Monday, August 15, 2011

Hello In There

Today I took a personal day and Dad and I went to move Mom to a smaller place where they'll be able to take better care of her. I'm glad he was there when I saw her - I knew she'd fallen nine times in six weeks and NO one was stopping it (the reason we moved her) but I still wasn't prepared to see her beautiful face all beaten up like that. She didn't wake up when we moved her, during the car ride to the new place, or the entire time we were there. After I had her clothes situated, while Dad was filling out paperwork, I just sat with her, watched her sleep, and listened to it rain. Guess nature was sympathetic.

This song - by John Prine, a childhood staple riding in Dad's car - always used to make Mom cry, thinking of Great Pada in the nursing home in Lawrence. Now it makes me cry, thinking about Mom. I hope she wasn't alone and scared when she woke up.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Some Like It Cold

Around the time I began training for my first marathon, Christopher Elbow, the genius chocolatier, opened Glacé, his ice cream concept, a couple blocks south of the Plaza. Brian and I became Saturday evening regulars, and my long run buddies knew they'd be treated to at least a mile or two of my flavors-of-the-week commentary the following Saturday. I was pleased to hear reports back from others who'd overheard my rhapsodizing and decided to try it for themselves. It became a running joke (no pun intended) that if I ever went pro, I should seek Glacé sponsorship.

Three weeks into my NYC training program and three Saturday nights worth of ice cream later, it occurred to me that maybe, joking aside, I SHOULD seek Glacé sponsorship. After all, more people have a very poignant and painful connection to the disease than I'd ever imagined, I've been surprised and overwhelmed by the generosity shown so far, and I'm assuming the decision-making process in a small business would be much more manageable than, say, trying to get sponsored by Chipotle. I wouldn't have anything to lose by writing to Christopher Elbow and asking him for a sponsorship, minus the cost of a stamp. If I succeeded, I could truly say I was "powered by artisan ice cream."

Then it occurred to me - maybe in lieu of a sponsorship check, I should request something a little more ambitious, something that would give more back to his business. Something like, say, an ice cream happy hour, where a certain percentage of all funds raised would be donated to my Alzheimer's Association fund. I could advertise and invite all my friends/family...and instead of feeling vaguely guilty asking people to fork over their hard-earned money as a donation, they could be donating AND getting something that I love in return.

This sounds like a made-up story, but it isn't - after the birthday fiasco, I was terrified to give Mom anything to eat, for fear she'd choke on it, I'd be paralyzed and wouldn't know what to do, and I'd be the one that ended her life. But, as someone who couldn't usually sit through a full meal and tell you she's hungry, it was usually a pretty good bet that she was needing something to eat. So, surveying the refrigerator and trying to decide what I could give her that would be safest to eat, I spotted a pint of Glacé strawberry balsamic ice cream I'd purchased for Dad's birthday a few weeks prior. What could be more choke-proof than something that melts? I grabbed the ice cream and a couple of spoons and led her out onto the back patio. We sat in a couple of adirondack chairs and I brought a spoonful of ice cream to her lips.

At that point, Mom was well beyond pretty much any kind of verbal communication. She would rattle off bursts of speech that sounded like a Dr. Seuss brainstorm, or walk around asking for Michael (Dad), but otherwise, the way she was feeling had to be inferred from her physical responses. Her feelings on things had (and still have) to be mostly inferred from physical cues, and from what we already knew of her likes and dislikes. In turn, communicating with her was usually just as much of a guessing game. For a big talker, like me, and a great listener, like Mom, our gifts had been pretty much reduced to nothing in the wake of her dementia.

But, in merely wanting to give my mother something safe to eat, I'd forgotten that a well-crafted food can speak for itself in a language anyone can understand. After a moment's surprise at the cold sensation in her mouth, Mom's eyes closed, and she smiled. And for a few priceless minutes, we were just a normal mother and daughter, sharing a pint of really great ice cream in the sun.

Keep your fingers crossed my proposal goes over well. In the meantime, I think I'll bring Mom some ice cream this weekend.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Some Like It Hot

Yesterday night at 7 PM, as I was driving to the airport for my run, NPR reported that temperatures were still lingering around 104 degrees. Instead of turning around and going back home, I sped up a little bit. As I drove around the loop and dropped off a bottle of ice at the halfway mark (about 1.75 miles), I noted with pleasure that there were absolutely no other runners either badass OR crazy enough to be out. Gyms, on the other hand, were probably packed, and with all those motors running and people expelling heat, I'd imagine it was pretty miserable inside as well.

Successful summer running is all about calculation. I have to plan ahead carefully - routes that maximize both shade and breeze and access to water, adequate hydration throughout the day, pay attention to the color of my urine and the frequency I'm going, get enough sleep, monitor caloric intake, etc. Even while running, I have to remain vigilant and hyperobservant - How much am I sweating? When's the last time I took an electrolyte tablet? How much water am I drinking? How fast am I going? What changed between this mile and the last that made this one harder? Should I walk? - because by the time the obvious signs of heat exhaustion start popping up, it's probably too late to salvage the workout, and possibly the one after that.

Successful winter running - or really, successful winter ANYTHING - is less about thinking and more about spending power. Stripping down and running in your skin is cheap, but bundling up to run in the winter is anything but. Observe:

$25 featherweight Nike singlet
$50 Nike sports bra
$25 Under Armour shorts
$10 lightweight Adidas socks
$110 TOTAL

$25 long sleeved tech shirt
$50 Nike sports bra
$60 Brooks running pants
$15 heavyweight socks
$40 thermal gloves
$90 Tikka headlamp
$25 Nike headband
$60 Brooks running jacket
$365 TOTAL

And I spent all last winter bent over against the wind and unable to feel my fingers because I was so effing freezing cold and not "adequately dressed." Had I spent another $300 or so, my comfort level would have increased, but so would my consternation with the whole winter running thing. Unfortunately, there's no other way around it - it's either spend the money and be comfy, or don't spend the money and don't be.

So, if evolution has given us all the tools - the ability to sweat, fur-less skin, a respiratory system independent of stride rate, and a big brain - to be effective summer runners, it'd be a waste to not be out there letting my physiology do its thing. As for winter running, the same tools I use in the summertime have me pretty much convinced that I should wait until evolution deals me a nice fat wallet as well. Or, failing that, I can always wait for spring.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Arrival Day

Thirty years ago today, I met Mom and Dad for the first time. It's been a long time since anyone has either observed or celebrated this date, but it will always be a special one to me.