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.

When The Time Comes…..

Serious content alert. We made the drive to Georgia yesterday. My mother-in-law passed away peacefully Saturday after a brief final illness. As I mentioned in my previous post, she had been in assisted living for a while and at age 92, this was not unexpected. The fact is at this age, many of the people who really knew her have already passed. We will be having a small, quiet graveside service later today to put her to rest next to my father-in-law.

In our busy lives, especially when geographically dispersed, it’s often  a question as to how often to visit an older loved one/friend. You know there will be a limit as to number of times available, yet there is also the idea of, “Well, people live longer these days.” Then there is the painful reality when mental abilities begin to deteriorate and the individual is simply no longer able to communicate/interact in the same way. That stage requires an understanding of why reaching out may come with a level of frustration you aren’t always prepared for. Repeated discussions about the weather may be the best you can manage.

These are not easy aspects of life to deal with and with each person who passes from you, it is of course, the good memories you hold to.

Both Expected and Not…..

Sad news alert. My mother-in-law was either 91 or 92 in the spring and she has been in assisted living for the past couple of years. Her situation is a little different from my father who has severe short-term memory loss, but is otherwise doing pretty well. In her case, she has sporadic bouts of confusion, especially with sequence of events, but can generally work through everything fairly quickly. Health-wise, she has had more conditions than my father although managing with appropriate medication and physician’s care. We received the text yesterday she’s been entered into hospice and there probably isn’t much time. My sister-in-law and her family live nearby and have been stalwart in their devotion to her. At the moment, we will wait until we know more since how one responds in hospice can be quite varied. Back when my father called me because his older brother had been placed in hospice I flew the next day to Louisiana in order to be available to drive them to Missouri. After five days elapsed (it may have been four), I returned home and I think it was another two days before he passed. We had in the meantime made other arrangements for the drive to Missouri.

The irony of this is we normally travel to Georgia to be with my husband’s family at Thanksgiving. We were unable to do so last year because of an unexpected conflict and were in the midst of making plans for the trip. I doubt his mother will be able to linger for 3 weeks, but it is possible. I won’t be posting anything to social media yet since we aren’t certain of what will happen.


Working Through T-Do List…..

Okay, the fairly long to-do list of tasks to complete prior to our trip is close enough to being finished for me take a deep breath. Naturally, half-a-dozen items were added to it during the process. Well, probably more, but at some point I stop keeping track. Anyway, I will finish drying the load of clothes shortly which will allow me to see what will really fit into the suitcase. As always when traveling north this time of year, bulkier clothes are needed. I think we can manage without heavy coats. Gifts are not really required for this trip, although as soon as I find out what size granddaughter is wearing, we will pick up a t-shirt of some type while in NYC. She has a thing for hats, although I’m not sure if anything along that line will make sense.

A friend has sent some restaurant recommendations and I found a few that appeared on multiple lists. Even though we plan to stay out of the “touristy” places, the big Guy Fieri restaurant might be required just because. We’re being flexible with plans and will catch a show if it’s practical. As previously mentioned, the “must” of visiting B&H Photo will occur and I do hope there is a bar or spa or what-have-you near by for we non-photographers.

The house is set up with sitter, etc. and dishwasher will be run tonight. Lunch took care of most of the leftovers and the rest will be sides for dinner. I will blog everyday and post based on connectivity and time.

The Paths Children Take….

I’ve posted in the past about how startled we were and what adjustment we went through when we came to accept the degree of our son’s passion for dance. I had an entertaining conversation with a woman I met last night during an event with the opposite side of the coin situation with their daughter. She has very definitely gone into a career that’s not for the fainthearted and not what most women choose. It is financially lucrative though which is also the opposite said of the coin with the world of dance.

Anyway, as I have also mentioned, my whole “female pioneering” aspect of being in the Army was not something my parents expected and until last night I hadn’t remembered this part. Back in the day, males could join the military at age 17 with parental consent and 18 without. Females, however, could not join without parental consent until age 21. Because of me finishing my undergraduate degree a year early, and having an August birthday, that meant I was not actually 21 until a couple of weeks after I was scheduled to receive my commission as a second lieutenant. It required my parents to sign their permission and while Daddy was puzzled, but practical about my choice, Mother expressed some reluctance. In talking through it, she finally agreed providing I didn’t tell “Mamaw” (her mother) she’d agreed. Not a problem, although as it turned out, my grandmother thought it was terrific and would brag about me to her friends. The fact of the matter was she was a feisty woman and had opened her own assay and tax preparation office at a time when that was not commonplace for married women. I don’t know the whole background of it – I’ll have to ask my aunt next time I visit – but as I recall, she always had that office. Daddy learned about tax prep by working part time for her during peak tax season because we didn’t live too far from them and forest fire threats were usually mild until the heart of summer.

So Many Ways To Miscommunicate…..

Serious content alert. Recent situations locally and certainly otherwise have brought to mind the class in Human Communications I took as part of my graduate work. Setting aside the potential for misunderstandings when speaking two actual different languages, the ability for people to get cross-ways over words is so common. For this post, I’m only going to focus on hearing the words “lie” and “liar” thrown out a lot.

People can have flawed memories of a conversation/event/something they read. People can literally hear/read something incorrectly. Two or more people can hear/read the same sentences/sentences and perceive what was said/written differently. In each situation, the listener/reader can be in error yet be convinced they are correct. The issue becomes when someone acts on that misunderstanding and is unwilling to acknowledge he/she could be mistaken.Reluctance to admit error also applies to the individual who may indeed have said/written something in a way open to multiple interpretations without realizing it.

None of the above scenarios include “lies”, but human nature being what it is, if something intense and emotional is involved, “That’s a lie or you’re a liar”, is often easier to say than to admit the possibility of personal mistake. Once those words are spoken, it tends to go in bad directions and it’s difficult to recover. Getting people to take deep breaths and step back from a situation is tricky. This is why having someone mediate can make a difference, although that isn’t always simple. Finding an individual who can objectively listen and effectively point out where miscommunication has occurred is only one factor. Steering/guiding the parties toward genuine understanding can be even more difficult.

In other cases, drawn-out discussions are not required. In the TV series, “Home Improvement”, the two brothers had become at odds over something. In the final part of the episode as they chuckled about it, the exchange was something like: “Glad we worked that out.” “Yeah, Jill [the wife] wanted us to talk about it.” “Nah, putting me in the headlock was better.”

The above example is not to make light of the topic. If you find yourself at the center of turmoil, look first to the possibility you may be in error. Then be willing to accept the other individual/individuals may be emotionally attached to their version and finding a way to “unhook” that is important. By the way, it doesn’t always work. Also, by the way, people most assuredly do often lie, but that’s the subject of other posts.

Sept Trip, Day 7….

Travel up yesterday was in light rain for parts, but it stopped as I came into my destination. My sister had warned me Daddy was not interacting as much as in the past. While that was true, he is still cognizant of his surroundings, etc., which is a critical point to consider. I’ll be back with him most of today with a highlight of going to get the catfish and shrimp basket he enjoys for lunch. He hasn’t been comfortable in going out with the wheelchair for some time. Although it is manageable, it is a bit of a process and is much simpler for him for me to bring takeout.

I enjoyed dinner with another of my high school friends last night when she kindly drove up to join me. There are a couple of good Mexican restaurants and the one downtown has a fun atmosphere. Fortunately there was only one birthday party crowd because the staff Happy Birthday routine is a bit loud. On the other hand, the staff is friendly and attentive. In addition to their fresh made salsa, they make a smooth avocado cream dip rather than a classic guacamole. It is excellent. I had  chicken in a similar sauce with roasted onions and poblano peppers mixed in.

I’ll head over to stay closer to the airport this evening and meet my other high school friend for dinner at our favorite steak place.

Tempests in Teapots…..

Notwithstanding the naive factor of the question, “Why can’t we all just get along?”, a significant portion of the past two weeks has been spent caught up in situations where that is a central question. The simplistic bottom line answer is, “because of human nature”, but the point of “civilized behavior” is in millennia past we made the decision to try and seek resolutions with “win-win” or at least consensus. For those who have not yet read, To Play On Grass Fields, credibly managing this theme is part of what took me twenty years to write what is a very different book for me that was inspired by my time in Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy in the closing months of my Army Career.

Anyway, as I have mentioned, my specialties for our weekly community newspaper does not include controversy. In a rare agreement (and really more to do with timing), I was pulled into a story where a local business through no fault of their own was thrust into a swirl of controversy. It had to do with a reporter most definitely for another paper sensationalizing a sensitive topic. The reporter allegedly returned and agreed certain phrases in the article might have been inappropriate. I hope everything does calm down. http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/eedition/page-a/page_89d65bb5-9dfa-5a89-ae1e-1eb14dffb8de.html

Okay, on to something far less nationalized. Of the different non-profit boards I sit on, a long-simmering issue erupted in one of them. In trying to draw more support for “Position A” than “Position B”, a group of people supporting “A” found what they thought was a loophole to involve some of us who normally would not be involved. The end result was a great deal of intense emotion being stirred up. A significant amount of time has been expended and it looks as if perhaps a reasonable resolution is in the works. I happen to have a greater degree of background into the controversy than one of the new individuals in the organization. He asked me to explain the background. I gave him the “short version” and he said he really wanted to try and understand. As I finished the
long version”, I used the worn phrase of, “It’s complicated.” He softly said, “No it isn’t. It’s pride and miscommunication.” Indeed, and doesn’t that so often apply?



What Spirit Does……

I would say I can’t believe nearly an entire week slipped past me, but there’s been a fair amount of turmoil swirling around the non-profits I work with and some other obligations. The irony of course is this is “the slow time of year” for a number of organizations/individuals. As I’ve explained in previous posts, that doesn’t hold true for Hubby and me.

Anyway, in writing for our weekly community paper, “heartwarming” is one of the areas I specialize in. A couple of weeks ago, I ran across a Facebook post from one of our council members who has a great non-profit of, This Is For The Kids. It’s another one of those that began quietly and small and they’ve steadily grown it. Not beyond local size, but still quite respectable. They do different things throughout the year, but their big event is an annual Rib Fest. In the summer, they select 5 non-profits that mostly (or exclusively) support kid causes. The proceeds from the Oct Rib Fest is then split among the selected five. So, the founder is always on the lookout for other situations and he ran across one a few weeks ago that I then picked up on for a story. It was the the lead piece in the July 20th edition (http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/eedition)

The summary is a young man who was a very promising athlete had swapped from track and field into football. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind he would be a college star with a decent shot at the pros. That was before the automobile wreck where his two best friends were killed and he was left paralyzed from the waist down. You can imagine the impact on the families and fellow students. This is a “small town” despite a rise in population and the track and field coach for one of the other high schools knew of the young man’s athleticism. No one here is involved in adaptive sports, but the coach was sure Isaac would have the ability if he was willing to make the effort.

They worked together for him to focus on wheelchair races, discus, javelin, and shot-put. Not only has he excelled, he is being invited to be a motivational speaker by some notable area athletes. In raising money for him to be able to go to the Junior Olympics last week, he brought home more medals and made more contacts. The hope is he can get a scholarship to one of the colleges/universities where they have an adaptive sports program.


The Down Side of Pets…..

I am currently faced with a situation I am somewhat troubled about since it conflicts with something I believe in.Plenty of studies have shown the value of a pet for older individuals, especially if the individual lives alone. At the moment, however, I am into either month four or five of going almost every day to a neighbor’s house to care for her two cats. I mentioned in a previous post the tragic loss of our neighbor even though we all thought she was improving. We knew she would not be able to continue to live alone and she was working through her options. Fortunately, she had the resources to have genuine options. I also know how much her cats meant to her and took on that task as my support to her condition. What I didn’t plan on was there not being a provision for them. Again, her passing was unexpected and so no one had thought to craft those options. The cats are well-cared for and well-behaved, but they are long hair and while they could be separated, the desire is to place them both together.

In the course of discussion, another neighbor who was widowed not quite two years ago commented he did have a new home arranged for his two if anything unexpected happened. (The age of the cats are such that it probably won’t be an issue, but one never knows.)

Since I do believe in the value of pets for older people, I suppose what I really mean is that a follow-on home for the pet/pets is yet another thing that needs to be taken into consideration along with all the other decisions to take when it comes to realistically planning for that “Room at the End”. http://amzn.to/1aYPey5