Friday, November 17, 2017

Harvest Dinner for the Family

Harvest Dinner for the Family

Last Thursday was a week before Thanksgiving, and Featherstone home served a sumptuous meal for residents and family. I picked up our daughter Darlene, who lives not too far away in Denton, TX, and we were joined by our nephews Joe Wright and his son Colt. Colt was especially happy to see Carolyn, as he hadn’t seen her in a long time. He even gave her a card telling her he loved her. I think she really liked it.

The meal was wonderful, if a little much. The was turkey, ham, potato salad, dressing, a deviled egg, and a sweet potato, too. Followed by a choice of pumpkin, pecan or apple pie. Not many cleaned their plate, I’m sure. 

About halfway through the meal, Carolyn tried to stand up to leave. I asked her where she was going, and she said home. She has fully accepted that this is her home, and I knew she wanted to go back to her room for some reason, so I asked if she needed to go to the bathroom. She emphatically said no, so I got up also and excused us and led her back to her room.

 She sat on the couch and just stared for a while. I asked what she wanted, and told her I would do what ever I could to make her feel happy. I also asked if she wanted me to bring her food back to the room. After a few seconds, she decided she wanted to go back, and we went in and sat down again.

She ate some more of the meal, but I noticed she had a pained look on her face, and soon she wanted to leave again. I have seen this behavior before and recognized it, finally, as a need for solitude and quiet. Even though she loves having visitors, there were just too many that night. So once again I took her back to her room. We were nearing the end of the meal anyway.

Joe and Colt finished their meals and left to go home, and Darlene came to her mother’s room and we unfolded the couch (futon) and she made up her bed for the night. I kissed and hugged Carolyn and told her I’d be back in the morning, and I went back to the house.

After a good night’s sleep, I returned to Carolyn’s room in the morning, and we loaded Darlene’s baggage in the car for the trip back to Denton. When I got her back to her apartment, she asked if I would fix a flat on her bicycle, so I started to put on the new tire and tube, but they were too small. Besides, the chain was rusted up, and the shifter and brake cables were rusty, too. She let me load the bike up in the car, which fit in the trunk after I folded down the rear seats. I can fix it much easier back home.

I got back in time to visit Carolyn, and take her to a special program by a visiting doctor in the front lobby, who they said would talk on cardiovascular health. The talk was wide ranging, with a lot of good advice on many topics, including diet and exercise, and a special emphasis on vaccinations for older folks, as in flu and shingles shots.

I had to smile when they served us cookies with coffee as he told of the perils of carbs.

I got nervous when he got into the subject of dementia and Alzheimer’s, since I wasn’t sure how Carolyn would react, but she took it all in stride, and I don’t know if she related it to herself or not. The progression he described fit Carolyn to a tee.

 As her memories moved farther back through the years, she went through objecting to her married last name, and being quite upset about it. I told her she could have any last name she wanted on her front door, and asked if her maiden name of Wright would be OK. No, she didn’t want that name either. So steeling myself a little, I asked she wanted to be Carolyn Morse, her first husband. Nope, not that one either. Her name on her door is just Carolyn Ann for now.

For a few weeks she was a shy teenage girl, who didn’t want me to see her undressed, and made me sit in the front while she went to the bathroom. Having nurses on duty was a welcome relief for me.

Now she doesn’t mind me being there at all, which has made it easier for me to help her clean up and change after a slip up, and she just loves when I rub Aspercreme lotion on the rash on her legs. We think it may be a reaction to the antibiotic she was on for congestion and a cough. 

She has become much easier to care for now, and I still delight in making her smile.

Friday, November 3, 2017

All about Bidets

It’s been a busy week. We closed the sale of the ranch in Nevada. As I requested, they sent the check to me here in Oklahoma. I then sent it back to Nevada to my credit union in Reno. 

I worried a little about sending a check that big through the mail, but the lady at the post office assured me that I didn’t need to insure a check, only a money order. She said the bank will honor the check stub if the check got lost in the mail.

It took about five days to show up in the account, and I was beginning to get worried, but the credit union posted it immediately, even though it is unavailable for a week or ten days, so I knew it had arrived OK. I guess they have to notify the IRS, the DEA, and other agencies so they can figure out if I just scored a big drug sale, or am laundering cash, or owe the government money for taxes.

Maybe they just need to move the gold from Winnemucca to Reno!

Carolyn was in a good mood today when I found her out in the lobby. It was about time for her two o’clock meds, and she took them without any complaint at all. I went over to make a cup of coffee, and Carolyn followed me over to the Keurig machine to watch. As she got close, it became quite obvious that we needed to take her back to her room and change underwear. The smell was pretty strong.

As I was walking beck to her room holding her hand, we met Angela in the hall, and she spoke cheerily to Carolyn and asked how she was doing. After a little chit chat, I mentioned we were going back for a change of underwear. 

She sniffed and agreed, and asked if I needed help. I said, “Thanks, but I got this!”

We had no sooner gotten her skirt off in the bathroom, and the Guardian hospice nurse, Mary, knocked on the door. I told her we were just starting to change Carolyn’s drawers, and she said she was there to give her a shower.

I said, “Well, in that case, I’ll hand her over to you.” 

She took over, and I went out to sit on the couch and wait. This was for sure the kind of big stinky mess that needed a shower, not like yesterday, when it was a small stinky mess that I took care of with the bidet.

The thought occurred to me as I sat there that Mary probably didn’t know about the bidet. Not many toilets come with a remote. So when they were finished, I offered to show her how it worked.

She finished getting Carolyn dressed, and I took the remote off the wall and handed it to her. Unless you are sitting on the seat, it takes three hands to operate, because skin contact is needed on the seat before it will go.

I put a hand on the seat where the sensor is located, and put my other hand where your bottom would be if you were sitting there, and had her push the button marked BACK. The little nozzle came out and warm water washed the palm of my hand. She looked a little amazed. I had her push the stop button, and then push the FRONT button. Another nozzle extended out farther forward from the other one, and once again warm water streamed out against my hand. Mary said she wanted one for her home.

I assured her that if you ever have one, you will never go without one again. This is the cheap one, at about $250, but if you want to spend  a hundred dollars more, they come with a blow dryer, too. Totally eliminates using paper at all, but you need to have a little time for the air dryer to do its thing.

I have wondered why all hospital toilets aren’t equipped with bidets, just for the sanitary benefits, and maybe restaurants, too. 

In Japan, where cleanliness is almost an obsession, it is rare to find a toilet without one. I spent a year and a half in Japan, and found they think we are filthy savages, for the most part. They are horrified to think that someone would walk into the house with shoes on, the same shoes that might have stepped in anything out there on the street.

I guess that concludes this ad for bidets. The brand name is Brondell, but there are other brands, too. Costco has them, most hardware stores will order them for you, and has them if all else fails. Order one now, and be the first on your block!

Mary dressed Carolyn in a beautiful purple and orange silk blouse, and we walked up to the front to show it off. Leon, the hospice chaplain was there, and some of the other residents and staff. She was feeling pretty proud and happy by then, so I told her, “I’ll be back tomorrow, and don’t forget I love you!”

She was smiling as I left.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sierra Rotary Engine Corporation

Working at Sierra Rotary Engine Corporation was like a dream come true. Pay was barely adequate, no benefits, no paid vacations, and no overtime pay, but everyday was a new challenge to make parts to fit the ones made yesterday, with the goal of someday seeing them all work together as a complete machine.

Bill Turner had over twenty patents on different engines, some steam powered and some internal combustion. He wanted to start with a rotary steam engine, which was basically a vane pump with an offset cup with slots that straddled the vanes and imparted a quick increase in velocity at the tips as they rotated across the open side of the housing. 

It was not hard to make, but we had no way to test it, since we didn’t have a steam boiler or a dynamometer yet. But hey, it looked good, and several prospective investors were given a grand tour of the shop, and hopefully were at least impressed enough to put up some money.

Our second engine was much more difficult. Mazda had just come out with their Wankel rotary engine, and Bill thought his design was better, so we started work on a double scissor piston rotary engine. I saw immediately that it technically wasn’t a pure rotary engine, since the pistons did not move in a smooth circle, but alternately sped up and slowed down as they compressed air between the outer pistons on the periphery of the housing. 

We worked long hours to complete this engine in about eight months through the winter of 1971-72. As we were getting close to completion, Bill got a dynamometer installed in one corner of the shop to test the engine. Since I had dyno experience, I was going to be the operator when we got the thing running.

However, we made time to explore and have fun, too. We found a little cave high above the Talapoosa mine behind the house, and we drove up there and cooked hot dogs and taters on a camp fire in the cave. We also made several excursions to Virginia City, which was not a tourist trap yet, and was a kick to walk through the town where Mark Twain got his name as a reporter on the local newspaper.

The complete freedom to do about anything you liked was also great. I taught Darlene, our daughter, how to drive on the gravel streets and driveway to the house. Once she got too far over and dropped the tires into a small ditch on one side of the driveway. I got to teach her that when you are not moving, you are stuck, and don’t spin the wheels anymore. It only took a few minutes to jack the wheels up and put some rocks under them and drive back on the road again.

There was no speed limit on the roads between towns then, and we enjoyed running out to the front when we heard a Corvette or Ferrari speeding down Hwy. 50. Rich people from California would bring their cars to the highway between Dayton and Silver Springs to see what they would do with the pedal all the way down. If the local sheriff was on duty, he would get out and stand by his car watching, just like the rest of us.

Over at Stead Field north of Reno, Bill Lear (the inventor of jet planes and 8-track tapes) was working on his own engine design, a single acting piston steam engine (a V8, I think) with a rotary valve unit where the camshaft would normally be. He was making noises about running at Indianapolis, but from what I could see of his design, it fell far short of being an efficient steam engine, if it worked at all. Which it didn’t—the rotary steam valve expanded and stuck, or leaked steam pressure. 

Bill Lear switched to making a small steam turbine engine which worked well at 35,000 rpm, we heard. He actually put two of them in some municipal buses in Oakland, California, but they were soon taken out of service because of the rough shifts with a hydrostatic transmission it needed to maintain the high turbine speeds needed for power.

Our engine had problems, too. Bill Turner seemed surprised that we put all the pieces together and it turned smoothly and did all the things it was supposed to, like draw air in on intake, compress it under the spark plug, and push the air out over at the exhaust port. But when we put it on the dyno, it wouldn’t start. It didn’t have enough compression (only about 35 lbs) due to some seals that were not made for use in a combustion environment. The material was called Gattke, and it was meant to be a steam seal, not for hot gasses.

I hoped that we could tear it down and replace the seals with some simple iron seals, but the failure to start up and run had caused several investors to back out, and one Friday, Bill met me at the door and advised me that there was no money in the payroll account, and he couldn’t promise me there would be. I thanked him for telling me, and I went back to the house and told Carolyn we were looking for work again.

I hated to do it, but I knew my best chance of finding work soon was to head back to Southern California, with its many factories and machine shops. My friends Don & Laverna Satterfield lived there, and he offered to come up with his pickup and help us move, and we could stay with his family in Garden Grove until we could find work and a house.

He came down the next weekend towing a large trailer behind his Ford pickup, and we loaded the furniture and boxed clothing into his vehicle and we followed him back to California.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017



In this last year and a half I’ve passed a myriad of signs posted beside the freeway, saying, “GUARDRAIL DAMAGE AHEAD”. The reason for these signs has always mystified me!

Do I say, “Dang, I wanted to hit that guardrail first, but somebody else beat me to it!”

Or maybe it’s to make me more cautious, as in, “Man, if I get into a skid here, I might go through the guardrail and kill myself, rather than just bouncing off it. I guess I’ll slow down and be extra careful.”

And, of course, I always think to myself, “I wonder how much it cost to send a crew out here to plant that sign, compared to sending a crew out to fix the guardrail?”

I found out the reason today.

My nephew Joe whacked a guardrail in the little village of Yuba, OK, a couple of nights ago. He was shying away from a semi truck that he thought was crowding him, and he didn’t see the guardrail until too late. He was not hurt, but the pickup had two ruined tires and wheels on the right side.

Yesterday he started searching the internet and found some used wheels and tires that someone had taken off their truck to replace with fancier wheels and low profile tires. They were in Dallas, TX, (actually Irving), so I put my trailer on the car and we went down and bought them for cash and brought them back to Durant.

We called the wrecking yard and they agreed to release the truck and allow us to change the two bad tires in their yard if we paid the towing and storage bill, so we went down today and got the truck back home.

While we were talking to the proprietor of the wrecking yard, I made a joke about the likelihood that they probably already had the “DAMAGED GUARDRAIL AHEAD” sign up. He immediately informed me that that was to give the dispatchers a break.

Since cell phones were invented, dispatchers got hundreds of calls from concerned drivers who wanted to inform the police that somebody had hit the guardrail and damaged it. That would go on for days until they put up the sign to advise drivers that this damage was already known at the police station, and they could relax and give the dispatcher a break.

Well, that clears that up. Makes sense now.

Although, I’m still wondering if it wouldn’t be cheaper to have a big Band-Aid to stick on the damage, or maybe tie a sheet around the guardrail, like a battle dressing, to show that the authorities know, and have a new guardrail ordered.

Friday, October 13, 2017

No Two Days are the Same

No Two Days are the Same

Today was supposed to be a fun tailgate party at Featherstone to celebrate an Oklahoma vs Texas football game, I think. They served punch, baked beans, and hot dogs.

There were balloons hanging from ribbons and loose balloons on the floor. I went to get Carolyn a glass of punch, and as I returned I gave a balloon a kick. As luck would have it, it hit a nice little old lady on the head, and she spilled her drink on her lap. I felt terrible, and helped pick up bits of ice off the floor, apologizing all the while.

As we were nearing the end of the food, somebody came by with a frozen Margarita, which tasted really good. Carolyn wanted to try it, so I let her take a couple of sips. I was afraid to give her too much, because I didn’t want to cause any reactions with her medications.

They served cupcakes with RED frosting for desert. They were also doing face painting for some, but I figured with the frosting all over my face I didn’t need any of that. Carolyn had been using her fingers to pick off the frosting and eat it, so when she had enough, we went back to her room and washed her hands before she left red stains on everything she touched.

When we came back to the front, we saw they were playing games out side, so we sat down out there to watch the beanbag toss and the guy tying balloons together. Soon Carolyn asked to leave, and after we got back inside, she said the noise was hurting her ears. I’m not sure whether it was the shouting or the balloons squeaking, but we found a quiet spot in the central courtyard and sat at the table there.

She had a profoundly sad look on her face, so I asked her what the problem was. In very broken sentences and words, I understood her to say she knew she was forgetting everything and was afraid she would be all alone. I guess it was a little memory breakthrough, because for many months she has been unaware of her condition, and thus fairly easy to keep happy.

She broke down and cried, lips trembling and tears flowing, and I joined her as I hugged her close and told her I would never leave her ever. I reassured her that I love her, and I will be here for her, and she will never be alone. 

Eventually she calmed down, and we got up and went back to her room, where a bag of candy was hanging on the door. The staff here at Featherstone are so wonderfully thoughtful! We took everything out of the bag and inventoried the stash, and she started to eat one of the small candy bars. 

I joked with her about getting sick on candy, and then I hugged her again and told her I had to leave, but I would be back tomorrow for sure. I kissed her and went out, closing the door behind me.

I stopped in the front lobby and asked the nurse to check on her and let me know if she she was upset later in the day. I explained the little memory  breakthrough and how upset she was, and then I embarrassed myself by breaking down in front of everyone. I hate it when I do that. I’ve become a sentimental old codger, I guess.

I told them about giving her a little of my Margarita, and maybe that was what triggered the awareness moment. We joked about a new therapy for Alzheimer’s patients and they offered lots of sympathy and support and hugs whenever I need it. 

Then I left in the car.

Alzheimer’s is not a smooth slide downhill to the bottom. There are real bumps on the way. I’m hanging on as best I can!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

October Day in Oklahoma

It’s been quite a weekend! On Saturday I got a message from my real estate agent that she had two offers to buy the Winnemucca ranch. One bid was for 60K and the other was for 69K. Here’s hoping for a bidder war! 

Whoever wins, they better get it done in a hurry! Winter is coming on, and the house may need some work to keep from freezing damage when the cold weather hits.

I would like to get enough to buy some land here in Oklahoma to park my motor home on, but land here is much more expensive than Nevada land. I would rather not have to live in town if I can find a country place.

A piece of property was just posted for sale next to my sister-in-law, so I checked it out. Unfortunately it is a 160 acre parcel and the asking price is 793K without any improvements or buildings. Almost no access, either. The road in is severely rutted and washed out. My car would not be able to drive there. 

I am going to check on it tomorrow, anyway, and see if they would split it up so I could maybe buy a ten acre piece in one corner. I have my tractor and lots of time to improve the road.

While reading the New Yorker yesterday I found an article on the guardianship scam going on down in Clark County. Some woman, with the help of crooked lawyers and judges has been signing herself up as guardian for retired people who had a retirement house (paid for) or a large bank account, and then cleaning them out, blocking their children from seeing them or helping them. 

The people thought they were sitting pretty for years of retirement, when one day someone shows up at the door, takes them away to a nursing home, and since they have been declared incompetent by some doctor who hasn’t even seen them, they can’t even complain to anybody.

Now I understand why I had to fight so hard to finally get to be Carolyn’s guardian, and promise to use at least 45% of whatever I receive from the property to take care of Carolyn. I hope those people who would take advantage of elderly retirees spend their retirement in a building with bars on the windows and a concrete bench for a bed.

Today when I went to visit Carolyn, she was not in her room. I found her walking down the hall, walking very fast and not shuffling at all. I had to stretch to catch her.

I called her name, and she turned around and smiled. She said something that sounded like “Where’ve you been?” That hurt. I asked where she was going, and she said, “I want to go home.” That hurt even worse.

I had not seen her this agitated in a long time. I hugged her close and whispered in her ear, “You are home. It’s the best home you’ve ever lived in. You have lots of friends here, and I come to visit everyday. I am spending all our Social Security to pay for this, and it’s the best I can do!”

I don’t know how much of this she understood, but she stopped asking about going home, and we just stood together in the hallway, holding on to each other. I was glad that no other people came by to see our tears right then.

We found a couch in the hall and we sat there awhile, with her just cuddling in my arm. I suggested we go to her room and get a bite to eat, and she agreed and stood up to go. She turned the wrong way, so I gently turned her toward her room and we went in.

I opened a yogurt cup for her, and I opened a fruit cup with mangos and pineapple chunks, and we sat there on her couch eating the treats. She excused herself to go to the bathroom, and after a short while she called me. 

She was standing there with nothing on below her waist. On the floor was her skirt and her adult underwear, which had done it’s job well, being thoroughly saturated. I don’t know if it was wet before she sat down, or got that way because maybe she forgot to pull them down.  

I got a damp washcloth and wiped her off and put a new dry diaper on, and found some pants for her and put them on. I put the used diaper in the trash, and noticing some brown stains on the floor, I got some wet tissue and scrubbed the floor. 

When I returned to her front room, I did a scan over the scene, to see if I had missed any more face cream or lotion. 
Instead, my eyes fell on a handful of pills on top of her dresser near the foot of her bed. They were of many sizes and colors, pills and capsules both, next to a paper cup which usually has the water to take the pills.

I scooped them up and went out to the nurse in the hall and showed her the pills I had found. She was surprised and apologized for the nurse that had been there in the morning, since these were Carolyn’s morning medications. 

I don’t know if she saved them in her cheeks and spit them back out, or if the nurse just left them in a cup for her to take later. She has been obstinately refusing her medication sometimes, and it takes a little begging and cajoling to get her to take them. 

The nurse on duty said she took her 2:00 PM pill OK. She didn’t want to take it from the cup, so she said she put it in a spoon and she said, “Oh, that’s how we do it now.” and shoveled it right in.

We decided to put the missed doses aside, since it was nearly time for her evening medications. I went back to her room, and we hugged and held each other tight for a long time, before I promised her I would be back tomorrow for sure. I asked her to treat the nurses nice, and take her pills because she would feel better if she did. I hope she understood that.

I left her standing in her room, and told her “I love you!” as I went out the door. She seems so frail and afraid lately. 

How could I help but love her?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Creams and Lotions

Creams and Lotions

I thought I was in trouble again! The nurse from Guardian Hospice who was taking care of Carolyn today told me I needed to talk to Rachel. Wonder what I did?

I went down the hall and met Rachel in the hallway. Well, I thought, it must not be too bad—she’s got a little smile on her face. I asked, “What’s up?”

Rachel told me that they had found Carolyn eating some facial cream she had stirred sweetener into, dipping it out with a spoon. They had checked the ingredients and found nothing immediately hazardous to her health, but she did complain of a stomach ache.

Rachel offered to help me go through her stock of creams, lotions, skin moisturizers, etc. and make the room safe again. She told me that the nurses carry such stuff and can apply it if necessary. 

Some of this was useful in Nevada, with its dry, hot desert climate, but down here in southern Oklahoma, I don’t find anything is needed to keep your skin moist.

I told Rachel I thought I could take care of the situation myself. While the nurse was still talking to Carolyn I sneaked into the room and gathered up all the jars of non edibles I could find. I even found one jar of facial makeup that looked like little spanish peanuts. They could have fooled me.

I took a big shopping bag of stuff out to the car. After looking through the bathroom, we even decided to take the large bottle of shampoo that was made with tropical coconut and aloe extract. It smelled delicious, but I don’t think that the sodium lauroamphacetal would be all that nutritious.

After I went back to the room to cuddle Carolyn and sit on the couch together for a while, it occurred to me that maybe I should check the refrigerator, where I usually keep some snacks, like yogurt and fruit cups on hand. Sure enough, they were all gone. Now I felt really bad! Some of this may be my fault.

I told her I was going to the store to buy yogurt, and she smiled. Telling her I would return shortly, I went to the store and bought some yogurt with cherries, and also some fruit cups with tropical fruit and pineapple chunks.

When I got back to her room, we opened a couple of fruit cups and enjoyed a sweet snack before I left. 

We are hoping her mood picks up a little now. She smiled when I told her I’ll be back tomorrow for sure. I left her with one of her father’s special sayings: “You’re stuck with me, Babe! You couldn’t run me off with a bucket of s—t and a mop!”

She giggled. 

I love her so much!