Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Remember, Remember

When I was a kid, someone gave us a set of the World Book of Knowledge. I was always looking for something to read and found the books much more interesting than the backs of cereal boxes.

Although the books were full of history, science, and various other subjects for school age children, I always started (and usually ended) with the literature section in the middle. The literature section had stories and poems. I memorized dozens of poems and one came in handy this month.

I made an appointment and recited, “Remember, remember the fifth of November.” I knew I had said that twice. Unfortunately, I couldn’t recall what I was going to remember. When I flipped the wall calendar to the new month, the fifth of November was a blank square. My PC was downstairs in the safe, and my phone had a dead battery.

I puzzled over the situation. I knew it was about time for my hair appointment, and sure enough when the battery came to life—there it was. This morning when I turned on my PC, I saw the other reminder. I can now get my second pneumonia shot. Well, I didn’t rush into get my shot, but I kept the hair appointment.

Rhyming poetry is a good way to memorize information. It’s how I used to remember how many days were in each month until I worked for more than thirty years plugging in the last day of the month for our reports. I no longer had to say, “Thirty days has September, April, June, and November…”  Then there’s the “i” before “e” poem, although that one is pretty worthless because of all the exceptions.

Being able to remember important events is something all of us strive to do. Life can get so busy at times, that I often think of events after it’s too late. My phone does its best to remind me of everything I need to do. I even have my grocery list on it. I’m not sure how reliable my memory is without all the bells and whistles of my electronic calendars.

Being forgetful is something that concerns me. Alzheimer’s scares me more than any other disease. I shudder to think that an irreversible, progressive disease could erode my skills, erase my memories, and thrust me into a world of confusion.

I can’t imagine anything sadder than not recognizing my grandchildren. If I lost the ability to read or write, it would change who I am as a person.

With Jim, the thing I hated the most was that we had to place him in a Special Care Unit. He was locked inside, and it hurt my heart that he lost the freedom he had risked his life for in Vietnam. That Jim spent the last decade of his life in a faraway place is one of life’s unexplained mysteries. Bad things should happen to bad people not to good people.

The “Serenity Prayer” encourages us to accept what we cannot change. I have come to realize that what-ifs and could have beens only steal my joy, and need to be banished forever. I want to change the things I can, and know that I certainly need wisdom to make that happen.

Copyright © November 2019 by L.S. Fisher

Monday, November 4, 2019

In Remembrance

At church, I sat behind the man who had been our family doctor until he retired in 2012. As we greeted each other, he said, “I didn’t recognize you at first.” That should have been my clue to tell him my name, but I didn’t get a chance before we started singing. After all, we had one family doctor and he had hundreds of patients, so that didn’t surprise me too much.

It was communion Sunday, and our associate pastor quoted the passage where Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

As we returned to our seats after communion, doc turned around and said, “Are you still Mrs. Fisher?”

“Yes,” I said. “I remarried, but kept my name.”

“I remember Jimmy,” he said. “Your name is Linda, right?” I nodded. “It’s a shame that you both had to go through that.”

We finished services with a benediction and our final song. As we were walking out, he said, “You know, Jimmy won’t look the same when we get to heaven, but we will know him.”

I could feel tears welling in my eyes, and I said, “I know he will be whole again.”

When I dream of Jim, he doesn’t have dementia. When I think of Jim, I want to remember him as he was before dementia, and sometimes I do. Sometimes, I think of how life changed so drastically when he began forgetting how to remember. He had a phenomenal ability to recall memories, or to reminisce, as his brother Bob called it.

It is safe to say that I think of Jim every day. Sometimes, the thoughts are fleeting and other times they hit me hard. I’ve lost other loved ones that I think of often, but not that I think of on a daily basis. 

This morning, I was going to town and had some anxious thoughts about what the day was going to bring. Then, a song came on the radio that immediately took me back to a different time. The song I was hearing, “Cinderella,” made me think of Jim, strumming his guitar, and singing the song to me. He would sing, “Lindarella.” The remembrance made me both sad and happy.

Throughout life, we find moments we’d just as soon forget, but those little snippets of memory can enrich our lives if we let them. It is our past that makes us who we are today. Who we are and what we do today will be tomorrow’s memories, so we want to make them worthwhile.

Copyright © November 2019 by L.S. Fisher

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween Spiders

Last week some of my friends and I were discussing an article in the paper about a ghost hunter in our town. “I don’t know if as Christians, we should believe that ghosts exist. Do you believe in ghosts?” she asked me.

“Oh, yes,” I said. I told her a quick story about a “ghost” car that Jim and I had seen on an evening walk many years ago. I didn’t tell her about my many other close encounters with the unexplainable.

It always seems that at Halloween time, the weird and strange seems to be on our minds. I take special care to avoid creepy things anymore, and try not to call attention to myself when it comes to the paranormal. My brother and I did write a book a few years ago, Apparitions: Twisted Tales and Yarns, which was mostly fiction.

Anyway, Halloween is just a fun time for me now, with all things calm and normal. I even bought a pair of Halloween leggings adorned with spider webs. I completed my outfit with a pair of spider web/spider earrings. I wore my outfit the day our family band played music for a food drive in our home town.  After we packed away our instruments and said our goodbyes, I headed home.

I was cruising along listening to Prime Country when I noticed a dark spot out of the corner of my eye. I occasionally have “floaters” and thought this was a particularly bad one. Then I noticed that it seem to be moving. I reached up, pulled off my glasses, and my floater turned out to be a spider web stuck to my glasses. I thought that was a little bit coincidental since I was wearing all my spidery garb.

A few days later, I wore the same outfit to town. As I was sitting in the left hand turn lane waiting for the light to change, I dialed my mom’s number to chat with her on my way home. She answered the phone at the same moment a mean looking spider crawled across my windshield. “I have to get this spider out of my car,” I said.

My mom had me on speaker and my brother and sister-in-law could hear me. My sister-in-law told me I should not be talking on the phone while I was driving—much less battling a spider. “It’s hands free,” I explained, as I pushed the button to lower the window. I grabbed a piece of mail off the seat and tried to flip the spider out the window.

Now why would a spider go out the window when he had a gigantic web all over my legs? Well, he disappeared all right, but I didn’t know where he went. I finally made my left-hand turn and pulled into a parking lot. I jumped out frantically brushing off my clothes, shaking my hair, examining the car. He was nowhere to be found. I don’t know what happened to him.

I do know that I had three people laughing at me as I cautiously crawled back into my car. I guess, I couldn’t just abandon my car because a darned spider was hiding out in it—somewhere.

When I think about it, the spider pants seemed to be a spider magnet. All I can say is I’m glad I chose them over the second choice—ghost pants.

Copyright © October 2019 by L.S. Fisher

Little Things

Our Sedalia Business Women’s Club just finished celebrating National Business Women’s week. We had an activity planned for every day except Friday. We kicked off the week with our annual fundraising chicken dinner. Monday, we had lunch with Rotary. Tuesday, we had our past president’s dinner. Wednesday, we had friendship lunch. Thursday, was our membership activity with, you guessed it, heavy snacks. Saturday was a social activity with shopping and food. Sunday, was church with the president, followed with lunch at a local restaurant. I’m pleased to announce that somehow I only gained one pound.

Our club begins each monthly dinner meeting with the Club Collect. Often, when you recite a poem, or in this case, a prayer, you don’t always ponder the meaning behind the words.

From beginning to end, the Collect for Club Women is chock-full of wisdom. The part that has been on my mind lately is the sentence: “Grant that we may realize it is the little things that create differences, that in the big things of life we are at one.”

Have you ever had a terrible argument with a friend or family member, and a week later, you are still upset with them but can’t remember what started it? That’s because you have let some small insignificant disagreement cause a big uproar.

One time when I had to have surgery, Jim was much more worried about it than I was. Since I had to stay in the hospital a few days, I wanted a new robe and house shoes to match. Finally, in frustration he shouted at me, “You seem to be more worried about matching your outfit than you are about the surgery!” Actually, I was covering up my nervousness by concentrating more on the little things, that apparently we disagreed on, than the big thing like being knocked out while the surgeon ripped out body parts.

Later when I became Jim’s caregiver, I was able to deal with big problems better than day-to-day issues. I could handle a major medical problem, but if he didn’t eat his dinner, I could have a meltdown.

Little things can create differences that spill over into the big things, especially when dealing with a grudge holder. I confess that I was once a grudge holder, but somewhere along life’s pathway, I discovered that grudges were a total waste of time.

Yet, I’ve seen life-long friendships and marriages break up over the little things. Some people can be so persnickety, that they tend to get on your nerves. Sometimes, it’s just better to capitulate. Let’s face it when someone wants things done a certain way, then if you don’t do it to suit them enough times, they will either live with the way you do it, or do it themselves. I call that a win-win.

Other times (for a better lack of words) seek revenge. I know a man who complained every day about the lunch his wife fixed him. One day, she had her fill of his complaints, so she put a picture of a sandwich between two pieces of bread and put it in his lunchbox. I don’t  know if he ever asked her to pack his lunch again.

The best plan is not let the little battles blow up into WW3. After all, differences are what makes a relationship interesting. If we all thought alike, the world would be unbearably boring.    

Copyright © October 2019 by L.S. Fisher

Friday, October 11, 2019

If You Think You're Busy

If You Think You’re Busy

My friend Judy used to say, “If you think you’re busy now—retire.” At the time, I was working full time, taking care of Jim, volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association, and involved in Writers’ Guild. I thought there was no way that I could possibly be any busier.

Fast forward to now and I don’t know how I ever had time to work. It seems that life should be more laid back in retirement, and I should have plenty of time to read and relax. Except that I don’t. Reading is usually reserved for bedtime, unless I get to feeling feisty and spend the entire day in my pj’s curled up with a book. Well, I’m sure that’s happened at least once since I retired in 2013.

I saw a post a few days ago that said something about instead of making a to-do list, make a to-be list. It went on to list things that a person might want to be. Of course, I can’t find where I saw it, so the absolute queen of the to-do list—actually multitasking by having several lists going at the same time—I decided to work on my own to-be list.

Some of the things I want to be:

Happy. I’m not talking about telling a joke happy, because even the most depressed people may laugh the loudest at a joke. I want to feel happiness in my soul, in my being. I want to wake up each day to the thought that each day gives me new opportunities to achieve my life’s goals. Each day gives me a chance to let go of yesterday’s problems or failures.

Appreciative. I want always to be grateful for time spent with family and friends. I appreciate that my health, although not perfect, allows me to do most of the things I want to do. Sure, it hurts my fingers to type, but I can still work for a while before they quit on me. I want to concentrate on what’s working instead of what’s gone wrong.

Thoughtful. Being thoughtful is a two-sided coin. One side is to be thoughtful of others and never hurt someone’s feelings deliberately. The other side is that I want to think things through before popping off with something that offends others. I want to think for myself, not be influenced by someone’s outrage or political agenda. I hope that I’m always capable of being introspective and never have a disease that would take that away from me.

A Good Judge of Character. I want to surround myself with honest, moral humans. I realize that no one is perfect and they won’t always agree with me (even when I’m right), but if they have my back, I’ll have theirs. I can forgive a lot of flaws, but I don’t want to waste my time with liars, cheaters, thieves, or con artists.

Able to Laugh. I have some family and friends who have no sense of humor. Laughter is good for my mental health. If I can laugh at myself when I make silly mistakes, it helps me to forgive myself for moments of stupidity.

A Woman Who Makes the Most of Life. I don’t just want to be alive—I want to live. I realize that time manages me more than I manage it. I have books to read, places to go, things to do, books to write, and songs to sing.

Yes, I’m busier than a normal human being should be, but it’s the lifestyle I’ve chosen. I may want long “to-do” lists of tasks, but my “to-be” list stretches to infinity and beyond.
Copyright © October 2019 by L.S. Fisher


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Life Is a Mist

Sometimes I hear a message on Sunday morning that speaks to my heart. This Sunday, Pastor Candice talked about the book of James. The gist of the section was we should not brag about tomorrow because we don’t know what tomorrow might bring. I underlined, “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

This really puts into perspective how fleeting life is and what a small speck our years here on earth are in the realm of eternity. So what do we do with our precious time? We fight. We argue. We worry about tomorrow. We think of ourselves as important—at least in our own little corner of the world.

When I was a little girl, I sometimes wondered if people existed when they weren’t where I could see them. Talk about thinking I was the center of the world! I don’t know at what point in my life I stopped those foolish thoughts. At least I was a kid. I know people who think the world revolves around them and they are supposedly all grown up.

The thought that life is but a mist really fits into my line of thought now. As Dorothy said, when she was in OZ, “My! People come and go so quickly here.” If you think about the people in your life, you will see that like the mist, they sometimes surround you with love and other times they vanish into thin air.

We lose people for a lot of reasons. Often, the reason is indifference. They no longer play a relevant part in our lives, and we let them slip away into the mist of the forgotten. Sometimes, the reason is distance. Separation can be caused by miles and miles of physical distance, or by the distance of growing apart philosophically or simply from having nothing in common.

Other people we love regardless of how far adrift they are from our everyday lives. Family ties can transcend any barriers. Friends are the family we choose. True friends can practically pick up in the middle of a conversation although they may have not seen each other for months.

When we are separated from our loved ones by death, sometimes we can feel their presence and at times reach out to touch them in our minds, hearts, and dreams. They are gone, but they are here in a way that can comfort us. Memories can hit with such force that it takes our breath away. The mist clears and we find ourselves in another moment, another time, a different dimension.

Life is a mist. What is important? I remember one time a woman asked me if I was jealous of my sister because she lived in a new, lovely home. At the time, Jim and I were renting an old house with sloping floor and ill-fitting windows. We had old furniture we’d bought from a second hand store. Still, I thought it sounded like a ridiculous idea. “No,” I said. “I’m happy for her.” And I meant it. I had zero jealousy or envy.

What is important to me is not to be famous, rich, or have my name remembered by strangers. I have no desire to be important in worldly ways. All I want is to fulfill the mission I’ve been given in life. I want to give more than I take. I want to love and to be loved.

I want to know the good I can do and then do it. I don’t want to do it for outward recognition; I want to do it for the way it makes me feel on the inside.

When my mist vanishes, I want my legacy to be a life well lived, and more importantly, a life well loved.

Copyright © September 2019 by L.S. Fisher

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Time to Ruminate

Life has been so hectic the past few weeks that I haven’t had time for a fleeting thought, much less rumination. If I could only find a way to add more hours to the day, it would be helpful. 
I guess in a way, I have added more hours. Unfortunately, the hours are stolen from sleep time. I’ve been in the bad habit of going to bed at midnight and due to appointments, conferences, Walk to End Alzheimer’s, etc, etc, I’ve been getting up early, earlier, or earliest.

Lately, if I can’t find two things to do at once, I feel like I’m wasting precious time. I watch TV and play games on my Kindle at the same time. I walk the dog and practice songs for our nursing home gigs. I stop on my way to the basement to play a short song on my ukulele. You get the idea, I’m sure.

Of course, this doubling up can cause chaos at times. I spilled milk two days in a row. Once on my PC and the other time all over the counter and (oops) my husband. Occasionally, I put something in the cabinet that should have gone in the refrigerator, or leave my phone in the living room and pick up the TV remote instead.

Last week, my husband and I mowed our acres of lawn, and I had some quality rumination time while I mowed. Although, I was exhausted, I decided to use the trimmer, but the battery was dead. (Darn the luck!) I put the battery on the charger, took a shower, and a nap.

The next day, I tackled the weeds around our bevy of hydrants. As I was starting to wear down, I looked at my cell phone to see how long I’d been at it. As I pulled the phone out of my pocket, it began to play a Carter family song from the early 1950s “It’s My Lazy Day.” Seriously? Is that irony, or what? My smart phone is a smart-aleck phone.

After I finished with the yard work, I put Walk to End Alzheimer’s signs and some of the pinwheel flowers from previous walks in our yar. Once I went inside, I signed copies of “Ruminations of a Caregiver” to hand out at Saturday’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

While I was frantically trying to get everything done, I was home alone when I started having chest pains. Yes, I’ve had them before, and had three stress tests th
at showed my heart was in A-1 shape. I took the meds that should have stopped the pain, but it kept right on coming. I was 99% sure it was nothing to worry about, but that bitty 1% warned that my pain was classic heart attack symptoms. All I have to say is never think you might be having a heart attack without taking a book to read. I spent the better part of the day being poked and prodded, just to reaffirm that I had a non-emergency, emergency.

Anyway, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s was a resounding success this year. We had beautiful weather, great attendance, and exceeded our goal. So Saturday was a long day, but a fulfilling day.

Whew. Finally, I felt like I could rest, except Sunday was music practice; Monday, a doctor’s appointment; and Tuesday, advocacy training; Wednesday, we played music at the first of three nursing homes.

Thursday, I had my oil changed, tires rotated, and brakes worked on. It was time well spent because I logged on to the wi-fi and played my game while I waited. Soon, I was speeding down the road, listening to music on Sirius FM. I switched between stations listening for songs I might want to sing. Music is soul food and conducive to rumination.    

Copyright © September 2019 by L.S. Fisher

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Car Conversations

We had our annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraising “Traffic Stop” on Labor Day. As usual, the day had its busy times and its lulls. Our collections depend on the traffic building up at the stop sign in my hometown.

We took our positions along the road with our collection buckets. My granddaughter entertained with her purple flag. She threw it in the air and after it whirled around, she caught it, whipping into a pose. Several people applauded, others cheered, and some commented on how impressive she was.

“You are helping my collections,” I told her. I commented on her poses after she caught it.

“I’m not showing off,” she said. “I went down on my knee because that’s how I was able to catch the flag.” She laughed and tossed it high. “If I wanted to show off,” she said, “I would do this.” She caught the flag and did the splits.

This year, the city police officer decided to direct traffic—to avoid the backlog. This has only happened a couple of times in the 21 years we’ve collected. As the traffic approached us, the officer stood in the intersection, gesturing for the cars to keep moving.

One lady stopped in front of me, ignoring the urgency of the officer. She dropped a donation into the container I held out for her. With tears welling up in her eyes, she said, “My husband died from Alzheimer’s about this time last year.”

With those few words, we connected. “I’m so sorry. I lost my husband to dementia too,” I said. She paused a moment, as if she had much more to say but couldn’t find the words. Then she drove through the intersection.

“He isn’t doing us any favors,” I told my sister. “It’s a little hard to collect when the traffic is whizzing by.” At least he wasn’t there all the time. He would leave and return periodically.

Car after car ignored the opportunity to go through the intersection as they paused to give us collections and share their stories. My granddaughter said, “The officer underestimated the generosity of people.”

The cool morning turned into a warm afternoon. We had mini-conversations with the donors. One woman handed me a $20 bill. “This is to honor my mom and my grandma. They both have Alzheimer’s.”

After each donation, I said, “Thank you, have a safe trip home.” Several people automatically said, “You too.” Some of them seemed to hesitate as they realized they had wished me a safe trip. One lady seemed particularly frustrated that she had said it. I laughed. “Everyone says the same thing,” I assured her.

One man told me, “I don’t have any money, but I’m going to the bank. I’ll be back,” he promised.

The day wore on. I heard stories about moms, dads, sisters, brothers, and friends who were living with dementia or had died with it.

The officer had left the intersection and we saw his car on a side street. We assumed he was keeping an eye on the traffic from the comfort of his car rather than standing in the middle of a hot street. We heard a siren. He pulled a car over in front of where my daughter-in-law Stacey was collecting. After he finished writing the ticket and walked back to his patrol car, I saw a hand come out the window to give Stacey a donation.

The afternoon sun was beating mercilessly down on us, so we began to gather up the signs and pinwheels. A car drove onto the side street behind us and handed Stacey a $20 bill.

After he drove off, she turned to me and said, “That man told me he had to go to the bank.”

“He told me the same thing! I never really thought he meant it,” I said.

I guess you just can’t underestimate the generosity of people.

Copyright © September 2019 by L.S. Fisher

Monday, August 26, 2019

Into Each Life

On this cloudy, rainy August day, I thought about the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow quote, “Into each life, some rain must fall.” It seems that sometimes the rain falls harder than it does at other times.

Last year, our Walk to End Alzheimer’s was during a steady downpour. We had rain at previous walks, but never a constant deluge like last year. Although the Highway Gardens at the Missouri State Fairgrounds is a lovely place to hold our walk, the grounds turned into a mud pit. Tents and tables sank into the mud and turned over. I couldn’t take my books out of the tubs.

Although, we handled the weather as well as could be expected, it inspired us to get off our keisters and look for a location that had some shelter. This year, for the first time, we chose Centennial Park and a different weekend.

When you hold an annual outdoor event, it isn’t a matter of if it will rain on that special day, but when it will rain. The same holds true for life. Rain happens.

Gully washers happen during our darkest moments. We hear the rolling thunder and feel sharp pangs of lightning bolts when they strike our hearts. Clouds seem to hang over our heads blocking out the sunshine that should warm our souls. Flash floods threaten to wash away our optimism and feelings of self worth.

Then we have the steady downpours. Just when we think we’re between showers, it starts up again soaking us to the bone. Then a cold wind blows away our defenses and we might as well be naked as wrapped in wet garments. We get to the point where we just can’t take anymore. At some point, a little droplet of rain can be the tipping point.

During scattered showers, we can dash from thought to action and never get wet. If all fails, we can throw on a rain jacket and pop up an umbrella. We know that scattered showers replenish our spirits and blossoms into a bright array of color. During scattered showers, we realize that rain is essential to life and that without it, we, and everything we love, would die. Then the sun breaks through the clouds and we remember that “a sunshiny shower won’t last half an hour.”

A half hour isn’t long and most of us can remain optimistic for that length of time. Life is different degrees of rain, but rain is essential to life.

Photo credit: Jessica Buesing, The Scarlett Lens

Copyright © August 2019 by L.S. Fisher

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Come Home

Each year the Missouri State Fair has a theme, and this year’s theme “Come Home” is thought provoking. Since I live a few short miles from the State Fair City, I just need to drive across town to “come home” to the fair.

Like many people in Sedalia, I’m not that thrilled about the fair. Oh, yes, I’ve enjoyed concerts, walking through the exhibits, working at the Missouri Coop Building, and have spent countless hours on the midway while I kept an eye on the young ones in the family. I have great memories, good memories, and wish-I-was-home-under-the-air-conditioner memories.

The first night of the fair this year was pleasant, but I was too exhausted to consider going. Since then, the weather has ranged from hot to bake-a-cake hot. Then, there’s the occasional thunderstorm. Oh, yes, we can be in the middle of a drought, but you can count on rain during the fair.

One of the first things that crossed my mind with “Come Home” was the exact feeling I always had when Jim and I drove into Estes Park. We went to Rocky Mountain National Park each year, and although some things changed from year-to-year, the predominant emotion was a sense of homecoming.

Along with the eventual changes in Estes Park were the inevitable changes in Jim. Our first trips, we spent camping, hiking, and going to the Lazy-B Ranch for music and a delicious meal. The last few times, we stayed in a cabin, and I watched Jim lose the ability to camp and hike. It was the end of an era for us.

While Jim was in the nursing home, I made a trip to Estes Park with my mom, sister, and sister-in-law. I hadn’t been to the mountains for several years. It was like coming home to a different house. Everything had changed so much physically and emotionally. Several of my favorite shops had closed, the visitor’s center had grown into a huge hub of activity, and the Lazy-B Ranch was no longer in existence. I didn’t have Jim to cook a campfire breakfast, to sneak treats to “Chubby” the chipmunk, or to sit around the campfire and tell tall tales.

We all know that everything changes through the years, even our home. We may long for the familiar home of our memories and to see loved ones who live in the homes of our hearts, but are no longer with us.

Home is where our stories began and where we became who we are. It doesn’t matter if we lived in a shack long ago and now live in a mansion. There is a chunk of our being that is wrapped in the recollections of our beginnings.

Home. The word isn’t just any old word. Home is a word that entails a visual image in 3-D, complete with smells and sounds. Memories of home can be good or bad for a lot of reasons. Regardless, it is a big part of each of us. The lessons we learn from our parents mingle with our DNA to mold us into the adults we become later in life.

Copyright © August 2019 by L.S. Fisher