Trip, Day 8….

So today is it; Daddy’s 95th birthday. I’ll visit with him until mid-afternoon, then head over to Bossier where I’ll have dinner with the other old high school friend as the final planned meeting that has become our tradition. The 3:00 a.m. wake-up tomorrow to get to the airport on time for the 5:00 a.m. flight will keep the wine consumption down.

Anyway, if Daddy wants catfish again for lunch, I’ll run out for it and then my step-siblings are coming around 5:00 with cupcakes and ice cream cups for everyone to celebrate. My sister and brother will make trips to see him later in the year. As I have mentioned previously, the assisted living facility where he is has the basics, but is small at only 26 rooms. The staff is friendly and seems to do well with the residents and in seeing many of the same faces over the years there also seems to be a nice level of stability (among the staff). My father’s short term memory problem means he can no longer enjoy reading; something he did for most of his adult life. While he does have limited vision in one eye, the real problem is unless it’s a short article, he can’t recall what he read. He does still watch some television, but mostly plays the afternoon games of different forms of bingo and sits either on the front porch or at one of the front windows in the airy lobby. With 90-plus degrees, sitting outside for long doesn’t work well. There is a fair flow of people coming and going, which allows for a social aspect.

Things We Don’t Remember….

No, I’m not talking about the heartbreak of the various forms of dementia, especially as our older loved ones wither from the individuals we once knew. Nor am I referring to our joking about “Senior Moments” before it does become serious. Not long ago, I had a discussion with someone, fortunately on the telephone so my body language didn’t give me away. The individual was talking about his clear memory of not only the first time we met, but about a time a few years later as well. I have no reason to doubt him as the context all made sense and everything tracked with the sort of things I would have done and said. The are indeed other things I recall in the time we spent together – this is all on a professional basis – yet the times he vividly remembers are complete blanks for me.

Indeed, when I give my presentation on “Capturing Family Memories” to begin the process of writing a memoir, I make a point of this. Unless video and audio recordings are available, every experience is subject to personal memory and/or interpretation. This can be true whether an event occurred a short time prior or many years. In general, the longer after, the more disparate versions will be, although the significance of the experience generally does matter. In the case I am referring to, as I have mentioned in other posts, I was the “first female” in a number of positions during my Army career. Therefore, men who were not accustomed to having a woman in that position might well remember it as common with any “first”. I, however, having been through this on multiple occasions might not file the meeting away as anything particularly special. On a different note, remembering people’s names can be difficult for most people and I have almost reached the point where I’m not embarrassed to ask again when I draw a blank. I admit in a setting where business cards are likely to be available, I will sometimes smile and use the ploy of, “Do you have a card with you? I simply can’t seem to find where I put the last one.”

 

Summers in Maine….

Photos aren’t posted yet, but the kids made the 12ish-hour trip up to Maine yesterday. They’ll visit for four or five days, then make a stop to see a longtime friend in Rhode Island on the way back. Granddaughter is old enough now to really understand and remember the visits. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Dustin spent at least a month every summer in Maine, often longer. While we were there each Christmas as well, either for, or right after Christmas, summertime is very different. There are, of course, the masses of tourists to cope with as Grandpa swore each summer he would stay tucked away, “on the farm”, until after Labor Day. Taking Dustin on special excursions did make for the exception to his rule, although since was also still working, it would often be Gram and Dustin going somewhere as they “made memories”. It was important for him to embrace that part of his heritage and since my daughter-in-law is one of the few in her family to move away from Mane, granddaughter has deep roots there. The cottage on the lake makes for a perfect setting, except I’m sure even in August, the water temperature will be cool. Naturally there is the spot where they make a fire underneath star-filled night skies.

Blueberries in all shapes and forms, handmade ice cream, maple candies, and lobster for the adults are givens. I’m not sure if granddaughter has developed a taste for seafood beyond fish sticks, but there will be plenty of fried haddock nuggets. August can bring black flies as a nuisance, so here’s hoping it might be a mild year for them. I’ve probably forgotten some special culinary treat, and will no doubt see photos soon on Facebook as they make the different rounds to see family and friends. Perhaps Mother Nature will be kind and keep the weather sunny for them.

 

 

The “Slippery Slope” of Compartmentalization….

Serious musings alert. A conversation the other day triggered the chain of thought about the ability to mentally compartmentalize. In this case, I’m referring to situations where you have multiple things to deal with and there is no way to manage them all at once. Although compartmentalizing is a type of prioritizing, prioritizing is closer to, “Let’s take this one step at a time,” rather than the infamous line of Margaret Mitchell’s character, Scarlett O’Hara’s, “After all, tomorrow is another day”. By that, I mean in keeping with her character, thinking about it another day also in general meant she would find a way to not take responsibility for her own actions.

Therein lies the three aspects of compartmentalization I consider to be “risky”. The first is the inclination to revisionism. The “well I should have said….” can morph into having thought you did so, then building the memory around that. (It’s not an uncommon trait as I have written about in other posts.) If the issue being compartmentalized is something that needs to be dealt with, then depending on when it is dealt with, the revised scenario may be brought out and either corrected or can lead to further complications. If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation that seems to be getting out of control, think back to how it originated and see if perhaps there was a basic misunderstanding in waiting to deal with whatever it is/was.

The second aspect of compartmentalization is the matter may be not overly significant to you, and yet important to another individual. You may forget about it through no malice and also cause complications because the other party/parties may view your forgetting in an unfavorable way.

The third aspect is if compartmentalization slides into repression/suppression. I do want to clarify there is a reason the phrase, “time and place for everything” exists, and that includes letting things go. Choosing to not deal with something immediately may well be the best option and then letting go of whatever it is may also be the correct choice.On the other hand, there can be unpleasant aspects to life which do require response/action and finding the way to do so is important.

The Paris Trip….

It has been five years since we were in Paris. Last year, my sister was talking about taking a trip and wanted me to give her some advice. Somehow in the discussions, I misunderstood and thought she meant she and my brother-in-law were going. I thought that was odd because even though they are still traveling, I was under the impression he could no longer make the transoceanic trips. As it turned out, I was correct. My sister was planning for the two of us to go. Ah, okay. While I would not in general leave Hubby out of a trip to Paris, this will be a special event. The one time Sis was there was a brief visit and there were a number of things she didn’t do and she really wants to go to Giverny. I actually haven’t been there so that part will be new for me as well.

Hubby and I always go in the winter, too, close to Valentine’s Day, so it has been years since I’ve seen the parks in bloom and they are lovely with all the beautiful flowers. I have warned her Paris is not a carb friendly city, although green salad and omelette is a common lunch. Neither of us do oysters which lets out that option. We can both do a lot of “crudities” – the nice selection of raw vegetables as a first course I suppose. I’ve also recommended us taking breakfast bars because all standard French breakfasts involve pastries. Okay, I will indulge in one. I’ve received our Paris Passes which gives us access to many of the museums, the Metro, the light rail and discounts on some other things. I haven’t gone through the guide at length and I’m sure there have been changes over the past five years. Seeing Notre Dame will of course be sad and I’ll try not to tear up. I don’t know how close they will allow tourists. I will do a blog post each day and perhaps some Facebook.

For The Other Moms…..

Yes, there is no question the journey through pregnancy and delivery of a child is an experience like no other. (At some point I’ll post about my somewhat humorous day). And for the sake of this entry, I will simply say my heart always goes out to children who grow up in conditions of abuse and neglect which segues a bit into the purpose of the post.

Women who are mothers through marriage, adoption, or fostering (official or otherwise) come to their roles mostly through choice and in many cases, there can be transition aspects. The “evil stepmother” label can be unfairly applied as children can feel pulled by split loyalties. (And shame on any party that promotes this for their own selfish reason.) Having the patience and wisdom to work through those feelings is not an easy task.  On the subject of adoption, there may have been a time in the past when the process was easy, but if you know anyone who has adopted in the last decade or so, you know of the complexity and often emotional roller coaster they will go on before the child/children become part of their family. Foster parents are in a very special category as there will always be personal trauma involved that must be managed.

I recently wrote about the young lady who “grew up” in the foster system and the non-profit she established to continue to work with foster children. (https://www.sadiesdaughter.org) The foster mother takes in a child/children understanding their time together could be quite temporary depending on the circumstances. She may have only a short while to have a positive enough impact to literally alter that child’s life. The cases where a woman steps forward to unofficially “foster” because of a desperate need can be even more heart-warming. There are sad situations where a neighbor/relative is able to provide a haven for after school or something similar to allow for a respite from neglect or abuse. Being a “mother” for these children is as real as it gets and anyone who has done so should feel a special pride.

So here is a salute to all those women who may not be a mother through giving birth, but who have given life.

A Touching Post….

Pensive thoughts alert. A friend who is a marketing expert set me up with a Twitter account several years ago. While I use my personal Facebook for actual relatives, friends, and acquaintances, Twitter is pretty well devoted to my author side. About a month ago, one of the writers set a campaign into motion to engage the writing community in order for independent writers to feel more connected. It took off like wildfire and even though I don’t respond to everything by any means, I have definitely stepped up my engagement. Other writers, especially new ones, ask questions about things I have already been through and perhaps my own experience can be helpful to them. In this case  though, a young woman posted her grandmother just passed away. She was with her and they spoke of fond memories until the end. She was glad to have been there. I commented back my condolences.

As I’ve previously posted, I have a great deal of respect for hospice and the philosophy it has brought more to the forefront for many of us. Indeed, another friend was by his sister’s side last week as she passed on after not quite two weeks in hospice. In our mobile and geographically dispersed society we can’t always be at a loved one’s side in the case of something unexpected. The other side of that coin is there may be times the worst is expected and there is a respite/rally instead. Go anyway because one really never does know when the last day will come. I will once again urge anyone who has aging friends/relatives to check into the Five Wishes Living Will (https://fivewishes.org/). The difference in it and other such documents is the level of detail included; you think through aspects that may not have occurred to you before. I had a wonderful email exchange with the organization’s founders when I referenced them in Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid (http://amzn.to/1aYPey5)

I realize this is not a cheery way to start a Monday, and my next post will be lighter for sure.

 

Artistic Living….

It’s been quite a while since I posted about the issues and concerns we had when we decided to support our son in his desire to be a professional dancer. The popularity of all the TV competitions such as “American Idol”. etc., usually show the huge number of “hopefuls” as they are narrowed to the few. Even those who do not win the big prize are often helped by the exposure on their way through the process so it would seem to be of value.

Anyway, there was a Twitter post this morning about encouraging/supporting love of the arts in your children even if it means teaching them to balance early on. It is difficult to be forced to choose between art and “practicality”  and I mean art in every creative form. Even though a tiny percentage of aspirants in whatever the discipline is, “make it big”, many that do come from long-shot circumstances. Encouraging talent and a dream doesn’t mean ignoring the “real world”. You can help prepare someone to live a dual life without taking away from their passion. If a lack of talent does happen to be the case, finding a gentle way to deal with that is different. Coping with the lack of fairness in how certain careers are valued can be a challenge and helping with time management can be tiring. The love of art, music, dance, performing, etc., and the joy it brings to those around the creator can be a powerful antidote to frustration. As I have also mentioned in our decision to make certain sacrifices to allow son to be a dancer, that was very much because contemporary and ballet dance is age-restrictive. It is simply not something that can be a mid-life career. In our local artist community, it is interesting to talk to those who having spent a career in engineering, the allied health field, and so forth, are now able to spend time with their various mediums. There is a range of talent as there will always be, but the enjoyment is what they have in common.

Other Army Memories…..

I have explained in previous posts about my role as an “inadvertent pioneer” in the Army during the transition time of the Women’s Army Corps into the regular force. Notwithstanding those who were convinced it would be the downfall of the military, most were accepting and in some cases it was amusing. At that time I weighed far less than I do now and in graduating from college a year early, I was barely 22 when I arrived in Germany for my first real assignment. The previous almost year was spent in a series of training courses. So here I was, this 4’11” 2d Lieutenant placed into a Captain’s position and the first female officer in the unit. One of the sergeants who willing stood by me (literally and figuratively) was about 6’3” and built like a linebacker. (He may very well have been one in high school; I never thought to ask). We lost track for many years and it was maybe five years ago he reached out to find me. Like many who were part of those tumultuous years of the Army going from draft to all-volunteer, he wanted to write his memoirs of all the changes he experienced during his career. We spoke two or three times as he worked on the project.

He was ready to send me the completed book when he had to make multiple trips to Germany as one of the senior NCOs he was close friends with became quite ill. As was the custom, each American unit had a “partner German unit” and that was where their friendship was formed. My friend was a great comfort to the man and his family prior to his passing. My friend returned and in the process of catching up on things, he finally decided to go to the doctor. Sadly, he was diagnosed with more than one condition, none of them good news. We talked about a number of things and he’ll see how treatments go. He is close to his son who is with them and my hopes are of course for the best. I know I will cherish his book whenever I receive it.

In A Child’s Eyes….

Setting aside the angry/tearful outbursts that come from a variety of reasons, spending time around a child at certain ages does bring different perspective. Granddaughter was three in March and thus, her vocabulary was considerably increased from the previous visit, as was her reasoning ability.

One of the first questions as we exited baggage claim was if those were palm trees? Yes. Do they have coconuts? Not those, although we will see some that do. This is courtesy of having watched the animated movie of “Moana” set in Hawaii. Are we in Florida? Yes. Can we go in the pool when we get to your house? Tomorrow will be pool time. Oooh, the neighbor has big and little minions in their yard. (I think that’s the movie “Despicable Me” and sequels). In discussion of what adventures to go on – No, I don’t want to see alligators; they might bite my toes. Okay, I can see that.

A word about swimming – for the first time, the weather was cooperative enough to allow pool time each afternoon. It wasn’t entirely comfortable, but tolerable for an hour and hot coffee after helped. Grandma was in each day, Daddy two days, Grandpa and Mommy each also had a day. The wonderful swim vest worked well again although she was also tall enough to stand in the hot tub (not heated of course) and in the shallow end of the pool. If all goes well, there will be swimming lessons this coming summer.

I didn’t have personal experience, but had heard good reports of Pinto Farm, close to Monkey Jungle and open only Saturday and Sunday. It was a big hit and involved her first actual Shetland pony ride. The next day was let Mommy and Daddy have a “date afternoon” with movie and a stop by Exit One Taproom. The fairly long walk to the small Tot Lot yielded seeing butterflies, coconut palms, quite a few decorations, and the ability to fly in the swing since it was a “sit-in” type where hands were not always required. With Grandma pushing, it was flying like a plane, or bird, or acrobat – we cycled through all the comparisons.

Oh, and going back to an observation of an earlier post – seeing the inflatable decorations flat on the ground was remarked upon, but we used the opportunity to discuss the process of inflation. Ah, and in case you weren’t aware, a puzzle can become a cake which must be slid into an available cabinet which serves as an oven. Hey, these are the sorts of things we forget in our journey into adulthood.