"I will be there"

December 28, 1974
Right now I am doing of the hardest things I have ever had to do.  I had to come to terms with the fact that I should not continue to do for Gary all the things I want to.  Therefore, I am systematically assigning to others the many ways I care for him.  Changes are afoot, and I must say that I don't like change very much, unless it's exploring a new vacation spot with Gary, or remodeling the kitchen.  It's hard to look at the changes associated with "losses" as exciting.  The physical care is what I am mainly having to give up as he is less able to participate in sitting himself down, standing himself up, getting himself into and out of the car, and all the personal care things as well.  Though Gary is very compliant with others, it is hard for me to release him to them, as qualified as they are.  We have prayed for help, so that I can continue to stay healthy, protect my back, and have Gary here at home with me.  Help is coming in many forms, and I am so thankful in the midst of my ambivalence.  I must remember that were it not for relinquishing my involvement, we'd both be in trouble.   The red flags have been waving, as I have had to ice my back a few times this month, and have been fearful of "dropping" Gary on the way in from the car due to his loss of balance.

So I'm living in Excel right now, with a weekly schedule that has colorful blocks of time.  (Can't do anything without enjoying colors, right?)  I have lists of care giving agencies, personal referrals, and an unopened box of wheelchair ramps in the hallway.  I'm busy merging existing caregiving schedules, with new ones on the horizon, and if you know me at all you know I like charts, so this part of the process is not all bad.  Our sweet family has divided up some of the research to help making these decisions, and we are having "3-way Skype conference calls" to get things figured out.

A very happy moment on a very happy day1
There are no guarantees that he can always be here with me.  Our daughter made the comment the other day that many families have had to place their loved one in a care facility for very good reasons and our family is not special or unique in some way that we should be immune to this possibility.  But for now, God has made it possible for us to be together, and as a family, we are prayerfully entering into this new phase of greatly increased care in the home anticipating what good things will come of it. 

For those of you who have been praying for the needed help to come, it is partly in place, and more is in the works.  Thank you for bringing our needs before the Throne of God.  One thing I look forward to is the chance to tell you some of the most amazing things that have already happened that truly show the kind, attention of our very personal God.  Gary is the one with the simple, deeply rooted faith in his Savior.  I am trying very hard to follow his example, keep things simple, not over analyze and listen to counsel of our elders, and loved ones.

We're getting there.  It's hard but not impossible.  There are many songs that come to mind lately.  This one had me holding Gary's hand this morning, and singing along with Steven Curtis Chapman to Gary.  Yes, I cried.  To all you care giving folks out there, even if you are not physically involved with you loved one any more, or you have to go visit them somewhere else, I know you are still "there" for your dear one.  I know I will be no matter what.  The song is 4 minutes if you have a chance to listen.  Just click the little triangle, in the picture below.

Pass the tissues please...

"I don't know, I'm making this up as I go!" Indiana Jones

Gary and a "friend" go for a ride.
It felt a little like "Florida Weather" today.  We enjoyed a bit of rain even though the air was warm.  It was a welcome relief from the heat of August.  Having the windows open felt so good and I was able to do some pruning in our tiny garden without sweating.  The forecast is for more hot days ahead, and like most season changes, the Fall weather will not come suddenly. There will likely be warm days with cool nights, and a few more rainy days, mixed with less and less heat, before we are into the cooler days and nights of Autumn.   Seasons change gradually and sometimes imperceptibly here.

Gary and I are in the midst of more changes and that has me feeling a bit off balance.   Come to think of it, we have been making a string of adjustments for several years, and just when things are rolling along with a certain level of care giving, or our schedule, his health declines, and we need to make new arrangements. This is true for many of us who are involved with a progressive illness, or even raising children.  This life is constantly changing.  In a July Post  I mentioned that we would not be able to continue at the Adult Day Health Care program for various reasons.  This was the start of another transition.  Here it is September and we have already been making some changes.  Each week, we now have some "in home care giving," and Gary and I are enjoying some one-hour outings together with a friend helping us.  These activities have substituted nicely for the program.  (I've included photos of some of these great times with our care-givers and our planned "outings.")

Sampling at the Farmer's Market Outing - Aug. 2012
Checking Light bulbs at the Lowes Outing - Aug. 2012
Trying out the W.C.
But just like the occasional changes in the weather, we have had some changes of our own.  Over the summer, Gary's mobility and balance has really decreased.  It's kind of like when a little baby begins to walk, and they make a step or two, and drop to their knees, then they do it again, but step farther before dropping down again, then pretty soon they walk all the way and never go back to crawling.  BUT it's in reverse for us.  We have a "hard" day, and then a few good days, and then a couple of  "hard" days, and then a good day or two, and then pretty soon the "problem" is constant and he never goes back.  SO, we begin to "transition" when we start to see a pattern developing and that is where we are at right now.  In the middle of making arrangements to get even more help.  The wheel chair gets more use and makes it possible to do more and he wears the gait belt all the time, so we can stabilize him but we're looking for more help, and it is a time-consuming process.
Enjoying the Gene Autry Museum Aug 2012
 I wish I could slow things down and keep Gary the way he is for longer so things could stay the same.  I don't like change when it means less "normal'...when it means more distance between us....when it means others doing the things that I want to do for him.  BUT...I can no more control this disease than prevent Autumn from coming. 
Friendly Valley Billards Aug. 2012
Each season has it's own unique pleasures and pains.  We love how freshly fallen snow looks on pine trees, but we don't like driving on icy roads.  We enjoy the beach, but don't like the sun burn.  What's to love about the new season Gary and I are approaching?  I don't know yet.  We are in transition.  But I DO know that there are things about the season we are leaving that I have loved.  Gary talks to me with his eyes.  He knows me, or at least feels comfortable with me.  Old and new friends and our church has come around us.  The physical demands on me have motivated some weight loss.   There's a few.

When I'm tempted to feel anxious or scared about the unknowns or confused about what kind of care to choose, I am not always, but usually praying "God, I don't know what to do, but I know that YOU do.  So help me patiently trust as you unfold Your plans in our lives."  I know He will continue to provide for us exactly what we need, when we need it just as He has all along.

King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said that "God has made everything beautiful (appropriate/good) in it time."  Ecc. 3:11.  This being true I am sure that even this transition, is also beautiful, for it causes me to depend on the Lord and cling tightly to Him just as a child is led across a busy street by his parent until he is safely on the other side. 

Mark Twain, Coffee and a Pastry Sept. 2012

"The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."  Proverbs 16:9

"He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord."  Proverbs 16:20

"We are NOT waterskiing!"

I am often asked "How is Gary doing?"  My response is typically, "Pretty good considering.  But the disease is progressing."  There is usually a follow-up question..."How are YOU doing?"  That will have to be another post...I want to use this post to explain some things, and I need to say up front that this is not primarily a plea for sympathy or help, rather to get people up to speed.  Some of my blogging friends have never met us, some of our older friends have not seen Gary for many years and many of you want updates so you can pray more specifically for us.  (In my entire life, I have NEVER seen so much specific, detailed attention from the Lord to our specific situation.  I am 100% convinced that God loves us and hears and answers the prayers of His children.)  In order to give an accurate picture of where we're at with this progressive disease, I have to give a bit of information.  Please bear with me.


There are

7 Stages of A.D

.  As you probably know, A.D. starts with a bit of forgetfulness, or confusion, and results in complete brain destruction and death, usually from a secondary problem, such as pneumonia or infections. Though you can't place anyone in a specific place in the progression because of overlap, both our neurologist and his primary Dr. have stated that Gary is in the advanced stages.  His mobility and overall health, disguise this.   From the Alzheimer's Association:

Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline: (Severe or late-stage Alzheimer's disease)In the final stage of this disease, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases.  At this stage, individuals need help with much of their daily personal care, including eating or using the toilet. They may also lose the ability to smile, to sit without support and to hold their heads up. Reflexes become abnormal. Muscles grow rigid. Swallowing impaired.

Everyone is different, and no two people experience ALL of the listed symptoms, or in the typical order.  For instance, some folks are chatty all along.  Gary may say one or two words a day, which may or may not make sense to the listener.  (Have we ever thanked God for the ability to communicate with those we love?  I used to take this for granted.) 


Early on with this illness, we were told about the eventual need for help with A.D.L.  I had never hear that term before.  How well I know it now!  Here's the list from the Alz. Association, and a few examples of how it is for Gary and I.

  • Bathing - Yep!  I bathe him.
  • Dressing - Gary lets me dress him, and tries to help, but in buttoning his shirt, for instance, his hands just get in the way.  Lately he has taken to grasping the closest thing to his hands.  The shirtsleeve, my wrists, anything.  By putting a handkerchief or washcloth in his hand, I can draw the sleeve over his hands without "velcro-fingers" slowing things down.
  • Grooming - If Gary looks scruffy, it's because I didn't do a good job shaving him, so don't blame him...it's me.
  • Oral Care - He lets me floss and brush his teeth.  He may even try to hold his mouth open, but this is getting harder and harder. I usually have to pry it open and NOT get my finger between his teeth.  That can be a BAD idea! I take him to the dentist for a cleaning twice a year, and if I sit next to him, and reassure him while talking to the hygienist, he cooperates.  We have a fantastic Dental office who have been incredibly helpful. If he gets a cavity, or needs a crown, it will be a BIG problem, so I am always concerned that we keep his teeth and gums healthy. 
  • Toileting - Yep!  Nuff said.
  • Transferring - (moving from one place to another) So far Gary is mobile so we are not using a wheel chair.  That day appears to be approaching, since his balance is so poor.  I do not let him walk anywhere without someone at his elbow.  He tends to tip backward and has fallen a few times.  In some ways a wheel chair would make things easier, because folks would understand.  As it is, when we are in public and we pass through a doorway, he will try to grab on to the door handle, out of habit to open it for me, but then he won't let go.  This often causes a small traffic jam as people wait for me to un-peel his fingers from the handle.  A wheel chair would signal others that we need some help with doors, etc.  A wheel chair would allow me to wheel him to the table, instead of scooting his chair.  He does not scoot.  He does not move his feet forward when I am scooting the chair, so I have to manually move his feet in front of him so the chair doesn't crunch up his calves.  The reason I am delaying the wheel chair, is that the less mobile he becomes the more his muscles will atrophy and he will have a better life if he is able to move.  But, as I said, I can see the day approaching...
  • Walking - When just stepping out, he consistently uses the wrong foot.  For instance when you should use your right, because you are headed to your right, Gary uses his left, so he ends up crossing his feet.  Kind of a "scissor step".  So he must be guided along.  Some mornings, when he has socks on, and I'm leading him he doesn't even take a step.  I end up towing him across the laminate.  He actually looks like he's water skiing.  I have to tell him... "WE ARE NOT WATER SKIING!  You need to take a step." I am pretty sure he has a twinkle in his eye, and thinks it's fun.



  • Climbing Stairs - Going up's not too bad, but going down is another story unless they are not too steep.  I now avoid them if possible.  Elevators are ok if they are not crowded.  Gary is not claustrophobic, but I can't maneuver him around very well, and he doesn't understand "stepping aside" or "moving over" to make room for someone.  The elevator at church is particularly difficult, because people are so willing to "squeeze one more in", not realizing our situation.  Once they understand, they are extremely accommodating to us, but I often wait until the next load, which may be more empty. 
  • Eating - Most meals take an hour.  (He was always one to "savor" his food.) He takes small bites, which he tends to nibble.  He is having an increasingly hard time dealing with swallowing.  He feeds himself a few bites, then must be fed because he gets distracted, or closes his eyes, or turns the spoon into a screwdriver, or some other mechanical tool. 
  • Shopping - Stimulation overload.  Stores are not a good place for someone like Gary.  There's loud music playing, people coming and going, products, displays, etc. etc...There is NO WAY he could buy anything.  BUT in January, we went for Coffee and a sweet roll to Panera Bread, and he stood with me at the glass display case and when I asked him what he would like he actually pointed to a cinnamon-roll-muffin thing.  It is random and rare, that he would make a 'choice' and I was elated.
  • Cooking - I keep the sharp knifes put away out of sight if I am not using them.  I do not leave them in the sink to dry.  I keep Gary from going near the stove if something's cooking.  I have had to stop him from trying to pick up a hot pan.  He would not be able to pour a bowl of cereal for himself now.  He does, however open the cookie jar and take out a cookie.  :) 
  • Managing - Impossible.  There is no sense of time passing, or to-do lists, or problem-solving.  He no longer writes, or draws.  I do not know if he recognizes his name. 
  • Medications - He stopped swallowing pills whole several years ago, but at least he chews them up and doesn't refuse them.  He used to chew up his Asprin, ever since I met him, so don't feel too sorry for him about this.  I think his taste mechanism is somewhat off though because he doesn't even make a face.  If they are "timed release" it can be a problem, so I have to find a version that can be dissolved in the mouth.
  • Using the Phone - Phone calls are impossible so he stopped carrying a phone in 2010.  (I did see him pick up an apple, hold it to his ear, and say "hello" when he heard a phone ring recently though.)  Thank the Lord for Skype so he can sometimes sit in on a call to our daughter, April's family in Florida.  At least he can see them, and hear them.
  • Housework - (Substitute Yardwork in Gary's case!)  When Gary is taken for a walk, he often stops to pick a "weed".  He does not differentiate between weeds and other plants, but he does pick up little twigs, or sprigs of things.  He still finds some pleasure in "pruning, weeding, and tending."  If he bends over, he must be supported and lifted back up, because he can't usually get himself back up again.  If he does rise up again, he will typically go right over backwards. 

2011 (Gary is too unstable to do this now)

  • Doing Laundry - Gary never did the laundry anyway, :) but now there are multiple mishaps and spills, making the washer and dryer run daily.
  • Driving - Gary stopped driving in 2008 and voluntarily surrendered his license.
  • Managing Finances - He hasn't needed a wallet for 2 years, because he doesn't shop or understand how to count, or make change.  BUT...when asked in February if he wanted to make a Valentine's card for me at the Adult Day Health Care, in one of his rare speaking moments, he said, "How much is it going to cost?"  His helper couldn't wait to tell me about it because it was the only thing he had said in several weeks.  I was presented with a pink construction paper card, with a couple of stickers and a doily glued on.  To me, the fact that he spoke, was the best Valentine gift and it didn't cost anything. :)

At this point, Gary still doesn't wander, repeat himself, get agitated, angry or combative. He continues to enjoy working with his hands, turning any object into a tool; a straw, a spoon, a coffee cup etc.  This can result in a foot massage for me, if I'm lucky!

3 Days Ago

I'm sure he usually recognizes me, and other family members and a few friends.  It has been since 2007 that Gary was diagnosed and since 2006 that the problems began.  Now, 6 years later, here we are with a life dominating illness. I love Gary more than ever, and have been learning from him all along.  While Gary was healthy I took many things for granted, and even complained about some of the things that I now long for.  He has lost so much.  So have I.  I sometimes cry out to the Lord that it hurts to "lose my best friend, and on top of that, it's hard work too."  But, God is enough for us.  I trust Him.  He has proven over and over that does not bring anything into our lives that is unkind and there are no mistakes.  Our burden has been shared and  lifted off of us by so many friends and our wonderful family that I can honestly say that I'm joyful and fulfilled.  I believe that Gary is at peace too.  If you are around him much, you would agree. 

Easter 2012

"A woman's got to know her limitations" #1: Rocks in a Jar

"A woman's got to know her limitations" is a series I'm starting.  Do I sound like Clint Eastwood?  I hope not.  Anyway, I've been thinking about constraints for several weeks, and decided to comment on the current limits in my life.

Limitation #1: TIME

To quote Jim Croce..."If I could put time in a bottle..." well, more of that later, but right now I just want to put some of our Moonstone Beach rocks in a jar...

Empty jar and collected stones

They don't fit...RATS!

OK...let's get organized.

"What's my secret?" you ask?
You must load the jar in descending order.  If you start with the small pebbles there will inevitably be no room for the larger stones.  First load the big ones then finish with the little ones.

When Gary was first diagnosed with A.D. his Dr. gave me a book for caregivers called The 36 Hour Day.  I would LOVE to have a 36 hour day and the appropriate amount of energy too because this is a busy season of life for me.  (I'll spare you the details, because many of you are in busy seasons as well, and I'm sure you understand.)  There used to be a time when Gary would help me sort it all out, being very logical, and would help me decide what tasks were most important.  Now he rarely speaks so I have to rely on what I think he would say.  I'm sure he'd tell me to do the most important things first, so they would be sure to get done, and let the less important things sort themselves out.

I never get everything done that I want to, and never will, but I'm comforted by the fact that there is always enough time to do the things God wants me to do.  I want to spend the 24 hours He has given me making a priority of the things God considers most important.

"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33 

"Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest." Prov. 6:6-8
And now...for something completely different:   
I'm smiling just thinking about it...

A Must Read for Caregivers

Ken and Joni Eareckson Tada
I know it's a very busy time of year, but if you are a Caregiver, or know someone who is, please don't miss this article from Ken Tada.  He has been married to Joni, a beautiful and talented, woman who has been a quadriplegic for 30 years, and his take on commitment, and serving a dependent spouse is fantastic.  This article is straightforward, humble, personal, encouraging, You will be blessed, and challenged. I'm going to include it in my Alz. Resources section as one of my favorites!

Click this link for the article: Caregiving: A Cause for Christ

Click this link for "Joni & Friends" ministry:  http://www.joniandfriends.org/

Enduring Love

This morning, I had been invited to share our "story" with a ladies bible study at a nearby church.  They had been studying "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things." from 1 Corinthians 13:7.  In particular they asked me to talk about how to love tenaciously, with endurance, as an illustration of "enduring love."  To prepare for my part of the morning, I studied the same passages the ladies had been studying.  I found the study to be challenging and convicting to my own soul as well.  Here's why.

During the teaching time, I learned that this verse, "enduring" is a military term that means to "hold the position at all costs."  This takes courage.  I confess, I do not always feel courageous.  We were asked to choose an example from Scripture who exemplified enduring love.  The obvious choice is Jesus Christ. 
  • John 3:16 - This love gave the most precious possession, God's beloved son for me.
  • Romans 5:8 - This love sacrificed (to the maximum) for undeserving me.
  • Romans 8:35, 38-39 - This love perseveres and is secure through great difficulties and can NOT be removed from me.
  • Ephesians 3:17-19 - This love surpasses knowledge and completes me.  It roots and grounds me. 
We were asked to think about loving someone who we used to be close to that is now difficult to love. Gary is not a “difficult” person to love.  Unlike some with Alz. Disease, he is not angry, or upset, or awake all night, etc. But he IS silent, and completely dependent on others for all “activities of daily living.”  He may speak only a few times in a week, and it isn’t always easy to understand what he is trying to say.  Sometimes it is challenging to love with endurance.  It's true for all of us.  It doesn't matter what the cause of the difficulty is.  It can be a wayward child, or unkind spouse, or someone who is the source of great pain.  The reasons may be different, but there are several things that may be universally true for everyone....
  • When love is not reciprocated and there’s "nothing in it for me." 
  • When there’s no feedback or encouragement to keep going.
  • When there’s no end in sight.
  • When I'm exhausted.
  • When prevented from doing what "I" want
  • When Spiritually dry.
So, how DO you love with endurance?  Well, as I said, I was convicted by Jesus' example.  I often fall short. But lately I've been learning 3 things:
  • I have to ask God to strengthen me – to understand and know His love – to love others and glorify Him (Ephesians 3:14-21) When I am facing a "giant" of a difficulty, if I try to operate in the flesh, then I respond in the flesh when things don’t work out MY way.  The solution is NOT in my ability to muster up the energy, or reorganize, or plan ahead, or anything I come up with.  Only by really learning and knowing Jesus' love better, am I able to love Gary.  
  • I have to ask others for help.  It’s impossible to do it all myself.  When I try to, I get exhausted, anxious and overwhelmed.  I struggle with wanting to be in control of how to care for Gary, and now that he is needing so much more physical care, some of which I am unable to do, so I must entrust him to others.  This is hard for me, but I see it as God graciously helping me to release him in stages.  I can love Gary best by letting others help.
  •   I have to remember that Gary is still Gary.  He has a soul that is alive and well and God is continuing to grow him.  He has emotions that feel.  I try to maintain our relationship and respect for him by spending quality time together and sharing my life with him regardless of his lack of responses. This includes asking for his forgiveness if I become impatient, and trying to make decisions in the way he would want. And sometimes, though not often, I still get a look or a touch that lets me know he loves me.
What practical things I do we do to show our love to others?  For us, beyond the daily care...well these are always fun to share.  Here's a few...
  • Photo memory books (see blog post called "No time for perfection" 
  • Bible verses on 3 X 5 cards (I write out a simple portion of a verse being preached on in church for Gary to hold and read.  I use a sharie pen and write big.  I do the same thing with songs, writing out a phrase or two.  very simple, and big)
  • Going for a drive through the mountains, or a stroll through Descanso (Botanical) Gardens, or walk around Bridgeport Lake, or a pastry at Panera Bread.
What struck me, while sharing this morning, as I looked around the room at the ladies, was the fact that everyone there, seemed to be relating, not necessarily to the Alzheimer's disease, but their OWN situations, and the people in their lives that require an ongoing strong love, in the face of difficulty, no matter the cause.  May we all look to Jesus, and beg for strength, never forgetting that He understands our weakness and wants to empower us "according to His great riches in glory." (Eph 3)

Watercolor Journals - The best is yet to be

11 X 14 Custom Watercolor
A 40 year marriage and a wife's love for her husband prompted my most recent painting.  She loves him and understands, that each year's lessons build on the experiences of the last.  In the consideration of "Quality vs Quantity", it seems to me that quantity gives opportunity for quality to happen.  A lifetime commitment to keeping one's vows provides a delightful garden where love can really grow and mature.  Trust, respect, truth, confidence, wisdom and peace come from many years of sharing life with the one you love.  She chose an excerpt from Robert Browning's Rabbi Ben Ezra, as a way to celebrate a very special anniversary.  Their garden is filled with hollyhocks, and I'm sure their home is filled with abounding joy.

While painting, I enjoyed thinking about the "last of life, for which the first was made".  For 36 years, Gary and I have walked through life together, with each year's experiences building on the years before. This project has provided me with pleasant thoughts of the past "happier" days, mingled with peace and trust as we hold hands through the more challenging times at hand.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to "age" with my own husband knowing that God is trustworthy and I have nothing to fear.  Thank you, Patti, for entrusting me with this project and for the great reminder.

"Don't seek to add years to your life, but rather add life to your years."

In honor of Gary's birthday today I want to share some of my happiest memories.  We are here on Planet Earth for such a short time, in light of eternity.  Some of us have the privilege of sharing some of those years with a spouse.  I pray we would ALL seek to find joy in the good things God has given us, and not waste time with a critical spirit, or wishing for something we do not have.  God gives good gifts to each of his children.  May we be grateful for them in the present.

Happy Birthday, Gary!

H - Happy - "For he will not often consider (much remember) the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart." Ecclesiastes 5:20.  Our pastor, Jon Rourke, said on Sunday morning, that "The most blessed man is the not the one who has the most, but the one with the capacity to enjoy what he has."  Gary learned to savor things.  Cinnamon rolls, moss, and steel drum hymns. 
A - Arguments -When our daughters were about 6 and 4, and they decided to argue with each other over a toy, or whatever kids argue about, Gary instituted "5 minute hugs."  The timer was set, and the girls had to hug each other for the allotted time.  What began as miserable intolerance, always ended up with laughter, and cooperation. 
P - Proper Manners - Table manners were HUGE at our house.  For some reason, Gary, even though a construction worker by trade, would not tolerate talking with food in your mouth, interrupting at the table, reaching across the table for the serving bowl, forgetting to place your napkin in your lap, or worst of all making "mouth noises" while eating.  The girls, (and both Gary and I as well), would be warned one time, then "thrown out the window".  Fortunately, we had a window, that was low to the ground, and one could be lowered down, but the first time Gary said, "If you do it again, I'm going to throw you out the window", it was met with big eyes.  Especially when we had guests over for dinner.  When we remodeled and changed the windows to the type with screens, the consequence morphed into going outside and counting to 100.  I confess I too have spent some time on the front porch during some meals.
P - Practical Jokes - Smoke bombs wired to honeymoon get-away cars, sink faucet spray nozzles wedged to spray the victim when the water is turned on, "Bedwetting" treatment ads left on the windshields of friends in the church parking lot.  The list is long.  Gary's friends also knew how to "pay him back".  He once got a call from the local Marine Sargent Recruiter because he had "filled out a card inquiring about enlisting." One time, on the first night home from our vacation, we were awakened at 1:00 am to strobe lights and sirens in our bedroom, coming from the a/c duct, coincidentally right after our friend, John had been house sitting for us.  The trouble with practical jokes is that they often overflow on to innocent wives!   
Y -Yucky Tomato - One of our daughters, who shall remain nameless, hated tomatoes, and still does to this day.  The rule at our house, was that if you didn't "care for" something, you needed to at least have a "no thank you" serving, and taste it because you never know when your tastes will change.  When this daughter was about 4, she decided she would not even taste her BLT at Sunday lunch.  This became the typical "battle of the wills."  Gary said, "That's fine, you can have it for dinner and nothing else except juice until you try the tomato."  So out it came at dinner, at which time she ate the Bacon.  Still refusing to taste the tomato, she received the sandwich again at breakfast at which time she ate the Lettuce and some of the Bread.  Hunger had it's effect and at lunchtime on Monday she decided to take a bite of the tomato. 
B - Beautiful - I can't remember the exact context, but will never forget that Gary said "You can make a woman beautiful by how you treat her."
I - Imagination - Gary's imagination often led to inventions and a garage, crowded with "someday I'm going to" projects. One that everyone's familiar with is the stone self portrait, high above the driveway, on the fireplace.  (see photo below)  He wanted to "keep an eye on his work truck."  I assume it is still there, keeping an eye on our former house. 
R - Reconnaissance - Our friend Tim, whom we served with at the USC Bible Study recently reminded me of a lesson he learned from Gary, "one of the only things I really remember about being a husband and father in situations like this was Gary's comparing it to being a scout. As a man, you go out and search out a situation and make sure that it's a good one for your family. Are there provisions? Is it safe? Where are the dangers and threats?" That helped me to see what my role was and how I could be a blessing to my family. 
T - H2O Therapy - Our friends, Greg and Diane, called it his "Water Therapy".  Gary's first activity upon arriving at home from work every day, was watering the front yard.  Even after he installed sprinklers, he would unwind in this way.
H - Haircut Joy - When I began to loose my hair from the chemo therapy 9 years ago, Gary helped me get it over with, and all shaved off.  But this dreaded event, became a cause for laughter, because of his fun attitude.  Out came the buzzer, accompanied by sympathy and a hug, and then he proceeded to make me laugh.  First he gave me a mohawk, and then a military cut, and then away it all went.  "Blip-ti-de-Blip...Blip-ti-de-Blam!"
D - Dump Antics - In the 70's, Gary had a 1953 1-Ton Flat bed pickup truck.  He had ordered tool boxes for it, and in order to have them installed, the flat bed needed to be removed.  He drove the truck to the dump, and pulled up near the piles of trash, got out, removed the bolts holding the flatbed to the frame, got back in, 'gunned' it, and sped away, which immediately removed the flatbed.  One of the "trash-pickers" called out to him, as he drove away, "Hey mister, you lost part of your truck!" 
A - Automobile Showroom -Gary often told young men who were getting involved with young women, while still in college, "What you're doing is like hanging around the new car lots, when you can't afford to buy a new car?  You need to be ready to support a wife, AND family, before you get involved in a dating relationship.  Until that time, spend time with girls in groups, and don't get serious until you can do something about it.  It's not sensible, or fair to 'tap dibs' on a girl and make her wait for you to get your act together.  Do things in the right order." 
Y - "You bettcha" - This was his most common response whenever I asked Gary to do something for me.  Requests ranging from "Can you unload the groceries from the car?" "You Bettcha!" "Can you find a way to hang rice paper lamps all over the back yard for April's wedding?" "You Bettcha!" "Can you make footprints in wet cement leading to the fishpond for our upcoming murder-mystery party?  Oh, and we'll need a corpse too."  Gary disappeared for a while and down he came from the attic with the mannequin, again...

Gary would be the first to say he is not perfect, and he probably wouldn't be thrilled with all the attention he is getting lately, but birthdays are a time for celebrating.  I celebrate my Gary. 

Keeping an Eye on Things


"Dad, drive FASTER!"

On a fall evening, in 1973, on Foothill Blvd, west bound near Ocean View Blvd, 2 cars were traveling parallel to each other.  Middle-aged couples were in the respective front seats, and each car, had a young adult passenger in the back seat.  In the left lane, a mustard yellow Cougar, toted a young man, and in the right lane, the sage green Chevy station wagon, toted a young woman.  While stopped at the intersection, the young man began waving, a bit dramatically, trying to get the girl’s attention, who did in fact, notice him.  But not knowing who he was, and thinking him to be too bold, even though attractive, she quickly looked straight ahead, and asked her dad to please drive a little faster, to get beyond this other car. 

I still smile at how we got together.  That happened on a Friday after Gary and I had just been out to dinner with our parents.  Two days later, after evening church let out, Gary came across the foyer straight to me.   “Did you see me Friday night? Waving at you?”…. “Oh, that was YOU!”  I had known him just a little in our College/Career group at church the year before, but I had been gone for the summer, and now, he had his hair combed forward, and looked different.  After a little chat, we ended up with a group of friends sitting together eating strawberry pie at Love’s Restaurant.   I wish I could remember who else was there, but at the time, the only one I was thinking about was Gary Price.  It didn’t take long until we were dating, and we were married a year later.  

He often laughed at himself, and the way he approached me, how humbling it was to be riding in Mom and Dad’s car, and trying to get the attention of a girl.  Though living at home to save some money, and regroup, after the Lord saved him, at age 21, he was now 24 and working as an electrician, planning to get his contractor’s license.  He later told how he had been interested in me for some time, but that’s another story with it’s own humbling incidents. 

I love this man.  He loves me.  I am SO happy that he waved and that I looked back.  But it would have gone no further if he hadn’t been a lover of Jesus.  After that initial, heart flutter and invitation to dessert, it was the faith that Gary had, and the way he would talk about the Lord, and the joyful little notes in his Bible that grew my love for him.  I’ve never met anyone who looked more forward to Jesus’ return.  When we got married, we asked Pastor Travaille, to mention in the ceremony, that our last names had a special meaning.  Pastor T. said “You are Laurie Ransom and Gary Price.  May you always remember the Ransom-Price that Jesus Christ paid for us.” 

Here's a song from our wedding.  Our friends Korla, Mike and Bryan performed it, but I only have a cassette tape of it.  I found it on youtube.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33U8saXFV4E

The Screwdriver

His big strong hands are smaller now yet he holds his tools correctly, most of the time, and even handles them the right way.  What has changed is their intended purpose.  Nathan, a friend, recently made Gary a “project board” with a variety of Phillips-head screws partly screwed in, so today, when I handed him the screwdriver, he began working on getting them all the way in.  He enjoys holding his favorite hand tools.  They went back and forth from his right hand to his tool belt countless times a day for an entire career.  In the “old days,” he didn’t need to look to see where the duckbill pliers or the wire strippers were.  He could reach down, like a gunfighter, and grab them as needed.  Now, standing at the kitchen counter, with his wooden project board of screws, he is content and has been for 45 minutes.  The goal is very short.  Turn the screw. 

One of the 4 parts of human thinking, is “Executive Function.”  This is what it sounds like, the ability to plan, make decisions, sort, and multi-task.  Someone with A.D. may have this part extremely inhibited, as does Gary.  Therefore, he is easily distracted from the task of “turning the screws” and, still using the screwdriver, may decide to twist it rapidly, like a drill, making a small hole in the tile, or using the defrosting sausage package, pry off the paper label then press it (the label) on the project board, weaving the strip of paper amongst the half installed screws.  He even may poke with the screwdriver into the partly thawed sausage.  In the last 45 minutes, Gary has done all of these things.  His heart is happy.  He is not frustrated, or “missing out” on what he wished he could do.  He has no “wishes, or “longings,” that I can tell.  He is enjoying handling and using his old friend, the Phillips head screwdriver.

One of the things I had to get over, and am still trying to get over, during this adventure of the last few years, was the wishing and hoping that Gary could do satisfying little projects.  You know, things that you’d give the grandkids at Christmas, like a simple craft you could buy at Michaels.  But, if he enjoys hearing the sound of the tip of the screwdriver tap repeatedly on the edge of his piece of wood, or the sausage package, or the tile, for that matter, and God has allowed him to retain the ability to be pleased with the process, however simplified that is, then I need to be at peace with that. (at least I am today)

One of my favorite books on the topic, says dementia patients don’t lose their own dignity, rather, others take it from them.  I love and respect my husband, so I write these things to say Gary is an amazing man.  He has done and IS doing amazing things.  God gave Gary the ability to use tools to create some incredible things.  He LOVED working hard on some new “idea.”  Right now, he is LOVING removing the screws from the little piece of wood.  As Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  James wrote: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  Gary’s mind, was given to him by God.  Now it is being taken away.  But look how kind and gracious God is.  We live in a fallen world, where every one of us is mortal and will die of something.  Yet, for now, He has allowed my dear husband to work diligently with his tool for over an hour.  An hour well spent.  I believe that this is pleasing to God, who loves Gary far more than I ever could and has great plans for him. 


32 years ago Gary and I created this stained glass window for our kitchen.  It was a very fun project that led to a cottage industry, designing and crafting custom stained glass for 12 years.  So much has happened since then. To quote Karen Carpenter, “We’d only just begun…” Recently, I’ve been able to get “artsy” again, with watercolor illustrations.  I call them “Colors By Laurie.”  I have been mulling over the idea that my life is colorful too, not unlike a stained glass window.  

I have experienced the light and bright joys, as well as the “dark” events that everyone dreads.  My greatest earthly happiness is my husband.  He and I have partnered together to face life and that has made for some wonderful memories.  The fun of watching a thunderstorm from our bedroom with the girls with the French doors wide open, “batting practice” at Lake Powell, the Murder Mystery Parties, transitioning our daughters into the hands of the men they said “Yes” to, of course all the grandkiddos, and the endless practical jokes and movie quotes.  All of these have been peppered with hard times as well, and now, in the last decade I’ve had a bout with Stage 3 Breast Cancer, and a few years ago, Gary was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  We have the privilege of walking together through the “for worse” part just like the “for better” part, and though no one knows the future, I have a pretty good idea of what’s likely. 

Our world could be monochromatic, but it’s NOT!  I’m thankful for the variety of colors, darks, lights, textures, mass, shapes, and lines.  I’m not meaning to sound like an art class, (nod to Mr. DeGrassi) but it’s true!  Look around.  Our world is FULL of visual variety.  That’s what makes it interesting, from the clear, aqua waters of Florida, to the vivid orange sunsets over the rugged, massive Rocky Mts.  Why did God make the world that way?  Artist’s prerogative.  He does whatever He pleases, and it pleased Him to make the world beautiful, and then, give us minds that appreciate it!

Look too long at any element, without stepping back to see the whole, and you’ll not see the story the artist intends.  For optimal viewing, wait until completed.  God made the universe very quickly, but we are in process.  One day, we will be as He plans, Gary will have a renewed mind, able to comprehend his Creator perfectly.  I will no longer be distracted by the ups and downs of life, and completely joyful and at peace forever.  “Behold I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5  For this reason, I refuse to give in to self-pity or sorrow.  I don’t deny that emotions are very real, but there are far reaching benefits to the dark times and I choose glean what I can from them. 

If a stained glass window is all one color, it can be a nice geometric design, and that’s great, but it won’t tell a story.  It needs shapes that mean something to the viewer, line so the eye can cruise around the entire composition, texture for interest, and those dark areas of contrast that make the colors stand out beautifully.   People are creative, because they are created in the image of God.  God is creating a beautiful thing in the lives of His people. “Look among the nations!  Observe!  Be astonished!  Wonder!  Because I am doing something in your days—You would not believe if you were told.” Habakkuk 1:5

For a blast from the past...Here's a Keith Green song I love on the same topic.  Jon, this one's for you!