Accumulating too much


Right or wrong, many adults tend to measure their happiness by how much stuff they accumulate, but in later life, I think it’s just the opposite. Today Mary, my mother-in-law, is happily living with a few prized possessions in a 400-square-foot room in an assisted-living facility. Last year her home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, she was living in the facility at the time. Early next year her house will be leveled and a new one built in its place. Before demolition can begin, the two-story duplex with a detached garage has to be cleaned out. This will be no easy task because Mary had an issue with saving things. She was employed as a domestic worker and often her clients would offer her things. Mary never said no. The garage, basement and downstairs are cluttered with bags and bags of clothes for all ages, heavy-duty tools, portable air conditioners, beds, chairs, end tables, televisions, dishes galore, linens, multiple garbage cans, extra wood, wheelbarrows,...

Lawn sprinklers and Alzheimer’s


Our lawn sprinkler has always given us trouble. My husband tells me it has something to do with the manifolds, the things that have electrical wires connecting the faucet to the valves that control each sprinkler station. I guess if it weren’t for a faulty manifold though, we would not have discovered until much later that my father-in-law, Danny, had Alzheimer’s. Danny was a licensed electrician. Before retirement, he worked for Fort Monmouth Army base in New Jersey. When my husband and I were first married, Danny helped us renovate our 80-year-old fixer-upper in Red Bank, N.J. He was so handy. He helped Peter install 18 windows in our home over one long weekend. We installed a brand-new bathroom together. So when Danny and his wife, Mary, came from New Jersey to visit us in California for a few weeks many years later, we assembled our fix-it list. Right at the top was the sprinkler system. Soon after father and son got to work on that troublesome manifold, my husband came...