In The Mind’s Eye

I’ve spent between eight to nine hours per day hanging with my mom in her nursing home. I’ve only ate a few of the horrible meals there. I use the meal time to head to the nearest bar food and liquid refreshment. I’ve brought in food most days for the main meal at lunchtime (called dinner here in Indiana). Her favorites are Chop Suey, KFC, Indiana Cat Fish, Corn Beef and Cabbage and Whoppers.

The early evening meal, served after 5:30, is light…soup and sandwiches. The folks are shuffled off to bed around 8 pm so the light food quantities make good sense. Too bad there is no food quality, but the facility and the staff are the absolute best so one can’t have everything.

A few times a week, entertainment is provided in the dining room and there are always 25-30 walkers and wheelchair-bound sitting at rapt attention. Most of the entertainers are retired musicians and singers that want to give back to the community and they choose appropriate-aged songs for their audience.

Over the past 18 months I have spent at least 40-45 of those nine hours days in this facility. I know a majority of the patients and staff by name. The saddest thing is watching how fast the deterioration of the Alzheimer mind takes place. Wonderful conversations of six months ago are now just blank stares and physical stagnation.

My mother is one of the lucky ones without the dreaded disease.

Alzheimer’s is the fifth leading cause of death for everyone over 65. In the past decade the leading cause of death, heart disease, has decreased. Death from Alzheimer’s has increased 66%. Among the Top Ten causes of death, Alzheimer’s is the only one that doesn’t have a way to slow the progression, cure the disease or prevent it from happening.

wheelchair patient

And now we get to the Mind’s Eye.

Those readers familiar with my rants know my LOUD voice begging that everyone must make music a part of their children’s or grandchildren’s education. Music makes you smarter. It’s a proven fact. Your child’s grades will improve if they are studying a musical instrument…period.

We have a natural predisposition for music. Our heart is a drum twenty four hours a day. We tap our feet, nod our heads or sing along to “our” songs.

Well, so do Alzheimer’s patients. I watch them every day. They mouth the words to the songs of their past. They smile as the original emotions the song delivered to them way back when, once again delivers those hidden memories to their brain, their soul.

They become calm if they were agitated. There clumsy motor movements are coordinated.  Their moods shift positively.

There is no big secret why this is. These folks are being influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues. Singing, tapping feet, nodding heads remains intact late into the disease’s progression, because there is no cognitive functioning needed to enjoy music.

Most “important” songs for each of us includes built-in emotional baggage…important events in our life. These are never forgotten. Most of these songs are between our ages of sixteen and twenty five.

It is my hope that everyone understands these things so we can give so much happiness to our friends and relatives with Alzheimer’s.

Just get their birthdate. Check out the years they were 16 to 25. Look at the top songs of those years. Play it for them. Watch them come alive and get to experience emotions that have been buried in their psyche for decades.

We need to do this in every nursing home in America.


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Did you watch those SF Giants pop out those singles last night (YEA!). Their tenacity at the plate and great defense was the model for the word “Persistence.”  A Never Give Up Attitude. It also takes persistence to watch sports on east coast time. Yuk. I love those 5 pm baseball games and 10 am NFL games.
I enjoy reading and being inspired by persistence and hard work. It doesn’t always pay off, but it always helps us to learn and grow.

On this date, 158 years ago a Quaker youth from Massachusetts, named Roland, decided to try his eighth business venture. The first seven failed miserably. This time he was determined and he opened his dry goods store right in the middle of Manhattan. This time he succeeded.
He had worked on a whaling ship when he was 15 and had a red star tattooed on the back of his wrist. He decided that star would be part of his store’s logo. And Roland Macy’s store still uses his red tattoo.Macy Logo




One of the greatest composers of all time, Beethoven, was persistent with the women in his life. It was said he was constantly lovesick. He proposed and was turned down numerous times. He wooed one special lady by writing a great song for her…one that we all know when we hear it. The lady’s name was Therese, but Beethoven’s hand writing was atrocious and to this day we call it by another lady’s name, a name he never had any contact with. Instead of “For Therese” we now have “Fur Elise.”

It’s a great song to start a new week, my last week in Indiana. Let’s listen to Georgii Cerkiin play this wonderful 3-minute tune.

Close your eyes, concentrate on just the notes and your breath.

Have a great week!

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Fast Mass and Tartar

I’m in Indiana visiting family and friends. Most daylight hours I’m visiting my mom in the nursing home.
Today I will spend another day just hanging with mom, laughing most of the time, comforting the other times. I leave at lunch and dinner time for a short break, and stick around to say goodnight around 8 pm every night.

I arrive every morning at 10:45, after mom has been up awhile, had breakfast and just finished with her daily Mass at the chapel.

Background info on some Catholics and their Mass: Being Catholic imposes an “obligation” on Sunday & Holy Day attendance at Mass, a ritual performed with slight differences by the dozens of different priests the attendees will experience. The main differences are how fast the priests move around the altar and through the prayers and songs. When someone is forced by threat of Hell to be there every Sunday, the priest saying the fastest Mass is awarded mental points by the attendees. Normally, with many time choices available every week, the largest attended Mass is where the fastest priest-Mass-performer dwells.

That information is critical for the dialogue between mom and me yesterday. I gently try to nudge the conversation to a more “PC” tone, but hey…at 99 ½ …mom is mom and words of the past still linger in conversation.

“Did I tell you that priest has us out of there in 30 minutes?”

“Yeah Mom, you said he zips through the Mass quickly.”

“You know, if I had to get dressed up, get in the car and go to church, like I used to, it’s so fast I’m not sure it would be worth it.”

“I suppose not.”

“We have a nice young colored fellow from Africa. He’s from Nee-Jerria, wherever that is.”

“I think he’s from Nigeria.”

“How did you know? Have you met him?”

“No, just guessing.”

“Well he has always mumbled and they told him he has to speak up so we can hear him. Lately he now talks louder and we can’t understand a damn word he’s saying…might as well mumble.”


“You know, I keep rubbing my tongue over my bottom teeth and can feel the tartar build-up. It drives me nuts. I’ve always had regular teeth cleaning and they won’t let me do it anymore. They said it’s because of the medicine they give me.”

“I’ve never heard of that. I’ll ask the nurses so I can understand.”

“We have a dentist that comes around. I complained about it and he said I was not only the oldest person in this place; I’m the only one that still has all her teeth. I told him that was about to end if I don’t get them cleaned. He didn’t answer.”

“I’ll ask around about your medication and teeth.”

“Well it’s important. If I don’t have my teeth I can’t imagine how I could chew this terrible food we get.”


Sometimes long moments of silence go by as we sit in the common area watching visitors come and go and the dozens of patients slowly aiming their walkers over the carpet or guiding their wheel-chairs.elderly sillhouette


Every time this peaceful silence is always broken by Mom with the same two questions.

“You’re bored, aren’t you?”

“No Mom, I like just hanging out here with you.”

“Well, I need to ask you a question.”

“Go ahead.”

“Am I getting to be one of “those” people? You know, you go into the dining room and their heads are just lying on the tables. They don’t know where they are or who you are. Will you tell me if I get to be of those?”

“I’ll tell you Mom. Right now you’re still the same old mom. You’re just perfect”

“I’m so glad you’re here. I wish you didn’t have to leave. But I know you have your home and Amy and your life. And if you were here every day, you might become of “those” people, too.”

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Mr. Travel Expert

At various times I have given my expertly advice on booking flights, restaurants and hotels around the country.
This time my advice is “Don’t do what I did.”

For my current semi-annual trip to Indiana I booked the flight months ago. I also bought travel insurance because when you’re trip is to visit a 99 year-old mom, plans can change. I held off booking the car-rental until a month ago.

I used “Kayak” to find all the deals from all the companies. I sorted them by price and stayed away from cars that scare me to look at them, let alone drive them. You know, cars like the Kia Rio, Chevy Spark, Honda Fit and Velveeta Cheese Box.

So, the sub-sub compacts were out.

Then I saw a seductive offer from Dollar Rent-a-Car. The sub-compacts were $24 a day, compacts were $25 a day and then they offered a big bold “?” for $25 a day. I wondered what the “?” could be and of course I clicked on it.
The fine print was clear; a guarantee that this would be at least a compact, but more often than not it would be a standard or upgraded car if they have too many models on the lot. They called it a SURPRISE.

Well that was for me. I ordered a “?” for 14 days.
I’m a lucky fellow, so I imagined I would have at least a Buick Regal or a Chrysler 200. (There I was—flying down those Indiana farm roads in my “200”, the sun burning my bald scalp through the sunroof)

There were four people ahead of me at the Dollar counter. The first lady was renting a Chevy Cruz, second guy a Kia Rio (NO NO—you’ll be sorry), and the guy ahead of me was renting a Buick Regal (Damn, that was MY Buick Regal)

The counter-dude was young and I gave him my mature, confident smile and told him what a fine, efficient job he was doing. He smiled back, thanked me and started looking my name up in the computer. He smiled when he saw I had rented a “?”

He started typing furiously, asking for my driver’s license, credit card, phone number, address where I would be staying and the time I was returning the vehicle.

Then it was time for my Surprise.
He said, “All right, sir, I see you have our “surprise” vehicle and that means whatever vehicle that is a compact or better and is our heaviest inventoried will be your “?”
Tonight sir, you have a choice. Would you like a Ford 150 or a Dodge Ram 1500?”

“Those are damn trucks.”
Monster Truck

“Yes sir, when you see our lot you will see we are over-inventoried with trucks.”

“I don’t want a damn truck. It’s raining out. Am I supposed to put my suitcases in the passenger seat? Your signs states, Dollar Rent-a-Car, not rent a truck.”

“Sorry, sir, that is the stated policy.”

“Well, I also read that I can cancel at any time without penalty.”

“That is true, sir.”

“Well, I cancel.”

I then rented a Chevy Impala.

Then again, maybe it would have been fun!!!Couple in Pickup

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Here and There

I’m not there, I’m here. You’re there, not here. Unless, of course, you are here like me.

I’m in Indiana today. You’re where you usually are.  I hope you two nice every-day-readers from the Russian Federation are still there. Stay out of Ukraine.  Thank you.

Now back to Lafayette, Indiana.

Early Autumn in downtown Lafayette, Indiana
EarlyAutumn in Lafayette Indiana

It’s my semiannual trip to see mom, brother, kids, grand-kids, and old friends (both meanings of the word—old).

My mom is six months into her 10th decade on the planet. Since I last talked about her she’s had one good fall. Trying to make a 3 am potty-call, she missed her wheel chair and tumbled head-first on the tile. It was her first-ever ride in an ambulance and she was not happy about it. She said it was so bumpy she couldn’t hold her bladder. She asked the EMT for a bedpan and he told her they don’t carry that piece of equipment. She said, “Well, you’ll be sorry you made that mistake, cause I’m letting it rip.”

A few stiches in her head and some smashed fingers were a lucky outcome which only required a month or so of healing. She’s back in full stride again…complaining about the horrible food, the bad entertainment and a dumb God that won’t listen and make a deal with her. She keeps offering him/her a trade-in. She says, “I tell him to save a young one and take me. I’m tired.”

Mom gets lots of visitors. It’s like going to see a combination Phyllis Diller/Joan Rivers in a nursing home. Her stand-up routine is from her wheelchair. After their visit, I think they are more worn out from laughing then she is from living.

She complains all the time that she has totally lost her appetite. She tells me she hardly eats anything. My mom has been saying that for years. If it’s something she likes, she’ll pack it away. I guarantee she can eat more than any other 100 pound person on the planet. Last week my daughter called her when she was on her way to visit. She asked mom if she could stop and pick up something to eat. With my daughter’s permission I’ll give you the exact conversation.

Grandma:         I’m just not up to power today. Been sleeping all day. No food sounds good.
Me:      How about some soup? I could pick you up some warm vegetable soup? Potato? Anything?
Grandma:         No, just not much appetite.
Me:      ok, but we are close to Subway or Burger King.
Grandma:         Well maybe I could eat a hamburger with cheese, pickle, onion, and ketchup. How about a root beer and a few fries?

That’s my mom and it’s good to be home again.
Stay tuned for more Indiana stories.

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A Rolling Stone Gathers Relationships

Most of the people I hang with are younger than me. My mom has the same problem, but she’s 99. Nobody left.

For me it’s just circumstantial. I’m around many people born in the ‘70s and ‘80s and our historic memories are completely different. I’m not complaining. Who wants to hang around with old farts? That’s my friends’ problem when they hang with me.

Stories I’m familiar with and remember like they were yesterday are totally new pieces of information for many of my friends. Some of those stories popped up this week and I remembered we don’t know things that happened before we were born or while we were in elementary school.

A newly released book chronicles the Gary Hart presidential campaign and how reporters followed him around and caught him with his mistress. One of my friends had never heard of Gary Hart. I understand that and so it’s fun dredging up my memoires of incidents like that and many friends think I’m making stuff up.

Another story came up when a group of us were discussing “early” Rolling Stones stories.
Rolling Stones

When I talked about Bill Wyman I had a few blank looks. I think this particular story is wacky enough to talk about here today.

Bill Wyman was born in 1936. He played bass and was the oldest dude in the original Rolling Stones. He had a big falling-out with Mick and Keith and left the band in the early ‘90s. The Wyman story I like takes place in 1983 when he was 47 years old.

It seems that Bill Wyman fell madly in love with the beautiful Mandy Smith. Madly is the right word. Mandy Smith was 13 years old. Now I’m talking about 1983, one hundred years after Brigham Young showed us how to practice pedophilia and run a big church. Things have changed.

So Bill did the honorable thing and waited five years before getting married to Mandy. Her mother, Patsy, gave her consent. Bill was 52 and Mandy just turned 18.

Then Patsy, age 49, married Bill Wyman’s 31 year-old son, Stephan.

Suddenly, Bill Wyman’s mother-in-law became his daughter-in-law.  —Sheesh!

Then, after two years, Mandy said, “Yuk, I’m married to a 54 year old dude, let me out of here.” They divorced.

Then, two years later, Stephan Wyman said, “Yuk, I’m married to a 54 year old woman, let me out of here.”
They divorced.

The good news is Mick and Keith have made-up with Bill Wyman and allowed him to set-in with the Stones on a few gigs recently.

Keep it up Bill, not bad for a 78 year-old bass player.
You know how those bass players are!

Bill Wyman

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Yeah, it’s that time of the year. Scary times. Books, movies, Halloween haunted houses, all designed to scare the hell out of us. Do you like being scared? What’s it feel like to you when you get scared?
Scared Woman

I vividly remember the first real scary book that haunted me on every page and when I finished it I was still scared. Yes, it was a work of fiction. I love reading fiction. I love writing fiction. But great fiction usually comes from real life.

Let me tell you how the story that scared the crap out of me was born.

Back in the ‘50s we didn’t have the so called 24-hour news cycle. Ted Turner didn’t start the 24-hour Cable News Network (CNN) until 1980. We had the local news and the three networks gave us the “big” stories in the evening.

A murder here or there was always a local thing; unless of course it was gruesome enough to make the network news (If it bleeds it leads)

So, in 1957, when Ed Gein was arrested for the murder of two women in Plainfield, Wisconsin, most of the country didn’t hear about it. As the investigation of Mr. Gein continued the police found silverware, furniture and even clothes made of skin and body parts. Psychiatrists interviewed and examined him and determined Mr. Ed Gein was trying to make a “woman suit” of skin so he could become his dead mother. Now it’s getting good.

But still, there was no Anderson Cooper around asking questions and digging up reports so most of us never knew about that hideous crime. But a writer living in the next little town knew the ghastly story.

He wondered how that true life crime could be twisted into a book. So he did it. The writer, Robert Bloch, published his “fiction” in 1959. Just in time for a 16 year old kid to read it in bed one night and even though this kid was scared half to death he couldn’t put the damn thing down until the end.

Another guy named Alfred read it and got scared too. He made a movie from the book just one year later. Every one of you saw it. At least once. I don’t need to tell you the name of the movie.

Here’s a familiar picture below. The picture alone should send a chill up your spine.

Or does your fright feelings happen to your hair follicles? In your throat? Shaky hands? What happens to you when you get really scared?

What happened to you when you watched the shower scene?

Bates Motel

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