Category Archives: remember

Remember

The word “Remember” can invoke many thoughts to each of us. You may even wonder where to begin. I’m sure that each of us could write a book on our own memories. I’m only thinking of the first thing that this precious word makes me want to write.

I remember the reason I fell in love with my husband. We lived in Colorado at the time and I remember the first conversation I heard him have with his mother. (His end of course.) The gentle tone in which he spoke to his mother reminded me how children are supposed to obey their parents. It made me remember that the reason we obey is because we love and respect them. He’d laugh each time she spoke of what “Muffin” (her dog and only companion) did that amused her that week. She talked about any visitors she had that week.

He spoke with deep concern about how she was doing and what needed to be done to her house. It was older and was in need of much attention. Bill’s two brothers helped as much as they could. They talked for about an hour and sometimes longer. This impressed me as them having a close relationship. This might spark a flavor of “mama’s boy” to some, but he was no “mama’s boy.”

One brother lived in Germany at this time. He was in the army. He and his wife lived on the base for a while, and then moved off base. They flew home at least couple of times each year. At those times, they visited each of their parents and took care of the needs that were a little more expensive.

The other brother lived about an hour and a half away from her and visited as much as he could. He also did what he could to visit and if she needed shopping done, he would do it for her. He visited her on a regular basis. He was a policeman in that town he lived. From Fairbury to Grand Island was the shortest distance of the three brothers to their mother’s.

We lived in Denver, about a six hour drive, but Bill made that drive when he could, and did physical work on the house and the yard. When I began to go with him I would make meals for her. I’d put them in containers, and then in the freezer so she could just take out one for her, and heat it in the microwave. I also did housework for her that she was unable to do for herself. Their mom had arthritis, and was pretty well crippled with the disease.

For a year I listened to him call her every week without fail. He spoke to her in that same mild and caring tone each and every week. How could you not fall in love with a man such as this? He treated me with the same caring tone and respectful manner. The sincerity in his voice and mannerisms spoke volumes as to what kind of man Bill was.

As the year went along, I heard conversations with his two boys in California also. This was the same manner as he spoke with his mom. Those conversations didn’t last quite as long, but the attitude, love, and respect was shown to them as well.

What can I say? After a year, he asked me to marry him. We got married and here it is 28 years later. He still takes care of me in the way only a husband can take care of a wife; loving, caring, and sometimes even crying together. I still care for him as only a wife can; listening, laughing together, sharing a sunset, or even a simple meal are still pleasurable to us. We tolerate his dementia, and we tolerate my physical and emotional problems. We try to keep them in their place and go on enjoying the love and respect we have always had for each other.

Lurch

Ever played dodgeball? Well, we played it a lot at lunchtime break in elementary school. That was grades one through six for you youngsters. Now mind you, I was a shy child and always got picked last for any team but I did play and I was good at most sports. Still, my school years were not my best years.

It was me that was usually chosen first in dodgeball. Believe me; it was worse than being picked last on team sports. Chosen first in this game meant being the first one everybody threw the ball at. Oh come on, this meant low man on the totem pole and the boys threw hard enough, but the girls matched and sometimes beat the velocity of the ball.

Here I am in my hand me down dress that I hadn’t grown into yet, and bubble gum still stuck in my hair from the night before. I closed my eyes and just knew that this was going to hurt. The first throw made me lurch forward and I fell in the dirt. The second throw hit me before I got up and somehow landed under my dress. Of course, that made my dress fly up and show my panties which made everyone laugh. Therefore, with a heart full of indignity I took my rightful place in the circle.

I got to throw the ball first and I missed. Even though I was able to regain my dignity, I caught the ball again. When I did anything, I really put all my energy into it and play my best. I guess that can be expected growing up in a family of tomboys, and being raised in a neighborhood of all boys. I had to play tough. The trouble was that while I was a tomboy and could climb trees with the best of them, I still threw like a girl. My turn to throw again landed smack dab in the middle of a girl’s stomach. Noticing that she didn’t even move when I threw the ball, I knew that I was being set up.

Back in the circle again, I lurched to one side and then the other trying not to get hit. The next thing I knew, I was eating dirt again. Of course, that is when the bell rang and playtime was over. I stood up, brushed the dirt off me and once again tried to regain my composure. Once inside I breathed a sigh of relief. Another day of indignity put behind me. I shuddered to think of what tomorrow might bring.

Of course, I wasn’t raised in a good environment growing up. The five of us would have been removed by social services if raised in today’s society. I was picked on a lot by the boys in the neighborhood and always felt as if my heart lurched backward every time I would get a cruel comment. I’d head home each time but stopped crying as I neared house. Unfortunately, I would end up crying before bedtime got there, and even more when I went to bed.

Occasionally I remember those school days. I don’t look at them as being too terrible. I survived into adulthood. When I got into my 30’s, I got five years of therapy. Believe me, once I understood that when a person becomes an adult, they do so by letting go of the past and taking responsibility for the adult you want to be. If we don’t do that, then our childhood continues to rule our lives and we never mature.

 

 

Casual; has it gone too far?

 

When I was in school, mind you I’m giving away my age, we had to wear dresses or skirts, and boys had to wear dress pants and dress shirts. There were no exceptions, nor were there any excuses. It was automatic that you put them on and it was expected with no variations to that rule. It was the school dress code and girls dresses and skirts could not be above the knee. It had to be just below the knee or longer or you were sent home no questions asked.

As a matter of fact, I was a senior in high school before the code changed. The schools became a little less strict on the matter. They dared to let girls wear pant suits and this was allowed for the girls. Boys dress didn’t change yet. Girls pant suits had to match top and bottom with a blouse if it didn’t cover the below the neckline. The style in that day was that the neckline was covered. I felt absolutely scandalous wearing pants to school. It was utterly unheard of.

The next style to appear on the scene were mini skirts. Oh my goodness! That was allowed in school but it could not be any shorter than 3 inches above the knee. Already thinking that was showing too much, never would anyone be catching me wearing one of those kinds of dresses. That’s what I thought. Bob, my boyfriend at the time want me to wear one, so he gave it to me for a gift, all wrapped up in pretty paper. I already thought that the school dress code had gone too far. In fact, when I was wearing a pantsuit I had felt as if I should have a dress on. Bob knew my opinion, but wanted me to wear one anyway.

Casual was the word for these mini skirts dresses and skirts. I wore one out on a date with Bob. He loved it and I hated it. I felt positively naked in it. I kept trying to pull it down over my knees, but every time I tried to pull it over my knees, he would push my hand away. I hated this dress and I hated Bob for making me wear it. Our heads clashed once the two piece bathing suit came out. I gave in and bought myself a two piece bathing suit, but I found my own style of two piece. I bought a two piece that covered the midriff and the bottom was the length of our gym shorts had been, and our behinds did not hang out.

Anything goes today and nothing is casual really, that is not according to the words above. So be careful ladies.

Dance, Dance, Dance

Dance? Why, Thank You Sir

When I saw a flyer sitting on the counter at the nursing station one day while I was waiting for Bill to get ready, I just knew this would be something Bill and I would be interested in going to. There was going to be a shindig at the nursing home. Everyone and their families were invited. There would be a Country Western Band from 2-4pm. A petting zoo would be set up between 4-6pm which consisted of a skunk, kangaroo, porcupine, camel, capybara, and some other more common animals to our part of the world.

Of course, there would also be hot dogs, soda, cotton candy, and a few other choices of usual carnival food items. We went to this as it was set up in the driveway of the nursing home. I didn’t get there until 3pm since my home care worker came that day and wasn’t done until 2:30.

When I got there, the band was playing in the main dining room and Bill was just being escorted back to his wing so I told the aide that we would like to go over and listen to the band. We walked back over to the main building and could hear the music coming from the dining area. I told Bill that I’d like to go and listen to them and we began to go down the hallway. The closer we got to the dining room, the louder the music. I suggested that we go listen to it in the visiting room in the front. Bill agreed and we started to walk back the way we came.

We hadn’t gotten very far; Bill stopped, took my cane, set it aside and said, “Let’s dance!” Just imagine my surprise at that since in our 29 years of marriage we had never danced. Not even at weddings would he dance! Now that I can’t keep my balance very well, hence the cane, he wanted to dance. “Okay, I replied let’s dance!”

There we were, just dancing our hearts out and both of us smiling from ear to ear oblivious as to what was going on around us. Occasionally I did notice the ones that could see down the hallway from the dining room were just watching us instead of the band and smiling too. Some of the family members made remarks such as, “Oh look, they’re dancing, isn’t that just adorable?” and, “Isn’t that precious?” Several stopped and watched for a few moments smiling then walked on. I thought to myself, “Yep, we’re old,” and once again turned my attention to dance with my husband. Bill grinned from ear to ear, and was oblivious as to anything going on around us. I just wanted to be in the moment with my husband while he was happy as he was before this monster overtook him.

I know it used to make me smile too when I’d see older people dancing or walking hand in hand down the sidewalk. It is smiling and worthy of an “Oh, isn’t that just precious?” The literal translation of those types of statements is, “Isn’t that nice an older couple is still close and intimate? They want to and can do things that they did when they were younger. We fit the bill, 29 years of marriage, and even through the dementia we giggle over a private moment while taking a walk. In marriage there is an intimacy that only those two people have. A look, a twinkle in the eyes, and a reach for the hand. Those days are much fewer now as the dementia has slipped into Alzheimer’s.

The next time you see an older couple dancing together as if they were one, ice skating as only a couple that has been married for years can do, walking hand in hand and talking, perhaps even giggling at a memory only they share, think to yourself, “Isn’t that precious, and isn’t that adorable?” Happy marriages filled with laughter, trust, love of a lifetime, intimacy, and gracefulness in old age.

Not every time I see him, will he smile and that new sparkle will be there. I am not fooled by this kind of behavior for I know the time will come when his eyes will be blank once again, his smile will fade away, and he finally will no longer remember me. This happens, day by unannounced day. For now, I will take these fine days while his eyes have a mischievous spark once in a while and his smile is sincere. I will take today and cherish it even after it all stops.

He is not smiling as much and is confused as to where he is moving. He is wandering and that is not good. He is now in a dangerous position. I know that when we go to the doctor he is going to put him into a nursing home.

A letter to my stepson

 

 

My dear Stepson,

From the first day you came to live with us when you were eight years old, and the cutest little boy I had ever seen. You looked like your father, walked like him, talked like him. You followed after him all the time. Your brother had come to live with us at the same time. I’ll have to admit, we had some issues settling in and thinking of us as a family. I’m not sure that either you or your brother ever did.

I know you remember the house we lived in when your dad and I were married. Remembering one instance still brings tears to my eyes, and that is when your brother got up on the roof to help your father repair some shingles. I was standing there when you asked if you could help too. Your father said “No you can’t, just your brother can.” I saw the tears welling up in your eyes as you looked at me with disappointment on your face. Do you remember what I said? I do.

I said, “That’s okay, I need you to help me shop, you are so good at finding coupons for me. I just can’t shop without you. You’re my little shopping  buddy.” So off we went. You were, content while we were shopping. You helped me a lot. You and I cooked together, you helped me with dishes, and sometimes you helped with cleaning. You helped me almost all the time.

That was just one instance and it may not even mean much to you. You do not have to be someone’s mother to see your stepson is hurting and try to sooth that big scrape. You do not have to be someone’s mother to feel your step child’s pain, see hurt in their eyes, and be there when he needs you.

I was the one who was there when you were in trouble, and it was me that talked to your teacher when he cursed. You don’t have to be a mother to watch your plays, and go on field trips with your class. Do you remember who cooked for the family, changed the sheets, cleaned the house, tucked you in and kissed you good night? Son, did you hate me back then?

I’ve stuck with your dad through each stage of dementia. With each skill he lost I’ve been here to cry for him. When a thought was lost because he couldn’t get the words out. I cried for him.  Every time he would get mad at himself who was there to calm him? I’ve been here all along. You haven’t seen him slip at all. You just come here and think he is fine because he is having a good day. You have not been here for anything he has been through.

Do you realize that if I had not called, you would not even know you father has dementia? I say that because you never call him. I’ve called you. Why? Because I think you should know about your dad even if you don’t think of him often. Yes, you visited us three or four times, but you wouldn’t spend time alone with your father. It was you who was telling me to get him involved to keep his mind active. I didn’t see you trying to do a thing for him.

When I told you he was coming in and out of Alzheimer’s now. You immediately wanted to move us to Phoenix. You must have thought that he was able to be moved without falling further into Alzheimer’s. Your father is 72 he needs to be in a nursing home, but I am still caring for him. I take care of his every need. I dress him, I bathe him, I comb his hair, I shave him, I brush his teeth; and I help him eat when he can’t. He doesn’t like it when he can’t see me, in fact, he panics. This goes on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months a year.

Then just the other day I had to call you again because you don’t call your father. You would not even know that your dad was slipping in and out of Alzheimer’s. When I explained that your father and I talked about moving to Phoenix and neither one of us thought this was a good idea. He was worried about starting over again too.

When I told you about us not wanting to move down there, I knew you thought that I talked him out of it. You don’t really know your dad at all. I could hear it in your voice. I’ve heard that tone before. However, that Sunday your father could hardly talk. His head was on the arm of the chair, and random words ran together with no formed thought. Suddenly he snapped out of it when he was saying bye to his granddaughter. He joked with her, changed in an instant. I rejoice when he snaps out of it. That means I’ll have him with me one more day.

Saying good-bye to your father only and not just once, but several times. You made your feelings very clear when you did that. You’re not very subtle, you are very plain to read. You believe that I have not taken care of your dad very well. Let’s look at that. From the time he was in the nursing home to the day I texted you that he was slipping in and out of Alzheimer’s, how often did you even call to see how he was? I can recall the exact number of times. It is 0. Now when he is slipping away from me so fast that I will soon lose him, you think you can just move us down there and take care of him yourself. No, neither one of us wants to start over. Your dad and I have been married 29 years come the 23rd of July, and I want to have  your father with me as long as I can.

I am your step mother and once you love a child you don’t just stop because he is a step child. I have no idea when you started to hate me, perhaps it was the day you screamed at me about the nursing home. Oh, it doesn’t matter. My feelings are; I was thrust into that position and I became a mother to you. Never will I ever claim to be your mother and I never did. I did mother you for 8 years. Think about these things, because lately you have burdened me with your hatred on top of the burden of caring for your father. It is what it is. I just have no more to say. I’m worn out.

Your loving stepmother

End of phase

End of retirement phase

 

Along with dementia comes a loss of many things in our lives. When one party is sick, and the other has dementia, the medial bills stack up fast on the credit cards. With medical and bills piled up, something has to give.

Therefore, another phase of our lives ends after retirement. We had to sell our beautiful four-bedroom home on five acres. One reason was the medical bills that stacked up leading us to bankruptcy which put an end to our good credit we had at the time. Alzheimer’s had resided with my mother for 15 years by now. Dementia had been diagnosed in my husband Bill’s life. No more trips, no more dropping everything and going somewhere. Yes, the carefree phase of our lives had slammed the door quickly.

We had entered a new phase. It was one of high medical debt, and maxed out credit cards. There was no end in sight to this new phase either, especially after I fell and broke my shoulder. Necessity left me with five surgeries in the first year alone. My mother had to be moved to a nursing center and I still needed to be with my mom often. My mom needed me in these last of her days, even if she didn’t recognize me. I had to be sure that she still was taken care of properly. I had to take her laundry home and wash it because her clothes disappeared when they went to the laundry there. Dementia in the first stage was waiting at home for me.

It does sound like I’m whining, but I’m not. My mom died a few years ago. My husband’s dementia is in the second stages, but I don’t mind. Our bills are under control and we now live in a one-bedroom apartment. I wouldn’t say that life is good, but for me it is. I still have my husband home with me. I rejoice each day that we are able to communicate and be understood by each other. That is a joy in my life.

In the early years of our marriage, he had to care for me. He did it so lovingly and never complained. He was there for each medical emergency, and each surgery. Now it is my privilege to care for him. I hope that I can do that with the same love and gentleness that he has done for me all these years. So now begins the final phase of our lives and I will still thank our heavenly father for the Kingdom we pray for, the Kingdom that will rule over the entire earth, (Rev 21:4) and tells of no more death or tears.

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The Flying Fork

 

When my step dad came into the picture, I was about 11 years old. There were five of us kids, four girls and one boy. My older sister was eight years older than I was and she had just left home the year before when she turned 18. She joined the W.A.C.S to get out and away from home.

Jack asked us if he could marry our mom which I was very impressed with and the four of us said yes even though my brother didn’t fall in love with him like the rest of us did. He came from money, but drank it all in his early years. He was broke and just out of jail when he met my mom. They met at an AA meeting and he fell in love with her.

We weren’t sure what to call him after they married 2 months later. Our new stepfather thought that it would be appropriate to call him daddy-Jack since our biological father was still alive and had visiting rights. It wasn’t long before I dropped the Jack and just called him daddy. Not long after that my sisters did the same, but my brother just always called him Jack. Ronny only approved of them marrying after he observed how well he treated mom and how happy she was now.

Ronny was older and remembers the fights, the screaming, the pushing and shoving that went on between my father and mother. I was only six when they separated and remember some fighting, but he remembered a lot more. The house was now quiet with the only fighting that went on was between us kids which were quite normal.

Since my daddy had money when he was a kid, he was raised with impeccable manners. We on the other hand, were very inept and crude in ours. His manners followed Emily Post, and ours was sort of fashioned after the three stooges. He was not too impressed the way we reached in front of everyone to get what we wanted. He just watched us for a while and didn’t say anything.

One day came along that he could no longer stand it. He could no longer bite his tongue even though he wanted to give us time to adjust.to him being a part of our family. He talked about what was polite and not polite and started with the things that bothered him the most. I guess that chewing with our mouth open and talking with food in our mouths was the first thing he tackled. The correction came by way of verbal reminders. It didn’t take long to get these bad habits almost all under control when I got a big surprise one day.

I reached for the pot roast which was sitting in front of my sister who was sitting next to me at the dinner table. When I reached for the dish, I got stabbed with a fork. Well, that was a strange thing to do and it shocked me, and don’t even mention the pain on the back of my hand. I pulled my hand back and glared at daddy-Jack. I couldn’t help but wonder why he just did that. The twins started to laugh.

I just glared at him. He finally asked me if I knew why he did that. I said “NO” with tears in my eyes. He said that Emily Post, the leading authority on manners, says that reaching in front of someone is very bad manners. I asked “How else can I get it without picking the dish up myself?” He then said these foreign words to me that I will never forget. He said, “You ask someone to pass the ‘whatever it is you want'” “From now on if anybody forgets to do that, the fork will be on the move again.”

The only thing I could think to say as I rubbed the back of my hand, with tears still in my eyes was,” Okay Jack, next time I will ask someone to pass me the ‘whatever.'” I never got stuck in the back of my hand again, and soon after started calling him daddy once again.

He was a wonderful father to us and thought of us as his own children. We were his family and we came first. He always told his secretary that if one of his family members’ calls and wants to talk to him he told her to always put the call through to him even if he was in a meeting. I remember many times coming home from school and if he was there, we’d always go into his study and talk. I couldn’t talk to my mother, but I could always talk to my daddy and tell him anything because he understood, he didn’t judge me, and he just listened.

I was forever worrying that the man I thought of as my father would die not knowing how much I really loved him. On his dying bed, he called me to come close he wanted to talk to me. When I leaned over, he begged me not to ever forget him. I started to cry and told him I was always afraid he would die without knowing how much I loved him. We both cried and laughed at the same time as I told him that of course I wouldn’t forget him as long as I was alive. That was the last time I saw him, he died the next day before I could get back to the hospital.

I now think fondly of the fork that stabbed the back of my hand. I cried for weeks when daddy died and the flying fork will forever remain a memory.