The Family

The Hike – Birthday hike with Barry and the kids

After I finished my hike at Gooseberry Falls State Park, I drove up to Lutsen for my fall birthday hike with the entire family. The kids had rented a condo at Caribou Highlands overlooking Moose Mountain. Kelly, Brian and granddaughter Charlotte were there when I arrived. We did a short hike down to the base of Moose Mountain where years earlier Barry and I had watched countless ski races in 30 degrees below zero weather.

We decided to have dinner up at the hotel, a short walk from the condo. As we ordered, the boys arrived with Barry. They had a good trip with Barry jammed into the back seat. All Barry could say when he arrived was that Mike drove too fast. Since Barry’s FTD dementia was taking over his brain, he didn’t contribute to the dinner conversation but seemed really happy to be there with us.

That night, we divvied up rooms and decided to put Barry on the pull-out couch. It seemed to make sense because he announced at dinner that he would not be hiking with us the next day. That night he wandered a bit but went back to bed each time I told him to.

Nice to have adult children

After a wonderful breakfast made by Brian (an excellent cook), we headed out to Oberg Mountain. Brian had done a trail race at Lutsen last year and was really excited to show us his favorite section of the 30-mile race. Barry seemed perfectly happy to stay in the condo watching a soccer game on TV. I told him to call me if he needed anything. At this point, Barry still had his phone. Although within a month, he would be unable to figure it out. For now, however, he had the TV, his phone and a comfy couch.

So off we went feeling like all would be okay! At the trailhead right off Highway 61 about five miles north of Tofte, we put Charlotte in her new pack on Brian’s back and set out. Oberg Trail is easy and has some of the best views of any of my hikes so far. We all laughed and reminisced about fun trips we had taken as a family. There was the standing joke that I always tried to get them to go on a hike. But we usually had to turn back because of all the complaining. No one ever wanted to hike! But now here we were hiking! It’s so nice to have adult children.

Barry goes missing

In about an hour, we got to the top, took photos and headed back down. As we drove to the condo, I noticed that I had five missed calls because there was no cell service up on the mountain. All five messages were from Barry saying that he was heading to the hotel to shower. But we had three showers in the condo. This did not sound good.
hot tubing
When we got back, the TV was on, the door was open and there was no Barry. I ran up to the hotel where I noticed the lady at the front desk looking a bit frantic on the phone. Somehow I knew that call concerned us, but didn’t stop as I rushed to the pool area where I thought maybe Barry had gone to shower in the men’s locker room. But no Barry!

Naked in the hot tub

Then Kelly called saying the lady at the front desk just called the condo to tell us they found Barry in the hotel hot tub — naked! As I ran back to the desk, I was sure that I was in big trouble — but everyone was nice. The manager said he could tell something was wrong with Barry, and that he came out of the hot tub with no problem when asked to. So there was no need to call the police; and there were no families in the pool area at the time so no worries. However, part of me wanted to report this to the police so I could take it to the county and say – SEE, THIS MAN NEEDS SERVICES.  At the time, I was still trying to get Barry on medical assistance to afford help with his care!

I found Barry sitting with one of the maids in the stairwell with his pants on, but no shirt. I got his shirt on and asked him what he was thinking? He said simply, “I wanted to take a hot tub.”

Few laughs with FTD

Back at the condo, everyone was relieved when I walked in with Barry. Kelly looked she was going to cry and the boys were worried we might be kicked out of the condo. But then thinking about Barry naked in the hot tub, we all started to laugh. Even Barry laughed. It was the first time laughter and FTD went together and it felt good!

After lunch and Charlotte’s nap, we hiked up to Mount Leveaux, which was Hike 22 in my count of 60. THIS TIME BARRY CAME ALONG! With FTD, Barry’s walking has become a shuffle so it was not easy for him. But he did it — all the time asking, “Are we done yet?” It was just like the kids complaining when they were little.

Voicemail love story

As I was making dinner that night after what we were calling “the incident,” Barry asked Pat to help him call Mom. Pat said, “Mom is right here, you don’t need to call her.” Barry replied, “But I want to call her and tell her I love her.” So Pat dialed my number and Barry said I love you. I let it go into voicemail to keep forever. The kids all stopped to listen as Barry called, and I was so thankful for that one
moment we could all share. It was worth the drive and Barry’s naked soak in the hot tub!

That night, we put Barry in a bedroom of his own, and at 5 a.m. he took a shower — this time in the condo.

Find information on the two trails at http://www.northshorevisitor.com/hiking-trails/lutsen.html

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  1. Lisa Erickson says:

    Happy Birthday, Nancy and hugs and prayers for all of you

  2. Lisa Ventura Olson says:

    How bittersweet! Keeping your family in my prayers

  3. Making memories–that’s what family is all about. Courage!

  4. Shannon Smead Samuels says:

    Aw, Nancy, I love how your husband wanted to call you and tell you he loved you…and how you let it go into vm to save. What a precious moment for all of you to share together. xo

  5. Maryanne says:

    I’m in tears again. I really miss Barry.

  6. Caroline Ryan Gibbs says:

    Nancy–I just came across your blog by an acquaintance sharing. A former co-worker, Heidi Nelson, just told me about Barry. He was my first agency job and I worked on some of your things. Always found you so talented and a delightful couple. Sorry to hear of your troubles. I just lost my dad to dementia five weeks ago. He would have been 84 this month so I can only guess how cheated you might feel right now. Enjoy and laugh at the ironic humor of some moments when you can. I will keep you in my prayers.

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