Everything in Moderation

Most people have daily routines, and Papa is no different.  After waking up and getting dressed and ready for the day he typically eats breakfast and gets ready for his morning TV.  Most mornings he eats at home but then takes a quick drive to a local restaurant for a cup of coffee.  Papa is still looking for a group to socialize with in the mornings and this past week he expanded his search for a hangout to try Burger King, although he emphatically states their coffee is not nearly as good as McDonalds.  We love how determined he is and next week he mentioned he feels comfortable enough to try a few new local places.  Depending on his timing in the morning he makes his bed before or after the first Walker show. Papa is very predictable and sticks to his routines.

I surprised Papa Friday and came home from work before lunch to spend the afternoon with him and his first comment was I don’t know why my neck hurts but I couldn’t make my bed.  I asked what happened and assured him that an occasionally unmade bed is no big deal then I suggested an anti-inflammatory and pulled out the heating pad.  Doug gave him a quick massage to see if he could work out the kinks, and he spent the rest of the evening relaxing in his easy chair and pondering over what had caused it.  I wonder why this happened, I had a still neck once before but that was when I was working on a car engine.  I don’t do that type of mechanical work anymore.  During the evenings many conversations my mind kept wandering to wonder if he really only had a stiff neck one other time or if he only remembers it happening one other time.  I was envious I can’t count the number of times I have strained my neck.

This morning at breakfast I asked him how his neck was feeling and he said much better.  The heating pad and medicine helped me but I think Doug cured it with a rubdown. Doug felt like Mickey, Rocky’s trainer, and was glad he could help.  Then it occurred to us!  Papa spent countless hours last week working jigsaw puzzles like he was training for an Olympic competition.  Leaning over the table looking for specific pieces to put together probably caused his stiff neck.  We all laughed and mentioned that he is going to have to slowly build up his puzzle workouts, and a walk around the block every so often might help to cross-train.

Jigsaw puzzles are great for a variety or reasons, but especially someone whose memory skills are declining.  Not only are they a great social outlet for us to sit facing one another and talk without having a TV on, but also they are a mental workout.  A puzzle builds concentration and uses your mind using spatial reasoning to find a piece that would fit due to color shape or size, dexterity putting the pieces together and logic knowing why a piece will or will not work in a specific place.   Looking for the same pieces each time we are sitting at the table helps to build Papa’s short-term memory skills, and the feeling of accomplishment watching the picture come together is a great boost of self-esteem.  I loved hearing Papa’s excitement as he said Got it! or I knew I could find that piece! or Almost there!  I am so proud of Papa and look forward to building many more puzzles with him.

Papa’s first puzzle was a picture of different types of ice cream, and when it was completed on Wednesday, Doug picked up an ice cream treat for us to celebrate.  Thursday while Papa and I were out on our weekly “dinner night” he asked to stop and get a frame for the completed puzzle and he also picked up a new puzzle to start working on. He really enjoyed watching the puzzle come together and the feeling of success once it was finished.  While we pieced or puzzled or jig-sawed (or whatever true puzzlers call it) together Papa would tell me how he and Nana had worked puzzles while they were stationed in France over fifty years ago.  He was very happy to be reintroduced to an old hobby, especially one that reminded him of Nana.

The new puzzle was out of the box minutes after arriving home and while we were beginning to put together the border, Papa started asking questions.  I wonder how they make puzzles?  I wonder what the biggest/hardest/______(fill in the blank) puzzle is?  These pieces are all the same shape and are pretty tiny.  Thankful for YouTube we looked up how puzzles are made for the next 45 minutes.  We never realized the different cuts of puzzles, and we will spend a bit more time being selective before we pick out our next puzzle.  We both decided random pieces are more interesting than a strip or grid pattern, and really worked his memory to find a specific shape.  But until we go puzzle shopping again, we will be working on a panoramic view of Times Square and we will have to keep reminding Papa will have to remember that we are not in competition, he will have to complete his puzzles in moderation, just like we eat ice cream.

Papa's First Puzzle!  SUCCESS!!
Papa’s First Puzzle! SUCCESS!!

Tonight at dinner Papa glanced over to the other end of the table with our puzzle laid out and asked, I wonder how a puzzle is made?  Maybe in the next few weeks we’ll work on teaching him how to use a computer so he can get to YouTube….

Reference:  Cobble Hill makes a variety of puzzles with beautiful artwork, and we look at them again for our next purchase.  The family puzzle is a random cut with three different sizes of pieces and was the perfect size for Papa at this time, but they have wide assortment of sizes ranging from 35 pieces to 2000.

Jerry Orbach

Watching TV in our house can be confusing for anyone.  I am embarrassed to say we currently have six television sets in our home, and each one works differently on how to turn it on, change channels and adjust the volume. Three of them use two remotes, one for the TV and one for the box, and a couple function with only one remote.  The kitchen TV, in addition to using two remotes, you have to actually use the on/off button on the TV to turn it on, imagine that!  We have placed sticky notes by the three TV’s Papa uses most frequently with instructions to give him some flexibility in where he watches his favorite shows.   Fortunately he has been able to find one to work at all times.

After moving to Virginia Papa was excited to realize that we get some of the same TV stations that he had watched in Arizona.   His memory may not be great, but he picked up that WGN is channel 29 and USA, TBS and TNT are 50-53 on day one.  Between these several stations he is able to watch his favorites: Walker, Texas Ranger and Law and Order.  Doug and I typically would not watch either show but would be able to tolerate an episode now and then just to spend time with him.  One day we asked him why he likes these shows and were surprised at his answer.  Doesn’t everyone like Walker? Cordell is tough and he has a good hat.  Ok, I guess we cannot argue with that.  We were not exactly sure how to respond to his comment and then he followed up with: I went to High School with Jerry Orbach, we didn’t really hang out, but we both graduated in 1952 from Waukegan High School.  We learned something we had not heard before, Papa watches Law and Order reruns because they remind him of his past.  It brings him back in time to 1952, to the kid he used to be and a time he remembers much easier than what happened yesterday, but most importantly to the memory of another classmate.

However watching nonstop episodes of Walker or Law and Order each day seems excessive, so we are encouraging alternate shows or activities when we can.  We acquired a jigsaw puzzle to start building on the dining room table away from all television sets.  We made sure he has a few of his word search books available around the house, which he completes like a part-time job. and we also try to find a daily project for him to complete.  Fortunately being an Olympic year, we have asked him to watch various events during the day and fill us in each evening.  This has led to interesting dinner conversation.  The US isn’t doing so good.  Really Dad, why not?  The Russians were beating us in the Bocce Ball on ice event.  Papa is proud of his Italian heritage and makes sure everyone knows it.  They slide a rock, but it is like Bocce Ball. I wonder how much that weighs?  I wonder why they sweep the ice?  Is it a regular broom? Why don’t they wear skates? How do they choose players?  Now my brother has an extensive personal library and if we were near him he would probably run into his home library, grab a book on curling, probably one dating back prior to 1952, and be able to answer all of Papa’s questions, but Doug and I use our resources and just pull out an iPad and start looking up the history of Curling so we can continue the discussion.   And tomorrow, when we are not busy, I will pull out his high school yearbook and look for the pictures of both Papa and Jerry Orbach.

52 Yearbook Wayne


52 Yearbook Jerry

Happy Anniversary

Wayne and Geraldine   February 12, 1955
Wayne and Geraldine
February 12, 1955

On February 12, 1955, a cold and snowy day in North Chicago, Illinois, Wayne R. Marocco and Geraldine A. Borg were married.  It was an intimate affair with family and friends at Mother of God Church on 10th Street.   Father Adammich presided over the ceremony and was a wonderful mentor to them over the years.  They followed with a reception at Marge and Clarence Geib’s home in Waukegan.  Marge, also known as Grandma Geib, was a long time family friend and a second mother to Geri.   Marge and Geri also worked together over the years and at that time they were working at Vernas, a local family restaurant.  Wayne was a frequent customer at the restaurant and credits Marge as helping to introduce him to Geri.

According to Webster, an anniversary is a date that is remembered or celebrated because a special or notable event occurred on that date in a previous year.  With that definition, February 12th is a special day to Papa and will always be remembered.  It was the first day of a long and happy marriage.  It was the first day they pledged their love to one another and the individual hopes that they each had were combined to become mutual dreams.  It was the beginning of the many joys and sorrows that they felt for just shy of 59 years.  It was the first day of the numerous homes that they built and of the family that they raised.  It was the first day of travels, of countless places that they saw and of the friends they met.  It was the first of many holiday traditions and celebrations that they shared.  It was the day they became one.

Today would have been Papa and Nana’s 59th wedding anniversary and the first time Papa will be celebrating this day alone.

Every person grieves differently and what works for one person does not work for others.  There is no manual or clear-cut behavior that a grieving spouse should follow, and no guidance for the family to be able to help.  So we followed Papa’s lead to do whatever he wanted to celebrate today.  Nana was his world; she helped to define him.  Papa decided he did not want this day to be ignored or forgotten by others, he wanted to talk to people and cherish the memories that he and Nana had built over the past 59 years.

February 12, 2014 is another cold and snowy day, and Papa did do exactly what he wanted to do today.  He woke up and went to McDonalds, the audiologist, shopping and then to Starbucks.  He came home and was pleasantly surprised to speak to all of his siblings and his brother-in-law.  While he will never feel the same love that he felt with Nana for 59 years, knowing his family thought of him on February 12th made him feel both loved and cared for.  Papa and I went to dinner tonight and he reminisced about Nana and his wedding.  He will always miss Nana and the life they shared, but he felt loved today, and he had a Happy Anniversary.

Breakfast at McDonalds – Part 2

I am very proud of Papa, he is not easily discouraged.  He woke up today and was ready to go back to McDonalds for breakfast after getting lost last week.  He left early, got in the car, turned on the GPS and drove 2.6 miles directly to McDonalds.  Sadly there were no old-timers in the restaurant today for him to talk to while he ate his breakfast.  But I have no doubt that he will try a few more times before he gives up and starts looking for another hangout.

As for the coupons, he didn’t use them today; Papa got the “Big Breakfast” instead.  He didn’t say it, but I believe it was a celebratory treat for an easy drive.

As for the GPS, he didn’t need it for the trip home, he remembered the correct route.  YEA Papa!!

As for tomorrow, let’s see if he makes another breakfast run to the Golden Arches.

Breakfast at McDonalds

Papa had not driven in VA; in fact, he had not driven since we left Arizona.  He woke up this morning and decided today was the day; Papa was going the to Golden Arches for breakfast.  McDonalds had been his hangout in Sun City, he would frequent the restaurant several times a week just to have a cup of coffee and shoot the breeze with other old timers.  While I informed him that the clientele in our local McDonalds would probably be different we figured it was a close trip, what could happen?

McDonalds is only 2.6 miles from our house and is a straight path once he left our subdivision.  I had already put both McDonalds and our home address in the GPS, I had also written turn by turn instructions both to and from the restaurant.  We discussed bringing his cell phone and how to use the contacts in it.  I reminded him that he has our phone numbers on a business card in his wallet as well and he could call us at any time.  Papa thanked me and said he had his coupons and was ready to go.

Papa did not make it for breakfast that morning.  He drove over 50 miles and ended up at A McDonalds, just not THE McDonalds we had given him directions to.  He walked in, ordered lunch and sat and chatted with another gentleman in the restaurant while he pondered how he was going to get home.  Fortunately he lucked into a more direct route home and realized how far out of his way he had taken to get there.  (He insists he followed my instructions home, but considering they were for another address I am not sure how that is possible.)

I arrived home from work early that afternoon anxious to hear how his outing went.  Imagine my shock when I heard how far he had driven, and after he finished his story I calmly asked him why he hadn’t used the GPS. His reply was I don’t know how to use it, Nana operated that.  WHAT!?!  We had discussed that it was programmed and he thanked me.  Again I made the mistake of assuming he knew how to work the GPS.

Papa learning to use the Garmin
Papa learning to use the Garmin

Luckily we had a free afternoon.  Papa and I got back into his car and we started with the basics.  Plug in the GPS; turn it On; wait for it to turn on; push Where To; push Favorites; push the location you want; push Go; wait for it to register your request; then once the map shows up follow the instructions.  We drove to McDonalds and back listening to Garmin give him directions.  This is pretty easy.  Papa currently has two items saved in his GPS favorites, and he now knows how to use them.  He also has written instructions for the Garmin just in case he forgets.  He has his freedom.

Two important lessons were learned today.  First, Papa is not going to offer information, I will have to work at asking very specific questions; and second, his coupons should be kept in an envelope on his dashboard so he doesn’t forget to use them.

Sharing the (Shirts) Peace

New routines are nothing more than consistency.  It has only been a few weeks, but Papa is doing well with some of some of our practices and is slowly making new habits of his own.  On Saturday evening before going to bed he picks out what he will be wearing to church the next morning and checks with Doug to make sure it looks ok.  This Saturday was no different.

Sunday morning came and I made breakfast for the two of us while Doug was working out.  Papa was running a bit late so when he came down and asked me how he looked I said, “Great!  Time to eat,” after all Doug had approved his attire the night before.  Papa ate, Doug finished his workout and got ready, and we raced out the door.

Papa enjoys church, but he really lights up each week when he is allowed to wander up and down the aisle sharing the Peace with others in our congregation. He has felt comfortable and fit right into this routine from his first visit to our church.  He is able look closely at adults as he shakes their hands, and say hello to most of the children in our congregation.  My hope is that this is helping him to recognize a few new names and faces.

This morning as he was walking back to our pew Doug and I looked closely and realized he was wearing a pajama shirt.  How could we have missed this???   We both giggled and hoped that it was close enough to a casual shirt that maybe no one would notice.  Doug glanced over several times during the rest of the service and whispered back to me that was not the shirt they picked out last night.

Papa laughed on the drive home when we explained he was wearing a pajama shirt.  He said the other shirt didn’t fit when he put it on this morning so he picked out something similar.  Both shirts were blue, long sleeved and buttoned up the front; in that respect they were similar.  And although one was found in his dresser vice hanging in his closet he figured it had pockets in it so it could be worn as a shirt.

I am not sure how many people actually noticed what Papa was wearing, but one member of our congregation happened to make the comment that his wife dresses him also or he would walk out of the house wearing pajamas.   I will definitely pay more attention now when he asks How do I look?

Once we were home we asked Papa where the shirt was that they had chosen for him to wear today, there is no sense keeping a shirt in his closet if it doesn’t fit.  He pulled it out of his closet and after careful examination Doug realized it was his size, and was put back into his closet where it belonged.