Sunday, December 4, 2016

Shared Computer

My home-schooled  kids have both started attending college classes. Some folks congratulate me on getting my kids to the point where I no longer have to teach them myself. There are benefits to having the kids in college classes. There is a really easy formula for converting college credits to Carnegie Units to figure out when they will graduate from High School. There are drawbacks to having two people in college. For example, when you have a desktop and laptop in your house and two college students, you get little access to either internet port,  you can't keep the printer in ink, or paper. And the desk is always a mess!

But the thing that drives me the most crazy are the files and shortcuts that spring up on the computer. The downloads folder is full of things I don't recognize. There are file names I think I recognize, but when I click on them they are something else entirely.

And then I visit mom and think she must feel that way all the time. I was at her house today, and hung curtains I made for her bathroom. She picked out the fabric at the fabric store, but today she didn't recognize it when I brought it over. And when I put the curtains up she remarked "its odd to make curtains for your vacation home." Two hours later she called me upstairs to show me the curtains she'd made for the bathroom.

For mom, her mind is a shared computer and all the files are not quite what she thinks they are. I am the teenager that clicks my tongue impatiently at her and takes over the mouse. I try not to be that person, but her file access sometimes makes me impatient.

Monday, November 28, 2016

When TV is real

When I was five, the Brady Bunch aired on TV. I watched the Brady Bunch, and not understanding that the show was produced for TV, I was convinced that my family was also being watched by other families. I thought I was on TV all the time. I stood up straighter and tried to walk like Jan Brady, straight and deliberate. Jan was a middle child and so was I, so of course, I had to be like Jan. I looked all over our house for cameras until my sister Kim caught me and, after a brief spurt of ridicule and laughter, explained to me the difference between TV and real life.

Of course, I understood the difference between TV and real life: I knew cartoons weren't real. And I knew the Brady Bunch were on TV, but unlike any show I had watched before, this seemed real--a family in situ. I guess I was  anticipating reality television. I thought that if that family could be on tv, my family could too. I remember how it felt to believe that I was being watched.

In college psychology,  we discussed the experimental bias that occurs when subjects know they are part of an experiment, and I flashed back to how it felt to "be on TV" for a week. It's on my mind this week because of mom and the trouble she has distinguishing between real and TV. I have to be careful about what kind of TV mom watches.  Even Disney animated movies can cause her distress. I try to remember when she is confused, how it felt to believe with my whole heart that my family was on tv. I don't want her to feel afraid or watched, when I can help her. And I know she knows the difference between tv and real, just sometimes, the files in her brain mix up the things she is genuinely worried about, with the ones in her "recents" file.

This weekend, Florence Henderson died. The news caused mom great distress. She is worried about dying. She tells me all the time that she is in great health and there is nothing wrong with her, but she doesn't believe it. She says it defiantly, daring me to disagree.  She also always wants to know how old every one was when they died, and if she is older than the person who dies, she says, "well, they weren't very old." This weekend, when she found out that Florence Henderson died unexpectedly at 82, she became convinced that she would die at 82 also. "I guess I don't have that long, I'm already 80."

To change the subject, I asked her what was on her Bucket List. I had to explain that a bucket list was all the things you want to do before you "kick the bucket." She sat back and thought awhile, then said. "I have already done so much more than I imagined I would when I was a kid in IdaMay.
 I moved out here and got a job and learned to drive. I had 4 kids, I went to school and learned to cut hair. I have been to Hawaii on an airplane, and to Alaska on a cruise... I can't think of anything I need to do yet.  I guess I can kick the bucket anytime."

I laughed, and said "Oh no you can't." I hugged her up hard and said, "you have some great grand kids to see born and some dancing to do, you have songs to sing and ice cream to eat."

She said "we have ice cream?" and headed off to the fridge.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Thoughts on education

Before I started homeschooling my own kids, I didn't have strong opinions on education. I'm not sure I had any opinion.

Now, I have lots of opinions. My opinions run counter to many, and I don't expect anyone to believe what I believe. That doesn't mean I won't share.

First: Children are not blank slates. I don't think this is an opinion, its a fact. I know John Locke  postulated a theory about tabula rasa and that many other educational theories are based on the idea that children are inherently nothing, until we mold them.

Sorry, nope. Having had two kids of my own, and assorted nieces and nephews, and a slew of homeschool friends kids around, I can assert positively that children are born with an operating system that functions all on its own. They like and dislike stuff, love and hate foods, and have a host of subroutines that you discover as you spend time with them.

Second: The idea that a child can get behind. This is an opinion that is widely quoted in educational literature as a fact--especially for curriculums pushing early reading or math skills. Get your child ahead! My response is always--ahead of what?

 My sister is a preschool teacher and she said something to me that I thought was very profound. She said "curriculums come and go, but child development hasn't changed. Kids, especially preschool kids, are the same now as they were 100 years ago, or two thousand years ago."

People will argue about this--what about the exposure to media? what about traveling in a car? Eating food from the grocery store?

Ok, our world has changed. But babies start out the way they always have. Being carried, crawling, putting everything in their mouths, walking, climbing--all the same--all over the world.

So why do we think in the First World countries that we can rush our kids to an Ivy League school by pushing early reading and math--and why doesn't anyone in the school system question this idea. In Dayton, the mayor has endorsed a tax proposed by the Learn to Earn coalition to fund for early learning. I have many issues with this , but most fundamental is that early learning thing. The Learn to Earn Coalition cites a "broad range" of research (unspecified) about early reading and success.

My opinion is based on my own experience. My son was an early reader--not because we taught him to read, but because we read to him. My daughter, read a little later. I think you cannot teach a child to read who isn't ready to read, or math to a kid not ready to do math.

 What are robbing them of when we stick them in a classroom at 3 to learn early reading? Maybe we are robbing of them of the chance to have success? Maybe we are robbing them of being a discoverer. Maybe, by putting them in a an early learning situation with expectations and outcomes for which they are unprepared, maybe by labeling them as "behind," and putting them in remedial classes, and giving them IEP's and disability managers, maybe, we're crippling them.

Monday, November 7, 2016


So, I am a homeschooler.

I didn't set out to homeschool. I have a son that's an alien. He was allergic to everything. Dust, mold, trees, milk, soy, wheat, cleaners, peanuts--you name it, he was allergic to it. Not from planet earth.

When he was school aged, but not compulsory school aged, the pediatrician suggested I hold him out a year to see if he outgrew any of his allergies. He said, "He might not have to be the kid with the epi-pen." By the time he was five, my son and I had had enough experience with this allergy thing to know, being the kid with the epi-pen was not a good thing.

 Folks fall into two categories when it comes to allergies. There's the dangerous group, which tends to be men of my dad's generation that think allergies should be overcome by will. "What do you mean he can't drink milk? It's good for him." One friend's ex-husband falls into this category. He tried to make her son eat foods he was allergic to because he saw avoiding them as disobedience. One daycare person my son was exposed to was in a sub-category of this "won't hurt 'em" camp. She would give my son milk when a holiday was coming up,  because kids with diarrhea have to stay home until 24 hours from their last solid BM. The daycare used to survey parents to see how many would need services on say Martin Luther King day, a bank holiday, but not a retail holiday. I always had to work. But if my son had diarrhea, well than I was out of the running. And it was only a little allergy.

Then there is the second group, people who are scared of kids with allergies. They follow your kid around and ask "is he allowed to have this?" I understand when the kid is a baby, but at 5, my son knew what things he could and couldn't have. He knew to check if he wasn't sure. It was always hard for him to have adults snatch his food away and bring it to me to see if he could eat this cookie or that yogurt.

We decided to stay home a year. And it worked. He outgrew his milk, soy and peanut allergies. But when he was six, the school wouldn't enroll him in first grade, because he hadn't done kindergarten. I asked for him to be tested. They refused. So, we stayed home another year. Our vacation in October cost a smidgen to what it would have cost in June. Our kids were thriving. "Why were we trying to enroll in school?" We never looked back.

So, I am a homeschooler. I have developed strong opinions on education and the direction our country is moving in its educational policies.

Occupational Therapy

One of the challenges of spending time with mom is keeping her busy. With a house and yard to look after you'd think it would be easy, especially as she was raised on a farm and used to thrive on hard work. She still talks about working outside. She is always complaining that my brother won't let her cut the grass. But Alzheimer's has affected her ability to perform complex tasks like laundry, or tasks that require planning, like cleaning a bathroom. Its hard to "help" her. If she is having a really bad day she can go about tasks in ways that are messy. Not a big deal, but its normal to intervene when you see someone overflowing a pot with water----but mom's reaction is unpredictable. She may laugh and say "oh, look what I did," or she may have a an angry outburst. She doesn't like to feel managed."

This weekend, I helped her fill her bird feeders and sweep the back porch. It was hard because she'd hidden her broom. She hides things. She doesn't know that she has hidden them. She sometimes claims the kids are coming over and hiding her stuff, but she doesn't know which kids--sometimes she says my brother "is a scamp." I cannot tell her that her middle aged a scamp wouldn't drive up from Hamilton to hide her broom--she doesn't remember how old he is. We never found the broom.

I pulled an old broom out of the garage--hardly more than a handful of straw left on it--and set her to sweeping. I left the back door open and the dog out to watch mom. Then, I went in the house, ran the vacuum, washed the dishes, wiped all the tables and the counters down, grabbed up all the old newspapers she will never let me take away and cleaned out the fridge of food that she's always going to "heat up in a minute." I tied up all the trash and carried it out past her to the dumpster. I was inside ten minutes. She was sweeping exactly where I'd left her.  The dog was asleep in the grass.

I came up next to her and said "Isn't it a beautiful day?" and she threw the broom down and said "it's too cold." She went in the house and closed the door. I picked up the broom and stowed it away, shut the garage and went in the house.

Mom said "oh honey, here you are! Do you want a cup of coffee?"

I said "What have you been up to?" and she said "oh just cleaning up around here."


I remember last winter with mom as hard. I look at my journal of those days, and it seems like she was always grumpy. I had hoped it was just the adjustment of the move, but now I am thinking its more that short days don't agree with mom. She's an outside girl.

Last year we worked on embroidery together. It was hard. She had trouble following a pattern. I had to find small, easy designs that still looked nice, and I had to help her by color coding the patterns, so she would put the right thread in the right place.  This year she can't focus on the pattern long enough to embroider. She can't thread her own needle. She can't fasten her own embroidery hoop. She  doesn't remember the work she has already done, and complains that someone has messed with her hoop. It's been months since she's embroidered anything. Although, she loves to tell me about the luncheon set she embroidered for Lulie Burns when she was "just a girl," she can't actually embroider any more.

One thing she loves are pictures. This weekend, we took a bunch of pictures and put them in a photo album. I let her tell me all about each picture, if she remembered who the people were, and I told her all about the ones she couldn't remember. Always careful to introduce the memory by looking long at the picture and saying "Isn't this that time..." Or "look at your hair...." so she could "recognize the picture and tell the story back to me. 3 hours of fun.

My sister called just as we finished the album and mom told her all about how we were putting pictures in an album and having so much fun. I cleaned up all  the cut paper and debris from the table. Mom came in from the phone and sat down at the table. She turn ed the album towaard her and looked at it. "Is this your book?" she asked me.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Scoutmaster minute published in troop newsletter March 2015

Scoutmaster Minute  
March 2015 
The Scoutmaster Minute theme for March is Bravery. Every one of you can probably think of an act of bravery, like standing up to a bully. Bravery comes in many guises; it’s not always large in scope--running into a burning building.  It can be as small as holding someone’s hand. There are nuances to bravery. One of my favorite novels, To Kill A Mockingbird, is a study of what it means to be brave.  I won’t spoil the story for those who haven’t read it (or the movie for those who haven’t seen it) 
Mockingbird presents different characters with a choice between doing what’s right, when doing what’s right means criticism, ridicule, threats and danger; and doing what’s easy. Not every character makes the same choice—that’s the story.  What would you do? What if the easy path isn’t actually doing wrong, it’s just not doing right? What does bravery have to do with right and wrong?  It takes tremendous courage to go against the tide of what everyone else is doing, even when it’s wrong.  One of my favorite authors, Edmund Burke, said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  
History shows us people who did nothing: bystanders, people following orders, people who don’t believe they have the authority to act.  History also offers examples of people who chose to do something, even though that was more difficult, and in some cases, more dangerous. I hope this is a choice none of you will ever have to make.  But if you are confronted with a tough moral choice, one that requires you be brave and face down others who would do nothing, I know you’ve got the stuff.  Scouting equips youth with the values, leadership skills and confidence to make tough choices. Because you choose to be a scout, I know you would choose to do something.   

Scoutmaster Minute, published in the scout newsletter January 2015

One of my favorite books is Jane Eyre. When I was a teenager, I read it several times, drawn to the story of Jane trying to determine who she is and who she wants to be. It’s a nineteenth century book, and seems very old fashioned to modern readers. But I am still captivated by the journey of the main character.  At one point in the story Jane is offered everything she wants if she will violate her principles. She thinks to herself, why not? Who cares how I get what I want. Who cares for me? Then she answers herself: 
I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation. . . . They have a worth—so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane 
By choosing to adhere to her principles, Jane demonstrated that she might have been a scout.  She chose to put the kind of person she wanted to be over the things she wanted. Would you trade everything you ever desired: Love, Belonging and Worldly Wealth, for your principles? Which of those principles would you feel the hardest to violate. Could you tell a lie to get wealth? Could you be unkind to get a better position? How unkind and to whom?  
Every week when we say those 12 words, it’s easy.  You’ve memorized them, and we say them together in a musical rhythm. What your leaders hope for you, is that when you are alone, when it seems like you’re friendless and unsustained, you will hear the voices of your scout friends saying those 12 words, and you will choose the kind of person you want to be over the things you want: that you will choose to be a scout. 

Scoutmaster minute November 2015

The word of the month is Trustworthy. The word is on my mind this month because it’s the time of year when Webelos scouts are visiting troops to see which troop is right for them. It’s also the time parents are visiting troops to see which makes them feel best about scouting. The question on the minds of the parents is troop 320’s trustworthiness. Can they send their was-a-cub-scout-just-yesterday son into the woods with our troop and trust that we will care for and teach their scout? I don’t worry about the scouts—you scouts will all recall how you were chomping at the bit for independence when you crossed over from cubs—the scouts are ready. The Scouts will be fine.  

Parents, well, the difference between cubs and scouts is the difference between elementary and middle school. It’s a big change, and they happen at nearly the same time. Parents aren’t always ready for it. 

We weren’t ready when you went to preschool, or when you rode your first two wheeler. Parents won’t be ready for it when you turn 16 and drive, or 18 and go away to college.  But parents learn to let go, each step of the way, when you are ready—we go along acting like we’re ready too—and pretending to be ready lets us get actually behind your independence.  So when you see anxious new parents visiting with the Webelos scouts, remember, they are only pretending they are fine, and say something nice and soothing. Like you do when the scoutmaster asks you if this is in the guide to safe scouting.  

Scoutmaster minute from February 2015 Newsletter

Scoutmaster Minute  
Many of you may not know that I was English Major in in college. One of my favorite courses I ever took was Latin, not because Latin itself was so interesting, but because the professor who taught Latin was a philologist. Philology is the study of language. Philologists use written source material to find the earliest appearance of a word and/or words related to it. Professor Lennon taught me to look for nuances, small differences in meaning, in word use that change over time. As a study, it sounds very dry, but it’s not. Language is not static, but fluid—changing to fit the needs of the people using it. For example, the word text used to mean typeface or a body of writing. If someone from 1910 were to be transported to 2015, the highway signs “Don’t Text and Drive” would be very confusing. In 1910, text was not a verb.  
Interestingly, the theme word for February’s scoutmaster minute, “clean, has remained relatively unchanging Clean means now what it meant in 1910. But, thanks to my lessons from Professor Lennon, when I think of clean I think of all the nuances of the word. What often comes to mind is not a dictionary definition, but sayings of my mother’s. One thing my mom used to say a lot when I was a kid, and I’m sure you’ll have no trouble believing it, is “you kids are driving me clean out of my mind.” In this use, you can see that clean means completely or entirely. The reason this pops into my mind when thinking about clean in a Boy Scout context, is that the Scout Law and Oath together express an intention to be both clean, as in un-dirty, but also morally straight, which is a clean of mind and habit, an unstained or untainted condition. 
Now, think about the order of the words in the scout law. We are working the virtues in reverse order, but every week when you say the law, you say: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”  There is deliberation in the order of these ideas.  You have to get them all, completely and entirely to embody what it means to be a scout. A person who is untruthful, unclean, or morally muddled may never reach that state of awed respect that is reverence. Thinking about how completely the law is a guide for life makes me realize anew what a genius Baden-Powell is. Or as my mom would say,he is real clean and swift.” 

Scoutmaster Minute April 2015 
Continuing through the scout law, the Scoutmaster theme for April is thrifty.  Thrift is one of those words whose meaning had subtly shifted over time.  I can’t remember the first time I heard someone say they were “going thrifting,” but I’m pretty certain that when I was a kid, thrift wasn’t a verb. In fact, “thrifty” was what the adults in my life would say about adults who didn’t like to spend money.  When Baden-Powell was putting the values he deemed important into the scout law.  

My family wasn’t wealthy in the spendthrifty 70’s, when I was scout age, but my childhood was once of abundance compared to that my parents.   

When my mom was a kid growing up on a farm in Kentucky, thrift was a way of life. Food spoiled couldn’t be replaced at the local grocery. The cow could be milked once a day, the garden harvest couldn’t be left on the vine or go unweeded, and a pig butchered had to be smoked or eaten.  If the food wasn’t stored or prepared properly, the family went hungry.  


Last week I attended an Alzheimer's Association dinner at Sinclair Community College with my good friend Robin. I was energized and disappointed by the information given at the "Will I be Next" event. I was energized by the amount of Alzheimer's research being conducted in the Dayton, Ohio area. I live at the convergence of medical and technological advances designed to help the DSLO (dementia suffering loved one) and the caregiver. It's heartening to see how many people are working toward a goal.

Disheartening was the commercial the Alzheimer's Association ran
because while it was meant to inspire hope and encourage donations to our goal--the "survivor" in the commercial is very young--13? Which tells me, that in the mind of the people developing the commercial, the solution is 50 years away. And that is too late.

We had a room of thirty and forty and (ahem ahem ) fifty somethings in that room who all hope to be that first survivor. We need to find the cure, prevent the onset and stop this killer now.
Not in fifty years!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Rip Current

Alzheimer's Mom has fixed ideas. It can be hard to suppress the need to correct her. Some of these ideas are a result of moving her. Even though it has been almost year since we moved her, she has this idea that she is on vacation. She'll say that "when we go home from here," or "It's been so nice to spend all this time with you, but I'm ready to go home."

Sometimes, she looks around her house and recognizes her stuff, but other times she'll claim things were here when she moved in. For example, her new house has built in bookshelves in the living room.  Her books are in those shelves. She packed the books at her old house, and she helped to unpack and put them on the new shelves. But she'll say--"the people who used to live here left those books." I used to try to help her see them as her books--I would take them out and show her name written in the fly leaf, and I would feel frustrated at how her refusal to accept her move. One day when my sister was visiting, my mom was showing her around her "rental house," and said "these books were here when I moved in." Kim didn't miss a beat, she said "have you read any of them?" and mom went on to have a discussion about how much she loves to read. I realized that as frustrated as I am by mom's "refusal," I am just as stuck in needing her to recognize her stuff.  That trying to "help" her recognize stuff is something I need from her, not something she needs.

When I was kid, I once went fishing with my dad along the Little Miami River. I was bored with fishing, and wanted to swim in the river. Dad said I couldn't swim in the river because it has undertows and rip currents caused by shoals in the river bed. "You can get sucked under in a flash, and I wouldn't be able to save you." I looked at the placid slow moving river and thought "but I am a good swimmer." I wanted to argue that I could handle the current.

Now, when I am talking to mom, I understand what a rip current is and how it can drag you under. It's not just that mom has shoals in her riverbed, either. Sometimes the current is caused by my own need to make her see things the way they are and not the way her brain is reconstructing them. Yesterday she was talking about how I was as a child, congratulating herself on how well I turned out. The person and events she described had nothing to do with me, and as far as I am aware, none of my siblings either. I felt such an upsurge of anger at her for not seeing me, for making up a fake me and being so proud of the fake me.

She often complains to me about me. I can be with her and she'll tell me she has a daughter that lives next door that never comes over. I can be walking with her and she'll tell me that her daughter that lives next door should walk with her because she is putting on weight. She'll tell me that her daughter has a pretty face, but could brighten herself up if she would wear lipstick.  She'll tell me that she used to walk three miles a day, but now she doesn't get to walk anymore, because her daughter won't walk with her.

I know that Alzheimer's makes her lonely. I know she can't remember that my brother was there on Sunday, and her "friend" Tina was there Monday night, or that I come over every day for coffee in the morning, or that Kim comes on Tuesdays, or that Wendy called, or that Jamie face timed. I know she doesn't remember that I've been there two minutes after I've left. I know that when she follows me across the yard and knocks on the door, its because she wants company, not because I am not doing enough. But it can make me feel very frustrated. I feel like I am caught in the current of her lost memory, losing my reality, losing contact with the bottom of things.

I thank God for my siblings, who can verify that my world exists. Who can say "yeah, that never happened." Who can say "she did that when I was there." Who can say to me, "its ok." I am grateful for friends that let me talk on and on about how hard it is. I am grateful that the same lost memory that pulls me under, makes her forget how I occasionally try to reorder her reality to fit mine. She doesn't stay mad at me for showing her the name on the fly leaf of a book, or showing her a picture of herself walking with me. She is always glad to see me when I knock on her door, even if I go out frustrated and come back in one minute, she answers the door as if we haven't seen each other in years. Always, she is a gentle, placid river on the surface. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Part of the process

It's a strange thing to be in this place, caring for one's parent. Mom is steadily declining. We knew it when we moved her. It is more evident than ever. 11 months have lost decades of memory, and she is often like a person I've never met. She can be angry for no reason that I understand. Like a toddler--sometimes emotions just sweep through her, and she is helpless to cope with them. Sometimes she is aware of her loss and weeps. I am not sure which is worse, her baffled anger or her grief.

Many things about caring for mom are hard. I am lonely in it, because it's boring to hear about. It's like stories about your kids--while fascinating to you, they are not really that interesting to others. My siblings talk about mom, but they don't feel comfortable with it. Not because they don't want to hear, but it makes them feel guilty. They feel guilty for not being here. I don't blame them. I feel guilty too, for getting the time they don't. As hard at it is--it is also very special to be the one walking with her: poignant, funny, and sad.

Guilt is a part of the process, it seems. We all feel guilty for upsetting mom when she is upset--even if we don't know what we've done. We all have this childhood ingrained sense of disappointing her. We kids feel guilt toward each other, for not doing enough, or more, or for not knowing what to do.
I feel guilty when I am away from her too. When my sibs come, I run away and embrace my time. I don't even stay to visit with them. I run away, but I feel guilty for having such relief at escaping. And sometimes, it is an escape.

We have a caregiver coming 3 days a week now. Tina is a gift. She "visits" mom. We've enacted this elaborate ruse of Tina being a friend of mine who just fell in love with mom and wants to visit her. Tina brings games and art supplies and she and mom spend 12 hours a week together. It's such a relief to have another set of eyes on mom. Trained eyes, that can identify changes in behavior and help come up with solutions.

Eating is a problem. Mom no longer does well with silverware. She needs foods she can eat with her hands, and even those sometimes thwart her. Her palate has changed, she doesn't like anything remotely spicy and really only tastes bitter and sweet. So, she'd live on coffee and ice cream if she had her way. I let her eat what she likes, there is no up from here, after all, and why should she have to eat things she doesn't like? So, no Ensure protein drinks.

I bring her gifts of fruit and veggies I know she likes, but one or two at a time. One perfect peach. A dish of cut cantaloupe. I keep very little in her fridge because she throws it away "I think this belongs to the person who lived in this house before me" or just gets it out of the fridge and forgets about it. Sometimes she leaves it on the counter to "defrost." Much food is just wasted.

Monday, I bought a pound of the honey ham she likes. I kept half of it at my house in the "mom drawer" of my fridge, and took the rest to her house on Tuesday morning. I put it on the shelf in her fridge next to a tupperware of sliced tomato, a baggie of lettuce, a loaf of bread and container of mayo. I wrote on her white board in the kitchen: "You have the makings of a yummy ham sandwich in the fridge for lunch."

On Tuesday, after school, I went over to see her and she said "have you had lunch?" I said yes, but I'd make her lunch if she was hungry. She opened the fridge and pulled out a paper towel. In it was a ham sandwich with three bites out of it. "Hmnn," she said "I wonder who put this sandwich in there?"
She reached back in the fridge two more times and pulled out two more ham sandwiches, wrapped in paper towels. "What is going on?" she said. She put her hands on her hips and shook her head. "Someone," she said "has been sneaking in here and making ham sandwiches."

 I said, "I don't know mom, who would do that?"
She said, "Well, anybody! Everyone likes ham sandwiches." She put them all back in the fridge in their paper towels. "They'll be back for them later I guess."

Then, She pulled out the ham and the bread. "I am having a ham sandwich, do you want one?"

I used to be worried about the "people" who came to make ham sandwiches, or eat her ice cream, or play cards with her. Delusions? Actual people who she is mistaking for someone else? After 11 months, I know her house is peopled by her memories as they dance about and recombine. My grandma and my Aunt Ina Mae visit all the time, and they've been gone for years. Mom has great grandbabies she brags about that haven't been born yet. I do my best to sort them out and not upset her or get upset.

My gift is how silly I am. She thrives on impromptu waltzes and how-many-nursery-rhymes-can-you-say contests. She loves it when I challenge her to a birthday duel--she can't remember that her sister died, but she knows all 12 of her siblings birth dates and delights in the fact that I have to look them up on the family tree. You tube is my friend. We have learned the boot scoot boogie, the electric slide and the zumba booty circle about a million times. I try to always be the imp in her life. The one that brings unexpected flowers, Angel food cake, or a bird feeder. She loves surprises, and the gift of Alzheimer's is that she is often surprised. Even by the ham sandwiches in the fridge, and so we muddle on.