Musing content alert. I make it a point to try and stay away from politics. The intent of this post is to focus on a subject in what I intend as a relatively objective view and I hope it’s taken that way. In general, we in this country have a limited genuine appreciation for history in that we take what’s going on today and often don’t reach back into history for appropriate comparisons. When I say “back”, I mean sometimes centuries back. (I agree, in some cases we only need to go back a few decades to say, hmm, that didn’t work then, don’t think it will this time either. Conversely, hmm, that might have worked if we’d give it a bit more time.) A case in point. “Politics are nastier today than ever before.” I fully agree our politics are nasty and we should all work to be less polarizing and try to bring a reasonable degree of civility to the process. However, name-calling and backroom deals are not new – the language of old simply seems mild now and the capability to spread information at the touch of a button did not exist. Anyway, I am drifting off-course, so let me correct.
I love there is a history channel and lots of history programs. History can be dull when presented incorrectly and all the “re-enactment” helps make it more interesting, plus I can only imagine what a boost it’s been to struggling actors. The term though, “We’re going to tell you what history got wrong”, always causes me to roll my eyes. History is history. Granted, “History is written by the victors” (actual origin of quote unknown) and therefore the phrase, “What you’ve been taught is wrong” certainly can be applicable. Previously undiscovered documentation is brought to light all the time and the amazing world of forensics can support or refute different historical aspects both recorded and taught. But whatever happened is what happened. Mistakes can easily be made in the telling if an individual recording an event had a limited view of that event and indeed, events recorded by someone with a specific agenda were/are commonplace. It’s logical that what we’ve been taught about an event, a person, a time period might be incorrect based on new information available, but that’s different from the idea that history itself is wrong. I’m all for correcting history providing we don’t cross the line into revisionism, but I’ll save that for another post.
Serious content alert. No, I’m not feeling morbid, but with my recent trips focused on aging parents and three friends/acquaintances losing a parent within the past month, it brings reflection. There is an item that comes around periodically on Facebook to the effect of rather than spending money to attend my funeral, reach out to me while I’m still alive. (It’s a fairly long piece and I couldn’t find it on a quick internet search.) For most of us, not showing up to a funeral where we are “expected” causes a feeling of guilt, and in reality, if there is someone who can use you in particular for support, you should go if at all possible. On the other hand, going to visit the older (which is the topic of this post) relative/friend in their waning years is likely to be better for that individual. What to talk about can be the most awkward aspect and if it’s possible, getting the person to reminisce is often the best solution. Let him or her pick the timeframe they want to linger in and it doesn’t matter how often you’ve heard the same story before. And if it should be that the individual wants to express thoughts about their own mortality, don’t dismiss it with something like, “Oh, you don’t want to talk about that – you’re going to live to be 100.” Of course it’s not a comfortable subject and you certainly don’t need to be the one to bring the topic up, but be willing to listen if the conversation goes there.
In other situations, visiting is not financially possible, and telephoning might not work either if someone is losing their hearing or has dementia/memory loss. Cards and letters though – except for severe cases of dementia, they can make a difference. In this day of so much electronic communication, it’s easy to dismiss something as “old-fashioned” as a letter. And if you don’t feel comfortable with saying a lot, a card will be better. There is such a wealth of choices out there, whether you want beautiful or something cute. It doesn’t take long and you might be surprised at what a difference it makes.
The good news, and it is good news, is that my father is continuing to make progress in his recovery, but not as quickly as he believes. The therapy team wants to work with him for another 5-6 days. The “up” side to that is the follow-on treatment can then all be at the Assisted Living Facility. That keeps someone from having to take him into appointments. Everyone in the rehab wing is friendly and certainly seems to be dedicated. The food isn’t bad, so that helps, too.
I’m planning to call my cousin tonight that lives about an hour and a half away and see if they will be in on Saturday. Part of why I scheduled to stay three extra days this time was to help transition my father back into the ALF, but since that isn’t going to happen, that leaves me time to head down for the other visit provided anyone will be around. They tend to have lots of events that take them away and this could be just such a weekend. On a completely different subject, in walking around this morning, I saw a red mulberry tree, although the remaining fruit on it was shriveled. It brought back memories of one place where we lived that had two trees and we used to make a terrible mess in eating the berries. They are delicious and do make quite a purplish-red stain when you squish them. I don’t think anyone cultivates them commercially and if not, I’m not sure why. Maybe they’re prone to disease or something. Peaches and pecans are common orchards in this part of the state – not nearly in the kind of quantity as somewhere like Georgia, yet excellent quality. And pecan trees do grow wonderfully tall with huge spreading limbs.
This other unanticipated trip will hopefully close out the unplanned ones for the year. Most people who follow the post are aware I had an extra visit with my dad because of my concerns for his situation, and may or may not be aware I had my brother go visit him which then precipitated my visit a few weeks ago. On 7 May he suffered a mild stroke, but since I was unable to come back over, my brother returned, then my sister and her husband last weekend, and I arrived yesterday around noon. (Yes, the 6:45 a.m. flight did mean getting up earlier than usual.) He is responding well to therapy and the damage from the stroke was quite mild considering how these things can be.
I hope to meet with the therapy team later this morning. In all probability, he’ll be going back to the assisted living facility on Monday, although he feels he could be allowed to leave sooner. That’s a good sign as well and I doubt he’ll change his mind no matter what the therapists tell him.
I haven’t checked the weather forecast for the next few days, but I did just verify that I have an umbrella in the suitcase and it’s warm of course, so that isn’t an issue. I suppose I shouldn’t say, “of course” since I do have friends in other parts of the country who are still looking at snow.
New Sports Bar in Covington
Ah, we hit a lot of rain (like four hours worth) on the drive home yesterday, but we did manage to not get rained on during the actual visit despite some threatening clouds and a few sprinkles. The situation with my mother-in-law is stable and probably as good as it is going to be under the circumstances. We were impressed with the facility and I did meet with the director. That does come with a cost, however, and I will say again – go find a place in whatever area you think you might be in to find out the costs for such places to use as a planning factor. (Yes, there is likely to be sticker shock, but this is something you need to know.)
Okay, now on to the “fun” part of the visit. Catching up with family and discovering new (to us) restaurants was thoroughly enjoyable. I will do a separate post later for the two “nice” places (more couple-like), but today I’ll talk about Little Phillies/Tubby Tom’s. Apparently, the one we went to is a second location and we initially popped in for lunch thinking it was just a “sub place”. In actuality it’s a sports bar and grill, thus the Tubby Tom’s part. We highly recommend it, although their coleslaw was heavier on the mayo side than I care for. The sandwiches though were excellent and I suspect the rest of the food would be, too. They had a robust choice of beers which to us is a requisite for a sports bar and it’s the correct kind of ambience. The sandwiches are hefty and you either need to come with a good appetite or plan to take some home. Service was friendly and good and we do hope they thrive as a business.
Family is family and that’s all there is to it. In general, I do not schedule back-to-back trips, but there are times when it can’t be avoided. This is one of those situations. We always spend Thanksgiving in Georgia with my husband’s family, but a crisis with the manuscript (Mystery of the Last Olympian) caused us to have to postpone. We actually intended to go in February and that didn’t work out either. So, even as I was making arrangements to take the unexpected trip to Louisiana last week, my mother-in-law took a bad turn. Although things appear to be under control, my sister-in-law has been doing an incredible amount of work for almost two years now and we needed to come up and at least give some moral support. This also provides us the opportunity to help make some plans for what comes next. I have too recently posted about what we as Baby Boomers should be planning for ourselves, and won’t beat that drum again at this moment.
We will be able to visit with one of the cousins as well and there are a couple of new restaurants opened that we’ve heard are quite good. We popped into Grumpy’s Low Country Seafood Camp last night for catfish. They have a nice, varied menu and several of the restaurants here are not open on Sunday. They also have a very “hoppy” beer that Hubby likes and after the drive, we didn’t want to linger over a meal. Making it an early evening was the best option.
It’s funny in a way how we become so accustomed to things that when we travel, it can be disconcerting to not have them. Connectivity being the example for today. Now, I acknowledge part of that is my average (some days less, some days more) ability when it comes to technology. I don’t have the high speed take-it-with-me doo-dad that can find a hotspot just about anywhere. In-room WiFi (preferably free) is one of the criteria I have for booking a room though. That, however, does come with the simple fact that a lot of those systems are definitely not the fastest and sometimes not the most reliable in the world. So, I spend at least part of the time staring at a screen with whatever device I am using not responding in the manner I would like. On the other hand, I suppose I could try to let it teach me patience. (Not that I hold out much hope on that point.)
Anyway, the trip has been successful in the sense of now understanding where we are in this stage of my dad’s life. There are elements of the situation that are better than I expected. His Alzheimer’s is still manageable and he can function well with most things. He seems quite comfortable with the walker. Fortunately, he has never had an issue with hearing and he has regained some vision in the eye that was damaged a few years ago. His short-term memory loss keeps him from reading these days, but he can still enjoy shows like on Travel Channel and National Geographic. I hope we will have some time today to capture a few of the old family stories. Yesterday was filled with other tasks.
This is not exactly a fun trip. I have literally dashed to Louisiana to check on the situation with my dad. At ninety-one, there will be a certain level of slowing down. The assisted living facility he and my stepmother are in is basic, but nice. His Alzheimer’s seems to be as manageable as it can be. He is quite functional with predominantly short term memory issues. It’s distressing for him of course and part of the reason for me coming is to try and help him process through this stage. No, it won’t really help him since he won’t remember, however, I might be able to “impress” a few supportive phrases he can hold to. I am not a practitioner in neural linguistics programming (NLP), but will do what I can. What I can do is capture some of the old stories he has because if you’ve been through this, you know those are often the memory links that become more vivid. It’s always been a source of interest to researchers. Anyway, I’ll get as many of those as I can over the next few days and we’ll take a couple of short outings. Daddy is on a walker now, although moves quite well with it.
The trip itself was fairly smooth – minor delays on both flights. There was a situation out of Atlanta I had not previously encountered (to the best of my knowledge). During the pre-flight inspection, they discovered a small hole in nosecone (I think they said). They patched it, but had to wait for the epoxy to dry and be inspected. Okay, yes, that would be a good thing. Smooth flight after that and on a larger aircraft than I was accustomed to coming to for this route.
Serious content alert. A friend is mourning the loss of an aunt, another friend has signed the hospice paperwork for her father, and I received notice not long ago of the unexpected death of a high school friend. As Baby Boomers, we look in the mirror and the face we see looking back can startle us at times, or we suddenly realize an event that was important to us actually happened fifty years prior. Fifty years? That’s half a century, for crying out loud. How is that possible? And for those of us who have grandchildren (or great-grandchildren), it hardly seems possible you can be in a crowded room and be the oldest one present. Or you’re at a social event and listen to someone make a comment about dreading their upcoming fortieth birthday. Forty, what’s to worry about forty?
Momentarily setting aside our own aging issues, few of us have much longer with our parents or other relatives and friends who belong to “The Greatest Generation.” It’s a fact we can ignore without for one moment altering the reality of what will happen within the next few years. Yes, there will be those who tick over that century mark, but even with that, many will be diminished in their mental capabilities. The point to this post is one I have made before and was, of course, the foundation of my book, Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We Want to Avoid. We can no more avoid this stage of our lives than we can tell the sun to not set today or rise in the morning. If there is someone who matters to you who is aging and whom you want to see, talk to, or otherwise contact, do so. If a visit is not possible for whatever reason, pick up the phone, or go buy a card/write a letter. Yes, you can still write letters in this day of email. It doesn’t require a special occasion.
Somewhat serious content alert. Okay, this isn’t a bubbly Easter greeting, but due to a couple of different situations, I’ve recently been giving extra thought to the stress that impacts our lives. Perhaps more accurately, I’ve been thinking of how our responses to stressors affect us. The Serenity Prayer really does capture the essence of need to differentiate what we can and can’t control. As humans, we can easily get tangled up between the two. I’m not talking about the far ends of the behavioral spectrum when someone frequently plunges into depression or total denial when an individual refuses to accept there’s a problem to deal with. The focus for this post is the “normal range” of people who face our modern lives with lots of demands.
Bad things happen to good people and those, in general, are things we can’t control. There are, however, plenty of stressors in our lives that we have some measure of control over, yet don’t necessarily exercise that control or recognize the temporary nature of the stressor. An example that covers both these situations is when we overcommit. I’ve written before about my reluctance to say, “No”, to requests and while I have gotten a little better, what seems to work best is for me to try and “lump” my overcommitting so it’s a tough stretch for a given period, then I can recharge. It might not be the right solution for other people, but the point is to find what works for you as an individual. And that leads into a much trickier issue.
Most of us overreact at times and might need someone to help us put things into perspective. There are people though who seem to seek stress and want to pull others into the same degree of frenzy. This is where we sometimes have to step back and say, “Hmm, do I need this?” When you’re around incredibly “high maintenance” individuals, it can be somewhat contagious and you might find yourself responding with more drama to something than you otherwise would. This is where you can decide to pull away and either come up with a plausible excuse or be candid (which might also cause you stress) and accept that the other individual/individuals might never understand why. Again, most of us deal with enough stress on a regular basis and metaphorically speaking, it can be like cleaning out that closet where you’ve been shoving things in until you can barely close the door. If someone or something is crowding out your “comfortable emotional space” it may be time to get the big garbage bags out or at least box things up to give to charity.