Friday, February 26, 2021

Sunshine and Hope


After suffering with my knees and other arthritic pain for a few months, I went to the doctor Monday. I wore my Alzheimer’s T-shirt that says “I Hope. I Fight. I Walk. The ortho doc  shot a different version of cortisone in my knees. I’ll admit that it was a little bit ouchy, but by the next day, I was feeling the difference in my knees. By Wednesday, I felt the difference throughout my body. My hands were not as swollen and felt better, and amazingly, I lost five pounds.


Wednesday was a warm, sunshiny day, and that alone would have been enough to raise my spirits. Another event that made Wednesday a red-letter day in this household was that Mike from MediEquip came and installed our custom curved stairlift. It was a bigger thrill than any carnival ride to zoom to the basement and back up without putting strain on my knees.


For the past year or so, I’ve been the one who traveled to and fro to the basement. For the past several weeks, I’ve ventured to the basement once a day to work on organizing my office. “You get the Wi-Fi in the basement,” I told Harold, “and I’ll move everything back to the basement and use my office.” The basement router had quit working about the same time my knees had. I’ve had a “temporary” going on permanent office on my kitchen table ever since.


“I can’t seem to get the Wi-Fi to do what I want it to do upstairs, much less downstairs,” Harold said. We’ve gone through three different brands of routers and even the most expensive one had been dummied down enough that it won’t do everything we want it to do.


Still, the stairlift gives me hope that the basement will be accessible for both of us. I’ve worked through the pain long enough.


I have real hope that I have as much protection against Covid-19 as possible. When I told a friend earlier in the week that I was getting my second vaccination, he asked, “Aren’t you nervous?” Not at all! Just excited to put an end to this yearlong ordeal. It reminded me of being fastened in a seatbelt on a long bumpy flight, and finally the seatbelt light dinged and the pilot said, “You are free to move about the cabin.”


My life has been filled with surreal periods of time and the past year has been the most recent. The outside volunteering and social activities I thought was necessary didn’t seem as important. I discovered new facets of my personality as I retreated to being a homebody. I have always craved quiet time. Unfortunately, I still allowed outside pressure affect me. These activities continued in conjunction with an unusual amount of household disasters, meal preparation, cleaning, daily tasks, new responsibilities, physical pain, and mobility problems interfered with my plans of more relaxation.


In some ways, this past year has reminded me of caregiving for Jim. Only the caregiving stent of surreal time was tenfold this one.


During the most difficult of times, I still find joy. Sunshine and vaccine gives me hope. I look forward to a bright, sunshiny spring after the long, dark winter.


I’m ready for life to return to normal. If we can all accept the new normal for a few more months, maybe this virus will disappear as other deadly viruses have in the past. We may all have PTSD when this is over, but the main thing is to do our best to turn our faces toward the sunshine and give ourselves reason to hope.


Copyright © February 2021 by L.S. Fisher



Sunday, February 21, 2021

Trash or Treasure?


I’m fighting a paper war and I think I might be losing. My furniture is back in my office after replacing the water-damaged carpet with porcelain tile. I have returned some of the pared down files to my file cabinets, but I still have tubs galore to go through.


The goal is to spend at least an hour a day going through the boxes in the family room to decide what to throw away and what to keep. I’m trying to be heartless. When I see newsletters, articles, scrapbooks (mine and others), and books upon books I try to determine what is still important enough to keep. I don’t want to waste office space with projects that have been put on hold for ten years. 


To complicate matters—my dumpster is full and has been for two weeks. It’s past time for the pickup, but they just keep putting me off, the weather, you know. Yes, I know, but tell it to the dumpster and the full trash bags waiting for a place to be stashed.


I try not to spend a lot of time on the paper war—just glance, toss, or file. I finally tackled Jim’s file. But, I couldn’t help but be sidetracked with the memories pressed within the pages. I kept everything in the bulging file—at least for now. I found his long lost original birth certificate. I could remember it had a few weird things on it. First off, his middle name was supposed to be Dee, not D. I know for certain that Jim wasn’t the first born of twins or triplets. And he had three older siblings, not two. I still didn’t find his brain autopsy report. I thought if I went through the file carefully, it would appear as mysteriously as the long-lost birth certificate.


My next stumbling block was Virginia’s file. My mother-in-law was my “other mother.” I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it was for her to watch Jim’s decline. Until her health failed, she looked after him. She cried when I told her I was going to hire caregivers so that she could take care of herself. I don’t know if she was relieved, or upset that I didn’t think she could watch after him.


Jim was getting to be a handful. He kept taking off down the road and Virginia would follow him in her car. She would call me on her “car phone” and keep track of him until I could come home from work. He just wouldn’t get in her car. Another time he took off all his clothes in the yard and she couldn’t get him to put them back on. I assured her that since he was in our yard on a country road that anyone driving by would just have to look the other way. By the time I made it home, she had him inside and dressed.


Other than my mother and sister, no one even came close to being as good with Jim as his mom was. Being Jim’s caregiver was a labor of love for her.


After Jim passed away, we had an informal service. Jim’s friend Gary was officiating and when I told him some stories for the services, he said he wanted me to tell them. I didn’t think that was appropriate, but both of my sons agreed with him.


After Jim’s services, Virginia told me that she wanted the same kind of service when she passed away. When Virginia was nearing the end of her life, I went to her house one day and asked her to tell me some stories.


In her file, I saw the document that I wrote for her services. I read through the pages and laughed at the memories of her younger days. By the time I reached the end, my tears were dripping onto the page.


My heart ached for the days when all the family gathered at Bill and Virginia’s to share a meal, play cards, or enjoy music in the yard. The laughter and love of those days are treasures firmly entrenched in my soul. Those who have left this earthly home are only a memory away.


Copyright © February 2021 by L.S. Fisher


Sunday, February 7, 2021

Super Sunday


On Super Bowl Sunday, we Missourians are super happy to have the Chiefs in the big game for the second time after their long dry spell. Jim was a dedicated fan and proudly wore his Chiefs’ gear through the years of heartbreaking losses. He always looked forward to the next year when he was sure they would go to the Super Bowl.


For years, the Chiefs playing in the Super Bowl was on my “bucket” list. I was beginning to wonder if I would live long enough to see the big day. I would say, foolishly of course, “I don’t even care if they win. I just want them to make it!” Well, I reneged on that statement immediately after they won the Lamar Hunt Trophy.


I truly regretted that Jim didn’t get to see his beloved Chiefs go back to the Super Bowl. When Jim was a teenager, he boxed at a Boy’s Club in Kansas City where he met Lenny Dawson.


When Jim was in the early stages of dementia, he decided he wanted a Chiefs’ coat. One weekend, we looked everywhere in town, but he didn’t find the one he wanted. I went to work on Monday and when I got home, Jim proudly showed me the Kansas City Chiefs’ coat he had bought.


“Where did you get the coat?” I asked.


“Kansas City,” he replied. “They didn’t want to let me in. Said I needed a card.”


“Was it Sam’s?”


“Yeah. I told them I wanted a Chiefs’ coat.” He went on in his broken vocabulary to tell me that he had told them he was a Vietnam veteran and had fought for freedom. Freedom, which to him, meant they shouldn’t keep him out of a store he wanted to go into.


After more prodding, Jim finally related that someone made the decision to let him in the store, and he paid for the coat with his debit card.


“How much did it cost?” I asked


“I have no idea,” he replied.


“Well, it is a nice looking coat. I guess I’ll find out how much it cost when I get the bank statement.”


Some years the Chiefs were so bad that fans were wearing bags over their heads at the games. Jim, on the other hand, sported his collection of Chiefs’ shirts at the nursing home, unaware of who was winning the game on his TV. He could see the Chiefs playing and that was good enough for him.


As the Chiefs go the Super Bowl today, it is on the heels of the news that former Chief’s head coach Marty Schottenheimer was moved to a hospice care facility. Schottenheimer, now seventy-seven years old, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014. I hope he gets to watch the Super Bowl today. Although he coached several different teams throughout twenty-one seasons, I’m sure he will be rooting for the team wearing the red shirts.


Super Bowl Sunday—and the Chiefs are playing. Doesn’t get much better than that.


Copyright © February 2021 by L.S. Fisher