Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Sunset of Our Lives



    If we are lucky enough to enjoy a long life, the chances are that our bodies and minds will gradually deteriorate. Just like any piece of machinery, no matter how well oiled or maintained, time will eventually have an impact on us. I just returned from a whirlwind trip south to assist in getting my mother moved into an assisted living facility. Several months ago she suffered a stroke. It required her going into a rehab program and sharing a room, much like a hospital room, where she could get the help she needed. Unfortunately, the stroke wasn't the worst of the problems she was facing. Over the course of the past year or so, it was becoming increasingly evident that Mom was having problems with her memory. Not just the common forgetting where you put your keys or not being able to pull a word out of your mind to complete a sentence. In the course of a conversation I would often answer the same question five, six, seven or more times. Every day knowledge that she should have known, escaped her. She had no recollection of having asked a question, nor did she remember the answer given. On occasion she would somewhat haltingly recollect that an answer to an inquiry had been given. I think it embarrassed her to think that she wasn't as sharp as she had been. My brother shared a conversation that she had with his wife. She was distressed and asked- "what's wrong with me? Why can't I remember?" It's a frightening place to find yourself in. While Mom was in the rehab facility, she saw a neurologist who confirmed that she was in the final stages of dementia. My family had to make the painful choice of moving her out of her home and into a permanent facility. I can't emphasize how difficult such a decision is. We are taking her basic freedoms from her, the ability to decide where she will live, what she will eat, when to get up or see a doctor. The fact is, she was unable or unwilling to cook anymore, and was living on largely on peanut butter and crackers or a bowl of soup, supplemented by a program that we set up for her to insure that she was eating something healthy at least three days a week. When I left her the other day, it was brought to my attention that Mom was down to a mere 99 pounds. She's under the impression that she weighs fifteen pounds more. On more than one occasion when I called, she would answer the phone upside down, and not hearing anyone, she'd hang up. She tried to make calls on her television remote control, and ended up calling her neighbor to come over this past winter because she had gotten up in the middle of the night to turn up the heat but had accidentally turned it down. In her mind, she believes she can still live on her own. She would hop in the car and drive if she could. but she confided in her neighbor that she had left for a trip to the store and ended up in a town some fourteen miles away without any recollection of how she got there. My mother was always a very sweet woman, and still is, but with many dementia patients, as the day wears on they become increasingly confused and combative. It's a condition called Sundowner's Syndrome. They are scared and tired and Lord knows what else. When I see her like this, I can only pray that God in all his goodness will spare me the same fate. I take a great deal of comfort knowing that we were able to place her in a facility that is the top of the line. She has her own room with two windows that look out on a courtyard, her favorite recliner is in the room, along with multitudes of family pictures, her CD player and favorite songs, TV, dresser full of clothes and many mementos. It's a very comfortable room and we've made it as much like home as we could. Her friends are free to visit, she gets three nutritious meals each day, there are activities to do and a lovely sitting room with beautiful furniture. They even have a soda fountain and popcorn machine. The bottom line is, she is being taken care of in a way that none of us could do. I pray that none of you have to face this situation, but if you do, I hope that you'll be as fortunate as we have been to have a first class facility for your loved one.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Never Ending Story



















   Twenty five years ago, when I first laid eyes on the Bonnie J, I really wasn't impressed. After all, it was a wooden boat,and I knew what that was going to entail. However, when I got closer and looked at the For Sale sign, and the amount that the seller wanted for her, I started to give it some consideration. At the time I still had seven kids at home, and I wasn't exactly raking in the big bucks working at L. Kane Store. I don't know what my reasoning was for buying it; I guess I realized that I'd be hard pressed to find another boat with a basically new engine for that price,and since I wasn't mechanically inclined, a new diesel was a real selling point. I would have liked to have purchased a good used fiberglass boat, but they were going for about twice what we paid for the house, so that wasn't practical either. Sooooo... I bought the Bonnie J and actually, I've been paying for it ever since. I've had her for almost 25 years. In that time I've replaced the forward deck, after deck, deck beams, oil stove,all the electronics, trolling poles, fuel tanks, hay rack, bulwarks, hydraulic gurdies, hydraulic hoses, bow stem, and I don't know how many planks. Now it's time to replace even more planks. I figured there would be three or four, maybe five on the starboard side, but it appears that there will be even more. No doubt if the shipwright didn't stop, when he did, I'd never make it out fishing this year. As it is, it's going to be touch and go. Having a wooden boat is kind of like having a spoiled kid- or a dog like Rigby. Always demanding, always in need of something. I've often wondered if I haven't thrown good money after bad, but at this juncture, it's too late to worry about it. It gets to the point that you can't afford to walk away. It is awfully nice to apply paint to the wood and not have a rust spot show up two days later where an old screw is bleeding through. When I hauled out this time, I was noticing that some of the paint was peeling off pretty badly. I got out my putty knife and started to scrape some off. As I did, entire sections of a rotten plank were dropping to the ground. Fortunately I'd already planned on replacing that plank. A few years ago when I was hauled out, we ran out of time to replace any more. I had a rotten plank under the guard on the port side. I kind of picked at it until I had a pretty good gouge in the wood. Well, I couldn't very well leave it like that, so out came the Bondo body filler. Holy cats , I must have used six pounds of the stuff trying to get it to fill the void. It didn't want to stick too well either because the wood was soaked. What  a fiasco. It finally did dry out enough to hold some paint, but it's not very comforting to know that the only thing holding out the elements is a little bit of putty. I don't really mind  spending the money on these repairs all that much. It's a good feeling to know that you've got something solid under you when the weather kicks up and you're pounding into for mile after mile. In a few more years, if I can keep up with the repairs, most of the wood above the waterline will have been replaced. That doesn't mean that something else won't need fixed though, heaven's no! One of these days, I'll be done fishing and hopefully someone else will look upon her and decide they're up to the challenge. Of course I'll only get a fraction of what I've got invested in her, but the memories will be worth a fortune.