Monday, May 30, 2022

Memorial Day—Honoring Sacrifice


I’ve seen news reports about how this Memorial Day is going to be the most expensive holiday ever. Travel expenses include gas (of course!), hotels, food, and airfare. The complaints are rolling in as Americans weigh the cost against their vacation or trip to the lake. Judging from the traffic, I believe many of them chose travel.


Yes, we are going through some tough economic times, but those of us who have a little age on us have been there and done that many times before. To my way of thinking, Memorial Day should be a reminder of the ultimate sacrifices that others have made so that we are free to complain loudly and as often as we please.


In wartime, most Americans know who our enemy is. When my dad fought in World War II, he knew who the enemy was. He didn’t have a single doubt.


We’ve changed over the years. Now, we make enemies of those who disagree with us or who are different. Where Americans used to unite, now we are divided—about everything imaginable. We’ve forgotten that united we stand and divided we fall.


I will agree with one thing. This is an expensive holiday, but our sacrifices are small compared to those who died for the freedom we take for granted. Even worse than taking freedom for granted is being willing to throw it away to further a radical agenda.


At a gathering of Vietnam Veterans, one man said that he had died in Vietnam, but he just didn’t know it. That is how I think of Jim. He was never the same when he came home from Vietnam. He was haunted by his tour of duty and had physical pain that served as a constant reminder. As with many veterans and active military, he was often suicidal. I have no way to prove it, but I think his exposure to Agent Orange and PTSD contributed directly to the dementia that eventually claimed his life before his 60th birthday.


The sacrifices of our veterans aren’t measured by statistics; they are measured by grief. Individual sacrifices too often result in alcoholism, drug abuse, broken homes, divorce, homelessness, and suicide. Widows and widowers stoically accept a folded American flag at a gravesite.


Jim’s final resting place is the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Higginsville. The cemetery is a lovely, peaceful place that belies the turbulence of war. The flags flying above the cemetery and on the graves represent the country they defended at risk of their own lives.


 Memorial Day isn’t about picnics, vacations, or drinking beer; it is about the freedom to have a picnic, take a vacation, or sit on the patio with friends drinking beer. It’s about our right to breathe fresh air, look at the stars, or hear an airplane without worrying about it dropping a bomb on us. It’s about loving our family, honoring those we’ve lost, and about the right to agree to disagree.


Copyright © May 2022 by L.S. Fisher


Thunder and Ululele


My dog is brave when it comes to assorted animals of all sizes. She isn’t afraid of any kind of storm if she’s out in it. She meanders around the yard doing her business, while I huddle in the garage hoping that a stray lightning strike does not hit either one of us.


During the turbulent weather this spring, thunderstorms roll through on a frequent basis. When the storms come through at night and our dog is in her kennel, she raises a fearful howl.


When the thunder started booming in the middle of the night, I actually heard Lucy first. She whined and howled until I got up and sat with her for a long while. We were in the middle of having our hardwood installed and there was too much debris to turn her loose.


Eventually, I returned her to her bed, which doesn’t even describe how difficult that was. Another storm passed through and she was making more noise than the first time. At a loss as to how to calm her, I picked up my ukulele and begin running through some chord changes. She calmed down, lay down, and eventually went to sleep.


I always said Lucy was my biggest fan. Every time I play the ukulele, she finds a spot nearby to listen. Music can soothe the most turbulent soul.


During the early stages of dementia, Jim picked up his guitar every morning and played a few tunes. He called playing music his “therapy,” and it truly was.


In the later stages of the disease, Jim could not play his guitar, but listening to country music elevated his mood. Jim never lost his musician’s heart. We are fortunate to have old video tapes of him playing music with his family and friends.


I never played an instrument before I decided to try a ukulele. I credit my friend Neidth for encouraging me to try. She provided free lessons. My first ukulele cost $50 at a pawnshop. I never made it to the lessons, but between YouTube videos and practicing with the Capps Family Band, I learned a lot. I found so much enjoyment in the link between my soul and playing music.


The dog isn’t the only one that the ukulele calms. The spring storms have activated my arthritis. My doctor sent me to physical therapy and I felt worse instead of better.


When my arthritic pain becomes unbearable, I pick up my instrument and indulge in music therapy. It scares me that my hands are sometimes stiff and uncooperative, but so far, they limber up when I pluck the strings.


I’ll be glad when we can play music in the nursing homes again. First, the pandemic put a stop to it, but we practiced on a regular basis. We played a couple of months, and then have had to take a break from practice and playing in the nursing homes since January.


I’ve been teasing the band that when my brother is ready to play again, and my body feels better, he and I are going to play at the nursing homes, and the rest of the band can join us if they want.


I’m ready to come out of my funk. I’m tired of having no energy and getting behind in all my projects. When we set music goals and practice toward them, I’m in a better frame of mind. Arthritic pain is my version of thunder, but as long as I strum through the chords on my ukulele, I’m fearless.   


Copyright © May 2022 by L.S. Fisher


Saturday, May 7, 2022

No Joke


A few nights ago, as my husband and I struggled to get out of our chairs, he remarked, “Growing old ain’t for sissies.”


“No joke!” I replied. I’ve always had aches and pains, but for the past two or three years, the pain is worse and more constant. I coughed and hacked my way through January and February, and that took a lot out of me. Being sick zapped my energy levels.


The advantage of the mystery illness—I tested negative for Covid and flu—was that my nagging knee pain was gone. As soon as I returned to normal, the knee pain returned with a vengeance. I went to a rheumatoid specialist and he prescribed therapy. I stuck it out to the bitter end, but instead of feeling better, I could barely walk.


This is the time of year that I’m usually planning a trip to DC to attend the AIM (Alzheimer’s Impact Movement) Forum. The last Forum I attended was in 2019. As usual, I went a few days early to visit the sites. I was having problems navigating because of my knees, so I would find a place to sit and admire the view.


In 2020, I had purchased my plane ticket and reserved my hotel room. My friend Sarah had invited Kathy, Jane, and me to spend a few days at her house in Virginia. I was excited about my 20th trip to the Alzheimer’s Forum. Then, wham bam, in person meetings were cancelled.


We met virtually in 2020 and 2021. This year, the Forum is for AIM Ambassadors only. The conference will be a scaled down version of past Forums. “Be prepared for more walking than usual,” was the warning.


Life circumstances have changed since 2020, and I knew that going to the Forum might not be impossible, but certainly not probable. When registration rolled around, I told my contact that I wouldn’t be going this year. Since I bowed out, Jessica was able to step in and take my place.


I’m happy for her and hope she has a great time in DC and makes an impact on our legislators. I’ve told my friends who are going to the Forum to post a lot of photos for me to see.


I believe that those of us who can’t be there in person can use Zoom to view the sessions. It’s not the same, but it will have to do. I’m sure I’ll feel a tinge of regret and envy when I see the photos, but this is my new reality.


Getting old really isn’t for sissies, but as a former co-worker used to point out—it beats the alternative. No joke! Who ever thought I’d look forward to seeing the doctor on Monday and getting shots in my knees? I’ll have to agree with my former co-worker about alternatives—painless beats painful every time.


Copyright © May 2022 by L.S. Fisher