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


Monday, November 23, 2020

You’re Not the Boss of Me


When I was a kid and one of my siblings tried to tell me what to do, I would say, “You’re not the boss of me.” Now, I’m trying to tell my dog that.


As long as I’m moving around, she will find a spot of sunlight and nap, but let me sit down to work on the PC and she’ll start pawing my leg indicating that it’s time to pay attention to her demands.


If I try to ignore her, she will bark or woo-woo-woo. Since she is not normally a barky dog (unless the doorbell rings), I know that she is starting to get bossy with me. Telling her that she’s not the boss of me doesn’t work anymore than it did when I was a kid.


You would think that once a person retires, that would be the end of being bossed around. Demands on your time are a subtle way of someone bossing you. They are taking away your free time, and your choice as to how you want to spend your personal time.


I’ve finally worked my way up to saying “no” more often. I hate when someone won’t take no for an answer. I hate it worse when I change my firm no to a yes.


Once time is gone, you can never get it back. None of us knows how much time we have left. That can make us want to keep frantically busy, or it can make us want to slow down and enjoy time.


Have you ever known someone who finds out they have a short time to live, and he spends what time he has left working every spare minute to get his affairs in order? Or, you may know someone with a terminal disease that takes a cruise, travels across country to visit family, and lives life to the fullest. How we feel about time determines how we use it.


One of the saddest uses of time is when someone with dementia forgets how to do the things that once brought them pleasure. They forget their skills and can lose their initiative to do anything at all.


Well-meaning caregivers may treat a person with dementia like a child, rather than with the dignity they have earned. Instead of bossing a person with dementia, professional and family caregivers should seek cooperation through the power of suggestion. When the nursing home couldn’t get Jim to take a bath, it was all in the approach. Some would say, “You’ve got to take a bath now,” and that didn’t work because Jim didn’t like to be bossed. “Do you want to take a bath?” got a “No” or a blank stare because those were the usual responses to a question. A cheerful, “Hey, it’s time to take your bath. You’ll feel so much better” resulted in willing cooperation.


Throughout the years of Jim’s dementia, I worked full-time, completed my bachelors degree, and took care of him at home and later the nursing home. People often asked me how I did it. My reply was “I have no idea.”  


I’ve always liked to have plenty to do without being overwhelmed with a pile of projects that had to be done…yesterday. Lately, I’ve been staying home and now realize how many personal projects I need to finish, how much work needs to be done to upkeep a large house with a huge yard, the sheer volume of daily cooking and cleaning, and how little time I really have to relax.


 Maybe life itself is the boss of me. It could be that I have too many bosses and they are playing tug-of-war with my time. My precious time.


The one person who should be the boss of me is the only one who isn’t. That person is me. Now, if I can just convince the dog.


Copyright © November 2020 by L.S. Fisher


Monday, November 16, 2020

Medicinal Music


When I get to feeling down, I grab my ukulele and run through some chords, and maybe play a few tunes. I’m building up quite the list of songs that I can play and sing—and a bigger list that needs work. Some of these songs require awkward chord changes, or I just can’t quite get the tune right.


I don’t claim to be a great singer or exceptionally talented on the ukulele. That’s what makes it so good for my soul. I don’t put pressure on myself to play perfectly. I just let it roll, enjoy myself, and let improvement come gradually and naturally. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching the Voice, it’s that perfection isn’t as important as enjoying the music and singing from the heart.


The pandemic means that I don’t leave home often and when I do, it’s usually for something necessary. I did, however, drive to Versailles to visit with my mom. I took my ukulele along for the ride—just in case. I played a few tunes, and my mom and I sang a gospel song together. “I think I need to practice playing this on my banjolele,” I said. “It would sound great with a little bluegrass spin on it.”


I put the uke aside, and my mom and I reminisced about people we knew years ago. We spoke names that neither of us had spoken in decades. It did my heart good to spend that time with my mom. We talk on the phone every day, but an in-person visit filled a missing link for both of us.


Spending so much time at home has the disadvantage of my thinking turning inward. I have to be careful not to dwell on my mistakes, missteps, and the times I have offended or hurt others. While some might revel in their accomplishments or victories, I will remember the humiliation of being smacked in the face with a spiked volleyball or in the throat with a line drive. Things I should have forgotten by now, as I assure you, I’ve forgotten many others.


Forgetting bad memories is good, but forgetting all memories is bad. To forget our skills and talents, our family, and the life we have lived is unfathomable to most of us. Dementia chips away at the essence of personality built on a lifetime of experiences.


Dementia steals short-term memory first and leaves long-term memory until later in the disease. People with dementia become time travelers. I heard an elderly woman say she was out past curfew and her dad was going to be angry. I saw a man upset because he couldn’t get outdoors to check on his cows. One woman thought Jim was her husband. Jim was plagued by memories of Vietnam as repressed memories came back to haunt him.


Music could calm Jim. Jim was blessed with an abundance of talent reinforced by daily practice. In the early stages of dementia, Jim picked up his guitar each morning and played it. Sometimes he sang, but other times he allowed the magic of his guitar to take him to a better time. After he forgot how to play his guitar, he listened to some of the songs he used to play.


Music has medicinal value. A happy song can make me forget physical or mental pain. Music brings to mind happy memories of jam sessions on the front porch. My thoughts turn to loved ones forever tethered to my heart by the melody of an old country song.


Copyright © November 2020 by L.S. Fisher


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Drastic Change


The past week has brought a drastic change, but I’m not sure what caused it and how to keep the level of comfort I presently have. Like a miracle, I’ve had seven consecutive pain-free days.


Pain has been a constant in my life for several years, with only varying levels. For the past few months, the level has been unmanageable. I’ve used capsicum patches, braces, ibuprofen, good shoes, and being careful not to lift too much. I’ve followed the doctor’s order to pace myself, as if I had any other choice.


I’ve had to sleep in soft leggings with my knees bent to lessen the pain. A few nights ago, my Halloween leggings were in the laundry so I wore my super soft Christmas leggings. I woke up in the night and straightened my legs, and immediately noticed—no pain. As amazing as that was, I was also able to close my right hand. The swelling and stiffness was gone.


What had changed? I thought back and could only find minor changes. I had run out of my low sodium V8 juice and hash browns and wondered if the nightshade and arthritis connection could be real.


Pain can be the bane of a person’s existence. Jim had persistent neck and back pain. When he was in the first nursing home (before he was kicked out), they weren’t good at pain management. I would go to see him, and he would be holding his back and walking bent over. The first thing I would ask is, “Have you given him his pain meds?”


“He didn’t tell us he was in pain, so we can’t give it to him.”


Jim didn’t talk, so I’m not sure how he was magically going to tell them he needed pain medication. “Look at him! He is obviously in pain.”


They lost my trust, and at the care plan meeting, I finally got them to agree to give him pain medication on a schedule.


I don’t take pain medication for my arthritis. If the medication is strong enough to mask the pain, I will throw up. My nightmarish experience several years ago after surgery was vomiting so violently it made me feel like I was coming apart at the “seam.”


My ortho doc has been on the same page with me to avoid surgery. I’ve also heard mixed reviews of knee surgery, so I’ll put it off as long as humanly possible without damaging my knees beyond repair.

I have a reprieve, at least for now. If I don’t  figure out what happened and how it happened, I’m afraid the problem will come back with a vengeance.


Could it be the extra breaks, the shoes, avoiding nightshade vegetables, or  something I haven’t thought of? Could it be the comfy Christmas leggings?


Whatever the reason, it is a gift. It isn’t far from the realm of possibilities that it could be a little early Christmas magic at work.


Copyright © November 2020 by L.S. Fisher


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Third Time’s a Charm

As far as I’m concerned, a morning without coffee is like a day without sunrise. I just can’t function without coffee, so when my coffee pot gave up the ghost, I was not happy. 

As usual, I fixed my pot the night before so that all I had to do was push the button and head back to bed for a short nap. When I returned to the kitchen a large puddle of coffee streamed out from the pot.


I cleaned up the mess, poured myself a cup, and headed back to bed. The coffee tasted weak, and to be honest, somewhat nasty. I’m picky about my coffee and that just didn’t cut it. I went back to the kitchen poured everything out and started over. I pushed the “ON” button, and nothing happened. I pushed it again—no response. I unplugged the pot and plugged it back in, same outcome.


Knowing how I am about my coffee, my husband went on Amazon and ordered a new coffee pot. Unfortunately, it must have been coming in on a slow boat from China because our speedy delivery arrangement did not work for the pot. Are they nuts? What was I supposed to do?


I never intended to be a coffee drinker. I blame it on Grandma Fisher. When we would go to her house, she insisted on making a fresh pot of coffee. “I don’t drink coffee,” I would tell her. Didn’t matter, she poured me a cup anyway. Then, she insisted you drink your cup of coffee so that she could read the coffee grounds in the bottom. Oh, yes, it was strong, hot, and had grounds in it.


Grandma Fisher was a little on the spooky side. While we drank our coffee, she would regale us with stories of her dire predictions of death, and sure enough the person died. Well, you know, I just jumped up and rinsed out my cup.


Grandma may have gotten me started, but Jim reinforced my habit daily. At home, we drank our first cup of coffee in bed each morning. When we traveled on our annual trips to Colorado, he took his Coleman camp stove and his drip pot. He stopped at rest areas periodically to make fresh coffee for the thermos. One of the most telling moments of how devastating dementia can be was the morning at a hotel when Jim couldn’t remember how to make coffee.


From Indelible:

One morning Jim prepared to make coffee in the in-room coffeemaker. He picked up the pot, set it down, picked it up, and set it down. He looked around in confusion trying to decide what to do next. From the bed, I said, “Put coffee in the basket.” 

“Oh! That’s right.” He added the coffee and then acted like he expected the coffee to make itself.

“Put water in the pot.”

He put water in the pot.

“Pour it in the top”

He poured it in.

“Turn the pot on.” He turned it on. As soon as the coffee was done, he was back in full form. He poured the coffee into the thermos, cleaned the pot, and brought me a cup of coffee in bed.   


As I got ready for bed the evening after my coffee pot quit, I contemplated going to town for a cup of coffee the next morning.  I figured I could just wear my jammies. Maybe I would need to get more than one cup… Then, the light bulb went off and I remembered I had a four-cup Mr. Coffee in the kitchenette downstairs.


Anyway, I got by until my new pot came in. I decided to take advantage of the bells and whistles and set the clock, the timer, and put the dial on auto. The next morning, the coffee wasn’t made, so I pushed the brew button. Later, I looked the pot over. “Did you set it on AM or is it on PM,” my husband asked. What a silly question, but I checked anyway. Ooops. So I reset it for AM and the second night, I went to bed knowing I would have a hot pot of coffee ready when my alarm went off. Nope. Cold pot, no coffee. That time my husband read the instruction book and informed me that I’d skipped a step. Well, the third time was a charm. I loved waking up to Folgers in my cup.


I thought about the expression—the third time is a charm. I realized it means that I never gave up although I had already failed two times. So is the third time really a charm, or simply a matter of perseverance?


Copyright © October/November 2020 by L.S. Fisher


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


Sunday, September 27, 2020

2020 Planner

Probably the most worthless item I bought this year was my 2020 planner. I always take my time and buy the perfect planner for the new year. I want one with enough lines to book, double book, take notes, and triple book if necessary.

 Now, I mostly use a magnetic dry erase board on my refrigerator. There, unfinished  projects are written in color, boldly taunting me daily. Appointments and reminders are written and erased, sometimes simultaneously. Done—erase. Too late to do—erase. Should do, but don’t want to—erase. Who needs to be reminded of what should have been done yesterday, can’t be done today, and especially when tomorrow is too late?


The one thing I’ve learned from this year is less is more, and appointments or meetings are almost always suggestions, not “have to” events. My circle has tightened and my priorities have changed. It takes me longer to do tasks and my body limits me. My hands and knees are on strike about half the time, not always the same half. Two halves make a whole lot of aggravation.


The last week has been a chronicle of frustrations, failures, mistakes, and household disasters. The problem with spending 99.9% of my time in the house is that when something goes wrong, it’s much harder to ignore than when I spent most of my time going  hither and yonder.


The plumber is on speed dial for a slow wait. He’s been here so often lately that I think we should become Facebook friends.


My old-faithful Malibu decided to be cranky about starting and shooting out a wide variety of warning lights. Of course, when I took it to the shop everything checked out “no problem” until I got in the car to leave. The brightest part of my week was discovering that all I needed was a new battery.


I’ve learned the danger of setting a high power cleaner on a countertop. Who knew it would develop a slow leak and etch an oval into the Formica?


This afternoon, I’d decided enough was enough. I drove to the park, found a shady spot, rolled down the windows, and enjoyed the breeze blowing through my car. I shoved the seat back, reclined, and closed my eyes.


I was across from the shelter where Jim and I met with four people and a dog for our first Alzheimer’s walk. I thought of all the times I picked Jim up from the nursing home and took him to the park for a walk. Usually, it worked out well, but one time, I couldn’t get him back into the van. As I struggled to get him inside, one of the male nurses’ aides from the nursing home came to my rescue. He had been eating his lunch nearby and saw that I needed help. 

My memories were cut short by a buzzing sound. I opened one eye, and made eye contact with the biggest bumblebee I had ever seen in my life. The stinger looked like a hypodermic needle, and I swear he had a murderous glimmer in his eyes. I held my breath and thought seriously of opening the door and making a run for it. Apparently, the bee didn’t find anything of interest and buzzed  out the passenger window.


Finally, something went right. Feeling spiritually refreshed, I started my car and took a newfound pleasure in how quickly the motor responded.  Maybe, just maybe, I’d go home and tackle a project on my to-do list. One step at a time. Baby steps, but steps, just the same.


Copyright © September 2020 by L.S. Fisher


Monday, September 14, 2020

Waltz of the Angels

Saturday was a busy day for me, although probably no worse than any other Alzheimer’s walk day. Because of the pandemic, walk was everywhere, and  Jim’s Team walked the same route as we did the first time Jim and I walked. As far as I know, that was the only time the Alzheimer’s walk started at Liberty Park.

 My day started with a quick trip to visit the Promise Garden at Centennial Park. Then, I drove nearly an hour to join the Capps Family Band to play music at a Swap Meet where we raised money for Alzheimer’s. Well, we were pretty excited to play in front of an audience again. Originally, I said we couldn’t play music the  same day as the Walk to End  Alzheimer’s. After a few phone calls, I decided to change the time of our walk to early evening so that I could do my favorite thing—double book myself.


After we played music for a while, my sister-in-law Kathy stepped up to the mike to sing “Waltz of the Angels.”


“I had a dream about that song last night,” I said, to no one in particular.


As Kathy sang, the dream came rushing back to me. In my dream, Jim was dancing with his cousin, Joyce. The dream was based on a memory and thoughts of Joyce. I had just learned that she had cancer and was not doing well. 


My mind wandered back to the 1999 Fisher Family Reunion. Jim was at loose ends. Some of the family was playing music, but Jim had trouble playing along with them and became frustrated. Joyce walked up to him and said, “Come on, Jim, let’s dance.” She took his arm and led him out into the grass and they started dancing.


I don’t remember what song they danced to at the reunion, but in my dream, they were dancing to “Waltz of the Angels.”


After we finished playing music at the Swap Meet, Mom and I went through McDonald’s drive-thru. While we were waiting to order, I turned my phone on. The first thing I saw was a message from Jim’s sister with the news that Joyce had passed away.


Joyce had a personality that was larger than life. She was a prankster and enjoyed embarrassing young people, but it was always with good humor. The stories people are sharing about her are a good reflection of the person she was when she was having fun.


Although she often made me laugh, the side of Joyce that I knew best was the woman who cheered her cousin up by asking him to dance. I think of her eyes welling up with tears as she hurt when others hurt. I think of her caring heart and her faith in God.


I remember one time when we were all much younger, Joyce made Jim  promise that he and his brother would sing at her funeral. I can’t  remember what song she wanted them to sing. The fallacy of that plan was that Joyce outlived Jim, and he won’t be able to keep that promise here on earth.


In my heart, I hear the music playing as Joyce is reunited with her loved ones in heaven. In my mind’s eye, I see Jim and Joyce dancing the waltz of the angels.


Copyright © September 2020 by L.S. Fisher


Friday, September 11, 2020

Almost Fall Y’all


September shepherded autumn into our lives ten days early. I had to wear a sweatshirt the past few days when I took my dog out. The skies have been gloomy and fog drifted by from time to time like so many ghosts looking for a home.

 Fall is a wonderful time of year. I love fall colors, smells, and slipping into my faded and torn flannel shirt. With the cooler fall-type weather, I don’t feel so silly wearing my Halloween leggings. Confession time, I wore them all through the lockdown, but, hey, they are in remarkably good shape for all the wear they’ve had.


This has been a rough summer, and it looks as if Mother Nature and Lady Luckless are nowhere near finished with us. As if a pandemic weren’t challenge enough, the East coast of our country was battered by Hurricane Laura, and the West coast has been consumed by fire.


Here on the home front in Missouri, we face our own set of challenges. Life has changed during the lost spring and summer of 2020. A year that promised to be a year of perfect vision has clouded over with isolation and financial hard times for many--a time that brought out the best and worst of us. It has been a challenge to know when to standup or to stand down, and too many of us haven’t figured it out yet.


Many members of my Oregon family have had to evacuate ahead of the blistering damage of wildfires. Fire has forever changed the landscape of the place that was home in Jim’s heart. He often talked of and visited his “childhood” places. I’ve watched with dismay as landmarks Jim loved to visit lay in a heap of ashes. My heart hurts for the loss of property and  life.


My niece told of their harrowing exit to escape the impending danger of the wildfires. They checked on neighbors, helped a bedridden man out of his home, and rescued another couple whose car was broken down. They took time amidst chaos to lend a helping hand.


I watched horrifying videos of Oregon burning. Then, like a rainbow, I saw some shots, my cousin Debbie Kuhn took of the David Dewett Veterans Memorial Wayside in North Bend, on the Oregon coast. The eerie orange haze of the wildfires added an ethereal beauty that belied the deadly blazes ravaging the countryside. Nature can be glorious in its treachery.


The motto “Some Gave All” made me think of Jim and reminded me that some soldiers who made it home from the war died in Vietnam; they just didn’t know it. The war changed Jim and shaped his life, and most likely led to the dementia that ended  it. I’ve come to the conclusion that life teaches us a lot of lessons, but death teaches us more. We cannot afford to squander the limited amount of time we have to accomplish our mission here on earth.


I used to see autumn as the few months before the cold, blustery winter and spent the glorious days dreading what lay ahead. Winter seemed to be a miserable time of year. I can remember Jim going out and starting the car multiple times so that it would start the next morning. Frozen pipes, high heating bills, snowdrifts, and bone-chilling weather made winter a dreadful time of year.


Now that I’m retired, I don’t worry about winter anymore. I think more of the glistening snow and less of the cold. Only I can choose whether to dread the ugliness of life, or to seek the beauty that surrounds me. 


Copyright © September 2020 by L.S. Fisher


Saturday, September 5, 2020

September Song


went to the gas station and inserted the credit card into the slot.  A message popped up that said “Rejected card expired.” I stared at the 8/20 expiration date in disbelief. That’s stupid, I thought, it is not expired. Then, I had a “duh” moment and realized that it was indeed September and the message was correct.

 Well, there you have it—it’s September. I thought about the lyrics of “September Song.” This song is a metaphor for the seasons of our lives, where September is short, but an, oh, so, important time of our lives. By September, we realize that we need to cherish each day and make the most of it.


September is also a time for new beginnings. Kids are beginning a new school year. Of course, true to form for this unusual year of 2020, school may be online or in person with a new set of rules and standards.


September  is “family reunion” month. The Fisher family reunion is always the Sunday before Labor Day. We are so set on the time and place that the Tuesday immediately following the reunion, we are at the park office to rent our favorite shelter.


Fisher reunions were always music fests. Jim, his uncles, dad, and siblings used to bring their instruments and play country music. Over time, that tradition was passed onto the younger generation. Year after year, until this one, we celebrated music and family. This year, we cancelled the reunion.


Labor Day is always the day we hold our Walk to End Alzheimer’s team fundraiser. We have had a traffic stop every year since 1999. This year, for safety sake, we decided to cancel.


I told my son, “This is the first time in twenty-one years that I don’t have my Labor Day weekend booked solid.”


Even the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a different type of event. I won’t be up before the butt-crack of dawn to help set up the walk. No, this year, some members of  Jim’s Team are walking Saturday evening. Since Walk Is Everywhere, we were able to change the time so that my granddaughter could walk with us. Our team will be walking a nostalgic route.


September song also brings to mind our new fundraising idea. Our family band  has been suffering withdrawal since we haven’t been able to play in the nursing homes every month. We’ve been meeting weekly to work on our song list, and for some time have been floating the idea of an Alzheimer’s fundraiser. With the oppressive heat this summer, we couldn’t pick a good time to have a concert in the park.


Along comes September, and  my brother found an opportunity for our band to perform at the swap meet in Versailles. Finally, the Capps Family Band will be playing for an audience on September 12. 


We will enjoy our September songs, and hope to coax a few smiles and some toe tapping. So if you’re in the neighborhood, drop by for a free concert, and an opportunity to join us in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.


Copyright © September 2020 by L.S. Fisher