Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass- it is about learning to dance in the rain.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

My last Uncle

     My last uncle died, my Dad's last male sibling.   Grandma had seven boys and six girls.  Two of the girls are living still.  But Elton was the last living boy from this sibship of thirteen.  I'm depressed.  Yet I acknowledge that the loss is greater for the sisters, and Uncle Elton's spouse, of course.   Not to mention their four daughters and various grandchildren.  My prayers go out to them.

     Some days I really miss living near family.  I mean, hubby and I have a lovely life -- immediate family, including kids and grands, and a bevy of friends.  The kind of friends who are there when you need them and might well be family measured by the strength of connection.

     Still, in moments like these I find myself longing for the cousins, those companions of childhood who just were. . .not quite siblings, but more than friends, connected by blood and mutual history.

     Perhaps my current funk is also brought on by that spectre of middle age -- the sense of one's own mortality that descends with the passing of relatives and friends so close to one's own age -- or even younger.  This reality is compounded by the fact that I no longer get "carded" when asking for the senior discount.   I could further depress myself by making a list of cousins my age and younger who have gone on.  But I won't -- or maybe I will, but I won't include it here.

    So what's the upside?  Or, why on earth am I writing/posting this?

    For one thing, just writing makes me feel better.  The grief no longer sits in my gut eating on my tranquility.  Rather it resides on a page outside of myself, a testimony to grief. 

    For another, some reading this will relate and realize they are not alone.  The blue funk hits the best of us.  Even Jesus wept. . . though for more profound reasons.

    Nonetheless, scripture describes Jesus as "a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief."  And His words provide comfort:
Matthew 5:4  Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

John 14:27   I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give is not fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

John 14:18  No, I will not abandon you or leave you as orphans in the storm--
I will come to you.

     And with those words, I shall shake off this ennui and get packed for the journey "down home." 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

And here they are 6 years later!!

Love this picture of my younger son with his younger daughter.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A New Phase of LIfe

My grandmother would never say the word "pregnant."   Even "expecting" was too explicit for her.  She'd rarely use "in the family way."    In those days, the young couple didn't make a public announcement.  It was spread through the family by way of the kitchen.   I remember my grandmother heralding the news to several women who were helping in the kitchen.  

"Jean is, well, you know. . ."

One of her younger daughters blurted out, "Mom, just say it.   She's pregnant.  She's pregnant."

That's how I'm feeling now.    No!!  Not pregnant!!  Reluctant to make the announcement.   I prefer to call it "A New Phase of Life", "Closing one door," "Making a change."   But, truth is, I've retired from my beloved profession of teaching.  It's not a joyous moment for me.   I'm faced with the fact that perhaps my strength and stamina are declining.  Okay.  My strength and stamina ARE declining.  I rarely even pretend to multitask anymore.  One thing at a time is more than sufficient.  Yet, I'm not ready for the rocking chair.   Nor the senior center.  If I spend too much time contemplating, I drive myself into a mild depressive state.  Today was one of those days.   Blah.  

Isn't it marvelous that God always knows what I need?  So today, he sent several angels of encouragement.  One after another, each reminding me of an era, people that I had helped.  Two of the four overtly thanked me for my help, influence in their lives.  The other two greeted me happily, in such a way that it left me with that warm fuzzy feeling of having made a difference in the lives of people.

Within the space of an hour, a senior citizen, a twenty-something, a thirty-something, and a teenager stopped to greet me.  All from differing eras,  each expressing appreciation for my contribution to their lives.  It was as though it were a "This is Your Life" episode orchestrated by God.  One from teaching, one from my years as an immigration specialist, one a former church member, and the other a random stranger whom we invested in.   Not an accident, I think.   God has a sense of humor.

And, I still can't say it without making an apology or an excuse.   I have retired from teaching.  But I shall continue, possibly in another profession, possibly teaching in a different capacity.   Certainly I shall remain open to the guidance of the Lord.   If he can pull such diverse people together in such a sort time as a reminder to me of his hand in my life, he certainly can guide my next steps.

I am retired. . . or am I?


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

VCI the Wicked Thief of a Parent

      Some things in life cannot be explained until one has experienced them.   The birth of a child or a grandchild is like that.   So is the sudden onset of Vascular Cognitive Impairment (VCI) in a parent.  Hearing one's parent beg to be taken home when he is in the place he has lived for more than 30 years, in a house he remodeled and added on the very room in which he is lying, is disconcerting to say the least.   He was able to agree with my brother that the two of them had carried the stones for the wall over a matter of weeks, carrying them up a steep bank from the creek bed and trucking them home.   He said he remembered, even added a small detail.  "Those things were heavy," he said.   Yet, two minutes later he's again asking to go home.

    He woke up one morning convinced that he had owned 160 acres in Florida (a state he has never even visited) and that a woman was trying to cheat him out of them.   He demanded to see the deed and the letter with six signatures all day long.  He was angry with my stepmother when she couldn't produce the deed and letter.   The woman had faked an ID; she'd pasted a Polaroid picture over the one of him and pretended to be him.  (Why a woman...pretending to be him?)   This 160 acres dominated a couple of days.

     The following morning he woke up with a murder scenario firmly fixed in his brain.  There'd been a man sitting in Dad's living room.   Another younger man had entered and shot him.  "Bang Bang.   Just like that.  Point blank.  Shot him."

    All day he alternately worried about the shooter (Would he get a sentence of life imprisonment?  Would they even catch him?) and the victim.   He wanted to go to the funeral of the man, convinced that not very many people would be there. Apparently no one but him knew about the murder.  These long rambling monologues (we would only respond uh-huh, really, or I-don't-know) took hours that morning.   Almost two hours at the beginning of the day he chattered about.  The topic kept coming up later.

   Sometimes we had to laugh.  Pat was giving him Dr. Pepper.  (He's lying in bed; she holds it while he drinks with the straw.)   He turns to me on the other side of the bed and asks if I want some Dr. Pepper.   I say no thank you.   He insists, "Here."   He reaches toward me with his right hand cupped as though it held a can of Dr. Pepper.   I reach out and pretend to take it.  I say, "Thank you."  And then turn to my sister, pretend to hand it to her saying, "You hold it for me."    We held a straight face for a few minutes longer, then exited to the kitchen to laugh and cry at the same time.

    How can you understand if you've never been there?  Laughing at the ludicrosity of pretending to take a Dr. Pepper from my Dad, and of course the mischievousness of handing it to my sister.  Then weeping with intense sadness that he is in this state of unknowingness.   And wondering how long the craziness will last?  How long will his wife be able to handle this nonsense and the intense care he requires?

     Sometimes his knowledge was uncanny, yet he was unable make sense of what he knew.   My brother had fixed the rocking recliner so it wouldn't rock as far forward.  Previously he'd been able to get a rocking motion going until he could pitch forward into the floor.  He believed that he could walk and that only we were stopping him from standing.  If only he could stand, he believed he'd walk.   The therapist tried earlier.  He still cannot walk although both legs have remarkable strength.   He realizes that the chair is not doing what he wants.  So he starts complaining that the chair has too much air in it.  It is an overstuffed chair, and quite soft.   He insisted that someone had inflated the chair.  Actually Don put a couple of two by fours under the front springs so that it will rock, but not rock forward enough to allow him to dive out of it.   He still has a knot on his head from the last dive forward.  That, of course, he cannot remember.  He castigates all of us for keeping him immobile.

     Later that day his sister came to visit.  The first thing he started with her was telling her his Florida property story.   She looked at me questioningly.   I filled her in.  "He has this 160 acres in Florida that a woman is trying to take from him.  That's what he's talking about," I say.  We can't use the word dream or fantasy or hallucination because those will set him off on his paranoid delusions.  That results in him not knowing any of us.  We become the enemy.  

     I start messing with my phone, thinking I'll take a picture of him and his sister.   He continues the conversation with her.   She doesn't miss a beat and just talks about the property.  

   "You know, we could use a house in Florida.  We live in a trailer when we're down there.  Owning that much property would be nice."   (All true)  The next thing we know, he's trying to sell her the property.   My brother gives a shout of laughter.... My sister snaps a picture and we head to the kitchen to laugh/cry.   As we are in the kitchen shaking our heads, her husband joins them and the three of them dicker about the price and the value of the Florida land for the next hour.   

    The next morning, he says, "You know I don't think Helen and Don are serious about buying that land in Florida.  I think they were just talking."

     Some things are just not comprehensible until one has experienced them.  I sincerely hope that you never, ever understand.    

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Will you please just say what you mean??

An acquaintance came by this afternoon.   We know his brother and have met him a couple of times.   He knocks on the door and asks for my husband.   This sounds bizarre but I didn't know where he was.   The cars were in their usual spot.  I vaguely remembered hubby telling me that he would be doing something...going somewhere...something.   I did an Uh-huh without really listening  (Did I just admit to that in writing?) and went on with my work...or play since I was on FB!! 

So I called hubby a time or two and looked through the house without finding him.   "Sorry.  I don't think he's here," I tell my visitor. 

I ask for a phone number so that hubby can call him back.  He hesitates.   Then the real reason for the visit.  He is on foot and wanted a ride.

Well why the heck can't you say so!!   That's my point!   By this time, I'm annoyed.  If he had wanted a ride,  I could almost have taken him there by the time we had finished the "where is hubby" charade.

Then hubby appeared.   He was making phone calls and has a habit of walking as he talks.  He'd stepped outside momentarily.   Hubby, of course, took the man home.  It was a matter of 30-40 minutes.

Our visitor comes from a country in which the indirect is the rule....and IT DRIVES ME CRAZY!   If you want something, just tell me!! 

But before I come to this realization, I had a half hour of conscience pangs.  Am I so hard and unfeeling that I'm now unwilling to help people.  Why am I so annoyed.  One cannot schedule a hardship need to fit my schedule.   And on went the self talk.   UNTIL....   I realized, this direct/indirect thing is one of the ways that I have SO much trouble adjusting to South American culture.   The direct, plain-speaking American is rude in that setting.  And one might as well wish for snow in July as to wish for them to speak simply.  Round-about speaking is the rule.  I know that and can deal with it in their country.  But now??  We're in my country!

So...I'm not harsh and unfeeling about helping people.  I'm just impatient and annoyed with someone from a culture that won't be direct with me!   Is it better??  or worse??  I'm not sure.   But at least I feel better about it.

Wonder what God is thinking?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Who's Ready for Retirement?

     I've been teaching for so long that it is difficult to think of myself in other terms.   teaching has become my identity.  Yet, I realize that the classroom is not the only place that I inhabit.  A teacher does not define nor comprise all that I am.   Still, that six hour chunk of my day is consuming.  It's consuming in terms of thoughts and ideas in my quiet time; it definitely inhabits most of my "purpose in life" thoughts and energies.   In a sense, it's right that it should; right that I spend so much of my time and energy on planning, purchasing supplies and paraphernalia, fulfilling plans and executing activities, lessons and exercises for the classroom.   Those little lives that are entrusted to my keeping are important.   My actions, words and ideas may change lives.   Now that's a monumental thought!

     However, just lately, I've been able to think of the near future when headed to a classroom everyday will be a thing of the past.   And I've been almost anticipating the relief that perhaps my tasks will not be so numerous, so time-consuming, so exhausting.  Almost.

     The uncertainty of what's to come is also part of my ennui in thinking about the future.   Most of the time I'm excited to be heading into the unknown, into a great new adventure.   And that is how I must think of this -- a great new adventure.   It will be an adventure to find myself sans classroom and perhaps cast into some new profession or project.   If I could just know what that adventure will be, I might be able to dredge up more enthusiasm.

     For now, I'll be satisfied with looking forward to discovering that enthusiasm!!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

In Contemplation of Retirement

Here I am sitting in my kitchen contemplating what shall be the course of my life when I am forced (more or less) into retirement in June, to the tune of hubby singing "True Love" while he builds up the fire in the fireplace on this cold February afternoon.   I've found several things I could "do" after retirement, none of them particularly practical.  I could win the HGTV Dream house and move to Kiawah Island, South Carolina and write my memoirs sitting on that lovely porch/deck overlooking the ocean.   I could, for only $49, purchase The Barefoot Writer's Club which will guarantee me a six figure income for life, or at least as long as my fingers can work the keyboard and my brain will shovel out drivel.  I could increase my lottery ticket purchase from 0 to 1 per week and win the next mega-million payout.  Or not.

In all probability, in two year's time I shall be sitting in my kitchen, listening to hubby do some task while singing and still be contemplating what shall be the course of my life now that I am retired.  Or not.

This sounds cheerless.   I am, in fact, not unhappy, just having a moment.  If I have learned anything, it is that the more things change, the more they remain the same.


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