Friday, October 16, 2020

Taking a Break

I’ve decided to take a break from social activities. A lot of thought and reasoning went into this decision. In many ways, life has simplified and become more complicated throughout the past nine months.


At first, I was feeling pretty smug about how safe we were from Covid-19 living in rural Missouri. After all, we have open spaces—a huge yard and surrounded by acres of crops. During the lockdown, the quiet nights and brilliant stars reminded me of when I was a kid growing up in the Ozarks. At first, it seemed like an adventure, as if we were living the plot to a medical novel that was a real page turner.


Recently, I’ve been at one of those crossroads where the scarecrow is flapping his arms around pointing me in several different directions. Ultimately, I know better than to take the word of a scarecrow and I made my own decision.


My final answer was to put health and family first. With my arthritis ramping up, I couldn’t seem to get even the basics done. My doctor injected my knees again, which helped tremendously with the pain, but amounted to a delaying tactic, not a fix. He warned me that I needed to pace myself.


Doctors and other medical professionals warned me years ago to pace myself. During the ten years Jim and I journeyed through the land of dementia, I refused the dire warnings to take care of myself. How do you know when to put a loved one in a nursing home or at least relinquish some of the care? My warning came when exhaustion set in, and I didn’t feel like I could continue being the caregiver I wanted to be. In my heart, I aspired to be Super Woman, but my brain knew I was only a broken human.   


Yesterday, I finished a small project while pacing myself. I put braces on both knees since I was on my feet. I sat down to rest and when I stood up one of the Velcro straps from one brace had attached itself to the other one. So, I rested a little longer while I untangled the jingle from the jangle.


I’ve given up several activities, including volunteer positions. I haven’t bought an article of clothing or eaten in a restaurant since late February or early March. On the bright side, I’ve saved a bundle on makeup. If I’m at home, I don’t wear any, and on the rare occasions that I have to go somewhere, I only put on eyebrow pencil. There’s no need for foundation or lipstick because my mask covers the lower part of my face.


I haven’t quit social media, but I’ve de-stressed it. I avoid the political brouhaha and listen to dry bar comedy. I’ve learned to hide, hide, accept nothing from certain sites, or unfollow. When that doesn’t work, I will unfriend or block. It is a liberating feeling to know I don’t have to see hateful posts. I look for inspiration and humor. I avoid conflict, rumors, conspiracy theories, and lies.


I record thirty minutes of world news and zip through the political ads. Other than that, I watch shows that I enjoy, also recorded.


Taking a break from social activities doesn’t mean that I don’t have enough to do. I pace myself from physical activities by trying to catch up on all the work that lurks on my PC. I have multiple projects in the works, and I still battle the never-ending to-do list.


My happy times are when I have a spare moment to sit on the porch, pick up my ukulele to play a tune, or visit with immediate family. I cherish my quiet time, my reflection time, when I let the world take care of the world, and as for me—I’m taking a break. 


Copyright © October 2020 by L.S. Fisher


Friday, October 2, 2020

The Story of a Spoon

Sunday morning I decided to make biscuits and gravy. I mixed up the biscuits and put them in the oven and started  making the gravy. I melted some shortening and began to mix in the flour with a large serving spoon. Soon the consistency was just right and I reached for the milk.


As I lifted the spoon to get it out of the way, I noticed something odd—part of the spoon was missing. Little slivers of plastic were strewn throughout the roux.


“Well, I never had that happen before,” I said to my husband.


“Must have been a cheap spoon,” he said.


Yes, it was a cheap spoon. Several years ago, my cousin brought a bag full of “cheap” serving spoons to a family reunion. “People are always forgetting serving spoons,” she said, “so I brought these spoons. We can just throw them away, or people can take them  home.” I put one in my green rice and usually kept it with the crock-pot. For some reason, this cheap spoon mingled with my good spoons, and on this day ruined my gravy

The timer for the biscuits dinged as I looked at the mess that never quite made it to gravy and the spoon that would never be useful again.


As often happens, my mind completely shifted gears. I thought of  how easily a person could be forever changed and as broken and ruined as that spoon. When you think of all the things that can happen to break a body or a soul, it may be a miracle that so many of us are still intact.


And I couldn’t help but think of how a human brain can be forever changed by the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s disease, just like the slivers of plastic in my pan only on a microscopic level. The debris in a human brain can interfere with the ability to remember.


It is hard to understand why a disease can  chip away at  skills, abilities, and talents learned over a lifetime. Memories vanish and leave only etchings behind to frustrate and niggle at the corners of  awareness causing a sense of loss. Jim often said, “Right here, but I can’t find it.”


If the debris in the skillet represents the person with Alzheimer’s, the spoon is the caregiver. Pieces of life’s fabric are torn away, little by little. Day to day, week to week, month to month, year after year, a caregiver goes through a series of meltdowns as she adapts, regroups, and presses onward through different stages of the disease.


I dumped the mess into the trash, grabbed an oven mitt, and pulled the biscuits from the oven. They looked and smelled wonderful. I quickly stirred up a batch of gravy using the whisk I should have used in the first place.


The entire breakfast saga reminded me that life goes on. Sometimes, we have to re-set. If we put the past behind us and face each day with faith that everything is going to be all right, we can move forward.


In the end, breakfast was about as good as it gets. Ditto for life.


Copyright © October 2020 by L.S. Fisher