Monday, January 14, 2013

Going Away

It's always a tense week preparing to leave Bali for my annual shows at the Gem and Mineral Show in Tucson, Arizona.  Bob and I started exhibiting our work there in 1991.

We went to cheek it out that year and were offered an outside table to mind for friends who had a large crystal jewelry business. Our job was to direct people to their show room at the back of the hotel.  In exchange we were given about a quarter of the table to show our one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces for the first time ever. 

We slept in our van in the parking lot, showered in friend's rooms, and used the hotel's coin operated washing machines to stay clean.  To our delight our creations were well accepted and we sold so much we thought we'd found the proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow.

After fifteen years of doing this annual exhibition, with a proper booth and accommodations, it was clear in 2006 that Bob was no longer capable of working the show.  Alzheimer's had stolen his ability to organize, set up the booth, handle customers, explain our work, and cope with pressure. 

Now twenty-two years later I do two shows at the same time with hired help and help from a dear friend. All our old customer's ask about Bob. They too miss his presence in the booth.

This year I'm so caught up in the leaving preparations that it's difficult to find time to see him, which just adds to the pressure.  "What will he be like when I return?" I worry. "What if something happens to him while I'm away? What if he doesn't remember me?"

I'll be gone for over two months but at least I have solace knowing his caregivers are there for him.  They've cared for him for the last three years while I've been gone and done a good job. "Susan's in Bangkok for a visa extension," they explain to him day after day week after week until I return. Bob is satisfied.  I'm doing something practical and necessary.

We don't tell him I'm in Tucson in case he remembers he used to go too. We don't want to upset him or cause him worry.  He finds enough reasons for anxiety and anger on his own. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013


I bought paint for Bob’s house over two months ago and then life got a hold of me and the painting project crept forwarded on my ‘To Do List”.  Suddenly it all came together when Ketut expressed concern, “Susan, the paint will go bad if left too long in the cans”. It was his Balinese way of motivating me to finish the project.

Two women were hired who’ve painted for us before. In three days the job was completed.  The cottage now looks fantastic and the caregivers say, “Bob seems more relaxed and not so antsy to go out all the time”.

After learning from some Alzheimer’s experts about the role of color (see blog entry ‘Color and Contrast’, October 29, 2012) we decided every room should be painted differently in the hope Bob could navigate his way around more easily and most importantly find the bathroom which has become a challenge for him.

The bathroom is now bright yellow distinguishing it from the adjacent lilac bedroom, giving it contrast. And we have a large photo of a toilet with an arrow pointing in the right direction. We painted the TV room blue gray and the outside of the house is a clear sky blue.

Bob's Newly Painted Cottage
Sometimes projects take months to happen and when they’re finished it’s a relief and I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. But it can be a challenge juggling the running our business, writing a bi-monthly cooking column, overseeing Bob’s care and trying to do the best we can for him. Finally his cottage is bright and fresh and I can cross it off the ‘To Do List’.

When I went to check on the finished paint job, the cleaning lady was changing the sheets. Bob was taking an after breakfast snooze on the verandah, not waking up while I was there talking with the caregiver.  Now that’s relaxed!