The past and the future do not exist at this moment.
What does exist is the present.
That is the secret.
El Loco Demented
A Personal and Humorous Blog
of My Descent into
featuring the insights, wit, humor, and observations of author and engineer
"Fasten your seatbelts; it's likely to be a bumpy ride!"
(With all proper acknowledgements and apologies to Bette Davis)
August 10, 2021
All Rights Reserved
My Dementia Blog
(Note: Some Readers may be viewing this in a Kindle Edition of this and one earlier website, which I plan on publishing shortly as the second Kindle book of two books, which together I am naming Completing My Journey. The first book was based on the earlier website and was published about a year or go as I write this. The contents on the websites are almost identical to the Kindle books, with a few corrections for spelling and syntax. )
This website was a continuation of yet another website I created at www.ellocopasa.com , in which I wanted to describe the process - from my standpoint - of encountering and dealing with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease over a period of time.
As I created and began to construct that website, I added a blog to describe in more detail my experience as the disease progressed. To my astonishment, the blog portion seemed to overtake the whole website, and became a bit unwieldy and cumbersome, so I thought creating a new website for only the blog portion would be easier to maintain and be more accessible to the public as well as my friends.
I found that the disease had progressed to such an extent that it was not as easy to do it as I had thought, but if you are reading this, I have succeeded in some minor way, and I intend to proceed using this website from now on and leave the previous website intact, at least for now.
And so, here is the previous blog, which I started on May 16, 2020, and then copied all content from then until January 1, 2021, and have started adding to (in this format) as I write this today on July 18, 2021. To reiterate, this is in chronological order, earliest to latest. There have been several iterations and versions of the site, and this is the most recent.
I believe that this will be the last website regarding my memory issues. Additions and updates will be noted above on this home page by insertion and updating of the current date at the time of publishing.
I have no idea how far I will get with this, as I am encountering more and more difficulties in everyday tasks. I am blessed with a kind and understanding wife, Liz Dunn, who knows how to appropriately kick my ass (verbally and metaphorically ) when I get “down in the dumps," which is greatly appreciated by me in hindsight, although not always at the time the kick is administered.
As this blog progresses, I assume I will be making mistakes in using the English language, as well as typing, and ask the Reader to understand. I thank God for the “spell check” feature in Microsoft Word, among other things for which I thank Him and/or Her. I apologize if I have left out any other describe of God that does not fit your specific cosmology. In my view, it is the same process expressed in different ways.
So, let us start. Much of the beginning section is lifted intact from the website www.ellocopasa.com , and is no longer shown there, so that I can rant and rave at length without exceeding the limit on the length of that website, should there be one.
Finally, as I proceed with this, various errors will undoubtedly creep in as the disease progresses, and I ask you to bear with me as my proof reading skills may decline. And as things go on, I care less and less about perfection, preferring to see the “big picture,” whatever the hell THAT means.
And today July 11, 2021, I am once again continuing this website with updates, since I have entered a new phase of dementia and wanted to document that in what I hope is a useful, interesting, occasionally funny, and revealing way.
This will likely wrap up my posting regarding this part of my life.
May 16, 2020
As I launch this effort, I have no idea how it will end, how it will be received, or if it is of any use at all to others.
I have surveyed much of the literature on dementia and Alzheimer's Disease (not the same, but I will use them interchangeably), and have chosen to use the term "dementia" since it is clearer in meaning and shorter in length, and even somewhat provocative.
I embarked on this to help me maintain my sanity and writing ability as long as possible, to make it accessible to others at no cost, and to contribute something to the understanding of this disease from the standpoint of the one having the experience.
I shall fully wield my weapons of humor, truth, provocation, and (hopefully) wry wit. I apologize if a bit of anger, despair, or fear creeps in occasionally, but after all, I am human, for the most part.
We shall see, or rather, YOU shall see, as without feedback I will not know.
I am having major computer problems due to two things:
a. Internet service in the prairie south of Santa Fe where we live is not akin to Silicon Valley by a long shot.
b. I do, after all, have dementia.
Also, typing is a chore now, and I have no idea how far down the road I will get. But it keeps me (relatively) sane, if not totally lucid.
I will use humor as much as possible, and if it offends you, too bad. It's my website, after all.
My experience so far is that it is progressing very rapidly, I am having increasing difficulty in seemingly simple chores, I have to redo much of what I do, I get easily frustrated, but rather than give up I'm proceeding to document the experience. The speed of the onset surprises me most of all; I thought it was a lengthy process. But then, I always did proceed quickly, and perhaps too rapidly for my own and others good.
I decided yesterday (as I write this) to give up my lifelong hobby of model railroading ( https://www.turquoiseline.com/ ) in order to create this website, both as therapy, and to add to the body of knowledge of this terrible and frustrating disease. Doing that is one of the greatest disappointments of my life -- so far. You can thank me later. It is one of the major turning points of my life.
Let's move on while I still have some sense of humor; I do hope to retain it as long as possible.
More entries will come as the muse makes them available, and I shall endeavor to change the date on the website cover to allow that to be easily seen.
June 3, 2020
Liz and I met with our doctor who specializes in memory issues, and who is building an excellent reputation as a patient-centered expert in dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. We agreed that adding Namenda to my current Aricept prescription would be advisable. Our half hour session was excellent, quite instructive, and we are lucky to have such a highly interactive physician to assist us through the coming difficult times.
We have challenges ahead, both Liz and myself, but are committed to do what is best for both of us, not just for me. I want to make this as easy on Liz as possible.
June 7, 2020
Plan of Action
This past week Liz and I met with our specialist physician in memory issues, a young woman (to me, at least) who is quite outgoing, intelligent, humorous, and forthright. (Kind of like me, he said with humor and humility.) We had a half hour session, and we brought her up to date on my "conditions" and how we were handling it. She is about half my age and twice as smart. In summary, we are growing more concerned about my short term memory, and adjusting our lives to work around that, with Liz taking on more responsibility then before, particularly in financial matters, which is a great blow to my fragile masculine ego. So I am learning patience and humility - albeit very slowly. It simply is what it is, and that is that. (I specialize in homilies to fend off the terror.)
However, there is peace in acceptance, along with a disquieting knowledge that life is changing, and will continue to do so. I simply try to be in the moment - a Herculean task for me - and let it go and enjoy what is.
I've have started today (as I write this) taking Namenda, the second of the three current prescription drugs available to slow down the process, so this is as good as it gets. Having said that, and I do joke endlessly as always, there is peace with acceptance. My primary concern is with Liz, and our relationship grows closer each day, and we both get value from the acceptance and forgiveness. (Interesting how those words keep popping up.)
In addition, I have had some experience using the online program Lumosity, with which I have had previous experience. It has excellent databases and a reputation to support its assertion that daily online practice will in fact increase mental acuity in a number of areas, including memory. I finish last in short term memory compared with the universe of others who take the program (it's worldwide, and provides excellent data on variations based on location and other factors). I find it fascinating, it appeals to my competitive instinct, and I do reasonably well in all areas except short term memory. Somehow I am not surprised.
I have also started using AARP's memory resources available to AARP members, and find that is provides a somewhat different approach compared to Lumosity, with a bit more data and information and many exercises. The two sources (Lumosity and AARP) seem to provide me with great opportunities for practice to improve (or slow down the onslaught of) memory issues. Each provides sufficient feedback to measure any sort of progress, or regress, that the user might desire. I recommend them both if you are a senior, whether experiencing memory issues or not.
I did later on give up on using Lumosity and the AARP program, for no particular reason other than I wanted to spend time doing other things. I suppose this could be called "throwing in the towel" to use some athletic jargon.
As Walter Cronkite used to say (most of you will remember him): "And that's the way it is."
July 8, 2020
I'm now beginning to become more aware of those episodes where I just can't recall something. Most of the time I'm aware of not remembering - if you can imagine such a thing - but more and more I'm not aware that I am not remembering anything. Put another way, and to greatly simplify, I'm losing my memory. Right now, it's minor, and Liz is there to remind me and to fall back upon if needed, but this is ominous, unexpected, and somewhat terrifying. I have only been officially "demented" (if you will) for about a year, and I somehow thought I might die at the age of 120 about the same time I forgot my name. It appears that it is happening faster.
There is no pain or any other difficulty, but not remembering - when one realizes that is happening - is sort of like being awash in an ocean with no land in sight, and trying to recall just how one swims, if that concept is even present.
At some point, I assume the self-consciousness about this disease will pass away, and I will be just a blob of protoplasm, albeit a living breathing one taking up space on the planet. And I do know I am in good company.
It could get very "interesting," but I doubt I will have the ability to describe it, or maybe I will. I'll keep on plugging away for a while, as it keeps me entertained and active.
In my earlier website www.myjourneytowardpeace.com , I mentioned a much earlier episode with an old and very dear friend, in which we discussed some experience which we both agreed was "interesting." He then smiled and said, yes, interesting can be a euphemism for "stark terror." We both laughed uproariously. The best I can do now is smile knowingly.
July 22, 2020
As we move together along this path, I notice more and more signs of memory loss; not debilitating, but concerning to me and to Liz. It's been about a year since the diagnosis. There is nothing to be done but accept and move forward, but I find I'm easily embarrassed by these lapses, and yet I've learned that the uncomfortable feeling is simply my ego telling me that I have some issues, which of course I should not have, and the only solution is to accept what is and "go with the flow."
It sounds so easy, yet is being experienced by me as quite difficult; this uncomfortable feeling that I am proceeding down a slippery slope that leads to total memory loss. It is a dark and foreboding experience.
I had a dramatic and unsettling experience this morning that I want to describe as best I can while the memory is fresh. While in a conversation at home with Liz, I was suddenly transported mentally and experientially into what I can only describe as an "alternate" universe. Nothing exceptional seemed to precipitate it, other than that Liz and I were in a conversation that required recalling the past and planning the future, as part of the process to decide what to do.
What happened during the next few minutes and lasting over an hour is that I lost all track of my past and my future, and could neither recall anything nor project any thing into the future. The experience was of my being absolutely alone in the universe, while seeing that I was still talking to Liz, and struggling to get my mind (always a supportive and responsive organ that theoretically supplies all the information needed to live life) to recall, plan, assess, think, observe, and all of that stuff that passes for "existence" in my world.
It was a space of nothing in the past, and nothing in the future. I was alone, stranded, struggling to "think" (whatever that is) and to format a plan of operation to get through the next minute, hour, day and forward through life. However, I did not exist, in the sense that there was no memory, no past, not sure, only the present. I was totally and utterly one, by my self, nothing had ever happened, nothing will ever happen. The great fear was this: What if this is how I will be the rest of my life?
Liz noticed something unusual, asked what was happening, and I did my best to get out some insufficient words, barely explaining the terror. It went on for a while, and I decided to take our dog Giordi for his usual walk, and found that all was recognizable, but there was no past or future. The fear that shook my very foundations was that I would always be like this, forever, and that my life as it had existed, and who I thought I was, was irretrievably gone, and I did not know who I was.
Now, many reading this, if they have done any amount of inner or spiritual work, might recognize this as an opportunity for enlightenment. I saw it as positive proof of my endarkenment, and a massive cognitive dissonance and a view into the dark pit of insanity, from which there would be no escape.
So I continued, returned to the house (Liz had left), and I looked at Giordi and wondered if he knew what was going on. I wasn't sure what had happened, but clearly expected that the news was not good, whatever it was or would be.
Without belaboring the episode, I did finally choose somehow the option of returning, and now, several hours later, can write about it rationally (whatever the hell THAT means).
That is as close to a religious or transcendental experience I have had, and I have had some humdingers in my time on the planet. The experience is still with me, as I sit here writing this. Stark terror and hopeless meaninglessness barely describes it, even now.
Liz and I have discussed in theory - some time in the future, when appropriate and agreed upon - to intervene in the process of degradation of my memory and terminate the decline. I have no idea of how I will know that it is time, but I have a strong sense that it will be obvious to both of us, and we will both have to agree, and find an appropriate plan that is easy and able to be executed with minimal collateral damage and concern for the impact on our friends and family and community.
Looking back at the previous paragraph, I am no longer sure that the solution outlined would be proper, appropriate, or even useful. Yet I always want to have that option available; I have built my life around the precept that I am in charge and responsible for my life, even if others see evidence of my irresponsibility. That fiction helps me get through the day.
I know far less now than I did when I got up this morning, but the opportunities for life have expanded many-fold, as opposed to being "shut off" which was my first fear.
Of course, I greatly fear that vast unknown, but expect (maybe "hope" is a better word) that the fear and terror will be easily handled at that time, appropriately, and it will be a peaceful rest I will enter. I am very clear that I do not want to be a "vegetable", unable to be aware of what is happening, and am simply guessing at what the experience will be; few have come back from behind that final curtain with verifiable and understandable reports on the experience.
Of course, this may just be my mind unhinged from reality and nothing of the sort will happen. But it will be "interesting" as we used to say. I'll endeavor to let the Reader know in some way that I have not yet figured out. Little mental exercises like this keep me humble, a state which is easier and easier to experience as time passes.
I recall now a time in my earlier life when I was sampling many of the various "growth" movements, and what I have just described can only be summarized by one word, or term, that was used in some of those therapies, movements, or courses, and that is "mind-fucking." It remains the appropriate word to this day.
Life is good, even if not always experienced as such. And that is another gem that I tucked away previously, and it is quite meaningful to me now.
July 30, 2020
I does appear that the end of civilization is rapidly approaching, as measured by the daily exhaustive coverage of all the horror, terror, insanity, and stupidity being publicly exhibited practically everywhere. Please note that this is being written in the summer of 2020. As I review and correct this in early 2021, it appears to be increasing.
(Thanks. I needed that. I am also serious.)
The rapid breakdown of civilized society, seemingly everywhere, leads me to think that the end is near, that I have lost all my perspective and humor, or that I have finally become irretrievably insane. It could be all of those.
What has happened to us? Where are the adults? What does it all mean? Are there no sane people left on the planet? I fear that perhaps I am the only one who sees where this is all going (psychologists will have a field day with that expressed thought).
My question to myself, as always, is what will be the ultimate result of the horrific violence and mob mentality exhibited by the mindless morons who love violence and seem to find their life's meaning in destruction? Did their mommies not love them? Was someone rude to them once? Are they "speaking truth to power" to bring back an old inane mob chant?
I do not know. I am now an old man (77, and never thought I would make it this far), think sometimes like a 20 year old all filled with rage and anger at how the world will not treat me the way I want to be treated (okay, some 30 year old children are like that, also, and even the occasional 77 year old).
Having been through similar although not identical experiences before, my comforting thought is that this is just another phase of life, and it will all turn out okay. To which my mind says: Bullshit! We as a nation have turned a corner into a very dark place, and this will not end well. But that's the grouchy old man whispering inside this childlike view that I maintain that it will all be okay, someday, maybe. Even I, the eternal optimist, do not believe that.
Okay, enough morbid ranting. Someone will come and save us all. My greatest fear is that he has come, and is being vilified and rejected, in favor of violence and chaos. Was it too much TV in their younger years, did their mommy not love them enough, or were they poisoned mentally, morally, and spiritually by the "system," whatever the hell THAT is?
Psychologists say that anger and depression are two sides of the same coin. I would like to leave my depression, but fear the result, while denying the possibility.
August 14, 2020
And So It Proceeds
As of now, I have seen a remarkable decline in my ability to recall specific memories that I know have existed before, but yet cannot easily remember details.
As an example, I will recall that something happened in the past, or some action was taken by me, yet I cannot recall details of that happening or event. It is as if there is a space in my memory cells or brain that used to be occupied by the memory of that specific event, and I am aware that something happened to me or I took some action, yet I cannot recall the details or specifics. It is similar to a computer that has a memory bank with addresses that I can get to, but there is no information in there. I know there SHOULD be something there, but there is not, and I cannot recall later what specifically was there. It is like entering an empty home with no furniture or color or form or content, yet part of me knows there was something there, but cannot be retrieved, and as far as my experience goes, is likely not to be able to be retrieved.
It is as if part of me is missing, which I would call "memory." It is quite stunning and fearsome, as if part of me is missing, and at this point, will likely not be retrieved. I am losing my Self, if by self I mean a memory of some information or an action I know I have taken, but it has no form. There is only an empty cave. I do not know if that cave will even remain as I continue to try to find its contents later on, or if that too will disappear. I fear the latter, and hope for the former.
This makes it difficult to plan, learn, work, play, or do anything that once gave me pleasure, or information, or insights, but I do know that I do not remember; at this point I know something is missing. It will be interesting to see if even that knowledge that something is missing is retained, or if that memory also goes. I am not yet frightened, still looking at it all as an academic exercise, but I suspect that this too will pass and I will be left with no memory of a missing memory, if you follow me.
This is highly uncharted territory for me, and writing about is is my only possible response in an effort to stem the terror that is beginning to present itself.
So why am I doing this exercise? Partially to provide some structure to a fearsome happening, partially because I am curious, and partially because I hope that some good will come of this for others. I am not necessarily an altruistic person, usually preferring to gain something from physical or existential pain, and it does seem as if the universe is not playing "fair" with me, as I would imagine most people would feel in this or other similar situation. However, as someone once said: "Life is not fair." That is one of the most useful phrases that I have ever heard uttered.
All this can be summarized by: "Why me, O Lord, why me?" And as the old all purpose answer comes, the response is "because you piss me off!" (That is an old sophomoric joke, among some of my friends from the very distant past. I love it since it is funny. I think.)
Another very irritating issue I am dealing with is that I type quite fast, and where I live outside of Santa Fe on the prairie, the internet bandwidth is nothing even close to what the civilized world expects daily, and I end up retyping almost all of everything I write a second time while waiting for the pixels to come flooding through the ether to allow my precious thoughts to be soaked up by the omnipresent Readers who are wondering what dementia is really like. At this point, early in the jokester's game, I am not impressed and do not recommend it. There are easier ways to go crazy.
I have no children, so this will likely be my legacy. Or possibly a miracle cure could happen next week. I am not counting on the second possibility, and took steps many years ago to forgo the first possibility.
August 18, 2020
Short Term Memory
Like most people, my short term memory has decreased as I have gotten older. Now, at 77, it seems to evaporate more and more each day. The problem presents itself as difficulty in sustaining a usable and cogent train of thought. It is as if the train leaves the station, starts rolling along, and suddenly the tracks that guide the flanged wheels in a particular direction suddenly disappear, and there my thought process is, not knowing where to go. When I am speaking, it is embarrassing, but less so when I am typing (I gave up on writing cursive a long time ago because it was too slow and I was too sloppy), and out here on the Santa Fe prairie, the internet speed is so slow that sometimes I take a short nap while waiting for the words to appear on my computer screen. All of this makes me appear, to me, as slow and dumb. Since appearance is everything, I suppose I actually am. And of course, I spend much time in denial to lessen the blow to my fragile ego.
Okay, enough complaints; at least I am living, not always as I had expected to be living, but I take what I can get and appreciate (almost) everything. Life is a far different experience without the ability to communicate, which is the understatement of all time.
August 20, 2020
I am amazed at how rapidly changes are coming. I notice day-to-day differences, quite fearsome and concerning, in activities I normally can breeze through, and now I'm finding that simple thinking, drawing lessons from events, making decisions, all are becoming difficult.
My fear is that there is no going back, and I will not be able to continue this blog, which is doubly difficult due to limited bandwidth out here on the prairie. I type way faster than the computer and speed will allow, to the extent that I forget where I was going with thoughts while I wait for the fonts to magically appear on the screen.
Liz has been wonderful through all this, very understanding, and likely freaked out by all the changes, while doing her best to manage all the many activities she has to do in order to keep up our seven acres of paradise, and I do what she says, but do not do it very well. I fear that I have no options other than ending it all, which is a coward's way out, and hopefully those thoughts will subside as this particular day goes on, and perhaps even extending into the coming year.
I see our society self-destructing, I see chaos, violence, and stupidity being shown daily throughout the country, and there seems to be no end. I no longer recognize our country. I think this is a classical description of "depression" and I do not recommend it. :-) ("Little humor there," as George Gobel used to say, which was a droll way to say there IS a little humor there, if you are open to it.) Almost every one reading this will not know who George Gobel was, or appreciate his sense of humor (he was an early 1950's very droll television comedian).
I have so much to do and say, and it does not appear to me that I can continue much longer.
As I write this, it occurred to me that this was the time, almost exactly sixty years ago, when my parents died precisely 30 days apart, and my life changed forever, from living a miserable existence in a tenement-like apartment in Louisville, to being swept through two funerals and moving eight blocks to the Speed Scientific School at the University in Louisville to start a new life with new friends, who remain that way to this day. That move saved my life. I do know that I will die living where I am now, which is as I prefer it. Even at seventy-seven years old, I had hoped for a bit more time being conscious, aware, and wielding my humor and wit and love a little bit longer. However, it has been a good run, as the old saying goes. It is not the result that I fear, but the transition.
August 24, 2020
Werner Erhard used to say "look at life as an opportunity rather than as a predicament," which is very near the top of my list of useful platitudes. I almost constantly throughout the day try to gain some useful information from the various incidents relating to my declining short term memory.
I am losing my memory agility quite noticeably, to me, almost on a weekly basis, sometimes faster. It's small, somewhat marginal, yet significant over weeks and certainly months. I am attempting to accelerate those things I want to do, those items I need to attend to, while experiencing the increasing ability I am gaining to appreciate the miracle of life and simple existence. I do not do much long range planning any more, preferring to do what is in front of me rather than beyond me. As always, I'm looking for the greatest payoff for effort expended. Once an engineer, always an engineer.
It's as if I am on a mad mission to correct my errors, accept all my faults, make amends when possible, and the hardest of all, to forgive myself for not meeting my expectations. I wonder what life would have been like had I started this, say, 70 years earlier. And then I think: Perhaps I did.
August 27, 2020
Off We Go!
As I prepare for the somewhat murky next steps, I am continuing to disassemble my best and last effort in my lifelong hobby of model railroading ( www.turquoiseline.com ). This presents itself as a major step, and acknowledgement that it is ending an activity that provided great challenge and joy over the years, and tearing it out and putting it in the dumpster is a very Zen-like process for me, in that it is another step in accepting that all things must pass and we must move ahead into an uncertain future. It is the hardest and at the same time the most useful of all these difficult steps, as I know it ultimately leads to peace. (I hope!)
I will parenthetically add at this point that the twenty cubic yard dumpster containing my past in the form of a model railroad was transported our home in the early part of September, all supervised by me, as always. I took a photo of it leaving, and had the thought: There goes my childhood. It was not a somber moment, but very useful to me.
September 1, 2020
I have noticed over the past week and especially the last few days a rapid progression in the dementia, as evidenced by difficulties in short term memory (long term memory is still intact), which results in, among other things, not following a train of thought in an inner conversation and even in conversations with others. I will simply forget what the subject was that I was speaking or thinking about just prior to the episode. This does not yet quite present itself in conversation as much as in memory, but it is quite disconcerting. I also notice I get angrier sooner than I would have otherwise when I realize that I cannot easily follow a train of thought or a conversation.
This is quite surprising to me since my earlier research seemed to indicate this was a longer process. However, I started this "blog", if you will, about three and one-half months ago, and now - to myself - it seems that is quite rapid. My initial diagnosis was about a year ago as I write this. I try not to agonize over this, and simply take what comes, but the terror is that I now realize that my life, at least as I had experienced it, is over for all intents and purposes. That is, if I cannot follow a conversation or train of thought easily, then how am I to communicate, and if I cannot communicate, then what are the implications of living that way? And I do not like the answers that come to me.
However, I'll continue this writing until I find that I cannot, or will not, or something else interferes with my plan.
I at this point am laughing to myself about the idealized epitome of human awareness - at least in the countercultural seventies, when I was quite excited about a new way of living and perceiving and being, based around being "in the moment." I now find that always being in the moment has disadvantages, as it is almost impossible to live entirely in the moment, due to certain physical realities of life. And I understand the intellectual argument that one can do both, but I have not been successful at completely integrating those two concepts into my own personal reality (ignoring the philosophical concept of the definition of reality and the relationship with personal perception).
Yet, I seem to write better than I speak (or is it the other way around?) and at this point such sophistry does not amuse me. I will further say that I find many more things humorous than I ever did, and seem to be mostly laughing as I find out what this journey is teaching me. So far, at least.
It may also be true that I am simply a blowhard and like to write and read my own stuff. Most writers like their stuff, otherwise, why do it? How does one really know? One way is if you are speaking to others, and they keep looking at the door, or checking the time, or nervously titter, you might be a blowhard. I have significant experiences in all those areas, and the only things between me and suicide are a sense of humor, a profound respect for the sanctity of life, and a failing memory.
Finally, for this particular moment, I find that I no longer take my Self seriously, and that knowledge makes my life far easier to live, and much more fun to be with other people, at least until they nervously look at each other, roll their eyes, and check their watch or smart phone.
September 6, 2020
I quite often think I am done or have completed something, and later realize that I in fact am not finished, and there is more to say or do. This has been consistent throughout my life and remains so to this day - so far.
What I have realized this week is that the dementia is advancing rapidly, in that my short term memory loss is getting worse, making it difficult to do those things that I used to do quite easily almost without thought, and now I have to frequently pause to remember my train of thought in order to proceed. So I stop, start, stop, start, and wonder in between those words where you see the commas. It's almost as if there are two of me inside, one quite engaged and intelligent, the other a lazy slug of sorts who cannot remember which solar system he inhabits. As if it mattered, of course, so when that thought comes, I do realize I haven't totally lost it, only part of it. It's still not good news to me.
And the slowness of the internet south of Santa Fe is appropriate only for "hunt and peckers," or smart phones with dumb games on them. There is no alternative, and I suppose I could do something else, except nothing else appeals to me, since my writing about my dementia has become vehicle for that last spurt of energy that I shall hurl into this world with the hopes that God will let me into His heaven ( I believe in God only if I am allowed to define Him/Her). Then I remember I have no cosmic or religious beliefs in those particular areas (yet a substantial amount in other areas), and perhaps I should just play Canasta the rest of my life. If you do not know what Canasta is, you should promptly shut down this website and do something far more interesting.
Okay, enough drivel for today. I am approaching the end, feel great, but do not want to continue to plod this course much further, in all senses of that phrase. However, this writing is what is keeping me alive at this point, as it gives my life purpose (other than torturing the Reader endlessly) and another reason to get up each morning other than to feed my dog Giordi and cat Bella, and see Liz once again, and that lets me see myself as altruistic instead of merely taking up space on the planet and whining and complaining through my laptop computer.
And I know enough to know that at some point, each human on the planet inevitably wakes up and asks him/her self that acid question: "What's The Point?" You will know that has happened when these postings permanently stop. And so as General Douglas MacArthur famously said in WWII: "I Shall Return."
I think. At least, I think I think.
September 10, 2020
I am now beginning to notice significant difficulties with short term memory, which seems to be gradually increasing. My long term memory is intact, my ability to laugh at the absurdity of writing about this - which is almost impossible to describe, yet I keep trying - remains the same, but there is seemingly a constant physical sensation of fullness in my brain, which is either new, or not noticed before. No pain, just a full feeling as if someone snatched the memory cells from my brain but left everything else mostly intact.
My greatest fear now is that at some point I will no longer be able to write, and I fear that period of adjustment (similar to how I have mostly feared change in the past), as that great unknown is scary. But so far I choose life over alternatives, and that is a good thing.
My primary palliative in my life has been alcoholic spirits, beginning at age 15. I further noticed this morning while going through my increasingly complex assortment of medicine and pills that many labels say "Avoid Alcohol." Funny how I never noticed those before. Am I subconsciously attempting to accelerate the final result?
I now recognize that there may be other methods to deal with the changes, particularly since my body seems to be rebelling, and so I somewhat fear the transition (likely the understatement of all time). All I can do is accept what is, and play with alternate possibilities, and keep an open mind as long as I can. At some point this will change, and I am sure of that, if nothing else.
I wrote what I thought was the final episode of this work below about a week ago. Since that time I have added and changed much of what I have written. I am keeping this following paragraph intact as a reminder of the power of life, and as a not-so-gentle pinprick to my ego and sense of self-importance.
September 20, 2020
Not Finished Yet
I keep thinking there is nothing to add to what I have already written, yet bizarre and incredulous thoughts keep popping into my fertile brain. (I will admit that the word "fertile" can be expanded into the word "fertilizer," which possibly will be viewed by some Readers as the inspiration for my writing.) I neither admit nor deny this possibility. I only know that these writings of mine at this point in my journey seem to be appropriate for my well-being and sanity.
Within the last few weeks I have completely demolished my model railroad, representing the culmination of a lifetime preoccupation with railroads. Further information is available at www.turquoiseline.com . Within that website is a photo of the interior of the building which I had constructed about three years ago to house my final and best efforts at creating a miniature railroad. It has now, as of today, been converted to a "real" studio, complete with all the necessary items to continue to write and avail the world of my penetrating insights into life, love, morality, politics, and humor. It is the ultimate "man cave" in all senses of the word, helped along considerably by my wife Liz Dunn to create a space where she will not constantly bothered by my Neanderthal opinions of life, love, and the coming apocalypse, with the fervent hope that my dog Giordi will be able to make sense of my meandering and prolific demented brain.
So from my point of view, at this point, it's all good. As astounding and perhaps useful insights occur to me, I will attempt to continue these writings as I deem useful to share. Or they just may be my warped opinion. Or both.
September 21, 2020
On The Other Hand
It did not take long for the Muse to once again whisper in my ear (although this time the dear thing was shouting at me in a very loud voice). The whisper, although thunderous and wanting to be heard and acted upon, said something like: "It is time." And nothing else.
It was not in those exact words, but did have that meaning. So while pondering this, some events occurred which have caused me to question what I am doing, why am I doing it, to what end, and is this what I want and what is best for that whiny little brat in me that keeps second guessing my approach to life. Sometimes I listen and learn, sometimes I pull away and do not learn, and some times I just want to give up.
My life is both opening up to possibilities, good and bad, and getting more constricted and restricted by the necessity to deal with the physical realities of dementia and forgetfulness. I am noticing that I am not remembering well, which causes me - and particularly my wife Liz - great consternation, often resulting in anger and distress on both our parts. I know that I should be bigger than the petulant little child I sometimes can be, yet the will to do that is not as strong as it used to be. I have fantasies of "the great escape" which takes many forms ( I can very easily fantasize about "the way out" without having any real motivation or intention to take that next step, whatever it may be, just for the record.)
The worst thing, for me, is that I am dependent on others, for the first time in sixty years or so. That means, to me, no choice, no opportunity to do what I think is best (whether or not it really is best does not actually matter), and I now finally realize my ability to easily choose my course of action is understandably restricted. For me, that is the worst of everything. I am no longer my own person, not who I was, and not what I wanted to be.
It is said that acceptance is the path to peace. I am finding that acceptance very hard, for I have to put myself in the care and judgement of others, which is the first time in sixty years that has happened. And I find it a soul-less, stark, lonely place, devoid of meaning.
Now, after that, I will assure the Reader (especially any who know me) that I am not (yet) suicidal, and I'm only playing with concepts, not plans. I have no philosophical problem with suicide, but I greatly fear that I might miss out on something important that would be revealed by continuing to live. I do believe that, and You will be among those to know should I change my mind. (For those reading this who do not understand my dark humor, I ask that you immediately put down the telephone.) I wouldn't miss the future for the world!
September 27, 2020
A Simple Misunderstanding
Today my wife Liz and I were working around the house and she asked me to do a few things, as is usual. We have a small dry-erase white board on the refrigerator to help me remember my assigned duties, which helps immensely, as somehow I tend to forget what she assigns more easily than I forget other tasks, for some unknown reasons.
The note she put up said something like "clean out from the hall closet the things you will no longer need and we can donate them to Goodwill or some other organization." So of course I was distraught because this was asked due to my impending demise from the effects of my dementia, which surely was coming, but obviously a bit faster than I had planned.
I thought it was a bit premature, but decided to soldier on, with a stiff upper lip, and agree to start clearing out my things, although I had planned on being around a bit longer than Liz had planned. As the rage and petulance built, I wondered if she knew something I did not, but thought this was normal as it would be important at some point to get my "stuff" disposed of so Liz could continue with her life (after the proper grieving period, of course), and I thought it would be proper and brave of me to do that.
Inwardly, I was seething, distraught, angry, hurt, and all those things men can be when confronted with the idea of their impending death. However, I thought I should set an example to others of how to properly do this, and decided to do what she asked (thinking "don't worry about me, I'll be okay and just get out of your way soon enough so you can move on into the rest of your life" and so on). Amazingly, I did all that in record time, trying not to feel hurt, as only petulant misunderstood poor helpless males can act, while feeling very sorry for myself.
Harrumph, I thought! Damned if I'll show any emotion!
It turned out that later on I found out that she had said that in order to make space for new winter clothes for me (I have lost a lot of weight, bringing me down to what physicians refer to as "normal" weight), which somehow failed to register in my enfeebled brain, leading to the greatest misunderstanding of all time. I somehow believed the worst of the interaction, rather than the best. We talked about it, all was well, we laughed, and I went to my studio with my tail between my legs to contemplate yet another newly found mystery of life.
Life is funny sometimes, in between the tragedies.
September 28, 2020
Things seem to be moving along rapidly, to my surprise and consternation.
Things have felt a bit strange today, starting with my trip to Sam's Club for some shopping, which I have done for a while (my wife Liz often does that, sometimes with me, most often without me now, as I often misbehave by saying friendly and weird things to total strangers, as I have all my life). As I approached the part of the main road in Santa Fe where Sam's is located, I did not find what I expected. I thought I had miscalculated and I would shortly come upon the turnoff. However, I did not see it, and then I came upon a cross street, which I then recognized as the place where Sam's is located. Well, I thought, only a temporary lapse, obviously.
I went about my shopping duties (it has been a month of more - maybe two - since I have been there) and I found I could not recall where certain items were (Sam's is notorious for not marking where items are, in my demented opinion) and I struggled to find certain items, to no avail. I began to panic, could not find any employees to help me, and over the next hour wandered around aimlessly hoping to find what I was seeking. As the store began to fill up with customers and employees, I began asking for help (extremely difficult for a middle aged male who was able in his youth to navigate almost around the world while at sea), and all fell into place. I was quite distressed, and thought that this is the first major sign of a significant turning point in my descent into dementia.
Later on I took my dog Giordi for a short walk, and it seemed as if it were a different place that I had seen the hundreds of previous times along that route. I knew where I was, but the experience and character of the walk was different. As I began to ponder this unusual circumstance, it occurred to me that this must be what Alzheimer's Disease is like. No pain, no confusion, but an awareness of a difference in the experience, texture, and awareness of new surroundings that I was quite used to.
I was at peace with it, and realized this was what the descent would be like, and would probably deepen as times passes. I reflected on a relatively recent Clint Eastwood movie, which I believe was entitled "The Mule" where he uttered the now immortal phrase "don't let the old man in" when referring to aging and senility. The old man had silently slipped in the back door, while I wasn't looking.
So, it actually is happening. It is not terribly unpleasant, but quite disturbing, as the experience I am having contradicts my belief system about my invincibility and invulnerability. And I was reminded of an old phrase we used as a joke when we were younger: "Life is tough, then you die." I had always hoped to hold that as a joke and not a conclusion.
My immediate thought, and one that has been with me for a while, is that I will cheat the Grim Reaper. I have not yet figured out how to do that. I intend to if at all possible. I am not however very hopeful.
October 1, 2020
Wrapping Things Up
At the request of Liz, and with my knowledge and acceptance that it is the right and necessary thing to do, I have been sorting through my personal possessions (clothing, momentos, etc.) and deciding which to donate to Goodwill, what can go to others, and what goes in the trash. I have been in situations where this has not been done in advance of the impending death (flash: we all face impending death, the only difference being how much times passes before that event and how prepared we are), and it is quite difficult for those remaining.
So I have gone through my personal items (my model railroad has been gone over a month, and I write this from the studio ("man-cave") that I created with Liz's help in the studio building that housed it). I have now fixed it up into a terrific office space (no wet bar and hot tub - yet) and could live here if necessary. The only things it lacks is a toilet and a spittoon. I did rough-in for a potential toilet when building this three years ago, but it is not connected to the septic system - a small but very important detail. I also have the New Mexico prairie directly outside for emergencies.
So I am as prepared as anyone can be, hoping not to burden those who will remain, and I actually have a feeling of peace and acceptance by doing so. However, all my previous distractions are now gone, leaving only a comfortable space and my desk and laptop, from which I inflict my thoughts and opinions on an increasingly discordant and repulsive world, sociologically speaking.
I will be doing three Zoom sessions starting next week with a therapist assigned by my insurance company for God knows what reason (likely to ameliorate my inner pain, along with reducing ongoing expenses for them), and I support that and fully understand and am grateful for it. I have met my therapist personally once and had instant rapport with him, in that I believe I can say whatever I want and he will not be disturbed or offended, which is increasingly rare in my universe. He has my weird and unusual sense of humor to boot, which is no small matter, plus he is a whole lot smarter than I am.
What I most desire is a peaceful, quick, and uneventful end, at a time and place of my choosing. I have no fear nor dread of that event, which greatly surprises me. I actually seek that, and do not know if that will be possible. I some time ago gave my one gun, a 38 caliber S&W chrome plated "Police Special" revolver, if you have to ask) to my wife, and she refuses to give it back, so there is no alternative other than a "natural" death, whatever the hell THAT means. My fertile brain (and given that I am a lifelong railroad fan) suggested that standing in front of a fast moving heavy freight train might be a possibility, but in checking the nearby venues found they were all heavily fenced off (likely for roaming cattle, suicidal humans, and corporate liability). Worse, it could be messy, and if I made a mistake, I might live to regret it. There seems to be little published on those methods to be useful to me. I have read a book that is very difficult to obtain called "The Peaceful Pill" which would be my preferred solution, but am not counting on that, yet would very much welcome the opportunity.
So, here I sit, typing away on the slowest internet connection in the known universe, awaiting the future. It sort of reminds me of all my previous lives.
Some reading this might be asking: "Why all this? Why not go with the flow?" The simplest answer is that I
have very seldom gone with the flow, preferring to listen to what is inside me for for answers to my questions. I have been fortunate to meet people who have helped me find those answers, and you know who you are. If I haven't before (and I have), I thank you now.
Warning: I may not be finished with this website, but you will have to check it out to get the answer to the question that you have not yet asked.
October 2, 2020
What A Difference A Day Makes
The second line to this old song is "twenty four little hours", and in a somewhat different context, this applies to what I write after my previous entry above.
I seemed to awaken this morning into a very different universe than I left upon going to bed last night. All seems as it should be, by which I mean it is okay, I think it all not only will be okay, but has always been okay, and always will be okay, whatever happens. And I wonder, as I often do, what if this is all there is, by which I mean, it is okay as it is? That is indeed, for me, a life changing and highly illuminating thought.
My head is clear, my senses are sharp, I feel great, and am willing to accept whatever God or Providence or the Universe throws my way. Why is it different now than it was yesterday? What changed? Where did that come from? How do I regain it? How can I keep it? And in all that grasping for The Answer and The Meaning comes . . . . Nothing.
So that must be the answer: Nothing. Zen masters must be smiling now. And I further thought: I must tell others, perhaps start a movement, write a book, build a shrine, teach others, shout it from the rooftops, and then I see the same circular pattern, endlessly repeating itself. The Life Source will not be denied, only forgotten and often misused (do not ask how I know that last part).
And it is again, as it always has been, and always will be, okay.
October 7, 2020
As a planner, organizer, and occasional control freak, I always try to look ahead, imagine the possibilities for the future among the many available choices, and select the best course in accordance with my criteria for selection.
Here are some of my concerns for the future as the disease progresses, and I list them not necessarily in their order of importance:
a. Allow only minimal damage to the future and comfort of those I leave behind, including Liz, our animals, my friends, and Liz's family and friends, and if you insist, all of humanity.
b. Be as painless, non-messy, and damage-free emotionally and physically as much as a possible for me and for others.
c. Make sure advance planning has taken place so that the transition for those remaining as easy as possible.
These have been accomplished long ago.
Given those self-imposed requirements, I would like to somewhat control the situation in all ways, so that minimal drama and damage is inflicted upon others. Gee, is that too much to ask?
I have chosen - in consultation with Liz and some others - as free a painless suicide as possible. Part of the reason is my experience with death, dying, and funerals, and the consequent emotions of all types, often due to denial, lack of planning and preparation, inability or unwillingness of the living to accept what is happening, unexpressed thoughts and emotions, and the usual drama and guilt among those left behind. Death is the final act of living, and I believe it should have the same considerations and given the same importance as living.
I want to fully prepare, and then act upon those preparations and my wishes. I do not want to linger in bed, say endless goodbyes, including all those things that people wait to say until the soon-to-be deceased is about to "shuffle off the mortal coil," as Shakespeare so aptly put it. Waiting until the subject of the end is about to die makes no sense to me. A party would be nice if I can still drink alcohol or imbibe some edible plant, and acceptable even if not.
So I am considering a big party (without the dancing girls), but know that it would likely fall flat, be expensive, and require a fair amount of said alcohol, given who my friends are. (Some may think I have an alcohol problem, but I deny everything, of course). So I would like to go in peace surrounded, if it be that way, with my closest loved ones. That will not require a very large space, one of the key considerations. Then it's off to the crematorium to contribute my remaining essence to the universe and help fill the landfill, my last and perhaps most glorious contribution.
So the question is: How to do that?
I would like to depart in a state of ease, grace, love, happiness, and comfort (wouldn't we all?). I am now searching for ways and methods, and all have issues, difficulties, and problems, and I won't list them as they are obvious. It is quite difficult in the state of New Mexico to do what I want to do, but would be possible in Oregon, from which I moved. Only problem with Oregon is the fact that I am not a citizen, and the final services might be interrupted by the frequent "peaceful" destructive rioters roving through the more populated areas of the state, as of this writing.
So if the "peaceful pill" is not available to me, the only other likely acceptable solution would be refusal by me of nutrition and water until my demise (otherwise known as starving one's self), which could be from three days to over two weeks (a long time), and making sure there was documentation that it was my choice to protect those left behind from overly zealous guardians of civil society. I understand from written sources that the desire for food and water subsides and ultimately ceases, but I do not know if the four to twelve days that would take would be something I could do. One might say I'm looking for an easy way out, as always. Any confidential suggestion are welcomed, other than "drop dead."
So now, I simply do not know. Liz and I are exploring through various organizations and online information sources the options, and it is my fervent hope that some sort of peaceful pill can be obtained to facilitate my wishes.
October 8, 2020
Off The Ledge
Yesterday I received a few emails from friends who regularly read this blog, essentially saying "don't do it." I was a bit puzzled at the meaning, and reread the passage above dated October 7, and realized I had not been as precise and crisp in the perceived meaning as I like to be. Hence the title of this blog entry.
I then checked the stats on reader views of my website (WIX.com makes it easy, as I describe a bit later in this blog) and saw that there was more traffic on my website yesterday than in any other single day in its existence. So I reread what I had written, and as the old joke goes, I began to see the problem.
First, I have no intention to commit suicide in the near future, and most likely, never. I was merely thinking out loud (which to me is the purpose of a blog, since I receive no revenue from this). I do reserve the right to change my mind, and most likely will not announce it on this website, or for that matter, any other website.
I think some may have thought I was ready to go soon, hence the title of this entry, referring to the old days when people would jump from a skyscraper's ledge to the street below, in the best Hollywood dramatic style. It did happen recently, make all the headlines, and apparently was a bit messy and horrifying. So, first, there are no skyscrapers around these parts in New Mexico, and if there were, there would be no ledges as they are now cost-prohibitive, and even if there were and they were used for that purpose, some lawyer would sue the developer or builder of the skyscraper after the tragic event and no one would ever make that construction mistake again. Too much "Hollywood" infuses our society, and I mean that in many, many ways.
So I'm likely to be around for a while. I do not reject the possibly that in the distant future I may once again take responsibility for my life in a way to allow me to end it on my terms for good reason (and it will be my decision alone, in consultation with my wife Liz), and will not be messy nor dramatic, but definitely final.
I'm having way too much pleasure and fun in living, even if I cannot remember what I "should" remember. And my mind is certainly capable of holding diametrically opposed thoughts in my head without driving me crazy, which some say is a sign of a great intellect, and others say is a sign of demented crazy thinking. I prefer the former explanation.
And as Bette Davis once famously said in on of her old movies: "Fasten your seat belts; it's likely to be a bumpy ride."
October 11, 2020
I had a lengthy experience today that seems to have given me a new stunning insight into what I call reality, by which I mean how I experience what is happening around me. I no longer claim nor think that "reality" is real. That is another book, and there are many out there, should you choose to challenge your world paradigm.
After my morning walk and some necessary chores (aren't they all?), I found that my head was feeling "funny." By that I mean that there was the feeling like a numbness, not exactly pain, but something that was not familiar to me. I have had hangovers that reminded me of this feeling, but nothing exactly like this one. Something was different about this.
And so my fertile mind went automatically into overdrive, and vivid imaginations told me that "something" was happening. I rapidly went through my mental inventory of horrible diseases and physical emergencies to categorize my experience. None came, nor were any offered. So, of course, it dawned on me that I likely was either dying or about to encounter what is sometimes called a "spiritual experience," which although not welcomed, could at least be useful as I plod along from day to day.
As an aside, I have occasionally thought that what turned out to be a "spiritual experience" was initially considered by me to be at a minimum unpleasant, and often earth-shaking.
Thinking quickly, I surmised that the best place to be when this forthcoming experience occurred would be in bed (often my go-to place to run away, or at least sleep), which at least was comfortable, and I might catch some more needed sleep at the same time. So I proceed to lay down, close my eyes, get comfortable, and for the next ten or fifteen minutes I experienced bliss, wonder, and complete acceptance in a way I can recall rarely - if ever - experiencing before.
It was as if the keys to the kingdom came floating into my brain, I saw the opportunity, and embraced it. Or more accurately, it embraced me. Sounds corny, but what I experienced was a harmony and communication with all living beings and lifeforms. All was one, integrated, purposeful, meaningless, and perfect. All the drama that was taking up the space that my mind inhabits was gone, and was now seen by me as simply stories to be told, which had nothing to do with who I was.
As I had somewhat frivolously written earlier in this work, it was all okay, always has been okay, and always will be okay; I was simply yet profoundly the creator and simultaneously the recipient of the wisdom of the universe, delivered very directly in a way that even I could understand.
At that point, all was clear, acceptable, peaceful, and I was left with no desire for anything else, other than what I was experiencing, and whatever happened was okay and perfect.
All that was left to do now was to accept that peace.
Naturally for me, I of course thought what a great topic that would make in this work you are reading, so I got up, went to the studio, sat down, and happened to notice that there was a single fly that had gotten in somehow (likely through my door when it opened), and so I then thought that once I get the fly out, then I can proceed to write about this wonderful experience and share it with others. The fly would not cooperate, and no matter how long the door was open the fly would not leave. Thinking no mere fly would interfere with my impending enlightenment, I went into the house, got a fly swatter, and proceed to attempt to squash it, albeit humanely in the service of The Truth. Then I forgot my train of thought until the next locomotive came along the track with additional goodies that would be good things to do. And so it goes, over and over. As the title of the fifties television show said: "This Is Your Life" in all its wonder.
Now, parenthetically, I am opposed to killing any living beings (unless of course it is absolutely necessary in the service of God and/or country, as this obviously was). And it/him/her would not cooperate, and it kept eluding me, refusing to fly though the now wide-open door, and I sit here twenty minutes later, typing this, and the damned fly occasionally buzzes my head and lands on my nose, with a barely perceptible wry smile on his little smirking mouth. And I again thought: This Is Your Life.
And so: There it all was, played out in real time, with no witnesses other than me, the fly, and the universe, and all of us laughing and nodding together, some more nervously than others.
October 14, 2020
Today I began, or more likely continued, to notice some impairment in my mental faculties, primarily in the memory area, which most likely is happening in my other cognitive areas. I perceive my wit and humor to still be sharp (sometimes too much so for polite society, which I often avoid), but I do not make the instant connections between words, thoughts, and phrases as I used to.
It does seem as if my writing is not yet suffering (only those who read it suffer), but my former incisive ability to extract truth from what passed for information in the various media I view, and could almost instantly conclude useful lessons from, seems to be diminishing, and my memory for sure is not as it used to be, which is a category more and more of my faculties seem to fall into. (Forgive my dangling propositions and endless run-on sentences, but I have a sense of urgency.) But at least I can still write incredibly lengthy sentences which still have a point, however arduous to find and understand by the Reader. I call that fun; others call it torture. You get to choose.
I had a second session with my therapist online today (Zoom) and the technology did not work well for me. It always has before. Obviously, I thought, Zoom isn't what it used to be. Next I thought maybe it is not Zoom in that category, but my brain. I like the Zoom explanation much better, but that is obviously a dead-end street, and they have better lawyers.
I am finding that my mind and brain seem to be more flexible in being open to more possibilities, and the phrase "making a silk purse out of a sow's ear," which for those of you under fifty makes no sense at all, as most everything in the world now does not make sense to grizzled and seasoned veterans of the culture wars, a group which includes me, although they did try to banish me at one point to no avail. I'm here for the duration. Duration of what, I do not know.
To my horror, I am finding that creating this specific blog is highly entertaining and satisfying for me, in that once I start typing, connections and phrases and meanings seem to pop up out of nowhere to my great amusement and discomfort, and quite often embarrassment. If this be insanity, make the most of it, some character out of a movie or a novel once said, with a different noun and meaning. Sometimes I picture myself on the back cover of the world's greatest book (this one), with my heavy woolen knit sweater with leather elbow patches, smoking the inevitable pipe, with my arm around my very thoughtful and adoring dog by my side, nodding peacefully and slowly into the camera.
So I ponder, worry, think, speculate, fret, and experience many other thoughts which do nothing other than to waste my time while providing fodder for this writing. Sort of like life, in a way.
So, tally ho, damn the torpedoes (with proper apologies to Admiral Farragut in Mobile Bay), and open your minds. It could get much worse - or much better. We shall see.
(Parenthetical thought: It could be that my considerable and powerful prescribed medications I am taking might have something to do with my fluidity of thoughts. I prefer that explanation to the others which are less flattering. Children: Do not try this at home, or anywhere else.)
October 18, 2020
Rearranging My Space (Part 1)
The subtitle above is meant in many ways, and is the result of some interesting and enlivening thoughts and ideas which I had last night as I lay awake in the early morning hours in the dark, with my brain and thoughts whirling around.
When the muse hits me at these hours, I think that this particular thought or idea or realization needs to go into this blog, as God has whispered (sometimes quite loudly to me) the secret to life in this particular part of the universe that I now inhabit. Whether there are other alternate ones I will leave to others to think about, and at this point, it does not seem important to me, as I am doing all I can to handle this specific universe that is within me and without me, in all meanings of that particular phrase.
As I lay in the darkness for an hour or two each morning, my brain is fertile (knowing that fertilizing requires growth and decay and lots and lots of fertilizer, all of which I have much of these days). And of course, as I sit down in the early dawn to write on this every few days, most often the essence and the meaning and the specifics have gone away, leaving me only with a faint memory of the Secret Of Living which I prepare to share with humanity.
However, all that usually remains from the visit by the Ghost of Christmas Future, as Charles Dickens might write it, most often contain the words peace, forgiveness, acceptance, optimism, and always - always - gratitude. As for sharing it with humanity, it would require far more than the very few readers who occasionally visit this website. I will say to those of you who do, that Wix (my website host) has all the data that I would ever need to verify that I have readers, and the world will have to await another prophet or teacher or bringer of truth, love, and forgiveness for the final answer, assuming there is one. On the other hand, maybe those prophets have already come and gone, and have left their wisdom in secret places, or even pronounced them publicly, or tacked them to the church door or even tenement halls, or most likely everyone already knows all of that and only has to remember, which is the hard part, at least for me. And, as always, it is all okay.
It is a theme that reverberates loudly within me, each day, and I feel honored, exhilarated, and quite thankful. It is always there, always has been, always will be, and it only requires my attention and acceptance, as it does for all of us.
October 18, 2020
Rearranging My Space (Part 2)
I am an inveterate mover, having lived in many places here in the United States and in Europe. (In proof reading this I noticed that I typed "lied" in the previous sentence, instead of the corrected and current word "lived," which is obviously a simple mistake, and has no meaning whatsoever. I am in a physical and mental place now where I will thankfully and peacefully die, if I am lucky, or at least carefully plan ahead. Yesterday the muse or holy spirit or another good idea (choose one) came to me and said: Time to rearrange your "space!"
My astrological sign is "Cancer" which often connotes being especially connected to one's "space" or living area. In this particular context near Santa Fe, I built a studio (others built it, I designed it) adjacent to the house we bought, but not "too" close, so that coming to my studio requires maybe a 100 foot walk outside through an enclosed courtyard.
The studio (sounds better than "shack" or "hobby room" or "man-cave," and after all, I am near Santa Fe) is roughly 14 x 20 feet and is perfect for my needs, which have changed now that the model railroad I built is now gone (www.turquoiseline.com). In thinking about this, a sudden inspiration allowed me to see that totally reorienting the location of the desk, chair, plant, bookshelves, and other accouterments of an office, would dramatically change the use, the views, and the feeling of the space. I am in the middle of that now. Doing so has dramatically changed - it seems as of now - my life, my outlook, my happiness, and my future goals. All that by moving my mental and physical furniture around! What a concept! It is yours (the concept) to use as you see fit. All is now roughly 180 degrees reoriented from before. All seems different, and better, two terms which I have often confused.
All that remains is to actually do all that, and move from concept to reality, where almost all great ideas get lost or forgotten or broken down or abandoned. Stay tuned.
October 21, 2020
Metrics and Miscellaneous Information
Periodically I briefly review what I have written so far to see how it is weathering my constantly changing situation, to identify grammatical or other errors in light of developments, and to get a feel for the direction of my comments. I recently found a number of grammatical errors, which to me are close to being unforgivable, and I have attempted to make corrections, always realizing that I do not catch them all. My apologies for my imperfections, many of which I dare not reveal in a public forum.
In addition, my website platform Wix (I highly recommend it) provides useful information as to the readership of this website, arranged by almost any metric or subject you can imagine. Without going into a lot of detail, I have found to my surprise that there are almost one hundred distinct readers in total, from all over the United States and China, and while some skim a few pages and leave, many return over and over again. It does appear that people learn of this website by word of mouth or some other mysterious way (Google?). Of course, any good website metrics include names, addresses, phone numbers, the names of children and the schools they attend, which church attended, if any, and political affiliation, plus any illicit assignations during the course of one's life. Given all that information, I have determined that I can now retire with the money I will make with that information through bribery, so my work here is done, as someone once famously said.
If you have come this far, you will realize that what I wrote in the preceding paragraph above, with the exception of the first two sentences, is my idea of humor and is not true. I have found a little humor and levity helps me as much as all those pills I am taking - I think. I apologize if you have not read closely enough to learn that yet.
I'm increasingly noticing some impairment in my ability to quickly analyze and form conclusions from disparate data and information, which makes me feel and likely appear dumber than I usually am. I attribute that to my dementia, rather than aging, but do not know which is predominant, and at this point, I do not care. It is a wll-earned gift (not caring).
November 3, 2020
Armageddon or Paradise
This is being written on perhaps the most consequential day of my life. Please bear with me as I attempt to discuss what is happening to me, and by projection, the world. It all has to do with making choices, attempting to predict the results of those choices, and the impact of those choices on those around us, and those who also inhabit our planet.
In the United States it is the presidential election day, presenting stark choices to those who are governed as to what type of country - and world - they would like to see. For me personally, I have been stunned to learn that in my personal relationships, and most especially with my wife Liz, that what I do matters and affects a broad group of other people, and even animals. The two subjects of my realization seem different to me, but I have come to see that both are about relationships, and what I think is the best way to live out those relationships, by whatever criteria I choose.
That brings up the issue of responsibility, as I suggest that responsibility (both to ourselves and to others) separates us in some ways from other beings. I realize that is somewhat human-centric, but since I am human (no matter what others might suggest), that is the only viewpoint I have to make necessary decisions.
I would suggest that the common human question or thought of "what's in it for me?" although useful, can blind us to what is in fact most useful, workable, or impactful, which I believe is the primary criterion to govern our actions. Feelings are important to us as human beings, yet how those feelings are transformed into actions does in fact affect others, and I would suggest, is more important from a world-view standpoint.
A recent illustration of the "feelings" category can be illustrated by a recent experience I had over several days involving my wife Liz, my cat Bella, and my Soul which I choose to believe resides within me (perhaps with some other connections to the rest of the sentient and even non-sentient beings in the world). That specific experience, however, simple as it may sound, has changed my life.
I have had a fondness for alcohol (perhaps "fatal attraction" would be a better phrase) since I first imbibed alcohol in the form of Kentucky bourbon whiskey at the age of 15. I was astonished that the pain (that I was previously unaware of) had magically vanished as a result of several healthy gulps of the most god-awful liquid I had ever tasted (and perhaps since), but of course after a while, I loved the effect. No more pain, only bliss. What a wonderful thing! More, more!
The next day I changed my mind to see that what I had been drinking the night before was most likely sent by the Devil to terrorize me and make me feel worse than I ever had in my life (at least until that time), yet I was instantly hooked and, with some respites along the way, has continued to be the seductive way out of reality. I have since moved on from bourbon to vodka, not missing any stops along the way, and definitely not wanting to be considered a mere drunk. Of course, I said to myself, this was simply being social and jovial with good friends, as all good Southerners did at the time, and it was a rite of manhood, and I was just having fun.
At some point after that, I began to notice that I was drinking alone at times, which demolished my previous theory, so I immediately ignored that and explained it away somehow, and continued to do so for the rest of my life. It was simply making comparisons and discerning choices, as all good engineers and scientists do.
Where this is leading, as an introduction, is to an experience I had this week involving three beings: my wife Liz, our cat Bella, and a third person who I assumed and believed to be My Self. The short version of the long story is that I have been drinking alcohol in the form of vodka (neat, over ice, twist of lemon, some sweetener, of course - after all I AM a sophisticated drinker, not one of those bums in the gutter who cannot control themselves, the poor things) for a while now, only at night, before going to bed, so it was all okay, as I was not endangering anyone. That last quite lengthy sentence is a perfect example of how alcoholics rationalize their behavior to themselves and others. We also have learned how to lie to ourselves and others, which is a tad above - or perhaps below - rationalization.
The specific incident (there have been others) involved such imbibing while my wife Liz was away visiting her daughter in Denver for a few days, and I took the opportunity to overindulge without being particularly aware of the quantity, since no one was around to notice, except our dog Giordi and our cat Bella (one is solid white, the other solid black). After a sufficient quantity (it seems to be variable, depending on circumstance and desperation) to anesthetize me (by way of explanation, I have Alzheimer's Disease, so this was simply a way to ameliorate my terror at sinking into nothingness and becoming irrelevant sometime in the near future), I prepared for bed, and I always go to the spa/hot tube outside our bedroom door before retiring, which I did that night.
Once outside, the ground became somewhat wavy and was fairly unstable, likely due to the ingestion of sufficient vodka to float a battleship. I fell down once or twice (yes, I'm still sore), went to the tub, noticed I had left the door to the patio open, closed it and retired (a polite term for passed out).
I awakened the next day, all was well except for my body, mind, and soul, but hey, been there, done that, all for a good time, and proceeded about my day. I do have Irish blood in me, so that counts for something. Sometime in the later afternoon I noticed that Bella was not around (she sleeps and resides most of the time under our bed, so it was not unusual). I called out to her, no response, I went looking, and after a while it became clear to me that she was not in the house. Bella never leaves the house, and we see to that due to the many predators outside our doors.
I then recalled the open patio door the night before, and then was stunned and horrified when I realized that she had gone out the door into the prairie night, filled with wolves, coyotes, and other predators, and was gone forever. And it was my fault.
There is truly no way to describe the next few moments - it could have been minutes or hours - as I realized what I had stupidly and drunkenly and irresponsibly done. Deep fear, abject disgust, revulsion, horror, every negative emotion I had ever experienced (along with some that I had never experienced and never care to again) flowed through me.
I knew I had to call Liz, which I did, and deal with her devastating reaction. I struggle to describe the feeling. We made plans to entice Bella back into the house that night if she was still alive and nearby (I will not describe all that I did, and if I had neighbors within eyesight, they would have thought I had gone off the deep end, with all the lights and heaters and bedding and food and treats I put out) to get Bella back into the house, safe and sound.
And so I stumbled into bed, filled with deep self-loathing, and had the worst night from hell I ever had, and proceeded to plan my suicide (after leaving Santa Fe). It was the worst mistake of my life, and totally preventable. I knew that divorce was imminent and well deserved.
Liz and I talked on and off by phone the next day, and I proceeded through my day like an automaton, drank little the next night (only what was necessary, of course), went to bed, and slept fitfully through the night. I think I fully experienced the meaning of enormous self-flagellation that night. There was no path to forgiveness by my self, and most definitely by others, and I knew Bella would haunt me the rest of my hopefully short life.
I awakened from the horrible night, after I had carefully planned my suicide, opened my eyes, and Bella bounced into the bed as always. It was as if God Herself had come to visit. Bella had actually been under the bed the whole night, and I had jumped to a conclusion out of my guilty stupor. I then understood how Scrooge felt that infamous Christmas Day. I was of course joyous, happy, called Liz, yet it was a Pyrrhic victory. I had failed the most basic duty of a human; to care for and protect those beings that one loves.
I have by now talked myself off the proverbial ledge, and yet I will never forget my abject failure, caused not by alcohol, but by me (with a little help from my "friends.")
But just to be sure, I have now given up vodka for the duration. At least I learned some things that might be useful to me in the future. And Liz has stopped searching for divorce lawyers.
It's amazing what one can learn just by looking and listening.
November 17, 2020
More Is Not Necessarily Better
The planet, as far as I can tell, still revolves, society is disintegrating or improving depending on your cultural or political cosmology, and my formerly rapid memories of details from my past continue to slow down, and in some cases, come to a screeching halt.
I can mostly still fake it, can smile and nod and talk coherently, and in most situations (such as a cop stopping me for speeding), I can wiggle out of uncomfortable situations and proceed on my merry way, pretending I know where I am going.
Of course, I do know where I will ultimately go, but the journey is the destination, as some happy-faced moron once said (perhaps that was in fact me). I would not like to have to solve a quadratic equation, list the presidents of the United States in reverse chronological order, or recite the Gettysburg Address, should it come to that. I could likely count backwards from 10 to 1 without fail (depending on the cop who pulled me over), and can smile and say all is well. However, the direction in which I am heading is not particularly comforting, to say the least, but it beats the alternative, if you catch my drift.
So I'll go on my merry way, nod in a friendly and kind matter to those who speak to me and are awaiting my answer, and find some arcane and neutral response which I will deliver with a smile, along with a sudden memory of some place I have to be (totally and spontaneously made up), smile, and try to remember what is was that I was going to do. God forbid someone would think I was demented.
Not a bad way to live, and I suspect many without cognitive impairment do that as a matter of course for other reasons, based on my experience.
So the pithy and pissy comments will continue at a decreasing and abated pace, interspersed by sudden realizations presented in a humorous way, until the Great Bartender In The Sky calls "time, gentlemen!" May it be later rather than sooner.
November 26, 2020
A Socially Distanced Thanksgiving
The subtitle above is meant in all senses of the word.
First, we are having friends and relatives over this afternoon to celebrate the day and give thanks. We are doing this on our patio in November weather with proper social distancing, and it will consist of one glass of champagne each, light hors d'oeuvres, followed by packing up the food into portable plastic containers and sending them all on their way to celebrate Thanksgiving however they see fit, without my interminable stories and bad jokes. In other words, the perfect Thanksgiving.
Speaking of which, I have turned a corner in my battle with the bottle. I have given up the one true elixir of life in exchange for being able to remain living in my house with my wife Liz and dog Giordi and cat Bella, not to mention with my Self. I did not come to this decision lightly, giving it due consideration, researching all possible alternatives, considered the best course forward, and negotiated (a term for accepting all the demands of the other party) an agreement to that effect.
Much to my surprise, I have found after an exhaustive and lengthy period of one day, that this appears to be a very good idea, and that perhaps I should continue for a while in this vein and see what happens. It certainly beats finding other accommodations in the darkest depths of winter, and seems to have improved our relationship considerably. Maybe I'm on to something! As I have said before, and promptly forgotten, it is amazing what one learns just by listening.
Happy Thanksgiving! The bonus is that my dog is even friendlier. Who knew?
December 6, 2020
Compassion And Choices
The title above" Compassion And Choices" (www.compassionandchoices.org ) is the name of a non-profit organization headquartered in Portland OR, which provides highly detailed and extremely useful information to the public on the various "end of life" choices that are available, in all senses of the word. They provide a wealth of information and guidance to people such as me who are facing death, all in an easily accessible, compassionate, and non-judgmental way. In case I haven't made the point, it is a useful source of educational information for everyone, since to the best of my knowledge - so far - all living beings fall into that category, I am told. I applied for an exception to the Powers That Be, but I think it was lost in the mail or something, and I have not received a response. This excellent organization has books, online seminars, and other useful materials, among other services, and my experience is that they are an outstanding source of information and guidance for people and their friends and relatives who are facing death. That is, all of us.
Here's my dirty little secret: I have had, all my life, a profound and very suppressed fear of death, and believe I am not particularly alone in that fear. It was not until I started facing this fear that I learned how much this shaped my life and my actions, emotions, thoughts, and relationships. My parents' death one month apart - when I had just turned sixteen - irrevocably and unconsciously shaped my experience of life - until now. By facing my imminent death (as we all do, albeit over differing time periods), I have found life to be much sweeter, more poignant, more meaningful, and I have found a resilience and acceptance that considerably lightens yet deepens my everyday interactions with all others, and particularly those unpredictable and somewhat frustrating yet lovely human beings. Even my dog Giordi and cat Bella seem to notice the difference. My wife Liz certainly has. We have been able to sit down and agree upon how we both will proceed with this process, and I do not think we have ever been closer or more in communication.
In case I haven't made my point, accepting death has greatly expanded my experience of life, in that I can now "dance" with it instead of being "burdened" with it. That is a totally unexpected and quite profound transition in this formerly intransigent and somewhat sullen human being (slightly but not totally exaggerated), and that awareness has changed my life. I do not recommend that you go out and seek that experience, only that you be aware of this possibility and be open to it. Come to think of it, that's not a bad way to live life. I would have liked to have learned that earlier, but I was not yet ready to hear it. Better late than never, I suppose.
But don't go away yet! I'm not quite done.
December 13, 2020
Considerations About An Exit
I determined when my parents died, and I was on my own right after turning 17, that I would chart my own course in life, while availing myself of every opportunity that I could create to live my life as I determined it should be. Of course, that was not totally possible, but I tried to stay true to what I really wanted and to create that result in accordance with my wishes. I failed often, yet succeeded often enough to see that it was the proper course for me. There were not many others in my circle of acquaintances who agreed with me.
Naturally, that is easier said than done, but nonetheless I had a framework within which to make what I thought were appropriate decisions and choices, and gathered information throughout my life from different sources to increase my options. Of course, I made mistakes, and continue to do so, but I attempt to learn from those mistakes and not create yet another inappropriate dogma.
I am at the point as I approach age 78 in the coming year that I see the need to make certain choices, and make a plan to carry those out, primarily due to my increasing dementia, which will go in only one direction. As I write these words, our country is in a tumultuous aftermath of a difficult and highly important election, which will dramatically affect this country, its citizens, and the rest of the world, as our government as authorized by its citizens makes a hard turn toward the political and social left in its policies. I do not know how this will turn out, but I predict it will be a major inflection point in how our citizens regard our country and the relationship with its citizens, and there will be quite difficult days ahead as people come to realize the impact of their choices on the everyday life of our country. I am also open to the opposite possibility, that it will be an inflection point with love, peace, and happiness, and prefer that outcome. Still, I have a great sense of dread and fear about the future of our the nation, while at the same time realizing that for me it is not likely to have a significant impact, and of course it is all in my head.
I also realize that my declining memory due to dementia is beginning to become apparent to me and others, although it is now manageable and I am relatively independent, but I do depend more and more on my wife Liz, who is very capable and understanding in these matters. I want to be interactive, aware, lucent, cogent, and live as close as possible to a semblance of a normal life for the duration. When that is no longer possible, I do not desire to continue living, and I have made this known through the appropriate venues and to the proper people, with little assurance that my wishes will be honored. The final outcome is and will be unknown to me, yet I want to add some certainty to that final wish, in some feasible, appropriate and non-dramatic way. It corresponds with some descriptions of me by others as being a control freak, which I heartily deny. So some of my time now is spent in looking at the various options while I am able to decide and have my wishes carried out.
I am now in the middle of that process, and have no clear plan at this point, but have some viable options. As things progress, I will update this blog.
January 1, 2021
Letting The Old Man In
On the first day of the first year of the third decade of the twenty first century I was reminded of the theme song sung by Toby Keith for Clint Eastwood's recent movie "The Mule" (about a one time drug runner) in which he prescribes the antidote for getting old: "Don't Let The Old Man In."
While not yet completely giving the "old man" all the keys to where I now am, I at least gave him vague directions and am acknowledging that time is passing on, I am getting older, a little bit wiser, and much happier (or at least more accepting and therefore contented), as I face, embrace, and even welcome the future.
Liz and I celebrated New Year's Eve quietly with a silly movie on TV, a jigsaw puzzle (yes, they still are made and are even fun and challenging, to my great astonishment - it was selected by Liz as a surprise and shows Edgar Allen Poe's poem with the indomitable raven on it - my all time favorite writing), which we proceeded to assemble relatively easily, having less than a bottle of champagne between the two of us, and going to bed at the ungodly hour of 9 p.m. Those of you reading this who knew me in the "good old days" will likely be incredulous and wonder how that happened. The answer is in that song.
I am aware that this will be my last year on earth, one way or the other, and I am accepting and at peace with it all. I never thought I would come to this place in my inner life, yet here it is, and it is all good (at least the important parts). I took a brisk and very cold walk over the challenging landscape surrounding our house here on the hilly Santa Fe prairie, accompanied by two dogs (Giordi and Tucker, solid white and solid black respectively, and it was nine degrees when I got up at 5:30 a.m. this morning to make the coffee), and never before have I arisen at that hour on New Year's Day unless I was coming in from the night before. I felt great: peaceful, rested, accepting, and content. God in Her many forms has seen fit to show me the way, but first She had to get my attention for about seventy-seven trying, difficult, obstinate, and challenging years, but as always, She won in the end, as is Her way. May it always be so.
I am looking forward to an interesting period before me this year, filled with love, gratitude, peace, acceptance, and hugely inappropriate and outrageous amounts of humor. The spaces between all that will be filled with and surrounded by love.
I am a very fortunate and I am a contented and and happy man. Life is good (even if not experienced that way at the time, as Werner Erhard used to helpfully say).
And that is it for now. I am finished, exhausted, and at peace. For a little while, at least, and that is quite good enough. More will follow below after a brief respite.
January 22, 2021
End Of Life Issues
I love the rather antiseptic terminology "end of life" to describe death by some parts of the medical profession. It is so neutral, clinical, non-judgmental, and colorless, almost in the same arena of "cleansing a wound" or other ways of describing necessary and important procedures, diseases, illnesses, and other seemingly necessary components of living.
And so I am now discussing those options with others, including my close friends, my wife Liz, and other medical resources ("resources" is another favorite term of mine, which can include anything from a band aid to major surgery). It is fortunate we have a language that can help in adjusting to sometimes unpleasant realities.
"Death" is one of those, and rates somewhere up there with other very important things in my life, including "love", which to me has massive Wagnerian overtones. Richard Wagner is perhaps my favorite classical composer, having all the necessary Teutonic elements of drama, force, horror, majesty, love, anger, violence, and all the other eternal verities. (Side note: I have a fair amount of German blood in me.) My personal history (along with much of the rest of humanity) has in it unpleasant encounters with death which include varying degrees of emotion from one far side of the spectrum to the other. Rarely have I used the word "pleasant" in encountering "death" although I'm open to that possibility, and would actually welcome it.
So "end of life" seems to be a fairly neutral and unemotional term, and I shall henceforth use either that phrase or the even more neutral EOL (End Of Life), which has the advantages of being short, succinct, antiseptic (that word again), emotionally neutral, and able to be expressed and then moving along quickly to other more pleasant aspects of life.
And so I am contemplating EOL and all the ramifications thereof. I think "love" and "death" are the two major themes of life (certainly in mine), as majestically expressed in Richard Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" with it's two themes of, yes, here they are again, love and death. I am very serious when I say that for me, there is no more beautiful, moving, and majestic music. I used to listen to it for hours at a time, to the horror and consternation to anyone within earshot.
Now that many of my Readers have moved on rapidly at this point to other simpler and other more pleasant websites and pursuits, let us continue in the vein a bit more for the adventurous remainder of you.
We all die at some point. How we do it is the eternal question, at least to me, and especially at this point.
To be blunt and open, I am pretty sure that I prefer pleasant, quick, and short, as far as I know, not having previously encountered death - at least personally. To be absolutely truthful, the closest I came was as an adolescent when I was giving my valedictory speech in high school to an audience of thousands, to which I was to deliver the speech that I had written myself. The subject was "Loyalty" which was right at the end of the McCarthy era in the 1950's, and it seemed to be an appropriate and topical subject to my 15 year old mind. As I was building to the stentorian and somewhat dramatic climax of the speech before the hushed audience, I suddenly completely forgot everything I had memorized (no notes were allowed), and stood blankly and frozenly staring at the audience, from which no sound came back other than a low and increasing crescendo of murmurings from the audience, as I slowly died on the spot.
No death thereafter could ever compare with that, and I was forever freed from my adolescent self-consciousness. It was the absolute worst experience of my life. I do not recommend this as a possible way to get rid of self-consciousness, as to this day when I think of that, I shudder in horror. So, the point is, I have already died once, and how bad could the next one be?
And so in my life thereafter, quick, pleasant, and short became far more enticing. This attitude gets me in a lot of trouble, also. Yet that is still my goal, and I think I am close to that solution. The Reader will have to continue reading a bit more to get more information, and I will have to continue to post thoughts on this blog in the elusive search for answers, or at least some signposts to guide my journey.
January 23, 2021
"End of Life" Legislation
There is legislation that has been introduced in the current session of the New Mexico legislature addressing the issue of End Of Life choices, which releases from liability, only in very specific circumstances, those who facilitate or make available methods to do so. This is a major issue and a huge step forward in New Mexico, and in my opinion addresses an overwhelming need for those who have a terminal illness and do not wish to continue to suffer.
For those reading this who are interested in learning more about this, the bill is identified as HB0047, the "Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act," and details and the actual text and more details can be found by Googling the New Mexico legislature or the above identifiers.
In essence, it removes liability for anyone who provides or facilitates that process, including medical practitioners, family, relatives, or others, so that they could not be prosecuted under current laws regarding facilitating suicide. The requirements are very specific, and there needs to be a documented medical situation that covers any possible abuse of this protection. I have fully read the complete text of this proposed legislation, and find that it does do what it purports to do, without making the end process too freely and openly available.
I am strongly supporting this legislation (the first time I have ever been involved in politics) and I am lobbying friends, legislators, and others who have an interest in this topic. I also may use this particular option at some point in the future, depending on how my disease progresses. As I perhaps mentioned earlier, I am no big fan of pain and suffering.
There is another organization which supports End Of Life choices which is headquartered in Portland, Oregon, named Compassion and Choices (click on the title for a link). Their slogan, if you will, is "Live Your Life On Your Own Terms" which fits in perfectly with my own life-view and outlook. They provide information, resources, and access to counseling in End Of Life issues in a non-judgmental, open and very compassionate way. I have received significant important information and guidance from them on this very delicate and often emotional issue. They provide only information and other public resources, and are not involved in any specific actions relating to this subject. Their on-line and printed materials are very well done and quite useful for those who are a bit uncertain or seeking more information about these important yet little discussed issues. I highly recommend them, as I think they fill a quite significant void in these delicate issues and subjects.
January 25, 2021
Life and Death On The Prairie
Where we live on the prairie south of Santa Fe, the landscape quickly turns to sparse habitation by humans, and more frequent habitation by the various lifeforms that grow wildly here. Most are plants, many are animals, and even though I have lived lengthy periods in woodlands and forests, I am almost constantly amazed that lifeforms can withstand the climate and weather out here.
By that I am referring to the lack of moisture, and the often cold windy bursts of energy that come rolling around the hills and valleys (cerrillos and arroyos), which start right outside our door and seem to go on forever. This makes it easy to hike and walk among the wonders of the vegetation, in almost any direction, and although we have created some very minor pathways since coming here almost four years ago, one still has to look for the path to find it. So it is nature at its finest and also its harshest.
Today was cold, windy, and a few inches of snow had fallen overnight, meaning it was a perfect morning for a walk, if one is bundled up appropriately and can ignore discomfort in order to view the startling landscape. As we started our walk, we passed an area about a hundred feet from the house where we usually put out scraps of food and a pan of water to help feed the prairie animals in the harsh winters (okay, in the mild summers also). The prairie animals (coyotes, bobcats, birds, and various other critters) have lived her for eons, but this is our way of saying hello, thanking them for their presence (as long as they do NOT come into the areas surrounded by our fence), and feeling that somehow we are contributing to the well being of the universe in our own small way.
However, they do leave poop and scat, but seem to know to avoid it, even if only recently deposited by them, something which I often realize when I do not look where I am going. Occasionally I will clean it up, add water to the pan, and otherwise try to make it a pleasant place for them. We cannot see where they congregate from our house, and have considered putting up a remote camera to view their nightly parties, but as with most other things, it's a question of getting a "round tuit" to make it possible. I doubt that they would care, as their priorities are likely quite different from ours.
As we later walked along the floor of a canyon nearby, surrounded by tall cliffs, we encountered as always evidence of the wild parties the prairie animals have every night, and I have observed they are not at all like humans, in that they leave only scat as evidence of their parties, which we appreciate. As far as we can tell, we are the only people who go there, with the possible exception of a neighbor or two who live across the canyon.
It was quite cold and windy upon our return to the confines of our fenced in area of our home, and we sat down in some comfortable outdoor chairs surrounding a fire pit to view the winter scene and hills and mountains and beyond. Our dog Giordi and the neighbor's dog Tucker (solid white and solid black, respectively) then became quite active with something laying on the ground in our yard. Liz went over to see what it was, and it was a freshly dead rabbit with some sort of wound on it. It could have been brought in earlier by one of the dogs, or deposited some other way in the fenced in area.
And so I was immediately reminded that we were living in a relatively remote and wild area, and that this was quite likely a common occurrence on the prairie, and we just happened to see some evidence of the ongoing quest for life and avoidance of death that takes place constantly out of our sight. It was a stunning realization that we were living in a relatively inhospitable location surrounded by beings that had learned how to continue living, at least most of the time, and that likely it was a constant theme. At that moment, I somehow felt much closer to them than before. I suppose death has a unique way of creating both awareness and bonding.
I disposed of the carcass appropriately, sadly, and reverently, yet the death of the rabbit so close to us reminded me that death is always close and can happen in an instant. Sitting here hours later I see that the experience has illuminated and increased my awareness of the majesty, beauty, and the gift that is Life, even if surrounded by violence and Death as an occasional unwanted companion. Rarely do I see and realize it in those stark terms. It was both a frightening and enlivening experience, opposite expressions of the two sides of necessary unity of life and death, both, each, and all of which make the others more meaningful.
January 28, 2021
The Final Run
Those familiar with my ruminations, rants, and realizations as expressed in this blog know of my lifelong love of railroads and all the components of these transportation systems. For me, they express the mystery of far-off places, other worlds to be seen, all backed by large, heavy, quite impactful methods of transport that have the ability to shake the earth and almost completely fill all of one's senses with their movements while transporting their cargoes of people and goods. Modeling those has been a lifelong fascination and hobby of mine, and I only recently moved along from that hobby as noted on my website www.turquoiseline.com.
I had a dream last night about this theme as it relates to my life, a profoundly emotional and fulfilling dream, more than likely enhanced by the prescription medications I am taking for my dementia. Since starting one of these medications, I have been startled to notice that my dreams have become very meaningful, accessible, profound, starkly realistic, very emotional, and quite fulfilling. While they are not psychedelics, they do remind me of some of my experiences with these entheogens (God manifesting) that I used long ago in a different period in my life, which greatly enhanced my life and helped direct me away from my suicidal thoughts.
I am struggling to express the dream in mere words, but the experience can best be summarized as my being in a large, loud, very powerful locomotive, with many of my old - and some new - friends, acquaintances, and even relatives. The locomotive was moving along, and I could see the movement from outside the locomotive, while also experiencing being inside, operating it at times, simply being along for the ride at others, talking, socializing, and in general enjoying the experience. We were all chatting, talking, and the feeling was one of friendship and comradeship and love for one another, interspersed by drama, arguing, discussing, and expounding on our penetrating yet differing thoughts and ideas and beliefs.
In other words, it was like life, represented by this locomotive, bounding along the main line of existence, with we/us/me wondering if the switch (turnout in railroad parlance) ahead was the right way to go, looking back, peering forward, arguing, discussing, loving, judging, and basically having a wonderful time, not knowing where all this would end up.
The feeling was one of joy, wonder, happiness, fear, satisfaction, concern, and a deep and abiding knowledge that it all was the right "track" to be on, no matter where it led or where it originated. And what I took away from it, as I sit here typing these words, came the words I have said before earlier: It is okay, it always has been okay, and it always will be okay.
And I find it quite interesting that this same phrase keeps popping up in my dreams. I like that idea, think there is a profound message in it for me, and perhaps others, and have come away with a deep sense of gratitude that the Universe (however it expresses itself) is all knowing and provides what is needed for existence to continue, if one is open to and accepts what is presented.
It is no wonder I have always liked trains and railroads.
January 30, 2021
Wisdom Of El Loco
For those reading this who are tiring of my vastly inflated and weird meanderings, I present a brief respite in the form of a series of observations that I stole from some non-copyrighted website long ago, and which contain in them kernels of eternal truths, weird thoughts, and just enough humor to keep the Reader entertained for a few moments before moving on to more ponderous subjects. I would provide the original author but I know not who he/she is (I suspect it is a male due to the sophomoric humor).
Kernels Of Truth
(A Slight Pause For Some Humor)
When one door closes and another door opens, you are probably in prison.
To me, "drink responsibly" means:
Do not spill it.
•Age 60 might be the new 40, but 9:00 PM is the new midnight.
•It is the start of a brand new day, and I'm off like a herd of turtles.
The older I get, the earlier it gets late.
When I say, "The other day," I could be referring to any time between yesterday and 15 years ago.
I had my patience tested. I am negative.
Remember, if you lose a sock in the dryer,
it comes back as a Tupperware lid that does not fit any of your containers.
If you are sitting in public and a stranger takes the seat next to you, just stare straight ahead and say:
"Did you bring the money?"
When you ask me what I am doing today, and I say "nothing," it does not mean I am free.
It means I am doing nothing.
I finally got eight hours of sleep.
It took me three days, but whatever.
I hate when a couple argues in public, and I missed the beginning and don't know whose side I'm on.
When someone asks what I did over the weekend, I squint and ask, "Why, what did you hear?"
When you do squats, are your knees supposed to sound like a goat chewing on an aluminum can stuffed with celery?
I do not mean to interrupt people.
I just randomly remember things and get really excited.
When I ask for directions, please do not use words like "east."
Do not bother walking a mile in my shoes. That would be boring.
Spend 30 seconds in my head. That will freak you right out.
Sometimes, someone unexpected comes into your life, makes your heart race, and changes you forever.
We call those people cops.
February 20, 2021
For practically the first time in my life I am engaged in lobbying and communicating with my local politicians.
The reason for this is the introduction into the state of New Mexico of a new piece of legislation that would allow the "end of life" (a polite term for "death") for citizens to be chosen by the citizen himself in collaboration with the professional medical community, such that their individual death could be chosen by the citizen - in very constrained and specific circumstances - and would involve the professional medical, legal, and spiritual community.
Some have called this "assisted suicide," but the legislation has many components and restrictions so that this final step in a person's life could be taken only under very specific and limited circumstances, as chosen by the person or "patient" as I will hereafter designate that person. It allows legal access to medications in designated and carefully proscribed situations, normally only when the patient is undergoing severe and/or unbearable pain that is uncontrollable by medication or other means, and there is no possibility of relief.
The proposed legislation spells out in great detail the process, so that it is neither a whimsical nor uncontrolled process, and requires a number of safeguards to prevent abuse of any sort. Without going into great detail, it allows a patient to terminate his life peacefully and painlessly with legal medication when faced with continuing pain (very carefully defined) for the rest of his or her life.
The legislation is known as "HB 47 - Elizabeth Whitefield End Of Life Options" and has been passed already by one of the two chambers of the New Mexico Legislature; it is pending in the second "senate" chamber. The full text is available online from the New Mexico legislature website at the link below. I lobbied online for this legislation after I thoroughly reviewed it, and received a number of responses, including one personal response from the speaker of the House (I am one of his geographical constituents).
The link to the proposed legislation is copied below:
The proposed legislation has all safeguards to prevent potential abuse and misrepresentation, including the mandatory use of medical and health care professionals, and it absolves them from any attempt to criminalize an approved procedure. The text of the legislation is over fifty pages long, and has been approved and recommended by many legal and medical professionals throughout the state of New Mexico.
I do not know at this point if I would ever avail myself of the protections afforded by this proposed legislation, but having this in place would prevent jeopardy on the part of any participants in the action, in the unlikely event they would occur. The ingestion of the "peaceful pill" - as some call it - would have to be performed by the patient in a fully aware and cognizant state of being, as determined by medical and legal professionals. I write this much detail to assure any one reading this that all possibilities for mischief and pressure have been considered and addressed. This would not be considered to be a "mercy killing" or "suicide" which are to me erroneous and inappropriate terms that some have used for this particular process.
I doubt I would ever do this, but it is comforting to know that it is available if needed. This is consistent with my strongly-held world-view and opinion that we are each responsible for our own lives, in all senses of that phrase, and although various religions and philosophies take differing positions about this issue, that the final choice is between the individual and his or her specific religion, philosophy, God, life-view, or cosmology.
One of the most important take-aways from this process is that I am engaged in politics (in some small way) for the first time since the 1960's, and it is enlivening and quite satisfying. And most importantly, it is something that I can fully support, believe in, and will ease or diminish pain and suffering for many people, including myself.
February 21, 2021
A good working definition of "denouement" - for me - is when a series of events is finally resolved or explained and the overall meaning of the preceding events is at last understood and interpreted as a part of a larger and more important theme. That definition certainly works for me, and I am somewhat twisting the definition in an attempt to understand and explain what is happening at this point in my life.
I find that writing and publishing is a useful way for me to understand whatever meaning I attempt to assign to it, as there is likely no other experience like reading what you have written with a somewhat critical eye to avoid misunderstandings and overlooked pomposity. I ask the Reader to bear with me a bit as I investigate the meandering yet meaningful thoughts in my head. I completely forgive and understand those Readers who want to move on to other more fruitful activities at this point. However, it might get more interesting.
I just finished a conversation this early Sunday morning with my wife Liz in which I seemingly was able to describe and came to terms with issues that I have been grappling with for much of my life. We all have those in one form or another, and I believe that our "success" in life, whatever that means to us, is dependent on how honestly and fruitfully we recognize and deal with those issues. Some call it therapy, or enlightenment, or spirituality, and I think it is all of those and far more. It is what forms a common bond with others, since I believe it is, or at least can and even should be, the universal human experience.
And since our childhoods hold many of the keys to later issues that come up in life, that can become a fertile ground for exploration, if done openly, honestly, with a desire to move ahead and not get "stuck" in self-absorption and explanations as to why we are the way that we are. At some point we need (I use the word "we" when of course I really mean "I") to learn and move on and complete - or at least recognize - whatever our contributions can be to help justify our place and life on this planet, which takes on increasing importance to me these days, and which of course assumes that we must justify our lives, which is a topic for someone else's website.
By recognizing and acknowledging these - and most importantly moving on once these patterns are recognized - we can become more fully human, in my opinion. This I think is the foundation for much of the inner work that we as humans do, in whatever way we consciously or even unknowingly do it. It is the foundation, I believe, for religion, spirituality, therapy, forgiveness, and renewal, all of which I suggest are important and necessary for a fully lived and realized life.
Specifically, for me, it has to do with "substance" abuse, and in particular my relationship with alcohol. I have rarely met a "substance" I did not like in one way or the other. I have mentioned elsewhere that when I had my first drink of bourbon whiskey at age fifteen I was amazed that all the pain - that I did not realize I had - was magically gone, at least for a little while. I was at that point immediately and thoroughly addicted, and have been forever since then. And I have gone through all the usual stages, and there are many books, movements, therapies, and religions, all of which attempt to address this seductive addiction. This is also the first time, I believe, that I have ever used that word (addiction) in relationship to my life, and more importantly, actually saw it for what it was.
So in my discussion with Liz this morning, I mentioned some of the events that occurred when I was around sixteen years old (nothing particularly unusual other than an abject fear of loss, abandonment, failure, being unloved, and the other usual demons that teenagers often deal with), and saw that they were still there, buried very deeply, taking every opportunity to assert themselves in my somewhat fertile and grasping brain. And I then saw that the seeming palliative of alcohol - once thought of as a respite - only deepens the addiction. I have heard this said in many ways before, but today I saw that is was deeply personal with me, and still impacts much of what I say, think, feel and do.
So there it is: The Denouement in all its glory. As someone else likely said at this point: It is amazing what one can see by looking.
March 2, 2020
So, it has happened. Liz has told me that my vodka consumption is a problem for her (only the twentieth or so time has said this) and I finally realized she was right. Although I dearly love the stuff, how it makes me feel, and such thoughts that every alcoholic will willingly share if in a safe enough space, it does have some disadvantages.
Some of these are bad physical feelings the next day, impairment of important relationships - such as a partner, a friend, or family member - and can lead to physical danger, injury to others, and confinement in civic facilities such as jails. I have had all those experiences during my lifetime of carefree consumption.
So, with Liz's encouragement, I have stopped the vodka. Cold turkey. And I find it is amazing what has happened. I seem to be more open, emotionally available, happier, more energetic, and other experiences that I had forgotten about. I also am quicker to anger, and for more quicker to apologize and forget.
This is not necessarily good news, for when a relationship has a history and basis in repeated ways of relating, a change can seem a threat. However, the change is good, and I need to be open to more changes in the future, and be willing to adapt to this newer way of being. We shall see. Liz is a bit shocked, as changes even when sought, can be upsetting when implemented. So my task is to be open to further changes and be willing to adjust my new found freedom to do no further damage. This is not a small task, but is necessary.
As someone once said: Be careful what you ask for; you might get it.
March 6, 2021
A particularly good friend - for over fifty-five years - died several days ago, and I did not get a chance to say goodbye and tell him how special he was to me, as well as many others, including all those other things one wants to say to a good friend, but wanting to wait until the "right" time. I will now take this belated opportunity to honor and acknowledge him.
We met as freshmen in engineering school in Louisville in the 1960, and of course we were young and just starting out in life. We were both members of the Naval ROTC unit, as were many of my newly found friends. I found him to be open, dignified, friendly but not overly so, somewhat shy as the rest of us were, but with a depth to him that I immediately respected, and he seemed far more mature than I acted. In retrospect, he was not shy, but thoughtful and reserved. Most but not all my new friends were to become naval officers, entering the Navy at the beginning of the Vietnam War, but what we also had in common was five rigorous and difficult years studying at a highly respected engineering college.
Fred mostly spoke when he had something to say, compared with my blathering and expressing opinions on the many topics that I knew little about. Our relationship was friendly, not exactly close but tolerant, and we belonged to rival engineering fraternities. He struck me as someone who thought before he spoke. I often did the opposite.
In later years, our paths seldom crossed, but we moved in somewhat similar yet different circles. We knew some of the same women, many of the same men, and occasionally remarked on that, since it was over a period of years. I heard he had become a PT Boat squadron commander in the Vietnam War, serving with distinction under the difficult circumstances of that war, and was rapidly promoted due to his ability to get the job done, which is the first prerequisite of command. He saw action on the front lines and was literally a decorated war hero. As was common at that time, he rarely talked about his Vietnam experience, at least to me.
We occasionally talked and our paths crossed, but I did not see him often.
After my wife and I moved to Santa Fe, he contacted me (he was living in Arizona) and he said he would like to drop by our house while he was traveling to visit his son in Tennessee, which he did. He indicated he would be pulling a trailer, and we had hookups and space for that, so one day he came barreling down our long gravel driveway, got out of the cab of one of the most powerful trucks I had seen, and there he was, full beard, long hair, and bearing a few gifts and an enormous bottle of scotch whiskey.
We of course had both changed over the interceding sixty years. He had a black beard, was larger than life, boisterous, quite friendly, and was as full of life and humor as any one I have ever met. My one sentence impression was that he was enjoying life more than most other humans on the planet.
And so, he stayed for a couple of days, living in his trailer alongside the house, and we did some touring and made the rounds of the appropriate watering holes nearby (he never drank in college, as requested by his father, which was unheard of in our circles in the sixties). Every place we went, they still remember him for his ability to engage in fun in productive conversations with everyone, mostly by asking questions about them, their work, what they did, and other questions that drew out the people he engaged with. He was funny, boisterous, very perceptive, and we became fast friends. His attention was always on the other person, not himself. When he entered an establishment, he “owned” the place, in that folks were drawn to him, because his attention was on them, not himself. To this day, people still ask about Fred, and how he is doing.
He had an extraordinarily successful career as an “employment counselor” which we call “headhunter” in the engineering profession, and apparently did quite well, and becoming well known. His “people” skills were among the best of the all-time greats, and he was very skilled in that very demanding line of work.
He left a few days later, and we planned on getting together his next time through.
In the meantime, I began to describe on one of my websites (www.ellocodemented.com) my experience with my diagnosis of dementia in the form of Alzheimer’s Disease. As I described that process over time, I wrote that I was considering assisted suicide (which was being considered for legalization in New Mexico) rather than go through the whole process of dementia. (A better term for that is “medical aid in dying.) I wrote about this openly on my website, mostly to share what it is like to go through that process and am still considering it now – when and if appropriate. It looks like it will be legalized in New Mexico.
This news about how to resolve my illness was not received well by Fred, and he told me in no uncertain terms that it was not appropriate to do that, there were better options, and I could feel the anger in his written words for even considering that - all ferociously expressed within the context of love for a brother. We wrote back and forth about that for a while, and at some point, he communicated no further, and I heard no more from him after that. I emailed him several times (our primary mode of communication) but there was not any response.
A few months later, I was told that he was dying, and I tried to plan to go see him, but he beat me to the punch, and the next evening he died before I could make that happen.
I speculate that he did not want others to be drawn into his death, and I certainly understand that.
I write this to attempt to remove the demons that keep telling me I should have been more insistent, done more, but that is simply my conscience reminding me that I am simply a fellow frail human (frail is NOT a word that comes up when thinking of Fred), and I miss his direct form of speaking, his endearing love for others, and for the contribution he made to others in many ways.
Rest in peace, Fred. We all miss you. As he would most likely say: “Go With God.”
March 11, 2021
Moving Right Along
It seems to me that there has been a recent and relatively sudden shift in my cognitive abilities.
The evidence for that is a perception by me - and sometimes by my wife Liz - of a declining short term memory. This of course is something to be expected, according to the literature and my own extensive research. I am finding that tasks which require almost instant memory of all the steps and details of whatever project I am working on are now more difficult. Reading about this stage of the disease, as I have done since my initial diagnosis, is far different from actually experiencing it. The former is an interesting mental exercise, and the latter shakes me to the very core of who I perceive myself to be. It strikes at the very center of my dwindling ego.
For example, if I am doing something that requires me to recall previous steps or actions, and to integrate them with future intended results, that it now seems as if I am not as able to quickly integrate all those functions, steps, and information as easily as previously. This requires me to stop, back up, reassess all that is happening, and essentially start all over. I believe the medical or technical terms for this is "losing it" with the "it" part being ill-defined, yet earthshaking.
This can be as simple as not knowing the next phrase or sentence to write, or in extreme situations, temporarily forgetting my goal, destination, or appropriate process to use to further my intended reaction. Using the term "unsettling" does not even begin to describe the terror.
Another distraction is that my technology for writing directly to this website is slowed considerably due to the remote location where we live, and often results in my creating my writing on a separate app (MS Word), then copying and pasting into the raw WIX website. It is as if I am using 1970's technology to create 2020's results. But then I am using a brain created in 1943 to write something for 2021 readers, and perhaps that is to be expected and I should just live with it. I suppose I could likely have far greater problems, and I do, but that is a topic for another website and/or another time.
More posts on additional subjects will follow should I remember what they are; or perhaps I will have finally achieved the "Eternal Moment of Now." At this point I prefer the subtlety and nuance of what passes for "living" rather than the noble, much sought after and peaceful bliss of nothingness.
March 16, 2021
"End Of Life" Legislation in New Mexico
In an earlier posting on this site on January 23, 2021, I had discussed pending legislation in New Mexico that would allow medical practitioners to work with patients who were facing terminal diseases so as to ameliorate the pain and suffering that most often occurs with the process. I was supportive of this, and spent considerable time and effort in contacting various legislators to provide my personal experience with this, and to lobby for its passage.
Known and labeled as HB 47, it was quite a struggle in this very Catholic state, and both sides made their cases very well. I had never been involved in politics, and this effort was an eye-opener for me, and I was greatly energized by the work I did and the contacts I made.
It now appears that the legislation has passed both houses of the legislature, and will be signed into law by the governor, which is a huge and unexpected change in this state. My work aligned me with those on the opposite side of the political and cultural fence in New Mexico, and I saw first hand what it took to bring forth significant change in policy and laws.
The surprise for me is that I no longer have a strong desire to avail myself of the protections under this new law, and may instead choose to "ride it out" and see how it goes, perhaps even writing about that process on this website. This change in my thoughts is surprising to me, although consistent with other episodes in my life. I am a bit astonished, and perhaps I have learned something from all of this, which is one reason I want to share what has been happening with others. I can think of a few corny homilies that we all know to describe this apparently sudden change. And it may just be as simple as: "I like to win." Who knows? Stand by for further bulletins.
Please continue on
All Rights Reserved
Michael McCaffery 2021