Monthly Archives: March 2014

First Food: A Storybook

Before I jump in, thank you for all your suggestions and kind words about my last post. I’m in a much better frame of mind today. As I said, I know there will be good days and bad days. I’m trying not to get thrown for quite so big a loop when the bad ones come along.

Anyway. This is an old story from the depths of the Facebook vault. I can’t remember what brought it to mind, but it was so much fun at the time (pre-blog) that I thought I’d pull it out again. It still makes me laugh, and I hope you get a chuckle too.

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Once upon a time, there was a little boy who cried during supper every night. He was little, but he wanted to eat supper with everyone else in his family. His parents would not share their food with him, though. They ate and told his brother to sit down and ignored the little boy. Sometimes (and this was the worst indignity of all) his papa carried him back to his crib and laid him down and said, “You are driving your mama crazy. Shhhh.”

The little boy privately thought that his mama was crazy whether he cried or not, but he kept that to himself.

But he still wanted to eat supper with everyone else.

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“PICTURE!! I WANNA PICTURE!!!” hollered the little boy’s big brother. He hollered a lot. Sometimes the little boy’s mama hollered, “STOP HOLLERING!”

And the little boy thought deep thoughts about irony, but still he kept his own counsel.

And he still wanted to eat supper with everyone else.

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The day came when the little boy was placed not in his swing, where he was supposed to look at the same three animals that had been floating over his head for months, and not in his bouncy, where he was supposed to watch everyone else eating and pretend not to care, but in a high chair, and pulled right up to the table.

And his papa held up a spoon with some sort of odd paste on it to his mouth, and the little boy wondered where the tater tot casserole was when you really needed it. But this was progress, and he decided not to quibble about the details.

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And he ate of it, and it was good.

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Or not.

But the little boy (he was very pragmatic for his age) decided to make the best of things and ate up every little bit of the cereal his parents had finally decided to give him.

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And again his big brother asked to have his picture taken, too, but this time he remembered to say please and not to holler.

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And the little boy was happy.

(Written December 2010)

Bad Night

Mom is having a really bad night.

It would take too long to explain exactly what’s happening, and it would be fundamentally uninteresting to anyone not involved. So I won’t bother. The shortest possible version is that she’s mad that we (her children) haven’t made progress on doing something that, when we told her someone had suggested it, she was dead set against doing.

If that seems confusing and illogical, it’s because it is. And I know that it’s not really why she’s mad. She’s mad because she doesn’t have control over most of her life anymore. I can only imagine how crappy and frightening and unfair that feels.

I also know that it’s not really us she’s mad at. I’m doing my best not to take it personally. And not to feel responsible for fixing it. That might be the heart of the matter. When she’s mad or upset or sad, my instinct is to fix it. I think if I find the right thing to say or the best thing to do, it’ll make things better. For Mom, for me, for my sister, for everybody.

Know what? Nothing will fix this.

Nothing. There is no thing I can say, there is no gadget we can find, there is no magic bullet. There is nothing that will make my mother, in all her glorious imperfection, start acting like my mother again. She is gone. I know there will be better days and moments. I remember to appreciate them. I do. But the trajectory is down. And it feels like we’re picking up speed.

We cannot get off this hideous ride. I am sad, and scared, and weighed down, and angry. I am feeling things I can’t quite identify by name. I feel alone, even though I know am not. It is a lonely proposition, watching your only living parent drift away.

I feel like if I have to listen to her tell me one more time how she wants to die, I will scream so loud and so long that my vocal cords will explode. I thought for awhile that she was only telling me, because I was getting it several times a day, and surely that was all of it, no? No. She’s telling everyone. She’s telling people she’s never met before how very much she wants to die.

I actually get this, intellectually. She’s miserable, and frightened. She believes in heaven, and that she’s going there. So why not go now? Seems a lot better than what she’s currently doing. But hearing your mother’s death wish over and over and over is demoralizing in a way I can’t fully express. And I feel, illogically, embarrassed for her that she’s telling other people. We’re from the Midwest. You don’t just walk up and tell people about your dark, scary feelings, amirite?

I do get that irony of me saying that here, in this context. But writing helps me exorcise my demons, so here I am.

Tomorrow will be better. If nothing else, it’s Friday!

 

Serious Question, Though: Does anybody local know of and recommend a support group for caretakers/family of dementia patients? It’s not something I’ve done before (see comment above about Midwesterners and feelings), and I have no idea when I’d find the time. But I’m not really okay, and I know it, and I’m willing to try.

 

It’s BOOTS!!

For as long as I can remember, “It’s boots!” has been an appropriate response to receiving a package in our family. I confess that I no longer have any idea why, but I’ll bet my brother Alan does, and will explain. It’s something to do with a story and a little boy, but that’s all I can dredge up.

Boots are very important, though, is what I’m saying.

Last Saturday, I went out with a friend, and we stopped on the way back to pick up rain boots for one of her daughters. I realized that the boys had outgrown theirs and were still wearing snow boots outside. It’s about to get super muddy out there, and I would like to preserve their snow boots. So I picked up a couple of pairs. The boys were asleep when I got home, so I put the boots on the kitchen counter where they’d see them in the morning.

They like boots, so I thought they would be happy. I wasn’t expecting the completely over-the-top reaction I got.

ARE THOSE FOR US?!?!?!?!!?
Yes.
YAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!

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Sometimes, despite all her failings, Mama still gets it exactly right.

(This was not the best picture of the boots. But it was the most fun!)

Mr. Bus Driver

Paul is licensed to drive a school bus (also a semi with up to three trailers, which I cannot imagine doing because THREE TRAILERS ARE YOU KIDDING ME) and he subs in for the local school system. He hasn’t been called on much this winter, but apparently everyone was sick earlier this week, and he got up at o’dark thirty and went off to the bus lot.

While he warmed up the engine, he was taking a picture to remember which one was his parking spot (I’ve done this. In multi-level parking garages, but hey, the principle’s the same.) when he realized he could capture a self-portrait of sorts.

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I thought it was pretty cool.

That afternoon, he did a different route and dropped off a bunch of elementary school kids. It was his first time on that route, so the kids were helping him with the stops. “That big white house!” they yelled, and he pulled up and dropped off the occupant. And so they went, slightly chaotic but getting it done.

“The brown house!” someone yelled, so Paul slowed down.

“No, no!” the chorus cried. “Not that brown house, the next brown house!”

“This one?” Paul asked, and stopped when he got an affirmative. The little stop sign went out; he opened the doors. And waited.

After a decent pause, he looked back and said, “Coming?”

And the kids all shouted, “No! They’re not on the bus today!!”

Let’s see that lamb, March.

Paul and I are both about half sick. Maybe a third. Not sick enough to stay home and rest, but sick enough for moderate headaches and joint pain and overwhelming fatigue. The children, exercising the instinct of all pack animals, are taking full advantage and striking at our weakest points. I might be a little scared of them, except we did get them into bed and it’s quiet in there.

I have to think the changeable weather pattern we’ve got going on is not helping with the malaise. I’m waiting to see when March will trot out the lovely little lamb we’re all waiting for. To her credit, I did see green patches on the ground yesterday. Perhaps she’ll pull through for us after all.

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Elias doesn’t care either way. He has sunshine wherever he goes, that enviable little soul.

 

 

Wishful Rhyming

White clouds, blue sky.
Blackbirds swarm by.
Birds swarm, snow ends?
Swarm on, my friends!

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Just One Voice

My friend’s father died last weekend. He was also my father’s friend, from way back. And though he hadn’t been a significant part of my life for a long time, as I wound through the hour-long line up toward the casket tonight, I realized that he was one of the voices of my childhood. Literally, in this case. He and my father were two parts of an old-fashioned gospel quartet. I was little, so I was always sent to bed early as they practiced out in the living room. But I’d crack the door, and they’d sing me to sleep. Songs like The Royal Telephone and Jesus Paid It All are so deeply grooved into my subconscious that I can still sing them nearly word for word, even though I haven’t heard them in years.

The song that kept coming to my mind tonight, though, was We Are Going Down the Valley. We are going down the valley one by one; going toward the setting of the sun. The voices of my childhood are beginning to be stilled. I was sadder than I thought I’d be, tonight. And yet.

If you’ll hang in with me on the metaphor, he was surrounded by a great chorus. His wife. His daughters and sons. Their children, and even their children. His friends, some of whom I’m pretty sure he’d known for all 80 of his years. And a host of minor players like me.

Also last weekend, I went to a very different kind of event. My friend Jen turned 40 this year, and she had a par-TAY.

bggirlsThe four of us there all went to Bowling Green together-ish. Beth* (pink shirt) was in grad school in the same program where Jen and I were undergrads. Rachel (black shirt) was a roommate to me and to Jen, though not at the same time. And Jen, there with the leis, has a strange little man growing out of her head. Pay him no nevermind.

There’s quite a chorus around Jen, too. I think you can learn a lot about a person by listening to their chorus. Jen’s chorus would sing (among other things) that she is kind, and funny, and loyal as a St. Bernard. My dad’s friend? I didn’t know him as well, but I know I’d hear about generosity and humor and love.

I’m glad I get to be a voice in your chorus, Jen. And however small a part, in yours too, Ike.

*Beth might give the best hugs ever. If you’re really down, you should go ask for one. Real hugs. None of this A-frame touching shoulders stuff. And she never lets go first. Better than therapy.