Saturday, May 27, 2023

Life Happens


The most unpredictable moment in time is tomorrow. Although we may have an idea of what tomorrow will bring, it may not resemble the actual events.

Real life can turn routine into chaos. We all know the horror of answering the phone and hearing of an accident, a terminal diagnosis, or a death in the family. The same device can bring us unexpected joy when we hear of a birth, an engagement, or someone who lands her dream job.

Life happens while we make plans. When you think about it, so much of life can sometimes seem to be random events strung together in a haphazard order.

I feel like my life is a billion piece jigsaw puzzle that was whirled up into the stratosphere and came to earth a piece at a time to form a picture that became my life. As with all good puzzles, you can’t force the pieces together—they fit or they don’t.

I became the person I am based on all the misfortunes, adventures, failures, triumphs, and experiences that happened throughout the more than 26,000 days I have lived on this planet.

The older I get, the more I forget. I only remember a fraction of the billion pieces of my puzzle. Although some of the pieces fell together as they should have, it seemed that from time to time, they were swept off the table and thrown into the floor to be picked up and, hopefully, fit back together.

I met Jim through a chain of events that could have easily never happened. We pursued a relationship against the odds that it would work out. Early in our marriage, our richer and poorer was definitely poorer. Late in our marriage, the sickness and health turned out to be sickness. The part we nailed was “to love and to cherish.” Until death do we part, turned out to be how our story ended, or did it?

The picture of my life fell apart and rearranged into a new picture. I gathered up the knowledge I gained through Jim’s dementia and shared it through my writing. Our story lived through my recollections. My fallible memory was bolstered by the pile of tapes I recorded while we journeyed through the land of dementia.

It’s a lot easier to recall the main events of life than to recall a conversation that took place on an uneventful day. How many days are really that memorable during a lifetime? Maybe an algorithm exists that could calculate an average number of red-letter days for an average life. Let’s be realistic, no one lives an average life. Until we exit this world, life happens as it is intended for each of us.

Copyright © May 2023 by L.S. Fisher


Wednesday, May 17, 2023



Last month, I kept reminding myself that “April Showers bring May flowers.” Seeing  colorful blooms in the flower garden, and sniffing the heady aroma, can make my heart sing with happiness. When a bouquet is given as a gift, it can convey caring, love, or remembrance depending on the occasion.

Jim used to send me flowers from time to time. One time, when asked how he wanted the card signed, he said “your secret lover.” The florist told him that wasn’t a good idea because the recipient might call up wanting to know who sent the flowers. “I guarantee you that she will know who sent them.” And I did.

Another time I was feeling down and like I wasn’t appreciated at work. He sent flowers with a note that said, “I appreciate you. Baumasteric.” Well, there was a woman at work who read the card and just about split apart wanting to know who had sent me flowers.

Although I was always happy to get bouquets of flowers, I think the ones that meant the most to me was when Jim would stop by work and take my car to the gas station. When he returned the key, he often brought me a single red rose from the gas station. That was a win-win—a full tank and a rose that smelled of “I love you.”

Miley Cyrus’ song “Flowers” has a message for anyone who has to learn self-reliance. When I think of those who need to be strong, I think of caregivers. Unconditional love means that a caregiver realizes that at some point, their loved one might not be able to express their love.

We usually think that in order to love someone, he or she must reciprocate the feeling for it to be real. What I learned with Jim was that in the silence brought on by his aphasia, he could not express his feelings. One of my most precious memories was the night when I was leaving the nursing home, I kissed him and said, “I love you.” I was used to no response, but one time he said, “I love you too,” and sounded like he meant it.

Several years ago, the Alzheimer’s Association began to provide pinwheel flowers for the walkers who participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Each color has a significance and walker chooses the one that represents their connection to the disease.

A blue flower represents a person living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. We walk to find a cure for those who carry the blue flowers.

A purple flower is for those who have lost someone to Alzheimer’s or another dementia. I always choose a purple flower because Jim passed away from a rare form of dementia in 2005. His dementia had been diagnosed as “dementia of the Alzheimer’s type” and until the autopsy, we did not know that he had corticobasal ganglionic degeneration. In CBGD the area of the brain that processes information and the brain structures that control movement shrink and nerve cells degenerate and die over time.

 The yellow flower represents a caregiver for a person living with Alzheimer’s, and the orange flower represents someone without a personal connection to the disease, but supports the vision of a world without Alzheimer’s.

The white flower represents the first survivor of Alzheimer’s. We are getting closer to having more than the symbolic white flower at our Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Research is turning the key to unlock the mystery of Alzheimer’s with current treatments that slow the progression of the disease. Advocates are working diligently to have FDA approved Alzheimer’s treatments covered by Medicare and Medicaid. New treatments promise the precious gift of more time to spend with our loved ones affected by Alzheimer’s.

Until then, we will carry colorful pinwheel flowers as we Walk to End Alzheimer’s once and for all.  


Copyright © May 2023 by L.S. Fisher


Sunday, April 30, 2023

No Present like the Time


Saturday night, Sedalia was blessed with the talent of Jay Allen, brought to us by the vision and determination of my friend, WyAnn Lipps. When Jay was on The Voice, he spoke of his mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s and how his song “Blank Stares” had raised millions for Alzheimer’s.

Jay’s dedication to the cause was evident when he was on the show, but during the concert, he let us know that the only reason he went on the show was to gain more visibility to raise money to end Alzheimer’s.

During the “meet and greet” before the performance, Jay took time to ask names and stories. He had the compassion born of the grief of someone who had lost a loved one to the devastation of Alzheimer’s. He noticed my purple toenail polish and said, “Your toenails are painted purple—you are all in, aren’t you.”

“All in” exactly describes our core of volunteers. WyAnn was definitely “all in” when she saw Jay on The Voice and wanted him to be a voice in our community. She and Jay clicked and a date was chosen for the event.

The MU Naturelles opened the show with their talented a cappella performance loaded with spirit and sass. This group included WyAnn’s granddaughter Chloe. As I pointed out to some friends, I knew Chloe when she was shorter than I am. She’s always been a joy to be around and a talented vocalist.

I had watched and rooted for Jay when he was on The Voice so it came as no surprise to me that he was an excellent entertainer who put his heart and soul into a vibrant performance. The audience was small since we had competition from proms, conferences, programs, competitions, and all the other usual entertainment and events at the end of April.

Jay asked everyone to move to the front, encouraged everyone to stand at the edge of the stage. He spent the evening interacting with the audience while he gave a stellar performance. He is a complex man who is unafraid to speak of his faith that his mother is in heaven. His music reflects his faith and embraces his joy in life. Jay has an excellent sense of humor and created a party atmosphere, but in a family-friendly way.

Of course, “Blank Stares” is a song that resonates with me. Jim’s sister told me one time that Jim had a “faraway look” in his eyes. At times, it seemed as if he was looking through me instead of at me.

Jay sang another song that touched my heart and that song is “No Present like the Time.” I lost Jim, first to the disease, and then to death. I was thankful that we had taken vacations to Oregon, Estes Park, and Branson. We filled our lives with music, campfires, love, and quiet conversations over our morning coffee. The gift of time was cut short, but we made the most of the time we had.

After Jim was diagnosed with dementia, I learned the wisdom of living and appreciating the present. I didn’t want to compare the man he was to the man he had been before the disease, and I didn’t want to dread how he was going to change as the years went by. “No Time like the Present” sums it up succinctly.

Jim died at 59 and I am forever grateful that “out of all the millions of girls in the world” (as he used to say) he chose me to spend his life with. Having known true love, I was in a better position to move on with my life and find love again. The older I get, the more I think like my mom, who often says, “Well, I woke up this morning so it’s a good day.”


Copyright © April 2023 by L.S. Fisher


Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The April Blues


For the past week or so, I’ve had the blues. I’ve had a hollow feeling as if I were homesick although I was at home. My moods have swung from sad to cranky. The late night thunderstorms haven’t helped me physically or mentally. I feel as dark as the night and as mercurial as the lightning. 

Some April days have been sunshiny and warm. The lilacs bloomed and their fragrance filled the air with memories. When I walked from the shadows into the sun, I soaked up the warmth and felt better. Contentment and happiness flirted with my feelings of impending doom.

When I opened my eyes this morning after a painful, restless night filled with haunting dreams…I was crushed by the weight that today marked the anniversary of Jim’s death.

After eighteen years, surely the day would pass without pain and tears. As I looked through Jim’s pictures on my PC, I saw a video of Jim and his brother Bill singing “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.”

Music was always a big part of Jim’s life. He loved to play his guitar and sing. Now that I play my “little guitar” or ukulele, I understand the therapeutic value of music.

Music can be a reflection of our souls and magically fill our hearts and minds with memories. When I sing one of the songs that Jim used to sing, it makes me feel a part of him resting peacefully inside my soul. I can hear his voice in my ear, encouraging me to find the heart of the song.

For the past week, I’ve been too busy to take time to play my ukulele and sing, which may be part of the explanation as to why I’ve been so sad. Jim always said that music was his therapy, and I think he was onto something.

Today will pass in a few hours, and tomorrow will be merely another day. I’m going to pick up my ukulele, play some happy songs, and know that somehow, someway, life has brought me to this moment. Life is too precious and short to let sorrow steal it from me.

I’ve had my cry; it’s time to move on and sing a happy song. I’ll sing it for me—and I’ll sing it for Jim.


Copyright © April 2023 by L.S. Fisher


Out of Power


Lately, the wind blows at two speeds—hard and harder. The bad thing about wind is that flying limbs, trees, and debris cause power outages.

During recent local outages, I was sitting in my home feeling smug because we have a generator with an automatic switch that keeps the power flowing. Normally, the switch is so rapid that I don’t know if our power has gone out unless I check the electric cooperative’s website.

Last week, I was on the phone with my mom when the lights went out. “I don’t know what’s happened because the power went off and the generator didn’t kick on.”

“Maybe it will just take it awhile,” she suggested.

“No. It comes on instantly.” I looked at the clock on my PC, which had switched to battery without so much as a flicker. “Mom, I’ve got to go. I need to leave in fifteen minutes, and I can’t possibly get our garage doors open manually.”

I called Harold’s cousin which I refer to as 911-Ivan. I asked Ivan if he could come and start the generator so I could get out of the garage. I looked out and saw him coming through our gates in about five minutes. I went out the front door and met him at the generator shed. The generator would crank, but wouldn’t start.

Plan B was to have Ivan come in and open the garage door for me. We got to the lift to take us to the basement level, and he said, “Does this run on electricity?”

“Yes, it does, but it has a battery backup.”

Ivan opened the overhead door and as I backed the pickup out of the garage, I rolled down my window. “Looks like the power is back on,” I said, pointing at the light that comes on when the garage doors open.

We take power for granted, but when it fails, we feel powerless. When Jim was diagnosed with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type, I asked the physician, “Isn’t there medication for that now?” I was certainly disappointed when he told us that the FDA had only approved one drug, and it was to help with symptoms only. The drug, Cognex, would not stop or slow down the progression of the disease.

Once I knew that Jim had an incurable, progressive brain disorder, I battled with a feeling of powerlessness. For early-onset dementia, or younger onset, the life expectancy is shorter than it is for dementia in the elderly.

Typically, I am an optimistic person, and I decided that we would do everything we could to make life better for both of us.

Although Jim’s dementia was the most traumatic experience of my life, it is also the reason I am the person I am today. Through volunteering, I have met people who became dear friends, learned how to be a voice for the voiceless, and gained hope that someday we would find a cure or effective treatment for Alzheimer’s. Research has come a long way since Cognex, and new drugs are the tip of a spear that will destroy Alzheimer’s.

We just can’t fathom how important power is until we lose it. I learned to take one day at a time, one hour at a time, or minute by minute.

As a caregiver, I coped by not looking back or worrying about the future. I learned to accept and love Jim as he was. I cherished the moments of clarity, or the times he broke through the bounds of aphasia to speak, and the warmth of his hugs.

When the power goes out, light a lamp and move bravely through the darkness.

Copyright © April 2023 by L.S. Fisher



Saturday, April 1, 2023

Sound the Alarm

“We got a package yesterday,” my husband told me while I was cooking breakfast.

“I was outside several times, and I never saw a package,” I replied.

After staring at his phone a few more minutes, he said, “It’s on the front porch.”

I walked to the front door and glanced through the door. Sure enough, there was a package sitting on the welcome mat. My dog was hot on my heels, because when I open the front door, it usually means “company” is there.

I unlocked the door and immediately, our security alarm emitted an ear-piercing racket. I slapped my hand over my ears and raced, as fast as possible on my arthritic knees, to the keypad to turn off the alarm. The dog sped past me for the safety of the bedroom, skidding to a stop under the bed. Harold was shouting, “What’s the code?” because immediately the phone began to ring, and we didn’t want emergency vehicles dispatched because I opened the front door.

After I shut off the alarm and dispatch had been assured there was no emergency, I decided I’d better take the dog outside. I went to the bathroom and sat on the jacuzzi steps to put on my sweatpants. The dog was so traumatized that she kept trying to climb on my lap.

Sounding the alarm can sometimes be a false alarm, but when it comes to our health, we often brush our fears aside and assume that everything is going to be all right. This is especially true when it comes to our cognitive health.

I’ve read numerous books about Alzheimer’s disease over the past twenty-five years. One that stands out in my memory is a book where the author said she did not realize her mother had dementia until she killed the cats.

Fortunately, for most of us the realization that something is terribly wrong isn’t so dramatic. It can be an accumulation of small moments in time, or it can be like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky.

On an ordinary day, Jim and I went to the car dealership where my son was buying a car. In the process of co-signing, the salesman asked Jim for his social security number. Jim had a blank look on his face, and finally said, “I don’t know what it is.” Ding, ding, ding, alarm bells clanged in my head. Jim always had a talent for remembering numbers, and his social security number had been his Army service number. When I realized Jim wasn’t joking, I supplied the number since I also knew it. Still, sometimes, I could forget my social security number so I brushed it off, figuring it was a false alarm.

“What’s your birth date?” was the next question.

After another deer-in-the-headlights look, Jim shrugged and casually said, “I guess I can’t remember what that is either.” I supplied the birth date, and could not ignore the heart-splitting alarm. Jim was forty-nine years old and up until this moment, I hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary.

Shortly after the numbers crisis, we began a long and arduous investigation into why Jim was not thinking clearly. After various inconclusive physical tests, a psychological test determined that Jim had dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.

Although the first conclusive test for Jim was a psychological test, Alzheimer’s or related dementia is not a mental illness—it is a neurological, degenerative brain disorder. Later, his MRI showed brain shrinkage.

After a false alarm, we breathe a sigh of relief. When we know the alarm is real, it’s time to use all available resources to fight the best fight, and to live the best life.    


Copyright © March 2023 by L.S. Fisher


Friday, March 17, 2023

A Pot of Gold


My sister and I took a trip to Ireland in 2005. Going to Ireland had been on my bucket list for years, so when we saw the trip advertised, we signed up for it and put down our deposits. We bought the trip insurance because Jim was in the nursing home, and his health and wellbeing would take priority over a vacation. Our trip was scheduled for September, and sadly, Jim passed away in April.

On St. Patrick’s Day in 2014, I posted some of our photos to Facebook, and when they came up in my “memories,” I reposted them. I think the one that got the most attention was the one of me kissing the Blarney Stone.

Of course, kissing the Blarney Stone was part of my bucket list too. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea how scary that entire experience would be. After we walked along the top edge of Blarney Castle we stood in line to kiss the stone. A man held onto each person as he dipped him or her backwards over a sheer drop to the ground. My sister, grossed out at the thought of all the other lips on the stone, “air kissed” it. Not me, if I was going to put my life in the hands of an old man that dipped people backwards all day long, I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity of a lifetime, and I kissed the stone.

 Ireland, and St. Patrick’s Day, are blessed with a lot of symbolism: Ireland’s patron saint—St. Patrick, shamrocks, mischievous leprechauns, corned beef and cabbage, Irish music, the color green, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We speak of the luck of the Irish as if it is a magical beacon, although Ireland and the Irish have suffered greatly throughout the centuries.

How many of us chase rainbows (dreams) believing that if our dreams come true, we’ll find that pot of gold (wealth or happiness) at the end. What many don’t realize is that the chase is often the best part and the pot of gold can be disappointing.

Jim searched for that pot of gold by buying lottery tickets. He always wanted to win the jackpot. After he became more forgetful, I’d find tickets lying around that he’d bought, but never checked. Occasionally, we would take a stack in to have them run through a machine. Jim never got that pot of gold, but the tickets were a small price to chase his dream of instant wealth.

I never had any desire to win the lottery because I figured it would just mess up my life. I was more than satisfied as long as I had enough money to pay the bills, buy groceries, and have some spending money left.

Jim and I never found gold, but our life had its share of rain and rainbows. We had hard times and good times. Although we never had monetary wealth, we were abundantly blessed with love and family.   

On St. Patrick’s Day, my hope is that you enjoy chasing your dreams, and that you find a pot of “gold” filled with health, wealth, and happiness.


Copyright © March 2023 by L.S. Fisher


Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Aphasia – When Words Fail

People pay attention when a celebrity has been diagnosed with dementia. Earlier this month, we learned that Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. This diagnosis did not surprise me since last year Bruce stepped away from acting because of aphasia.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, aphasia affects speech and the ability to read or write. Communication skills are necessary in almost all aspects of employment, and would be essential to read movie scripts and to deliver the lines with conviction.

In 2020, the directors of a Bruce Willis action film cut his dialogue by five pages and removed all monologs. His inability to remember his dialogue resulted in someone feeding Bruce lines through an earpiece.

One of Jim’s first noticeable symptoms of dementia was aphasia. He could still speak words, but his sentences were vague and often required interpretation. I had to take cues from his actions. He often said the opposite of what he meant. For example, he might say he was hot, but would be shivering from cold. Jim began to speak in repetitive phrases: “Right here, but I can’t find it” or “I have no idea” were two of his favorites. As his dementia progressed, Jim became mostly silent and seldom spoke.

One of the saddest losses for me was the intimate conversations that Jim and I had always enjoyed. We shared our deepest thoughts, hopes, beliefs, and dreams with each other. The best part of waking up was a cup of coffee and conversation.

Our quiet time was when we settled down for the night. Jim was an avid reader, and he and I both read at bedtime. After he read every Louis L’Amour novel, we made weekly trips to the bookstore so that he could add to his collection of Star Trek books. Jim continued to turn the pages of his books, but I noticed that he began to buy duplicate books. I realized that he was not able to follow the storyline and would pick up a different copy of the book he had “read” the week before. It was the same with TV shows. He couldn’t follow the plot of a TV show.

Aphasia is caused when a loss of blood flow causes brain cell death or damage in the part of the brain that controls language. Although Jim’s and Bruce Willis’ aphasia was brought on by dementia, the most common cause of aphasia is from a stroke.

  I believe that Jim’s aphasia was global, which caused severe difficulty with his ability to speak or comprehend language. He had trouble understanding as well as speaking. I used a lot of gestures and pointing to reinforce what I was saying. I learned to use simple sentences and never offer more than one instruction at a time. If I ever gave more than one instruction, he would only react to the second.

Jim understood body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions much more than the spoken words. Of course, the best communication of all was the touch of a hand, words of love, and smiles…lots of smiles.


Copyright © February 2023 by L.S. Fisher

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

That Faraway Place (Valentine's Day 2005)

The velvet soft touch of a single red rose reminded me of the man who had been my Valentine for thirty-five years. The scent of Old Spice transported my mind to the hot summer day when I met a broad-shouldered boy with curly blond hair.
Jim created magic with his Fender guitar, and his smooth, rich voice wooed me with romantic love songs. By summer’s end, our long, intimate conversations and physical attraction created a special bond between us, and ensured that ours was not merely a summer romance.
Our romantic love evolved into a deeper emotion as we settled down to married life and parenthood. Jim’s music, our closeness, and family became components of our daily existence. We bonded into one being, and Jim frequently said, “I know you better than you know yourself.”  The truth of his words was proven as he became my sounding board for all life’s major decisions.
Early in the disease, our romantic love remained intact as we united to cope with the devastating diagnoses. As the dementia progressed, romance gradually disappeared, and I adapted to my shifting role in our relationship. Jim began a downward spiral toward a childlike dependence on me, coupled with a trust that I would protect him.
The stress had taken a toll on me. If I was at home, I was dealing with Jim’s outbursts of anger, or moments of total confusion. When I was at work, the caregiver would call when Jim was out of control, and I would return home to manage him. Jim began to wander off, and I became adept at finding him. Eventually, I realized he needed to be in a safe place where more than one person could provide his care.
Dementia laid waste to my husband’s brain and the disease caused an underlying layer of grief that permeated my innermost emotions. For the past ten years, the erosion of Jim—husband, father, grandfather, son, brother—relentlessly stole him from his family’s grasp.
Jim began to exist on a different level, another plane of existence, than the rest of the world. He seemed to be in a faraway place, occasionally glancing back to recognize those of us he had left behind.
I walked into his room at the nursing home on Valentine’s Day. I hugged him, closed my eyes, smelled his Old Spice cologne, and was once again holding a broad-shouldered, blond-haired boy on a hot summer day. Perhaps, we were together in the same faraway place on that special day, and he remembered me, and knew I was still his Valentine.

Copyright © February 2023 by L.S. Fisher


Note: Jim mailed the Valentine to me from Vietnam in 1970 in an envelope with postage marked "Free."

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Super Sunday, Super Fan


In 1970, Jim and I lived in Manhattan, Kansas, while he finished his three-year commitment to Uncle Sam. We lived in an apartment on Humboldt Street a block off Poyntz Avenue. Every Sunday during football season, Jim turned on our small black and white TV and tuned into the football games, preferably to watch the Chiefs.

Jim came from a family that never watched sports so for the first few games he was a little puzzled about the rules of the games. “Why do the ‘downs’ start all over after a few plays?” he mumbled. Jim was a smart guy, and it wasn’t long before he had everything figured out and he was hooked on football. Jim became a Super Fan and every year, he cheered them on to victory, keeping the faith that they would play in the Super Bowl.

Lenny Dawson had just led the Chief’s to Super Bowl IV victory in January 1970 while Jim was in Vietnam. Jim was well aware of that win and had a personal interest in the Chiefs because Lenny Dawson volunteered at the Boy’s Club where Jim boxed.

When our kids were little and we still had our tiny black and white TV with three channels. The movie of the week was on Monday nights, but so was football. I would complain, but most of the time we watched football.

Eventually, I learned enough about the game to enjoy it, but the Chiefs were the only team I cared to watch. Whether the Chiefs’ had a down year or an up year, Jim never wavered. They were his favorite team.

After spending our summer vacations in Colorado, the Denver Broncos became his second favorite team. When the Broncos played the Chiefs, we always rooted for the Chiefs. One game we watched, the Chiefs were leading 19-6 with five minutes to play. As the game neared the two-minute warning, the Denver fans left Mile High Stadium in droves. In the last two minutes of play, John Elway threw two touchdown passes for a 20-19 win. Needless to say, the Denver fans were not happy to miss the excitement and we were not happy with the outcome.

Jim only went to Arrowhead Stadium one time to watch the Chiefs play. His friend Bill Wiser treated him to a game. The freezing rain didn’t interfere at all with the excitement of being in Arrowhead. I don’t remember whether the Chiefs won that game, but I know Jim was loud and proud of his Chiefs.

When Jim was in the nursing home, the staff always turned his TV to the football games. His eyes would be on the game, but he never reacted. Gone were the days when he outwardly cheered his Chiefs to victory, but I’m sure that inwardly, he was following the game.

I always hoped that the Chiefs would make it to the Super Bowl again during Jim’s lifetime, but it didn’t happen. Finally, it was on my bucket list that the Chiefs would make it to the Super Bowl during my lifetime. Now, here it is again, another Super Bowl with the Chiefs playing. I can hardly wait. Today, I’m wearing a Chiefs shirt that once belonged to Jim, the Super Fan. The lettering is a little cracked, but the colors are bright.

Jim proudly wore his Chiefs’ shirts no matter what kind of season they were having. In his heart, the Chiefs always won.

Copyright © February 2023 by L.S. Fisher