HIKE FIFTY-THREE

Mount Josephine on the Grand Portage Reservation

In June, as I drove up to Mount Josephine in Grand Portage, Minn., I did something I have not done before. I took along our old iPod because I finally found the charger cord to plug it into the car. This was the iPod that Barry controlled. As I listened, our lives as a couple and his beginning stages of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) intertwined with in the playlist. Listening to music had always been a part in our lives. One of our biggest purchases when we were first
married was stereo equipment with huge speakers placed on either side of the fireplace in our first home.

We merged our record collections that included rock, folk, jazz and, yes, even disco music! I added lots of Christmas albums and my beloved Handel’s Messiah. Barry added Rolling Stone albums, Jackson Brown, Beatles and his beloved Tom Waits. I remember blasting Bruce Springsteen while we cleaned the house for company coming. As technology changed, so did our music. After having kids, we bought a tape player and for quite a few years it played fun children’s music by Raffi way more than rock! When we got a CD player, classical music, movie scores, Irish singers and Broadway musicals joined the playlist. Our musical tastes were growing along with our ages.

When the first iPod came out, Barry gave one to me so I could listen to music while flying. He put in a bunch of Tom Prin to help me relax on the plane. I used to be really scared of flying and he thought it might help. It did help (along with a cold beer). I also felt really cool walking around the airport with this new device!

A bunch of new iPods followed, each getting smaller with more and more stored music. Now years later, only this one remains. As I drove, I listened and remembered. There were many special songs that we both loved: Songs we danced to, special Christmas music that played quietly as we put the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve, and songs that we played late at night at Barry’s loft when we first fell in love. I am glad those songs are still on it.
music
Broke but buying songs

All those songs made me so sad because I was actually hearing the disease as it took over Barry and our lives as a couple. It also reminded me of how irritated and mad I was at him during that time. Before we knew he was sick, he became obsessed with the television show American Idol. He never missed an episode and downloaded each winner’s music. Then he became obsessed with the show the Voice. His whole life revolved around watching these shows. We were broke, but he would download music every week and make paid calls to vote. This was when I started to wonder who this new weirdo was that I was living with. As I headed North, the iPod also played countless purchased downloads from the show Glee.

When I arrived in Grand Portage, I really needed to hike to clear my head of the music and memories. Mount Josephine is very beautiful, especially on a clear day. The hike takes about 45 minutes – not long, but almost all is up hill. Don’t get discouraged if the path is underwater in the beginning. It dries out as you go up and the views of Lake Superior are spectacular when you get to the top. There are remnants of some type of tower and an old stone building at the top.
Maybe it was a tower that picked up radio signals so young couples in the 1940s and 1950s could listen to their favorite music!

As I hiked down, I wondered if I should start over with a new playlist on that iPod as I move forward without Barry. Every time I head north to hike, I discover a little more about this new person I am becoming. I know the first song I would add to the iPod would be Girl from the North Country by Bob Dylan.

Is it time for me to start my own playlist? Someday soon I may, but not quite yet. Besides, those Glee Christmas songs aren’t bad!

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7 comments on “HIKE FIFTY-THREE
  1. Beth-Ann Bloom says:

    Keep this piece of Barry as it is . It will mean so much more to you in the future!

  2. Sing some new songs. They riff right off the older ones. Keep on.

  3. Thanks for sharing your memories and feelings, Nancy. Music is such a potent force in many of our lives, and I found myself wondering just how my dear wife and I will deal with these issues when the time comes. Sending love and hugs.

  4. Pam schultz says:

    Have you heard about the program for individuals with memory loss using iPods? Music is downloaded and staff assist with headphones and sometimes the music breaks through the fog of dementia and the individual may have a moment of pleasure. I don’t know you or Barry, but perhaps headphones and tunes on your old iPod could bring some joy ,yet to Barry. One of our goals when I worked with memory impaired individuals was to try to create moments of joy…brief, sustained, repeated, it didn’t matter. Reaching through the fog, and music was often key. (No pun intended). I admire your spunk and honesty as you walk the caregiver path. Have you written a children’s book about a family member with memory loss. There are some on the market, but yours would be special with whimsy and first hand experience! This is beginning to sound like a fan letter, and I guess it is! Pam

  5. Claudine Coughlin says:

    Enjoyed your latest walk. Because music was such a part of you and Barry I think that Pam has a good idea to try the head phones. He may not want anything on his head, but you could try. Like she said sometimes just for an instant something from before might click. Remember to take good care of yourself Nancy. Love, Claudine

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