BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: January, 2016

Not throwing in the towel yet

Have you ever been deep in thought and suddenly wondered how you arrived at this topic? In your mind, you backtrack through your train of thought, until you reach the originating notion. This is also how you find your way to the offending thought, whenever you find yourself in a depression sequence.

In recent days, I’ve been thinking about dementia, aging, even dying. What brought this on – why would I ruminate over something so sad and unavoidable? (The aging part, at least, is unavoidable. Oh, and the dying.) I’ve realized that I have a tendency towards displacement or is it internalizing? For example, I visit my mother and I see how much she is declining and I begin to think that I am declining as well. I notice that I am having more and more difficulty expressing myself, finding the phrase or word that I want to say. Inside my head, I begin to panic. I see my mother’s face and hear her voice from two or three years ago and think, “Oh no! It’s happening to me too!”

When I find a clear and quiet place, I can sort through the reality. I am not my mother and my trajectory of decline is not in her jet stream. I don’t have dementia – I have normal memory function for someone my age. I don’t have to like it but there it is (and that scenario is much better than the alternative!)

I’ve also realized that part of the reason that I have difficulty talking is that I don’t talk very much. I am alone a lot and most of my communication is in my own head. When I am with friends or family, I realize that I don’t have much to talk about – since I retired, I don’t have the usual “things at work” to discuss. I tend to listen more, I always have. Best way to combat that is to read, write and talk more. Try to learn something new. Expand the thinking process and expound on it. More importantly, stop ruminating about the bleak possibilities.

We do not fear the unknown. We fear what we think we know about the unknown.    Teal Swan

He’s scary

Speaking of being afraid…what about Donald?

I am not one to get into political debates. In fact, I abhor election years and the years leading up to election years. I try to avoid hearing or thinking about any of the rhetoric.

First of all, how in the hell can you ever really know what is true, which candidate is “real”? You can read a million different articles and watch a million different news programs – but we all know that the information we are given is spun long before we receive it. An educated vote? Is there such a thing? You have to spin the wheel and hope for the best.

Second of all, watching all of the debates, interviews, reviews, political advertisements, makes my head itch and I lose interest at the first commercial. To be honest, eventually I become apathetic and easily distracted. The thought of throwing in a load of laundry or watching an installment of “Lost” (note the irony) becomes much more enticing. Watching and listening to election promises and back stabbing makes me feel a little nauseous and a whole lot of anxiety. So, I avoid it when I can.

Even with as limited exposure as I’ve had, Donald Trump scares me. I just can’t imagine he would actually get elected but then I read that he is “gaining popularity”. WHAT?

I decided to google Donald Trump to have some examples of his “quotes” for this blog but reading through them made me crazy! Here is a link if you’re interested. Suffice it to say, he is not an eloquent or caring man. HOWEVER, as I read all of the quotes and surfed through the numerous sites opposing his bid for president – I also reminded myself that THIS is  propaganda as well. (Although, I have seen him on newsreels and heard him say many things that were totally inappropriate, even for an asshole. Yes, even though I don’t pay very close attention to the election, I can tell the difference between a reasonable candidate and an unreasonable one.) Here is a quote from another website which gives a logical explanation to what Trump is trying to do:

Much of the reaction to Donald Trump’s call “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” casts him as a cynical populist who is simply supplying the sorts of proposals an Islamophobic electorate demands. By this view, we’re learning about the ugly side of America. But economics offers a different and arguably more optimistic lens for interpreting Mr. Trump’s statement. And it suggests that his statement is less a calculated attempt at feeding a demand for bigotry and more an effort to fuel the hunger for authenticity.  Here’s the crucial idea: It’s not that the American electorate is looking for prejudiced policies. Rather, it’s tired of career politicians and is looking for a leader who breaks the mold. I’m not sure exactly what it is that people are looking for, but let’s call it authenticity. Every politician could claim to be “authentic,” but the truth is, we know that most of them are just saying that to get our vote. This is where the economic theory of signaling comes in. How can you convince voters that you are in fact the real deal — a trustworthy person who speaks his mind — rather than yet another poll-driven politico? The answer is that you do something that a poll-driven politico would never do, such as making a statement that will alienate many voters. Mr. Trump’s call is outrageous, and it’s politically risky. But that riskiness can be a feature, not a bug. It’s devised to make you infer that he’s not like other politicians.   Justin Wolfers – “Forget Trump’s Noise: Here’s What He’s Signaling

Is it working? Are “we” believing that he is a little “off” but at least he’s honest and “authentic”? For some, I think it is. Scary and sad, but true. The truth is: what are our options? Some election years, you have to pick the best of the worst.

Winning

Dementia really scares me. Is it hereditary? What are the chances that I will get dementia? Some days, I worry that it has already begun.

I have always had a great memory. Small details were my forte – dates, times, places. In my 20’s and 30’s, I never needed to write anything down. Appointments for me or my kids, I wouldn’t even need to put on the calendar, I could JUST remember! Now – if I don’t write it down, it is gone. I have to write down passwords, appointments, phone numbers. Of course, having a smart phone doesn’t help. It remembers everything that I used to remember all on my own! (Thank goodness!)

I have never been very good at remembering names, but now? I’m horrible – even the names of people I SHOULD know (second cousins)! Is this a sign of things to come? There are also times when I have trouble finding the right word. It isn’t a matter of needing a thesaurus – it is a matter of being mid-sentence and losing a SIMPLE word to describe what I’m trying to say! I forget parts of conversations. I forget doing things. Is this the beginnings of dementia or just your standard aging? I don’t know but I am afraid, very afraid.

What can be done about it? I can work harder at remembering – or can I? Some things I can – if I make the effort, I can remember phone numbers and dates. I just have to say it out loud a few times. I can work on focusing a little more. (I’m sure my mom thought the same thing in her early days of dementia…)

IF it is inevitable, then I really need to start enjoying myself now, don’t I?

If I get dementia, dear friends and family, please don’t despair. I knew it was possible – I had an inkling that it was coming. I hereby give you permission to put me in a memory care facility when the time comes. Put me in “undergarments” (better known as adult diapers) if I need them. I pray that in my final days I will still have my laughter and a good sense of humor. If my personality changes and I get mean – don’t put up with it. I don’t want that to be your last memory of me. You have my permission to NOT come to visit if it is too hard. Short visits are perfectly fine – I won’t remember if you’ve been there 5 minutes or 20. Eventually, I won’t remember if you have been there at all.

Wow. Just the thought of it is very sad, isn’t it? Horrifying, more like, for me anyway.

To quote Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.” I think we all face that fogbank at one time or another. The one that makes us realize things aren’t going to go on forever. We are mortal. We begin a review of our lives, kind of like reviewing for a final exam. We realize the important things we don’t know and all the useless things we do know. If we are wise, we begin to let go of that string – the one that can tangle up our feet and cause us to trip. We stop looking for that big lotto win, the perfect goal, the glory road. We will look to the smaller victories, silly things like a good day with a grandchild, a nice conversation with your child, an old friend or a sibling. The good days of warmth and comfort. The winning is in the day to day living.

The cursor blinks

For those of you who are writers – you can relate – sitting before the computer in the wee morning hours, it is dark outside, the house is quiet. The ideal conditions for writing. Nothing. Just word vomit. Delete, delete, delete and the cursor blinks…

My mind wanders through memories of taking my oldest daughter to one of her many ear surgeries. I think about how hard that was – to release her to the nurses and to watch that bed wheeled down the hall, away from my protecting shield. I think about the four times I dropped my kids at their college dorms. My heart begins to ache and the tears threaten to disperse at the edge of my eyelids. Those were difficult days; the first day of school, the first day at a new babysitter, the first bus ride, the first date, the first boyfriend/girlfriend.

You re-live those days again with your grandchildren, but it isn’t quite as difficult. You have a better understanding of the process, you realize the angst isn’t a necessary function – it is optional.

I honestly never realized how deeply I love my children until they became adults. Hard to fathom that I didn’t fully comprehend my feelings until then. When you are in the midst of their childhood, there are so many other “things” to think about, to keep in order. For me, there was also an element of fear that prevented me from opening that door. It was a fear of the heavy responsibility. I always questioned my ability to be a parent so I tried not to think about the full scope of parenting lest I panic and run for the hills. I would deflect the fear and keep it at bay, just power through the day to day.

I look back at those days and see how inept I felt, especially in the beginning. But I also see a determined young woman. I read a lot of parenting books. I constantly watched my children for queues – always alert and prepared to step in if necessary. I know that there were missteps along the way but I also know, especially now, that I had my moments. I had days when I was spot-on as a mom. I can’t think of any particular examples, but my children are great human beings so there had to have been those days…

As I begin watching my children as they become parents – I see my own reflection. They have fears, they want to do what is best, they question their abilities, they love with their whole being. They may think of running but they never do. Most of us don’t.

Happy 81st

Today is my mom’s 81st birthday. My sister will bring her cupcakes. We will wish her a happy birthday. I don’t know if she will remember what a birthday signifies.

I once asked her what kind of celebration her family had for birthdays. She said, “Not much”. And it is hard to celebrate now. This day certainly holds no exceptional meaning to her. It is a day like any other.

My mother was a proud woman. She was strong in her faith. She loved her grandchildren and children. Always a champion for the downtrodden, she would help anyone in need, as best she could.

She loved her job at the post office. It made her feel important and kept her brain active. She knew everyone’s address or box number and was very proud of that fact. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that she still remembers some of them.

What I miss most about losing her to dementia is her laugh. She loved to play games and would start laughing at something silly – laughing until she cried. It was a contagious laugh. She could be very stoic, almost cranky. But on a good day, she could be pleasant and fun. That is the woman I miss.

Flannel and Suspenders

On this date 14 years ago, my father passed away. I received the call from my mother in the middle of the night, my husband answered the phone. Mom said we should come in right away. Dad had been taken to surgery for the umteenth time. I prayed all the way to the hospital.

I was met at the ER entrance by an acquaintance who worked at the hospital. She escorted me to a conference room where my mother informed me that he was gone. The surgeon was in the conference room and he was actually in tears. He said they tried everything but when they repaired one leaking blood vessel another sprung loose. They just couldn’t save him.

It was very surreal. We waited at the hospital for my sisters to arrive, then went to his room to say our final goodbye. He looked as though he was sleeping. His mouth was open, as it often was when he was in a deep sleep. I touched his arm and it was cool to the touch but not quite cold.

He had been in the hospital for about a month. The original surgery was a valve replacement for his heart in the beginning of December. The first few days after his surgery went very well. He felt better than he had in a very long time. But then his incision began to seep and he became ill. He returned to the hospital with a staph infection and never recovered.

Our family held vigil in the waiting room of the ICU. We ate, slept, crocheted, laughed, talked, cried in that room. It was a long month of multiple surgeries and lots of medication, trying to stave off the infection. One day the news from the operating room was positive, the next it was not. It was a rollercoaster month for all of us.

Even though that month was spent watching him deteriorate, it was also spent together as a family. It was forced down time where our only option was talk to each other, reminisce, hope and pray for a future with the man we all cherished. Despite the reason for our “confinement” in that waiting room, it was a very special time – a time that I will treasure. In a way, it was a means for preparing ourselves for his passing though we may not have known it at the time.

My dad held our family together. Each of us held a special place in his heart and he, in ours. Because we cared so deeply for him, we would do whatever would make him happy, which meant being together. That was his only real wish, that his family be strong and caring, that we remain connected. Without him as the central core, our family has wavered. We aren’t as close as he wanted us to be – we still see each other and do things together during the holidays and on other rare occasions, but not like we would have with him at the helm. It happens to the best of families.

If my dad were still alive today, he would be 83 years old. I often wonder what he would be like today, how he would have dealt with the physical limitations he would have had after his surgery and what he would say or think about the state of the world and of his family. I miss him. Every time I see an older man in a flannel shirt and suspenders, or when someone wears a hat cocked off to the side, or if I see a tannish gold Ford truck like his – my heart skips a beat and for just a hair of a second, I forget that he is gone.

In their eyes

Chet Wheaks. That is what my older daughter called Wheat Chex when she was a little girl. She also had an imaginary friend called “Darwee”. (Which we later discovered was actually “diarrhea”).

My older son used to say “Oh my Cow” which was a cross between Holy Cow and Oh my Gosh. His favorite movie at a very young age was “The Outlaw Josey Wales”. (it didn’t occur to us, at the time, that it might be a little too bloody and violent. Mostly, he just like it because of the “cowboys”).

My younger daughter used to call my mother Gwagwee instead of grandma. She called her little brother “boy” and watched over him always even though he was only a year younger. (Still does).

My younger son was obsessed with his teacher in preschool – not that he was in love with her but she was his main focus of comparison. “My teacher has a boat”, “My teacher can sing”, “My teacher is a good driver” — his teacher had everything and could do anything.

Those were the days.

My grandson’s were all at our house for the holidays. It was so wonderful. They are cute and smart and funny. They have big eyes, puffy hair and vivid imaginations. The oldest told us that next year he is going to leave Santa something more than just a cookie because he really needs his energy. The younger two aren’t talking yet but they can giggle and cuddle.

It was a very fun holiday for me. It always feels so good to have all of my kids under the same roof (no matter how old they are) and the grandkids? Well, that’s just gravy!

I’m sure I’ve spoken of this before but I remember being so frazzled, tired and overwhelmed a lot of the time when my own kids were little. I wish I had taken more time to listen and play. At the time, I couldn’t wait for them to grow up so they could be more independent and so I could have more time to myself. When my youngest left home 7 years go (I can’t believe it has been that long) and my empty nest arrived, I remember missing their toddler years the most. I would peruse the photo albums of their childhood – trying to grab hold of those fleeting memories.

The funny thing is that people who were older (probably about my current age) used to tell me to enjoy this time because I would miss it. And I KNEW that would be true. But there was just so much to keep track of, so many plates in the air, I let go of the string and the balloon slowly floated away.

I’m happy to have photographs because I could never rely on my memory. We have some home videos too that are very precious to me.

I now fully understand why being a grandparent is so phenomenal. You have the time to cherish every moment – you can play as much as you want because you have no deadlines – no other pressing matters to attend to… You can just sit and listen to them talking, take long sauntering walks with them, or rock them until they are in a deep sleep, or take a nap WITH them. They believe everything you say and they come to you when they need something. You can FEEL their love in every hug and giggle. And most of all, when you look in their eyes, you see that deep love and trust that your own children have grown beyond.

The good old days

2016 – It just occurred to me that I graduated from high school 40 years ago. I’m baffled. It just doesn’t seem possible that it has been that long!

In 1976, I was a very immature 17 year old. My senior year, I was just beginning to feel a little confidence and it was my best year of high school. Frankly, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to those days.

I was a gangly, goofy girl, with long legs, poor posture and very small breasts. I had no fashion style because my family had no money for such frivolity. I owned one pair of hand-me-down jeans that I LOVED and wore almost every day. I had an older sister who was “cool” so I borrowed her clothes, when she allowed it.

This was the period of the Farrah Fawcett “flip” hairstyle.

I could never quite achieve that flip – (not many of us could, but we tried).  Most of us ended up with this odd flip around our faces, similar to the Viking horns or something like this…

Notice the large glasses, I also had those in the late 1980’s.

The style of the times (late 70’s, early 80’s) was wide legged jeans and short tops. Here are is a photo of the “hash star jeans” – high wasted and wide legs and VERY expensive – for the day.  They came in many varieties and prices, all with a “star” on the back pockets. If I remember correctly, the cheapest pair was $50 – that was a LOT for a starving student. I think I had one pair – again, that I wore most days while in college.

Luckily, for me, bib overalls (or farmer pants) were also the rage. They were much cheaper and we naively believed they hid the extra pounds!  NOT.

 

Enough about the fashion of the day…
In the summer of 76, I got my braces off – finally! I also decided at the last minute to go to college. My mom helped me fill out the paperwork and in September, I took off in my brother’s white ford pickup – heading for what was then, Western Montana College. I cried most of the way. Missed the turn at the interchange just outside of Butte, Montana and had to turn around. Cried some more. I arrived in the early evening and had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. More tears.

Even so, my college days were some of the best (and worst) days. I learned a lot, though I never finished my degree. It was my first time out – away from home, on my own. I felt good and scared and free and trapped – all at the same time. I learned I possessed some strength and that I was also pretty naive in the ways of the world and had a LOT more to learn. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be – if only I had never started skipping classes and partying so much. Drowning my sorrows over a lost boyfriend. Ugh. Silly girl.

I would pay money to go back to those college days – but only if I could take my current knowledge with me. I spent so much time adrift. If I knew then what I know now….