Saturday, May 28, 2011

Long Walks & Purple Socks

Ken has been sleeping more and more, and my keyboard clicks away he has been sleeping 15+ hours. My mother-in-law (Mama Jo) arrived on Thursday evening after a few conversations updating her and the rest of the family in California about the recent changes I've noticed in Ken's condition. It was a big relief for me to have her here. Not only have these changes necessitated more energy and greater patience than ever before, but aside from that, I wanted someone else's eyes on the situation; and on him. Maybe the changes I've noticed weren't as drastic as I was thinking? Maybe I'm the one who is growing more and more confused? With his nuclear family so far away, I felt the great responsibility in keeping them up to date on changes in his condition. It was nerve-racking wondering if it was time to call them to come Chicago. Or now? Or now? Now?

Because of my co-caregiver, I had the opportunity to take a walk today. The last one I took was mentioned in another blog about a month ago--with a house full of guests and Ken, the director of all the organized chaos. Today I was getting itchy. With him sleeping more, there isn't much to do. Though I can sometimes dive into a project and remain distracted, today wasn't one of those days that would allow it to happen. Though the skies looked ever-threatening as they have so often this dreary spring, I headed out for my familiar two-mile route.

What a delight that most of my iPod selections were about true love, being adrift without it, and the tragedy of love lost. Thinking about the confusion Ken has experienced lately propelled me into a public display of "ugly cry." But I went with it as I kept hard-blinking the tears out of my eyes while trying to keep at a rapid clip. At that point, it became more of a challenge. How fast can I walk while my eyelids squeegeed away the saline. Good job, subconscious!

I'm overwhelmed. No doubt about it. Luckily it's rare that I can fully grasp the grand and reaching scope of the situation. There is some kind of safety valve in my brain that shuts down attempts after a certain period of time. Yet there are occasions even my ever-churning brain can't protect me from. Yesterday he threw me for quite a loop as I was putting away laundry. He called me into the living room to his bed. I was carrying his boxers and various colored socks to put away where they belong in his bathroom. "Remind me to talk to you about socks," he said. Based on his recent confusion, memory problems and hallucinations, I thought we should get to it. "Let's talk about it now," I chirped, smiling down at him. "The purples ones," he said, pointing to the purple knee socks with white horizontal strips and "grippies" on the bottom jumbled in my hands. "What about the purple socks?" I asked. "Those are the ones I want to be cremated in," he replied matter-of-factly. I didn't expect that. And aside from the fact I hate for him to worry about details concerning his own death, I wasn't prepared for how blasé he was about it. But after a phone conversation with a good friend I realized that's something he has every right to be concerned about and to express his wishes about. It wasn't him, it was me. I didn't want to have to be in a position to hear it.


On my walk today, I was hoping to find a photo to take of some beautiful spring landscapes. I saw plenty of them as I walked the tree-lined streets of Ravenswood. But none of them spoke to me. It was here on Lincoln Avenue where I saw this leveled lot that used to be home to a family-owned gas station (Phil & Sons) that I stopped without really thinking. Before I knew it, I was snapping a pic with my iPhone. It spoke to me. There was once something here. And now there is nothing. It's gone, cleared away. Even the cancerous bulldozer remains as an indication of what was responsible for razing what used to belong here. People probably walk past here all the time, and have no idea what used to be here. I hate that.


  1. I loved Phil & Sons. I always looked at it when I would pass it, which was often when I lived in that neighborhood. I try to soak in certain things that move me because I know they won't always be there. I try to do it with my favorite people, as well.

  2. Interestingly, you are adopting the walk-cry habits of your co-caregiver.

    I can see you in the living room, dropping everything as you say "Let's talk about it now."

    You are a wonder of patience and love, and are something to behold.

  3. Ron, you eloquently outlined so clearly how surreal it is ... hearing him talk about after he's gone. He threw me for a loop while we were on Skype, talking about his memorial. I told him, "I'm so sorry - I can't hear that right now" - because I didn't even know how to react. Thank you for this blog, your excellent writing, and being such a blessing for Kennie, every day.

    I wish I could express how I feel as well as you do. It certainly makes me appreciate your posts all the more.

  4. "People probably walk past here all the time, and have no idea what used to be here. I hate that."

    Probably one of the loveliest things I've seen written in a long time. Thank you for your insight and your honesty.