Alzheimer’s Anecdotes, Chapter 20: Separation Anxiety and Flat Tires

Flat tire possibilities were far from my mind. I was already sick–“separation stress” from my Alzheimer’s-suffering wife. Pam and I have been together for nearly twenty-two years now. We had to move her from our Montana home back to Arizona. The feds had finally pressured her medical practitioner so much that Pam could no longer get her most crucial meds unless she met face to face with the doctor every single month. With 1,325 miles separating Hereford, AZ, from Deer Lodge, MT, that was simply not doable. Even driving the round trip every other month, as we’d been doing for most of a year, was wearing me down. As often as not, I was driving sick.

This morning (Friday, April 20, 2018) was no exception. Arizona is not good for my health due primarily to sun damage and chiggers that love me like an arthropod buffet. On the flip side, doctors in Montana won’t even take Pam’s case. Result: Henceforth, Pam would be living in Arizona, I’d be living in Montana, and my body was rebelling. Not that my wife will lack for anything (other than my presence). She’s in a fantastic rental, super-private setting, next door landlady who’s an Alzheimer’s-experienced Registured Nurse, Pam’s friend Janice is good for the occasional trip to the doctor, her son lives down there, and the young lady we hired to live-in with Pam is flat-out remarkable.

But I was still sick.

Our last night together in a Windemere Hotel room was not comfortable for me. Separate beds, thankfully, but no good sleep. Around 3:30 a.m., I stained the sheets. Around 4:00 a.m., I vomited a little. I loaded up on anti-diarrhea medication and headed out of town around 5:30 a.m.

This is a run I’ve made dozens of times, maybe scores. Every mile of the route is memorized. At mile marker 200, first stop: The Petro Truck Stop. Fuel up, buy some new music CDs, grab a Dr. Pepper and a wrapped sandwich, and head out. So far so good.

Five miles later…not so good. The huge, oversized tire on the passenger side rear of the Class B motorhome blew out.

I parked on the shoulder, well out of the traffic lanes, but then discovered the van’s four-way flasher does not work. Oops. It was a struggle for a while, though thankfully the weather was warm and sunny. My little bottle jack lifted the axle okay…but not far enough. Well, okay, I’d need to hammer apart the boards making up the cage that protected Pam’s power scootie on the way south, then use a bunch of the two-by-fours to “two step” the little bottle jack. But first, let’s see about loosening the lug nuts a wee bit.

Oops again. Didn’t know my own strength; I literally ripped a 13/16″ Craftsman deep well socket into pieces!

Oh. That one was a thin walled socket designed for spark plugs. My bad. But surely I had another 13/16″ socket with me…gr-r-r! Couldn’t find it!

So I called 911, they bucked me to the Highway Patrol, and a very nice patrolman came out to help me. By the time he got there, I’d found the “missing” socket and was making progress. Everything proceeded slowly but according to plan…until we got to the spare tire mounted on the back of the van. Two carriage bolts were supposed to be solid for that mount, but both of them cocked and spun when they shouldn’t have. In the end, if the Patrolman hadn’t been there to help, I’d never have gotten that spare loose.

He was looking a little antsy by that time, though. “Donut time?” I asked.

“Time to get rid of that coffee,” he admited.

Following his directions, I was back mobile again. Drove up to the next exit, looped back to the 194 mile marker exit, and drove down into Casa Grande…to Discount Tire. Turned out the blowout was not repairable; the hole in the tire was too big. I’d driven over a bolt or some such. But these were aggressive snow tires; I was open to putting new shoes on the entire van, which they did. Cooper brand, my favorite.

And away-y-y we went, 4 1/2 hours lost but a great set of rubber gained, and I’d eaten a really good rib eye steak at Chili’s while I was waiting. At this point, I was feeling pretty good.

Until Flagstaff, where I discovered a shredded driver side tire on the little cargo trailer. Changed that one in the rain. Stopped by Home Depot to buy two more 13/16″ sockets (can’t have too many of those) and a floor jack, which will make the next flat easier to change. If there is a “next flat.” The replaced trailer tires were a super cheap brand, too much sidewall flex, may simply have overheated. The Goodyear tires on there now are 8 ply rating with stiff sidewalls; they should hold up.

Curiously, both tire shops were Discount Tire locations…and both salesmen who helped me were named Adam. They even looked a lot alike. Go figure.

Five hundred miles from my starting point, at Page, Arizona, I pulled over for the night and got some sleep. Five hours worth…followed by more than one explosive trip to the little motor home’s toilet. More anti-diarrhea meds, plenty of intermittent cramping.

Saturday was pure hell. Go, stop, go in toilet. Go, stop, go in toilet. I had that thing completely full by the time I got home around 8:00 p.m. Saturday evening. At one stop, Ike’s 66 Truck Stop at Dubois, Idaho, I was on the john in the men’s restroom when I realized I was shaking-shuddering-shivering like crazy. I did not dare drive like that, so hit the rack for another hour…followed by, yes, hitting the toilet.

Pam and I–and Chaty, of course–are very much in touch by cell phone. She’s mostly resting today, per Chaty’s recommendation, though she hasn’t remained emergency-free. On Saturday, she called to say the pill safe batteries were dead and I’d forgotten to leave her the backup key, which I had. Fortunately, Zach (her son) came over to her place, gave the safe a sharp smack like the Fonz bullying the jukebox, and it started working again. Turned out the cover plate inside the safe had disappeared–don’t ask me how–so Zach simply duct taped the batteries in place.

Crisis averted.

Pam and I tend to “read” signs given to us by the Universe. Our physical separation, as you can see, pretty much tore me a new one–but the “signs” indicate clearly we’re doing the right thing. After all, the entire van-trailer combo was equipped with brand new shoes within hours after we activated said separation. In other words, we’ve upgraded “everywhere the rubber meets the road.” That’s awesome.

Bonus goodie: With Pammie not here to object, I now get to drive the 1970 Chevy Impala. Now, if I can only heal up enough to really enjoy that.