Monday, August 27, 2018

Remembering Jim on the Day He Was Born

I was up late last night, and the first thing I thought of when the clock moved past midnight was…It’s Jim’s birthday.

A lot has changed since Jim left this world thirteen years ago. I wonder what he would think about how things are now. I can only imagine how he would feel about some things, but I am sure of others.

I remember one time when I was feeling a little melancholy and worried about the mistakes I’d made as a parent. I should have done this, instead of that. I was too hard on the kids at times. Jim just looked at me and said, “Well, we must have done something right.” He was confident of their futures. Our sons grew up to be good men, family men, married to the two best daughters-in-law that we could have ever wanted.

Jim would have been proud of his four grandchildren. They are intelligent, of good character, and inherited the Fisher good looks. Jim loved being a granddad, and I’m thankful that he enjoyed the three older grandkids, and it makes me sad that he never met our youngest grandson.

I’m sure Jim would like that I continue to live a happy, love-filled, and mostly healthy life. Sure, sad things happen from time to time, but the moments we waste on regrets and sorrow takes away the time we have to enjoy our blessings.

I still miss Jim, and he sometimes comes to me in dreams and random thoughts. I cling to the good times, the happy times. I like to remember our trips to Colorado and Oregon and the happiness that those journeys brought Jim. One time my mom said she was glad we took those vacations and trips when we did instead of thinking that would be something we could do in retirement. I’m glad we did too, although at times, I was a reluctant traveler.

It fills my heart with gratitude that I was fortunate enough to receive Jim’s endless love. He would have wanted us to remember him with joy and laughter rather than with sadness. As far as his birthday—true to his unselfish nature, he would have wanted us to be happy.
Copyright © Aug 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Friday, August 24, 2018

Coincidences Happen, Believe It or Not

Yesterday, I was proofreading/editing on Jim’s memoir, Indelible, and came across a story about picking up a Memory Walk T-shirt that my sister-in-law had made into a tank top for me. When I read that, I realized I hadn’t seen the shirt in years and doubted if I still had it.

Later in the afternoon, after doing some housework, I realized I’d worked up a sweat. I went into the walk-in closet, lifted up some shirts stacked on a wire rack, and picked a white one to pull out from the middle of the stack. It was the long missing tank top.

I don’t know how many books I’ve read, or TV shows I’ve watched where someone says, “I don’t believe in coincidences.” What exactly is a coincidence anyway? A coincidence is the occurrence of events that happen by accident. It seems that lately in my life—coincidences rule.

At the Missouri State Fair, during one of the live acts I watched, the performers sang “Suds in the Bucket,” a song we hear in line dancing exercise class. This song was a hit for Sara Evans fifteen years ago! Okay, so I’ll admit that wasn’t too odd.

The next day, Harold and I went to brunch at Golden Corral, and were the first two in the building. While we were taking our plates to the buffet line, someone cued up the music. “Suds in the Bucket” was the first song they played.   

The last day of the Missouri State Fair, I needed to pick up some Alzheimer’s brochures, my photos, and my granddaughter’s drawing. I decided to go to the fairgrounds early to pick up the brochures because I had to pick them up before six p.m. The artwork and photos couldn’t be picked up until 6:30.

Widespread rain was moving into the area and I wanted to limit the amount of soaking I would endure. I’m sure it’s just a coincident that even in the midst of a drought; it always rains during the fair.

For some reason, I decided to walk down a different street than usual. I stopped to watch some horse-drawn carriages and moved on. I decided to take a shortcut between two tents, and came face-to-face with my son. Rob was hanging around to see if the races were going to be rained out.

Rob decided to go with me to pick up the Alzheimer’s brochures. Before  we had even moved from the spot, a man stopped and shook my hand. “It’s good to see you, Linda,” he said. It was a man I had served with on the Alzheimer’s Greater Missouri Chapter board of directors.

You don’t have to believe in coincidences for them to happen. How many times have you been thinking about a song, and turned on the radio at the exact same time it was playing? Or maybe you were thinking about an old friend, and she called you. Have you ever had a sick feeling in your stomach that something bad was going to happen, and you find out later that something bad happened at the time you had the feeling?

Was it a coincident that Jim was a Vietnam veteran—was exposed to Agent Orange, suffered from PTSD, had clinical depression—and developed a rare dementia? It could have been a coincident…

Coincidences can be great surprises, life’s little mysteries, or downright weird. I know some people don’t believe serendipity assumes a significant role in our lives, but I believe it does. Sometimes, I think most of the pivotal events in my life have been the product of chance and coincidence.

Click here to support me in the Walk to End Alzheimer's!

Copyright © Aug 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Stay Strong through Adversity

I walked to the mailbox a few days ago and noticed that our apple tree had some apples on it. Isn’t that what apple trees are supposed to do? Well, yes, but our apple tree had served as chow for the Japanese beetles again this year. Last year, the tree didn’t have any apples when the beetles finished eating the blossoms and made lace out of its leaves.

The apples seemed to me to be a symbol of strength. They had faced potential destruction, but they survived.

I’ve heard people say you never know how strong you can be until being strong is the only option. Sometimes, people surprise me. I knew a shy, timid woman who when faced with a life-threatening disease showed amazing strength through a series of disappointing doctor reports. I’ve also known people who give up at the first sign of a problem, and dissolve into a lengthy pity party.

Alzheimer’s caregivers are, for the most part, notoriously strong people. Caregiving can be overwhelming, frustrating, and extremely saddening. Losing a loved one to a relentless, incurable disease is life changing for the family. The person hardest hit is the one responsible for the well-being of the person with dementia.

A caregiver has to work her way through the grief and pick up the pieces of a life that has fallen apart. He has to make a conscious choice to be strong and choose quality of life over quantity. She has to make the tough decisions about finances, healthcare, and personal safety. It takes strength to survive, and super powers to thrive.

Life after dementia becomes difficult, but not impossible. It is important to take advantage of the early stages to continue living life as normally as possible. Keep up activities that you and your loved one enjoy.

Jim and I used to enjoy playing pitch. Uncle Johnny and I played Jim and Aunt Nita. They were wild and crazy bidders and beat us on a regular basis. At first, Jim could still play cards, but when it became too difficult for him, his mom helped him decide which cards to keep and when to play them. With her help, he was able to enjoy the game long after he would have had to quit.

I even tried to play Super Mario Karts with him, but he laughed at me when I got my kart turned around backwards and told me, “You’re going the wrong way!” As if I hadn’t figured that out on my own. I just couldn’t seem to get my hands coordinated with my eyes.

Any day you can put your cares aside and recapture joyfulness is a good day. It may be harder to have fun than it would be to sink into despair, but it is well worth the effort.

When adversity attacks our lives, we have to decide if we are going to be a leaf or an apple.

Click here to support me in the Walk to End Alzheimer's

Copyright © Aug 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Weeds of Negativity

Being a farmer, Harold knows a lot about plants. One day we were out driving and I asked, “What are those pretty blue flowers alongside the road?”

He gave me a quizzical look at my ignorance, and declared, “They are weeds!”

I have a better appreciation of his assessment now than I did then. After I started to help him mow our huge lawn, I noticed that before the grass needed mowing again, weeds popped up and ruined the smooth grassy surface. Drought will turn our lawn brown, but the weeds grow in all their natural glory.

Like our lawn, life would be smooth and beautiful if the weeds of negativity, doubt, and frustration wouldn’t crop up to complicate everything. It is an individual decision whether we let the weeds take over or whether we keep chopping away at them until we can see the beauty again.

Caregivers battle weeds on a daily basis. Most outsiders would think that the hardest part of caregiving would be physical caregiving tasks—feeding, bathing, changing adult diapers, and being responsible for another’s wellbeing—but they would be wrong. The hardest part of caregiving is working past the grief of losing a person you love by degrees.

While a caregiver loses his loved one to the world of dementia, he must cling to himself too. It is not helpful to the caregiver or the person with dementia if the caregiver sacrifices his health to become immersed in his caregiving role.

I know it’s hard to keep the doubts, negativity, and frustration at bay. I often questioned if I could even find enjoyment as Jim’s health declined. Throughout ten years, I struggled to find some balance in my life. It helped that I was still working because that allowed me to have a part of my life that hadn’t changed as much. Oh, I had to leave work from time-to-time to deal with one crisis or another, but still it provided respite from caregiving.

Being involved with the Alzheimer’s walk and becoming an Alzheimer’s advocate gave me a sense of accomplishment. Out of a negative situation, I found purpose and positivity through my volunteer efforts. The most painful time of my life changed me, took me places I would have never been, and introduced me to some of the most amazing people—other caregivers.

Life is no more or less than we make it. Maybe it is my nature to view some weeds as pretty wildflowers. Life offers endless beauty if we allow ourselves to believe in flowers and scoff at weeds.

Copyright © Aug 2018 by L.S. Fisher