Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Remember So Many Things

A Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a time for us to think about and remember those with the disease. This year we had pinwheel flowers to symbolize our relationship to those with Alzheimer’s. Those of us who had lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s received purple pinwheels, and thirty-three members of Jim’s Team received purple pinwheels in remembrance. Purple was, indeed, the most popular color.

As I signed copies of My Recollections, Our Memories, I heard recollections of a lot of loved ones with Alzheimer’s. One man told me that his mother was in a nursing home in Florida and had all my books. “She reads them over and over,” he said. “She’ll be so happy to have a new one.”

Longtime volunteer, Anna Lee, had recently lost her brother to Alzheimer’s. She had her big smile, as usual, but tears glistened in her eyes as she talked of her loss. They shared their stories, their hugs, their tears, and their hope that someday this disease that brought us together would become a distant memory.

At the conclusion of the Walk, we held what might be our last symbolic balloon release. The company where we’ve been buying our balloons told us that helium is hard to get and they may not have helium next year. As we released the purple balloons, they flew off toward heaven with our messages of love on them.

As I was packing up after the walk and preparing to hustle off to another appointment, my niece, Rhonda, showed me a handmade poster. She had written some of her thoughts about her Uncle Jimmy, and surrounded the words with photos, butterflies, and hearts. She had found several photos of Jim in his denim jacket, one where he is wearing his favorite blue plaid shirt, one in a tux, and yet another where he is wearing a sweatshirt and sweat pants sitting in his recliner at the nursing home.

Rhonda gave the poster to me, and I hugged her as I hustled off to another appointment. Later in the afternoon, I pulled into the Walmart parking lot and took a moment to catch my breath. I picked up the poster from the passenger seat where I had stowed it. As I read her words, I cried for the first time that day.

This is what Rhonda wrote:

Always Remember My Uncle.

I remember so many things about my Uncle Jimmy. When he and my Aunt Linda lived in their trailer, they had a big black bird that could talk; it was mean to everyone except Jimmy. They had a mean cat too, that bit me, lol.

When they were building their new house, Jimmy had a nervous breakdown and had to go to the hospital. I can remember when I went to see him that he got on one knee with his arms out to me, waiting to give me a big hug.

When the house was finally built, they began working on the basement. There were paint cans everywhere and I was running around and fell. When I fell on the paint can, I busted my nose. Jimmy kissed it and carried me upstairs giving me hugs and kisses, and candy, making it all better. Later he got in trouble for giving me the candy ’cause I left sticky fingerprints all over the hallway walls.

I was sick a lot when I was growing up and had to spend much time in the hospitals. When you’re a kid in the hospital, you don’t know anyone and it kinda feels like you are in outer space. But Jimmy never failed to be there for me. Every time I was in the hospital, he would drive all that way even if he didn’t have an appointment. It always made me feel a lot better to have him there with me.

These are just a few of my many memories of my Uncle Jimmy. I love and miss him very much.

Even though in the end, he couldn’t remember us, we will NEVER forget him.

I couldn’t have said it better myself, Rhonda. Only I don’t think your Uncle Jim ever forgot you, and your visits to him in the nursing home brought smiles and love into his world.

Copyright © September 2012 L.S. Fisher

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Different Way of Looking at Life

I like to start the day with a bowl of oatmeal, and usually it goes without incident. I scoop out a quarter cup of oatmeal, sprinkle cinnamon on top, throw in some raisins, a half spoon of Splenda, and a half cup of water. Easy peasy, right? Well, at least most mornings. One day last week, I went through the whole routine, but when it was time to put the oatmeal away, I couldn’t find the lid. I searched the countertop, checked the living room, and even looked in the refrigerator. How could a lid disappear into thin air?

Since I’m on a tight schedule in the mornings, I decided the best thing to do was slip a freezer bag over the top.As soon as I put the makeshift lid on top and picked up the oatmeal to put it away, I discovered the lid was on the bottom. Somehow, I’d managed to set it down perfectly and the lid was invisible because of the way I looked at the box.

Had I logically thought about it, and looked at the box in a different way, I would have seen the lid. Instead, I saw just what I expected to see—a box of oatmeal with the lid missing.

I seem to spend a lot of time looking for items I can’t find. It reminds me of how Jim used to say, “Right here but I can’t find it.” That’s how I felt Thursday, when I took a day’s vacation to be prepared for my two commitments that night. I was so geared up that I woke up hours before the alarm was set to jangle me out of bed.

First, I needed to get things ready for my Business Women’s meeting, and then for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s bank night. For bank night, I needed to register more team members, and type donations into the spreadsheet. I put on a pot of coffee, fired up my netbook and prepared to go to work.

For the Business Women’s meeting, I went to my roll-around bag to get my president’s pins to put in the box I use for items to put on the “sharing table.” Not a problem. That’s where I keep them. Except, they weren’t there. I spent an hour searching high and low, while the clock ticked away. I wasn’t getting anything done. Finally, I decided hunting for something I couldn’t find wasn’t a good use of the limited time I had, so I moved on. I worked steadily throughout the day and was proud of my accomplishments. Done in plenty of time for the three o’clock setup for Bank night.

I dressed for the evening’s activities, in purple, of course. My purple nail polish was wearing off, so I decided to re-do my nails. They sure looked pretty—at least until I dinged one of them up and had to strip that nail and polish it again. I knew my nails weren’t completely dry, but I needed to be going. I hauled my bags to the car, and took off. Wow! On time and all. So good.

About a quarter of a mile down the road, I noticed I had another messed up nail—much too bad to ignore. But, no problem, I could touch it up since I’d put the polish in my purse—hadn’t I? Just to be on the safe side, I stopped for a quick search. I didn’t see the polish, so I turned around and went back home.

I parked my car in the driveway and hustled down the walk to the door. I was drenched in sweat. I re-applied deodorant and walked into the living room to pick up the polish. It wasn’t there. Okay, it must have been in my purse after all. Back to the car, dumped out the purse—no polish. Down the walk, to the door, more sweat, re-apply deodorant, and search for nail polish. There it was in the kitchen. Why? I have no idea. Had I only looked in a different way when I came through the door, I would have seen it. After all, it was hiding in plain sight.

When I think back on the last few days, I have to consider Alzheimer’s warning sign #7: Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Hmmm. Yep. That’s been happening a lot lately. I refuse to look at the other warning signs—I’m not in denial, I believe my brain has simply short-circuited with the overload. At least, that’s the way I choose to look at it.

When we look at life, we often look at it in the same old way. We miss so much because we don’t step back and take a fresh look. We see what we expect to see instead of what is right in front of us.

Copyright ( c) 2012 L. S. Fisher