For the Fourth this year we decided to hang out at Oakwood. We are getting excited about moving home and had to head up and spend the holiday checking out all the fun things we could do. Living out in the country is totally different from living in a subdivision… everything from the lack of neighbors, the lack of constant noise, and a to do list a mile long… oh and internet and services being spotty. Groceries and food being a drive away… Even the fact that cable is not an option.
Eating at the Old House
We started by picking up pizza on the way out and taking it to house. We proceeded to eat at the house I grew up in. My brother has been redoing it and it looks completely different. If you have read my stories though, my whole childhood was my parents redoing the house, so the changes are not really anything different from the constant state of flux my parents had the house in. My brother has done a great job so far though. He’s doing everything himself and it looks pretty amazing. My brother has a huge dog (St Bernard) that my youngest hasn’t adjusted to, so we are still working on that one…
We have had a swing for a while and hadn’t had a chance to hang it. This trip my brother finally helped, and it is hung! It holds 600 pounds and everyone kept taking turns to swing out in the yard. It’s got a great view also, so we had a great time out on the swing – in the shade too!
I had to mention the toads though! They were everywhere. There favorite spot though is at the garage door. At one point we were seeing 7 or 8 toads hopping around right inside the garage…. I’m not sure what the thrill was with the garage but the toads seem to have found it. There were also squirrels making a racket – to me they sounded like toads, but my mother was convinced it was squirrels. We were seeing deer everywhere too. Out in the country we don’t hear the constant sound of cars, lawn mowers, and people, but the animals are always there….
Going to the Pancakes, Parade and Fireworks
Oakwood has a pancake breakfast at the firehouse on the 4th first thing in the morning. We HAD to head out to that. The parking is a mess, but we did it. We were there early enough that we were able to head back to the farm and get our wagon and ice for the parade before heading back out. Parades in a small town include candy, people you know are on floats and kids are everywhere. My mother’s goal is to collect as much as she could, but it was fun! Despite the way to hot weather this year, we had a good time.
I tried to record the fireworks. I’m still not sure how such a small town can have such a big fireworks display…. but they do. I managed to catch all but the final set. It was odd not having our own fireworks, but I’m sure it was much more safer. We did make up for it, but shooting off my dad’s canon before though.
Clearing the Pond
Shooting the Canon
My father built this canon many years ago. My brother and I have never tried to load it ourselves, but it was time to get a video of it going off. To load it, we use a Dixie cup of gun powder (I said mix flour in like my dad did sometimes), a fuse, and some paper. Shooting something out of it seemed a bad idea.
We loaded the canon, got it lit… and of course the first try didn’t go off. We then had to test the gunpowder, and then try to relight it. My middle son managed to catch it all on camera.
My father had built the canon with a special order barrel and it’s now been shot many times, including at the grand reopening of the bar the Little Nugget. It’s been stolen and returned, and it’s a family legacy to pass on….
Driving the Tractor
Finally we got my little one to sit on the tractor with my mother. It won’t be much longer until we can get him to drive it!
I’ve said it before, it’s tough when your father is in that in between land of suffering. You haven’t lost your father – yet your father isn’t really there. You can be with your father, but not share memories. What you really have is a physical shell of your parent…. Friends post about missing their fathers and wouldn’t understand if you mention that you miss your father too.. but friends with their father’s are in that position where they don’t understand either. Unless you have been there you really can’t know what that limbo is like.
This year I helped my mother print a poster of my mom and dad to hang in my dad’s room. I’m hoping it will help my dad recognize my mother easier when she visits. His eyes are in bad shape from macular degeneration and the small pictures aren’t the easiest to see. We were able to email a picture to Staples and get a poster that is 2 foot by 3 foot printed in half an hour. Yeah!
Talking about growing up, I was describing to a person online the task of walking beans. Walking beans involves walking down each row with a hook and cutting each weed. I was so excited the first year I was old enough to join my dad and the ‘boys’ that worked for him in the field. I still remember the first day. My mom had taken us to swim lessons for the first time at the YMCA and I was in either 4th of 5th grade…. I wanted to go out and walk with those high school boys so bad. The first day was hot, but being just out of the pool I didn’t even notice. Mom had dropped me at the field on the way home. The field that was by where my cousin Judy’s house was later. We finished that field and the next day we were ready to move on to the field next field closer to my Aunt Margaret’s. My dad started the day early, while the beans were still wet. We took off down the rows and I remember one of the boys kept stepping on the corn hook and running it into his shoe. Of course my mind kept going to what would happen if he ran it into his foot!
Next thing I knew I ended up passing out. I’ll never forget waking up to find myself thrown over my father’s shoulder. Every step he took cut into my stomach and he was walking back to the truck. I remember saying something about being able to walk and my dad refusing to let me….. He put me in the truck, took me to my Aunt Margaret’s house nearby and made my mother come and get me. I was then BANNED from helping for the rest of the summer. I remember begging and pleading… telling them I was fine… but nope, I wasn’t allowed to work. Years later I would have done about anything to get a break from walking beans, but that year I wanted to so bad…
Now thinking back I can’t imagine how scared my dad must have been when I collapsed in the field. Around that time I had a habit of passing out. The reason was never found, but I passed out in a few odd places, off stools into laps, at school in the aisle (I got up to tell the teacher I was going to pass out), and even once in the vet’s office). I’m not sure if this was the first time, but now I’m sure my dad’s reaction was fear.
I wish now I could ask him about that day, it’s something we never talked about other than that summer with me begging to walk beans and my parents telling me no…. That’s one of the tough things about dementia…. you still have the person but the memories are locked in their mind forever to be lost…..
We’ve tried to make our own garden. – My favorite is strawberry plants. Some of our plants are wild strawberries and some are domestic.
Growing up, we would go pick wild strawberries wherever we found them. I remember a few times even ending up with poison ivy in a few interesting places from picking strawberries. The wild strawberries are much smaller and have less flavor. We currently have both wild and domestic strawberry plants growing in our back yard.
Poison Ivy is leaves of three let it be. I don’t remember how many times I ended up with poison ivy growing up, but my dad had some inventive ways of getting rid of it. I remember days of soaking in the pool – because the chlorine bleach water will dry out poison ivy and dad’s favorite being putting gasoline on the spots. Being a farm we had the big gasoline tanks in the yard to fill the farm equipment, so going out to the tanks, we could just get a little gas and use it to dry up the poison ivy. My dad seemed to be immune to poison ivy, but he would use the gas for other things – like washing grease off his hands. He did teach us that you don’t use gasoline to start a fire though – for that you use diesel fuel! I’ve heard stories recently about people eating poison ivy to make themselves immune… warning: this can kill you. Apparently some animals eat poison ivy and there are some people that do. A report in a medical journal though found that it can not be ingested for immunity and most people that try will end up with severe rashes in their mouth resulting in the need for medical care.
Growing up we spent a lot of time in the fields. My dad farmed not only his own fields which he and my mother collected over time, but fields for my other relatives. When my parents first go married they lived in a mobile home in my aunt’s yard. We lived there until I was in 2nd grade and my parents bought the Abraham Illk house from Ralph Goodrich. The funny thing is that we moved from one side of Oakwood to the other and kept the same address. You have to love small towns! Our address was RR2, Oakwood Illinois. Later they added a Box 8 to it. Nothing else changed until after I left for college and they went to 911 addressing that used some sort of code for north and East that tells exactly where the house is.
While living in the mobile home my parents had a garden at the very end of the field near the house. I vaguely remember the treks to the end of the field almost a half mile away to tend the garden. Later my parents set up a garden by the house (when we moved to a house) and my mother had a huge garden. She’s kept a garden ever since. Of course my other big memory is finding a snake in the garden. My father’s favorite saying the Only Good Snake is a Dead Snake – led to the snake being thrown toward my foot and then shot. My father had his own unusual sense of humor. – I also have lots of memories of snakes being hacked with garden tools and being run over by cars. I don’t exactly have a snake phobia in my adult life but I’m not excited by them for sure. Of course my latest experience with snakes was stepping on a large snake while cleaning my mother’s garage! Did you know Amazon sells something called Snake B Gon?
Race Track and Learning to Drive
My father wanted us to make sure and learn to drive as soon as we could see over the dashboard. Go carts and anything else he could find were on the list of things to practice with. My first experience was a go cart that my father had used a drill as a motor so that he could unplug me if I got into anything dangerous (at about 18 months old!)
As we got older my dad would make a race track in the field after the crops were out. My brother and I would race around in circles. As going around in circles in smaller dune buggies got boring my parents turned us lose with big trucks along side the field at areas that were secluded – like the field we call Bailey’s Bottom. A bottom field that is land locked by a river and a state park. We would get to drive back and forth down the side of the field with the truck with my mom as we practiced. As we got better we were allowed to help drive to and from the fields to help with farm work as long as we pulled over if we saw a car coming. – As a funny note the way I learned the difference between plowed and a field that was disced was when my dad told me I could take an old car and drive it around in the part of the field that he had finished with the disc. Half was plowed! Whoops! Dad had to tow me out of the wrong section of the field as I got them mixed up. That will never happen again. For those that don’t know plowed isn’t anywhere near as smooth! My brother and I would drive back and forth down the field to practice, with dogs riding in the passenger seats – heads hanging out the window. We would drive as fast as we could for the long run and then slow down and make the turn at the end. I hate to admit I don’t think we even looked at seat belts back then.
On Fire and Down the Hill (At the Field)
My brother and I would spend anytime my mother was at the field with us at the field. My mom would try to find things to keep us amused. Even a black and white tv with rabbit ears that plugged into a cigarette lighter in the van. We would try to come up with things to do to pass the time. I loved reading, but one of our favorite things was jumping into the corn/beans. Not quite like swimming, we still could dive in and play in the back of each truck. I still remember finding all the stink bugs and the cockleburs that would get stuck to our clothes.
Some of our fields had things that could be done nearby – With names to go with! We had the Ranch that is shared with our cousins. My dad and his 1st cousin built a nice pond there. For a long time we had a beach and picnic area and could play in the sand. The bottom field and Bailey’s bottom each were on the river with lots of fun things we could do also. Thinking of it, there was frequently things with water that we could do. We also were covered in black marks from using old tractor ties as floatees.
Then there were the adventures, like when the truck caught on fire in the field from stalks catching on the bottom. The bottom of the truck was hot and of course driving through the field the stalks had stuck to the bottom. If I remember right my dad burnt his hand trying to pull the burning pieces out from under. Another time the truck ran out of power near the top of a big hill and it just went right back down backwards until it came to rest against a tree. Luckily no one was hurt.
I recently read an article by someone about what she would tell her children if she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. We’ve actually lived through a few instances of both Alzheimer’s and dementia now and in the past. Both are pretty sucky diseases! I got the impression from the article (and I could be wrong) that the person writing it was talking about the disease that you see on television. The forgetful parent that is living in the past and is still mobile. For Alzheimer’s disease that was a stage we did see too. I won’t write much about it other than to say my impression was that the article was written to make caregivers feel guilty for thoughts they may be having. Thoughts that they already are probably having a hard time with. In reality, no two people with Alzheimer’s or Dementia are the same. When I say it’s a sucky disease I mean it becomes a disease like being locked inside your body with no way to communicate and no one has any idea if you are aware or not. Think awake coma…. In this case though there isn’t the television hope of they are going to wake up… the hope really is that they don’t suffer too much.
My Aunt Kate – Alzheimers
My Aunt Kate was my first experience with Alzheimer’s disease. We didn’t even have a clue what was going on at first. Growing up I loved spending time with her. She, my Aunt Lena Mack, and my grandmother had been the youngest girls in the family of nine kids in an immigrant family raised by my great grandmother. The lost their father in 1918 in the flu. My Aunt Kate had married a miner when she was young and then lost him early. She later met my Uncle Ralph who sold insurance and took photos – lots of phots, and developed them himself!
They lived in the coolest house. If I had been old enough when she sold that house in Danville Illinois, I would have bought it for sure! It is still there, but has been changed beyond belief. It’s beside DCFS and is now a hair place painted blue. It had a huge wrap around porch and at least 4 rooms upstairs. One of the rooms was a suite and my aunt and uncle never used that part of the house – except when we visited. One room had a huge walk in closet with a vanity also. I would go up and check out the vanity with the mirror and old style hair brush, ten wander around. My parents would drop us at my aunt and uncles when they wanted to go out and needed a babysitter…. My aunt always had a quilt set up in the dining room also. I loved her quilt frame and went on to have my husband create a similar one for me. My grandmother would piece quilts and my aunt would quilt them. She could finish the whole quilt in a month and her stitches were amazing.
Later she moved to a condo after selling. My grandmother sold her own house and moved nearby, and over time they moved in together. I remember though the first signs being in the apartment where my aunt started repeating the same stories over and over again. She had stories that we had heard a few times before, but it seemed those stories started coming up more often. Why she didn’t have any children was a popular one. At first though it was little things, nothing that we could really say for sure. Over time though it started to become obvious that memory as becoming a problem.
At this point I had left for college and was just seeing everyone on visits. On visits it still appeared my aunt was the same person but told the same stories a few too many times. My family had started to realize though. My grandmother and Aunt got a house together, alarms had to be put on the doors in case she wandered…. and my grandmother had to be the caregiver. But then my grandmother got sick… My grandmother found out she had breast cancer when my oldest was born. We had to debate live vaccines or dead vaccines at the time because of chemo… and rearrange baptisms so that she would be healthy enough to attend. The question though was, if the caregiver now needs care? So my aunt had to go to a facility.
My Aunt Kate at assisted living would call home asking to be picked up. She would try to escape, following people out. She also though would tell people stories about how she worked there and would run around making people’s beds for them. We would bring the kids to visit, and everyone loved them. As time went on her mind retreated and she started recognizing people as the younger version of people from her childhood. Visiting was good, she may have thought we were someone else, but it was good for her to interact.
Near the end though Alzheimer’s patient’s become violent. They are frustrated at the fact they can’t remember and they start to just fight back against everything and everyone. My mother dealt with that. Patients start losing their ability to do basic things. The toughest part is that their body in many parts is healthy, it’s only their mind that is suffering.
My Dad – Vascular Dementia
My dad on the other hand is suffering from vascular dementia. My father had been suffering from untreated high blood pressure for quite a while without realizing it. It apparently put little holes in parts of his brain. Additionally he had a motor cycle accident in his late teens that causes brain damage. The brain damage from the accident was so bad he wasn’t expected to live, but he had made it – and he recovered with just head aches. Now though the accident makes brain scans difficult.
One morning my father had a stroke, that was really the beginning of the end. The doctor found the high blood pressure and started treating it. My father’s family though has a history of strokes and my dad’s strokes didn’t stop them. My father has had trouble with clotting and each stroke the doctors wouldn’t realize what was going on until later. I remember a call where my mother called me and said that my father couldn’t move his hand anymore, had slurred his speech but the doctor over the phone said it couldn’t be a stroke and not to bring him in…. I don’t even have a medical degree and suspected stroke…. Two days later they decided it maybe was a stroke and put him in the hospital.
After a couple years of this, a doctor decided my father needed a heart valve replacement. My father was having issues with memory, slowly slipping. My mother was still able to leave him for short periods of time (though he once threw away their smoke detector when cooking in the microwave). My dad was doing a few odd things like he pushed a grain wagon in the pond by mistake, but he was puttering around the farm… still going out and interacting sometimes. I have a video of him sword fighting with fake swords with my youngest. We debated the surgery though….. without it according to the doctors, my father wouldn’t have much time left. Ultimately we left it up to my dad, who originally was saying no, but in the end said yes.
Ultimately the surgery was the final straw. Unknown to us at the time, surgery like this can cause a drastic decline in some older patients like this…. and my dad was one of those odds. He went through a personality change that was a little tough to deal with, his memory quickly decreased, and physically he never fully recovered. As he declined quickly he needed a walker, but couldn’t remember to use it. Not using a walker when you need it, leads to falls. So we were dealing with health issues, behavior changes, and other new issues and my dad wasn’t a small man.
Moving into memory care, because of the behavior changes, caused my dad to have issues with caregivers in the facilities. Men are much more rare in nursing homes. My father was sent to locked wards at first to adjust his meds for behavior, then the first facility took him and just dropped him at an ER and said they wouldn’t take him back. We were new to all this, dealing with documenting everything, but lost really. Luckily we found a facility in the Amish community (a couple hours away) that was willing to take my father. Due to the first facility my father had been blacklisted everywhere close. After a while my father was able to be moved closer and is now a lot closer… but now he’s no longer in a memory care unit.
Vascular Dementia really can mean that the memory only declines each time there is new brain damage, usually in our case from a stroke. My father’s body itself has failed him completely. He can’t walk, doesn’t use one hand, and is pretty much locked away. My father was always active. My dad was a farmer… He doesn’t normally speak unless you ask him a question, and then sometimes he just stares at you. We will continue to visit, but to me it looks like he’s being tortured. Kind of like the people on television given paralytic drugs and set in front of a tv to watch glimpses of their families lives with no hope of ever escaping.
What I want my Kids to Know
For me I want my kids (and how we decide things) to make decisions that they can live with. There is enough guilt no matter what you decide when dealing with these things. Don’t ever let anyone else make you feel guilty over any choice you make. Never second guess a decision you have made, you can’t back and change something you decided in the past – so just move forward and make future plans. I can say don’t feel guilty over anything you decide or do, but no matter what – if you have anything to do with the decision, you are going to feel some guilt over some parts of what happen.
When Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients reach the point where they no longer remember family and start becoming violent, or the point where they can longer answer questions and just stare, it’s hard to not feel like they are being tortured…. actually some even earlier will tell you that they are being held against their will. They will call at night and ask to be picked up, taken home.
I don’t include normally much about what my dad and mom are going through now. If anyone is going through Vascular Dementia and wants to talk privately though they are always welcome to contact me.
I’m currently working on repairing a family Bible. The Bible itself is pretty amazing. I’ve fixed the spine already and am now working on the pages. The center of the Bible contains the family information and is readable.
Throughout the Bible are pages with beautiful pictures that appear to have had tissue paper pages on the opposing sides. All the images other than one appear to be in good shape. The image needing the most repair includes Moses with the 10 commandments.
The pages have all taken on a yellow tinge from the acid in the paper. Supposedly paper kept out of the light and air will stay white, but this bible was stored in an attic, then a basement and over time moved to be stored in a bedroom until finally coming to stay with me. I have the Bible now in an acid free box with small containers to absorb any moisture. Included in the box is now acid free tissue paper.
I’ve been taking the Bible out as needed to work on the pages. I chose a kit from Gaylord Archival that is museum quality. Gaylord has several Book Repair kits, including some new tool kits. The kit I have includes book binding materials, binding glue, tape for the pages, and several other materials. – I’ve finished the binding and am now working on the pages.
Filmy tape allows the page to be placed together and the tape to be placed over the tear. The tape is almost invisible after being put over the repair. I’ve fixed a few pages, and the tape is working perfectly when the page is whole – but has a rip in the page. I’m at more of a loss when it comes to the repair of the pages that are missing pieces. Missing pieces along the binding edge are the most complex. I’m still working on finding the best method to deal with those pages, but first have been working my way though the pages that are least damaged.
Later I will need to look through the pages and find the best way to deal with the yellowing. The yellow pages are throughout the Bible and if there would be a method of reducing the discoloration it might take some time and effort. The Bible is definitely worth the effort though and the majority of the sections have minimal damage.