As we Grow Old-Photo Essay

Young-Winter-Difficult Days

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IMG_0352My Dad-Late 1940’s, Winter 2013, and after his illness Summer 2014, Lesson-  Never waste time, treasure your memories, let the people you love know it-every day-Remember what they taught you, ask them to tell you the stories of thier lives, write them down, share them with your childrem, and grandchildren.  Smile as we see the similarities and understand that times and ways change over the years, Love and time are the most important gifts we can give.

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First Light Illuminations

 

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Morning comes again, as I struggle, sleepy-eyed towards the kitchen. First light has just begun to creep over the mountains. It does little to encourage me to fix that cup of coffee and start another day. I find myself thinking of a different song most mornings, I wonder if it came from a dream I had during the night or just why that song would be in my head. It will always be a song from the 1970’s or late 1960’s, it seems. I think perhaps it expresses a longing to have lived my life differently, to avoid the pitfalls, to have more confidence that I did.

 

Today, the song dwelling in my half-asleep mind is “If you’re Going to San Francisco, be sure to wearr some flowers in your hair.” By the time I am busy waking people up, leaving home as the light becomes brighter, I have usually forgotten the song.

 

I see the turkeys crowded outside in my yard, waiting for their hand full of sunflower seeds that I always give them. I have noticed that they have a “pecking order”, like most birds do. The dominant birds will chase off, wings flaring , if necessary, the birds who have little status. Even if I throw the seeds in a wide arch, the dominant turkeys will chase away the birds with little status. I feel sorry for them, always trying to find a way to get some food to them.

 

I look at the turkeys the way I look at people. Often, the people who are respected, have status or, perhaps are feared are allowed privileges and perks that regular people are not. No matter how hard we try, if we don’t have a higher-up willing to help us, there is little chance for success.

 

Life has not been kind to me for a long time. I seem to always be on the outside looking in. Sometimes, I take naps on my son’s grave. When I find dimes, I see that as a sign that he is with me. I see those around me making their way through career moves, avoiding trouble, getting new houses, while life remains stagnant and unrewarding for me.

 

The love, companionship, the glimpses of happiness seem to evade me. That has been my world. A few happy years, or months followed by periods of time when I wonder what I have done to deserve them. Some people seem able to take the same recipe and have a “who cares” attitude, while I can’t seem overcome the pessimistic attitude that being a realist has given me.

 

I watch the butterflies flit from flower to flower. Darting, carefree amidst the summer gardens. Their lives are short, precarious, yet they go about their calling without worry or fear. A half grown rabbit freezes on the front lawn, hoping I don’t see it, or at least don’t see it as a meal. I goldfinch lands on a thistle and meets with its mate in an apple tree.

 

Life, I suppose holds different joys for each of us, just as it holds different sorrows. I watch nature outside my door and the song in my head returns. “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” I pluck a daisy and tuck it behind the golden curls covering my ear. I guess I will keep hoping, looking, dreaming of that life that I had wanted, even if I am no longer young and it is only a dream.

 

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The Mystery of the Lily Seeds

Summer Lilies

 

They say deer eat these mine are all still healthy

Summers lilies of pumpkin gold

waving softly in the wind

The black seeds perched

precariously at the center of every leaf.

 

I wonder-which wisp of wind

will scatter seeds and where will they land?

Will they hang on drying slowly

until fall finally wilts the plant?

 

The fuzzy stamens, tempting new life-

why do the seeds form down the branch,

when the stamens and ovulates

rest within the velvety soft flower?

 

Each tiny gift nature has given

develops its own ways,

keeps its mystical secrets,

reminds us that every living thing.

 

is special, unique, magical.

Look at a daisy, a lily, a daffodil,

every one with its own way to reproduce,

Life itself holds infinite recipes.

 

Every flower shares it beauty,

to observe and enjoy is a gift

free and simple, there for the taking.

The finest things in life ARE free!

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Our First Love-A Young Man Looking for Courage- Poetry by W.B Yeats

 

William Bulter Yeats was born in 1865 in Ireland. He was a popular and accomplished poet, receiving the Nobel prize for Poetry at one time in his career. Brown Penny was written in 1910. It was published in a book of poetry called The Green Helmet and Other Poems. The poem tells of a young mans’ insecurity about a new emotion-love. He has seen others fall in and out of love and acknowledged both the joy and agony that could come from opening ourselves up to this “new” emotion.

 

Tossing the penny to make this decision is probably more an expression of his anxiety than of actually “doing” what the penny suggested, heads for yes, tails for no. I have always imagined that he had already decided to approach the young lady he had become enamored of.

 

One thing that I have wondered about the poem was how old the author imagined the young man in his poem to be. After all , he was 55 when he wrote the poem. In the world of 1865 Ireland or England, men were often much older than women when they married. They had established themselves in a career and it was important that he be able to show the young woman’s’ family that he could give her a good life.

 

Since Yeats spent a good bit of his life in England, he may have been subject to the custom of “The Season”, which was unofficially held in summertime in London and urban areas. There were many social occasions and opportunities for young woman, often in their late teens to meet young men who might offer then a good life.

 

Brown Penny

 

I whispered,” I am too young,”

and then “I am old enough.”

Wherefore, I threw a penny

to find out if I might love.

 

“Go and love, go and love, young man,

if the lady be young an fair.

Oh, penny, brown penny, brown penny,

I am looped by the loops of her hair.

 

Oh, love is a crooked thing,

There is nobody wise enough,

To find out all that is in it,

For he would be thinking of love-

 

Till the stars had run away.

And the shadows eaten the moon.

Oh, penny, brown penny, brown penny,

One cannot begin it too soon.

 

Photo from Google.com/victorian love scenes

reference:www.humanities360.com/index.php/peotry-analysis/Brown Penny by William Butler Yeats

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Days and Nights Alone

 

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Across the room, a picture of the two of you,

Its seems like yesterday, but its been 8 years,

in the purest hell. You- taken only four months later.

Your little brother now 6’3” and growing-

the girl who has his heart isn’t me.

I am alone in my heart-I’ve taken in my sick dad-

and the daily reminders of why I left home at 18

haunting my every quiet move, with doors down,

curtains up to accommodate walkers-hospital supplies.

Every time I think “life” can get no worse, it does.

I need you, I need your brother to be little again.

I want to teach 6 kids about bugs and butterflies

and play in the creek. I want to live, love, dream.

Tonight, if and when I close my eyes, please,

my beautiful young man, stolen for no reason,

come to me, be with me, let me remember life.

 

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Life Upside-Down–Caring for our Elders

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It seems I have helped care for elderly relatives most of my adult life. HELP being the operative word here. I would have a “shift” which I shared with my mom when we were caring for my grandparents at home. There was no Hospice/Solace. We were pretty much on our own. My grandfather had a pacemaker ( he was on his third one when he died at 91) My grandmother spent 5 years in a wheel chair, passing away at age 96. We took grandma to the toilet, one of up holding her up with her hands locked behind our neck, the other pulling down her pants and sitting her on the toilet, cleaning her afterwords etc. Grandpa was mobile, but sometimes, his heart issues would cause him to just collapse on the floor. He would “wake up” after softly sinking to the floor and we would sit him down to rest.

When my mom had a health issue that left her weak and needing help, or when she broke her hip and had a hip replacement, my father was relatively well, and again, I was the HELPER, not the primary caregiver.

This time it is different. We have had a lot of trouble getting doctors to work with my father, just as I had after suddenly loosing my teenaged son. It seems they just don’t want to deal with the patient-passing them off to some other doctor who does the same thing-”We don’t treat that>” We were often referred to a doctor whose specialty was so far from my fathers real problem, it was laughable. My father had used catheters to urine for years, but it had gotten to where he frequently couldn’t “cath” himself. He would keep trying and end up with an infection. The doctor would prescribe antibiotics after examining a urine sample and schedule a re-check in a week or ten days at which time, dad would be “clear” of infection. A week or two later, it would be the same thing all over again.

Finally, in mid-May, father, very ill and in pain finally insisted that I call his “regular” doctor and hand him a phone. When he finally got though the annoying recordings and go to talk to a person, he simply said, “I need to see the doctor NOW!”. And surprisingly they had me bring him right in. That evening, after supper, the doctor called me and told me that dad’s calcium levels were extremely elevated, and to get him to the hospital ASAP. My father was living alone at the time, so my husband and I went to try to borrow a wheelchair from my aunt, who lived next door to him. She suggested we call an ambulance, because then they would take him straight in, and we did.

MY father had chronic Lymphatic Leukemia, one working kidney and several other intestinal issues beyond the catheterizing, so it took four antibiotics to get him over what ever the “Extreme calcium rise was”. Even though various doctors talked to us, all we were really told is that they didn’t know exactly why the “rise” in his calcium levels had happened. Since they ordered “small needle biopsies” on his abdominal lymph glands, we knew that the condition had to with his chronic condition.

One doctor came and talked to my father and I about the what kind of doctor he was. He asked dad if he knew what a “onocologist/Hemotologist” did and dad said, “Yes, they treat cancer”. The doctor tried to explain that at dads advanced age (87) and health, it would be more dangerous to do a biopsy where they had to make an incision than to just see what they came up with in the needle biopsies. They told us that he was the oldest patient they had ever treated with all these problems AND STILL FIGHTING.

I guess that is good, but the continual passing from doctor to doctor, and after this hospital stay from nursing home to the hospital again for pneumonia was very hard on all of us. I have not been in good health since the sudden death of my son, so the constant “visiting was very hard on me.”When dad started out on every IV antibiotic hey could think of to fight the pneumonia, my daughter and I were literally courted by Solace, even given a tour because they thought he would not recover. Solace was in a nice, new facility, but they don’t give even the very amount of therapy the “nursing homes “ do. It is not in their protocol. I hate to be mean, and don’t intend to be insulting to Solace/Hospice, who have been very good to us, but when dad didn’t die right away, they began shuffling to another nursing home for so-called therapy.

This made 5 transfers within five weeks and it was talking its toll on dad and our family. We had other serious issues to deal with as well. The nursing home conditions were not what we were told they would be. He was in a double room with one chair (which was moved for some reason) and a room-mate who mumbled all the time and kept the window open which upset my dad a great deal. My father was miserable and the “nursing home smell was awful.

With my heart overriding my head, I decided to bring my dad to my home and care for him. By this time he had contracted another serious bladder infection which required shots twice a day because dad’s lymphatic leukemia makes him unable to fight off infections. My daughter an I had to really fight to get him released to my home, with a hospice nurse giving thee morning shot, and my daughter, an RN giving the evening shot. It didn’t take long for me to realize that doing the right thing, certainly didn’t mean doing the simple thing.

By the time the shots were over, I was so exhausted that I often simply collapsed on the bed after picking up my teen son from his I.T. Internship with the school system. My daughters were good to help with food, and of course the RN daughter helped with shots, but the burden was mainly on me. My husband helped, but was often not at home. I am sure Hospice is tired of our calls, but we were often confused and left with conflicting directions from the nursing home’s medications, Hospices recommendations and trying to get my father to doctor appointments that he simply was not able to go to. By day 6, I was a wreck. A family meeting was called to see what more could be done to help me as the problems with my father being uncooperative and his short-term memory minimal.

This is where I am right now. If you have read this much of my blog, you are probably feeling a bit of the exhaustion that I feel. We still have no answers. The biopsies that might have told us a little more could not be done. Dad could come down with a serious infection tomorrow, or go for weeks, we don’t know.

My point in writing this long diatribe is two-fold. Number one, you are not superman (or woman)even when the conditions at nursing homes are not up to your standards, home care planning should be made with more care BEFORE the parent comes home.

Number two-make sure that the people who say they will help have a schedule of WHEN they will help and that they are committed to do it. In my cause the girls all work and/or have children under two. One daughter-in-law now had a sick newborn at home to care for-along with two older, active boys. The best of intentions may be hard to fulfill.

In closing, I commend all of the baby boomers like me, who are caring for parents, children and grandchildren. We deserve some kind of heroism medal, but that wouldn’t help either. Plan carefully and don’t let guilt rule your decisions, you are only human. As for me, I will just do the best I can and hope my help comes through.

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The Gifts that She Left

 

Together, we sing a special song, “Morning has Broken” as we sat together at the Celebration of Life of a woman who was taken before her time, but faced her illness bravely, with unbounded love from her family and friends.

I will always remember our talks as we strolled down her driveway or stood admiring each others gardens. She was a school counselor, a mother, a wife, a friend. Only a few years ago, she was full of life, taking the vacations of her dreams, planning additions to their house, planting new flowers. It never occurred to anyone that her dreams would be stolen by illness.

As a mother who has lost a child, I still feel the unfairness of my friends and cousins who have lost their battles with disease as adults. It seems so wrong, they had so much yet to give. I lost my best friend of 35 years to cancer when she was just 48. Oh, how I could have used her shoulder to cry on in the times yet to come!

Today, though, I look at the gifts that my friend and neighbor left for us to keep her alive within our hearts. Every time I see a flower blowing in the wind, I will smile and think of her. When I see a child walk across the stage to accept their hard-earned diploma, I will think of her. When I see her husband, walking, alone, I will see her there beside him. I believe with everything inside me that her life will always hold more meaning than her untimely death.

I struggle to allow myself to have these feelings for my 15-year-old son. I STILL struggle. I will always struggle. But somehow, now, when I see the sunrise up into the brilliant magenta sky I will think of her, perhaps laughing and talking to my son in a different realm. Perhaps the most important gift she left me was the realization that no matter how much time we are given on this earth, there will be those who love us-present tense-LOVE us, and that kind of love does not die as the sun crosses the sky and night falls upon us. It simply becomes a different part of our lives.

 

 

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