Sunday, June 28, 2009

Home Videos: I Cried Until I Laughed

Yesterday, I decided to sort some of our old home videos. Jim was the cameraman and captured every vacation and important event on tape. Sometimes, I would get irritated with him for turning our lives into reality TV. Usually, I preferred to unpack while he played the tapes for the family.

While Jim was in the nursing home, I couldn’t bear to watch any of the tapes. By then, he had lost his ability to carry on a conversation. He was my best friend and I missed how we shared our deepest thoughts and feelings, our hopes and fears. After aphasia stole his conversation skills, he became more and more silent and spoke only a few words in repetitious phrases.

Jim had meticulously labeled each tape with his initials, JDF, and when, where, or what the tape contained. I picked up a tape labeled: Colorado 1988 and popped it into the VCR/DVD player. My screen was filled with majestic mountain scenery, deer, elk, and coyotes as Jim taped one of our animal watch evenings in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Jim taped our campfire breakfast the next morning, and to keep him from running the video camera while driving the curvy mountain roads, I taped our drive through the park. Jim, as usual, narrated. I turned the camera on Jim and he began to talk about our plans for the day. “We’re having the time of our lives,” he said.

Tears welled up as I watched Jim on the video and was reminded of the man he was before we knew anything about dementia. He spoke in his quick-witted manner, relaxed, and happy in his beloved Colorado. The mountains worked their magic on him giving him an inner happiness and peace that he didn’t have in our normal world. I was beginning to think that watching these films was depressing and a really bad idea.

“We are going to the Big Horn Meadow,” Jim said. “I’m going to feed the chipmunks.” Jim was pretty good to follow all the rules and regulations in the park, but he had always fed the chipmunks.

“Why not? It’s only a $25 fine—per offence,” I said.

“We can afford $25,” he answered.

Jim’s bantering from more than twenty years ago chased away my tears, and I found myself laughing out loud. Somehow in my memories, I had forgotten Jim’s great sense of humor.

During one of our hikes, Jim had the camera, and he said, “I’ve dropped back to film because Linda doesn’t like for me to film her from behind. Ooops,” he said as the camera caught my rear view. He swung the camera aside and then back, “Ooops. And ooops.”
As we drove up Fall River Road next to a sheer drop off, Jim teasingly asked me if I wanted him to get closer to my side of the road so I could get a better picture. “Oh, no,” I said, “I’m fine.”

When the tape came to an end, I popped in a couple of tapes marked “Idaho” to see what they were. At least that’s what I told myself. One of them was a trip Jim took to Idaho without me. Jim shot footage of his cousin Joe in Idaho and in the next segment the camera zoomed in for a close-up of a McDonald’s sign. “Hey, honey, guess where I am! This is the only McDonald’s I ever liked to eat at.”

“Estes Park!” I said from my seat on the couch where I still held the remote in my hands.

“Estes Park!” he said…as if I wouldn’t immediately know.

There’s no danger that I will ever forget Jim as long as I’m breathing, but memories are limited. Most of the moments caught on film were buried so deep within my brain I would probably have never retrieved them. Watching the tapes are a way of reminding me of the wondrous moments I’ve lived, even if nostalgia makes me cry until happy memories make me laugh.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

He Wouldn't Harm a Fly

It must have been a slow news day for the president to create such a whoop-la-la by smacking a pesky fly. Especially when you consider the nasty little creatures carry life threatening diseases on all six of their dirty little feet. Spreading diseases isn’t enough for adult flies—they lay their eggs in places where the larvae can burrow into flesh and damage internal organs in unfortunate animals.

I wonder if the PETA guy that protested the president swatting a fly has ever been bitten by a horsefly. Well, I have and they hurt. Although the lowly fly causes pain and suffering for just about every other living animal, PETA is supplying the president with a special trap that will not harm the flies. The idea is to take the trapped flies outside and set them free.

All this concern about small creatures reminds me of an incident that happened when Jim was in the early stages of dementia. We were headed to town in Jim’s Nissan pickup. I was driving, and Jim sat beside me. We had just turned onto the blacktop when he began to pull against his seatbelt and leaned forward into his seat.

“No!” he shouted. “You’re killing them!”

For some unknown reason a mass of caterpillars were creeping across the blacktop. “No! No!” he shrieked. “You are running over the worms.”

“I can’t miss them,” I said. “They’re everywhere.”

Jim was really upset about the creepy crawlers, but I just ignored his protests. Why he was so upset, I really don’t know. It was just one more glitch in his thinking.

I can honestly say I cannot recall one time that I was deliberately cruel to any animal. I make it a habit to swiftly deal the fatal blow when necessary. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a tendency to kill flies, ticks, spiders, or any other critters I find in my house, or on my body. If PETA considers killing annoying, disease-carrying bugs mass murderer, then I plead guilty.

Oh, wait. No one really cares if I kill flies because I am not the President of the United States. Sometimes it pays to be an ordinary person instead of the rich or famous whose every indiscretion is caught by a watchful camera lens and published on You Tube.

I found a tip on the Internet that makes me think PETA may be on to something with that trap. Flies follow each other in their constant hunt for food. If you catch a few flies in the trap, their buzzing will attract more flies. Once the trap is full of flies, you can get rid of them.

Maybe you are the kind who couldn’t harm a fly and will set them free. Or you may be a person who plans to terminate those suckers and rid the world of disease carrying pests.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Murphy's Week

This week has been really long and totally wrong. Monday was my day off, and I don’t have any complaints about it.

Murphy’s Law was in full force beginning Tuesday, which seemed like a bad Monday to me. I started down the stairs to take towels out of the dryer. I flipped the switch and the stairwell light burned out. Why is it that when one light burns out it starts a chain reaction? When I turned on my closet light, it went out too. It’s always dangerous for me to choose my outfit for the day when I can’t see into the depths of my closet.

At work I spent the morning putting out fires instead of working on month end. At noon, I made a trip to Dollar Tree to buy table decorations for an upcoming meeting. I was proud of my efficient shopping until I couldn’t find my car keys. I finally set my packages on the ground and thoroughly searched each compartment of my new purse. No keys. I patted down all my pockets, first the raincoat and then my slacks. My son has a set of keys so I knew (as a last resort) I could call him. One time when he bailed me out, he happened to pull on the door and it wasn’t locked. I don’t like repeating mistakes so I checked the car door. It opened, and I fully expected to see my keys in the ignition. They weren’t! Now what? Then, I saw them in the cup holder.

You would have thought that would have been enough excitement for one day. After work, I went to the gym to de-stress, and when I came out I noticed my trunk lid was up. I must have pushed too many buttons when I locked the doors. I walked over and casually closed it like I always leave my trunk open even in a rain shower.

The good thing about Wednesday—it had to be better than Tuesday. I forgot my closet light was out until I flipped the switch and nothing happened. Still, I managed to get dressed and out the door on time. At work, I jumped into month end. I was a woman on a mission: Make up for yesterday when everything seemed to go wrong.

An hour later I wanted a cup of coffee and headed down the hall to the kitchen. I was preoccupied with work, but noticed one shoe was clicking and the other wasn’t. I looked at my feet and discovered I had on two black shoes but they definitely weren’t mates. One was my Liz Baker shoe with about an inch heel and the other was a Clark shoe with flat rubber soles. And I thought my limp was because of my bad knee!

I pondered what to do about this wardrobe malfunction. My first thought was to sit at my desk and keep my feet out of sight. That didn’t seem like such a great idea since I had plans to go to friendship lunch at noon. I couldn’t imagine walking into Bandana’s with mismatched shoes on my feet.

Following the suck-it-up-and-deal-with-it philosophy, I walked into my boss’s office. “I need to go home,” I told him. I knew it wouldn’t be a problem to go home, but I didn’t want to just disappear for half an hour.

“Is something wrong?” he asked. His concern was so touching that I couldn’t lie.

“Not really,” I said. “I just need to change my shoes. They are both black, but they aren’t mates.”

On the way home, I thought about how my week had been going. I was beginning to feel pretty silly, but blamed my problems on brain overload. I’m sure it has nothing to do with my impending birthday or that nonsense about senior moments. I saw how dementia changed Jim, and I know the difference.

I decided to go with the Clarks which are the most comfortable shoes I own. As I drove back to work, I decided the burnt-out bulb was the reason I pulled out mismatched shoes. After all, if anything can go wrong, it will. Isn’t that the basis of Murphy’s Law?

We’ll skip the rest of the week including almost running out of gas and pumping it in the middle of a thunderstorm. One great thing about today—the week is winding down to its overdue end. When I wake up in the morning, it will be a brand new week and I can scoff at Murphy’s Law.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wild Turkey Alarm Clock

Living in the country is sometimes a mixed blessing. The peace and quiet was interrupted this morning by the loud, obnoxious gobble, gobble, gobble of a wild turkey who seemed to be outside my bedroom window. I looked at the clock and thought I could sleep for two more hours and still be getting up early for a Saturday morning. The turkey thought differently.

I have to admit that in all the years I’ve lived in this house, I’ve been awakened by barking dogs, cat fights, thunder, and several other annoying morning noises, but not once has a turkey been close enough to the house to gobble me awake. I knew turkeys lived in the nearby woods. When Jim was building our house he was up at the crack of dawn every day to work on the project. As soon as Jim began hammering, the turkeys began to gobble.

Missouri is overrun by turkeys. They are awkward in flight, and seem to make up their minds to fly across the road just as a car is swooshing by. My sister wound up with a tom turkey in her lap one time when he crashed through the windshield.

Turkeys are more pleasant to watch when they strut in the fields, where they belong. Each morning on my way to work, I look at the field I think of as a deer and turkey haven. Deer and turkeys seem to frequent the same type of habitat. Some mornings I’ll see five or six deer and a dozen turkeys.

A few weeks ago, I saw an unusual sight. In a misting rain, a friend and I were approaching the toll bridge near Lake Ozark. A turkey crossed the road with about a dozen poults lined up behind her. The traffic stopped while the turkey family meandered across the highway.

All these ruminations about turkeys should have put me back to sleep, but the persistent turkey outside my window gobbled every time I drifted off. I peeked through the blinds expecting to see him in my yard. I’m not sure what I would have done if he had been in my line of vision, but I was seething murderous thoughts.

Finally, I decided to get up and make coffee. While the coffee brewed, I put on a light jacket. I walked to the road and retrieved the paper out of the box. On my return trip, I heard wings flopping and saw a huge bird flounder off a limb of the oak tree. He flew ungracefully across the gravel road, barely clearing the fence, and out of sight into the field.

For a moment, I puzzled over what the heck that awkward bird could be. Suddenly, it dawned on me that my turkey alarm clock was going off duty. It never occurred to me that turkeys roosted in trees.

I walked into the house and poured myself a cup of coffee and carried it into the living room. I opened the patio doors to a world of chirping birds and barking squirrels. With my early start on the day, I had plenty of time to relax over coffee and the paper.

Yes, indeed, living in the country is a mixed blessing. I’m up earlier than I planned, but it’s shaping up to be a beautiful day.