When I took Vernon out for a drive last week, it was with the intention of doing it regularly enough to get Vernon used to things like sitting up in a moving car, not succumbing to motion sickness, repeating the experience enough to remember it longer. It’s a journey-not-a-destination kind of thing. My friend Barbara, who sat with him last Saturday during dialysis, told her that he remembered the outing, but when I asked him again on Sunday, it was gone from his mind. Still, it seemed he remembered something about it for two days—I would like to think that’s an improvement in memory retention. It’s always hard to tell.
Thursdays seem to be the only day where there is a space for me to take him out in the car. This time we were a little more confident, getting him in the van without much messing around or asking questions of the staff. Once we were on the road, Julia noticed I drove a little faster, not checking back with him as often as I did last week. I knew she was next to him, and we all knew what to expect.
“We are going to the same place we went last week, Vernon. Can you remember what that is?”
“No, I can’t remember, but I’m looking forward to finding out what it is.”
We twisted around some of the smaller streets of the Balboa Peninsula, and before long he was calling out directions:”Left to the sea.” Often he was right. He was watching through the windows and seemed to have a sense of general direction. Through his sunglasses, its hard for me to know if he has his eyes opened or not. It’s always better when he does because I know he is more likely to be present with us.
We parked in a similar place by the boardwalk, where we had a good view of the beach. He seemed interested for a little bit but must have gotten confused on a conversation we were having about a possible wheelchair for him in the future.. He may have thought we meant for him to get out in a chair immediately for he suddenly became panicky as if he was stuck inside his seatbelt. I couldn’t tell if his movements were involuntary or not but it did seem to be a different reaction than I’d seen before. We managed to calm him down and decided to drive back. It was a shorter trip than last week, but the intention isn’t just about having a nice time out. It’s mostly about becoming comfortable with this kind of mobility. It goes both ways. Vernon isn’t the only one learning here.
We went back, still able to call the trip a success.
Vernon still wanted to sit up, though we were back at Mesa Verde. We parked him up against a table and Julia set up some art supplies for him. He is very particular about the colors and mediums he asks for. “Pencil! Red Paint! Water!” But once he got painting, even just a little bit, he seemed to relax. We decided time upright in the sunshine with company was more important than time in bed with the mat (which I had also brought.) Eventually, he fell asleep in the sun. But not before remembering that “If its Thursday, I get my hair cut today.” Not sure when Joe had last told him that, but apparently he was right. Hopefully that happened after a nice nap.
In upcoming news, Vernon has another Barium Swallow Study scheduled for next Tuesday afternoon, his birthday! Though this will be his third swallow study, it is very important that he passes it this time or he will receive NO speech therapy (which he hasn’t received for at least six months) nor will he be allowed to be fed food or drink. If we are to see active progress in this area, he needs to pass this test.