Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sanctuary Salon

My mother and I are great fans of Meryl Streep and so were hoping that her latest movie, "The Iron Lady" would result in a third Best Actress award for her.  We were so happy that it did and then as we listened to her and heard her speak of her "other partner", J. Roy Helland, we realized that it was OUR Roy who had also received an award, along with Mark Coulier, for "Best Achievement in Makeup".

I say OUR Roy not meaning to be presumptuous, but because he was someone we knew at one time when things were not so good; he was one of the good parts and we always wondered what became of him.

In our little Los Angeles suburb community in the 1960's, along Foothill Boulevard in La Canada, I don't think there had ever been any place remotely resembling the salon named "Hepsibah's Bebespooners".  That was Roy's place and to me, it was a memorable and most wonderful salon, the likes of which I have never again encountered.  My mother used to shop at "Eleanor's" dress shop on Foothill; Eleanor had praised Roy to the skies to Mother, urging her to go there to have her hair done.  My mother had started going to Roy's and was so gratified with what he was able to do with her hair, which she normally gave up on and just flung back into a ponytail (using the rubber band from that morning's newspaper).

When we lost our Dad on a Tuesday afternoon, January, 1969, our world was rocked and my brothers and I were pretty much in stunned shock those first days.  Mother took me to the Broadway Department Store in Pasadena to buy a dark navy suit and coat and a hat . . . then on Friday, the day before the funeral, she took me to Roy's to see if something could be done for my hair.  I was a mess, could not stop crying (my brothers were more stoic, it seemed to me).  

It seemed that I was there for hours.  He would do things with my hair between other customers.  During those years, I had been using a concoction of peroxide, lemon juice and Life conditioner.  Somehow Roy took my hair and cut it, took it all the way to platinum blonde, I guess you would call it.  He set my hair, brushed it out, styled it - then it seemed like he did it all over again.  I was amazed at what he was able to do with and to my hair, it was like it was his canvas.  Seemed I would be on the verge of eye watering and he would launch into the next phase of my transformation.  He was just so incredibly kind and I felt like I was coming back to life again.  I think I had my first cup of coffee that day, too.  It was all very bracing and unexpected.

My life lesson from that day when I was sixteen is that getting your hair done can be therapeutic. . . it may not be able to heal a broken heart, but it can give a needed "time-out" for the mind to be distracted.  Maybe all that shampooing and brushing has a salutary effect on the brain.

Since the advent of Google, I have tried at various times to see if there is still a "Hepsibah's Bebespooners" somewhere in this world.  Perhaps I have not spelled it quite right yet; I have tried many ways, and Googled the various spellings along with the name "Roy".  So, now, being one of those out in there in Meryl Streep's appreciative audience, it is just wonderful to see that our favorite actress knows exactly what happened to Roy.  To think that he has been part of her movies that we have watched repeatedly over the years is pretty wonderful.  

So, from two fans from long ago, congratulations, Roy!

Monday, September 5, 2011

A word is like a face

My dear Grandmother who lived almost to the age of 100 years old (by three weeks) was not afflicted with dementia.  When out-of-town relatives or friends came to visit, I would greet them in the driveway to show them where to park; as we walked up to the front door, they would ask me if I thought Ruth would recognize them, it had been so very long.  I would reply, "Yes, she sure will, she has been looking forward to your visit" which was always true.  She would get dressed especially nicely that morning and quiz me on whether we had plenty of  things to eat and drink, was everything ready.  Then, when our visitors walked into the living room, her dear face would light up and I could hear a happy relief in their voices.  I mention this about Grandmother because I have seen firsthand a person with beautiful clarity of mind, a very astute observer and totally engaged.   She had a wonderful memory.  On her 97th birthday, she recited "Trees" for my Mother and me (we would give "birthday gifts" to each other or give back the Swarovski pin that was a gift at Christmas; her reciting "Trees" was her thank you to us for her birthday party).

My dear stepdad is afflicted with dementia and yet, in some aspects, I see a similarity to my Grandmother; he has a cheerful, affectionate personality; he is kind and thoughtful.  He wants to put people at ease, like a good host.

Yes, he is not being able to remember names always or put them with faces, but he keeps trying.  This morning we were practicing our names with him; he can remember my Mom's name, Beverly, but he was getting bogged down on mine.  We just kind of throw these practice sessions into the conversation, nothing to be making him feel self-conscious.  I will ask my Mom if SHE remembers my name, she pauses to give Dad a chance to tell her what it is.

Sometimes he asks "where is Whatchamacallit" and Mom surmises he means me.  One time he said to her "where is the little blond girl who helps me all the time".  That's okay!  :)  I mean, he is looking for me, WHO I am, even though he doesn't remember my name.

We went to Costco this afternoon and on our way to the exit, Dad was pushing the cart, I was just in front of the cart.  Mom was walking a bit ahead of us.  Dad called out, "Beverly, are we going out to the car?  Oh, no, I mean, Sue, are we going out to the car?"  I was so thrilled when I heard him call out my name, as well as his having realized he meant to say my name.  I walked next to him and told him yes, we were going out to the car and that he is really great.  He was pleased with himself for remembering my name.

Even though Dad does not remember names as he used to, he is a very good reader and we like to put on the news where he can read the captions out loud.  In 2009, I printed out the poem "Trees" as I recalled what a favorite it was of Grandmother's; I also printed out "The Gettysburg Address".    Sometimes, I ask Dad to read them aloud to me and I would say he does a pretty good job of reading the words, although where he has a problem sometimes with a word like "consecrate", he might say "concentrate", but he comes up with a replacement word quite quickly, which I somehow think is pretty good, too.  Afterwards, he seems like he has been given a vitamin, a shot in the arm.  It seems to bolster his confidence.

Every day, I ask Dad about the first two lines of "Trees";  I say, "Dad, I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a . . . " and 99% of the time, he will say, "tree" unless he decides to kid around and then he says, "sea" or "pea" or even "me", then he smiles.

After Dad does some reading out loud, reading so beautifully as he does, I also throw in faces and names such as Abraham Lincoln after he reads "The Gettysburg Address".

It seems to me that somehow, that part of his mind which is able to read a word can also read a face, recognize the face and say the name belonging to that face.

Friday, September 2, 2011

"The Persistence of Memory" (a painting by Salvador Dali)

If you have ever seen Dali's painting, "The Persistence of Memory", you remember those melting clocks.  I was thinking about that painting as I have been trying to help my stepdad get back into the habit of looking at his watch and telling time.

I had been praying for wisdom in helping Dad who has been afflicted with dementia.  He is a very wonderful person whose character and good nature are right there, more than ever, in spite of this affliction.  He is what is known as a good egg.  I help my Mom by taking turns with her in watching Dad so that she can get her sleep.  

I prayed last Wednesday night (August 24th) after Mom and Dad had gone to bed, hoping to find some inspiring story online about someone battling dementia. 

I found "What if there was a cure for Alzheimer's and no one knew?" by Dr. Mary Newport

Dr. Newport's husband, Steve, was afflicted with dementia due to early onset Alzheimer's.  Dr. Newport had been doing everything she could think of to help him and in the course of her own research, learned about medium chain triglycerides and how they can help the brain.  She then found that non-hydrogenated coconut oil was an excellent source of MCT's.  She then began giving her husband coconut oil; for starters, she stirred two tablespoons into his morning oatmeal.  This was back in 2008 (her husband had been battling early onset Alzheimer's for about four years).  Since Steve Newport began taking coconut oil, he has gotten better and even an MRI showed that the atrophy of the brain had been arrested.  You can read more details, including the amounts she now gives him on her blog:

You will see on Dr. Newport's blog the three clocks that Steve drew during those days when she first found out about coconut oil.  The third clock reflects a very dramatic improvement.

Also, through Dr. Newport's blog, I found out about other people who have been helped by coconut oil, through their videos on  It has lifted "brain fog".

Ian Blair Hamilton and his wife, Cassie.  He was experiencing symptoms of dementia and especially concerned because his father had been afflicted with Alzheimer's:

Bruce Flett who developed dementia after a bout with endocarditis:

So, Mom and I have started to give coconut oil to Dad; for starters, two tablespoons in his morning oatmeal and two tablespoons in whatever he is having for dinner.  It is really great; has no discernible flavor.  However, I also saw on Dr. Newport's blog that coconut milk with diet orange soda is another good way to get your MCT.  This week when I was in Trader Joe's in Palm Desert, I saw that they sell coconut milk in cartons, both unsweetened and vanilla flavored.

On Thursday, August 25th (the day after reading about the coconut oil), I went to Wal-Mart and bought four jars of Spectrum non-hydrogenated coconut oil.  I kept the receipt so that I can remember when we started this.  After I gave Dad the first round, I asked him to draw a clock for me, for future reference.  Mom said I was not very scientific about it.  It wasn't like the test dementia patients are given, where they are asked to draw a clock from memory. I drew a clock first, put in all the numbers and the hour and minute hands.  I then asked Dad to draw a circle, then put in 3, 6, 9 and 12 and then all the numbers in between those.  Then he drew the hands.  I think I will scan it and put it on here in my next post.  Anyway, I am not following the procedure of a test but I am going to use the clocks that he will draw to see if they reflect improvement, not only in the end result but by whether I have to tell him very much.  Perhaps he can ultimately just look at the clock I drew and then do the same and ultimately, draw it from memory. 

It is to build his confidence, just as we have been doing with his telling time again with his wristwatch. Back at Christmas time, I asked Mom if we could get Dad a plain watch without all the gadgets.  We went to JC Penney in Palm Desert and looked at all the watches, we went through various watches, showing them to Dad and asking him the time.  Then I found what I thought was a perfect one:  Timex, white background, Arabic numerals in black, nice and clear:  "Ten minutes to six", he said and he was right; so, we got that one.

If Dad even cares about wanting to know what time it is, we consider that a mustard seed of hope which we can grow.  It is wonderful to have this additional hope, so unexpectedly; thank you, dear God.

Play it again, Sam - how many times have I already asked you that?

"Casablanca" was on TCM again and when I asked Mom if she wanted to watch it, she gave me that little look of hers which means "are you kidding me".

"How many TIMES have you seen that movie, Susan?"

You know, I honestly could not say.  Ten times?  No, surely at least twenty times; possibly forty-six times.  I know how it turns out and I know every little scene yet I just love to watch that movie repeatedly.  To me, "Casablanca" is a perfect movie and why would watching a movie dozens of times be any worse than gazing upon a beloved painting?   Perhaps a study could be done - or perhaps someone has already done this - as to whether watching a favorite movie releases endorphins.

I must say, though, the thing about how many times I have watched "Casablanca" kind of bothered me; WHY can't I remember exactly how many times I have seen it?  If I did something constructive while watching "Casablanca" like knitting scarves I could then count how many scarves I had (believe me, I would still have all of them, nobody ever seems to need any).

Is there an untapped part of the brain which DOES keep track of all this?  Could neuroscientists some day devise a microchip for our brains, sort of like a flight data recorder or "black box" which would keep track of such things.  We could download the data and print it out, if we want to do so, to read when the wireless is down.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Driving to Rapid City minus a door - better call Triple-A for trip planning

Last night I had a dream - really, it was in those later hours of sleep, now that I think of it - just before it started to get light - I recall now, because I was so glad when I awakened and could see the gray light between the slats in the shutters . . . 
it was one of those dreams that just kind of follows you around all day, so I think if I write it down, it will just  go back to bed and leave me alone.
I was in the parking lot of a local grocery store, having bought some things to take along on my trip to Rapid City.  It seems that it was a Friday, late afternoon - I went to my car to open the door and it came off the hinges and came down with a clunk. My goodness, why did it do that?
While musing over this development and what effect this would have on my driving to Rapid City, a man in a Jeep in the next row over waved at me while he was talking on his cell phone . . . he finished his conversation and then told me I could take my car to the dealer, that they had to take care of that kind of thing, it would be covered under some kind of warranty, which somewhat amazed me as this was a rather old car (the car in my dream was a car which I have not seen in many years, my good old 1968 Willow Green Mercury Cougar).
Well, I began to contemplate whether I should delay my trip or just go ahead and start my drive to Rapid City, without the door attached (maybe I could put it in the back seat and put it on when I got to Rapid City) . . . but then I awakened just as I was getting all that figured out.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Did you cut your bangs again, Suejeanne?

Perhaps it is that middle child thing, quietly going about one’s business and trying to get something accomplished unobtrusively but, occasionally, not quite pulling it off and becoming an object of speculation, anathema to a shy person . . .
thus, life lessons are learned early, such as never cut your own bangs . . .

and so most shy people make this mistake just once, when they are about five years old (or even as young as two years old, if they ask for an older sibling’s help so as not to bother Mom).

I thought I had already been down that road, long ago . . . but a week ago, after I had my new haircut, it seemed my bangs were still too long; finally, a few days later, I decided to just go ahead and take a little bit off; mm – maybe a little more.

My mother (who is still quite a scrutinizer) did not seem to notice at first but she was doing her crossword puzzle; finally, she looked up and gasped.

The odd thing is this – that was on Monday – now they seem to be shrinking on their own.

Mother asked me if I cut them some more last night – perhaps I got up in the middle of the night and do not recall. I looked around the bathroom sink for clues but found none. 

I will see how they are tomorrow morning. I am up right now, writing this and so hope to impress the seriousness of this on my mind before I go to sleep, in case I actually have anything to do with this.