Wednesday, June 30, 2021

My Old/New Work Shirt


Although my calendar has gained in busyness, some days I know I’m never leaving the house. On those days, I like to wear something comfortable, sleeveless, with a scoop or V-neck. I cannot stand to work in a T-shirt with a high neckline and sleeves that come to my elbows.


I was looking through my closet this morning and selected two different T-shirts. I pulled one on and was instantly hot, although our air conditioner was set on Arctic blast. I discarded the second T-shirt for the same reason. About that time, my eyes landed on a Smithton Tigers shirt. Both of my Tiger grandkids have been out of school for several years, and I saw no reason that I’d ever be wearing that shirt to a game.


I grabbed the scissors and went to work. First, I cut the neckline to a larger size and then shortened the sleeves for good measure. With the snip of my scissors, I had a “new” work shirt.


Jim used to cut the sleeves out of perfectly good shirts. To get the shirts to fit his trim body, he needed a small shirt, but it would be uncomfortably tight around his broad shoulders. Also, I think he rather liked to show off his muscles.


As Jim’s dementia progressed, we had to change his apparel. Yes, I attempted to button up his 501 Levis, but that wasn’t successful. Eventually, he wore sweatpants, stretchy shorts, T-shirts, and shoes fastened with Velcro. Fashion went by the wayside, but he had a good collection of Kansas City Chiefs and NASCAR T-shirts.


Our choices of clothing change with age and physical circumstances. I’m all for soft, comfy clothes because of my arthritis. Sometimes the simple pressure of jeggings can increase the pain in my knees. I’d much rather wear my Halloween or Christmas leggings because they are the softest leggings I have. Some people think that every day is a holiday for retired people. Well, that’s not true at all, but judging by my clothing choices, someone might believe that to be true.


My shopping habits have certainly changed. Over the last year and a-half, the only article of clothing I purchased was a pair of sweatpants. I have enough clothing in my closet to clothe a small nation.


I tried to donate a large sack of clothing just to find out none of the thrift stores were taking donations. I came home and rather than put the bag back in the closet, I threw it in the trash. That goes against my grain, but since I had decided to donate, I either didn’t want the clothing or never wore them.


Now, I’m eyeing my other shirts to decide how to repurpose them. The ultimate plan was to make a quilt out of my Alzheimer’s T-shirts. I’m not sure when that will happen, if it ever does. I have discovered that a few snips of my scissors can create a comfortable shirt for work or leisure. I vote for leisure.


Copyright © June 2021 by L.S. Fisher


Thursday, June 24, 2021

Stretching My Brain

During last week’s jam session, my brother asked me to sing and to play a song on my ukulele without looking at the music. “You’ve played this song enough times that you shouldn’t have to look at your Kindle.”

I’m sure I had that deer in the headlights look since I knew I was going to flunk this pop quiz. We have the lyrics with chord changes on our electronic devices so that we all are “on the same page” literally. I never thought to mention that when we play at the nursing homes, Jimmy always tells me to concentrate on singing and to put my ukulele aside so I’m not distracted.


I’m sure learning to play my songs without the “cheat” sheet would be a good way to stretch my brain. I’m beginning to think that my brain is suffering from a lack of use.


A few days ago, I found the applesauce in the bathroom. “Is there a reason you put the applesauce in the bathroom?” I asked my husband.


“I didn’t put it there,” Harold replied.


“I was afraid you hadn’t,” I said. “Maybe the dog did it.” Talk about clutching at straws.


Today, Harold was cooking hamburger and asked me to put out some pita bread to thaw and get the taco seasoning. I handed him the taco seasoning and went back to what I was doing.


“Did you put the pita bread out?” he asked.


This rang a bell with me. Oh, my. I learned not to ask Jim to do more than one thing at a time because if I asked him to do two things, he only remembered the second one.


It’s frustrating to forget what I went into a room to do, but fortunately, not necessarily a symptom of Alzheimer’s. Could I blame it on normal aging? 

With my arthritic knees, I’ve learned to wait a few beats before I give up on the reason behind going into another room. It is better to stop and think than to painfully, slowly retrace my steps. But, then again, it may be the “while I’m here” distraction that makes me forget the reason why I’m there in the first place.


After a year of inactivity, I’m still not operating at full speed. My calendar has entries for meetings, Zoom calls, and appointments. I’m using all my brain power to try to remember when and where I’m supposed to be.


I definitely need to stretch my brain because if I don’t use it I may lose it. Throughout the week between one jam session and another, I occasionally picked up my uke and worked on that song my brother thought I could play without looking.


At our jam session this week, I only missed one chord change and knew it immediately. I stopped and said, “I missed that change.”


“You are supposed to keep on playing and singing. Most people will never notice the mistake,” my brother said.


Yes, I need to keep on going. As long as I realize that I’ve made a mistake, I’ll consider that’s a good sign. I’ve been stretching my brain to try to figure out how the applesauce ended up in the bathroom. One thing I know for sure—the dog didn’t do it.


Copyright © June 2021 by L.S. Fisher



Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Life on the Front Porch

Our Oregon, Idaho, Montana family visited us for the past two weeks and stayed at the house that Jim and I built. While my nieces and sister-in-law JoAnn were here from out west, my nephews arranged a memorial service for my sister-in-law Dinah who passed away on Christmas Day. After the memorial, we held a cousin’s reunion at the park with a big family gathering and tables groaning from the food. In addition, we had several impromptu reunions as various family members came to visit them at the house.

We spent a lot of time on the front porch. Part of the time was visiting, and some of the time was playing music and singing. I jammed with my brother-in-law Terry and my nephew Larry. Ginger, JoAnn, and my nieces joined in the singing. It was a laid-back country style way to spend our evenings. Gathering on the front porch was like stepping into the past. We used to spend a lot of time outside in the evenings when the cooler evening breeze replaced the heat of the day.


Jim and I both came from musical families who often played on the front porch or out in the yard. The activities made it feel as if Jim were a mere blink away. It was a balm to my soul to see the house and yard filled with family. What was at one time an every weekend occurrence had been missing for the past fifteen years.


While we sat on the front porch, I recalled a few of the stories about Jim when dementia brought about memory failure. I talked about the day I was wrapping a baby shower gift because we were going to Eric’s house for a shower. Jim, as usual, got tired of waiting on me to come outside.


I walked outside, gift in hand, to realize the truck was gone, and so was Jim. Ginger was mowing grass and had moved Jim’s truck out of the way, and had left the keys in it so she park it in the normal spot. She was mowing with her back to the truck so she never saw, or heard, Jim leave.


Since Jim knew we were going to Eric’s, I figured that was where he was headed. Sure enough, he made the drive without incident. He apparently forgot he no longer had a driver’s license and forgot that I was going too.


We laughed about the time Ginger took Jim to the State Fair in his truck. She had to pause to pay for the drinks Jim snagged from the barrels of ice outside vendor booths. After the evening concert, they climbed into the truck, and Ginger couldn’t figure out how to turn on the headlights. After Jim had a good laugh at her expense, he finally reached over and turned on the lights.


Jim was seldom seen without his video camera perched on his shoulder, tape rolling as he videotaped special occasions and everyday life. My nieces enjoyed watching the old home videos. One of the tapes showed their entire family at Christmas time. One thing about watching old videos, you may have no recollection of the events unfolding on the screen. When you think of how many fleeting moments that make up the days, months, and years of our lives, it is no wonder that only a few of them remain in your brain vault.


Each night when I left the nursing home, I recorded how things were going with Jim and others that I interacted with—residents, staff, and other visitors. When I transcribed the tapes after Jim passed away, I was surprised at how little I remembered. It was almost as if it was someone else’s story.


When you spend time on the porch with family, you find time to share memories. Some of the memories we shared were painful, but sharing sad times lessened the burdens on our hearts. Many of the memories we shared brought laughter and joy.


I feel blessed to have been born into, and later married into, a large family. The heart connections traverse miles and time. We do have to remember that physical distance should never be a barrier to communication with our beloved family members. We hold dearest those times when we meet in person so that we can hug, laugh, and cry together.


Copyright © June 2021 by L.S. Fisher