Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Escape Plan

People are getting restless with the COVID-19 pandemic Stay Home orders. About half the people want to open up the economy and go back to work (or to play), the other half believes we need to bide out time until it’s safe.

I’ll admit that I’m firmly in the be patient camp, but I’m in a better position than a lot of people. I’m retired, don’t have rent or house payments, no car payment, and can do just about anything I need to do on my PC.

On the other hand, I’m tired of not seeing my family. I’ve found that I’m getting downright lazy and have zero ambition. I also tire easily. I refuse to look at my 401k.

From time to time I get a hint of depression and my heart feels sad for the people who are hurting financially, those who are working and don’t feel safe, and for the sick and dying. I ache for those who have lost friends and families to the pandemic.

This morning, I had a couple of random thoughts. One was the TV series The Last Ship. That show was a worst-case scenario of a worldwide pandemic. My nephew said it was on Hulu. I don’t recommend watching it.

Many people feel like they are in jail and that reminded me of a story of when Jim first went into the nursing home. I went to visit him one day and noticed a group of residents creeping toward the Exit door in the Alzheimer’s unit.

From Indelible:    
Escape Plan

There was a bit of an insurrection one evening at the nursing home with some of the residents hell bent on escaping.

“Can we get out that door?” The old lady clung to her walker as she posed the question to one of her companions.

“No, let’s try that one,” replied the old man, hitching up a wayward overalls’ strap.

His four followers, two with walkers, one with a cane, and one who shuffled her feet as she clung to the rail, proceeded down the hallway toward the door.

“Dinner is ready!” announced the nurse as the group passed in front of the dining room door. The group forgot about escaping and shuffled to the dining room.

The nurse smiled at me. “They’ve been taking turns setting off the door alarms today. It happens from time to time. It should be an exciting evening with a full moon tonight.” Some people scoffed at a full moon affecting people, but one thing I’d noticed was the scoffers did not work in a nursing home.

I’m looking forward to the day the pandemic is gone, or at least well under control. I look forward to life as normal—or at least the new normal. I know it will be a long time before I take going where I want, when I want, for granted.

In the meantime, my escape plan will be sitting on the deck, playing my ukulele, or reading a good book.

Copyright © April 2020 by L.S. Fisher

Saturday, April 11, 2020

An Unexpected Pause and Reset

In my life, I’ve noticed how the worst possible circumstances can bring about both good and bad changes. When Jim developed dementia, I could only see doom and gloom once I learned how the story was going to end. My heart was broken, and I believed my soul was broken too. I’d always taken for granted that we’d grow old together, and that was swept aside with the tidal wave of disease.

We still had some good times. Although the disease was progressive, we made the most of the time we had when Jim was in the early stages. We traveled, we spent time with family, and life went on as usual for a few years with only the occasional glitch.

Jim’s disease motivated me to become a different person. I became an active volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association and discovered my mission in life. I found an inner strength that I never suspected existed. It was as if I had pushed reset and rebooted my life.

Our world has become an unusual place as a deadly virus forced us to take a pause. Once again, things that we took for granted—going to conferences, concerts, buying everything we needed at the grocery store, going on vacation, hugging friends and family—disappeared like the smog that clouded our cities.

Life is not normal now. I’ve not spent this much time at home since I was a kid and lived twenty miles from nowhere. As they say, life is what happens while we are making plans. I’ve lost track of how many events have been cancelled. The Alzheimer’s Forum in DC was the biggy, but countless other meetings, shopping excursions, girl’s days with my mom and sisters, music practice/programs, and eating out were cancelled. Life as I have grown to know it, paused.

The pandemic has taught us several lessons:

1)    Our health care system needs to be overhauled. Doctors and nurses should not die for a lack of PPE.
2)     We have to depend on each other to not spread the virus. We must do whatever it takes—social distancing, washing our hands, or simply staying home.
3)     People learned the value of home cooking, and without the busy schedules, families gather around the dinner table.
4)     Parents discovered the real value of teachers.
5)     People have learned creative ways to celebrate and to mourn.
6)     The pandemic brought out the best in people—sewing masks, designing and producing face shields, picking up groceries for their neighbors, and showing kindness.
7)     The pandemic has brought out the worst in people—hoarding toilet paper (of all things!), throwing their gloves on the ground, blaming others for the virus, ignoring safety measures, and being selfish.

With a drastic change in lifestyle, the earth is healing. The air is cleaner and the earth is rumbling less. (I didn’t know rumbling was a thing!) We’ve found out that our lives were cluttered with things we never needed. Most of us have seen the world around us, and family life in a way that we’ve never seen them before.

Of course, the economic impact is devastating, and people long for life to get back to normal. Lives have been lost to the pandemic, and lives have been saved due to cleaner air, less traffic, and slowing down seasonal flu.

We’ve taken a step back, and after our “pause” our “normal” will be a new normal. It is as if God pushed the reset button.

Copyright © April 2020 by L.S. Fisher

Friday, April 3, 2020

Social Distancing

Now that we are all social distancing due to COVID-19, I remember how Jim loved to get together with family. I don’t know if he would have been able to handle social distancing.

Well, he did social distance from the other residents in the Memory Care unit. Some of them tried to befriend him, but he didn’t seem to notice them unless they got in his way. He paid more attention to the nurses and the aides. In fact, he became attached to some of them.

Before dementia, Jim loved to get together with family and friends for big dinners. Typically, everyone would pull out their musical instruments and have an impromptu jam session.

I never played an instrument and seldom sang, but when I did, I sang with Jim. He could throw in harmony and always made me sound better than I actually was.

A couple of years ago I bought a ukulele just to see if I could learn to play a few tunes. My thoughts were, I’d be serious when I cut off the long nails I’d had my entire life. Well, it wasn’t long before I realized that I wasn’t ever going to learn how to play until I trimmed the nails on my left hand.

After I learned a few chords, my brother Jimmy encouraged me to join the Capps Family Band for practice. Then, he said I might as well go with them when they played music at the nursing homes. Eventually, he tricked me into singing a song, and the next thing I knew, I was on the schedule.

Now, I realize that with the social distancing, one of the things I miss the most is playing music with the band. I miss our two practice sessions where we figured out what songs would be on the playlist.

I miss seeing the residents’ faces as we perform our program. They really love my 93-year-old mom, who, in turn, loves to sing for the “old folks.” My niece, Amy, is so talented she could sing the phone book and it would be stunning. Of course, last practice she worked on “Goodbye Earl” which is an entirely different kind of song. My sister, Roberta, had “Rocky Top” ready for the next program. Mitchell was going to sing, “My Rifle, My Pony, and Me.” Kathy has a great selection of songs and one she planned on singing was “I Heard it in a Love Song.” Jimmy was going to sing a song he stole from me—“Dream Lover.”

Well, we had to cancel February, and, of course, the March program was cancelled due to COVID-19. It was a good program, and I know that someday we’ll get to see our favorite folks at the nursing homes again.

My brother Jimmy has been picking up his guitar and he or Kathy video a song each day. I decided I wanted to video one of the songs I planned on singing in February—“Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” Jimmy makes it look a lot easier than it is.

Jimmy and the band play the music when I sing at nursing homes. If I mess up, it isn’t too noticeable. I like to sing “fun” songs, so it makes my day if I can make the residents smile.

Jimmy likes to say that what I lack in talent, I make up for with courage. Without the audience, without the band, I recorded “Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” Most of my home recordings are never, ever going to see the light of day, but I thought this one might make someone smile. If I accomplish that—it will make my day!

Copyright © April 2020 by L.S. Fisher