The Number 69

Sixty-nine arrived on the fifteenth of this month.
It will remain for another three hundred and sixty-four days.
It gave me an unwanted bolt of reality…one not to ignore.

As an adult, a birthday and another year passing was a usual happening.  I even enjoyed birthday presents!  Then, after the one major event which struck out at me seemed to change my world.  I began to feel I was on some precipice scratching for a twig that would steady a slippery slide.  The twig’s hold worked for many months.  Then to my exasperation,  a collection of deleterious ills happened to me.  I thought I had let go of the twig and landed in a huge cup and saucer.  The cup and saucer sat  on a spinning circle that slowed only for a second.  As it slowed, another little lifetime ill had occurred .

I often think–

At fifteen you pine for freedom so that you can do as you wish.
At 20 life cannot hurt you when you meet it head on fearlessly.
At 40 your career blossoms and you smile and count your money!
When 50 rolls around they say you are over-the-hill!  Stupid–
And the next decade begins a slow spiral own to the number 69.
The future is something akin to a crap shoot….Some Win and Some Lose.

Maybe now it is the time for bit more thought:

  • Norman Cousins–
    The tragedy of life is not death but what we let die inside of us while we live.
  • Robert Frost–
    The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”
  • Me–
    Sometimes to soak myself in my tears and fears, I find that even misery can bring strength back to the mind.
  • John Scalzi—
    The problem with aging is not that it’s one damn thing after another—it’s every damn thing, all at once, all the time.
  • Linda Robinson—
    I have to start loving what comes next and stop hating I won’t be a part of it.
  • My Mother—
    To look backwards  does no good, look forward to Tomorrow and what it may bring.
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To Say Good Bye to Hy

 

hy

In June of 2013 I wrote a blog about my brother-in-law Hy who had Alzheimer’s and was staying with us at that time, (If you wish to read the blog entry use the following link: tp://wp.me/p13BTS-xh.  His life was in an upheaval; not liking where he was living in assisted living, he called me to come and get him and that he no longer wanted to live in a place he didn’t like.   The days while he was with us passed quickly.  Each morning I arose very early to find Hy somewhere near his room.   Each time I motioned for him to join me in the kitchen.  After making coffee and preparing something for breakfast (pancakes were high on his list of likes!)  he and I sat together chatting.

Often he would tell me tales of his family based on youthful or adult memories.  Almost always, a twinkle formed in his eye as his yarn unfolded and even when I knew the story was slightly different it didn’t matter because the twinkle made me smile.  Not often did we discuss his disease, although at times he acknowledged and shared his worries about having Alzheimer’s.

At the early breakfast table chats I was heavy, as I am now.  With a little prodding and a joke from him I tried to explain my eating patterns.  He was adamant that I needed to change and in the meantime he nicknamed me “Big Boy”, a name that he always remembered.   Regardless of the conversation, soon we would break into singing old songs which seemed to bring the chat all together so that we each had an enjoyable time.  

After his stay with us,  he moved to a very nice apartment in another assisted living apartment building.  After a year and a couple of months  of enjoying his new home, his condition quickly changed and Hy passed away following a stroke.

The change began when he sustained a head injury a few weeks before.   The emergency room nurse told us nothing serious was found and that he was going home that same day.  During the next two to three weeks Hy continued to deteriorate until the day he had the stroke.  He was in the hospital a very short time and discharged to his home with hospice.  M and I saw him two times after he returned from the hospital.

He laid in a small hospital bed in the corner of his bedroom.  A hospice nurse sat in the opposite corner watching him and waiting to see any changes and to give him the regimented dose of morphine.  This first day, even though medicated and unable to speak he was able to let us know he knew us.  Once he tried to speak.  I could tell he was asking me about something.  Finally I realized he was asking what was wrong with him.  I simply told him he had a stroke which his left side paralyzed.   He understood and began to hit the bad leg.  It was clear his was upset and sad at the grave change in his health.  I think he knew that his living was over.

We told him good-bye and  that we would see him the following day.  We left disturbed because he received only tiny dose of Morphine, an amount that  couldn’t even be labeled as a palliative dose.   We feared that with a minimal dose he would linger too long in this state and suffer each hour.

The next day’s visit was different.  The morphine dose was at an acceptable level.  We could tell that he would not last more than another day.  We bid our separate good byes to him and silently left with thoughts of him and his life running through our heads.  The next morning he died around 11:30 a.m.  

Death is not joyful, but at times death is better for the person.   He never wished to linger for death to arrive on some unknown future date and be tormented by a ravaged mind that could not understand it all.   Now it is over and the living must deal with his passing.  

Since we moved to Florida five years ago I have enjoyed having him at our house for small dinners and larger parties.  Years ago when M and I had a dinner party I realized there were two tables of guests that needed attention.  I took one of them to sit at and then put Hy and his wife at the other to make sure those guests were happy.  They were amazing at table talk and the guests enjoyed the attention they gave to them.   In Florida Hy became even more jovial and fun.   As his mind deteriorated Hy continued to enjoy life and be concerned about the people he knew.  So many times he called to find out how I was during the time that I had surgery, broken ribs, chemo, and a host of continuing problems. Yes, I shall miss him and continue to believe that to have been with Hy was to enjoy Life at the fullest.  Understanding that makes saying good-bye easier.

Today, one hour, a couple minutes and

On any day, during every hour, within a few minutes an action, word or even a glance at you can change life can change and when it does you poignantly feel a loss for “the way it was”. Major changes will remind you that life has no guarantees. Regardless how minor the change you know that you will never feel the same as you did.

Today, one little phrase, “a small mass needs a biopsy.” I wasn’t so gravely shocked, nor in the first minutes did I break down. An image of my destiny has been a part of me for a long time.

The Rate of Time

If I am not attentive, the days pass too quickly for certain things and others pass like a snail.  Yesterday, I realized a second week had passed, both of which I spent working on a watercolor.  I looked at the painting, reflected on its imagery, understood the work needs patience and clarity as I paint, but how is it only half done??  Could it now take me more than two weeks to complete an intricate composition where a few years ago I could compete one of the same size within a two-week period.  Maybe I paint slower than I did!

Then, late yesterday afternoon, as I sat on the den sofa and stuffed myself with a large salad, I pondered over my complete inactivity.   I hate doing anything that is good for me, like exercise, yet when I look in the mirror I know I need to force myself to begin again if I do not want to get heavier and heavier.  The humidity in the hot Florida sun is overwhelming for me each summer.  My bike seat needs fixing so I use it as an excuse not to bicycle even in the evening when the temperature and humidity become acceptably lower.  Immediately, without much more thought, I switch my thinking and defend my inactivity that summer is the cause and that it always seems to go on indefinitely.  Even in October,  I think November will never arrive when the temperate days and nights beckon me out.

Times passage is always elusive to me, even in my aging.  I know I am sixty-five,  yet I don’t feel I have lived that long, yet I remember too many birthdays that I have had!   They prove how old I am, yet I feel I feel the passage of those years and the question of time passing too quickly as I paint are similar.   So then, shouldn’t I feel that the passage of  summer have the  same rate or is the its passing  governed by how I think??

To Remember and Decide

Thanksgiving is upon us.  Last year I couldn’t think of Thanksgiving because my Mother just passed away.  A year later the holiday brings so many memories of her, particularly the Thanksgiving Dinner that she loved to prepare.  Like a few times in the past, this year I will make another Thanksgiving Dinner and as usual when I make a Thanksgiving dinner it will be far less irresistible than Momma’s ever were.  I am a trained Chef and a darned good cook, but to make a turkey and all the trimmings is something Momma was stellar at and I barely competent to compare.

As a small child on the farm I always enjoyed watching Momma stuff the turkey, but more importantly I knew her dressing mixture was going to be heavenly just as soon as that turkey was done.  Momma’s turkey, as well as the dressing brought incredible wafts of butter, sage and browning turkey as the hours passed waiting for it to be done.  Momma never rushed her turkeys.  In fact she got up early just to get it in and be able to watch over it and patiently baste it when necessary, making it moist and tender.  Oh as I write I can smell and I remember the taste.  I remember the leftovers and the unparalleled turkey sandwiches I could concoct from the slices of light and dark meat.

Momma was at her best on the holidays.  She loved cooking but more importantly she enjoyed making dinner for her family.  As in all families we had our traditional trimmings, each of course better than the next, each a little more fattening than the last, but it was worth every calorie.  As I grew up I learned to space myself just a little so that I didn’t get that full achy, sleepy feeling from the triptafan.   Yet, regardless of trying, the time arrived that made me realize that  if I didn’t stop eating I would surely bust.  Unfortunately, when I woke during the night I always sneaked out to the kitchen for another bite of that heavenly turkey.

The last Thanksgiving my Mother orchestrated was just two years before she died.  Momma had an idea and asked if I minded that she planned the table and the menu.  The next days following her request were days filled with surprises, shopping, memories and work for her.  At the time she was still able to go shopping, although bound to her wheel chair.  She had her list ready for shopping.  First to Joann’s Crafts and Hobby Lobby to see what was new in fabrics and decor.  Momma made her selection for the tablecloth and skirt, then on to deciding just which faceplate would make the table look the way she wanted.  While at the two shops she also chose leaves, a wonderful metal turkey and other items for the centerpiece.  During that little escapade Momma asked how she could make a big cookie for everyone, something once again that was goood, but also pretty.  At first I was a little confused and asked if she wanted this for the dessert.  No, that wasn’t the idea she had.  Rather than just give them a cookie Momma wanted it to be wrapped and placed at the table space in a clear bag.

After more shopping for food Momma arrived home ready to work.  That was Momma, but I cautioned her that we had plenty of time and tomorrow, after she rested we could begin.  The next day after, barely past the time I got Momma up and in her wheelchair, I was reminded she needed to start working on her special cookies.  Momma, with her right side paralyzed, in her wheelchair was determined to make the cookie dough.  I placed the mixer on a low stand by her, brought all the ingredients and in a fair amount of time she was ready for me to roll and cut the dough for her.

___________________________

Nearly a year ago I began this post.  As I reached the end of the paragraph above the line I stopped.  I couldn’t continue writing.  The memories became to intense remember that wonderful day.  I have kept the tablecloth and all the decorations, yet to this day I am unable to look at them with out missing her.

Last years Thanksgiving was fine.  I made a turkey and all the trimmings and as I sat at the head of the table I asked myself why did I do all of this because my guests could never know or understand the Thanksgivings from my past.  They were special to me and I knew that I did not like the idea of forging a new Thanksgiving of my own, particularly when most of the people I could have for guests only see it as another year.

I vowed that night that I would never try a Thanksgiving Dinner again.  This year I will be at my sister’s in Illinois.  If anyone can come close to the family dinner I enjoy so much is my sister.  I know that Thanksgiving Day will be and taste like it always did.

And then I shall return from Florida and prepare a Christmas/Hannukah Dinner, especially for my dear sister-in-law, who has become a new person  in my life who believes in me as much as my Mother.  Shirley, even though Jewish, understands that for me Christmas is a gay wonderful time.  It was significant in my family, yet held a different position of importance.  Thanksgiving Momma always prepared and planned.  Christmas was a time when we all brought a bit of us to the day and dinner to show our love for each other.  So, when Shirley once said to me I would love, just once to see a big white Christmas tree with sparkling packages under it and a house all decorated for Christmas, there wasn’t much hesitation to say to her, “This year Shirley will be your own White Christmas.”

 

 

 

Tomorrow and the Tomorrow after Tomorrow!

Part I

My world is on a jagged, roller coaster ride.  Sometimes the path appears to be straight without any impediments along the way and suddenly, under one of the wheels that ships me on my way, a tiny stone throws me off balance.  Peace may follow again for a short bit, but watch out because there is always a quick, jagged turn.  I lunge forward, crash backwards, appear to ricochet and then settle down only to sway to the right or left before balance and quietude return.  During this maelstrom of events, as I gather up myself from the mental bruising of feeling like a boomerang I become even more quiet, or move into repugnant actions, but always become more introverted than ever before and as I draw within me,  solitude is gained through an incontrollable binge on food followed later by discomfort.

As I grow older,  I find I don’t handle these torrential periods as well as I used to and I am particularly not happy to feel the wear and tear on my body and mind.   Wearing out, physically or emotionally,  before I want to, is not to happen.  I vowed years ago that I would never let something get the best of me, but now I begrudgingly admit, I acknowledge it takes too much energy to even try to go on as long as I used too.

Ah, the wonderment of young years.  In my twenties and thirties I could stay up all day and night working or playing and regardless of the action was able to continue on the next days without a bit of problem.   During my late forties I noticed a little change, but certainly nothing to get excited about, but then that terrible number rolled around and life began to change significantly after fifty.  Oh the change wasn’t again the worst thing  I have ever experienced, I only adapted new ways of working or balancing long hours with hours of rest.  When this current decade of age arrived (the one that placed me in my sixties)  I knew that life was going to be different.  Now at sixty-two I can definitely say, particularly when I have much too do, the amount of physical work I can do is far less than in my twenties.  I must also admit that my midriff is a lot larger than it was.  It seems that if it isn’t one thing then it is another.

Fortunately, I pray, my current situation will not last much longer.  Hopefully, once I reach a point of conclusion in my work, my roller coaster ride will change to a gentler Merry Go Round.  Merry Go Round’s are fine.  You can get on easily when something happens and in a short time you can also step off and quickly and easily return to normalcy.  Now should this not be possible, or if my current  tumultuous life continues on longer than it should, then I will need to take a severe measure by taking charge of me–something that is quite difficult to do.  I can try to help others take charge of their lives, but I am not as good at it in my own life, so let’s hope I don’t have to try!!!


Part II

The climb up the hill finally ended the other day.  All that was to be finished was finished, even though my psychological hill was gouged with unforgettable marks recording how often I slipped, stood up, continued and finally achieved what I wanted.

But–yes and it is a big but–not more than 48 hours after the I looked around from the top of my jagged, hill I began to worry if all this wear and tear would do me some harm.  Another day I knew, as I lay in my bed racked with fever, swollen sinus and chills.  The dreaded ills of just a month ago returned to me.  Possibly if I had taken the time to care for me then, today, I may have not been able to enjoy the return of the same symptoms.

As I look back over the past weeks I wonder if I would have done it any different.  Would I learn to stop, rest and go on, or will I continually just plunge, recklessly forward believing my anthem of “It must be done!” is right.  Here I am somewhere near the entrance to my Crepusculum.  I think I am supposed to be wiser, smarter, seasoned as I cross  over to my twilight years.  But the truth is, I am sure I will continue to blunder on my way as I always do without once taking charge to plan.  Ah tis sad to know that the older I get, the more stubborn I get.

Now with aspirin in me to hold down the fever and allow me to write and think I see just how ridiculous this all is.  I am an adult and I should know better, but I don’t.  Tomorrow will not bring a bolt of lightning to change me, but the tomorrow after each of the new tomorrows may lead me down a new trail and change may occur a little bit at a time.  If only I could believe I am sixty-two and not twenty.  If only I could accept I can’t do it all.  If only I can remember that exhaustion leads to areas I don’t want to go to.  If only I would remember that once I have entered my Crepusculum I had better be just a little more in control!!