Archive for the ‘work and jobs’ Category

 I often wonder how deeply information is buried under the layers of Alzheimer’s brain plaque prompting the unanswered question:  Is knowledge — information — destroyed or is it just hidden subject to struggling recall under the right cirumstances?   Sometimes when a patient sees something he or she has been previously familiar with a brief bit of recognition is triggered.  Recently, David, who is one of Ken’s caregivers, was helping me put casters on the legs of a cumbersome coffee table for easier handling.  It should have been a quick job, over and done with before Ken even noticed, but it wasn’t.  Curiosity brought him to the up-turned table with its legs pointed to the ceiling.  We were using the kitchen counter top as a work bench which not only held the table, but the casters, screws and tools as well.  Seeing the portable drill next to a container filled with bits and screw heads his eyes brightened as he said, “These are mine.”

Stepping forward he pawed through the bits as if looking for a certain size, and then motioned to pick up some of the loose screws.  Like a child with new toys he couldn’t move fast enough to explore every object within his reach.  I had removed the floor glides and they made up another pile.  An inch and a quarter across, the bottoms were flat with rounded edges and covered with a type of brown felt.  With his attention diverted and believing the glides were harmless, I let him grab all four while I put the screws out of sight. Immediately, he popped one of the glides into his mouth thinking they were chocolates.  “No!”  I cautioned.  “Nails – sharp – they’ll hurt you.”  While David finished the project I lured Ken into another room, coaxed away the glides, and breathed a sigh of relief.  Surrendering his supposed chocolates, he must have been poked by one of the nails to let go of them so willingly, either that or he realized they tasted like dust.  “Hold them for me,” he conceded, “they’re mine.”

As a former civil engineer learning his profession with an old-fashioned slide rule, T squares and a drafting table Ken also understood the practical side of putting things together. Building plans tucked under his arm he never hesitated to walk a steel girder on the twentieth floor of a skeleton skyscraper, and at home in his spare time he added a family room plus a second bath to our modest house with a good floor plan.  Paper, pencil and calculations were his trade, but hammers, nails, saws and drills were his hobby, and the garage was filled with his grown-up toys: tools for every project imaginable, and they were all his.

They were his in the same sense the sewing machine was mine.  Ken was more than welcome to mend his jeans, or sew whatever he pleased whenever he wanted, but he never had the inclination.  In that same sense of generosity, I was welcome to use hammers and saws if I had the need, which I did often, so the tools – and the sewing machine – belonged to both of us.  They were, in actuality, ours.

Furthermore, during our building and remodeling days I became the helper, the “Hey honey” girl, the assistant, and in assisting I learned.  In addition, I must have a proclivity for carpentry.  My mother’s family was skilled in woodworking and building, and the gene, (like the Alzheimer’s gene) has no male/female preference.  They are both genderless.  Fortunately, having the building gene, and lots of on-the-job experience, I have been able to continue doing much of the maintenance on our rentals, as well as on our own home.  Unfortunately, Ken is no longer capable of helping, and if he wanders in when I’m working, such as with the table, he wants to take over.

Many months ago I was replacing a small fluorescent light in our minuscule bathroom.  The fixture was located where the window once was (removed for the new addition) and behind a fake window frame to give the illusion of a window still being there.  Keeping the light on 24/7, the low-wattage gives the feeling of constant twilight in our bathroom, and also serves as a night light.

I was precariously balanced with one foot on the commode and the other foot on a kitchen step ladder.  “Do you need my help,” Ken asked, leaning against the door frame watching me struggle.  “I’m fine,” I assured him, “almost finished.”  I wasn’t, in fact I was having a terrible time.  The new fixture wasn’t fitting into the small window space and the opening for the wires was located on the wrong end.

“I’ll do that for you,” he continued, a scrap of memory surfacing to tell him of light fixtures installed in the past.  “I’m good,” I said convincingly as he came toward me.  Stopping in his tracks he exclaimed, “These are MY tools.”  Immediately he began gathering up the assortment of pliers, screwdrivers, tape and connectors which I had arranged on the countertop for my convenience.  “I’m going to put everything away.”  I was motionless in my holding pattern with my project nowhere near finished.  “Don’t take those,” I pleaded, “I need them.”   

“Give it up,” I told me climbing down from my perch closing the “window,” but leaving the loose fixture inside.  Resigned, I folded the ladder and put it away.  Peeking around the open door of our bedroom I watched Ken put the tools in the dresser drawer under his socks.  Small “fix-it” chores need to be done when he naps or when he sleeps at night.  I knew better than to start, but sometimes I’m a slow learner. Yes, the second try under the right conditions with a few adjustments to the fixture proved to be totally successful.

Meanwhile, if the impossible were possible I would place the hand tools in buckets labeling all of them “Ken’s.”  Nothing would suit me better than for him to do each one of those small putter jobs which continually surface around the house (and the rentals). If Ken had a clear mind and the Alzheimer’s was gone, he could put a claim on every tool in the house saying, “These are MINE.” I would be thrilled beyond measure, and in my newly found free time you might find me assembling an exciting new outfit on MY very own sewing machine.

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