Something New or There’s a Name for That!

Something new or There’s a Name for That

“Hey, why are you crying?”

“I love you so much.  You do not know how much I love you.”

“That’s no reason to cry.  I love you too.  I am happy because I know you love me, and I love you.”   My Bert is still crying, so I give him a hug and say: “I love you more than you love me.” Then the game begins.

The game is a couple tradition begun when we met and fell in love.  We would try to outdo each other in professing our love.  It was my Bert who first started to use distance measurements in the game.  It was: “I love you to the moon and back.”  Then I would top that.  We would signal the end of the game when my Bert said: “I love you to eternity” and I would counter with: “I love you to infinity”.  We would then segue into a debate as to which was the greater, eternity or infinity. That is yet to be decided.

Lately, both ‘eternity’ and ‘infinity’ have lost their meaning to my Bert but he still hangs on to distances.  It is not unusual to hear in the middle of having breakfast: “I love you fifteen million times around the world.”  Since mornings are busy and I have no desire to go around the mulberry bush a few hundred times I do not respond with distance but with a smile and say: “I love you too, double that.”    That is enough to elicit a laugh and immediate satisfaction.  This crying was an addition I did not like.

A few days later I go to get my Bert from his ‘club’.  I am met by staff who report that he has been crying for maybe an hour or more.  It seemed they were having a music programme and somehow a song reminded my Bert of World War II.  He became very emotional and started talking about his experiences as a child during the war.  He had spoken quite eloquently and very often about this but it was not accompanied by this type of crying.

I was asked to wait a few minutes while they continued to calm him as he had told them: “I do not want my Paula to see me like this.”  I waited.  The door opened.  I smiled at my Bert and he burst into tears.

I was flummoxed.  Not only was he getting emotional frequently, he was expressing an emotion that was beyond the dictates of the situation.  A happy baby on television could start a crying episode.

Then came enlightenment.  It was a scheduled home visit from our Geriatric Mental Health Counsellor.  She is wonderful, warm, caring and most of all very knowledgeable.  When she asked me if there were any new behaviours to report, I told her about the crying.  She immediately said: “Oh that is called emotional lability and is a condition that people with dementia experience.

“Emotional liability?” I exclaimed.   You may recall that I am that individual with a syndrome not yet named as evidenced when my doctor first diagnosed a Baker’s cyst and I in confusion asked: “Baker’s Yeast?”  Obviously my syndrome is intact as she smiled and said: “Not liability, lability.  Let me write it down for you.”  Smart woman, I thought.

As soon as the visit was concluded and advice given as to how to deal with the condition I went to the internet and found this:

“Emotional lability refers to rapid, often exaggerated changes in mood, where strong emotions or feelings (uncontrollable laughing or crying, or heightened irritability or temper) occur. These very strong emotions are sometimes expressed in a way that is greater .than the person’s emotions”

“Labile Affect, also known as Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) or Emotional Incontinence, is a disorder where the patient has excessive displays of emotion, or expresses emotions that are not congruent with the situation.”

It is exactly as my Bert demonstrates.

The Meander:  Daily, it seems I am made more aware of the incredible organ called the brain.  It is simply amazing.  Will we be able ever to unravel its intricacies?   I wonder if Artificial Intelligence, or those fantastic robots that can do anything and everything and which will replace or conquer us in the end, can experience emotional lability?  I dare to think that the operative word is ‘artificial’ and it will ever be thus.

Birthday Conundrum

Our next port of call was Tabuaeran, Fanning Island in Kiribati.   Tabuaeran is the same as Fanning Island in Gilbertese, an official language of The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribash).   Needless to say, by the time we tendered into port I was already confused.   We got the information overload from a Mr. Fanning himself after whose ancestors the island was named.  It was a delight to travel with him and his charming wife and to attend his most informative lecture.

Fanning Island is like Pitcairn Island, out there in the Pacific Ocean almost in the middle of nowhere.  A beautiful atoll, a ringed shaped coral islet surrounding a central lagoon, and shaped like a foot. In fact Tabuaeran, means ‘hallowed footprint’.  There is no electricity, no piped water, no mountains and no jungle.  It is low lying just above sea level so global warming is a definite threat to its existence.   It would only take one big tsunami and pfftt, no more Fanning Island.  Residents number less than guests on ship (1900) as it is estimated there are only 1200-1500 people living there.   Its land area is approximately 13 square miles. The lagoon is 426 square miles, 7 miles wide and 50 ft. at its deepest.

Canned meats are considered delicacies.  We were met by a singing, dancing troupe of both men and women dressed in grass skirts.  There were a few older people dressed in original coconut fibre clothing reminiscent of the similar sartorial choice of Nuku Hiva.   The most significant crop and export is copra so coconut palms abound.  They appeared to be wearing coir welcome mats including headgear.  This analogy is quite appropriate as they are very friendly with a welcoming smile.  I took one look at the dress and immediately felt scratchy and HOT.   Employment and another export come from large seaweed beds owned by a conglomerate that sell the seaweed to spas and health and nutrition companies worldwide.

Diet is fruit, a few root vegetables, fish, pork and sometimes chicken.   Breadfruit is a staple, and we were introduced to a plant from which sugar is made by boiling the sap.

There are three nurses on the island to look after medical needs including dentistry and should there be a serious illness it is a long boat ride to Christmas Island 160 miles away for the nearest medical Centre.  Supply ships come every four months and if you should get really ill after one has just left then it is likely you will die.  The children seem well cared for and happy. 

We did the grand tour, crowded on three wooden benches in the small and only diesel truck on the island.  There were lots of shell jewelry and carvings for sale.

Now to explain my birthday conundrum:  Prior to 1994 The International Date Line (IDL) ran right through the middle of The Republic of Kiribati. That was a problem as the East and the West were on different time zones and if you woke up at 7:30 a.m. in the East, the next atoll over would be waking up with the same sunrise but it could well be 26 hours later or prior? It also meant that business could only be done on four days of the week. The Governor declared the IDL would be adjusted to bring Kiribati into one time zone.  That declaration resulted in the Eastern half marking Friday, December 30, 1994 and waking next day on Sunday, January 1, 1995.  This explains why Kiribati is the first place to celebrate New Year’s Day, and why the IDL jogs far right at Kiribati.  Help!

But that’s not all.  These islands also sit at the equator, so as the ship cruised along to stop at Fanning Island and carry on our South Pacific sojourn it just so happens that my birthday fell right in the middle.  So there was one day I celebrated my birthday, and soon was celebrating my birthday again and of course, there was the Neptune/Poseidon ceremony as we asked the God of the Sea to grant us safe passage and permission to cross the Equator.  Oh what a mess!  Oh what fun! Oh what a conundrum!

On my birthday we crossed the Equator so I was in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.  We crossed the IDL twice so I was in the East, West, North and South of the world on my birthday.  While I tried to wrap my head around the puzzle my Bert just happily went about asking the ship’s staff what time and what day it was according to ship’s time.  He found it amusing and had no intention of figuring out anything.  It would all right itself somehow, he knew.  Sure it did, but five passengers had birthday celebrations two nights in a row neither older nor younger than a day prior or later?

The Meander:  There were times we looked at our travel account and felt we should put it to better use. Such thoughts died immediate deaths. Travel always won. We would not have it any other way.  On these cold days, I miss it so much but the memories are alive and well in my head, my heart and my travel journals.  We are grateful. No regrets!

A Golden Night

Friday January 11, 2019 I woke up very early.  The weather report said it was -12 Celsius with a wind chill of -20!  Brrrrrrr.  But this is Canada in winter.

January 11, 1969 was on a Saturday.  When I awoke then it was already 28 Celsius with a projected high of 30!  But this is Jamaica in winter.

The coincidence did not escape me.  Fifty years married and a 50 degree difference in temperature.

On Friday, January 11, 2019 my Bert and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary with 50 close friends.  It was a Golden night, a night filled with love and Light.

The setting was special, decorated in gold and white.  The dinner was marvellous. The toasts were heartfelt and warm and so eloquently delivered.  Best of all was the love that seemed to permeate every corner of the room.

I saw friends making friends.  I saw smiles, heard joyous laughter, saw caring glances and chuckled at the comments made at our ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs.

It was a night to reminisce.  Fifty years is a long time together for any couple.  During that time we loved, we argued, we worked, we had successes, we had failures, we gave, we received, and we brought two wonderful children into the world.  We mourned, we hoped, we laughed, we always laughed.  We travelled the world, we helped, we got help, and we supported and received support.

It was a celebration of friendship.  Throughout our lives my Bert and I have been blessed with the most wonderful friends.  We are so grateful for that so decided we would do our best to have some of them share in our joy and to let them know how much they mean to us.  They were representative of so many more whose influence and guidance and love have helped to make us who we are.

It was a night of family and friends who are family in every sense of the word.  There were some we missed, but who were with us in spirit.  Our best man at our wedding could not be with us in person but he was with us in song as his recording of The Prayer was played.  At our age some who wanted to be with us could not for a variety of reasons but we still felt their love.

The highlights are many.  The wonderful paean from our dear friend; the tribute from our beloved son; the reading of Sonnet 44 Elizabeth Barrett Browning ‘s  How Do I Love Thee.

However, the greatest moment of sheer immediate and spontaneous laughter happened when we attempted to renew our vows.  Our family friend and Minister had in perspicacity and necessity reduced the vows to a simple: “…Bert I ask you, do you still want to be married to your wife Paula?”  Bert looked at him and said: “Let me think about that.”  The laughter filled the room.  I was in stitches as I thought: “That’s my Bert.”  As usual, my Bert set the mood for the rest of the night.  It was laughter, joy, Love and Light in the company of family and friends.

The Meander:  My Bert and I opened the dancing with ‘our song’ Unchained Melody.  As we danced, my Bert held me close and sang the words throughout to me.  In our eyes was only love. Love endures.

Resolutions

No doubt resolutions are being made left right and centre.  Resolutions are being broken even as I write.  Resolutions made at the stroke of midnight as 2019 dawned are already in the trashcan of what might have been.  I rarely make resolutions even though I see the New Year as an opportunity to begin anew, to look forward, even to dream and to plan.  However, to continue my ruminations on 2018 I have decided to take a leaf from Melinda Gates’ book and choose one word to guide me throughout this year.  It has been reported she does that and since I am not that enamoured by resolutions this seems a good alternative.  I have chosen ‘Light’ to be the word that will guide me throughout 2019. I have decided to walk in the light to see the light and whenever possible to be the light.  It sounds laudable but  I have to acknowledge that this may be the hardest objective I have ever set.  Yet at the same time I have some confidence that it is the one I may be able to attain.

So far keeping resolutions has not been my forte.  I am going to lose weight is a recurring theme which starts with gusto and swiftly ends with gusto – usually with the Valentine chocolates.  I am going to start and stick to an exercise regimen.  Yes!  Except that I have not decided which year this is to begin.  Since I make the resolution at midnight I should begin on New Year’s Day.  If I have stayed up until midnight I am too tired to start that day, and by January 2nd the enthusiasm has curbed to the point of lethargy and there is a book somewhere that is calling me.  How much more civilized to exercise in such a peaceful, restful, and for me the necessary occupation of reading a good book while swaddled in a soft throw and curled in my favourite chair.  The mind needs exercise too!

This year I am transitioning from the ridiculous to the sublime of resolution making.  No resolutions, just   a word and determination.  Walking in light, seeing the light, being the light is incredible conceit, a pipe dream, or maybe setting me up for failure.  Yet I think, even though it is only day five, that I will succeed better than I have ever done before. 

Living with a loved one with Alzheimer disease is living in darkness.  Caregivers know that because until this we have lived in light.  This is my first purposeful plan that is not me focused.  This is for my Bert.  My Bert needs light.  He needs to see the light outside, inside and see me as light.  His happiness is my light, my happiness is his light.  Caregivers live for two.  I want to shine a light for my Bert, for other caregivers and everyone I meet.  Still I am being selfish as I believe I will benefit the most if I succeed.

This is also the first plan that will perforce depend on outside help.  It is family, Lifeliners, friends, counsellors, my support system who will walk in the light with me, seek to see the light with me and encourage me in my efforts to be the light.  They know and they care.

The Meander:   “Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” — Helen Keller

This is from someone who knew the dark intimately.  I wonder how invincible I can be against Alzheimer disease.   Then again it is not a ‘difficulty’ it’s a disease. I do not have to be invincible.   Come walk in the light with me.