Sunday, July 31, 2022

Culinary Delight


Tonight we had a delicious meal of chicken and noodles in wine sauce. Harold had put the culinary delight together by gathering ideas from several different websites and tweaking the recipes to make them his own. He has a knack for blending seasonings and adding surreptitious touches to any dish he makes.


I’m not sure that it is a total coincidence that Jim was also a good cook. It could have been dumb luck that I married two master chefs. Yeah, I’m sure it was a coincidence or dumb luck.


It also happens that they both had mothers who were well known for their cooking/baking talents. When Harold’s mom baked, it would have been picture perfect for a cookbook or magazine layout. Dorothy’s cakes, pies, brownies, or cookies looked as beautiful as they were heavenly scrumptious.


Jim’s mom had always cooked for a large family. I never knew anyone who could prepare a meal at warp speed and still be as tasty as everything Virginia cooked. She could perform magic with flour, milk, shortening, and baking powder. Virginia’s biscuits and gravy were legendary. She could bake a pie faster than anyone I ever saw in my life. And her light rolls were to die for.


Jim found solace in cooking. Between his physical pain, PTSD, and depression, there were times he could not work. A VA psychologist suggested that he take on some household chores to combat his feelings of worthlessness. Jim started cooking the meals and washing the dishes. His method was to clean as he cooked. By the time the food was on the table, the only thing that hadn’t been washed was the dishes necessary to eat the meal. I was never that organized when it came to cooking, and usually left a pile of dirty dishes in my wake.


Dementia is a thief that steals talents and personality traits. At first, the losses were minor and barely noticeable. I noticed differences in Jim’s skill level about a year before anyone else did. When I started telling people that Jim was having difficulty with his reasoning, I think most of his family thought I was the one with a problem.


We were all in denial and hoping against hope, that Jim would get better. He was so young that several specialists thought his condition could be reversible. It took a full day of testing to determine that he couldn’t do simple math or complete any questions that required abstract thinking. We both cried when he was diagnosed with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.


In the early stages of dementia, Jim could still cook. The transition was so gradual that I don’t remember exactly when he no longer prepared the meals or when he stopped cooking completely.


More prominent in my memories are Jim fixing a complete meal on his camp stove at Moraine Park in the Rocky Mountain National Park. There’s nothing better than drinking coffee by a campfire and watching Jim fixing bacon and eggs on the camp stove. That culinary delight lingers in the recesses of my mind and in the depth of my heart.


Copyright © July 2022 by L.S. Fisher


Saturday, July 23, 2022

On My Own


Five years ago, I bought a cheap minnow-sized ukulele and a tuner at a pawn shop. I watched YouTube videos and read about tuning and playing the instrument. What stuck out mostly in my mind was that ukes were fun and not an instrument to cause stress. In fact, playing a ukulele is a great stress reliever.

 The first thing I had to do was to cut the long fingernails that I had always had. The day I clipped them to the nubs, was the day I committed to learning how to play.


As soon as my brother learned I had an instrument, he invited me to practice with the Capps Family Band. Playing with the band was a breakthrough moment for me. It taught me to keep time and to keep up with the flow of the music. It was well worth the long drive to spend time with family and learn how joyful jam sessions are.


For several years, the band played at nursing homes near where they live. I started going to the nursing homes with them and sat in the back away from the mike as I learned how to play. Eventually, my brother talked me into singing “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”


Until the pandemic, our family band entertained at three nursing homes each month. After the nursing homes were on lockdown, we continued to practice twice a month.


My husband made a call to a local nursing home to ask if they wanted entertainment thinking the Capps Family Band could play for the residents. During the course of the conversation, he learned they didn’t have a sound system, which is a requirement for the band to play. I took the phone and asked if they would like me to play my ukulele and sing. I have a microphone and a Block Buster that is lightweight and easy to transport. They immediately put me on the calendar for two different dates, so I could play for residents on both sides of the facility.


The day came to play and as I sat in front of a large group of residents, I realized that I was on my own. This was a first for me since I’ve always been a part of the band. Other members of the band play music when I sing and provide vocal backup. My part is usually two or three songs, and here I sat with an entire play list with my only ukulele for accompaniment. Granted, I had upgraded from the minnow to a soprano uke, but it was all the music I had.


Being on my own in a new situation reminded me of how I was on my own as Jim forgot how to do familiar tasks. I had to make all the decisions, as his uncle once said, “You are thinking for two.”


Our home became quieter and quieter when he began to lose his conversation skills. Still, having him at home with me was comforting. I was often worn out from scheduling someone to be with Jim while I worked became a challenge. Hired caregivers were unreliable, but my family and Jim’s family stepped in to share the caregiving load, but at night and on weekends—I was on my own.


When Jim went into long-term care, being on my own was lonely and sometimes terrifying. I worried about Jim constantly, and spent as much time as possible with him. I visited him every day after work and on my days off. I took him for drives, walks in the park, to DQ for lunch or ice cream, to Walmart, and occasionally brought him home for the day. Like caregivers everywhere, I was basically on my own.


So as I sat in front of my audience, on my own, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t on my own at all. Sitting in the first chair on my right side was a woman who had always been one of our biggest fans at a nursing home where the band played. We had missed her the last time, and thought the worse. It made my day to find her alive and well! “When I saw it on the calendar,” she said, “I hoped it was you.”


I was not alone. I had the background of the band, who had been with me every step along my journey of playing an instrument and singing. I had learned that I didn’t have to be perfect, I just had to keep going when I made a mistake. My brother tells us, “Keep singing. If you make a mistake, don’t point it out, just keep going. Most people will never notice.”


I relaxed, picked up my ukulele, and started singing. It was a great day to share in the joy of music. They lifted my spirits, and judging by their smiles and encouragement, I believe that I lifted theirs.


Copyright © July 2022 by L.S. Fisher


Monday, July 18, 2022

Farmers’ Market


At one of our Walk to End Alzheimer’s committee meetings, we were brainstorming about events where we could promote the Walk and other Alzheimer’s programs and services. Someone suggested the Farmers’ Market, and our walk manager, Laura, proceeded to contact them. The market is open on Tuesdays and Fridays each week, and we eventually procured a Friday for our informational booth.


Laura and I set up our table at the Farmers’ Market on a lovely day that plopped itself right in the middle of a heat wave. We were front and center where we saw everyone who entered and left the market. A steady flow of people mostly passed us by, but occasionally someone would stop to pick up information or show interest in our September 17 Walk.


We took turns perusing the market booths. I snapped photos and walked around looking at everything but didn’t buy anything. Laura found a few things including a fried pie. She declared it delicious. Her endorsement was enough to convince me that I, too, had to have a fried pie. I also scored two “hens and chick” succulents that I had been wanting.


Several people stopped by our booth including the CEO of one of our corporate sponsors. She took several posters and walker sign-up sheets. I saw a friend that grew up in the same rural area that I did. All, in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.


The time went by fast, and as we broke down the table and put away our things, Laura mentioned the small number of people who stopped by. “But it was a nice day, we had a great visit, we handed out information, and got out the word about the Walk. Not to mention I found my hens and chicks, and you have some goodies to take home.”


“You sure put a positive spin on it,” she said.


“If you reach one person, it wasn’t wasted time,” I said.


Spending an afternoon at the Farmers’ Market also put the place on my radar. When we ran out of tomatoes, Harold and I stopped by the Farmers’ Market. Harold waited in the truck, but cautioned me, “Don’t buy a lot of stuff.”


As I strolled into the market, I noticed a long line winding across the entire building. I was relieved that the line was for peaches and not tomatoes! Several different booths had tomatoes for sale with much shorter lines. I chose one that was also selling corn on the cob. After I bought my tomatoes, I asked about the corn. “Six dollars a dozen,” she said.


I only wanted a half dozen so she bagged the corn up for me. In less than ten minutes, I purchased delicious tomatoes and tasty corn. On my walk back to the car, I was thankful that I was only in the sweltering heat for a short time.  


I’m glad Laura and I went to the Farmers’ Market with our Alzheimer’s information, but Laura and I both agreed that on a hot day, it would be miserable. We were lucky once, but with a long, hot summer ahead of us, we knew that wasn’t likely to happen again.


Our next booth will be in air-conditioned comfort at Central Missouri Electric Cooperative’s Annual Meeting. We will be sharing information and talking the Walk.


Copyright © July 2022 by L.S. Fisher


Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Lost Is Found--Sometimes

“What’s that in the driveway?” Harold asked as I stopped to check the mail.

 “I don’t know, but it kind of looks like my travel coffee mug,” I said. I grabbed the mail out of the mailbox and tossed it into the truck. “I’m going to check it out before I climb back in,” I said. It’s a high step for me to get in and out of the truck.


I picked up the object and, sure enough, it was my mug. “I set it on the edge of the truck bed before I left home,” I said. “I guess that’s how long it took to fall off.” The cup was a little banged up, but didn’t seem to be hurt any.


Lately, we’ve spent a lot of time looking for lost items. Things are not where they should be, and it’s frustrating. I was getting ready to drain the water off the spaghetti. “Where’s the strainer?” I asked. I was looking at the slot where the strainer has been for as long as I can remember. I finally set down the pot of hot water and spaghetti while I pondered where it could possibly be. I looked in every logical place and a few illogical ones. No strainer. Finally, I gave up and used a different one that I could find.


A few days ago, we were on the search for Harold’s small pocket notebook. He had written a bunch of measurements in it and didn’t want to have to re-measure. Well, I found about six of the little notebooks, but none had the correct information in them. I finally called a store we had been in to ask if they had found it. They had not. The search went on for two days, and finally Harold found it in his nightstand drawer.


I think that since we live in a huge house and have a large inventory of miscellaneous items, I can see why objects can be easily lost. Harold likes to buy kitchen gadgets and sometimes finding cubbyholes to store them takes creative rearranging. Anyway, that’s my excuse.


Yesterday, when I put gas in my car, I noticed one of my credit card slots was empty in my metal wallet. I dumped my purse and looked in every place in it. The search was on. I looked in the truck because that’s where I had used it last. First glance, not there. I checked out my smaller purse that I sometimes carry. It wasn’t there either. After exhausting all leads, I went back to the truck. I finally spied the missing card hiding in plain sight. It had slid against the side of the console and almost invisible.


The various searches makes me think of how Jim used to say, “Right here, but I can’t find it.” I know it was frustrating for him. Not only would he misplace or lose something, but because of aphasia, he couldn’t even tell me what he was looking for.


Part of the reason we lose so many things is that we are constantly distracted. Our electronic devices constantly ding, buzz, ring, chime, or interrupt with pop ups. My phone is paired to my car and the pickup. The pickup is several years newer and has more bells and whistles than my car. I was driving the pickup this morning and on my informational screen, a popup informed me that I had a text message and told me who sent it. Geeze. The only good thing is that my phone didn’t make any noise and thankfully, didn’t distract me more with the entire text message.


Through perseverance, or stubbornness, we usually find the lost. Still, after all this time, I cannot find that strainer. Harold thinks I might have thrown it away, but I don’t believe that. I will not go dumpster diving to see. If it’s gone, it’s gone, but truthfully, I think we will find it—eventually, somewhere, somehow.


Copyright © June 2022 by L.S. Fisher


Saturday, June 25, 2022

Happy Un-Birthday

Recently, I had a birthday, but thought that perhaps I should have a happy un-birthday. If ever I chose to go back a year instead of forward a year, this would be the perfect time. Who knew that doubling my arthritis medication would make me feel ten years younger than I did a month ago?

 I was getting to the point where I wondered how much more pain I could take. Every step I took was painful. Bending made my back hurt. I couldn’t sleep because every time I moved, pain shot out from my knees upward to my thighs, downward to my ankles.


After physical therapy made me hurt worse, the rheumatologist’s next plan was to increase my medication and prescribe a round of prednisone. The second day on the increased Celebrex, I noticed my knees felt—almost normal! And that was before taking the prednisone.


OK, I’ve gone through short periods of time where I felt good for awhile. At least this time, it may last longer than normal. I feel more optimistic about my health than I have in a long time.


I was able to convey to the rheumatologist that my pain had reached a new level and something had to be done. I have an aversion to medications that only mask the pain. Several years ago, after surgery, I filled a pain pill prescription. I took a pill and vomited until my stitches felt like they were going to pop. I decided the pain wasn’t bad enough to suffer the consequences of the pain medication.


Jim lived with chronic pain throughout most of his adult life. An injury in Vietnam caused a fracture in his neck. He thought that surgery would put an end to it, but it didn’t work out that way. Several years later during an MRI, metal fragments were discovered near the surgical site. “Looks like a drill bit shattered,” the technician told us.


Jim lived with chronic pain, and we were constantly adjusting his medication cocktail to get the maximum benefit with the least side-effects.


After he went into long-term care, I still monitored what medications he was taking. I went to the home one night and saw Jim walking bent over with his hand on his back. “Have you given him his pain medication?” I asked the nurse.


“He didn’t say he was in pain so I never gave it to him.”


“Look at him! He’s walking bent over and holding his back. He doesn’t do that if he’s feeling good.” After discussion with the charge nurse, his new care plan called for pain medication on a regular basis.

Without watching for visual clues, it may be impossible to know when a person with dementia is in pain. Jim hardly made a sound for any reason, including pain. Sometimes, he would groan, but more often, he suffered in silence.


During the five years Jim was in long-term care, I could walk into his room at night and know if he was in pain. I could tell by the expression on his face. Sometimes when I walked in, he would get tears in his eyes. He knew I would get him the help he needed.


It was a blessing when I would walk in and he would smile or even just have a relaxed, pleasant look about him. In my mind’s eye, I can see him in his recliner glancing at the TV from time to time to watch a Chief’s game, a race, or a country music show. He never showed any reaction to the action on the screen. He just knew that was what he liked to watch and the staff was good to keep his TV on his favorite shows.


Jim never had any un-birthdays, but sometimes when I looked at him, I saw the guy that captured my heart the summer I turned seventeen. That was always a good day, and it always lifted my spirits to see him content.


Copyright © June 2022 by L.S. Fisher


Sunday, June 12, 2022

It's the Simple Things

A few days ago was sausage making day. My husband likes to grind and season his own sausage. I’ll admit it is delicious, but it is also quite a bit of work.

 Harold was browsing the internet trying to find a large mouth funnel to put the sausage into the food saver bags without touching the part that had to be sealed. “Why don’t you just cut the bottom out of a solo cup?” I asked.


“That might just work,” he said. Sometimes the simple solution is staring you in the face, but until you use your imagination, you don’t see it.


We’ve made some home improvements that will make upkeep and cleaning simpler. It couldn’t have come at a better time with my cleaning lady taking off the entire month of June.


Although we contracted the work, things were a little topsy turvy during the renovations. The bathrooms weren’t too much work, but emptying the bedroom for the hardwood was a different story.


During the process of going through things, I filled my dumpster. I was in a “love it or toss it” phase, and I rid myself of a lot of clutter. Still, you can’t just throw away everything, so we still have a lot of inventory. So far, I’ve not put much back in the drawers that were previously crammed full. I haven’t put anything on top of the dresser except a lamp and a clock. I love the sleek bare look. I suppose I’ll eventually put some of the photos and keepsakes back on it, but I’m in no hurry.


I’ve always cherished the simple moments in life. Most of my life was simple out of necessity, but that was perfect for me. I never had any delusions of being wealthy, and I never craved it. Jim used to want to win the lottery, but I figured it would just mess up my life. It worked out for us. I never bought any tickets, and he never won more than $750.


We enjoyed our road trips, camp outs, hiking in the Rockies, drinking coffee at Café du Monde, strolling through Old Town Albuquerque, or catching a show in Branson. We were just as happy having friends over to play music in our living room, or spending a day at Truman Dam. We loved spending time with family. After all, the basic happiness in life is spending time with the people you love.


My sister-in-law recently posted a photo of Jim and me that I had never seen. The photo is a little blurry, but I can tell that I’m wearing a sweater that I bought at the Goodwill store in Oregon while we were visiting family. I always underestimated how cold it was going to be and usually had to supplement the summer clothes I took with me. We didn’t just run into a department store and buy clothes—we went to the Goodwill, garage sales, or thrift stores. That was okay with me. If I could score a sweater for fifty cents or jeans for a dollar, it was a simple pleasure.


My idea of a life well lived is one with minimal drama, envy, greed, or stress. I am filled with gratitude for the amazing people who have influenced me throughout my lifetime. I remember so many good times I spent with my precious family and friends who have left this world for their final reward. In my memories, the days spent with my loved ones are the red-letter days that time, distance, or death cannot erase.


Copyright © June 2022 by L.S. Fisher


Monday, May 30, 2022

Memorial Day—Honoring Sacrifice


I’ve seen news reports about how this Memorial Day is going to be the most expensive holiday ever. Travel expenses include gas (of course!), hotels, food, and airfare. The complaints are rolling in as Americans weigh the cost against their vacation or trip to the lake. Judging from the traffic, I believe many of them chose travel.


Yes, we are going through some tough economic times, but those of us who have a little age on us have been there and done that many times before. To my way of thinking, Memorial Day should be a reminder of the ultimate sacrifices that others have made so that we are free to complain loudly and as often as we please.


In wartime, most Americans know who our enemy is. When my dad fought in World War II, he knew who the enemy was. He didn’t have a single doubt.


We’ve changed over the years. Now, we make enemies of those who disagree with us or who are different. Where Americans used to unite, now we are divided—about everything imaginable. We’ve forgotten that united we stand and divided we fall.


I will agree with one thing. This is an expensive holiday, but our sacrifices are small compared to those who died for the freedom we take for granted. Even worse than taking freedom for granted is being willing to throw it away to further a radical agenda.


At a gathering of Vietnam Veterans, one man said that he had died in Vietnam, but he just didn’t know it. That is how I think of Jim. He was never the same when he came home from Vietnam. He was haunted by his tour of duty and had physical pain that served as a constant reminder. As with many veterans and active military, he was often suicidal. I have no way to prove it, but I think his exposure to Agent Orange and PTSD contributed directly to the dementia that eventually claimed his life before his 60th birthday.


The sacrifices of our veterans aren’t measured by statistics; they are measured by grief. Individual sacrifices too often result in alcoholism, drug abuse, broken homes, divorce, homelessness, and suicide. Widows and widowers stoically accept a folded American flag at a gravesite.


Jim’s final resting place is the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Higginsville. The cemetery is a lovely, peaceful place that belies the turbulence of war. The flags flying above the cemetery and on the graves represent the country they defended at risk of their own lives.


 Memorial Day isn’t about picnics, vacations, or drinking beer; it is about the freedom to have a picnic, take a vacation, or sit on the patio with friends drinking beer. It’s about our right to breathe fresh air, look at the stars, or hear an airplane without worrying about it dropping a bomb on us. It’s about loving our family, honoring those we’ve lost, and about the right to agree to disagree.


Copyright © May 2022 by L.S. Fisher


Thunder and Ululele


My dog is brave when it comes to assorted animals of all sizes. She isn’t afraid of any kind of storm if she’s out in it. She meanders around the yard doing her business, while I huddle in the garage hoping that a stray lightning strike does not hit either one of us.


During the turbulent weather this spring, thunderstorms roll through on a frequent basis. When the storms come through at night and our dog is in her kennel, she raises a fearful howl.


When the thunder started booming in the middle of the night, I actually heard Lucy first. She whined and howled until I got up and sat with her for a long while. We were in the middle of having our hardwood installed and there was too much debris to turn her loose.


Eventually, I returned her to her bed, which doesn’t even describe how difficult that was. Another storm passed through and she was making more noise than the first time. At a loss as to how to calm her, I picked up my ukulele and begin running through some chord changes. She calmed down, lay down, and eventually went to sleep.


I always said Lucy was my biggest fan. Every time I play the ukulele, she finds a spot nearby to listen. Music can soothe the most turbulent soul.


During the early stages of dementia, Jim picked up his guitar every morning and played a few tunes. He called playing music his “therapy,” and it truly was.


In the later stages of the disease, Jim could not play his guitar, but listening to country music elevated his mood. Jim never lost his musician’s heart. We are fortunate to have old video tapes of him playing music with his family and friends.


I never played an instrument before I decided to try a ukulele. I credit my friend Neidth for encouraging me to try. She provided free lessons. My first ukulele cost $50 at a pawnshop. I never made it to the lessons, but between YouTube videos and practicing with the Capps Family Band, I learned a lot. I found so much enjoyment in the link between my soul and playing music.


The dog isn’t the only one that the ukulele calms. The spring storms have activated my arthritis. My doctor sent me to physical therapy and I felt worse instead of better.


When my arthritic pain becomes unbearable, I pick up my instrument and indulge in music therapy. It scares me that my hands are sometimes stiff and uncooperative, but so far, they limber up when I pluck the strings.


I’ll be glad when we can play music in the nursing homes again. First, the pandemic put a stop to it, but we practiced on a regular basis. We played a couple of months, and then have had to take a break from practice and playing in the nursing homes since January.


I’ve been teasing the band that when my brother is ready to play again, and my body feels better, he and I are going to play at the nursing homes, and the rest of the band can join us if they want.


I’m ready to come out of my funk. I’m tired of having no energy and getting behind in all my projects. When we set music goals and practice toward them, I’m in a better frame of mind. Arthritic pain is my version of thunder, but as long as I strum through the chords on my ukulele, I’m fearless.   


Copyright © May 2022 by L.S. Fisher


Saturday, May 7, 2022

No Joke


A few nights ago, as my husband and I struggled to get out of our chairs, he remarked, “Growing old ain’t for sissies.”


“No joke!” I replied. I’ve always had aches and pains, but for the past two or three years, the pain is worse and more constant. I coughed and hacked my way through January and February, and that took a lot out of me. Being sick zapped my energy levels.


The advantage of the mystery illness—I tested negative for Covid and flu—was that my nagging knee pain was gone. As soon as I returned to normal, the knee pain returned with a vengeance. I went to a rheumatoid specialist and he prescribed therapy. I stuck it out to the bitter end, but instead of feeling better, I could barely walk.


This is the time of year that I’m usually planning a trip to DC to attend the AIM (Alzheimer’s Impact Movement) Forum. The last Forum I attended was in 2019. As usual, I went a few days early to visit the sites. I was having problems navigating because of my knees, so I would find a place to sit and admire the view.


In 2020, I had purchased my plane ticket and reserved my hotel room. My friend Sarah had invited Kathy, Jane, and me to spend a few days at her house in Virginia. I was excited about my 20th trip to the Alzheimer’s Forum. Then, wham bam, in person meetings were cancelled.


We met virtually in 2020 and 2021. This year, the Forum is for AIM Ambassadors only. The conference will be a scaled down version of past Forums. “Be prepared for more walking than usual,” was the warning.


Life circumstances have changed since 2020, and I knew that going to the Forum might not be impossible, but certainly not probable. When registration rolled around, I told my contact that I wouldn’t be going this year. Since I bowed out, Jessica was able to step in and take my place.


I’m happy for her and hope she has a great time in DC and makes an impact on our legislators. I’ve told my friends who are going to the Forum to post a lot of photos for me to see.


I believe that those of us who can’t be there in person can use Zoom to view the sessions. It’s not the same, but it will have to do. I’m sure I’ll feel a tinge of regret and envy when I see the photos, but this is my new reality.


Getting old really isn’t for sissies, but as a former co-worker used to point out—it beats the alternative. No joke! Who ever thought I’d look forward to seeing the doctor on Monday and getting shots in my knees? I’ll have to agree with my former co-worker about alternatives—painless beats painful every time.


Copyright © May 2022 by L.S. Fisher



Monday, April 18, 2022

April 18, 2005


Yesterday morning I woke up early from a night of unsettling dreams. I immediately had a sense that something was wrong. It was too early to call anyone to check on them so I went back to sleep. I didn’t awaken again until about ten o’clock. Harold came in to wake me just about the time I headed toward the kitchen for coffee. “Are you okay,” he asked.


I said, “No.” I didn’t feel okay. I didn’t feel rested and the rainfall contributed to my full body ache. After my first cup of coffee, I realized it was April 17, Easter morning.


April 17, 2005, was the day that was the beginning of the end of my first life. It was the day we knew for sure that Jim wouldn’t be with us much longer. It was a day of sadness, trying to give comfort to him as he lay dying. We played his tape after tape of his favorite music, held his hand, and stroked his brow.


Jim always said that death was closing one door and opening another. In the early morning hours of April 18, he closed the door on his earthly life and opened the door to eternity.

Life Goes On

Excerpt from Indelible

One time on my way back from Kansas City, I pulled off the interstate when I saw the sign for the Missouri Veterans Cemetery at Higginsville. I stopped at Walmart hoping to find some flowers and instead settled for a colorful plant in a pot decorated with two birds facing each other. As I left Walmart, I drove through McDonald’s and bought a cheeseburger and fries.

A few miles out of town, I pulled through the gate into the cemetery and drove to the columbarium. I had the peaceful, quiet cemetery all to myself. 

I shared my water with the plant and placed it beneath Jim’s memorial. I sat on a bench and ate my lunch while I reflected on our life together. Jim would have looked forward to my impending retirement and trips to see family and friends. He would have wanted to spend time animal watching in the Rocky Mountains he grew to love so much. He would have been so proud of our children and grandchildren. He would have loved showing the grandkids his childhood places and sharing his stories and memories. That was what made Jim, Jim.

We would have spent time having those soul-searching conversations about life, death, and the time between. Time. We ran out of it.

We were always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up. I remember when Rob was young, he used to say, “Curtis and I want to go to Colorado and be mountain men.” One time my grand­­daughter told me that she wanted to be “Barbie” when she grew up.

I saw a TV show where grownups were saying what they wanted to be when they “grew up.” One person said, “When I grow up, I want to give more than I get.”

Well, I never wanted to be Barbie or a mountain man, but I certainly admire the idea of giving more than I get. It’s only natural for us to look out for numero uno. After all, we’re looking at the world through one set of eyes and from one perspective. With our limited vision of the world around us, some find it easier to be selfish than to be selfless.

Does it do any good to measure what we have accumulated against what others own? Coveting another’s possessions creates a miserable existence. Those who have little might envy those who have more, or those who have a lot might look down on people who have less.

Some people are innately generous, for example a child who gives his or her favorite toy to a friend. More common are the children who grab a coveted toy out of another child’s hands.

The odd thing is that often people who are the most sharing are those who have the least. Maybe it isn’t so strange after all. People who have accumulated a lot of wealth sometimes do so by pinching each penny until it screams. They’ve worked hard for what they have, and they don’t think anyone else deserves the fruit of their labor. Wealth can be a prison of fear and anxiety.

I came from a home with two hard-working parents who struggled to provide for a family with eight children. We never had a lot, but Mom and Dad instilled into each of us that a person’s worth was not tied to how many material possessions he had amassed.

Instead of telling us to go out into the world and try to be rich, our parents guided us toward being independent, hard-working adults who took satisfaction in being good people. We were taught that we weren’t better than the less fortunate, and we weren’t less than the wealthy. We were raised in a share and share alike environment, and it has lasted each of us for a lifetime. There is not a selfish member in my family!

One of the most generous people I’ve known in my lifetime was Jim. He would not only give someone the shirt off his back, he actually gave my brother the buttons off his uniform. He gave away a priceless tater bug mandolin and a valuable Gibson guitar. I would say throughout his life, he gave much more than he received. Greed wasn’t in his vocabulary.

Although dementia greedily snatched him away physically, he left an indelible impact on the lives he touched. Throughout his life, a circle of family and friends surrounded him with love.

Jim was one of the people who gave more than he got during his lifetime. No, he didn’t leave a monetary inheritance. What he left was a richness of memories, stories, and love of family. That is admirable in itself, but I think even more important is that when he left this world, he left more than he took. 

Copyright © April 2022 by L.S. Fisher