Sunday, June 29, 2008

Announcement: Early Onset Project Submissions Deadline Extended!

The submissions deadline for true slice-of-life stories for a book about early onset dementia has been extended to October 31, 2008. Early onset Alzheimer's begins before age 65. For complete guidelines and a sample story, please visit my website at

Linda Fisher

Saturday, June 28, 2008

As the Crow Flies and Talks

Jim always liked to talk to crows. That’s not really as strange as it seems since they talked back. When he was a teenager, his aunt and uncle in Kansas City had a pet crow. One day the crow got out of the house and Jim helped his uncle comb the neighborhood searching for Jim Crow. A neighbor called and said a bird was on his roof yelling “Help me! Help me!” Sure enough it was Jim Crow.

On our many trips to Colorado, we camped at Moraine Park. One day I was in the tent enjoying an afternoon nap until my solitude was disturbed by voices. I thought it was children playing, but when I stepped outside the tent, Jim was sitting on a moraine talking to the crows. They were having a lively conversation in high pitched crow talk.

Last year, Ginger and I went to visit the spot where my sons scattered part of Jim’s ashes, per his request. Maybe, “request” is too mild a word. He instructed me—showing me the exact spot. As Ginger and I hiked to the quiet little meadow, a noisy crow followed us up the trail and perched in a tree nearby.

In the early shade of evening we walked across the bridge to the parking lot. “Did you notice the crow?” Ginger asked, pointing to the persistent bird.

“Yes, I thought it a little strange that he followed us to the meadow and back to the car.” I unlocked the door and we climbed in my Oldsmobile Alero.

“Me too,” she said.

“If Jim was here, he would talk to the crow.” I rolled down the windows to let the heat escape the car.

“I think he is here,” she said. And we grinned at each other as she spoke aloud the very thought I had been thinking.

The crow watched us as we drove away, calling loudly. It sounded like he said, “Y’all come back.” But I could have been mistaken because I never could understand crow talk the way Jim did.

Sedalia Democrat Article: Author Finds Winning Feeling Second Time Around

A link to a Sedalia Democrat article written by Heath Hooper:

"Linda Fisher knew she wanted to be a writer since her first pass at college." Read the entire article at - 57k

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Of Boston and Baggage

What was I thinking to squeeze a week long conference into my busy schedule? I spent Friday night and Saturday morning frantically packing for my journey. With airlines so persnickety about the amount of luggage you can carry, more thought must go into the packing process.

I chose my medium-sized suitcase because I didn’t want to exceed the fifty pound weight limit. I plopped it on my bathroom scales and it weighed in at 36 pounds. The suitcase was so jammed that my purchases in Boston would have to be limited. And darn the luck, our hotel was attached to a mall. Thinking ahead, my co-worker, Brenda, opted for a large suitcase lightly packed.

This was my first trip to Boston, a city of historical beauty, the freedom trail, brownstones, Fenway Park, and the World Champion Celtics. It is a bonus to enter a city during a historic event. I captured a picture, in my mind and on my cell phone, of the Celtics riding the Ducks in a green and white tickertape parade. I was caught up in the excitement of the enthusiastic crowd.

I might have known things were going way too smoothly. We mailed two boxes of conference materials and checked out of the hotel. Brenda hooked up her laptop to print out our boarding passes. Our flight had been cancelled. Now we would leave three hours later and arrive at Kansas City after 10:00 P.M.

We rolled our luggage up to the ticket counter, and I heaved my bag onto the scales for weigh-in. I breathed a sigh of relief when the red LCD stopped on 44 pounds. Brenda wasn’t so lucky. Her bag was six pounds overweight. “That will be $50.” Brenda opened her suitcase, pulled out a large shopping bag and began cramming items into it. The shopping bag saved her $50 when her lightened suitcase weighed in at 49 pounds.

The lesson learned is that excess baggage comes at a cost. The Alzheimer’s journey requires us to share our load in order to complete the trip. The weight we are willing to carry around on our shoulders is self-monitored, and the cost is not only more than $50; it is immeasurable.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Gifts for Father's Day

I watch Father’s Day ads on TV and think about how many years it has been since I’ve bought a gift. My dad and father-in-law both died in 1990, so my husband became the recipient of Hallmark cards and aftershave. Of course, during his nursing home years, I usually bought Jim NASCAR or Kansas City Chief tee-shirts for all special occasions.

As the big day for dads nears, I began to think about what these three special dads have taught me. My dad, Robert Capps, passed on his work ethic to all eight of us kids. He taught us to give a full day’s labor for a day’s pay. He encouraged us to stay in school and get an education so we could have a better, easier life than he and Mom. My dad wasn’t a religious man, but he taught us honesty, compassion, self respect, unselfishness, and ethical behavior. He always wanted a better life for us kids. He said, “It’s as easy to love a rich man as a poor man.” My two sisters and I never listened to that. In the first place, we didn’t know any rich men, and living in the Ozarks, we weren’t in danger of ever meeting any. Maybe that was his point. He also wanted us to be independent.

My father-in-law, William Howard “Bill” Fisher, taught me to laugh and find humor in unexpected places. His personality was totally different from my dad. Bill played music and his idea of a good time was to have a jam session with his family and friends. Their extended family could usually be found in a campground alongside a creek with good fishing. The Fishers traveled, moving from house to house, state to state. Bill was sentimental and somewhat superstitious. He saw life as mysterious and intriguing. I once lost a contact lens, back in the days when they cost a lot of money. Bill had a dream and knew exactly where to look for it the next morning.

Jim inherited good qualities from both his parents. He was happiest when he was driving down the road and taught me to love travel. Jim was the most generous person I ever knew. Jim would not only give someone the shirt off his back, he would give away his last $10 if someone else needed it.

I came home one day to find Jim digging in his mom and dad’s yard.

“What on earth are you doing?” I asked.

He leaned against his shovel, wiped the sweat off his brow and said, “I’m going to build Mom and Dad a house. That trailer is falling apart, and they can’t live there anymore.” Our mobile home was in better shape, and we had barely begun construction on our home. We put our house on hold, and built a small, solid house for his parents.

Most important, Jim taught me about true and enduring love. Jim was generous with his love, and family always came first. I knew that no matter what, he was always on my side.

I have no father to buy presents for this Father’s Day, but these three fathers left valuable gifts behind. On Father's day, I will pause and cherish their legacies.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Red Roses in a Blue Plastic Bottle

The Veterans Cemetery has a rule that during certain times of the year, live flowers in non-breakable vases are the only acceptable decorations. The day before Memorial Day, I look over the fresh flowers at Wal-Mart.

Sentimentality wins out and I purchase a half-dozen red roses to put in front of Jim’s niche. The roses may not be the most practical choice. If the day is hot, they may wilt before the ceremony is finished. But my heart is set on the red roses. A single long-stemmed red rose was Jim’s way of saying “I love you” on anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, and for no reason at all.

Do you think I could find a plastic vase in the entire Wal-Mart Supercenter? I risk my groceries to stop at Big Lots, but they don’t have any plastic vases either. At home, I find a plastic jar that I decide I can use if my last ditch stop at the Higginsville Wal-Mart ends in failure.

Once we pull off I-70 on the way to the cemetery, my sister-in-law, Ginger, and I storm into the store; two women on a mission. First we look in the obvious places and find the normal grave arrangements along a wall. Picnic supplies are jammed onto shelves nearby.

“How about these water bottles?” Ginger asked.

“They have possibilities,” I said.

The bottles are translucent red and blue, and don’t have logos or ounce markers on them. The price is good—two for $4. They look much like vases, or at least will if we remove the lids.

We put the bottles into the cart and head for the craft section where we select white wired ribbon and some decorative pebbles. In the parking lot, we take scissors to the roses and put pebbles in the bottom of the blue bottle. The arrangement seems a little top heavy so Ginger continues to stuff pebbles into the bottle on the ride to the cemetery. By the time we put a ribbon on the improvised vase, we have a red, white, and blue floral arrangement.

A light rain falls, and we think the ceremony may be cancelled. The rain dwindles off, and the stars and stripes proudly line the white fence, and the service flags atop the columbarium whip in the gusty breeze.

Of course, when I place Jim’s roses in front of his niche, I notice about half the decorations are artificial arrangements or potted plants. Jim’s roses look nice and smell good and are worth the extra effort. Ginger and I sit a stone bench for the ceremony, and watch the roses open up to embrace the day and proclaim that love is the one thing that doesn’t die.