Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunday visit and then a cookout

Folks, I have to tell you that my world feels upside down. I love the freedom but I miss my hubby. It is odd to sleep all night, go outside to putter in the flower bed, run to the post office. I have not had that freedom in a very long time. I actually feel embarrassed or ashamed to say that. I guess that is a normal reaction to giving up the caregiving and being on my own to come and go as I please. It would be much tougher if Elbert wasn't adjusting as well as he is.

And, Elbert.... ah, that Elbert. The eternal optimist, the forever happy, whistling guy, the roll with the punch sort of man that I married. I am so blessed that he has given me all these years of joy and love and now he is giving me peace and the ability to do what I need to do right now in my life. He's some sort of special person.

I went to see him yesterday after church. Daughter Marie and her grandson, Cane were with me. We had a good visit. I read him some jokes out of the Readers Digest and then I picked up a little book (can't remember the name of it right now) that has a quote on each page. He sat and read the entire thing aloud to us. Some quotes brought a chuckle out of him, some he said were so true. We took him back to the day room before we left so he wouldn't be alone.

Later in the afternoon Shirley (our birthday girl) called to invite us over for a cookout. They were making hobo packs and cooking them over hot coals in the yard. I sat there watching everyone enjoying the food and each other and was remembering the last time we had a hobo pack cookout at her house. Elbert had been with us and we had all had such a good time. Now we are in a new phase of our lives and making new memories. We won't forget the old ones but will add to them some special times in our lives now and in the future.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tuesday Changed Everything

This week has been a very difficult week for the Barton family. Elbert and I have been married 58 1/2 years. A long, long time. And, this week I moved him into Magnolia Manor, into the memory wing. Hard decision and a heart breaking one.

Daughter Susan (the baby of our family) flew down from New York and the night before the move she and her Dad sat at the dining room table looking at an album of pictures and stories about a trip the three of us made to Europe 18 years ago (when things were wonderful and we thought they always would be). The next morning (Tuesday) we left the house and headed for Smithfield. Here is Susan and Tammie (the sitter) helping Elbert out to the car.

But.... first.... we had lunch together to celebrate Shirley's birthday. Her birthday is Sunday and she wanted to share her birthday with her Dad.

A picture with our hands all joined in support and solidarity. Grandson Christopher (who is left handed and has to sit where he doesn't elbow his lunch neighbor) was at the end of the table and you about can't see him.
Elbert and me at lunch.
Susan feeding her Dad some of her lunch.
We left the restaurant and drove over to Magnolia Manor. All of us walked down the hall to his room and he went in, sat down in his rocking chair and was soon taking a nap. Guess lunch wore him out.
After a short nap we heard him singing an old 50s tune under his breath. Can't remember now what it was. We asked him how he liked the room and he said he liked it, it was a very nice room. He didn't seem stressed, seemed more at home than we imagined he would. Then it was time to leave. The director said she'd bring a gentleman down from the assisted living wing to talk to Elbert while we left so it wouldn't leave Elbert so alone. The man had been military and also a school teacher just like Elbert. So, we said our goodbyes.
The next morning (yesterday/Wednesday) the director called. She had called from her home back to Magnolia Manor two or three times during the night to check on her newest resident. And, she reported he had a good night, ate a big breakfast and was in exercise class when she called me.

Later in the day Susan wanted to go by and see her Dad before she left this morning early to go back to NY and her family. She and Shirley visited him for awhile. I elected not to go in with them as I felt three was a crowd and might be overwhelming to him. So, I sat in the lobby and ran into the head nurse who reported some great news. The head nurse said that this morning as she walked down the hall she saw him outside his room so she went to him, helped him put his shoes on and took him to breakfast. Later in the morning he went with the rest of the residents out into the courtyard where they talked, sang songs and had juice. She says he's learning his way around, has learned who are the talkers and who won't talk to him and he acts like he has been there months and months, not just two days.

That report just lifted a huge burden off my shoulders. He is happy, he is doing more than he would do for me. OH.... and when the girls went down to see him he was watching an old Clark Gable movie. He's already picked out a favorite chair to sit in when he goes into the common room where the group gathers for activities and tv watching. I am so thrilled that the transition is going so well and that is making my transition so much easier. He always was a sweetheart... he still is.

Monday, June 8, 2009


We had a very quiet weekend. Well, quiet for us although the weekend is over and things are back to normal (getting out of bed in the middle of the night, getting up early, dozing in his chair) but it was a nice weekend. We sat outside yesterday for awhile to enjoy the cool breeze.

Earlier in the day daughter Shirley had come by and we all went to have lunch at Dairy Queen. Elbert enjoyed that but was totally amazed at the 'crowd' in the place. He kept saying 'look at that line' or 'sure is noisy in here, isn't it?' He is more comfortable in his own chair in the peace of our sunroom. He sure did enjoy those chicken strips and fries, though.

I am faced with a ton of work. I had no idea so much would be involved in moving him to Magnolia Manor. Paperwork to fill out, a TB test to be done, getting forms to the dr. to fax to M.M., choices to make on what to take with him, all the laundry, name tags (although they say you don't need them I may do some) and preparing myself inside my head and my heart for the 22nd.

How do you mark things like eye glasses so that they won't get lost? What about shoes? I remember my Mom, after she had finished her meal, would take her false teeth out and wrap them in a napkin, lay it on the tray and away they went into the trash. We couldn't afford to replace them but a couple times and then that was over.

He loves having his watch but I am afraid that won't be possible. It would get lost or he'd take a shower with it on. So, I guess that stays home with me. And, a billfold.... no, I guess not.

Anyone with ideas please help me out here. I'd appreciate it. You girls have been my strength and support and I love you for it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Room, a Date

Yesterday Shirley got a call from Magnolia Manor that a room would be ready for Elbert on June 22nd. Wow, it's done. How do I feel? A bunch of emotions swirling around. Relief that a decision has been made for Elbert's best interest, good care ahead for him, sadness that our life in the same household will come to an end.

But, I am telling myself that the 'ship' he is on is going on deployment on June 22nd. You see, for 20 years of our married life it was a Navy life and I was very used to him being at sea for long periods of time. So, this is just a deployment. When he was on a real ship I couldn't go see him but with him on this 'ship' I can see him every day. I know, it's weird talking like that, thinking strange things but whatever it takes to get me through, hey, I'm all for it.

The next two weeks will be filled with a lot of work, going through things, getting clothes washed and ironed. Yes, I still iron!! I know we will take some personal items for him, like that picture of me and him taken just after we were married. He used to look at it and say, 'that's a good looking couple'. As he got worse, he'd often say it several times a day. Now, he is asking me who is that in the picture with him. 'Some good looking young lady you picked up somewhere' I say.This is the next transition that we have to make. I am at peace about it. I've done about all I can do and I just trust the Lord to look after the both of us.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Visit to Magnolia Manor

Martha, the director of Magnolia Manor, says she always likes to meet new prospective residents so Tuesday Shirley and I took Elbert over to meet Martha. It went well. Elbert was steady and walked more than he has walked in some time so we were pleased about that.

Martha asked Elbert several questions during our conversation and noticed that 'yes, he knows some things and no, he doesn't remember most things'. We then walked down to the memory unit and met some of the other people living there. The rooms are really nice, there is a big closet, a mahogany poster bed and people can bring in favorite furniture or decorations if they like. It was a far cry from the other places we had investigated.

After the little tour we all met in Martha's office along with the memory unit head of nurses. Again observations were being made as we talked. I know that this is a traumatic move for all of us to have to face. Having Elbert in one place and me in another seems so strange but I do know that his best interest is at stake here, as is mine.

Elbert did not grasp where we were or why we were there. He told Martha that she had a nice place (and that was after she asked him what he thought). But, generally he was very quiet and said nothing.

We went to lunch at Smithfield Bakery afterward. They have amazing food. We were joined by Shirley's best friend, Kate, so we had a nice time. By the time we had finished eating I could tell Elbert had about gotten to the end of his rope so we headed home. He slept the rest of the afternoon.

Martha gave no indication of when or if Elbert would have a room. So, we wait and wonder but I have a good feeling that things went well and one day soon I will get a call that there is a room. How will I react? No one knows, certainly not me. But, I do know that I cried after bedtime Tuesday night just remembering what we had seen and what lay ahead for us.