Thursday, June 1, 2017

Maggie's Milkweed Mystery

This is one of the most difficult posts I have written. It has taken a week. Up to now I could play the part of independent observer as my wife and I traveled this tangled path from health to passing. Even after being on this journey over three years, it was not really real.

It was scary.  The heart fibrillation in December was real scary. The line between life and death was razor thin (three to five minutes). But it was not really real as she recovered. She still continues to talk in the morning, to laugh, to tease, to be pretty much herself until the “worries” catch her. Her drift from her world, in and out of our world, in the activity area is now “normal” for both of us.

Her world is most characterized by the random collection and distribution of anything she can put in her pocket, or at times, pick up and move anywhere in memory care. She shares with a few others the need to be given notice, and time, before having something of interest removed from her or her table space. A violation can bring a quick punch. “May I take this? May I wash this? May I . . . “, yields a safe way to proceed. [A few other similar residents express themselves by a loud yell or a strong grip.]

Part of 300 Milkweed Plants
Then I became active on the monarch butterfly sanctuary (see previous post). We needed milkweeds to feed monarch caterpillars. It took three years for my wife to create the milkweed garden in our backyard from seed. It produced over 300 plants each year. We needed a faster way to do that here.

I found two packets of seed at Wal-Mart for butterfly weed. One with just seed and the other with coated seeds (experiment!). I also got a 36-cell seed starter kit.       

Milkweed Seeds
I put a few seeds of each kind on a shallow dish of water. The coated seeds sank to the bottom. The uncoated seeds floated until I touched them. The floating seeds germinated in three days on the south window ledge (17 April).

I added a piece of white paper towel to the dish with all the seeds on top. Now all had maximum access to oxygen in the air. The remaining seeds then germinated over a period of more than a week. They also endured several trips to various parts of our apartment; some times more than one trip a day.

Two Expanded Disks
The seed starter kit was watered. The little disks of compressed peat expanded into little brown haycocks. I transferred the very new seedlings and added enough uncoated seeds to fill all 36 expanded disks. 

Another Missing
A few days later two of the disks were missing. I found them in her bathroom toiletry tray (23 April).

A week later another went missing. I did not find it. There was fiber on the bathroom sink drain (2 May).

Crumbs on Daybed

Then one of the best three plants, that was first to germinate, went missing. Crumbs were on the daybed sheet (7 May).

Third Best Missing
The third best plant is missing (9 May). Why did she pick the three best plants; about an inch taller than the rest?

A caregiver was in the apartment as Maggie turned from the window behind the daybed. She had an expanded disk in hand with part of it in her mouth. I was shocked (The caregiver was amused. This was nothing new to her). Maggie could not tell the difference between a chocolate candy haycock (?) and the expanded disks?

Yet another plant is gone (19 May). I found it under the heat exchanger behind the daybed (20 May). [It is still there.]

The next day the entire tray traveled to the dining room table during the night (20 May). She has not bothered the remaining plants, since part were transplanted outdoors (29 May).

We have removed everything in the apartment that she can eat that could be harmful or it is locked in the file cabinet. Newly purchased garden tools are all in the car trunk that is parked by our apartment and milkweed patch.

She fell as I was writing on this, this morning. Her legs were badly twisted. Once again she seems unharmed. We will know in a couple of days. Time to go to lunch (dinner in the old days).

We will never know if Maggie ate one of the disks including a milkweed. We may still find one on our next through search of the apartment.

Last night, Maggie said, “I don’t know what I want to do”, when we went on a walk after supper. She really is now a creature of the moment. We need to clear out the apartment down to things she still likes and that can be seen on the shelving. The things in the sorting boxes have served their purpose and are now extra baggage.

[Back in from watering the milkweeds. The nurse said the flower decorations from the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary on the memory care tables were removed because Maggie was eating them.]

I must now accept that all of this is real. Happiness is now dependent upon the environment skilled caregivers create in this building, fully restored (and improved) from the flood. I still have a role to play here in, “I need your help, getting these pills down and getting . . .’ when there is not another caregiver to hand Maggie off to when things do not go as expected for the present caregiver.

From time to time during the day, she still misses me. I seem to love her more each day. For now our bond grows stronger as I spend several hours a day staging getting dressed and other daily activities (including all hours of the night). [I get in lots of naps.]

1 comment:

  1. My heart goes out to you and Maggie. Your love and strength inspire me.