WHY DO WE CALL IT MEMORIAL DAY?
May 27, 2016 — In the United States, the last Monday in May is celebrated as Memorial Day, but first it was known as Decoration Day, and the date could be anywhere from the 25th to the 30th. Using a little logic one could also say, “What’s in a day or a date.” If the name covers the event I suppose that should be enough.
As a child living in eastern Utah the month of May was a busy time. For one thing, the previous month of April was supposed to bring the showers for the flowers that bloomed in May. April showers in our neck of the woods usually were more like late winter storms covering the landscape with another layer of snow and frost. Then in May when the flowers were supposed to begin blooming, we often got a blast of hail storms ranging from the size of peas to golf balls.
REMEMBERING OUR LOVED ONES
Nevertheless May also brought Decoration Day on the 30th of the month. Instead of gathering flowers from the gardens that were still shivering under the frozen earth, the women and older girls of the community were busy making crepe paper flowers to be placed on the graves of loved ones. We called it Decoration Day because it was the day set aside to decorate the graves. My parents knew just about everyone who was laid to rest in the small cemetary which included my dad’s parents, my mother’s father, and dad’s younger sister, and his own tiny daughter.
In our sparsely populated area I doubt there were any graves belonging to military men who had sacrificed their all for our country. Unless there was a patrotic young man who volunteered and went off to war, the rural communities were often overlooked by the military as the nation advanced westward.
The first Decoration Day was a day of commemoration as noted in a newspaper from Charleston, South Carolina. Originating there in May of 1865, a group of freed slaves gathered to pay respect to all who had died serving their country; those willing to sacrifice for a better, more united nation. The Southern town, with ministers and members from the freed black community left no grave uncovered in flowers allowing no brown earth to show. Parades, speeches and picnics followed and participation from both black and white citizens came together to honor the dead. Major General John A. Longan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic declared it to be a day to honor all of the dead from that terrible internal war.
It was not long before people decided that the name of Decoration Day should be changed to Memorial Day in honor of the dead from our wars. On May 26, 1966, President L. B. Johnson declared Memorial Day to be a federal holiday and it would be celebrated on the last Monday of May, and that at 3:00 p.m., on that special day, all should take pause for a minute as a personal thank you to those who have sacrificed all they had: their lives.
Memorial Day should not be confused with Veterans’ Day. Falling on November 11 of each year, this date was once set aside as Armistice Day, which was that day in 1917 when a peace agreement was signed by all of the battered and battle-weary countries following World War I. This was supposed to be the war to end all wars. That didn’t happen, and many have fought and died in numerous wars since that date. Veterans’ Day has been set aside to honor all veterans living or deceased. A time to say Thank You for their service to the entire military. A military which now includes our beautiful daughters, sisters and many mothers.
This gallery contains 1 photo.
MY FUN BLIND DATE
May 20, 2016 – When I said “yes” in answer to an invitation, from a co-worker, to date one of his friends as a blind date I was set for disappointment as blind dates were usually a bust filled with boredom and regret. “He’s a really nice guy,” Jim insisted, “tall, fun, rather good looking and truly a nice guy.” Surprisingly he was all of those things. The evening was not filled with boredom or regret, but with lots of fun and happiness that I had agreed to go out with him. In fact he was the nicest young man I had ever met. We dated for a time and then had a falling out, then dated again, finally getting married. He was always a fun date and a delight to be with. There were many who met him and agreed that he was the nicest guy in the world.
LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE
That’s just a fact. Life is not always fun, but Ken had a way to make a somewhat serious situation into one of less gravity taking away the negative and somehow replacing it with something positive. At times I felt he was just too glib about the ups and downs of married life, but minor problems always seemed to turn out just fine. There was nothing during the early years we shared together that indicted Alzheimer’s would be the one thing he wouldn’t be able to dismiss.
Being so nice, he was always a volunteer. If a neighbor or friend needed help, he was first in line even if it meant leaving his chore for another day. If the yard needed work with weeds to pull, he easily talked me into going to a movie instead or taking a quick trip to the beach. He was right though, the weeds did wait ’till later, the movie we saw would have been gone, and the blue skies at the beach were hidden under a thick overcast of gray for weeks on end. With a fun guy who wouldn’t grow up life was never a bore. Actually, his spontaneity was always an adventure. Once when I complained that he was still too much a kid at heart and told him that I often wondered what it would be like if I were married to a real adult. He laughed and one of our sons came to his dad’s defense. “You would be so bored mom,” he said then repeated, ” sooooo bored.”
TURNING THE BIG 60
As the birth anniversary month of June came close that 60th year, I thought it would be fun to have a surprise birthday party for him. I had arranged with our son Keith to casually be at our house to let the guests in while Ken and I did our usual early evening run along the East shoreline of San Francisco’s bay with the dogs.
I had asked my friend Eva if she could round up the last members of her late husband’s band, “The Islanders” and play for the event. She even went the extra mile and greeted Ken at the door when the two of us returned from our run with her ukulele and a special Happy Birthday song for the birthday boy. In addition. she brought a few hula girls for entertainment. The party was a success and a real blast. He was 60 and still hadn’t grown up. Noting by the above poster, it was okay that he hadn’t. If he had managed to side-step adulthood after six generations, growing up was no longer a requirement.
THE SEVENTH DECADE BROUGHT ALZHEIMER’S: A BUMMER
Being married to the nicest guy in the world has been truly an adventure although the years of Alzheimer’s were not part of our plans he still managed to be my fun date for as long as the disease would allow. I miss my fun date and wouldn’t have changed him one bit. I miss him more than I can say in words. My life with him will always remain my greatest adventure.
WAGING WAR ON ALZIEHEIMER’S
May 13, 2015 – There are times when caregivers discover that their Alzheimer’s patient is out-foxing this monster of a disease that robs memories and erases family from the minds of it’s victims. When a victim can endure and manage to hold on to even a portion of who they were and do the things they loved to do, then it is a battle won and the victim can sing a triumphant song of glory.
Such is the book by Ron Cooper about his mother Fran and her battle against A.D. Which is now available at Amazon.com as a kindle eBook or in paperback titled, “Fran’s Song.”
“As memories fade the music still powers the wonders of life. The heart still loves intensely. The spirit still worships and prays, and the urge to sing is stronger than ever.” Fran’s musical legacy is her hallmark of this inspirational memoir.
“It’s always better to sing than to sleep,” she confided to her son. “If you don’t use music you lose music.”
THE ROSE AND OTHER BLOG POSTS
As I read a post titled “The Rose,” from Ron’s book, I got a taste of what else might be in this poignant account as a good son cares for his beloved mother while she journeyed into that dungeon of no return. Nevertheless, Fran managed to hold onto her talent in music and conducted the choir comprised from the other gathered voices from the Alzheimer’s care facility where she spent her last days.
Reading other posts on Ron’s blog I found he covered a spectrum of emotions that we all relate to as we experience life. It’s honest and inspiring and if you’ve ever been a caregiver you’ll want to read his every word.
Keeping journals or blogs about this seemingly endless time gives us, who have traveled the difficult road. the empathy we need knowing that we are not alone as we journey through this wrenching chapter of life.
Wishing the very best to Ron as he continues into the future.
May 5, 2016 – Probably not. The dryer gets blamed for shrinking a lot of things: sweat pants and tops, tee shirts, cotton clothes, sweaters, socks and underwear, but never people. Shrinking humans is usually brought about by age related circumstances, not by being near or using the laundry room utility.
I suppose that strange and silly thought is based on the old movie, “Honey I Shrunk The Kids.” There is no frustrated wannabe scientist living in my house doing experiments that might reduce the size of an occupant. Most probably mom might have had a bit of osteoporosis causing her bones to become weak and very brittle leading to easy breakage, and a shrinking spine.
She and I noticed at the exact same moment in time. We were in the kitchen and she was drying dishes as I washed. Over my stove there is an interesting pot holder that my husband Ken made for me out of an old automobile wheel with wooden spokes long before any of the family had even heard of the dreadful disease of Alzheimer’s. As mom stood on her tip toes to hook the pot handle over a corresponding hook on the rack, I could see her struggle. Try though she may it was out of her reach. After watching her for a few moments I said, “I’ll do it mom,” and I did. “You mean you’re taller than I am?” she asked in a disappointed tone..“Looks that way,” I answered, “but it’s okay, you’re thinner than I am so we come out even.” A little humor helps at times of realization. Even in her beginning dementia she managed a giggle about my truism.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE
What’s that old saying? “The more things change the more they remain the same.” I’m still tall enough to hang my own pots, but the last time I was measured at the doctor’s office, the nurse entered my height at 5′ 5-1/2”. “Can’s be,” I remarked. I haven’t been that height since I was 13 years old. “That’s what the measurement read,” she replied. Discussion closed, but I did measure myself when I got home: 5′ 5-1/2”. I was shrinking just like mom.
I realize that my mother’s shrinkage had nothing to do with her coming Alzheimer’s, and that as we age, both male and female have a tendency to lose some of their height. It’s just part of life; some do and some don’t. Just like having a dementia. Not every aging person gets a dementia, whether it be Alzheimer’s or any one of the many dementia diseases. Some do and some don’t. All that we go through is just a part of life.
JOY FOR SUNDAY
It’s been 25 years since my mother passed to the other side. I still miss her terribly. My daughter is visiting from her home in Utah, and I know that her children in Utah will be missing her this Sunday. However, I am enjoying her company and if the pot hanger becomes out of reach I’ll have Debbie hang it up. I’ll get to see the other siblings on Sunday as well. So here’s wishing all of mothers a wonderful day, and thank the Lord for mothers.
April 29, 2016 – I read a blog the other day written by a busy young mother. In her rush she was planning to meet with other mothers at the park where the children would play and the mothers could chat.
All was going well and many of the mothers were sharing and giving the pat answer,”fine, fine I’m doing just fine, and everything is fine.” Then one mom confessed that she had lost her temper that morning and had thrown a plastic bowl across the room.
The flood gate was opened. “Not you,” exclaimed some, noting that the plastic bowl thrower was their perfect model mother; the one who totally had her act together and never “lost it.” Immediately, other perfect moms’ confessions spilled over the damn in such a powerful torrent of energy that any amount of unnumbered kilowatt hours could have been generated from the unleashed water fall of similar confessions. This group of what had apparently been a gathering of wonderful modern-day moms who believed they could bring their children into successful adulthood avoiding pitfalls because they were unencumbered with the woes, worries, or problems which other generations have stumbled through. These moms, who radiated patience, tolerance, confidence, understanding and self-control in a manner to be admired were admitting to many of those same stumbling blocks which had tripped their mothers and grandmothers. So what did the moms lose? Their composure, commitment and resolve to never give in to those feelings of temper, anger, rage or frustration even for a brief moment. However we are mere mortals. Even devoted mothers who would throw themselves under the bus for any and all of their children, if need be to protect these Heaven-sent angels from any harm, must allow for a time of saturation when they will lose it, because, after all, we are only human
VERY GROWN-UP MOTHERS – ACTUALLY CAREGIVERS
Most female caregivers who inherit the care of elderly parents or other loved ones are also mothers. The difference being the children are grown and on their own. Mine certainly are and have continued the cycle of life bringing forth grandbabies to the home I had shared with my husband, Ken, before Alzheimer’s. Both of us chuckled as their children became them and they became us. Karma has a way with humanity, but that’s another blog, perhaps from grandparents. We won’t go there today.
I make the comparison because as the main caregiver for Ken, while I did have the help of three wonderful men at different times: Ben, Crizaldo and David, the responsibility was mine, and on one of my blogs I wrote about my meltdown, but there were times when I just lost it; one not to be confused with the other.
Meltdown: For me it was an evening when a small opossum bit my thumb as I reached into a near-empty bag of cat food. The realization of the attack sent me into deep despair topped off with exhaustion, unbearable feelings of aloneness and frustration believing I could no longer handle the immense responsibility of Alzheimer’s caregiving. Finally melting into a glob of disintegrating humanity on the garage step I said through my sobs, “I just can’t do this any longer.
Losing it: A momentary reaction to frustration and the temporary loss of control for day-to-day happenings when one’s plate becomes overwhelming filled with all that needs to be done, resulting in loss of temper and composure.
THE PATIENT BECOMES THE WEAPON
Ken was very strong with admiral upper-body strength, and there were many times he sent our granddaughter, Kristina, who assisted the men while I recuperated from a horrific auto accident, off to her bedroom in tears because he had punched or hit her as he faded further and further into the deep bottomless pit of Alzheimer’s. Another day when I was assisting one of the male caregivers who did the showers and changes Ken dug his closely clipped fingernails deep through my loose-knit sweater and peeled back several layers of skin across my forearm. I clenched my teeth in pain as he seemed to dig deeper and deeper into the flesh. Upon later examination I washed, then pushed the pleated skin back in place, covered it with an antibiotic cream and bandaged the throbbing area until it healed. I was injured and composed. I knew Ken didn’t hurt me, the demon Alzheimer’s hurt me. It healed without medical attention and I was fine. I was pleased with myself that I hadn’t lost it.
As his Alzheimer’s grew worse so did his anger and his need to put his caregivers in their place. One morning as Crizaldo (a caregiver by profession) finished with Ken’s shower and change of clothes the two of us guided Ken to his chair in the family room. Without thinking I stood in front of him as he sat down. There was no warning, no shouts saying to me, “Get out of my house.” He just pulled back one of his legs and shoved his foot into my knee with such force I went sailing across the room. For a second I just sobbed, grabbing my knee believing he had caused it to bend backward. It felt that bad. I did manage, though, to crawl back to him calling him and his mother a despicable name, and then I gave his offending leg a good slap as I said, “No! no! no! Don’t do that!”
Crizaldo looked at my knee, rubbed it a bit in his professional way and I limped away. I had lost it, and my heart was filled with embarrassment and sad regret. I had slapped my poor mentally crippled patient, the man I loved — the father of my children. I felt wretched. I was wrong. I knew it and Crizaldo knew it. I hobbled into the safety of another room, eventually cried, and then looked Heavenward and apologized for losing my composure, my temper, and my resolve to care for this good man till death do us part.” I just hope that as Ken looks down on me from his Heavenly home, he can be forgiving knowing that I was and still am only human.
THERE’S ALWAYS A TOMORROW
April 22, 2016 — It pays to always read further, but I didn’t do that until I was ready to post this award-winning essay given by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and posted on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room. This talented student won her award in 2012, not this year. 2016’s winners won’t be announced until next month.However, we can all enjoy these smart and poignant entries from four years past. Read the 2nd and 3rd place winners by going to www.alxzheimersreadingroom.com/2012 – Kearney – write -award -winning.httm/ and then watch this for this year’s fabulous young students vying for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners.
By Grace Kearney
The waiting room could belong to a dentist’s office. There are bright lights and comfortable chairs and plenty of People magazines. But the vacant expressions of those waiting makes it clear that they are not about to have their teeth checked. Standing inside the geriatric psychiatry clinic, I feel as if I have already entered something more personal than an internship. Before I can fully absorb the scene, a nurse calls me into her office. She is administering a diagnostic test to a new patient.
“Where are we today, Mr. Perkins?”*
“Appling, Georgia. I wouldn’t dream of leaving.”
“What day of the week is it?”
“What day of the week was it yesterday?”
The Red Queen’s words spring into my head. “Now here, we mostly have days and nights two or three at a time, and sometimes in the winter we take as many as five nights together – for warmth, you know.”** As an eight year old reading this passage from “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There” for the thousandth time, I found myself laughing long before the punch line. Residing permanently on this side of the mirror, I failed to grasp the absurd logic of the Red Queen’s statement, and could only laugh at the suggestion of stacking days for warmth.
In a nurse’s office far from that childhood bedroom, I hear echoes of the Red Queen in Mr. Perkins’ words, but they are no longer humorous. For it is not a fictional character speaking; it is a person, one for whom multiple Tuesdays is reality. Like the guests at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, Mr. Perkins is trapped in time, trapped in an inner world that clashes with his surroundings, yet he is not aware of the dissonance.
Months of observing the same sad scene reveal the futility of trying to convince Alzheimer’s patients that they are wrong.
These patients are not waiting to be brought back to the real world; they are seeking someone who will validate their version of reality.
Gradually, I come to understand that the world inside each patient’s mind is as legitimate as the world inside mine—that our interior reality is the only one that matters. Perhaps there is an objective reality to which most of us subscribe, but the smaller details, the intricacies of the world around us, are to each person unique. My perception of reality, though unaffected by brain disease, is not universal. Acknowledging this, I am better able to accept and welcome the range of perspectives I will encounter in this clinic and beyond.
When Mr. Perkins returns to the clinic six months later, I do not attempt to bring him to Baltimore, but instead travel with him to Georgia. When he asks me to close the windows because “the flies are ruthless this time of year,” I comply, knowing that the flies are as real to him as the Baltimore heat is to me. In doing so, I accomplish what my eight-year-old self could not have imagined. I manage to join his tea party.
For the past three years, I have worked as a research assistant at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the Department of Geriatric Psychiatry. As part of the research practicum course at my high school, each student has the opportunity to find a mentor at a nearby research institute and complete an independent research project throughout their junior and senior years of high school. Though my research primarily concerns autism in older adults, I have had the chance to meet geriatric patients of all kinds.
Every Wednesday afternoon, I leave the hospital and go across the street to the outpatient clinic, where dementia patients are brought in by their caregivers to meet with a doctor and receive treatment. I have met with them, spoken with them, learned their stories, and told them mine, only to be unfamiliar to them the next week. Still, their presence in the clinic has made an impact on my understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, my attitude toward these patients and their families, and my plans for the future.
My interest in the aging mind springs from a childhood spent listening to stories of my father’s patients, who always seemed too old to cure but too alive to ignore. Though the majority of his patients were inflicted with Alzheimer’s or similar degenerative diseases, I would not realize this until the end of the story. The description of a particular patient’s personality and background always came first; their medical issues later, almost as a side note. I learned to consider patients as more than the sum of their parts, as people first and foremost.
My father is an end-of-life care physician, and unlike cancer specialists or brain surgeons, he treats problems that everyone will face someday, if we are lucky. No one can avoid growing older or watching as loved ones grow older, and seeing firsthand how painful the transition to old age can be, particularly for those inflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, has instilled in me a desire to help geriatric patients of my own one day.
Spending time in the geriatric psychiatry clinic has taught me lessons in life as well as medicine. The day I recognized an Alzheimer’s patient’s wife as the receptionist who had snapped at me earlier, I learned compassion. You never know what sort of pain a person is concealing behind their plastered smile. When I had a conversation with a man who needed several reminders to keep his shoes on and his shirt buttoned, I learned patience. Alzheimer’s patients may often seem as stubborn and confused as young children, but they prove invaluable sources of wisdom if you only pause to listen. But perhaps most importantly to a medical career, I learned that caring for those with Alzheimer’s is not about ridding them of their disease (such a thing is currently impossible) but helping them live in a way that is dignified and graceful until the very end.
Ask any child what a doctor does, and he or she will tell you that a doctor saves lives. To me, saving a life does not always mean finding a cure or even making a person live longer. It means allowing patients to live according to their own desires. It means placing yourself in the shoes of patients, and taking the time to learn about their family, their relationships and their past in order to figure out what those desires might be. It means opening your mind to the possibility that there are some things you will never understand, and accepting the fact that others do not see the world the way you do.
In the conversations that took place in that geriatric clinic each Wednesday, there was one phrase I heard more often than any other. When patients were asked for their most fervent desire, I heard again and again “I just want to go home.” This sentence contains what I think should be a doctor’s main objective—to find that place where a patient can feel at home and do everything possible to help them get there. As I pursue a career in medicine, this is how I want to save lives.
Posted in the Alzheimer’s Reading Room by Max Wallack 2012
April 15, 2016 – Recently I read on Alzheimer’s Reading Room a post by Max Wallack, who is also a student at Boston University Academy. This enterprising and helpful young man is also the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER, PTR His organization delivers puzzles to nursing homes and to Veterans’ hospitals for Alzheimer’s patients and persons with other forms of dementia.
The experience of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is not new to Max. His great grandmother, Gertrude, suffered from AD and he was not only a devoted grandson, but helped with her care until she passed on from the disease. His recent post on the ARR, with Bob deMarco as editor, writer and owner of the blog, relates three essays submitted to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The foundation offers scholarships for the best Alzheimer’s essay from a high school student. The winner this year is Grace Kearney, a young woman from Baltimore, Maryland.. who is doing an internship at John Hopkins Hospital in their geriatric psychiatric clinic and planning on a medical career in this same field.
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
In her essay, Grace takes the reader on a journey through the looking glass comparing the “stuck in time” adventures of the story characters with the stuck-in-time patients she visits and observes at the clinic. She notices that one who suffers from AD lives in a reality unlike any who are a part of the real world and not of dementia. The Red Queen brings it all about, but ultimately Grace can identify with the imagined tea party which she dubs as Alzheimer’s World.
Grace’s essay won top honors, but the runners-up are worth the read as well. Next week I plan on posting at least one of the essays for your reading. All three are well done and all three will take you on a familiar trip if you are a dementia caregiver, or an unfamiliar trip if you are not a dementia caregiver.
NEXT WEEK’S READ
So, look forward to next week’s posting from some very talented young people and their experiences and thoughts about our shared and dreaded disease: Alzheimer’s.
STRANGERS IN OUR LIVES
April 8, 2016 – Diseases that damage the brain bring about confusion not only to the victim, but to the family and loved ones of the victim as well. In reading other blogs about Alzheimer’s, usually written by a loved one, a spouse, a lover, a son or daughter, niece or nephew, or a very close friend, this act of sharing brings comfort to participating caregivers. Reading from the Alzheimer’s Reading Room by Bob deMarco, from the posts I have read, I don’t recall that Bob’s mother was ever anyone other than mom or Dottie. The woman was able to keep in touch with her son on a limited basis, but his success in her care appeared to be based on their strong child/parent relationship, and obviously his devoted love for her. It seemed that she was never a screaming Banshee or a mean Broomhilda or had adopted another personality; she was always mom or Dottie. Apparently Dottie was seldom, if ever, a stranger to her son.
When my husband Ken was Ken, that’s who he was, but when the disease took over, he could quickly become a stranger to me, and I to him. He wanted me out of his house and often told me in no uncertain terms to get out, but if he saw I intended to drive away in our vehicle, he would forbid me to drive his car. We often had a grabbing match over the keys. One time it was so intense his final grab sent the keys flying in all directions as the chain broke. I learned I could and should have just walked away to avoid his becoming violent.
My stranger could also be frightening at times such as the day he was sweeping the kitchen. I had wanted him to do another chore and called out my simple request across the room. He grabbed the dust pan and carried the broom to where I was, and in my face through gritted teeth he said, “Will you stop telling me what do do.” For a moment I was a bit fearful that he might hit me with his hand or the broom, but trusted he wouldn’t hit a woman. However, I was never certain that he wouldn’t if he became angry enough as his AD persona. I dubbed Ken’s other self, the AD portion of my once-loving and gentle husband Mr. Hyde based on the late 1800’s novel about the kindly Dr. Jekel and his chemically altered counterpart Mr. Hyde.
There were times when he reverted to his former youthful self. As a 12-year-old, Buddy could be belligerent and powerful when he felt threatened about having a strange woman roaming through his parents’ house. This third personality I called by his life-time nickname: Buddy.
“LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF ALZHEIMER’S”
This is the title of a blog that I read daily. It’s written by Sheri Zschocher about her husband. The subtitle of her blog is “Living With Bob and Al.” Bob is her husband and Al is Alzheimer’s. Sheri writes in 3rd person which gives the reading an extra perk as she tells her story within the backdrop of Alzheimer’s which includes her two daughters and tales of her simple pleasures of nature photography and Bob’s day care while she works to support the two of them. Bob and Al’s day care is referred to as his “work.” Bob believes that he does spend his day working, and often he would like to let many of the other employees go as they don’t work nearly as hard or as well as he.
Even though my days as an Alzheimer’s caregiver have passed I find myself still keeping in touch with the Alzheimer’s world in general. Hoping and praying that research will prove successful and a cure will be found, or at least a way to stop the dreadful disease from the total destruction it now causes to the mind of the victims, bringing sadness and grief to the entire family.
RELATIONSHIP ADVICE FROM ONE WHO IS THERE
April 1, 2016 – Whether by death or some other means, lonely older singles often need a little bit of relationship advice as they face a new chapter in their life. We somehow believe that when something is over, it over. That’s not exactly true especially when one’s life has been filled caring for a partner with a terminal illness lasting over a long period of time. The decision doesn’t happen all at once. Slowly your thought processes change many areas in life. Who we were is no longer the truth of who we have become including your decision about relationships. It’s been almost two years since my husband Ken passed. This following nearly 15 years of him suffering from A.D. For the remaining spouse he or she is left without a partner in any way. The remaining spouse is left to make adjustments and begin again all alone. This relationship advice from me is that you do need to take some kind of action.
RELATIONSHIP ADVICE FROM MY SON: “IT’S DIFFERENT NOW, MOM”
That was a beginning statement from my well-meaning son as he recognized that his mother was no longer married and may want to enter the single’s dating field once again. I informed him that I was well aware that dating had changed to an extreme from the time his father and I first met. Our mid-century American courtship was much different than the dating scene today. I further informed this middle-aged man, who was my youngest child, that finding someone new in my life was the furthermost thing from my mind, if found there at all. I was committed to Ken, and after three different ceremonies where we exchanged our “I do” I wasn’t interested in finding someone else to fill his shoes or his bed. Yet, there was a social aspect to think about. What were my interests and expectations? What about someone who was just a friend?
WHAT COMES NEXT?
I guess good communication would be the first guideline. If someone of the opposite sex did ask me to have dinner with him I would expect just that and tell him so. A nice dinner filled with conversation about what we have in common, our interests, even remembrances of our former spouses, the life we lived and our families. The acquaintance probably wouldn’t be new. Instead, probably someone I had known for a long time through various organizations to which we both belonged. This knowledge would supply me with his solid background, his interest in a nice evening with a female friend and nothing more. In the relationship aspect, I would be looking only for a friend. So where do we find this or these friends? Where do we spend our spare time? In classes, at church, at work, at a community service project? You can find your jewel just about anywhere when you take time to evaluate your own investments in your spare time.
FOLLOW THE PATH: WHO AM I?
I am a writer. Not only do I enjoy the written word in books, but I enjoy a good play or movie. Such entertainment would be something to which I could relate. Something well done and without a lot of blatant sexual activity, peppered with offensive language or slanted uncomfortably throughout with double-edged innuendos. At one time I did belong to a writers’ group, but it was entirely made up of women, but there are book reading clubs out there as well whose memberships are open to both sexes. I am also a woman of faith so another place where I might find such a friend is by going to church and being a participant in activities geared to my age group.
I love art and have a splattering of talent, and it’s always been my desire to take an art class to develop what I already have. Art classes are filled with all kinds of interesting people. So if you are searching for a good friend, then go to those places where your kind of people hang out.
If you are ready for such a step in your life, to start a new relationship, or several, the important thing would be to start. It’s difficult to leave a comfort zone, to think of someone new, to open yourself to the vulnerability and risk whenever you try something you haven’t done before, but it is also important to keep on growing, changing and trying new things. Exploring a new relationship, another person in a different way, could add to your enjoyment of life and help fill in some of the loneliness left by someone who was dearly loved but is no longer available.
This gallery contains 1 photo.
LIVING THE SIMPLE LIFE
March 26, 2016 – As younger people we lived the simple life. Beginning as two, my husband, Ken, and I lived a life that was not only simple, but good. Then we added a baby girl, then two, and life was still simple and good. With the addition of three boys our simple life became a little less simple, but still very good.
I remember spring and Easter when we looked down the block filled with new homes. Easter Sunday brought out just about everyone dressed in their new spring finery, flowing from their front doors as the neighboring church bells rang out declaring that, “HE IS RISEN.” With the little girls adorable in frilly dresses their skirts twirling in the spring breeze and Easter bonnets secured with a ribbon under their chin, the boys looking sharp in white shirts and ties, and moms with dads as matched pairs, we were all near the perfect picture of a happy, contented family. All were celebrating the symbol of spring and new life at the churches of their choice. Our multicultural neighborhood shared the commemoration of Easter and the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Protestants, Methodists or Mormons; it didn’t matter in our simple life. We were young and filled with the exuberance of youth, peace and a new spring filled with promise.
Following church services, either the family came to our house for the rest of the day, or we went to theirs, or we met in a park with even a larger extended family and friends galore. The children searched for hidden eggs and even the dog found a few. With her big brown Cocker-Spaniel eyes, she looked up at us sheepishly dropping her colored egg, wondering if she had done something wrong. Then she was off again to join the children in search of more of the strange colored balls. With grandparents, aunts, uncles and numerous cousins we were joyful and life was good. No one was confused, forgetful or had any cognitive loss. The word Alzheimer’s was foreign in our ever-expanding circle of happiness.
WHEN DID THE CHANGES BEGIN?
Often change comes to people like a shot in the dark, but more often change is a gradual happening and the simple life disappears. The first sign of the dreaded disease of Alzheimer’s came to the paternal grandparents of our children. Even that destruction was gradual as it ate away the minds of Ken’s mom and dad. They both would succumb completely before they passed. Again, Alzheimer’s showed it’s ugly monstrous head to my own mother overlapping the life of Ken’s mother. Little by little my mom vanished into someone else. Thankfully, my father escaped the cruel disease.
THE NEXT GENERATION
My sister-in-law, Loretta, was the next to show early signs of cognitive loss as she drifted away from reality and the family. Her diagnosis was only a few years ahead of her brother, my husband Ken. They journeyed into the unknown together for several years before she was confined to a care facility one hundred miles away. My Ken escaped his AD when he passed on to another realm of eternity nearly three years ago.
THE PROMISE OF EASTER
We no longer have a simple life, but it is still good. My children and their progeny remind me that the family, and service to others is what our existence is all about. It is because of Easter and our greatest gift ever: the voluntary sacrifice of his life;Jesus Christ paid for our sins and wrongdoings so that in the eyes of His Father and our Father In Heaven we may come home; our sins, white as snow, after we repent, are all forgiven through his Atonement. The slate will be wiped clean in a Heavenly place where we will be with our loved ones and live together throughout eternity as resurrected beings because of this precious gift from our Savior Jesus Christ. We are reminded yearly of this gracious offering by God’s son every Easter. So remember the simple life and what is most important. Take heart and have a wonderful Easter with family and friends. And remember, if you will, go to church, praise and pray and thank Him for his gift.