GOING…GOING………………..

The other night I dreamed of my best friend and roommate in college (from 1959-61). The last time I spoke to her on the phone, probably 7 or 8 years ago, she was living in an Assisted Living place while her husband, afflicted with Parkinson’s, was in the Memory Loss Unit. She was furious because her children had taken away her car and license.

When I “googled” her today, I found her obituary. She died in 2021, “peacefully”, it said, and suggested contributions to the Alzheimer Association.

In our Junior year, we shared a room in the sorority house with two other girls. This is three of us in 1959.

Shirley, Carole, and me.

I (on the right) am the only one of us three who is still alive.

Here are the four of us at our reunion in 2004. Shirley and Carole, in the middle, are both gone. Cathy married a guy with whom I loved to dance.  He had great style and knew how to lead.  Cathy has been a widow for the past 4 years.

Cathy, Carole, Shirley, and me.

Shirley and I shared our clothes and countless adventures during our college years. We wore the same size clothing, and I was more than happy to wear her comfortable, casual outfits, while she wore many of the dresses and skirt-sweater sets with which my family saddled me each year. Another difference between us was that I wore lots of makeup and she wore none. And while she was a Business major with a very linear and logical mind, I was an English major who fantasized about moving to San Francisco to write poetry and live in a garret. We also had different taste in boyfriends, so we were never in competition with each other. I don’t think we ever had an argument, unless you count the time my roommates got fed up with my messiness and took all of my stuff that was lying around, wrapped it all in my blanket, and threw it in the closet.

Shirley taught me to drive while she was taking the college class to get certified to teach Drivers’ Ed.  She had a car, and I was 19 years old and had never learned.

Shirley’s and my greatest adventure was heading out to Daytona Beach during the summer of ‘59 for Summer Break. We drove straight through from Albany, NY to Daytona in a little blue coupe with three guys we knew. I think it was Chuck Recesso’s car, and he did most of the driving. One of the other guys was Frank Fallace, but I can’t remember the name of the third, although I can picture his face and could probably find him in the yearbook. I remember the drive through the South and the signs in the places we stopped for both ingesting and eliminating food that boasted signs of “coloreds not allowed.” We were liberal Northerners, and were taken aback by the reality.

While the guys were probably assuming that we would hang out with them, Shirley and I had other plans, since she had male friends from Cortland State College who were also planning to be there.

I don’t remember much of our time in Daytona, but I remember that the water was filled with Portuguese Man-of-War fish, and that we partied hard (still vehemently protecting our virginities, of course) and finally wound up booking flights to come home, avoiding the stifling car ride back– 17 hrs (1,157.2 mi).

We each married in June of 1961, but our lives went in totally different directions. Shirley married the handsome and sweet Owen Davis, teaching business subjects at a community college, and boasting three children and, finally, several grandchildren.

The last time I saw her and her husband was about 15 years ago, when I met them one Fall, down in the Catskills, for an apple festival. Owen was already showing signs of the Parkinson’s disease that finally ended his life; but he was still handsome and sweet. I wish that I had kept in better touch with her, but, you know…..LIFE!

And this is the way it will go from now on.  Because, you know….LIFE!

 

Sleep still won’t come.

Months and years have gone by as I unsuccessfully struggle to find something to help me fall asleep. I have blogged about it various times, the latest here:  I never did the Ketamine Therapy for various reasons.

Over the years, Ihave undertaken several steep studies, the results of which say that I have apenea and need a CPAP.  But, I say to them “Once I manage to get to sleep, I sleep.  I just can’t FALL asleep.  A CPAP will not do anything to help me fall asleep.”

Last night I did an at-home sleep test, which required that I wear a strap around my chest so that a sensor was where my heart is, a tube around my ears and into my nose so that my breathing could be tracked, and a sensor on my finger to gauge my oxygen levels.  Even though I took some of the mariijuana gummies that often help get me sleepy, I was awake all night.  Well, I might have dozed off now and again, but mostly I watched the hands of the clock move through the night.  All of the paraphernelia I had to wear did not encourage sleep.

I know that we are advised not to get medical help off the internet, but the various doctors I have been to can only advise me to use a SAD light in the morning and go and sit before it.  That’s the standard way to fix a Circadian Sleep Disorder.  But I am so tired in the morning that I just can’t get myself out of bed until almost noon.

I have a theory that I can’t seem to get the doctors to consider, so I have been researching the way neurotransmitters have to work in order to support sleep and stave off depression. Severe, chronic stress, sleep deprivaion, and some drugs can cause neurotransmitter depletion. Some researchers believe that insufficient levels of neurotransmetters could lead to feels of sadness, depression, and sleep problems. One of the therapies that specialists use is Amino Acid Therapy, which provides the specific nutrients that the body needs to built its own neurotranmitters and rebalance the brain. I have been taking supplements, but apparently they are not enough.

Without an amino acid infusion for neurotransmitter balancing, it’s not unusual for patients to deal with an absence of dopamine or GABA, which means that they have difficult time resting, relaxing, and sleeping. Most importantly, neurotransmitter balancing reduces stress. With these natural chemicals, patients return to the point of equilibrium and feel more in control of themselves.

There are other theories that I am researching, including one that involves the brain producing an enzyme when under severe stress that diminishes the effectiveness of the “happy” hormones that the neurotransmitters send out.

My Circadian Sleep Disorder began during the five traumatic years I spent caregiving my mother while we lived with my brother in his house.  I slept when she slept, forced myself to stay awake when she was, and had to survive abuse from my brother.  When I finally moved out into my daughter’s house, I spent two years healing the best I good, but my sleep never went back to anything near normal.

I have always been a night person, but I still was able to fall asleep on a dime.  Not any more.

My plan is to discuss all of this when my doctor calls me with the results of the sleep test.  A Neuropsychiatrist is the specialist who can test for neurotransmitter functioning and prescribe a treatment.  There is one locally, and my goal is to get an appointment with her.

I desperately need to knit up my raveled sleave of care.

 

Getting Back in the Personal Blog Saddle

More than 20 years ago, my son, Bix (who is autistic but didn’t know it back then) got me into blogging.  The personal connections that I made back then helped to get me through some rough caregiving years.  We all posted every day, whatever was on our minds at the moment — politics, culture, health, family, mutual support, cats. We commented on each other’s posts and kept conversations going. We were a real community; we got to know each other pretty well.  Some of us even found a way to meet in person, but even those of us who never did, still developed real friendships.

But, times change, priorities change, culture changes. Life happens.

My last post pretty much explains why I have been otherwise occupied.  I am on my last great adventure — the adult love affair of my life.  At 82.  It has it’s challenges, especially since we live an hour away and each of us lives with our daughters.  But we are figuring it out, together.

Now that we are past the Solstice and into a new year, I’m going to make an effort to post more often.  There are still things I care about, struggles I and others are going through.  Maybe there will be a way to slowly build another blogging community, but even if not, I will again follow the example of my son and get my blogging hat back on and see where it goes.

One of the things that has gotten my brain interested in writing again was a request from my daughter to write my story for my grandson, Lex.  The request actually came as a gift last Christmas from Storyworth.com, which provided a question every day that I could answer, with the idea that it would all be printed into a book at the end.  I opted just to start telling my story (I just finally started), and I have until January 16 to finish it.

My circadian sleep disorder is still not under control.   Medical marijuana usually helps.  I manage it the best I can.

And so it goes.

 

 

We are Pisces. We are water. We flow.

There is much I need to document here about what is going on with the Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome that is wrecking my life, physically and psychologically. No one has helped me find a fix, but I am still working on it.  I will get to that at some point.

What is making it all bearable (as a result of a very recent synchronicity) is a man I met unexpectedly because of some kind of glitch with match.com.  Both of us had been members in the past but are no longer.

Out of boredom and curiosity, I recently joined Zoosk, which is a dating app (I didn’t want to date; just wanted to see what is out there) for educated elders. It must be associated somehow with match.com, because I got an email from match.com telling me that they have a match for me in Longmeadow, which is the next town.  Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link.  Unbeknownst to me, the link took me to a different profile — one that caught my interest because he plays the djembe and is a Buddhist.  So, for the hell of it, I sent him a brief reply, saying I also play the djembe.

Since he is no longer on match.com, he was surprised that his profile was still out there.  Being tech savvy, he somehow managed to find out who I am.  (I never use my regular email or name for stuff like that.)  He sent an email to my regular email address and used my actual name.  He said he wanted to check and see if it is really me or someone trying to mess with him.  He gave me his name and a copy of a document to prove he is who he says he is.  Of course, I Googled him and found him on FaceBook and Linkedin.

Many emails later, discovering that we were born a day apart (same year) and have so much in common it’s spooky, we decided to meet face-to-face, which we did yesterday.  He lives an hour away, not in the next town.

At 82, we both have been presented with a chance to find some kind of intimacy again, a chance to have a best friend as a partner and to share the good things that we are still capable of sharing.

It continues to be mystical and magical and it all takes my mind off my troubles, which of late have included two ambulance rides to the ER with unstoppable blood rushing from my nose and a blood pressure so high it didn’t register.  Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on the body’s functions.  I am working on getting my blood pressure under control.

At the age of 82, we both have our health issues and complicated histories.  But we are Pisces.  We are Water.  We Flow.

Life.

 

Still Not Sleeping

I thought it was time for an update on my struggle to fix the fact that I can’t/don’t fall asleep until 4 or 5 am.  After that, it’s a restles sleep until 1 or 2 pm, unless I have to drag myself out of bed for an appointment — which is what I had to do on Monday to drive to Boston for an iron infusion.  My daughter and grandson drove me.  I slept in the car back and forth.

Why an iron infusion?  Well, this whole effort has been an education.

For example, the sleep clinics around her are just really “sleep apnea” clinics.  That’s all they do.  They do not deal with any circadian rhythm disorders, which is what I have — which is why I am going to the Sleep Clinic at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

The first thing they had me do is take an at-home melatonin saliva test over several hours during the day.  Melatonin levels are supposed to peak between 2 and 4 AM.  My saliva test shows that mine peaks at 3 to 4 PM. Totally upside down. That’s going to be hard to change.  I will be taking a 24 hour melatonin saliva test next week to get an even better profile.  What most folks who take melatonin supplements don’t realize is that you need to take the supplement in relation to when your melatonin levels peak naturally, and there’s no way to know that without testing for it. If your melatonin levels are on the usual schedule, you should take the supplement two hours before bedtime.

The next thing they had me do was go to their infusion center for the iron infusion, because (who knew) ferritin iron levels affect sleep.

They also are insisting that, based on the two sleep studies I had done locally over the past several years, I have apnea and need to get a bipap machine.  I was trying to avoid that, but I’m going to do whatever the say.  They obviously are taking my disorder seriously and are approaching it from all angles.

One of the disturbing side effects of the sleep disorder is a worsening of my reflux because I don’t eat meals at normal mealtimes.  Often, when I finally get up, it’s almost dinner time, and, since my daughter cooks, I wind up eating dinner when my stomach really should be getting breakfast.

Just to add injury to insult, my severely arthitic knees are slowing me down, so I just finished getting a series of hyaluronic acid injections in both knees.  I am getting around much better now, but the relief will not last forever.  I just want to be able to do some gardening, once the weather stabilizes.

My focus on fixing my sleep has pretty much taken over my life; I’m too tired to deal with much more than putting one foot in front of the other,  I have not been able to lift myself from the depression that is worsened by my sleep disorder.  Even the meds aren’t helping.

So, I have signed up to take a three week Ketamine Therapy program.  More on that to come.

Other Aprils (05/15)

Tank tops and shorts
on the first warm day of April,
sprawled on the dorm lawn
in adolescent abandon,
air smelling of
baby oil, iodine,
and sweet spring sweat.

The Eiffel Tower
on the first warm day of April,
arm locked with arm
among the winds of Paris,
air smelling of
wine, tulips
and a lover's sweet caress.

Boy child and ball
on the first warm day of April,
laughter on a learning curve
stumbling in wet grass,
air smelling of
new mud, wet pine,
sweet sun after rain.

Contemplating the dappled shade
on the first warm day of April,
glider swing creaking
its soft lullaby,
air smelling of
lavender, memories,
and sweet seasoned dreams.

The Fragility of Friendships

I first posted this several years ago.  I am now 82.  I came across it while surfing through my old posts, looking for fodder for a new poetry project.  I thought it is worth reposting — with some editing.

Making friends is easier when you are young.  The potentials are all around you — at school, in the neighborhood, your church, your teams.  If you are lucky, some of those friends stay with you throughout your life.  

Such is not necessarily the case as you get older, move, find a new job, get married. If you are lucky, you find new friends wherever you are.  I was lucky for decades after I settled into a job and a community and joined organizations with like minded folks.  For forty plus years, although I lived alone, I was rarely lonely.  I had a group of women friends who gave my life the kinds of rich interactions described by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in this video.  Watching the video stirred up in me profound feelings of loss; I left  all of my friends behind when I moved to a new state to live with my family.  I call it my “assisted living”, and there are great advantages for an 80 year old to live alongside  kind and nurturing offspring.

But as wonderful as family can be, they are not my close friends — the five women (originally six) in the photo strip.  For. 40 years, we shared events, feelings, frustrations, vacations; We all were without partners at the time (although some came and went, pretty much operating on the periphery of our female friendship).

The first photo shows us in our glory days. I was the oldest– in my mid-forties.  The youngest was 10 years my junior.  While our personal histories were different, we shared the common grounds of politics, agnosticism, irreverence toward authority, an appreciation of belly-laughs, and a need to have fun.  We met when I ran a discussion group for single women.

Over the decades, the dynamics of our group changed, as one distanced herself, one (who often chose playing golf to hanging around with us) also fell off our radar.

Eventually there were only three of us to continue the friendship.  And then I moved away.  I still keep in touch with the two I left behind, but it’s not the same.  No longer face-to-face, it’s more difficult to hold onto that feeling of intimate connection.  Now one of the two is battling breast cancer.  I recognize that change is a part of life, but there are some things I wish hadn’t changed.

I left my old life 20 years ago to become my mother’s caregiver.  Ten years ago, I moved to live with family.  Since I moved, I’ve made several efforts to find friends.  I have made one close friend.  Am I spoiled by the intimate and supportive close friendships I had in the past and so I am not as open as I once was?  

Part of the truth is — while I want to have friends and to have some fun — I am tired of the effort it takes to find kindred spirits at this point in my life.  At age 80, I am also physically tired, with aching knees and a non-fixable torn rotator cuff.   I am resorting to trying the Rummikub player group at a local senior center.  It was a game my former group of friends used to get together and play, armed with several bottles of wine.  Lots of fun and laughter.

Is this what it’s like for many single women over 75 who find themselves severed from their former lives?  I would like to start an older women’s discussion group (I was really into the consciousness raising groups of the 1970s).  The challenge is to find some women with the same need. And senior centers around here don’t seem to be a place to find them.

There are so many things we don’t appreciate until we don’t have them any more.  Close friends fall into that category.

Go and watch Tomlin and Fonda.

 

 

It’s All Going to Hell

It has been  three months since my last post.  I have spent these months searching for medical help with my Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. None of the so-called “sleep” doctors I’ve been to ever mentioned the possibility of DSPD.   In desperation, I just sent an email out to a neuropsychologist because the stress has affected my usually-easy-going temperament, and I don’t even like myself any more.

Also, during these few months, the family brought a rescue dog home.  He was smart, sweet, and cute, but he would not stop biting when playing.  He went back to the rescue.  So, last week, they brought home a cute, sweet, gentle rescue kitten, who is still sequestered in the upstairs bedrooms because their current prissy cat refuses to have any of it.

My plans, after the holidays, is to go the shelter and get a senior cat who just wants to snuggle. I need the companionship.  I need the touching.

I need to find a way out of his personal sleep hell. It has affected my digestion, because when I eat depends on when I sleep.  When should I take my meds?  I often don’t even know what day it is.  It’s making me crazy.

ADDENDUM:  My daughter just told me that when I got home from the store yesterday, I left my car running in the driveway.  It’s a good thing my grandson noticed the car’s lights were on.  I am definitely losing it, fast.

It’s going to be an all-nighter.

It’s 3:30 am. By now I have usually taken my Remeron and also 35 mg of marijuana and am on the verge of sleep. Last night I did that, fell asleep about 4:30 am, and slept for 12 hours. Which means I got up in time for dinner. Their dinner was my breakfast. Enchiladas. That’s what I had for breakfast.

The truth is, I never know when I’m going to fall asleep even though I go through the same routine every night. I take my Remeron at 11:30 pm and take my marijuana edibles (THC/CBN) between 12 and 1 am, with the lights down low. I get ready for bed at 2 am and am in bed by 3 am.

But that doesn’t mean I will necessarily fall asleep right away. There are nights (days) I don’t fall asleep until 6 or 7 am. There are some mornings when I’m still awake while my son-in-law is up getting ready for work.

For a while, it was “asleep by 3:30 am and up by 12:30 pm.” And I could live with that. But as time goes on, my sleep schedule gets more and erratic, and I don’t know how I’m going to be able live with that.

And I am having a hard time productively using those night hours when I am awake. I guess, psychologically, for me, night time has always been for sleep. Or dancing. It’s like I’m on my old dancing schedule: I used to go out a 11 pm, dance until 2 am, and be asleep by 3 am. Sometimes, now, I actually put on music during those dark hours and dance. But it’s not the same. Nothing is the same. I am caught in this limbo of a non-life.

Since I have an overwhelming backlog of yarn, I started to crochet a sweater from what seemed like a simple pattern. Made continuously from the top, down. Half double crochet all the way, with some increases. What is making me crazy, is that every time I make the indicated increases and then go to check the number of stitches, I get a different number. It’s making me crazy at 3 am. So I ripped it all out and am starting again, and I’m still never getting the number of stitches I’m supposed to have. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Eating on this crazy schedule is also a problem. If I wake up around noon, no problem. I have “brunch.” And then dinner is around 5:30. By 10 pm, I’m hungry, so I have a snack. And around 1 am, I’m hungry again. So, maybe a banana and chocolate almond milk. What I need to do is stock up on some yogurt.

And when should I take my vitamins? If I take them with dinner, will they increase my energy at night so that sleep becomes even more difficult?

My isolation has become toxic. I don’t even see much of my family. We used to at least have dinner together, but the “dog experiment” messed with the old patterns. It was an “experiment” because, while we all loved the dog, who was very smart and was already learning to respond to commands, he was not able to be “cured” of biting. We know he just wanted to play, the way he might with other dogs. Except that he had not been around other dogs to get the message from them that biting them was not OK. It all got very complicated, and he had to be taken back to the Rescue folks.

So, the family will be looking at more middle aged dogs who tend to be couch potatoes. And, while they are looking, they are fencing in the yard, in anticipation of finding a dog that is a better fit for this family.

Meanwhile, here I sit, at 4:14 am, not sure what to do now, except to just stay up for the rest of the night and try to make it through the day.

I binged watched some stuff that is streaming: Evil, Midnight Mass, Chuck, and now I’m watching Why Women Kill. Maybe I’ll just watch more tv.

Maybe I’ll look on Pet Finder and see if I can find an older cat to keep me company. Their mean prissy “don’t touch me” cat can just suck it up. And if they finally find a dog, he will have to suck it up too. My comfort/happiness/ is just as important as theirs.

I just don’t know how I’m going to manage living like this.

Alone, alone, all, all alone

The title of the post is from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It resonates with me these days, mostly because of the COVID pandemic and my choice to limit my contact with the outside world.

Combine that with the dark early morning hours when I am alone because of my DSPD, along with the upheaval in this house as my daughter and grandson focus on training their new dog while trying to accommodate the existing prissy cat, who wants none of it. She doesn’t like me, this cat. Never has, and nothing I try to do changes her mind.

I miss the touch of a living creature. My own old cat died about 8 years ago. It wasn’t a great life for her here; she was confined to my two rooms because she attacked the two other cats that lived in this house at the time, and she refused to develop even a tolerance of them. And they were here first.

I live in a house, but it’s not my house. There is a cat who lives in this house, but she is not my cat. There is a new dog who lives in this house, but he’s not my dog.

I am grateful that my daughter and family welcomed me to live with them as I advance in age. It was my best alternative.

But I miss the soft purring on my shoulder, the silky fur brushing my forehead, the rough tongue licking my cheek.

I miss not being alone.