The Columbia River in the fall. Before we, in our infinite wisdom reduced the mighty columbia from a moving river to a series of still water lakes, this was the prime fishing spot for the First Americans. We took it from them and gave them money, as if you really could buy someone's birthright.
The picture was taken with a professional grade Canon camera that a friend loaned me. It really did take wonderful photographs.
She still can't walk well and she still wears the diapers. That is OK on both levels and she is not upset about it either. But since she cannot really walk there is no reason to take her back to my little house. She has a terrible time going down the steps in the house and not much easier at the little house. At night the 150 foot long walk is terrifying to her.
Tonight, I fixed her stew in the little house while daughter was here, then I brought it over and we ate together. Daughter has to look after another client in the evening, and the family is on their own for food.
So that worked well.
We will let her stay in the house and we will take turns looking after her or being with her. Tonight daughter 2 is here and will keep an eye on Miriam. Daughter 2 is an RN, but she has spent her career in the birthing areas not in the old ladies department (see how un-medical I am!).
We will keep Miriam here at daughters house as long as we can. No one knows how it will work out, or when it will, but we will do our best as long as we can.
It was the only day we could all get together. All, this year was 3 of 4 daughters and 8 of 11 grandkids. We did include my sister from Idaho and our mother's sister, who lives here in this town, along with Auntie's husband. I think that made a total of 19.
One daughter noticed that Miriam's face was a bit saggy on one side. Then we noticed she could not walk, but slept more. Daughter 2, the RN, bought Miriam some adult diapers. Did she have a small stroke? We cannot know for sure.
Monday she was a bit better, and Christmas she was a bit better yet, but still walking was extremely slow and laborious. She could go to the bathroom alone still, but not as well or as efficiently.
Today we see if we can contact the case worker to get council on what to do next. It may well be that the time when we can easily care for Miriam is over and now we step into a higher intensity of work on our part or we place her in a home.
I am the husband, but only one of the voters in this saga. Largely what will happen will be with my consent, but maybe without my real total approval. I think that is how it works in these things.
A few years ago we spent a month with Emily our granddaughter who was 13, too young to be left at home alone. Our daughter Lia was going on a month long trip to Asia. When I was asked if we would come to Portland I immediately said yes, emphatically.
Enjoy the day, tomorrow will be different. Kids grow up. Grandpa's take a back seat to boy friends and husbands. That is how it should be.
But while we were there I took Emily to her voice lesson at the old Congregational Church in downtown Portland. I was awestruck by the wonderful woodwork and the pipe organ.
When I was in Portland this fall I made time Sunday Morning to attend the Sunday service. Of course I was anxious to listen to the Organ.
Alas, it was "Jazz Sunday" the pastor informed me, and while I like jazz, not nearly as much as I like good organ music, the jazz quartet made good music.
Later I visited with the Organist and promised him that I would again attend the next time I was in Portland on a Sunday morning.
The church was built in the 1890's. It is right downtown. As a wood worker I was really interested in all the wonderful wood work. The benches are all curved, the doors gothic arches. Hardwood floors, just a lot of wood, good wood, fabulous craftsmanship.
I was so glad that the wood they used was not Oak or Maple, which would have had to be shipped from the Eastern states. Instead it was local Douglas Fir, which, when used well is a wonderful wood.
We were not in the same grade, and we were not there together very long. I graduated when John was a lower classmen.
Last time I talked to him, he reminded me that He still had a painting on his office wall that daughter 4 had painted when she was in high school (and he was on the faculty). He was the one with the big smile.
Tonight Daughter 1 tells me that John and I have a LOT in common.
John met his wife after high school and I have only known her as John's wife. She was a very sweet smiling lady with a ton of organizational skills.
But now John's dear wife has been placed in a home. Her AD has progressed to the point that John cannot care for her any longer.
When I see him again we will visit a bit about this horrible disease, but not too much.
Life is for the living, and while we will never forget our beloved wives, we have to care for ourselves and move on, wherever and whatever "on" is.
They have been doing this for the last several years. "Most Gifted Wrapper" contest, it was called.
Prize for the 8 finalist is a free trip to New York. The winner takes a check for $10,000.
Daughter 4 entered and this morning we got the word that she had won the contest.
Here are come comments:
Well duh, of course you won! Congratulations! I knew it! Formidable! Superbe! Magnifique! Je suis tres heureuse pour toi!!
This from a sister: See!!!
She was one of the 8 finalists and then she TOOK IT! (No surprise
here... she is so UBER talented! Started playing with paper before she
could read...AMAZING talent!)
Another sister earlier had said that Lia could make a wedding dress out of a scrap of carpet or a Sears catalog!
Who said toilets have to be all the same?
This is a composting toilet system, which is not the usual situation, but it will be very gentle on the water and on the drain field.
It is installed now and it works just fine!
In the last month I have been away from Miriam almost 3 weeks.
There was some serious cabinet and furniture making in there as well as some equally serious grandpa duty, which was wonderful.
We had a family crisis last month. It is not something I want to talk about just now, but it is not insignificant. Through it all my job as grandpa was more important than ever.
My grandkids lost two grandfathers recently. One was 93 the other 96. New Jersey and Arizona. Neither was extremely close to the grandkids, and were a generation older. I did not have too much to do with either of them, but it is a reminder of our mortality.
While I was gone one of our hens was attacked by something or someone and was seriously injured. She died a few days later. Today another hen has similar, but not nearly as serious wounds. She will survive.
The tiny house, aka The Villa, is more comfortable thanks to serious time in the wood shop. It is warm and it is easy to keep warm. Of course it has not been terribly cold.
Here in this end of the country, the sun goes down about 4:15. That is early, and it does affect our heads. Miriam is sure that she has never seen it get dark so early, but she has.
When I returned this last week Miriam knew who I was and has not had identity issues. That is good, we have spent good time together.
Meanwhile the RV refer conked out again. I found one that will fit the space at HomeDepot (we don't have a LOT of shopping options here in the back country!). So, tomorrow I get the new refer and begin to modify the RV end of The Villa to accommodate the new device.
My sister and I when we were young and cute!
My hair naturally parts on the right, but when I was a kid Hitler was a big item and he parted his hair on the right and my father insisted that my part be on the left!
When I was older I changed it back, but by then Hitler was long gone.
I have been away from Miriam and daughter one for almost two weeks.
There is work to do on our Idaho house; work on the cabinets to finish our 'tiny house'; there is extended grandpa duty among other things.
Right now I am in Portland doing Grandpa duty. It has been good. Another part of my family is involved in a major crisis and I had some Grandpa Duty there. I take the Grandpa part of my life very seriously.
Daughter one, the one I live near, says that Grandpa Duty trumps everything else.
In the time I have been gone, I am told that Miriam has gone from confusion about who the family members are to almost total non-recognition. She asked daughter one when it was that they met. "You were one of the first people I met after I was born." The illogic did not affect Miriam, but the information gave her satisfaction. Getting ready for bed Miriam says to daughter: "I am so glad we met."
She asks about when "daddy" is coming home. We have not used the "Mommy/daddy" terms for each other, so it usually means she is wondering about her father. When asked she will respond that her father is Leonard, and that she thinks she is married to David.
None of this sits well with us, but it is the rapidity of the change that has us confused.
I did not finish my cabinet work in Idaho and need to go back soon. Winter is coming and I am anxious to get the heavy work done.
Most likely I'll stay with Miriam until the first of next week then take off for a week. That should be enough time to complete my work there.
A week or two ago three guys put a $3000 floor in the new shop here on the “farm.” Earlier two of the same crew put a $2300 roof on the same building. I know, I wrote the checks.
I mention the money part, because I REALLY am not used to writing checks that size. In fact when the final check was written (it was to be for $3300, I automatically wrote it for $33!).
Then last week, I rented a trencher and my son-in-law used it to dig around 400 feet of trenches. New power lines from the box at the house to the new shop and then back to the old shop. There is a water line to the tiny house, and even more wonderful a line to bring in 20 amps of power to my tiny house.
Twenty does not seem like much when you first think of it, but it is a lot for a tiny house. I will feel blessed. That same trench holds another pipe that holds cables for TV and for Internet.
Boy am I spoiled!
Since our old TV was tanked in the flood, I am going to buy a new one. Don’t have to be tempted by the thought of a big screen, there is not room, but there is 18 vertical inches available. I think that I can work a 26 inch LED into that spot. That will truly be by far the largest TV we have ever owned.
And, the internet. Just thinking of not having it and I go blank. It is both a great source of company and inspiration as well as a fabulous time waster, but that is what I have now, so maybe that part is OK too!
For the last year I have had one major preoccupation. That is getting ready for this winter.
Last winter was pretty mild here and we were not comfortable. I have seen it 30 below zero in this valley and I have seen 24 to 30 inches of snow on the flat. Once that snow stuck around for over a month.
So I have reason for my preoccupation.
I have drawn, and calculated. I have done research and I have talked with people I think know more than I do (both hard to do and easy to do!). I have dug and I have built and I have insulated and weather stripped and gone through a case and a half of caulking and a half dozen bottles of magic expandable foam goo.
And, in the cool of the night I wonder. But in a few weeks we will put it all to the test.
Winter is coming on, and I think we are about ready. There are still a few tees that have not been crossed and a few I’s without dots, but it is coming together.
When my family came to this valley almost a century and a half ago, they didn’t make it all the way from Iowa in one year, they “wintered” in Salt Lake City. Their horses had gone lame and it was too late in the season to go on.
I have no idea what they did that winter in SLC, but it can be pretty nasty cold there too. Somehow they pulled it off, and did the hard way. It was not a matter of reprogramming the thermostat.
When they got here in mid summer, one of their early concern was where they would spend the next winter. Somehow they pulled it off, though 1 in 10 who began the western run from Iowa and Kansas, did not make it.
So right now my emotions are all over the place. I am thankful for progress for the tiny house that has risen on the other end of the barn, but I still have a few apprehensions about my winter calculations: Are we ( and mostly my beloved Miriam) going to be passably comfortable?
I think we will, but we won’t actually know for a bit yet.
Last week I drove the pickup and the flat bed trailer 250 miles west to Salem to pick up a car I bought off Craig’s list! It is another dark blue Cavalier, almost identical to Miriam’s. It has fewer miles and is in pretty decent shape, and I just bought it for a parts car.
The interior is quite nice, though a slight different color than Miriam’s Cavalier. So, I’ll exchange the interior, save the engine and all the parts I might need one day.
I was tempted to keep that car as our daily driver, but alas it does not have AC (not needed in Salem) and that is a deal breaker. No AC, no drive!
The owner told me that the linkage for the transmission was loose but was an easy fix. He drove the rig onto the trailer, and once here I drove it off the trailer. I backed it up against the fence to turn it around and the linkage came complete loose and it is stuck in reverse.
Then this week I made a decision about the flooring in the tiny house and went to Idaho for a couple days to do the millwork on the flooring.
Someone said to Daughter one: “Your dad sure doesn’t let grass grow under his feet does he?” No, she replied.
The tiny house is coming along fine, but I am the sole worker and I don’t get as much done any day as I might like. Fall weather is approaching, it is often quite cool in the morning and the squash plants show a bit of frost damage.
Miriam, of course, is not doing better, there is no better with this hellish disease. She forgets who we all are from time to time, but always insists that she needs to be with her husband.
One night in bed she told me to leave since I was not her husband. That took a while to get it all straightened out. Somehow it was sadly comedic.
Miriam saw a new doctor last week (her old one moved. When daughter informed the Doc that her mother was stage 6 Alzheimer’s the Doc said: “Ahh, that changes everything.” Miriam really needs some surgery, but we all (including the Doctor) agree that it isn’t going to happen.
Sometimes things are obvious and some times not so much so.
The 7 stages of Alzheimer's list has been around long before our exposure to the disease. Mostly I have pretty faithfully ignored it. Seemed to me that it was a bit nit picky and that there are days when one is this and other days when it might not.
But this time I glanced at the list and settled down to read "Stage 6". It sounded way to biographical. I had to put it down and look at it later.
Yesterday, she was not sure I should be sleeping with her. She was not sure even of my identity. I wrote down the day we were married, the where and how long ago that was (56 years 2 months and 14 days). I left the list so she could read it. That seemed to be enough to allow me be her husband!
Then this week we had a big event, one of those that seem possible to be a defining moment. Sometimes that defining thing can be instant and sometimes it can be ominous but not provable. Not sure about this one yet, but Miriam seems have crossed a barrier, one of those big ones.
It was cold friday morning, so i was motivated to hang the front door.
I bought it from a Dentist who was remodeling. The door came with a lock set and two keys! It is just about perfect for my little house.
It is the color it was when i bought it.
There will be a change!
The weather has been hot, then reasonable, now hot again.
I am reminded that this is mid August and that fall is not far away. Our little house is coming along quite well. I go to work at the crack of dawn and work until we have breakfast, about 10. Then if it is around 100 degrees, I wait it out until afternoon.
It is not any cooler then, but the little house is out of the sun and feels a LOT more comfortable. The house faces east, so the morning sun beats right in. In the summer it can be pretty uncomfortably with that sun pounding down, but in the winter that heat will be wonderful, and I have windows to take advantage of it.
For the most part house construction is pretty much one size fits all. If the house is in cold climate they put in a bigger furnace, if it is in hot climate, just put in a killer air conditioning system.
This house is different. It is designed to fit on this piece of ground, with these weather and sun conditions.
Will it work as well as I think?
No one knows until it is basically too late to do much about it.
When I designed my tiny house Daughter 1 said that I MUST make provision for an AC unit. I did not take that too serious until today.
By late morning it was 100 in the new house. That really caught my attention. So i began doing research. Units as small as what I needed are not too easy to find. I read reviews and instructions. I checked on line. Sears had just the unit I was looking for and it had decent reviews.
So we drove over to the areas shopping center and bought the little AC.
Next year we should be able to stay cool even if it isn't.
Last spring we talked about the benefit of having chickens on the one acre "farm." then suddenly there was two then 4 more and before it was over we had 10 baby chickens. It turned out that all but one was female (a pullet I am learning!).
That was a while back. Daughter figured they would begin laying in August and this week they began.
This morning I made two omelets. One for me and one for Miriam. Each used 4 little pullet eggs. It was very good.
I didn't hire on as a cook, and I have not made many Omelets a long time.
I put the smaller window on top and the larger on the bottom. Now when i sit I look out to the mountains and when i stand I can still se them mountains.
Cost? An hour's time and maybe a half buck worth of fasteners.
Sometimes I do what I didn't do for customers: remodel the work I just did!
I plan on spending a fair amount of time sitting in my leather recliner until I can make a pair of Morris Chairs!
I put the windows in today.
The large window is made up of two smaller windows. unfortuntely there is a 5" section that is the top of one and the bottom of another window.
I sat up a chair and it is horrible. I can't see anything I want to see. That divider section blocks way too much.
So, it comes out and something else takes it's place.
Found a used window that might work. Still not sure.
In my life a good air compressor is pretty important. Mine was at the bottom of the pond during our recent non flood (a flood is a different legal thing). It needed to be replaced, and the insurance company would help pay for it.
I wanted a particular brand and even a particular color. It seems the nice small company that made fabulous compressors was bought out by a biggie and began producing imported junk. But the original company is still making their usual version. The color labels their origin.
So I found the right one at Amazon. Ahh, Good old Amazon. So I placed the order. The tool is quality and the price was appropriate. First thing I know I get a response from some company I have never heard of that they have shipped the compressor. That is OK, except that I got two emails and they shipped one to two different addresses. I had asked (I thought) to have it shipped, not to my current address, but to friend David's address, who needed to borrow it for a while. They sent one to both addresses.
I emailed them. Sorry, but it has been shipped. Maybe you can return one later.
Later came I tried to return one. They might take it back for credit if I paid to have it shipped to their office in HagoPago.
I ended up gifting the 2nd one to my dear friend David, whose motorhome we are living in, rather than pay and risk with them.
Not happy about the whole thing. The only moral I can come up with is that I should really take physical possession of larger ticket items when I purchase them (in other words, don't buy on line from Amazon, who "sold" the order to the HagoPago guys).
Amazon did not come out looking good. Not happy about that one either.
I have owned (and still own) some of the great film cameras. Those old ones were solid and dependable, but we are in a digital age now and I won't be able to own a Leica quality digital camera -- ever.
On the other hand I have this distinct feeling (aided by observation) that the quality of the camera has only passing relation to the impact of the photograph. Sometimes camera quality affects the results, but mostly it is our eyes that are the weak point.
While I was in art school I avoided using the spendy welders and presses that the departments were full of, on the fear that I would become so habituated to them that once out of school, without those spendy tools I would be unable to produce art.
So I went back to my studio and made block prints by rubbing them with a block of wood rather than using the spendy press in the print studios. I welded with cheap buzz box welders or with my own gas welder.
I see the same with cameras. While the Canon was wonderful. It is out of my price range. Rather than fuss, or take money from another more pressing project, I'll back off to equipment I can afford.
Truth is that none of us have fully exploited our current equipment (welders or cameras or even brains) to its full capacity.
This week my friend Ben drove over to help with the building project.
This is not my brother Ben, nor my grandson Ben, but Ben the friend! He drove 250 miles, pulling his travel trailer so he would have a place to sleep!
Ben is an old school carpenter, the kind who knows what he is doing and knows how to get it done. Ben is also a year older than I am. We did have the occasional help of a couple of my 16 year old grandsons, when more muscle was needed.
The goal was to get the frame up on the tiny house addition. Not complicated, but not easy either. To make it all more interesting, the temps each day were in the 90's. Old guys and high temps don't work out too well, I assure you.
But by Friday noon when Ben left, the frame was up, the sheathing was on most of the walls and the roof deck was on as well as a layer of dry sheeting. It will shed water now and there is SHADE.
Before the grandsons leave this next week, I'll get insulation in the ceiling and have them help me with the 5/8 sheetrock. I can do the walls alone, but the ceilings are more physically demanding.
It seems that all sorts of objects have almost human looks.
On short notice we made a run to SanFrancisco for a week or so. Relax time. It is good.
The Canon does what it is supposed to do, but I have not come close to mastering the little adjustments that make the difference between pretty good and amazing.
I'll keep learning!
A friend loaned me his "old" camera. It is one of those pro models that most mere mortals can't begin to consider owning. The loan is pretty open ended, but he says he will trade me the 24 to 70 F2.8 zoom lens next week, probably for a 50mm f1.8 or so. Hope it has macro possibilities.
It has been a long break.
Maybe too long.
What with the damage to the house and the insurance and the incredible amount of time it all takes, my brain has just had to lay low and stop thinking.
Really could not decide much of anything, couldn't really think of anything, there were too many blank pages and chapters.
Then there was a check for our personal property that was lost or damaged - that helped a little. A couple days ago the main adjuster called and gave me a number of what they would pay and said that a check would be sent the next day.
We haven't gotten to the receiving part of that check yet, so I am writing with or by faith.
Now I can start thinking a bit more, but the thoughts are not clear and certainly not definite.
We still own the house, what is left of it, and the lot it sits on. That is not bad. But what to do with that knowledge? Not sure, still thinking about it, but keeping it seems the best option, or right now it seems that way.
My last camera had a terrible time with reds. It just ran them together and made them seem pretty awful. The new iPhone seems to have an issue with greens. Maybe it just is not ready to handle saturated color!
Portland has a HUGE dog population, but the owners are among the very best at retrieving dog stuff!
I am more in danger of stepping in stuff here on the tiny farm, where there are two dogs, than in Portland where there are hundreds. I was told that 70 percent of the residents in daughter's 12 floor apartment house have dogs! Some are small, but there are some big ones too!
I sent a letter to the City Insurance people explaining that the water in my house was not caused by a plugged pipe (did I really argue against that?) but by bad engineering years ago, so that if there was a problem the water had no place to go but into my house. My point is that had they modified it correctly water would have run, harmlessly, down the street and caused no problems.
When the modification was made years ago, I was told it was for my protection.
My verdict: bad engineering!
Insurance company said it was actually easier for them with the city out of the way, that they would go after the city later.
Sounds good, but nothing that the bank will accept on my account!
We are back home in SE Washington.
We stayed a week at daughter 4's house. We had meals with 3 pair of very close friends.
Along the way I think i paid more for a gallon of gas than any time in my life, but who is counting!
While I was gone there was a good bit of rain. The seeds I planted last week are all up and looking good. A few weeds are up too (Ok more than a few).
Miriam was good company, though she often had no idea of what or where.
The city’s people sent me a letter saying toughshinskies, they had decided they were not responsible for any damage to my house. Next, I expect a letter like that from my insurance company saying the same thing. And, just as I was afraid (and others laughed at) I am left with zero.
We have a shell of a house we might sell for the price of the lot, maybe.
Am I being paranoid?
So, far my fears have been spot on.
My brother, the insurance agent, says the city is posturing. Maybe and maybe the insurance company will help change their minds, but the more I think about it the darker it looks.
This blog began as a spot to vent about my life with Miriam and her time with Alzheimer's disease.
She was diagnosed in '99 and her decline has been quite slow. In fact some of our best years of our long marriage have been these recent years.
Alzherimer's, at least her version is a disease of waiting. One shoe drops and it can be a very long time before the other one drops.
So life goes on.
At the beginning of this blog I told the story of our courtship and marriage, about out family and our personal journey with this disease. The part that scares the most is the anticipation as the disease slowly progresses.
So, I will touch on that subject from time to time, but the entries will tend toward comments on life. I'll leave politics and religion for others to worry about, not that I don't have strong opinions!
I have my hands full just looking after my wonderful Miriam.
We met when we were 6, began dating at 15 and have been together since. We will have our 56th anniversary this June.
We have four wonderful daughters. Smart, independent, awesome. They have given us 7 grandsons and 4 granddaughters. None of them are little any more. The oldest is 28 and married, the youngest is 14.
Until this last fall we lived in a hosue I designed and built in the '70's and it is pretty weird and wild, but very comfortable. Last summer the girls came to the conclusion that I really did need help dealing with Miriam. Now we live on a couple acres with daughter 1.
Life has been good. There is not much I would do different even if I could. We are rich beyond belief but chronically short of cash!
And, unless stated otherwise all the photographs are mine.