Oh Lorde!

10 05 2015

Maybe by the end of today there won’t be any more TV ads for charm bracelets, twinkling diamonds, perfumes with weird story lines in the sixty second mini-movies or yet ANOTHER “One Day!” sale at Macy’s. You’d have to be living under a rock to miss Mother’s Day. None of those things will be part of Ggma’s day. Not happening.

lordeThe highlight of her week was the much anticipated birth of HRH Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Thanks to the CNN loop, she was surprised time and time and time again with the long awaited news. At one point I had to explain that the Royals weren’t here in the States but that those cameras were taking pictures of them in England.

Her day usually winds down about the time that the network evening news is finishing up. On occasion she’ll push the envelope and still be watching when the programming switches to entertainment gossip.

Criminently!” was her assessment of Jay Z and Queen B’s arrival at the Met Gala. Ggma only likes certain Royals.

Before dawn on Friday I had two important things to grab at the grocery store before she was out of bed: milk and magazines. I figured one of the dozen or so at the check out aisle would have that new little princess’s sweet face on it. I scored TWO! I didn’t expect her to do more than hone in on those particular pages but she pretty much had her nose buried in those pages all day long. I had to pry them from her grip to set her night time pills, ham sandwich and a few chips in front of her at the end of the day on Saturday.

Ggma: “Is there any way you could possibly find another copy of this magazine?”

me: “Why?”

Ggma: “Well, I’d love to have one of my own to keep.”

me: “I bought those for you.”

Ggma: “Oh,really?”

me: “Happy Mother’s Day a day early!”

Ggma: “OH THAT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.”

She went on to tell me that she’d add them to the articles from the newspaper that Billy was keeping. (Whoa – where did THAT come from??) Translated: I bought her a couple of commemorative magazines when Prince George was born two years ago that have become a precious commodity not to be misplaced or thrown away. Billy’s newspaper collection days quit seven years ago in August.

Earlier in the week, I asked her if she remembered celebrating Mother’s Day with her dear Georgia. She supposed that she had made some things at school like Donny Diva did for Shop Girl this week. Those memories are so vague save for the summer of her 14th year when her mother died so suddenly and unexpectedly. rac Without warning the only daughter became a very young “mother” to her dad and three brothers and demented paternal grandmother. So, like others doing their own grief work on this day – mothers buried too soon, others wrestling with the sad reality that they long to have children wondering if that will ever come true, or who’s moms have been emotionally or physically absent or abusive – there is yet another sense of loss. The one I live with and watch fade away right before my eyes. Who’s to say how many more Mother’s Days we will celebrate together – I sure don’t know. As far as Ggma is concerned, this year I gave her an exceptional gift. Each and every one of these long strange days together now will be a gift to me in the future. I’ll treat her like Queen G today.

“And we’ll never be royals (royals).
It don’t run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz
Let me be your ruler (ruler),
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule.
Let me live that fantasy.”





Ggma Reviews Airbnb

27 04 2015

Last summer Best Boy bought the Dr. a big toy for his birthday – a “mid-life” motorcycle. Two safety courses and MDOT endorsement secured had us planning a week long trek mid-September from LA up the Cali coast on the Pacific Coast Highway-Route 1 and back down via Yosemite and the Mojave. The guys on their bikes with Mimi and me in their GTI (chase vehicle), we were off. IMG_0027IMG_0028-1

This adventure will be recounted eventually but for now it’s just to set the scene. I was going to be MIA for a bit. Ggma was all set-up safe and sound tucked in at TOH (The Old Homestead).  Meanwhile we were exploring abodes via Airbnb. Each one of the places we stayed had a unique charm.

Airbnb isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – opening a home to complete strangers or being the stranger inhabiting someone else’s space. Nightly, with great expectation we’d drive up to an address, secure the keys and play house. There were a few places we wanted to pocket the keys and become squatters while others weren’t more than a lay-over for our weary heads – glad to move on down the road after a few hours rest. Nothing was so scary or strange to make us want to pack up and leave.

Surprise sleeping arrangements weren’t much of a stretch for Best Boy, the Dr. and me. In our previous life, it was called a furlough. An ironic term -“furlough”. The standard scenario was a missionary family would report to churches that had financially invested in them (you know Return On Investment and reporting to the shareholders type of thing). I think we had 30 churches to visit. Typically we were hosted in parishioner’s homes. I shudder as I write those words. 99% of the meals and accommodations were perfectly lovely encounters (especially if you, dear reader, happened to have hosted us at some point). But that 1% is like gravel imbedded in a leg after laying a motorcycle down on a curve – too painful to dig out every last piece and just barely visible under the skin so as to never be forgotten. Again, I go on record to declare I have writing material for years to come as this is way cheaper than any therapy.

It takes some serious chops to continually be in someone else’s personal space and not go bonkers. An overnight might not be long enough to notice things that would be a complete creep out. Since being hosted was part of our lifestyle, we had zero reservations about letting others use our apartments in Spain (yes, plural because we lived in five places in a little over a decade). If we were Stateside for the summer visiting those churches, our empty place was open to house travelers with co-workers managing the bookings. Sometimes guests would leave behind thoughtful hostess gifts. One in particular was  unforgettable and left in the most interesting place – peeking out from under a bookshelf in our bedroom – a hot pink thong. Honeymooners. ’nuff said.

Back to the story at hand. Having returned from the West Coast, I went to catch up with Ggma and immediately assessed she was no longer comfortable with any kind of absence on my part. We were at another fork in the road. By December, with nasty weather threatening our doorsteps, a new plan was improvised. Ggma would now be “riding in a sidecar”.  She’s in our space at the Money Pit or I’m in her space at The Old Homestead.

After about two months journeying on this new path during an extended stay at the Money Pit she asked,

“Where’s the lady who owns this house?”

“Well, the Dr. & I own this house.”

She scowled at me with that look like I was lying through my teeth. Clearly we were having one of those moments. This can’t be fixed.  This can only be managed. This I know: in her eyes, at that moment, I couldn’t possibly be the owner of the Money Pit and she wanted a word with whoever was in charge.

“Well, (with a tone of disgust) I am ITCHING to get at that filthy front window I’m staring at all day!!”

Distraction is the best course of action to move us along this road to ruin. Trying to go over the fine points of the family tree is futile. I had opened the drapes and sheers so that she could enjoy a clear view as she monitors the comings and goings of UPS, FedEx, USPS, garbage trucks, day-care drop offs and pick ups across the street, and oh, yeah – school buses. I hear it all. She’s got an eagle eye on when school is out and those kids are running hither thither and yon – when they aren’t wearing jackets and they should be headed indoors to get at their homework.

mcscWith a subtle move, simultaneously opening the front door to grab the mail,

the sheers were drawn shut.

Out of sight. Out of mind. End of discussion.

But this place where she’s staying – whoever owns it – needs a housekeeper.

Her Airbnb rating: Two stars…maybe.





Mama said there’d be days like this…

20 04 2015

There are times that I really think that I’m getting agoraphobic…or truth be told I’m just a lazy caregiver.  I’m now living the reality that was my standard advice for new moms,     “If your teeth get brushed before noon – it’s a good day.”  Or I am suffering from Stockholm Syndrome – Ggma doesn’t complain any more if she’s in her pjs all day – why should I be any different?

A friend’s darling daughter included my name on the list of well-wishers for a surprise 60th birthday party for her mom.  We were high school friends that had reconnected after decades of radio silence. Panic set in immediately. I rarely go public.  At least, this kind of public.  My kind of public is my ghetto grocery store where they only know me with my unruly witch worthy mane yanked up on the top of my head.  I pulled off a miraculous appointment at a “shi shi la la” (Best Boy vocabulary) salon where I’m sure they thought I was a homeless woman who’d found a gracious patron to invest in a make-over.  The salon girls kept looking for the hidden cameras to pop out for the before/after money shots for a human interest story to be aired on local news at noon. Sorry girls. No cameras.  It was just me trying to get my act together in one small way. That at least made me feel like I’d be somewhat presentable for this crowd of sophisticated strangers.

My real insecurities go back to high school with this group.  In 7th grade, we’d moved from a very URBAN Gary IN to a very SUBURBAN Valparaiso.  Billy was blue collar – I mean really blue collar since his work shirt was blue.  Their dads were suits: school administrators and factory, restaurant and radio station owners.  Ggma worked for ten years as an administrative assistant to a foreman in one of those factories.  Another friend’s dad gave me my first of many restaurant kitchen jobs.

The appointed time to head out to the party had come and Ggma was all set up for me to be gone two hours.  She had my phone number plopped on her lap, though not actually sure she would have known the difference between the TV remote or the phone but she had the number and was very glad that I had friends who wanted to see me.

I entered the packed house, ducked my head and headed to the back of the room to await the moment of the surprise and find the one or two other familiar faces I knew would be there.  Someone yelled my name and I was embraced by birthday girl’s older sister who I’d not laid eyes on since 1971 or so. There were a few more of those reunions before the bday girl arrived. Surprising connections, things in common I never would have imagined, and memories long forgotten – were the things tucked in my pocket when it was time to head back to Ggma.

That sneak away refreshed me in whole bunches of ways.  It forced a much needed hair cut for one. Now two days later I’m at the end of what has been just another challenging Ggma day.

“Does she have a Mom?”  I had just disconnected from a FaceTime chat with Shop Girl, Donny Diva and Littles that Ggma had enjoyed.  “What?  Who?  Shop Girl?  Yes – ME!”  That pesky family tree thing again.  “I guess I never knew that, ” her voice trailed off in confusion.

IMG_4042Again, I’m in a room and wondering

if anyone will remember who

I am…

 





Ggma’s version of Hide & Seek

30 01 2015

You’d think with all of my years of experience this would be no big deal.  Things go missing almost daily so I stop and prepare myself for getting into the “hunt mode”.  Those TV commercials about finding the wife’s keys in the fridge are such old news at this point.  At this stage we are talking about Hide & Seek v4.0.  I take my time and try not get rattled and remember it is just stuff (most of which can be easily replaced).

My chronically messed up sinuses look forward to a good bath each morning from a squeeze bottle netipot.ggmhs2 I used it yesterday – took it apart, washed it properly and left it in the sink to dry.  Or so I thought.  So this morning I microwaved the distilled water, added the saline mix and went to screw on the top…and…suddenly the top was MIA.  I had seen it during the day yesterday hadn’t I?  I looked in all the places I thought it could have gotten on its own – then I switched gears.  Freezer?  All kitchen drawers?  Bathroom?  Floor?  Garbage?  Under the microwave?  It was about an hour’s worth of hide and seek before I decided to just consider it another one of those mysterious vanishing things that will some day all be revealed.

My last resort is always to ask. Ggma gave me that blank stare like I was talkin’ gibberish…”What?  The black tip to a squeeze bottle with a straw kind of thing attached to it?  What?”  #($*0)@#%#&2 is what she heard.

Then I noticed the two week old wilting arrangement of birthday flowers.  Daily she will pull out whatever looks past gone, add more water and enjoy it for yet another day.  She’d moved it off the kitchen table yesterday when I was out picking up her prescriptions and put it on another surface.  I stepped closer.  Tucked into the lovely last days of the arrangement was exactly what I expected to find…ggmhs1





squinting in a fog

6 08 2010

12We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

The Message / Eugene Peterson / 1 Corinthians 13

Squinting in a fog.  I grew up hearing it “peering through a glass, darkly.”

After a Friday night wedding the Dr. and I had attended a few weeks ago, I decided to light the candles that reside in the fireplace during the warmer months and just sit quietly for a bit before pretending to sleep.  At the back of the grouping is a mirror and when I grabbed my camera just for fun, I toyed with capturing some reflections in that dark glass.

Those words quoted above are at the end of one of the most used portions of the Bible spoken at wedding ceremonies and this June and July between the Mrs.’ social calendar and ours – I’ve heard it in a couple of different recitations.  We all know those words so well that even the most casual knowledge of the sacred texts would be able to do a fair job quoting it.  The whole, “Love is this, love is that, love isn’t this and love isn’t that…,” is what  everyone knows.  But the words that come a little further down the page have caught my attention.  “We don’t see things clearly yet…”

Seated with the Mrs. at a banquet table last month, I must have explained a half a dozen times that the little fork nestled at the top of the dinner plate would be used for our cake later that evening.  With each time she asked the same question in a little different way, I felt the others around the circle squirming in their seats.  I know there are those who wonder if I am aware of how she seems to be “slipping”.  Oh, I’m aware that you are NOT aware of the following:

The statistics are sobering:

  • More than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease today.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the 5th leading cause for those 55 and older.
  • One out of every eight people 65 and older has the disease. And for those over the age of 85, this number jumps to almost one out of every two.
  • One fourth of all home care involves care for an Alzheimer’s patient.
  • Those with Alzheimer’s Disease are three times more likely to face hospitalization and eight times more likely to need skilled nursing care.
  • 75% of care is provided by family caregivers.
  • When baby boomers reach 65 in 2011, these numbers will skyrocket and an epidemic will be upon us.

That’s right…seated at our table of 8, the majority of whom were my age, more than one of us will be in the same boat in the blink of an eye.

Squinting in a fog…is she squinting or am I?  I feel like we need to get a bit of a grip on some of the basics so that we can teach our children how we want to be treated.  Many of us in this present boat are just beginning to enjoy the new role of grandparenting.  Seeing the world through new eyes can be so entertaining – so delightful – and so tiring all at once.

I find infinite stores of patience to wrap my hands around Donny Diva’s as he’s learning to stack blocks, or grasp a spoon, but do I sigh too much when I have to bend over to help her tie her shoes or open that pesky little milk carton so she can have her lunch?  He’s not talking yet – but before I turn around twice we’ll be having conversations about any number of things.  People aren’t generally reserved when talking to pre-schoolers and usually just let the conversation flow where it might.  But I see how easily the elderly, especially those who are known to have “issues” with their memories,  get sidelined from social conversations.

Why can’t that same rule apply?  Just go with the flow.  If she wants to talk about the same thing over and over again – she really doesn’t mind because she’s not remembering it.  If time-machine memory takes her back to her own wedding – let her go there.  If she mixes up the names of the father of the groom with the grandfather of the groom with the groom, just patiently retrace the family tree for her.  It’s just conversation people, it’s not brain surgery.

In the end  – we are all squinting in the fog…thinking we have a handle on life, we have it figured out, we have our course laid out before us and we just have to get down to the business of putting our noses to the grind stone.  Reality is – that we are all squinting to see our own reflections in that dark glass.  To God, Alzheimer’s or not, none of us has a clue as to what we’re talking about.  We do not know what our futures hold.  So while I’m here trying to navigate the pea soup (that’s what Billy used to call fog), I’m going to just do what that sacred text suggests:  while I’m waiting for the completeness, I’m going to trust steadily, hope unswervingly and love extravagantly…even if it means going to more weddings.

Oh, and here’s a great article to help with your next social gathering…and you might want to put a copy on your fridge for your kids to see before you forget!





twinklin’

10 06 2010

Last Saturday, I took Donny Diva and Shop Girl down to surprise the Mrs.  I learned a long time ago that it is best not to talk about plans ahead of time so as not to disappoint if things don’t work out.  Besides, if she would have known they were in the car with me she would have gone to Ace Hardware and bought all the baby-proofing gadgets she could find.

While I did my usual duties around the house and running out to get groceries, etc., they just visited.  I don’t know who was more entertained by the whole thing – the Mrs. or Donny Diva.  The giggles and laughs were about equal when it was all said and done.  It reminded me of some of the similarities that Billy and Tractor Baby shared two years ago (you can read about that here).  Before we wrapped up our visit, Shop Girl sat down at the piano with Donny Diva on her lap.  It took him just a minute or two to get the hang of the physics lesson of action-reaction.  Suddenly he was “twinklin’ ” on the piano – that’s what Billy used to call it when Shop Girl would play.

So I guess that alot of what happens in life is that we end up where we started from.  Sometimes our hands don’t work like we want them to.  We need more naps.  Our view of the world as a whole can be limited to what is happening in our house and our most immediate surroundings.  And more often than not, social gatherings can be intimidating.  When we went to a graduation open house the other day, the best Donny Diva could do was to bury his head in a cousin’s shoulder to help him cope with all the people that wanted to kiss on his face.  Eventually he warmed up and all was fine.  It just took a few minutes.

The Mrs. feels like that too – but there was no shoulder to share.   She was at an open house on the same day and told me later that it all made her feel very lonely.  She was very aware of feeling like the “odd man out” as she puts it.  Surrounded by couples, all old friends, feeling like she didn’t belong.  She missed Billy something fierce.

Hearing about how she felt made me defensive.  It gets my ire up when we routinely plow over the elderly but would never treat a toddler that way.  We are impatient with their inability to move like they used to, their lack of desire to do what they used to or just their general state of “winding down”.  A conversation with her can jump from the 1920’s to 2010 mid-sentence and takes all kinds of special abilities to maintain sanity.  I’ll be the first to admit that  I don’t have the stamina it takes to be Donny Diva’s full time caregiver and I get equally tired when I have to deal with the Mrs. for days on end.  But none of that is like  a friend of mine who is being taxed on a moment by moment basis as she is an only child dealing with her mom’s Alzheimer’s.

So all I ask is that when you are out and about running around in your world with all your fingers working just like they are supposed to and mentally juggling a million things at once – if you find yourself in line behind someone with more gray hair than is on your head – be kind.  Be patient.  Be personal.  You may be the only person that speaks to them all day and you’ll turn around twice in life and you will be that old person.  There is no escaping that reality.  There is a new generation stepping on your heels ready to sit down to take their turn twinklin’ on the piano.





this again?

17 02 2009

dsc_00072

I’ll be the first to admit that I am often stuck in a rut when in comes to creative meals but seriously?  I know…one is the flavor of the day…and the other is an entrée but just seeing them together this way made me laugh.

Billy was a MickeyD’s kinda guy but she’s stepped it up to Culver’s.  Yes, you can tell me how bad it is for her and how she shouldn’t eat one a week – but at 82…if she wants a single deluxe…I get her a single deluxe basket with onion rings, by the way!

It was another daytrip for me – squeezing in my job as a pharmacist, supervisor of water softener salt, garbage man, accountant and grocery shopper- into just a few hours. Another task came my way unexpectedly which delayed my return trip north by a number of hours.

A week ago she had a call from a friend asking about the experience with hospice. Ruth Ann’s husband’s time at the hospital had come to an end and hospice had been suggested. The Mrs. felt good about being able to just share her perspectives on the subject.  

A couple of different times during the past week, she got in her car and drove over to the hospice center see her friend but missed her each time.  I was proud – the courage it must take to re-enter the space where she’d just said good-bye to her life partner of 60 years-to walk beside another facing the same situation. Ruth Ann’s time there with her husband only lasted a week and he died on Valentine’s Day.

So, when I walked into the house yesterday at around 11 a.m. the Mrs. was all dressed and ready to go to the viewing.  She’d mixed up the times and it wasn’t until late afternoon in a neighboring city about 15 miles away.  Anytime I think about her driving more than the 3 miles, in town-to church, I get nervous.  I just have to deep breathe and remember that I’ve lived through this before with young teen drivers a dozen years ago and can do it again. But if I can save myself one ounce of worry by taking the trip with her, I will.

The hours until the viewing were passed with lunch and my buzzing through my list of things to check on.  We got in the car and I was at her mercy to direct me to the funeral home.  She had no doubt how to get there. One of the good things is that Billy taught her to back road.  If there is a county road that goes in the same direction…it is always the preferred route.  That was some comfort knowing that she was going to be driving this route again in a few days for another outing on her busy social calendar.

She’s still sharp enough to know her way around and her directions were impeccable. I let her off at the front door, helped her inside then sat out in a parking lot watching couples in their 70’s and 80’s tetter in – along with lots of single elderly women.  I waited almost an hour before sneaking in to make sure she’d not passed out somewhere.  There she was – sitting with her famous “Lunch Bunch”…all high school friends that try to get together once a month for a gathering.  She was saddened to learn that since Billy’s death, two or three of her friends have also lost their husbands.  It’s a new club…they may all be widowed…or soon to be.  Ruth Ann – the latest inductee.

In the twenty minute ride back to her house, she told me about six different times that two or three of her friends had been widowed since Billy’s death.  I just listened and acknowledged each declaration as if it had been the first.  I knew her brain was on overload.  Then she launched into memories of Billy’s funeral – she doesn’t remember much save staring into the stoic yet tear-stained faces of her grandsons as they stood behind the flag draped coffin. And she remembers being “tickled pink” that her grandkids dragged her outside for a group picture that she cherishes with all her heart.

Our little adventure was over.  I got her back inside and settled for the night before my own return trip north as the sun was hanging low in the sky.  It had been great little detour.  More time to process.  More time to talk.  One less outing that I’ll fret over her taking the car out alone.

This week she’ll be taking those keys in her hand alot.  Today is the funeral, then she’ll skip the burial to head off to a luncheon for the seniors at church. On Thursday, she’ll drive the route we did over the country road another 15 miles to where she’ll meet one of her Lunch Bunch ladies.  They’ll carpool (with the other one driving) to a restaurant where they’ll meet up with the others. 

I’ll try and not stare at the clock all day…waiting for her call late in the afternoon and breathe a sigh of relief that she’s home safe and sound.  She’ll tell me that two or three of the ladies have lost their husbands since Billy died and I’ll act as if it is the first time I’m hearing the news.