Sunday, July 31, 2022

Culinary Delight


Tonight we had a delicious meal of chicken and noodles in wine sauce. Harold had put the culinary delight together by gathering ideas from several different websites and tweaking the recipes to make them his own. He has a knack for blending seasonings and adding surreptitious touches to any dish he makes.


I’m not sure that it is a total coincidence that Jim was also a good cook. It could have been dumb luck that I married two master chefs. Yeah, I’m sure it was a coincidence or dumb luck.


It also happens that they both had mothers who were well known for their cooking/baking talents. When Harold’s mom baked, it would have been picture perfect for a cookbook or magazine layout. Dorothy’s cakes, pies, brownies, or cookies looked as beautiful as they were heavenly scrumptious.


Jim’s mom had always cooked for a large family. I never knew anyone who could prepare a meal at warp speed and still be as tasty as everything Virginia cooked. She could perform magic with flour, milk, shortening, and baking powder. Virginia’s biscuits and gravy were legendary. She could bake a pie faster than anyone I ever saw in my life. And her light rolls were to die for.


Jim found solace in cooking. Between his physical pain, PTSD, and depression, there were times he could not work. A VA psychologist suggested that he take on some household chores to combat his feelings of worthlessness. Jim started cooking the meals and washing the dishes. His method was to clean as he cooked. By the time the food was on the table, the only thing that hadn’t been washed was the dishes necessary to eat the meal. I was never that organized when it came to cooking, and usually left a pile of dirty dishes in my wake.


Dementia is a thief that steals talents and personality traits. At first, the losses were minor and barely noticeable. I noticed differences in Jim’s skill level about a year before anyone else did. When I started telling people that Jim was having difficulty with his reasoning, I think most of his family thought I was the one with a problem.


We were all in denial and hoping against hope, that Jim would get better. He was so young that several specialists thought his condition could be reversible. It took a full day of testing to determine that he couldn’t do simple math or complete any questions that required abstract thinking. We both cried when he was diagnosed with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.


In the early stages of dementia, Jim could still cook. The transition was so gradual that I don’t remember exactly when he no longer prepared the meals or when he stopped cooking completely.


More prominent in my memories are Jim fixing a complete meal on his camp stove at Moraine Park in the Rocky Mountain National Park. There’s nothing better than drinking coffee by a campfire and watching Jim fixing bacon and eggs on the camp stove. That culinary delight lingers in the recesses of my mind and in the depth of my heart.


Copyright © July 2022 by L.S. Fisher


Saturday, July 23, 2022

On My Own


Five years ago, I bought a cheap minnow-sized ukulele and a tuner at a pawn shop. I watched YouTube videos and read about tuning and playing the instrument. What stuck out mostly in my mind was that ukes were fun and not an instrument to cause stress. In fact, playing a ukulele is a great stress reliever.

 The first thing I had to do was to cut the long fingernails that I had always had. The day I clipped them to the nubs, was the day I committed to learning how to play.


As soon as my brother learned I had an instrument, he invited me to practice with the Capps Family Band. Playing with the band was a breakthrough moment for me. It taught me to keep time and to keep up with the flow of the music. It was well worth the long drive to spend time with family and learn how joyful jam sessions are.


For several years, the band played at nursing homes near where they live. I started going to the nursing homes with them and sat in the back away from the mike as I learned how to play. Eventually, my brother talked me into singing “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”


Until the pandemic, our family band entertained at three nursing homes each month. After the nursing homes were on lockdown, we continued to practice twice a month.


My husband made a call to a local nursing home to ask if they wanted entertainment thinking the Capps Family Band could play for the residents. During the course of the conversation, he learned they didn’t have a sound system, which is a requirement for the band to play. I took the phone and asked if they would like me to play my ukulele and sing. I have a microphone and a Block Buster that is lightweight and easy to transport. They immediately put me on the calendar for two different dates, so I could play for residents on both sides of the facility.


The day came to play and as I sat in front of a large group of residents, I realized that I was on my own. This was a first for me since I’ve always been a part of the band. Other members of the band play music when I sing and provide vocal backup. My part is usually two or three songs, and here I sat with an entire play list with only my ukulele for accompaniment. Granted, I had upgraded from the minnow to a soprano uke, but it was all the music I had.


Being on my own in a new situation reminded me of how I was on my own as Jim forgot how to do familiar tasks. I had to make all the decisions, as his uncle once said, “You are thinking for two.”


Our home became quieter and quieter when Jim began to lose his conversation skills. Still, having him at home with me was comforting. Scheduling someone to be with Jim while I worked became a challenge. Hired caregivers were unreliable, but my family and Jim’s family stepped in to share the caregiving load, but at night and on weekends—I was on my own.


When Jim went into long-term care, being on my own was lonely and sometimes terrifying. I worried about Jim constantly, and spent as much time as possible with him. I visited him every day after work and on my days off. I took him for drives, walks in the park, to DQ for lunch or ice cream, to Walmart, and occasionally brought him home for the day. Like caregivers everywhere, I was basically on my own.


So as I sat in front of my audience, on my own, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t on my own at all. Sitting in the first chair on my right side was a woman who had always been one of our biggest fans at a nursing home where the band played. We had missed her the last time, and thought the worse. It made my day to find her alive and well! “When I saw it on the calendar,” she said, “I hoped it was you.”


I was not alone. I had the background of the band, who had been with me every step along my journey of playing an instrument and singing. I had learned that I didn’t have to be perfect, I just had to keep going when I made a mistake. My brother tells us, “Keep singing. If you make a mistake, don’t point it out, just keep going. Most people will never notice.”


I relaxed, picked up my ukulele, and started singing. It was a great day to share in the joy of music. They lifted my spirits, and judging by their smiles and encouragement, I believe that I lifted theirs.


Copyright © July 2022 by L.S. Fisher


Monday, July 18, 2022

Farmers’ Market


At one of our Walk to End Alzheimer’s committee meetings, we were brainstorming about events where we could promote the Walk and other Alzheimer’s programs and services. Someone suggested the Farmers’ Market, and our walk manager, Laura, proceeded to contact them. The market is open on Tuesdays and Fridays each week, and we eventually procured a Friday for our informational booth.


Laura and I set up our table at the Farmers’ Market on a lovely day that plopped itself right in the middle of a heat wave. We were front and center where we saw everyone who entered and left the market. A steady flow of people mostly passed us by, but occasionally someone would stop to pick up information or show interest in our September 17 Walk.


We took turns perusing the market booths. I snapped photos and walked around looking at everything but didn’t buy anything. Laura found a few things including a fried pie. She declared it delicious. Her endorsement was enough to convince me that I, too, had to have a fried pie. I also scored two “hens and chick” succulents that I had been wanting.


Several people stopped by our booth including the CEO of one of our corporate sponsors. She took several posters and walker sign-up sheets. I saw a friend that grew up in the same rural area that I did. All, in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.


The time went by fast, and as we broke down the table and put away our things, Laura mentioned the small number of people who stopped by. “But it was a nice day, we had a great visit, we handed out information, and got out the word about the Walk. Not to mention I found my hens and chicks, and you have some goodies to take home.”


“You sure put a positive spin on it,” she said.


“If you reach one person, it wasn’t wasted time,” I said.


Spending an afternoon at the Farmers’ Market also put the place on my radar. When we ran out of tomatoes, Harold and I stopped by the Farmers’ Market. Harold waited in the truck, but cautioned me, “Don’t buy a lot of stuff.”


As I strolled into the market, I noticed a long line winding across the entire building. I was relieved that the line was for peaches and not tomatoes! Several different booths had tomatoes for sale with much shorter lines. I chose one that was also selling corn on the cob. After I bought my tomatoes, I asked about the corn. “Six dollars a dozen,” she said.


I only wanted a half dozen so she bagged the corn up for me. In less than ten minutes, I purchased delicious tomatoes and tasty corn. On my walk back to the car, I was thankful that I was only in the sweltering heat for a short time.  


I’m glad Laura and I went to the Farmers’ Market with our Alzheimer’s information, but Laura and I both agreed that on a hot day, it would be miserable. We were lucky once, but with a long, hot summer ahead of us, we knew that wasn’t likely to happen again.


Our next booth will be in air-conditioned comfort at Central Missouri Electric Cooperative’s Annual Meeting. We will be sharing information and talking the Walk.


Copyright © July 2022 by L.S. Fisher