“We find a delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“To make other people laugh is no great feat so long as one does not mind whether they are laughing at our wit or at us ourselves.” Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
Every Thursday morning, I have the pleasure of opening up Poulsbo’s Historic Maritime Museum to acquaint visitors with Poulsbo’s history of logging and fishing. One particular Thursday morning a gentleman stopped by to ask if it was OK to have groups of boys and girls from the Sons’ of Norway Summer Program visit our museum. “Of course!” was my response… little did I know what I was letting myself in for!
As the morning grew to afternoon, suddenly a line of 16 little male bodies appeared as they romped and bounced down the sidewalk in as close to single file as young boys can possibly do at their age. As they entered the museum, their teacher announced “Now, DON’T touch ANYTHING!”
Heck, kids have to have some fun and mischief so I instructed them on how to pump the fog horn so they could alert the ships to the danger of nearby land. There is nothing like an ear blasting sound to excite the kids. One after another child worked at pumping the horn to make it roar! I considered taking out my hearing aids.
Additionally, we have a ship’s bell at the “Captain’s Wheel” so I encouraged the boys to ring the bell too. While the commotion was taking place one little boy walked up to me asking “How tall are you? You sure ARE tall!” After my answer, he hit me with the next killer question… “How OLD are you?” When I responded, the young man shrieked, “You SURE ARE TALL for being THAT old!”
Ok, I have white hair, or some might call it “blond” but age is in the eyes of the beholder, as I sure don’t feel old! Evidently, the young man disagreed with my thinking.
My friends laughed with me about my experience, then shared some of their tales. One friend from my high school days discussed colors with her three year old grandson. The color, yellow, came up and my friend’s grandson replied, “Like your teeth!” After my friend picked herself off the ground from embarrassment and laughter, she decided she might need a whitening agent for her teeth after all!
One day another friend was quietly enjoying lunch at his favorite restaurant when a mother and her two young children sat at the table next to him. The one child, a young toddler, sat in a high chair, while the other sibling sat a long side. The toddler made eye contact with my friend, and then the ESP kicked in as my friend hiccupped! The toddler hiccupped in response, so the two seemed to communicate through continued hiccups, then the older sibling asked, “May I join in, in your conversation?” So the three, two children and an older man, hiccupped in response to one another while the mother laughed so hard tears streamed down her face.
Children bring joy to our lives… OK, and some craziness!
Ever have those nights when you can’t sleep? Your body aches, your brain won’t stop whirling, you toss and turn, and finally you decide to get up to eat or drink something so you can go back to sleep.
Well, I had one of those nights so I climbed out of bed about 1:00 in the morning stumbling into the kitchen to go drink some almond milk and take a Tylenol. Since the dishes in the dishwasher were clean I decided to put them away too. We have a couple of sets of old plates, and one set is missing a plate as it broke years ago, so we only have three plates of that set. But, when I went to put the plates away my set of three was down to two, a plate was missing. Now WHERE could it be?
My husband sometimes misplaces things, or maybe he had left his sandwich on it and put it in the refrigerator. Nope, I checked the refrigerator it wasn’t there. I checked the other cabinets and drawers. I could NOT find that missing plate. Hmmm, maybe my husband broke it accidentally and forgot to tell me. Ok, so I’ll ask hubby in the morning to see what happened to the plate.
The next morning, as my husband quietly sat and drank his coffee, I asked him what happened to the missing plate. He said that he was going to put his sandwich on the plate, but decided the plate was too big. He indicated that he put the plate away. “Ok, if you put the plate away, why can’t I find it?” I checked under the sofa, as sometimes when he finishes his meals he puts the plate on the floor. It could slide under a piece of furniture. Maybe it accidentally ended up under a chair or something… NOPE!
By now, I’m about ready to pull my hair out. At this point, Hubby gets up to heat his oatmeal in the microwave. He opens the microwave and THERE is the missing plate with his lunch meat, and melted cheese on it. This means that when he made his lunch the day before, he had toasted his bread and added the extras: mayonnaise, lettuce, and pickles. But this is when he decided to use a smaller plate. He was also engrossed watching the news. Hubby threw his sandwich together, cut up an apple, and grabbed a couple of chips and sat down to eat his lunch. He had TOTALLY forgotten to add the important lunch meats and melted cheese to his sandwich. It NEVER occurred to him that he had forgotten the main part of his sandwich while eating it. See what happens when you grow old!
Oh well, at least we found the missing plate!
New Year’s Eve’s early morning started off with a BANG, CRASH, and THUD! I jumped out of bed, ran around the corner of our short hall directly into the living room of our tiny apartment. There sprawled on the floor was my husband. He had passed out again. We must have looked like an episode of Oliver and Hardy, where Oliver misses a step on the ladder crashing to the ground while Hardy… me runs around in frantic circles. As my husband lurched toward the floor he hit our oak corner table shoving it into the wall of our tiny apartment. Now there is a slight indentation in the wall. You can say we have made our impact on the apartment. My mornings frequently start out this way as of Christmas Eve 2015, one year ago.
My friends and I believed that after raising children that our senior years would become easier… the Golden Years. Then Christmas Eve night 2015 while my husband and I were lounging in bed watching TV my husband turns to me uttering, “Call 911! I can’t take the pain any longer.”
I’m thinking, ‘But this is Christmas Eve. We have plans to enjoy Christmas day with our son.’ So, turning to John I mutter, “How about if I drive you to the hospital?” thinking that we would get to the hospital, the doctor would give John some medicine to settle his tummy, and then we could come home.
My husband evidently didn’t see the confusion in my eyes. I was scared and concerned for my husband, but I wanted to enjoy Christmas with my family. John emphatically muttered, “No! Call 911. My acid reflux is killing me.”
As it turned out, the ‘acid reflux’ was killing him, but it wasn’t acid reflux. John had a serious hiatal hernia that was extraordinarily large, twisted around his stomach, pushing into his lung, and turning gangrenous. To add to the fun, my husband has such extraordinarily low blood pressure that he would stand up and pass out. I was hoping the doctor and hospital aids would wrap him in bubble wrap.
Now after several surgeries, and a barrage of tests, the doctors still don’t know why John passes out. Consequently, at night when he gets up and attempts to use the bathroom he may walk a couple of feet along the edge of the bed, start to wobble and bounce like a small child on the bed. Sometimes he misses the bed and hits the floor. Sometimes he staggers to the end of the bed and bounces on my legs. Night after night, and during the early mornings we go through the same routine.
Over the year, John has crashed through a couple of bathroom walls, knocked wooden closet doors off their tract, and banged up his head, back, leg, and shoulder.
My morning consists of getting up before John to get his water, pills, coffee, and oatmeal ready. I watch as he marches laps up and down our short hall as he works to get the blood circulating to his brain. Now, after seven months of this morning routine, he is finally able to walk out to the mailbox to get our mail, walk down our few steps to dump our garbage and recycling.
We don’t go out for meals, to visit our grandkids, or to run errands. “WE” is now “Me.”
This month’s IWSG question is “What writing rule do you wish you had never heard.” There are two rules that drive me crazy and I’ll bet you can guess from reading my story which two rules they are… “Show don’t tell,” and Write what you know. When I “tell” my stories I see them vividly in my mind… you mean you CAN’T read my mind?
Also, writing what I know… hmmm, WHAT do I know? I have volunteered forever with organizations that help children because of my dysfunctional family life while growing up. I keep thinking that if I tell my story people will see what went wrong in my family… so they will do things better and differently. Also, I admired Erma Bombeck’s style of writing with heart and humor… I hope to “grow up” to be like her… wish me luck.
Many Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for starting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and to my friend, Patricia Garcia, for inviting me to join this supportive group. I also thank this month’s IWSG co-hosts: Jennifer Hawes, Jen Chandler, Nick Wilford, Juneta Key, JH Moncrieff, Diane Burton, and MJ Fifield.
In regards to December’s IWSG question: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?
Sadly, my writing “career,” if that is what you want to call it is haphazard at best. Initially, I wanted to write a book about my brother’s sad life, but I realized I had too few facts to create a book. Then after taking writing classes for various aspects of writing I realized that I am happier writing short stories. I especially loved Erma Bombeck’s style and wanted to follow in her footsteps. Sad, but true, in attempting to publish my stories, I realized that the stories that magazines now publish are extremely different than in the “old days,” the stories I used to read. Despite obstacles, I have managed to publish a few short stories though.
I have a thought about producing a book on Caregiving since I have been caregiving for my husband for a year. Caregiving is NOT what I thought it would be like! I suspect other people were surprised about how exhausting and maddening caregiving can be… who would know?
Recently, I received a book, DON’T WRITE YOUR BOOK WITHOUT ME, by Viga Boland. The opening pages have hooked me right in to thinking about writing about my brother’s and my life again. Viga’s book is a “page turner” for me as her comments are not the standard… she wants me to “Free fall” —starting with random thoughts rather than using a specific outline. I like her thinking.
So my goal is to inspire my writing again… to actually accomplish more rather than shoving my writing in the garbage can.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the things which you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
“If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.” ― Amy Tan
Walking into the Best Western’s conference room, as I looked around, I noticed approximately ten tables decorated in fall colors that were set for eight to ten male and female caregivers expectantly waiting for answers to their problems. Questions and comments I heard at the Family Support Caregiving Conference included statements like: One tired and tense, young woman spoke with tears in her eyes, “How do I care for my parents, go to work, and care for my kids too?”
Another woman said, “I was so angry that my husband had Alzheimer’s that I finally realized it was more important to take care of me, and then I stopped being angry.”
The leader of the support group mentioned, “Dealing with my parents’ finances, while they were sick, simply was not a matter of paying bills, there was way more to it as my sisters and I could not agree on what needed to be done for our parents’ financial security. I was heart-broken.”
“One wife said, “When I called ER and they showed up, I told them my husband passed out and nearly killed himself hitting his head on the tile floor in the bathroom.” The Emergency Medic turned to her and replied, “Your husband is drunk.” Her shocked response was “What do you mean he is drunk?”
Women in my group predominantly are caring for husbands and parents with Alzheimer’s, but there were a few exceptions as the woman who is dealing with caring for an alcoholic husband and attempting to get him straightened out. Then my husband has extraordinarily low blood pressure, so he stands up and passes out, adding to his other health issues.
What shocked me was the amount of anger that these loving women dealt with in caring for their family members. I thought I would be the only angry person in the group, and I felt there was something wrong with me for feeling so bad. Then I learned that you “need to give yourself oxygen before you can care for a loved one,” as it seemed to be the quote of the day for our group.
The Family Caregiver Support Conference included subjects like: Don’t Let Your Back Pain Slow You Down, Meditation and Self-Care Exercises, Assistive Technology, Safe Physical Transfer Assistance and Use of Equipment, and finally small break-out group discussions.
The Meditation exercise relaxed several of us so much that I noticed heads drooping as it nearly put us to sleep. Yes, we were stressed out. Then the conference leader had us doing stretches, and showed us some exercises to help keep us strong. The exercise would relax us too. After teaching us to relax, a list was handed out of agencies from around the county that we could turn to for emotional support.
The amazing part of this conference showed us equipment that helped severely disabled people function more normally on their own. Heck, I was shocked to see what looked like eye glasses designed to help people manipulate their computers through head and eye movements alone.
For those people with difficulty operating various machines, there are special handles that look like gardening tools designed so that you can attach it to the disabled person and then to the piece of equipment. Thus these handles make life easier for handicapped people so they can function more on their own. So not only caregivers gained support but we learned where to find equipment that would help incapacitated family members too.
For me, the best part of the conference was learning of the variety of support agencies that I can turn to if I need help. As well, I enjoyed meeting the other caregivers out there who needed support, as I do. We shared stories and tears. None of us expected to end up in this position but now all we can do is the best we can do, and know that we aren’t alone. Turning to others and helping one another out is important. I think when we all left the conference we felt that the load on our shoulders had lightened.