August 31, 2017

Here's What Has Helped Me -- My Bidets

Note: People keep telling me I'm doing exceptionally well for someone 
my age (88) who has had Parkinson's disease as long as I have (10 years). 
So I'm doing a series of posts recounting some of the things that have 
helped me deal with aging and Parkinson's disease.
But remember that my Parkinson's disease might more accurately be called  John Schappi's disease Parkinson's is a very idiosyncratic disease. So what works for me might not help others.

We'll start at the end.

This is the toilet/bidet in the upstairs guest bathroom. There are similar installations in my bedroom bathroom upstairs and in the laundry room bathroom in the guest quarters.

The modifications were relatively easy (for my home contractor) and inexpensive (for me). I'll get back to the details later. But first, a few comments on bidets in general.

Bidets in U.S. and Elsewhere
Bidets are fixtures in bathrooms the world over, but they haven't really caught on in the U.S. Instead of washing with water after relieving themselves, Americans would rather deforest millions of acres in order to produce toilet paper.

We think bidets are too European, too Parisian. We suspect they have something to do with s-e-x.

Americans use almost 8,000,000 tons of toilet paper each year. Eight million tons! And the bleaching process -- we like white toilet paper -- creates cancer-causing chemicals.

Hygiene after defecating is something most of us prefer to handle privately and independently. But the process can become a difficult challenge -- physically and emotionally -- for many elderly or disabled seniors.

August 30, 2017

Surprise! Moments of Joy Are Still Possible

This post was prompted by a moment that occurred on Saturday morning, August 19, a day when we finally had moderate temperatures and low humidity.

Our Founding Fathers made a lot of great decisions, but deciding to build the Nation's Capital on a swamp wasn't one of them. Our summer humidity drains me of energy, and each year gets worse. But this August, unlike most other months so far this year, will not go down in the record books as the hottest ever.

My energy level has been rising as the heat and humidity drop, so I can get back to the blog. In the coming months, I plan to write about death, dying, and my "final exit." But let's start on a happier note.

In my 70s and 80s, I've experienced moments when I'd spontaneously say to myself "I love my life!" These moments came more often in my 70s, before I received my Parkinson's disease diagnosis.

In addition to the "I love my life" moments, I've had a few occasions when I've had more intense experiences of joy that have felt actually physical. These moments have surprised me because they didn't occur in settings where such feelings might  be expected, such as when  I saw the Taj Mahal at dawn, or looked at Michelangelo's statue of David in  Florence for  the first time.

But one of those moments of special joy did occur while travelling abroad. It was near a place called "Scott's View" in the Scottish Borders. My pal Richard Cooper, whose flat in London was my "home away from home" during my many visits to the UK, loved the Borders. We drove up there often.

On this occasion, Richard pulled his car into a parking area near Scott's View. We sat without speaking at this spot overlooking the valley of the River Tweed, which is reputed to be one of Sir Walter Scott's favorite vistas. While taking in the view, we listened to Nina Simone sing

I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free.

I often recall this special time with my pal Richard. A few of us still exchange emails reminiscing about Richard every April 22, Richard's birthday. It's been 17 years since Richard's suicide on May 3, 2000. When God closed Richard's door, She opened the window to Nepal for me.

Geez! I had no idea I'd end up here when I began this trip down Memory Lane.

Let's get back to the topic I started with -- those occasions when I've been suddenly, unexpectedly struck with a wave of happiness. The most memorable of  these incidents happened in a very mundane setting,. I was standing at the top of my driveway leading down to the garage.

It was late afternoon on a glorious autumn day, and I had just returned from an afternoon bike ride to Mt.Vernon. A regular biker, I'd made that trip many times and was stunned -- simply standing outside my house -- by the wave of happiness that hit me with such force that I feared losing my balance.