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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The passing of a Mother.  
John's Mother.
Cleo June Dixon
Married for 72 years.
She was a Mother to 8 kids, 4 girls, 4 boys.
They raised their kids in California, moved with work to Alaska, then back down to Boring, Oregon.
Once they retired, they took off in their airstream to see the country, staying mostly in warm places and really was fond of Tucson where they stayed for the longest period of time.   
Finally they gave up the travels and settled back in Portland.
She was a nurse.  She was a fantastic cook and was famous with her kids for her pies and cinnamon rolls.  She loved eating out and was a wine connoisseur.  She loved, clothes, dishes and blankets.  Sunshine and warmth were top on her list.  She loved her church and going regularly to mass made her happy.  She loved horses, dogs and cats.  She taught me the secrets to getting stains out of my laundry...from grass to wine to dirt, you name it, she could get it out.  8 kids and being a perfectionist will do that to you.
She will be missed.    

February started out with a belated birthday trip to Ruby's Spa for John's birthday.  It was the first snowfall for us so was pretty awesome sitting outside in the saltwater pool with steam rising and snow falling.
We had some pretty views of all the snow for a few days.
The robins, thrushes and hummingbirds were all crowded around here in search of food.  More robins and thrushes than ever are enjoying the red berries off the hedge.

The kids came over for a snow day at our place.  You can only keep the snow in pristine condition for so long when the kids are here.
Then back to California we went for Gabe's birthday.  9 years old!!!
Jimmy used to paint.  He painted all kinds of things, scenery, modern art, faces.  But for some reason, he stopped painting.  Once he moved into his new home, I noticed they have art classes for the residents.  I told him there was a painting class, he seemed excited to go, but when it was over, he was really disappointed because it was so basic.  I suggested that he get back into painting the way he used to do it.  I sent off to Amazon to have an easel delivered.  Then we went out and bought some paints and brushes and canvas.  I expected a small one, maybe 8X10, but he surprised me by wanting a huge one...20X36!  I can't wait to get back there and see what he is painting.
While we were there, we received a call that John's Mother, Cleo had passed away.  We headed for home to be with the family, especially his father.  We heard the roads were closed about 2 hours from the closing, John had me call ahead and get us a hotel.  I was so glad we did, because when we checked in, there were people being turned away.  The manager said that the power had been out all night and day and just now come back on, so our room would not be ready for about an hour.  Not a problem, we figured, we would just go get some dinner.  Well, that was not as easy as it sounded.  The roads were high with snow and we discovered that the whole town was closed from the power outage.  The first place we saw was right next to our hotel, a Jack In The Box.  We could see people going up to the door and discovering they were locked.  But the lights were on and there was a line at the drive through.  So we worked our way into the line...and waited...and waited.  Finally the lead truck moved on through.  The next car pulled up, we waited.  While we were waiting, we joked that they were probably closed.  Well, it came our turn...and they were closed!  But the line of cars behind us was growing.  We drove around and finally found a gas station open, we went in hoping to find something...along with everyone else.  The place was packed and we all were snapping up whatever we could find.  We ended up with way more food than we could even eat.  I bought things to eat the next day in case we got stuck alongside the road.  We drove back to the hotel and ate our cold dinner in the truck while we waited for our room.  Once we were in our room, we sat and watched the cars that were still lining up and waiting their turn to discover the drive thru at Jack In the Box wasn't open.  It made us laugh, mostly because we had fallen for it too.
The drive the next morning was not bad at all.  The roads were clear, with a little snow alongside.  But you could see vehicles that had slid off the road and some that had rolled the night before.  Sure glad we had stopped for the night.  And we didn't even eat the food I had stockpiled for the drive home. A Valentine's Day to remember.
I arrived home to these pretty Valentine flowers from Jessi and the kids.

Dennis and Abby are in Korea visiting this little girl for her 7th birthday.  There is still hope that she will someday join them in California.  Happy Birthday, Ye Won!!
And last but not least, Happy Birthday to Jessi! I know, if I had picked the 29th that leap year, you would only be 9 ¾ years old!  Sorry, my mistake!!!

Before I can move on to February, I have to finish up with January.  It wasn't until now that I realized that I hadn't done that.  It has been that crazy around here!
It is a huge amount of birthdays in are the family 5.  Son John, John, my Dad, Emily and Ariel.
A couple of pretty sunrises shots.

Some grandkid times.
There is nothing more irritating that having to buy something you don't want to buy.  Something you don't think you really need, but you can't do without when it goes out.  I am talking new tires, new roof, new underwear.  You gotta have 'em, but until they go out, you don't realize how important they are.  Well, my washer went out.  I called to get an somebody out here to fix it.  He asked the model number.  Would you believe that they can't even get the parts for it?  It is less than 10 years old! I hate it that it is cheaper to toss it out and buy new than to fix what we have!   So not only did I have to go out and buy a new one, I also bought the matching dryer.  Well, you can't have half a set.  I figured that the dryer was on borrowed time as well.
I have a couple of indoor plants that I have had for a few years.  The yellow orchid has bloomed every year for 8 years now.  The white orchid is on its second bloom since I got it and the pink azalea was a Valentine from my parents.  I can't even remember how old it is, but it blooms every February.  The orange plant, a bromeliad, was given to me when we first moved into this house.  It was blooming like this when I got it, but the mother plant died off leaving two babies.  They were pretty and green but did not turn color again.  I read that if you seal the plant in a clear plastic bag with an apple for 10 days and then wait about 3 months, it will force it to bloom again.  In August when my apple tree was ready, I dropped a whole bunch of little apples in the bag and gave it a try.  Sure enough, 3 months later, it is in full bloom.  I was pretty happy about that!
So that is the rest of January...on to February!!!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

A new year
 A new month.
  The first week of the month, we were still in California, staying at Dennis' at night and during the days, sorting through 88 years of Jimmy's life living in his little house in Oxnard.  It felt strange to be going through his things, deciding what should be kept and what should go.  We filled the truck with loads of 'things you might need, but never did' and took them to the second hand store and some things, mostly from the garage, like broken lawn chairs, vacuum cleaners, boards, tar paper, to the dump.

Jim was a carpenter, handyman, fisherman, Boy Scout, Navy man and child of the depression era, a bachelor with no kids of his own.  He truly loves each of his nieces and nephews.  I had to keep that in mind as we sorted.  There were so many things that made me smile and so many things that made me realize the uselessness of saving things.   I got to know things about Jim that I didn't know about him before.  At times, I felt like I had intruded on his privacy.
Along with the usual household items, there were his drawers and boxes of keepsakes.  That was the hard part, the mental part, the part that tugged at my heart. Items that meant nothing to me, except for that I could not part with them because I knew that they had once meant something to him.  I am pretty sure that he doesn't even know that some of these things I was sorting through still existed...or  maybe didn't even know they ever existed.  Along with his own things were the remnants of his Mother and his Grandmother. He lived in that house with his Grandmother as he grew up, until she died 40 years ago, his Mother moved in and out, depending on her state of marriage. So I found myself sorting things that they had left behind, that he too had  been the sorter and saver of.  Pieces of history, even if I didn't know what the story was.
Once home, as I sorted through the box of photos, which, photos are always dear to my heart, I became aware that photos of people and places were meaningless without the names and stories behind those photos.  Sure, I saved almost all of them, they are a marker of something, if only for their clothing and hairstyles and the cars and houses they so proudly posed in front of.  That was something I noticed most about those photos, they had to make the most of those shots, unlike us in the digital camera era.  It cost a lot of money to buy the film and flash and have them developed. So they posed their families, dogs and horses, sometimes cows and chickens, in front of their treasures, which at that time was their car or their house or both.  It made me wonder...if I had to pack more into a photo, what would I make sure was included?  As I stared at black and white photos of landscapes, I also discovered how boring they were.  Landscapes are my second favorite thing to take photos of after my family.  But now I realize, what value do all my photos have to future generations?  How can I improve on what I shoot to make my photos worth keeping when I am gone?  Or does it really even matter if they are kept?

 The following pictures and stories are not intended to make fun of Jimmy.
 It is more of a record to myself, a memory marker, a lesson to be learned as to what I hold on to.  Going through his things made me seriously rethink the things that I have a tight grip on, saved for future generations or just because I cherish it and can't let it go.

Going through a depression era person's belongings was an eye opener in this disposable generation.  Like, a week ago, my washer broke.  I called to have it fixed.  But it can't be fixed.  They don't make parts for it anymore.  It is less than 10 years old!  It is cheaper to toss it, and the matching dryer that still works, out than have the old one fixed!  We don't hold on to things like they used to, we don't have to 'make do' and fix anything, we just trash it and go buy a new one.  So there I sat looking at a drawer full of 5 inch remnants from the jeans and work overalls he wore.  Since he is short, he always had to have them cut off and hemmed back up.  He saved the remnants to use as patches when the knees wore out.  Now here I was, not only throwing out those remnants, but also the patched up jeans!  He had brand new ones in his closet saved for 'some day'.  I decided it was 'some day' and took all of them to his new home for him to wear now, they no longer need to be saved for something special.  He is special and deserves to be wearing his special jeans all the time.

9 Electric razors, with chargers.  Worn out, but saved.
 Drawers full of bolts and nuts and every kind of thing.  Saved.
Pill lids, not the containers.  Why? 
Keys to what?
Some were marked with a note.  And this one?  hmmm...

My favorite note, pinned to a set of keys...'don't know'. 

 Padlocks with no keys.  Boxes of handkerchiefs that had never been opened, aftershave, brand new socks and t-shirts and underwear.  New dress shirts, unopened, saved for another time.  The time is now.

Or how about these nice leather boots.  Brand new, in the box with the receipt.  The soles were disintegrated and he never had the pleasure of wearing them.
  Loads and loads of things saved to be used in another way, to save money, to use it a little longer.  This is what I discovered over and over.  I cringe when I think of all the things I tossed out.  Things that really might be useful to somebody.  But they weren't useful to me, or to any of John's sisters or brother or their kids.  I know the second hand store will be able to put them to good use, even though I know Jimmy would have wanted family to have everything.
Then there were the bottles of pills, mostly expired, but all mixed up.  Green ones and white ones in one bottle.  Old ones and new ones.  I could not tell what had expired or if he even took those anymore.  We took a whole sack of them to the doctor and asked her to tell me what was good or bad.  Most were bad.  It helped assure me that moving him to a safe place where he is given the meds he needs at the right time of day was a good thing.  I needed that reassurance.
My biggest surprise was a tiny yellow envelope.
Stored in the bottom of a jewelry box that had no jewelry, only old papers. I tipped it and out dropped gold teeth!  pulled from a mouth with roots intact.  No idea whose mouth they came from.  I think that I photographed the bottom ones upside down. They would not have been fangs...the rounded tips must have gone into the gum.

Then there was 'the closet'.  I had been prepared for it a few years earlier when Jimmy had asked me to help him sort out some drawers of 'mail', I don't mind sorting, so I went right through it.  BUT...nothing could be tossed out.  Nope.  It had his address on it.  They needed shredded.  Well, instead of shredding, he put them in bags in another room in the closet, saying "someday, I will burn them".  So that, I knew would be my task 'someday'.
It was so interesting to me to see how his mind had gone in the 20 years of mail he had bagged up.  As I worked down the pile, I realized how when he first began saving his mail, it was all really important mail, it was a tiny bundle with a rubber band on it.  It was dated.  Then as the years went on, he started to become unsure of what to save and the bundles grew.  He started using bags instead of rubber bands, but he stapled them shut and dated the bag.  And then, as him mind failed, every.piece.of.mail that entered his home was in the longer dated.  Every piece.  junk mail, election mail, real mail, greeting cards, cards he bought but never sent, catalogs, insurance books, everything was saved.  But every thing that came had been opened and in his crooked writing, he had a note telling me what was inside.  'Bill-paid', 'nothing', 'junk', 'important', 'auto paid', etc, etc.'  It was his way of staying on top of his mail and making sure the bills had been paid.  He had every card that he had received in the last 25 years, every invitation, every thank you note.  Even the graduation announcements and wedding invitations had a note written "paid check #_". Piece by piece, I sorted, looking for anything that might be needed to help him through his final years.  I saved the cards to be returned to the kids who sent them.  I sorted and brought the junk home and burned it.
he even saved the number he had to take to be served.  :)
When I got to the kitchen, I started taking photos of the items in the cupboards.  Then I text them to John's brother and sisters.  The Dixon family is proud of their 'dibs rule'.  Growing up if they 'dibsed' something, it stood as law to save a spot on a couch, a cookie, next in the bathroom, whatever.  As a photo came through, they would text back a 'dibs!' if they wanted it.  The first to dibs was the winner.  As it turned out, nobody claimed the same things.  It was funny to see the focus of what was important to each one of them.  We had a good time with that. The kitchen was full of their memories of Granny.  Every Dixon kid has special memories of her. These were her dishes, her glasses, her pots and pans, her recipes.  I met her a few times, but I don't have the lifelong memories of her love and devotion that the kids have, I loved helping each of them find memory treasures to have of her.
One of the things we found in the garage was a rotary phone.  It was still plugged in and had a dial tone!  I brought it home.  Jessi's kids had NO IDEA how to use it! It was hilarious watching them try to make it work.  Then holding the receiver even, something that just seems so obvious.  Here is how I spotted Lina...

Since he was a carpenter and handy man by trade, his garage was full of tools, he made boxes with lids that fit perfectly and tool carriers of every size to hold his stuff.  I am not sure what I will do with them all, but I had to save that piece of him, those boxes he made are a treasure.
and the little soda can lid...well, how could I toss it out??!!
He has decided he likes his back scratched.  He started asking for me to scratch a certain place when he was in the hospital.  I keep scratching and he curls his back up in delight like my cat Bazzel does when I scratch him.  And this man who hardly touched or hugged, seems to like my hugs now.  He even told me "I love you too", when I hugged him goodbye and told him not to forget I love him when I said goodbye on my latest trip there.  Dementia has changed him, it is sad to see what it has done to his mind and awful to know he knows he has 'something wrong with his memory'.  You never know which Jimmy you are going to see, the old or the new, and some times you see both in just a few minutes.  Sometimes his mind is so clear that I panic and think I really messed up helping get him moved.  But then, and I feel awful then for thinking it, the dementia Jimmy comes back around and I am relieved.  It does not feel good being relieved about that.

It was a relief to be doing this business while Jimmy is still alive.  It would have been harder had he already died. It was sad, but if he was gone, then it would have been sadder, I think. We felt it best to sort through things, and clear out the place before the wrong people figured out he was not living there anymore.  We don't want anyone breaking in and taking away the things that Jimmy had saved.  Eventually we will put the house on the market.  Squatters and vandalism are a reality and threat.  We knew there was nothing of monetary value there, but wanted to make sure that the sentimental, and useful items were safe.  But every since we finished and walked out of that empty house that had been his home for 80 years, with a truck loaded with the leftovers from 3 people's lives.  I suddenly felt this sick feeling.  What had I just done?  I personally had deemed items fit or unfit that had ALL been fit to him.  I became the judge of what could be left in his life, what could be moved to his new home and what would go to which of his nephews and nieces.  I verified with three professionals in the field of dementia and they all recommended that Jimmy not be taken home for a visit.  That it would be harder for him to adjust to his new home if he was taken home now and then.  It would make the loss and mourning drag on for him and his adjustment to his new home might never happen.  But I have questioned over and over if it was the right thing to do, first to move him, second to move all his stuff out of his home so soon.  I know he will never get his mind back in order to live at home and be safe, I know that if we had not moved him and something had happened to him, we could be held liable.  I know that he is in an awesome place, in his own room with 3 healthy meals and plenty of snacks.  There are nurses to make sure he gets his pills and people watching in case he falls.  There is transportation to get him safely to his appointments.  There are aides to turn on his TV and help him find stations.  I know there are people around for him to talk to and keep him active. 
 But 'what if'? 'What ifs' have kept me awake at night.

He has told me many times that he is grateful for what we have done, he thanks me all the time, along with letting me know how unhappy he is there.  He does not seem to put it together that it was our decision.  He doesn't blame us,  he blames 'THEM',  meaning the doctors and police who told us he should not be home on his own.  He wanted and planned on dying in that home.  We tried to give him his wish.  But it just wasn't reality for him after all.  I have to keep telling myself it was the right thing to do, for him.  I pray it was.