes been paid?
What is the checking account balance?
Did you pick up the mail?
What about the insurance?  (He remembers that Glen is our insurance agent).
What about the real estate taxes?
Have they been paid?
Did you pick up the mail?

We finally get through that - it takes a good 15 minutes.  Then it is all about the house in Hondo.  He needs to get it straight.  Is that where they are going to be living?  What about that other house in Ruidoso?  I tell him there was no other house, and yes, that is where they are going to be living.  That's good.  Hondo likes it there.

My mother said she is now telling him everything to do.  I made a smart remark that she always did, so what's new with that? 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I Swear the Cat Has His Paw in the Phone Book Under Pawn Shops!

From now on, everything is bittersweet.  I have had the very good fortune and abject misfortune to know that this is our last real Father's Day.  I sadly know what is coming and I have had the good fortune of being able to have a few very good hours on a day that will never really be - again.  We have no idea how far along APR will be next  year.  Because of this knowledge, we are profoundly blessed by the realization that this is it.
APR, Dustin, and B-2

My cousin, Linda, was not that fortunate on Mother's Day.  She had no idea that her mother, my mother's older sister, would not even make it another month.  I honestly don't know which is worse, knowing what is to come, or what Linda faced. 

Intellectually, I know it is never going to be as good as it was today.  We may get lucky.  The meds may work for awhile, but it is only "borrowed time" nothing more.

There was only one crises today.  The wind has been blowing so hard, it was creating havoc with the new swing.  APR went out and figured out how to keep it from being blown away, so that was a very good thing!

Many of the passages of our lives have been passed eating Chinese food.  Today was no exception.  We had lunch at the Great Wall.  The owners, Ryan, Nana, and Glenn are more like family that most members of our family!  I took APR his bag of cowboy books Cathy and were giving him.  He had some cards in the bag (from the cats).

We had nearly finished lunch when Glenn came in.  We talked for awhile.  My father told Glenn about Fred stealing his hearing aid.  I did not know that Fred had stolen his gold watch awhile back, hiding it in a cache in the garage!  So, my father tells Glenn that he noticed that Fred was learning how to read the phone book, and caught him with his paw on the page with the pawn shops!

That was so good!
Feeding Time at the Parents' Cat House - Fred at Top of Photo

He's a little foggy this evening, but then again it's called "Sundowning".  We went through the usual about location, where I am, where they are, and where he lives.  That's okay.  He knows it is Father's Day, and had a very good day.

Isn't that all that really matters?

Even though he had the directions about where he was living all mixed up, he knew exactly where Sierra Vista was.  I told him about the huge fire.  He knew where Hwy 92 was.  I described where it had begun on the Mexican side of the border.  He knew where the mountains were.  I told him the fire had crossed the road and was heading toward Hereford.  It was pushing toward the Mall and the base.  He mentioned that it was at least 15-20 miles from Tombstone.  He's just not sure about Lincoln County and Hondo. 

That's life, isn't it?

My mother said that she and Betty Mason were talking today after church.  Betty told her she did not understand why people were so ashamed of Alzheimer's and dementia. 

Why is that?

My mother is coming to grips with things.  She said when she finally decided to face what was going on and fully admit it, she is feeling better.   I think she's finally starting to sleep better. 

You face it.  You don't hide what is going on.  You don't hide the person you love.  It is like cancer.  You don't hide that. 

I feel sorry for people who won't allow themselves to accept that someone in their family has an illness that is eventually terminal.  It is not going to be pretty, but it is life.  My parents have friends and neighbors who are doing just this.  They are locking themselves away from the world. 

Maybe that is even worse than the blasted disease itself.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What? I Can't Hear a Thing on This Phone!

APR and Rumsfeld
Those who haven't seen APR in a week have noticed the difference.  Like a friend said, "He's almost his old self!"  Yea, right, complete with the cat stealing his remaining hearing aid.  Even though the meds are working, wonderfully, he can't hear a damn thing, which makes him sound like he has Alzheimer's!

This afternoon, about 3PM or so, a fast moving wild fire broke out in a forested subdivision about 2 miles from me.  We were going to meet at Cattle Baron for early dinner al la Seinfeld (an old episode).  By the time I went to the post office, and stopped at the laundry, they were announcing evacuations and highway closures.

I call the parents.  My father's words are in the regular text color.  Mine are in Red.

"Are you there yet?"
"Where are you?"
"Does your mother have time to get the car washed?"
"There is a fire..."
"She will be there in less than five minutes."
"There is a bad fire..."
"You are already there?  She said she would be there in about five minutes.  There is a fire?  Does your mother have time to get the car washed before you meet us?"  I hear him tell my mother I will be there in three minutes!

(I am not kidding - this was the conversation).

"They are starting to evacuate along 70.  You need to meet me at Jorges."
"Why are they evacuating?  Oh, there's a fire?  Is Champion's Run on fire?  Where are you?  We're getting the car washed!"
"May I please speak to my mother?"
"Why?  She's driving.  She's going to get the car washed and meet you for dinner.  Are you there yet?"
"There is a fire."
"What wire?"
"The fire is behind K-Bobs."
"We're meeting her at K-Bob's for dinner."
"They've evacuated K-Bobs.  That is where the fire is."
"What wire?  I thought we were going to Cattle Baron, but now we're going to K-Bobs.  Your mother doesn't like K-Bobs."

He finally gives the phone to my mother.  I explain about the possibility of highway closures and evacuations.  I told her where we needed to meet.  I hear my father, "Why?  What fire?  I don't see any fire?"

About 5 minutes later I have made my way through town.  By the time I reached Schoolhouse Park, "traffic" (if you can call it that) has begun to back up.  The smoke looks horrible, blowing toward the condos where I live.  I hear on the radio that they were evacuating down to the Track.  Jorges was being evacuated.  Walmart was being evacuated!

I call the parents.

My father answers.  "What's going on?"  (I swear he said that).  "Are you meeting us for dinner?"
"They're evacuating down to Walmart.  You need just to get through the "Y" and head home."
"Why?  We aren't having dinner?"
SJFR and Ronald Rumsfeld Reagan Reid
"There is a huge fire.  At least one home has burned."
"I don't see any fire.  Say, are you hungry?  Where are we going for dinner?  What?  What wire?  Where are you?"
"I'm being forced to turn.  There are a bunch of back roads..."
"Why are you on back roads?  Did you know there is a fire!  You said something about a fire, but the cat ate my hearing aid.  Where are you?  Are you being evacuated?"
"I need to talk to my mother."
"She's driving.  The traffic is terrible.  Why do  you need to talk to her?  What?  Where are we meeting you?  Who is being evacuated?  You said the church is on fire?"

Josie called then called.  I hung up on the parents.  I had to hang up on her and curse a little as I was instructed to turn off Suddreth.  I ended up driving around the Middle School, toward Sonic.  I call the parents, again...!

"Where are you?"
"We're near the health food store.  I can't  hear you at all."
"I told you to head to the Downs."
"Your mother wanted to get the car washed.  We're coming.  I can't hear you!"
"They are closing off the entrance to the hospital."
"Why, is the church on fire?  The fire hasn't spread to the Downs has it?  Why do you need to talk to your mother?"
"I need to tell her which road to take."
"She's going to the Downs."
"They have closed the roads."
"Yes, we're on the road.  Where are you?"

As I drove down on of the roads that led to the Sonic, I noticed that the fire appeared to be so close to the Presbyterian Church that it was going to go up in flames.  I did not have a camera to get a shot of one of the planes dropping slurry.   The phone rings.

"Where are you now?"
"I am trying to make my way home.  They are sending everything over to 70.  Take the road by the church."
"We're behind Walgreens.  What road do we take?  You said the church is on fire?  I can't hear you on this phone!"
"It looked like the Presbyterian church was on fire."
"The church is on fire?  It doesn't look like the fire is near it.  Where are you?  We're at Walgreens, all turned around."
"Tell my mother to go back up to the church and turn town 70."
"How can she?  She's lost.  Where are you?  I can't hear you at all."

Thank goodness Josie called so I could hang up on them.  I was talking to Josie when I drove into my condo.  She told me if I did not hear from them to tell my mother to pull over and she would come find them.  About that time they pulled up behind me in the parking lot where I live!

My mother was clutching the mail to her chest.  The wind was horrific.  My father had a box from Shadow (my seamstress) in his hands.  I asked them to leave everything in their car.  If I had to evacuate, quickly, then I would have something to wear.

I asked them to evacuate Rumsfeld.  If he were not here, and I needed to catch the cats, then it would be much easier.  We had to argue with my father over that, the package, and the mail.


Rumsfeld is quite happy being evacuated, playing with Sadie.  The fire is contained.  Unfortunately nine homes were burned.  There are a lot of people out there who need prayer, including a mama bear and a set of twins who were lost in the fire.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The New Meds May Be Working!

APR, Cathy, Dustin & The New Grill
On Saturday my father turned 87.  He had a good day.  About 35 people or so showed up for his party, which went quite well.  He gave tours of his little white elephant.  All in all, he had a great time.  By the end of the evening, Sadie was exhausted!

The new medication appears to be working!

He started taking it Monday evening.  By Thursday, I could see a difference.  He still gets fuzzy when he is tired, but I think there is a huge difference.  I've heard if it works, it works, and quick.  If it doesn't, then that's about it.  Pat Huckins calls it "borrowed time."

Cathy, Dustin, and Laura left yesterday.  They took a U-Haul with quite a bit of furniture.  My mother crashed after they left, and spent much of the afternoon sleeping.  APR called, told me he was going to start up his little white truck and take it to the orchard, and spend a couple hours watering his apple trees.  He did, evidently reading a cowboy book in the process.

For his birthday, besides the new BBQ and the swing, we gave him a bag of cowboy books.  He's been reading them, quickly.  The best part, today when I went down to take some Meow Mix on an errand of mercy, he discussed the topic of the book with me!

I am using the cowboy books as my measure of how far he is with this horrid disease.  As long as he is reading,  we know he's still himself.  I know it is only a matter of time before he won't be able to read.  It breaks my heart.

On Friday, when he fired up his new grill, I found myself thinking that this was his last new grill.  I have realized I cannot allow myself to think about this. 


Rumsfeld's Godmother Willa, Grabbed the Swing!

The New Swing Was Quite Popular

Glenn and Alicia

Not Bad for 87 Years Old!

Sadie and Rumsfeld Partying!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

From The Pink Flamingo

APR (left) and Paris W. Reidhead
This is being cross posted at The Pink Flamingo.

It has hit our family.

On Wednesday, we were given as definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease as one can get. So, now the battle begins. Ronald Reagan called it the long good-bye. Our family has decided not to look at it that way, and to fight it the way one would fight a "normal" dastardly illness. One of my mother's comments was, "We know how to fight this thing." Previously, we had been given the dreary diagnosis that my father had some form of a hardening of arteries in the brain, and there was no treatment at all. You know it is rough when you look at Alzheimer's as "oh, we can fight this."

One of the big arguments the past few days is telling him that he has the disease. Having survived melanoma, I'm of the right between the eyes school of medical disasters. Just give me the information and I'll do the rest. My mother has hesitated to talk to him about it.

This morning he told her he figured he had it. He told her he did not want to go into hiding, wanted to travel, and when he started drooling, he would then withdraw. Until then, he didn't care.

We have friends who are going through the same thing. The family has withdrawn, hiding the disease. That's bunk. It is a disease, like cancer. You don't hide a cancer patient. We're not hiding this. We're attacking it head on, literally.

My father has always wanted to see the Grand Canyon. I'm going to get something scheduled for fall, I hope. He wants to go to Memphis. I guess we're doing that.

I am going to ram the crossword puzzles down his throat. I told my mother, who has hesitated about getting iPhones for them, because she is afraid he can't work one, that they are getting one. It is about learning something new.

The Pink Flamingo is one of those weird people who is into alternative medicines. The minute we finally knew who the enemy was, I began researching what to do. I've found some fascinating things.
  1. My father is a diabetic. If a person is a diabetic, their chances of developing this monster increase by 65%.
  2. If one is a diabetic and consume more than 25 grams of fructose via fresh fruit, the odds are even worse. My parents live on fresh fruit to the point where that is one of their primary food sources.
  3. My father has always been into whole grains. Add that to the list of bad things to eat for the brain.
  4. My mother has relied on good nutrition - all the right things. By relying on the "right" things, she may have been dooming my father for years. (Limiting beef, eggs, lamb, etc)
  5. My father has never been into learning new tasks to keep the brain exercised.
By the time you add those factors, he has been a ticking time bomb. The reason I'm forced to go into "other factor" is there is not one single instance of this disease in his genealogy. I should know, I've taken his family - every branch of the tree - back at least 300 years. With the exception of the Martins and the Millers, I can go back to Edward III with just about every line.

It's not there.

In our family, it is not genetic.

If it is not genetic then we must consider chemical and nutritional. I'll meet with the pharmacist today and pick up the medication the neurologist has suggested. I've ordered vitamins for both he and my mother. We're going to start him mega-dosing B-12 ASAP. There are fascinating results with that, and with coconut oil. I suspect coconut oil is going to be, on of these days, one of the great "secret" cures for numerous ailments. There is a direct correlation to the rise of obesity in this country and the damning of coconut oil as bad for you.

From what I've reading, a diet to prevent Alzheimer's and to nurture the brain is in direct conflict with Michelle Obama's new "plate". Her dietary experts are now saying that a person should eat all the fruit and veggies one wishes, but to leave off all but complex carbs, grains, and only have good "protein". If what I am reading is any indication that there is a dietary connection to this horrible disease, then the Obama nutritional guidelines are going to doom this country.

We're putting my father on old fashioned foot. He's going to be eating more beef, lamb, and salmon. I told my mother to cut out most of the fruit. They don't do soy, so we get a break there. They're going to go go more European style breads, and ditch the whole grains. And, we're going to be pushing the eggs down him. He likes all of the above, so that helps.

I know, we're probably grasping at straws, but it's worth a try.

As for The Pink Flamingo Blog, it may not be updated as often. I'm dealing with my father and a 81 year old mother with a serious cardiac problem. I stay packed. I have an ER kit by the door. This is going to be my life for awhile. And no, I've not touched the book in months. I'll get to it when I can.

I've begun keeping a blog about what is going on with APR. I'm calling it The Pink Flamingo's Father. Please, feel free to read it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Don't Blame Me, I Have Alzheimer's

Cute Princess Sadie
Unless he is tired, which hits about 3PM or so, my father has been quite with it lately.  Yesterday he did something.  I remember telling my mother that he's going to start using Alzheimer's as an excuse, for things he knows perfectly well he is doing.

We picked Laura up at the airport in Roswell this morning, then went to Chillis for lunch. We were sitting there when APR asked if he need to get my mother a gift for his birthday.  He did not remember getting her anything for her birthday.  He did not.  She received a large gift for Christmas, which would last for a year's worth of gifts from him.

He told her that was good.  "Don't blame me for forgetting about your birthday, I have Alzheimer's!"

I looked at him.  "I suppose you are going to say the same thing when you forget your anniversary."

"That's not a bad idea."  So, he looks at my mother.  "Don't blame me for forgetting your anniversary.  I have Alzheimer's.   I'm not in my right mind."

We were heading to the airport to pick up Laura.  I went a different way, taking the bypass, which goes right into the airport, coming out near the former hanger where the alien bodies were allegedly taken.  On the way down to Roswell, he told me he would take that bypass.  I just needed to turn right.  He got that right.

There was a discussion about when I should make a left turn.  I argued a little with him - I'm not letting him get away with stuff because he has Alzheimer's.  Finally he admitted he'd never been that way, and he really can't remember because he has Alzheimer's.  I finally made a left turn.  "See, I told you that you would need to turn left."

He was right.

When he is rested, his mind is still working very well.  It is when he gets tired.  That bodes ill for his birthday party at the end of the week.  We need to get him rested.

We need to laugh as long as we can.  In a way I think he is relieved to know there is an answer as to why his brain isn't working right.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Just Don't Let Me Drool

APR and Steve's Duesenberg
The big discussion the past few days is been whether to tell APR or not.  I've been pushing that he needs to know what is going on.  My mother and sister are of the other school.

This morning he asked if he had Alzheimer's.  My mother told him that he did.  He said that was fine, he knew something was wrong.  He told her he was not going to withdraw from life until he started drooling. 

He said he did not want to hide, but to keep going places, seeing things, and doing things.  This has been my philosophy from the moment I knew what we were fighting. 

Now the war begins.

At least my mother has some peace abut things.  For the past week APR has been very lucid.  He even gave me directions to the a shop here in town.  He has a problem late in the evening - Sundowning - they call it. 

It's life.

We're treating it like the disease that it is, not a cultural stigma. 

Now, bring on the B-12

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Dreaded Diagnosis

APR and Steve Elliott in Tombstone
Ronald Reagan once called it the long goodby. 

It has begun for my father. 

Today my mother was given the definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease.

There is nothing that can be said.  There is some new medication we are going to try.  In two weeks we will meet with the neurologist to discuss what we can expect.

I feel so sorry for my mother.

She said he had a good day today.  He's been having good days.  She's been keeping him busy.  I think that is terribly important, to keep him busy and involved. 

He can still read, which is a good thing.  I ordered a batch of cowboy books for his birthday next week.  I hope it is not the last time I will get to order books for him.

Last Wednesday night my mother's oldest sister, Donna, went to be with the Lord.  The following evening she and my father were talking to my cousin, Linda, and her father, J-Roy.  On Friday, APR told me how sorry he felt for J-Roy, who just wasn't with it.  He mentioned how bad it must be to be losing one's thought process.

The punch line came in the next sentence when he asked if they were going to stay in the little house where they were, or go on home.

Somehow you must learn to laugh.