Monday, September 14, 2020

Waltz of the Angels

Saturday was a busy day for me, although probably no worse than any other Alzheimer’s walk day. Because of the pandemic, walk was everywhere, and  Jim’s Team walked the same route as we did the first time Jim and I walked. As far as I know, that was the only time the Alzheimer’s walk started at Liberty Park.

 My day started with a quick trip to visit the Promise Garden at Centennial Park. Then, I drove nearly an hour to join the Capps Family Band to play music at a Swap Meet where we raised money for Alzheimer’s. Well, we were pretty excited to play in front of an audience again. Originally, I said we couldn’t play music the  same day as the Walk to End  Alzheimer’s. After a few phone calls, I decided to change the time of our walk to early evening so that I could do my favorite thing—double book myself.

 

After we played music for a while, my sister-in-law Kathy stepped up to the mike to sing “Waltz of the Angels.”

 

“I had a dream about that song last night,” I said, to no one in particular.

 

As Kathy sang, the dream came rushing back to me. In my dream, Jim was dancing with his cousin, Joyce. The dream was based on a memory and thoughts of Joyce. I had just learned that she had cancer and was not doing well. 

 

My mind wandered back to the 1999 Fisher Family Reunion. Jim was at loose ends. Some of the family was playing music, but Jim had trouble playing along with them and became frustrated. Joyce walked up to him and said, “Come on, Jim, let’s dance.” She took his arm and led him out into the grass and they started dancing.

 

I don’t remember what song they danced to at the reunion, but in my dream, they were dancing to “Waltz of the Angels.”

 

After we finished playing music at the Swap Meet, Mom and I went through McDonald’s drive-thru. While we were waiting to order, I turned my phone on. The first thing I saw was a message from Jim’s sister with the news that Joyce had passed away.

 

Joyce had a personality that was larger than life. She was a prankster and enjoyed embarrassing young people, but it was always with good humor. The stories people are sharing about her are a good reflection of the person she was when she was having fun.

 

Although she often made me laugh, the side of Joyce that I knew best was the woman who cheered her cousin up by asking him to dance. I think of her eyes welling up with tears as she hurt when others hurt. I think of her caring heart and her faith in God.

 

I remember one time when we were all much younger, Joyce made Jim  promise that he and his brother would sing at her funeral. I can’t  remember what song she wanted them to sing. The fallacy of that plan was that Joyce outlived Jim, and he won’t be able to keep that promise here on earth.

 

In my heart, I hear the music playing as Joyce is reunited with her loved ones in heaven. In my mind’s eye, I see Jim and Joyce dancing the waltz of the angels.

 

Copyright © September 2020 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Friday, September 11, 2020

Almost Fall Y’all

 

September shepherded autumn into our lives ten days early. I had to wear a sweatshirt the past few days when I took my dog out. The skies have been gloomy and fog drifted by from time to time like so many ghosts looking for a home.

 Fall is a wonderful time of year. I love fall colors, smells, and slipping into my faded and torn flannel shirt. With the cooler fall-type weather, I don’t feel so silly wearing my Halloween leggings. Confession time, I wore them all through the lockdown, but, hey, they are in remarkably good shape for all the wear they’ve had.

 

This has been a rough summer, and it looks as if Mother Nature and Lady Luckless are nowhere near finished with us. As if a pandemic weren’t challenge enough, the East coast of our country was battered by Hurricane Laura, and the West coast has been consumed by fire.

 

Here on the home front in Missouri, we face our own set of challenges. Life has changed during the lost spring and summer of 2020. A year that promised to be a year of perfect vision has clouded over with isolation and financial hard times for many--a time that brought out the best and worst of us. It has been a challenge to know when to standup or to stand down, and too many of us haven’t figured it out yet.

 

Many members of my Oregon family have had to evacuate ahead of the blistering damage of wildfires. Fire has forever changed the landscape of the place that was home in Jim’s heart. He often talked of and visited his “childhood” places. I’ve watched with dismay as landmarks Jim loved to visit lay in a heap of ashes. My heart hurts for the loss of property and  life.

 

My niece told of their harrowing exit to escape the impending danger of the wildfires. They checked on neighbors, helping a bedridden man out of his home and rescuing another couple whose car was broken down. They took time amidst chaos to lend a helping hand.

 

I watched horrifying videos of Oregon burning. Then, like a rainbow, I saw some shots, my cousin Debbie Kuhn took of the David Dewett Veterans Memorial Wayside in North Bend, on the Oregon coast. The eerie orange haze of the wildfires added an ethereal beauty that belied the deadly blazes ravaging the countryside. Nature can be glorious in its treachery.

 

The motto “Some Gave All” made me think of Jim and reminded me that some soldiers who made it home from the war died in Vietnam; they just didn’t know it. The war changed Jim and shaped his life, and most likely led to the dementia that ended  it. I’ve come to the conclusion that life teaches us a lot of lessons, but death teaches us more. We cannot afford to squander the limited amount of time we have to accomplish our mission here on earth.

 

I used to see autumn as the few months before the cold, blustery winter and spent the glorious days dreading what lay ahead. Winter seemed to be a miserable time of year. I can remember Jim going out and starting the car multiple times so that it would start the next morning. Frozen pipes, high heating bills, snowdrifts, and bone-chilling weather made winter a dreadful time of year.

 

Now that I’m retired, I don’t worry about winter anymore. I think more of the glistening snow and less of the cold. Only I choose whether to dread the ugliness of life, or to seek the beauty that surrounds me. 

 

Copyright © September 2020 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Saturday, September 5, 2020

September Song

 

went to the gas station and inserted the credit card into the slot.  A message popped up that said “Rejected card expired.” I stared at the 8/20 expiration date in disbelief. That’s stupid, I thought, it is not expired. Then, I had a “duh” moment and realized that it was indeed September and the message was correct.

 Well, there you have it—it’s September. I thought about the lyrics of “September Song.” This song is a metaphor for the seasons of our lives, where September is short, but an, oh, so, important time of our lives. By September, we realize that we need to cherish each day and make the most of it.

 

September is also a time for new beginnings. Kids are beginning a new school year. Of course, true to form for this unusual year of 2020, school may be online or in person with a new set of rules and standards.

 

September  is “family reunion” month. The Fisher family reunion is always the Sunday before Labor Day. We are so set on the time and place that the Tuesday immediately following the reunion, we are at the park office to rent our favorite shelter.

 

Fisher reunions were always music fests. Jim, his uncles, dad, and siblings used to bring their instruments and play country music. Over time, that tradition was passed onto the younger generation. Year after year, until this one, we celebrated music and family. This year, we cancelled the reunion.

 

Labor Day is always the day we hold our Walk to End Alzheimer’s team fundraiser. We have had a traffic stop every year since 1999. This year, for safety sake, we decided to cancel.

 

I told my son, “This is the first time in twenty-one years that I don’t have my Labor Day weekend booked solid.”

 

Even the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a different type of event. I won’t be up before the butt-crack of dawn to help set up the walk. No, this year, some members of  Jim’s Team are walking Saturday evening. Since Walk Is Everywhere, we were able to change the time so that my granddaughter could walk with us. Our team will be walking a nostalgic route.

 

September song also brings to mind our new fundraising idea. Our family band  has been suffering withdrawal since we haven’t been able to play in the nursing homes every month. We’ve been meeting weekly to work on our song list, and for some time have been floating the idea of an Alzheimer’s fundraiser. With the oppressive heat this summer, we couldn’t pick a good time to have a concert in the park.

 

Along comes September, and  my brother found an opportunity for our band to perform at the swap meet in Versailles. Finally, the Capps Family Band will be playing for an audience on September 12. 

 

We will enjoy our September songs, and hope to coax a few smiles and some toe tapping. So if you’re in the neighborhood, drop by for a free concert, and an opportunity to join us in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Copyright © September 2020 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Monday, August 31, 2020

Play Music on the Porch Day


The last Saturday in August is “Play Music on the Porch Day.” I’ve signed up for this songfest for the first time. Usually, after the day is over, I’ll see a post from one of my musician/singer friends and realize that I missed it again.

Playing music on the porch is definitely a throwback to childhood for me. My mom came from a large musical family, and they spent numerous Saturday nights playing music on Grandma and Grandpa Whittle’s porch. It seemed that everyone had an instrument and talent to spare. Grandpa would dance a jig, and we kids would try to keep up with him.

 

Jim came from a similar background. He grew up in a musical family with impromptu jam sessions galore. After we were married, it wasn’t unusual for Jim to invite his musical friends and family to our house for jam sessions. Jim and I sang together occasionally and Jim’s  harmony made me sound better than I was. Still, I preferred to listen to the more talented singers. I often told Jim that if I had his talent, I’d have been rich and famous. Jim knew the road for a musical career was often at the expense of the family left at home. “I won’t do that to my family,” he said.

 

Because of dementia, Jim lost his ability to play his guitar and sing. Luckily, the videotapes in our video library will allow our grandkids, and someday our great-grandkids, the ability to listen to countless playing music on the porch days.

 

But hey, singing on the porch is good for the soul and a great way to connect with other musicians. For the past several days, I’ve been watching the videos posted to the “Play Music on the Porch Day” group. It has been so much fun to see how others approach practicing for the big day.

 

Saturday was a lovely evening to sit on the porch and play music. I propped my phone on the music stand and shot videos of three songs. The first song I sang and recorded was “Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” For that song, I put on my hat. Due to a bad case of “hat hair,” I wore the hat for the other two songs I recorded, “I Love You Honey” and “It’s My Lazy Day.” I was enjoying myself so much that I played until my fingers hurt and the sun was getting low in the sky.

 

Since the pandemic hit, I’ve become more accustomed to enjoying the simple moments of life. Sunday afternoon jam sessions with the Capps Family Band are the highlight of my week. We haven’t been able to play music for the residents at the nursing homes for seven months, but we keep working on new material.

 

The Sedalia Walk to End Alzheimer’s is coming in twelve days. Our team has raised some money with our Facebook fundraisers and other donations, but we are far short of our goal. I’m excited that the Capps Family Band will play music at a swap meet in a few weeks as a fundraiser for Jim’s Team to benefit the Sedalia Walk to End Alzheimer’s. When my fingers are sore from playing music, my heart is happy. 

 

Copyright © August 2020 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Friday, August 28, 2020

What the World Needs Now


In 1965, Jackie DeShannon had a hit single with the song, “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” What was the world like in 1965? Well, there were riots, civil rights unrest, protests, and political shenanigans.

 Here we are in 2020 and experiencing the same old, same old. In addition, thrown into the mix is the anti-social media where everyone’s prejudices, opinions, and stereotyping is published in a way it’s never been before. A deep fissure divides the people. Once again, what the world needs is love, sweet, love.

 

Somehow, I don’t believe that’s the only thing the world needs. I’ve done some deep thinking, and I came up with what I want to call my “short” list.

 

1)  Respect.  Like love, respect is in short supply. Somewhere along the way, we’ve ceased to respect people who believe differently. Our disagreements may lay in politics, religion, economic status, country of origin, or an entire bevy of talents or intelligence. Throughout life, our DNA and experiences form us into individual human being. Although most of us won’t admit it, everyone has prejudices about one thing or another. The key is to respect others and overcome unreasonable prejudices to the best of our abilities. Respect costs us nothing, but pays dividends for life.

2)  Commonsense. The world seems to be in short supply of commonsense. People believe you have to be all “in” or all “out.” Every little thing is either all “right” or all “wrong.” People are either “good” or “bad.” Without commonsense, you will see the world as black and white. I know, some of you will say, rather than black and white, we are talking shades of gray. I’ve probably said that myself, but I’ve changed my mind. When you make decisions by rote, rather than reasoning, you fail to see the living color that surrounds you. By not thinking for yourself, you will miss the wondrous rainbow of life.

3)     Unconditional Love. When it comes to love, we want to receive as much as we give. Dementia will strip away those expectations. Jim had aphasia and seldom spoke, but sometimes when I told him I loved him, he would say, “I love you too.” More often, love was a tender look in his eyes or the way he raised his eyebrows when he looked at me. In my journal I remarked one time that he said “I love you” like he really meant it. My love for Jim was founded in who he was before dementia, but I loved him “as is” throughout the disease.

 

So in addition to “love, sweet, love,” the world needs more respect, commonsense, and individuals with dementia need unconditional love. I can’t change the world and wouldn’t if I could. What’s right for me may be wrong for you. Let’s face it, if we all thought alike or acted alike, the world would be a mighty boring place. I’ll be me, and you be you.


Copyright © August 2020 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Friday, August 14, 2020

Out of Gas, Recharging Batteries


One thing about the heat in Missouri, it limits the amount of outside work I can do in a solid stretch. Last week, I went out early to use the grass trimmer, the hedge trimmer, and to mow. I put my equipment on the mower and headed out for the worst area.

I glanced down and realized that the mower was about out of gas. I can’t lift full cans high enough, and I had already used the only partially full can. Oh, well, weed eating was the priority anyway. I went to work and realized I had two problems: the weed eater was out of string, and the battery was low. I picked up the hedge trimmer and its battery was low too.

 

I realized that I was about out of gas and needed to recharge my batteries. As I headed to the shower, I thought that my dilemma described how I’ve been feeling lately. I’m not sleeping well and I’m tired all the time. I’m physically and mentally tired. I’m about out of gas and need to recharge my batteries.

 

The way I felt after an hour in the heat reminded me how I felt after a day of caregiving. It’s disheartening to wake up feeling as tired as I felt when I went to bed the night before. Physically, I cannot do as much as I could a few years ago.

 

During the caregiving years, and now, it seems that my mental to-do list is as plentiful as the spots on a Dalmatian. Unwinding a tightly wound brain is almost impossible.

 

I have the same unsettled feeling now that I used to have when Jim’s health was declining. I’m waiting for the other shoe to fall, but I’m expecting it to fall out of the sky and hit me on the head. I have that familiar feeling when I awake in the morning that everything isn’t all right.

 

As a caregiver, I felt isolated at times. Sure, I was around other people, but Jim and I spent time alone together. I missed the conversation, the companionship, and the love he had lavished upon me. It was hard to think for two, love enough for two, and try to stay in the moment without worrying about the next day, week, year, lifetime.

 

When it got too bad, I’d recharge my batteries. Whether it was a trip to Branson, a picnic in the park, or just spending time with my mom and sisters, it didn’t take much for the sunlight of inner peace to wash away the shadows of doubt and dread.

 

During a pandemic, it’s harder to find ways to charge my batteries. I’m taking a page out of Jim’s playbook when he was younger. During times when he was sad and depressed, he would play his guitar for “therapy.” His routine for years was to pick up his guitar every morning and play a tune or two.

 

I regret that I never learned to play an instrument while Jim was living, but I do find that playing my ukulele is relaxing. My granddaughter called the ukulele a “happy” instrument. I’m in the mood for a little “happy” and that might just be the way to do it.

 

No matter how down and depressed Jim became, he said that planning a vacation gave him something to look forward too. I may not be able to go on a physical vacation, but if I go on a mental vacation for just a few hours a day, I could recharge my batteries and refuel my spirit.

 

Copyright © August 2020 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Friday, July 31, 2020

A Cup of Coffee and a Chill Pill


Today was one of those days when I felt overwhelmed and the walls were closing in on me. It was raining and my mood was stormier than the clouds rolling in.

Rain, itself, is a double-edged sword. The soybeans planted in the fields by the house are happy and growing nicely. The rain makes the grass look a lovely shade of green, but it needs to be mowed, and it’s too wet to mow. Lately, it’s either too wet or too hot to work outside. A few days ago, I trimmed the hedges and some of the more offensive grass near the house, and nearly had heat stroke.

Guess that leaves the endless inside work. I always need to decide whether to do housework or computer work. They both seem to have no beginning and no end. The to-do list never turns to a “done” list. I just keep moving the unfinished projects forward to the next list.

This week I planned to watch the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on research. I never realized how many sessions, chats, posters, etc. that would be available. I thought the AAIC conference would be good preparation for the Alzheimer’s research Peer Review program that will be starting soon. There’s that double-edged sword again. If spend the time to watch a week’s worth of AAIC videos, I won’t finish other projects to clear the way for the Peer Review program.

It rained yesterday, but mentally, I felt good. I had crossed several things off my to-do list and the 2020 blog book, Love Is Action, was being reviewed. My smugness didn’t last long—the book was kicked back for cover size. We went to work on uploading a new cover, but it was looking weirder and weirder. Finally, my husband used his old pc to print the pdf, and we were in business.

Until this morning when we flunked review again. So that item flew back onto my figurative plate. To make matters worse, I accidentally sent it back for review before we made the correction. I called to see if we could cancel the review and found out that an automatic review cannot be stopped. It’s going to be another 72 hours before I can fix that one.

During my meltdown this morning, my husband told me that I needed to prioritize and finish the most important projects first. That’s good advice except when I think I’ve finished a project and try to move on, but have to erase the checkmark next to the most time consuming item on the list—“Work on Blog Book.”


It’s hard to complete projects when I can’t work without interruption. Every time I sit in front of the PC to work, my dog takes that as a signal that I can either (a) play with her, or (b) take her outside. She doesn’t like to take no for an answer. The phone rings—telemarketer again, and again. My email dings, a text comes in, the dryer buzzes, or the oven timer goes off.

On rainy days, my body aches, my hands hurt when I type, and my attention span wanes when I get tired. My mind flits here, there, and everywhere as I attempt to prioritize more and multitask less. In the meantime, I might as well have a cup of coffee and take a chill pill and listen to the rain splash against the window.

Copyright © July 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Jim’s Team—Walk Like it’s 1998


Those of us who plan for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s year after year were worried this year. We thought that like so many other events, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s would be cancelled.

When all the creative minds were through mulling over how we could move forward, a plan was in place—the walk would continue, but it would be everywhere. As soon as we heard the idea, we embraced it.

The Sedalia Walk will proceed as planned on September 12, but instead of everyone gathering in one place, people will walk in smaller groups with family members or teams. They will walk in their neighborhoods, in their yards, on hiking trails, in parks. Instead of being in one place and just seeing each other, we will be visible to our neighbors, or people who pass by in cars—Honk if you support Alzheimer’s research. With the wonders of the Internet and the ever present cell phones, we will still be connected.

I feel like this is our opportunity to move forward while taking a step back. The first time I walked was in 1998 and the Sedalia Walk had a total of six adults and a dog. Jim and I were the only local people in the walk. Two of the women were from the Alzheimer’s chapter and a husband and wife were from Slater. If you read my blog posts, or my Facebook page, you’ve heard this story before and have already skipped this paragraph. BUT…

I’ve decided that since things are going to be really different this year, I’d like for some members of Jim’s Team (at least six people, and one dog) to walk like it is 1998! We started at Liberty Park, walked through downtown, and back to the park.

I want to walk the same route that we walked in 1998. It’s going to be much like that year—no whoopla, or formal program, just people dedicated to the cause. I can’t think of a better way to honor Jim’s memory. This year, we won’t be too distracted to wear our buttons with Jim’s picture on it.

So, Jim’s Team, are you in, or are you out? First, you need to register! To register for Jim’s Team click here. The designated day for the Sedalia Walk is September 12. But guess what? You don’t have to be in Sedalia on that day to walk--you can walk anytime, any day, anywhere.

It is my understanding that everyone who registers for Walk to End Alzheimer’s will get flags to put in your yard and to carry when you walk. Once you register, you can self-donate or ask for donations. If you are registered and donate or raise $100 you will get a walk shirt.

Let’s walk, Jim’s Team, for a world without Alzheimer’s or dementia. Let’s walk like it’s 1998!

***


To register for any team, or any walk, go to act.alz.org/walk.

To go to team page for Jim’s Team click here. You can register or support another walker.

Copyright © July 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Little Voice


Lately I’ve been watching some old Magnum reruns. When people refer to him as a detective, he will correct them by saying he is a private investigator. As he goes about solving various mysteries, the little voice in his head sometimes nags him that he is missing a clue.


Since I don’t have access to what’s going on in other people’s heads, I don’t know if everyone has that little voice in their heads that talks to them. Oh, sure, we’ve all heard of people with psychotic tendencies that insist the voices in their heads instructed them to commit murders. Blame it on the voices, and don’t take responsibility for being cruel.

Well, my little voice talks to me constantly. The voice in my head tells me when something is right, I’ve done something I shouldn’t have, or sometimes the voice is boring and I know all is well in my world.

I read a lot of detective/thriller books. These books often mention the little voices, but since they are fiction, I wonder if the authors are writing from experience or if they are using their imaginations. One of the authors I read throws in humor even when talking about his little voice. His voice started off with, “Self,” and continued with the information. “I knew it was me,” he wrote, “because I recognized my voice.”

I may be wrong, but I think researchers must have that little voice guiding them through the mystery of unlocking the cause of a disease and developing a cure. The process of research is fascinating to me, and that is the reason I’ve signed up to virtually attend the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference later this month. I’ve always followed the research reports from the conference, but this is the first time I’ll have firsthand knowledge.

I think this conference will be good preparation for the DOD Peer Reviewed Alzheimer’s Research Program in September. The training and panel discussions will take place virtually this year. I am excited to be a small cog in the wheel rolling toward a cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s and related dementias. I’m sure my little voice will be in overdrive.  
  
Sometimes the voice keeps me awake at night. Nagging me and telling me that I have too many things to do to be drifting off into dreamland. I can’t even imagine how fast my little voice will be talking during the conference and panel, or how little sleep I’ll be getting. 

Copyright © July 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Don't Trust that Day


I think the Mamas and Papas were on to something when they said you couldn’t trust Monday. The first weekday was more like Friday the 13th than Monday the 30th.

We were off to a good start since we headed out to mow the lawn before the temperature surged toward heat stroke level. I revved up my mower, put on my cap and googles. I reached for my ear protection muffs—and they were missing.

Since we were mowing the backyard, I pulled my car out and used the car remote to close the garage door, locked the car and hid the keys. I raced across the lawn to see if my husband was wearing my ear protection, but he insisted he was wearing the ones that were on his mower.

I went back to the house, took my car keys from their hidey-hole to use the car garage door opener. I searched every logical place and many illogical places for the earmuffs. Finally, I glanced down and saw them inside the back part of the mower.

A few clouds rolled in and it was almost pleasant mowing. Then, I noticed a streak of lightning. Since I was finished with my section of lawn, I went back to the garage. I unlocked the car and opened the garage door. I locked the car and put my car keys in my pocket.

After the sky cleared, I decided to take a flag to mark a seedling tree. I wound up circling the house and guess what wasn’t in my pocket when I got back to the house. Oh, it wasn’t just car keys missing, it was my entire key chain with every key I needed on it.

Harold and I searched the route I had taken, as I remembered, and couldn’t find my keys. Reminded me of Alzheimer’s Warning Sign #7: Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. I tried my best to retrace my steps and walked around the yard several times.

Well now. Trying not to panic, I called about getting a new car key from the dealership. When I heard the part about towing the car, I called my son. I have a spare key, but it wasn’t at our house. Eric came over to help me look. I walked with him showing him where I had driven the mower. I walked the area I remembered traveling, and he veered off to the side. In a few minutes, he found the keys. “I didn’t look there,” I said, “because I didn’t remember being over that far.” So much for retracing my steps, or in this case, the mower route.

As the day progressed, my husband and I went to the machine shop to see what kind of flowerpots we had. We found some pots, and when I went to move an over-sized pot, I tripped and fell. The good news was that I fell on some bags of mulch. Still, I twisted my sore knee and hurt my shoulder.

I took a few ibuprofen tablets for the pain, and thought I’d cozy up on the couch for a well- deserved rest. As I passed by Harold on the way to the living room, he said, “Oh I forgot to tell you…the Japanese beetles are back.”

The only good thing about the kind of Monday I had is that every other day of the week was fine. You just can’t trust Mondays.
  
Copyright © July 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ