Thursday, November 30, 2023

Age is Just a Number

Dolly Parton, 77 years old, performed at the Thanksgiving Halftime Show at the Dallas Cowboy’s game to kickoff the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign. She looked stunning dressed in a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader outfit. She sang “Jolene,” “Nine to Five,” and ended with a mash up of “We are the Champions,” and “We Will Rock You.” Dolly Parton proves that age is just a number. She attributes her youthful looks to “Good doctors, good lighting, and good makeup.” It’s hard to argue with that.

Having determined that age is just a number, I think my number ranges from sixteen to ninety. On good days when I listen to the songs popular in my youth, I mentally revert to a teenager. On the other hand, a weather change can make me feel like I have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel (as my dad used to say). Ninety might seem like a stretch to the younger side.

 We were singing at a nursing home and a man walked up to my sister-in-law and tried to get her to bet him $5 that he couldn’t guess her age. She said that she didn’t have any money on her, but he assured her that he could guess her age. He finally said, “You are between forty and ninety.” His observation made us laugh. I not only can’t guess anyone’s age, I’d hate to guess someone as older than they are.

I have a cousin who was brain injured at birth and although she is older than I am, she looks like a young person. Laney is always smiling and happy to see her family. When we play music, she is always waiting for us. She smiles and claps her hands when we come in. She expresses her joy in the simple moments of life and finds pleasure in simple gifts. Laney likes purses, jewelry, and fixing her dolls’ hair. She hasn’t worried herself into wrinkles. She celebrated her birthday this month, and she is proof that age is just a number.

Jim’s dementia made him seem younger at first. He became more childlike and dependent on me. I remember a cold winter night when our water froze at the well. Jim ignored my distress and continued calmly watching “Walker Texas Ranger” on TV. I called my son and my brother-in-law and told them our troubles. I put on my insulated coveralls, my boots, stocking cap, heavy gloves and stepped out into the night. By the time, I was bundled up for the cold, Eric and Billy were working on warming the well house.

I told Eric that Jim didn’t seemed the least bit concerned about not having any water. Eric laughed and said, “I bet he would have been upset if the electricity went off and he couldn’t watch TV.” When you remove the worried look from someone’s face, they do appear younger.

 My almost 97-year-old mother is the most age defying person I know. She always looks youthful and put together. When I call her and ask how she is, she will say, “Well, I woke up today so it will be a good day.”

I was relating this story to my former classmates at our last luncheon. After we chuckled, one of them said, “Yeah, until you don’t wake up.”

“Well,” I said, “I can’t think of a better way to go than to just not wake up one morning.”

Most of us wear our life experiences on our faces and our bodies. Still, I think the most wrinkled shriveled up person looks better than the person with bad plastic surgery. Nothing looks worse than skin stretched so tight that it’s shiny and lips that look like a toilet plunger. And why, oh, why would anyone want their butt to look bigger?

So, most of us look better with the faces and bodies that life gave us. Except Dolly. Dolly looks awesome.


Copyright © Nov 2023 by L.S. Fisher


Saturday, November 11, 2023

Jingle, Jangle

This morning, fellow gamer and Facebook friend, William posted the song “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies. I was one of the people he tagged with the question, “Do you remember this song?” I immediately answered that I did, and strangely, the song “Jingle Jangle” was what Jim and I considered “our song.”

Once you know the back-story, it may not seem strange at all. Flashback to Oahu, Hawaii, December 1969: I flew from the states and Jim from the jungles of Vietnam to exchange our vows and become husband and wife. We spent six days together, and in the wee hours of Christmas morning, Jim returned to the war and I returned home.

In my mind, Hawaii was forever linked with the music we listened to while we were there. We heard “Jingle Jangle” for the first time while we were in Hawaii, and it became our song. It was a happy, upbeat song and always awakened memories of sand, ocean, sunlight, and especially love. Our love was new, fresh, and exciting.

When Jim returned from Vietnam, He had another year to complete his commitment to Uncle Sam. Jim was stationed at Fort Riley and in 1970, we moved to Manhattan, Kansas. For the first sweltering summer, we lived in a one-room apartment. I guess you could stretch it to two rooms if you counted the tiny bathroom. We had one window and no air-conditioning, but at least we had a box fan.

In September, we were able to move into the main part of the house where we had plenty of room. We decided we wanted a stereo to play some vinyl, and went to a department store looking for one. As we walked in, we heard “Jingle Jangle” playing on a console stereo. We struck a deal with the sales person that we would buy the stereo if he would throw in the album that was playing.

Next stop in the story, winter, 2005. Jim lived in a nursing home, but I visited him every day that I possibly could. The following story is from Indelible, the unfinished memoir I’ve been working on for several years:


Jim and I were watching the playoff game between Denver and the Jets. The cable went off so I looked in Jim’s drawer and found an audio tape and popped it in his tape player. I pushed play and realized he had taped some of our old record albums.

 When “Sunday Morning Coming Down” played, Jim acted upset. Had that song stirred memories of when we lived in Manhattan, Kansas, right after he came back from Vietnam?

The Archies song “Sugar Sugar” began to play, he didn’t pay much attention to it. Mavie liked it. She had her doll and was swinging it around and dancing. She looked like she was singing the words, and who knows, maybe she knew the song too.

 Jim was running a temperature for the second night in a row. I walked to the nurses’ station to talk to Marie about his fever.

“If he gets worse, do you want me to send him to the hospital and then give you a call?” she asked.

“No. Call me first and I’ll take him,” I said.

Daniel came to the counter with a pair of panties. “Would you deliver this letter for me?” he asked, folding the panties and offering them to me.

“Daniel, I don’t work for the post office,” I told him. 

I got Marie’s attention, and she said, “Why don’t you give me the letter, Daniel? Hey, Hanes Her Way. I’ll see that she gets it.” That satisfied Daniel and he wandered down the hallway.

When I stopped at Jim’s room to get my coat and purse, “Jingle Jangle” began to play. That was “our” song, and the one that made my heart ache. I blinked back tears and kissed him on the forehead, and said, “I’ll be back tomorrow.” He closed his eyes and soon was napping peacefully.

Jim would have been on my mind on this day that honors veterans, but hearing the upbeat song “Sugar, Sugar” almost seemed like a gentle nudge from the other side. The love we had lives in my memories, in my heart, and makes my soul complete. In my memories today, Jim and I will walk hand-in-hand, toes in the sand, with our life together ahead of us. 

Copyright © Nov 2023 by L.S. Fisher


Thursday, November 9, 2023



I recently gave a presentation on Communication for family night at a local nursing home. Since Jim had aphasia, I had experience communicating with him. A person with aphasia has difficulty with both written and spoken language.

Jim became a man of few words. As the disease progressed, he used familiar phrases. His favorite two phrases were “You’re going the wrong way” and “Right here but I can’t find it.” When he was searching for the correct word for an object, he would sometimes describe it. He might also point at the “thingy” when he couldn’t remember the name for it.

Jim would lose his train of thought. He might start a sentence and forget what he was trying to say before he got to the end of it.

The key to communicating with your loved one is to remember the three V’s. (1) Verbal (words), (2) Vocal (tone), and (3) Visual (facial expressions or gestures.)

You may have heard of the 7-38-55 Rule. The rule is that 7% of communication is the spoken word, 28% is tone of voice, and 55% is body language. Some experts say that the 7-38-55 Rule is not true, but when we communicate with a person who has dementia, this rule is valid.

 For Verbal Communication (7%):

  • Gain their attention! Approach from the front, identify yourself and call him or her by name. Find a quiet space and avoid background distractions.
  • Speak clearly. Ask one question at a time. Offer clear, step-by-step instructions for tasks. On vacation in Colorado, Jim picked up the coffee pot and looked puzzled. I realized he couldn’t remember the steps to making a pot of coffee. I guided him through the process, one step at a time. I waited until he had finished each section before telling him the next one.
  • Ask yes or no questions. Instead of “What would you like to drink?” ask, “Would you like some coffee?” Be positive. “Let’s try this” instead of “Don’t do that.”
  • Listen Actively! Nod. Make eye contact. Watch for clues. Jim often said, “It’s hot in here!” but he was shivering. Pause and allow time for the person to respond. Don’t expect a quick response or an appropriate response. Do not criticize, correct, or argue with your loved one.

For Vocal Communication (Tone of Voice 38% of communication):

  • Be patient and calm.
  • Keep your voice friendly. If you are angry about something else, your loved one may think you are angry with them. When I visited the nursing home after work, I practiced clearing my mind as I walked down the hallway to Jim’s room.
  • Be respectful and don’t talk to an adult as you would a child.
  • Speak conversationally in a normal voice. I used to tell Jim stories about his dog or the grandkids.
  • Avoid asking open ended questions. Do not ask if they know who you are. If in doubt, tell them who you are.

 VISUAL: (Body Language and facial expressions 55% of communication)

  • Give visual cues. Point or demonstrate and encourage non-verbal communication.
  • Hold or touch your loved one’s hand to keep their attention and show you care.
  • Consider the feelings behind the words. Your loved one’s emotions may tell you more than their words. Jim cried when he saw a relative that he hadn’t seen in a long time, and she thought she had done something wrong. I told her that Jim recognized and it meant so much to him that he cried.

Whether you use verbal, vocal, or visual communication, adapt to your listener. Try to understand the words and gestures your loved one is using to communicate and adapt to his or her way of communicating.

Tell visitors that it’s OK if you don’t know what to say. The most important thing is that you visit and let your loved one know that you still care. My brother-in-law used to take his guitar to the nursing home and play and sing some of the songs that he and Jim used to sing together.

My final thought: If your loved one can’t come to your world, go to theirs!



Copyright © Oct 2023 by L.S. Fisher