Thursday, December 31, 2020

Be Gone, 2020!


One thing I’ve noticed in my nearly seven decades of life: some years are good and some are bad. So we have the good, the bad, and I will characterize 2020 as the ugly. 


It seemed that as a nation we ran out of our good juju. Negativity spread like lava from a gigantic volcano. If you avoided the lava, you couldn’t help but choke on the ash.


I’ve seen images that I never thought I’d see in this country, especially in times of peace: empty store shelves, shortages, people waiting in line for food, thousands facing eviction, hospitals running out of beds, or going into a bank wearing a mask.


Who knew that living on a fixed income could be the best-case scenario? Along with not worrying about where the next paycheck was coming from, we had the option of staying home. With grocery pickup, Internet, and curbside service, it was easier for us to limit our risks.


This year was a time of self-discovery for me. I’ve gone back to my roots in many ways. When I was growing up, we lived in the hills twenty miles from nowhere. As Jim said the first time he went to my house, “You live so far back in the sticks they have to pipe in sunshine.”


During the summer, I could go weeks and not see anyone but family. “Going to town” was an event. We didn’t eat out; we ate in. New clothes and new shoes were bought when school started. My mom and dad both worked hard just to keep eight kids fed and clothed. We were poor, but so was everyone else. Times were hard and people were tough. We weren’t involved in a lot of activities because we lived far from town on a pot-holey gravel road.


I’ve spent more time at home this year than I have since I was a kid. Beginning in March a series of events were cancelled. Later, I decided to stop attending social functions. At first, it made me anxious, but I decided the most prudent move for me was to stay home. Now, I am so busy at home that I can’t imagine how I had time to do all the volunteer work. I’ve gone from being double or triple booked to going weeks without any social commitments.


I would say I enjoy the more leisurely pace except that I still have to make a date with myself to watch TV or read a book. I try to spend at least some time each day playing my ukulele, occasionally making a video. I prefer to sing silly songs to make people smile. Sadly, two of the videos I’ve made lately have been tributes to my sister-in-law Michelle, and more recently, my sister-in-law Dinah. Memorials are being delayed until springtime, but I wanted to do something now to help find some closure. I know that until we had Jim’s memorial service, I was suspended in time.


Our friends, family, and neighbors are hurting and they need our kindness. We need to heal relationships, show respect for each other even when we disagree, look out for each other, and pray for our world to righten itself. My hope is that God will guide science to end Alzheimer’s and this pandemic.


Be gone, 2020, we don’t want to see your ugly face again! We are ready to flip the calendar and do “overs” with 2021. The optimist in me believes that the New Year will be a happy and healthy year, or at least happier and healthier than this one was.


Copyright © December 2020 by L.S. Fisher


A Blue Christmas


The Christmas season this year was a bummer. I was ambivalent about decorating since we had decided to cancel our Christmas get-together. I put up two trees, and arranged some random decorations.


I finally decided to drag out some of my nutcrackers. I went downstairs, pulled out a few tubs of my collection, and took them as far as the family room in the basement. I noticed a light on in the bathroom, so I decided to turn it off. As I reached for the switch, I noticed the carpet was wet in the bathroom. Before long, I discovered the carpets in the hallway and my office were saturated.


I made an emergency call to my favorite plumber. Before long, help arrived, and Dakota gave me the bad news that everything was backed up in the pipes. Before the day was done, the septic tank was pumped and the plumbing was working again.


I began the marathon of emptying my office. Who knew that a person could accumulate so much stuff? After we moved the contents of my office to the family room, my son Rob and brother-in-law Terry ripped up the still soaking wet pad and carpet out of three rooms.


Rob carried the tubs of nutcrackers back to storage. This is the first time in twenty years that they weren’t on display.


We called in a professional to dry everything out and stop any mold. The fans and dehumidifiers were set up on Christmas Eve.


Christmas morning we had just finished breakfast when Eric called to break the sad news that Jim’s sister Dinah had passed away. Just when I thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse.


Dinah and I used to spend a lot of time together. Years of memories whirl through my brain when I thought about our adventures. We used to pile our kids in the car and go to garage sales or to shop for everything from shoes to groceries. She and I came up with a couple of failures as far as money-making schemes. We picked up walnuts and sold them. I suppose we made enough to pay for our gas. Another time, we picked apples. After a few days of teetering ladders and exhaustion, we realized we only made about half of minimum wage.


A memory that has always been on my heart was one time we were in downtown Sedalia. Before we got out of the car, we saw two elderly women walking slowly arm and arm down the street. “Someday that will be you and me,” Dinah said. When I heard of her passing, my first thought was we will never be those old ladies.


Jim and Dinah had always tormented and teased each other. Dinah had a hard time accepting that Jim had dementia. It was only through trial and error that she realized that Jim had changed so much their bantering was a thing of the past. Her love for her brother never wavered, although everything about their relationship had changed.


Throughout this long, miserable year, we’ve lost several friends and family members. I know a lot of us had a blue Christmas. Maybe next year the blues will vanish like magic and we’ll have a white Christmas. Next year I hope I feel like decking the halls and lining the shelves with my nutcracker collection.


Copyright © December 2020 by L.S. Fisher


Monday, December 28, 2020

Life Is Hard at the Nursing Home


We are fortunate to be able to stay home where we have plenty of food, cleaner, paper towels, and enough toilet paper to take us through the next couple of months. Who knew back in March that our lives would become topsy-turvy throughout the remainder of the year?

Staying at home hasn’t been easy for a lot of folks during the pandemic that started far, far away but migrated to our hometowns. At first, I thought we were safe here in rural Missouri, but it didn’t take long before the virus infested friends, family, and neighbors. Some came through with minor symptoms, but sadly, some died.


Life has become hard for essential workers, parents turned teachers, those quarantined, people sickened from the virus, people who need “elective” surgery, and those who are unbearably lonely. Many of us are home alone and miss our families.


 If you have followed my blog throughout the years, you know that I always encouraged families to visit loved ones in nursing homes. Residents of nursing homes have been hard hit by the virus, and 40% of the deaths are in those homes. Staff has become vigilant and many do not allow visitors at all. The goal is to keep residents safe.


I think back to when Jim was in the nursing home. Our family pulled together to see that he ate. He had to be fed and did not do well unless a family member was there. I bathed him, toileted him, and made sure he was dry and comfortable. I’m not sure how I would have handled not being able to provide that extra care for him, and I know that he would have suffered.


A lot of people think that a person with dementia doesn’t need visitors. “He doesn’t know who I am” or “She keeps asking the same question even after I answer” or “I can’t stand to see him like that.” In normal times, these were just excuses. In the year 2020, those people may wished they had visited when they could. I was always comfortable that Jim knew I was someone important in his life even if he didn’t know exactly who I was. I do know that there were times when his eyes lit up in recognition, and those times more than made up for the times he tried to ignore me.


I feel so sad for the people in nursing homes. I have a friend who is in a nursing home and she reports being on lockdown in her room from time to time when another resident tests positive for Covid-19. I’ve heard that the first nursing home Jim was in has had several Covid deaths. What a heartbreaking and worrisome situation for staff and families.


As my mom always says, “This too shall pass.” We will get through these tough times and emerge stronger. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found I can do without shopping, eating out, and makeup. I’m having a much harder time without hugs, coffee with friends, and our annual girl’s trip. Most of all, I miss normal.


I look forward to when families can visit their loved ones in nursing homes, when we can have family reunions, and hold our loved ones tight to our hearts.  


Copyright © December 2020 by L.S. Fisher


Friday, December 11, 2020

A Hot Cocoa Type of Day


It’s that time of the year again—when I start decorating for Christmas. Since I have to pace myself, I try to make every trip up and down the stairs count. So far, I’ve brought the Christmas bulbs up changed the look of the dining room table, and set out a few poinsettias.


I’m debating on the nutcrackers. I may bring up only my favorites for a couple of reasons: What’s the point? And I can’t get to some of them. They are on shelves in the basement in a dozen tubs, but after the plumbing overhaul, heavy sawhorses, various tools, and toolboxes hinder access to some tubs. Everything was shoved aside to make room in the middle of the floor for access to the plumbing, and that’s where they are still.


Decorating for Christmas used to be a lot simpler when I was younger. We put up a tree, threw some decorations on it, and called it good. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a truckload of various collectibles and trees.


I still have the small fiber optic tree from my office at work, Jim’s tree from the nursing home, and then Harold had a couple of trees of his own. We could start a forest.


Thinking of decorating has become bittersweet for me. The last year Jim lived at home, I started removing pictures from the shelf and putting them in a box to clear a spot for my Santas. Jim came along behind me placing the photos back on the shelf. I finally realized that he didn’t want anything changed.


The pictures were a link to the past for him. One of the caregivers said that Jim showed her the picture of our daughter’s wedding. Our daughter? We had two sons, no daughters. The caregiver  said Jim pointed at the picture and said, “Stacey’s wedding.” I had to laugh because Stacey is our daughter-in-law. It was a mystery why Jim could remember her name, but sometimes forgot our son’s name.    


So, as I contemplated how much decorating I wanted to do this year, I decided it was a good day for a cup of hot cocoa. My new coffee pot has a hot water dispenser—extremely hot water, at that!


Since I’ve been cancelling out of about everything possible, I continue to be amazed at how busy I am. Yesterday was my work anniversary, which reminded me that for thirty-three years I worked forty hours a week. I’ve been retired for six years, and it seems that forty hours a week barely gets me started.


Maybe I’ve slowed down and it takes longer to get things done. Another possibility is that I’m bogged down with too many different projects. I have trouble relaxing even if I’m too exhausted to finish them. Sometimes I feel like I’m putting out fires while an arsonist is always one step ahead of me.


Today, I hope to schedule an uninterrupted hour to read. I read library books on my Kindle at bedtime and after a couple of short chapters, I start nodding off. I may be half way through a book when it disappears.


After I made my cup of hot cocoa, I sat down to relax. Then, I remembered I had started working on bringing my bookwork up to date yesterday, but was interrupted before I finished. Instead of relaxing, I pulled out some more statements, sat down in front of my PC, and opened Quicken.


I picked up my cold “hot” cup of cocoa, and took a sip. I decided I would get back to decorating later—hopefully, before the end of December.


Copyright © December 2020 by L.S. Fisher