Sunday, August 30, 2015

Just Like the Good Old Days

A couple of days ago, Harold popped a big bowl of popcorn and we settled in front of the T.V. to watch the old episodes of Castle recorded on our DVR. I pushed the “on” button, and nothing happened. After pushing on/off/select numerous times, the most I could get on the T.V. was “no signal.”

Harold tried to reset the satellite receiver without success, so it was time to call DISH. After a half hour of trying this, selecting that, and retrying to acquire a signal, a heavily accented voice said they would be mailing us a new receiver.

After some tough negotiations, Harold convinced them they needed to send a repair person to come out and set up the new receiver. They will be here Tuesday. So without any other kind of reception, we are without a T.V.

Being without a T.V. isn’t so bad. It reminded me of the good old days when we didn’t watch T.V. in the summer because all programs were reruns. So what did we do without all the extensive programming on T.V.? Well, we read books and spent time outside. Thank goodness, I had a book on my Kindle to read, and I had gone a little overboard at Books-A-Million when I was in Branson.

The spending time outside has worked well. Friday, I spent the day with my mom and sister. We visited, ate at Country Kitchen. I didn’t miss T.V. at all. The real acid test was Saturday. As it turned out, my major complaint with Saturday was that there wasn’t enough time to take a break. We were up early and fixed a big breakfast—different from our routine of coffee and bagel in front of the T.V.  After a day of mowing, yard work, and going to town, the day was over, and I hadn’t gotten a single thing marked off my personal task list. Determined to at least get one thing checked off, I worked until nearly midnight. T.V.? What’s that?

This morning, I dragged myself out of bed for early church services. I wore one of my purple Alzheimer’s shirts and picked up a copy of Broken Road: Navigating the Alzheimer’s Labyrinth to give to Pastor Jim for being the inspiration for some of my blog posts.

As I walked into the sanctuary, they had me choose a rock. “You’ll need it during the service,” was the explanation. I was hopeful we weren’t going to “stone” anyone for his or her transgressions.

I go to contemporary services at the Celebration Center. We have a band and the lyrics to our songs are displayed on a screen.  One of our pastors, Nick, brought a message about the traditional Methodist Hymnal and the “rules” for singing the songs. The rules included learning the tunes, singing them exactly as they are written, everyone should sing (take up your cross and bear it, if necessary), sing lustfully (not as half-dead or asleep), yet modestly without destroying the harmony, keep time and sing with the leading voices, and most of all sing spiritually.

Hymnals have the traditional hymns that we sang back in the “good old days.” After the message from 1 Samuel about a stone he called Ebenezer, we sang a traditional hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  The women sang the melody and the men repeated a line. It was really quite beautiful, and I think John Wesley would have been proud.

One of the lines in the song is, “Here I raise my Ebenezer.” As we sang the song, we came forward in the same manner as communion and placed our rocks on the altar. It was a touching moment that made me feel like I’d taken a step back to another, simpler time.

Maybe the “good old days” weren’t always good, but something about them tugs at the heart. It’s the place of our memories and the roots of our traditions. Those were days when we were young and full of hope.

Taking a step back for a few days is a welcome relief. Soon, very soon, I’ll be ready to return to watching my favorite programs, but for now—I’m doing just fine without T.V.

Copyright © August 2015 by L.S. Fisher

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Rob popped in another video to dub. Christmas, 1991. Jim and his brother Billy began to sing “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” in their close harmony. My heart stopped to hear his voice, see him on the somewhat grainy film—standing straight, playing his classic Fender guitar.

Watching our home videos made me laugh and made me cry. Jim narrated as he filmed everything around him for “posterity.” No event was too small or insignificant. He chose who he was making the video for and encouraged everyone to say “hi” to that person. One tape was for his brother Bob, “and Barbara, too,” he added when he remembered he hadn’t mentioned her. A Thanksgiving tape at my mom’s house was specifically for my brother Jimmy who was in the Navy in California.

“Did Dad ever send these videos to the people he made them for?” Rob asked me.

“No. That’s why we still have them,” I said. One time after he became confused, Jim made an audiotape for his cousin Leroy. His mom saw him walk out to the mailbox and raise the flag. Curious, she went out to see what he was mailing. Inside the mailbox was a cassette tape with “for Leroy” written on it. No postage. No wrapping. No address.

Jim’s personality and humor uplifted the videos to an experience. Most of Jim’s family loved the camera. His uncles and cousins would ham it up in standup comedian mode. Uncle Jewel described his many personalities and mashed his face flat in one video. Jim interviewed his cousin Buddy about the lady ranger bawling him out over not coming to a complete stop at the campground’s exit. “Don’t they have stop signs in Missouri?” Jim asked.

The highlights of the old home videos are family gatherings. Houses and yards overflowed with family. Guitars, fiddles, microphones, and amplifiers were dragged out for impromptu family concerts. Everyone had their “special” songs to sing and requests rang out from the audience for their favorites.

I loved being able to see and hear Jim tell his corny jokes, tall tales, but most of all, I loved to hear him sing. I watched the tapes of him singing through blurred eyes. He and his brother Billy sang several songs, and the song “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” was almost prophetic. It told of comfort, friends, dreams, and having that person to hold you up when times are rough. More important it told the kind of man Jim was. He was always on my side. He was my husband, my friend, my bridge. He encouraged me to shine.

In addition to stealing Jim’s musical talent, dementia stole his voice. It seems like a small miracle to hear his voice after all the years of silence. When the darkness of dementia fell he was no longer able to dry my tears, or be my bridge. I had to find my own way back into the light.

It was almost twenty years ago when we learned the hard truth of dementia. We made the most of the time we had until the journey ended April 18, 2005 when Jim was 59 years old. Thursday, August 27, would have been Jim’s 70th birthday. It would have been a day of celebration, but now it is a time of remembrance. And gratitude for the adventures we shared.

Jim is gone from our world, but his essence lives on the videotapes and in his children and grandchildren. Last week when Whitney pulled out her ukulele, her mother said, “Your Grandpa Jim could have taught you so much.” Just like her grandpa, she is collecting different instruments to play. When I see Whitney’s short videos online, it makes me think that her Grandpa Jim would have been capturing every moment he could for “posterity.”

Music and family were the great loves of Jim’s life. We are fortunate to have those magical memories stored in our hearts and on the old videotapes.

Copyright © August 2015 by L.S. Fisher

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

Jessica Snell, Sedalia Walk to End Alzheimer’s co-chair, and I were at the radio station Tuesday morning to talk about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. We were armed with the names of our sponsors and teams, goals, and statistics. It’s always a pleasure to be on the air with Doug, and even better to record the program for broadcast the next day. When you are on the air live, you just have to go with it, but when the program is recorded and your tongue gets tangled, you get “overs.” We all need overs from time to time.

I’ve been involved with the Walk since 1998 and during that time, I’ve seen a lot of changes. The first year, I raised $400 and Jim and I walked with a handful of people. For the next five years, I was the coordinator, or Walk chair, of our local Memory Walk. At that time, our logo was the word “Alzheimer’s” with the “H” being two people, leaning. The Alzheimer’s Association was well known as “Someone to lean on.” The Walk began to draw hundreds of walkers.

For the next five years, Shelley Spinner coordinated our Walk and I backed off the committee to make sure everyone saw her as the leader of the group. She did a great job of keeping the Walk exciting and fresh. I was able to concentrate on being captain of Jim’s Team. Following her, Lisa Hayworth led the Walk committee for two years. Lisa had no experience or help. At that time, my sister-in-law Ginger and I went back on the committee, and we’ve remained on it since then helping Sheila Ream.

Some things change and others remain the same. The Alzheimer’s Association changed the logo to the current one and “Memory Walk” to Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Some of the format has changed. The Promise ceremony has been added and it encompasses the different ways that Alzheimer’s affects us. Our local chapter has changed names from Mid-Missouri to Greater Missouri, merged with the Southwest Chapter, and became a national chapter. What does this all mean? We still have chapter offices where they were located previously and the Alzheimer’s Association still provides the personal service that helped me throughout the years when dementia ruled our lives.

Another change I’ve seen over the years is how people have become more knowledgeable about the disease. When I first approached area businesses in 1999 for corporate sponsorship, no one seemed to know much about Alzheimer’s. Now, everyone seems to know a few basics. A lot of credit goes to the Alzheimer’s Association for raising public awareness.

The Walk is about people. It is a time to show care and concern for those with the disease and their loved ones. It is a time when everyone puts aside their differences and embraces the opportunity to support their friends, neighbors, and relatives who are dealing with Alzheimer’s. We have teams with different names, but in essence, we are all one team. Competition is fierce, but friendly. I celebrate the teams that raise more than our team.

When I was coordinating the Sedalia Walk, I became friends with Ted Distler who coordinated the Jefferson City Walk. We “trash talked” each other all the time about which town was going to raise more money. In truth, it was all in competitive fun, and we supported each other at fundraisers. Ted would drive to Sedalia for our Dance to Remember, and I’d drive to Jefferson City for their Chicken Dinner. We had the same connection to the disease and the same passion for doing what we could to help other care partners and persons with dementia.

What people don’t understand is Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a fun event. Yes, it is sobering at times when you hear the stories of the participants, and the flower ceremony is touching, but knowing that you are doing your part is heart lifting. Smiles, laughter, and love are the order of the day. You don’t want to miss it or you’ll have to wait another year. From babies in strollers to seniors in wheelchairs, we lend support and lean on each other to end Alzheimer’s.

Copyright © August 2015 by L.S. Fisher

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Once in a Blue Moon

Photo by L.S. Fisher, color enhanced
There’s been a lot of talk about blue moons lately.

“Why is the moon going to turn blue?” my granddaughter asked a few weeks ago when we were talking about the upcoming blue moon. Her mom explained that a “blue” moon had nothing to do with color and meant two full moons occur in one month.

We just had a blue moon—at least according to some sources, but in our time of too much information, some purists disagree with this definition. Up until 1946, a blue moon was the third full moon in an astronomical season with four full moons. The confusion came about when James Pruett, a hobby astronomer, published an article that said a second full moon in one month was a blue moon. Although the mistake was noted and refuted, the information had already spread worldwide and became the accepted definition of a blue moon.

Let’s face it. It’s much easier to notice a second moon in one month than to determine how many full moons occur in a season.  According to the original definition of a blue moon, the one we just celebrated was not, in fact, a blue moon. One that we will ignore, most likely, will occur May 21, 2016—the third full moon in an astronomical season. But we will easily notice the one January 31, 2018, the second full moon in the month.

By either definition, a blue moon doesn’t occur too often, and the expression, “once in a blue moon” means something that happens rarely. Some reasons for those “once in a blue moon” occurrences:

Something we don’t like to do and put off. In this category are chores like washing windows, cleaning the garage, and pulling weeds. Tedious, time-consuming tasks that always seem better left for another day. Same goes for uncomfortable, routine medical tests like mammograms, colonoscopies, or endoscopies. Procrastination, indeed!

We’ve gotten out of the habit. We haven’t gone to church for a while, so Sunday seems like the perfect day to sleep late. After missing two or three club or committee meetings, we are out of the loop, and choose to leave it that way.

Not enough time. Life is so busy now that we don’t have time to phone a friend much less visit a loved one with Alzheimer’s in the nursing home. Busy, busy, busy. That’s how most of us live now. We’re so busy being busy that we miss out on the important things in life.

Maybe in reality, it is fine for some things to happen once in a blue moon, but others shouldn’t. It’s really up to each of us to decide what goes into which category—once in a blue moon or much more frequently. Just living isn’t nearly as important as having a life.  

In my world, things that happen once in a blue moon, or rarely, could be considered somewhat common. I’m okay with that most of the time, but sometimes I have regrets that I didn’t make that phone call or visit a loved one. Maybe, at least once in a blue moon, I should just take time to lounge in a lawn chair in the shade of the oak tree, sip a mint julep, and read a trashy novel.

Copyright © August 2015 by L.S. Fisher