Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Running Shorts

Recently after running I stopped by to pick Lily up for the day in my running shorts.  She looks at me, slaps me on the rear, and says quite smartly,

"Isn't that a little short for a 65 year old woman?"

Only funny if you know I am only 54 years young, lol. Of course, she still thinks of me as her older sister.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

possible link between Alzheimers and Cold Sores

 I have wondered about this connection for sometime now.  I have also wondered if there is any connection with Shingles.  I do know Lily had occasional cold sores.  Never shingles as far as I know.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Homecoming 08

Back when Lily was still doing her eyebrows!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

December 2006

Emily & Lily

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Going through photos.  This was from 2005 following one of Emily's recitals.
me, Chris, Lily, Jenny, Emily, Dan, and Ryan.

Kind of makes me sad......

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Name is Lisa

My Name is Lisa

By Bob DeMarco Alzheimer's Reading Room

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers Day Lily!

My Hero ~ Elizabeth Patricia O'Callaghan Gehrke (Lily)
(previously posted 11/3/10)
Looking back at my journey with Lily I have to say dealing with my mother 3 to 4 years ago was much tougher in some ways than the last year has been.  Although she was more independent then, meaning less work for me, she was more emotional, moody, and mean.  I wonder about that now and think perhaps it was due to a number of things not with just her, but also with me such as:

-me struggling to accept the diagnosis and what it would mean to herself, myself, and our family 

-her picking up on my feelings and reacting to them

-me trying to reorient her to reality even though I knew better

-her trying to cope with her diminishing abilities

-me trying to include her into my world and routine
-her hanging on desperately to what was left of her world and routine

-me trying to control too much
-her trying to maintain her independence

-me being able to let the small things go

-her just trying to continue to do the small things

-me learning to find humor wherever possible and encouraging her to laugh

-her dealing with uncertainty, loss, and depression with all the changes

-me learning to live in the moment and enjoying all that is left

-her trying to remember the lost moments

-me dealing with not very helpful family members

-her missing the people who were part of her old life

When I compare the two lists I would much rather be on my end. It brings tears to my eyes thinking of all my mother has had to work through and all her losses. Yes, there have been numerous hidden blessings, but even with all those I would still rather my mother have kept her cognitive abilities.  That obviously was not God's plan and we must roll with what we are given.  

I am proud of myself and my family for putting a  positive spin on this unforgiving disease, but most of all I sincerely admire my mother for her continual fight maintaining her positive spirit and her relentless get up and go, never giving up.  As hard as it is on the caregivers we must never forget all our loved ones have lost.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Alzheimer's: Diabetes of the Brain?

Although we’ve always known that Alzheimer’s disease is typically associated with numerous tangles and plaque in the brain, the exact cause of...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lily's Lulus

"Look they are all old. One is as old as the next."

"Mom, You are old too."

"I don't give a damn."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shoulder pain

I have found it difficult to blog here lately as we do not have internet at our house which makes it much harder to post and we have been very busy trying to do a few things around the house.

I did receive a call from Mom's nurse today and she was seen by the nurse practitioner for her shoulder which has been hurting her the last couple of weeks.

I believe she fell as she also had an abrasion on her knee.  Of course she couldn't verify this.

She started to complain of her shoulder a couple of days after I noticed the abrasion on her knee which made me wonder if she perhaps jammed her shoulder when she fell.

The nurse practitioner ordered a shoulder xray and started her on a pain patch for a few days.  I really hope that does not affect her cognition.

I will try to get to Panera more often but it is a good 20 minutes from our house.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Well we made it.  Dan and I arrived Sunday evening to Ponce Inlet south of Daytona Beach after driving all day.  We actually made pretty darn good time even with pulling a large trailer full of Dan's tools to work on our house.

The trip down was good and took my mind off the distress I was feeling leaving our Ohio home, Lily, Ryan, and friends.  I was surprised by my feelings not expecting to be so out of sorts.  I knew I would miss Mom and be worried about her while gone but the other feelings of uncertainty took me by surprise.

I guess just knowing we would be gone for at least 6 weeks and the feeling of our family being scattered across the country--Emily in Tucson, Ryan and Lily in 2 different cities in Ohio, and Dan and I in Florida made for some very edgy feelings ruminating through me.

The morning after we arrived it was pouring rain and quite chilly with the inside temperature being 59 degrees, the vegetation overgrown, and remnants of dead bugs through the house.  I thought to myself,  "And this is what I have been looking forward for years?"  Even Dan was a little put off.
However, once we got the furnace fixed, a warmer house, the floors vacuumed and the rain slowing in the afternoon, we both started perking up.

This morning with the sun out in full glory we walked the beach enjoying the warmth and breeze, I remembered why I wanted to be here.

My neightbor Anne will be visiting Lily and plans to call me so I can talk to her.  I am hoping she is doing well which also will be a huge relief.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Only Lily

Be sure to watch till the end.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dumb Ass!

Lily and I were leaving the Memory Support Center to head home and were approaching our car.  I said to her go ahead and get in.  Just as she was trying the door it occurred to me that I did not drive our SUV and that was not our car.

I started laughing and said,  "That is not our car."

Lily quickly pulled her hand back, started laughing and said, "Dumb Ass and you think I am stupid.  (I have never said that by the way) Dumb Ass!"

So I directed her to the next car over and said, "That's it.  Get in."

She looked at me waiting for me to open my door and said, "You get in first. I'm not falling for that one again."

We were laughing together all the way out of the lot.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Music Therapy

I love this!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

Playing the drums

Isn't music therapy wonderful? 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

German Saying 2010

This video was taken on Thanksgiving Day.  The video quality is poor, but the audio quality is good.  What is important here is how well Lily has retained this saying in her memory. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Miles that Matter gathering

Miles that Matter, my running group, had a social event this past weekend.  Dan & I brought Lily and everyone made such a fuss over her making her feel so welcome.  I have to hand it to her I could tell by her eyes she had no clue who all the people were coming up and greeting her by name, but she just rolled with it talking to them as if she had known them for years.

In the photo is my friend Denise who follows my blog faithfully and was so happy to see Lily.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Alzheimer's can open windows and doors

I had a curious thought today as I passed by Mom looking happy and content sitting in the dining area with the other residents.

The thought came to me I wonder if Alzheimer's disease has allowed her to lower her guard letting her be the person she might have been if life had not thrown her some curve balls.

I believe Lily was a happy carefree child spoiled by elderly parents as the baby of the family growing up in Ireland.  She was often told she looked like Shirley Temple with her curly red hair, blue eyes, and I have to believe a charming, mischievous personality.  I often look at my own son and wonder if Lily was like him because he is similar to her in many ways.

I know as a young girl Mom loved going out with her friends to dance halls and loved having fun and laughing. From the best I can tell I do not think she took life too seriously or gave it much thought.

When the opportunity presented to come to America where the streets were paved with gold she jumped on it which showed to me that she had courage and optimism among her character traits.

I believe her fun loving personality  prevailed through marriage and kids enjoying coffee chats with the ladies of the neighborhood.  She was definitely the social half of the marriage as my father was an introvert with the stereotypical engineering personality.

Life was good until 1965 when my father committed suicide leaving his bride with 3 children, ages eight, seven, and one. Lily's life was turned upside down and so I believe was her personality.

My family in 2010 in front of the house in Seattle where we lived when my father died.
Lily and my father Norb spent many hours building the rockery
which also has 3 levels behind the house.

From this carefree fun loving girl full of life and optimism to a widow with all that entails in a blink of an eye.  Her life changed.

Besides obvious devastating grief came shame and embarrassment. Lily's inclination was to flee and she did quickly selling her house and moving us to Ohio where nobody but her sister knew the real story.  Not even my brother and I knew being told my father died of a heart attack.

With the move the walls went up guarding ever so closely this horrible shameful secret of a husband who did not love his wife or family enough to hang in there.

No longer was Mom the same nor ever would be.  Forever more she kept friends and family at arms length.  She became bitter, pessimistic, and negative.  I don't remember ever being kissed or hugged by my mother.

As you can imagine life in our household was not a happy affair.  We all just trudged on going through the motions.  Eventually, of course, the children forged their own paths and Mom stayed on course until she moved to SC at my sister's urging who lived there.

That was ten years prior to her diagnosis and probably six years before she started showing noticeable symptoms.

In SC I believe a change occurred with mom.  Perhaps due to a change of scenery, a warmer and sunnier climate, or just a new beginning, but she became more cheerful. She still did not develop any close friendships, but did develop a rapport with the neighbors. She spent hours outside in her garden which she loved when the weather was nice.

Although still very much alone she did not appear as lonely as she had in Dayton.

As the Alzheimer's took hold, the last year was bad, but prior to that SC was a blessing for her.

The three years with us were wonderful as she lived in our family interacting, giving, and receiving love.  Slowly I noticed the walls coming down.

In the Memory Support Center I believe she is enjoying the hub bub, the activities, the staff, the residents,  basically just the joy of feeling like you belong.  She feels safe, secure, and freely gives her affection to others.  She frequently is touching, hugging, laughing, smiling, and interacting.

Alzheimer's is a terrible disease, however I do believe in Lily's case losing some of those horrible memories has allowed her to blossom back to her original happy and cheerful demeanor in ways she might never have again without developing it.  Hidden blessings have definitely emerged.

Thinking about this I am sure perhaps the opposite has occurred where the affected person has lost wonderful memories leaving perhaps a bitter unhappy person.

That is the thing with Alzheimer's, there are many similarities such as impaired memory and judgment, but the affect on  personality and demeanor  is different in each case. Perhaps because each person's personality is unique to them.

With Lily the losses from the disease allowed other windows and doors to open in ways we could never have predicted.

"Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what your gonna get."  Forrest Gump

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Two generations of models

Interestingly, both of my children have had the opportunity to model through their respective activities--basketball and dance.  Recently Lily was asked to model a wrap at the Memory Support Center during their recent Christmas party. 

As much as she likes attention you would think she would be a natural.  She was not and was very uncomfortable being photographed.  The photographer had to take several shots trying to get her to look straight ahead and smile.  I could only shake my head and laugh.
Ok let's try again


Christmas at the Memory Support Center

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Exercise is a bunch of crap

Recently the Memory Support Unit received a exercise bike donated to them from a resident's family.  It has sat there for about a month and I finally put it to good use today.

I hopped on and gave Mom a demonstration of how it works.  Then I helped her on as she was saying,

"I'm not going to do that?"   "Did you buy this?"  "What did you pay for this?"

 Soon I had her pedaling away. 

After about 30 seconds she was saying,

"Ok I'm done.  My legs hurt."

"This is a bunch of crap."

I coaxed her to continue for 3 minutes which was my goal for today.  She went almost 1/2 mile according to the dash. 

Of course she complained the whole time but I also think she enjoyed the attention.

The activities department is supposed to be setting up a program for it so I am hoping while I am in Florida they get Lily on it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The house is quiet again

Emily and Ryan are both back in their respective home away from homes.  One happier than the other.  Ryan is excited and happy to be back at school with his friends.  Emily not so happy.  She had a wonderful time back home which I think made it all the harder to head back to AZ where she still is struggling to make friends.  I keep assuring her the next six months will be better so I hope that is the case.

Dan & I are enjoying our empty nest and getting prepared for our trip to Florida in a couple of weeks.  I am enjoying the quiet and the comfort of my routine.

I visited Mom today and gave her a mani and pedi while we watched Dr. Oz.  I also had her on the exercise bike for the first time for 3 minutes.  I will post a picture and blog more on that later.  She was in good form as usual.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Lily is feeling better but still has a sore upper right arm.  She was in good spirits this morning when I was there visiting her and she seemed happy to join the group in music therapy.

As for Emily's purse we received a call late the following afternoon that her purse had been found.  The woman from Springfield said her daughter was walking to her grandmother's house and found Emily's purse and contents along with another purse in the creek.  This young girl was kind enough to pick up all the contents and call me.

Ironically when I had been out in Tucson visiting Emily in November I had insisted she put an index card in her purse and car with emergency numbers on it and that is the card that enabled them to find the owner of the purse.

We drove that evening out to Springfield to pick up the purse from the nice family who found it and discovered that the other purse was not Emily's friend Jordans.  Searching through that person we found that the owner was an Elaine K.... from Columbus Ohio.

On the way home I searched through Elaine's bag and found a sheet of phone numbers she had listed and called her at home.  She informed me that she, her husband, and a foreign exchange student from Indonesia had been out hiking the same day as the girls and their blue VW was also broken into.  However, not only was her purse taken, but their luggage (they were in town visiting their daughter) and their foreign exchange student's bookbag. 

She said that earlier that day they received a call from someone else in Springfield because their exchange student's bookbag was found on a street.  The thieves had left his Indonesia ID in the bookbag thankfully.

While in Springfield they decided to drive around on their own and found another bookbag with a bunch of books in it which they turned over to the police.

We made arrangments for Elaine to come the next morning to pick up her stuff.  In the meantime when we arrived home I spread out all the contents of both Emily's and Elaine's purse on towels to dry.  All their misc stuff was present along with their credit cards.  The only items missing were their licenses, giftcards, and money.  Neither of them had much money in their purses.  The thieves did not take the student's graphing calculator which just shows how smart they were.

Of course, the keys to our car were still in there after we just spent $200 to have a new set made and unbelieveably they still worked after getting all wet.

Emily's leather purse also dried out pretty well and you would never know it had laid in water for awhile.

The next day Elaine, her husband, and the student from Indonesia came.  They were very pleasant and the student was very cute.  He kept taking pictures of our Christmas tree and nativity scene as he was Muslim and not familiar with these things.  Apparently Elaine and her husband do not celebrate Christmas. 

They were very appreciative that I laid her pictures, cards, and other items out to dry.  One of them was a paper with words in other languages.  She said that was the word butterfly written in every language of places she had visited.  Her husband also let drop that her sister is married to the Nobel Peace prize winner from last year??  They apparently were in Switzerland to visit when he received his award.  He said he was very proud of that as he was the one who sponsored him from India.  They were a very interesting couple.

Anyway we reported the find to the police and that is the last we heard about the incident.