Imagine a world where nothing really makes sense to you anymore. Things just don’t add up. Try as you might, you can’t figure it out. You don’t remember what you did today, or yesterday…so you make things up that seem to fall in line with things you used to do. Still, nothing really makes sense, but you are sure that you remember doing that recently. This is Alzheimer’s, and my mother-in-law has it. She is 80 years old, but she would tell you that she is 65, because she doesn’t remember differently.
I spent yesterday afternoon and evening at the hospital with her for some other potentially serious health issues, and it was so hard, because she doesn’t know what is going on or why. It doesn’t do any good to tell her, because she won’t remember what you told her 10 minutes ago. When the blood pressure cuff would start to check her blood pressure, she always seemed shocked that it hurt, and wanted me to take it off. I guess that is a blessing in disguise in that she also doesn’t remember any other pain that she is in once the spasm, poke, or prod is over. She kept picking at the IV needles and their bandages. And she couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t bring her any supper. I’m sure she thought this was the worst hotel she had ever stayed in. In fact, she told me she wasn’t staying at all.
Probably the most heart wrenching part of Alzheimer’s is the fact that while the patient doesn’t remember much of the things they should, the one thing that seems very clear to them, is the fact that this whole thing just isn’t right! I can’t count the number of times that she has look at one of us and said, “What’s wrong with me?” Few things tear you up more that to have someone say that to you and you just don’t know what to tell them. And even worse, is the fact that they will ask you again in 10 minutes.
Thankfully, she still knows most of her family…the ones that are around her often, that is. There are some that she never asks about, because they live too far away and don’t come often, but the good news on that is that she doesn’t know that she doesn’t know them, or know that they don’t come around. It’s hard to feel hurt about that when you don’t know that they even exist. Personally, I feel sorry for those people, because regret will come later for them, when there is nothing they can do about it. I will say, that if you know someone with Alzheimer’s, do yourself a favor, and be around for them, you will never regret it. There is great blessing in being someone they do remember.
We still don’t know for sure what else is going on with her. More tests today will help determine that, and it is with a degree of dread that we move into the day. No matter what is found, we will do what we can do for her, and keep her comfortable as much as possible. Please keep her in prayers as you go through your day today. Your prayers will be much appreciated.
Today is my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 87 years old today, and I really wish he was here to celebrate the day. I miss him so very much. This day feels so empty now. He was such an amazing man. And he lived such a full life. I am so blessed to have had him for my dad. He was the best dad in the world.
My dad was born in Superior, Wisconsin, the third of four children of my grandparents Allen Luther Spencer and Anna Louise (Schumacher) Spencer. Dad was a happy-go-lucky kid with a great sense of humor. My Uncle Bill told me of some of the funny things his little brother did, like falling asleep standing up while they were playing on the wood pile. And the two of them pulling the many pranks they pulled together. I was told years ago of a time when he had been told several times, like most kids are, not to rock back in his chair, and when it fell, my grandmother said, “Zo, du bist a okaman!” Which is to say, “So, you are a big man!” Well, maybe not then Grandma, but to all who knew him…yes, he was!!
To me and my sisters, however he was Dad. He brought much laughter into our lives with his wit. Dad loved a good joke. I remember many a time that he would pull some prank on us and then laugh with total delight when his joke went off as planned. I remember his delighted laugh so well that I can still hear it very clearly. But, he was also, our hero. He held off the lions and bears…or at least kept them out of camp, by being so brave and putting another log on the fire so we were safe. He protected us from any unforeseen monster…especially moths…which our child’s minds could concoct. He just always had the answer, or the muscle to take care of whatever needed taking care of. He was our hero.
Like so many other things about my dad that feel like they happened only yesterday. Dad was truly the last of the true gentlemen. He carried himself with a dignity that you don’t see anymore. My mom was treated like a princess. That is just how Dad was. He loved her with all his heart, and it showed in all he did. He and my mom had a beautiful marriage, and Mom misses him terribly. He made all of “his girls” feel so special, and since he and my mom had five daughters…no sons…he got to have six of “his girls” and he treated us all like his little princesses. We were all so blessed.
Dad showed us and taught us the important things in life. He wasn’t a showy man, he was a solid, grounded man with unquestionable values and solid faith. The values he taught us will live inside us forever. He loved having his kids and grandkids around him, and what a blessing that was. He always had time for us. He helped with homework, played, and led us in the ways we should go. He and my mom made sure we were raised to know and have a personal relationship with God, and let us know in no uncertain terms, that he disapproved when we missed church. His values are still strong in his children today. And he was a capable man. He always knew how to find a solution to our problems. We always knew we could go to him and he would know what to do. He always had a way to fix whatever seemed to have gone wrong.
He served his country willingly, and his military record is exemplary. He told us a few stories from the war, but he never thought himself a hero…in any capacity. On that matter, he was wrong. My dad was very much a hero…in every area of his life, but mostly to his family. He was a great man. My sisters, my mom, his grandchildren and great grandchildren, many friends and other family members, and I miss him terribly!! Happy birthday Daddy!! We all love you very much!!
So many things that were popular items when I was young and when my kids were young, are now coming back into style. When you are young, you think that the things that are the “newest and hottest” of the day have never been seen before, and sometimes that is true. Computer technology and other such technological items, are probably totally new and your grandparents or more likely your great grandparents had no idea they could exist.
Other things don’t work quite the same way. Fashion is something that really is a “what goes around comes around” item. In my lifetime I have seen the mini, midi, and maxi skirts. I’ve worn big bell, boot cut, straight leg and skinny jeans. Of course, there are hot pants, short shorts, knee length shorts, and Capris, or as we called them when I was little…Petal Pushers. Many of these items will sound familiar to you, as they are still in style or back in style. I suppose it would be hard to continually come up with clothing styles that have never been used before. So they add new prints or colors and present as new, an old style, and every young person thinks, “Wow, this is totally cool and unique!!” But, we know that they are simply recycled, and I remember the days.
This recycling of the old that is presented as new doesn’t stop with fashion. Toys seem to have the same life cycle. Remember the Cabbage Patch Dolls and Strawberry Shortcake. Some toys are always in style, like GI Joe, and Hot Wheels, but some like Cabbage Patch Dolls and Strawberry Shortcake have been archived for a time, only to be pulled out of the box, dusted off, and presented to a whole new group of excited kids. I remember Corrie and Amy and their Cabbage Patch Dolls. They were delighted with them, so when they came back, it was even exciting to me! It doesn’t get better than that for a toy…does it?
Everyone who has been around a while can say that they have seen or used something that went out of style, and now has come back. We know the excitement in the eyes of our kids, while being able to think, “Oh yes, I remember the days!”
One weekend when I was a young girl, my parents took us camping on the Hat Six Road end of Casper Mountain. Not many people went camping up in that area, and it was pretty primitive. No picnic tables or restrooms, just roughing it. It was going to be a nice quiet weekend. No radio, no television, no camper or tent, just us and our station wagon.
When we first arrived, we laid out a blanket under a tree, with the intent of stretching out to read a book in the afternoon sunshine. As we laid there giggling and reading, we noticed a sweet little bird, who seemed very friendly. She chirped and chirped, and hopped around very near us. We were astonished. We had just never seen a more friendly bird. We must have watched her for 30 minutes, as she became more and more brave, coming closer and closer, until it finally dawned on us that she was not trying to be friendly, she was really quite upset. We began to look around to see what might be the problem, when we saw very near our blanket, on the ground, her nest. We were so close that we could have easily crushed her eggs. She wasn’t being friendly, but she was very brave. She was going to fight for the lives of her little ones in the works, no matter what it took, or what it cost her. Of course, we immediately moved our blanket to a different tree to allow her to have a happy reunion with her eggs.
That was an amazing moment, but it would not prove to be the only special moment of that weekend trip. Very early the next morning, before the sun was up, a deer wandered through our camp. She wasn’t in a hurry. She just slowly made her way through the camp, oblivious to our presence, having her morning meal as she went, and after munching on the grass and flowers, she wandered on across the hillside.
That camping trip was so unusual in that we were the only people there, and it was an area where nature didn’t seem to be at odds with humanity. We felt a oneness with nature that I have never felt in quite the same way since that time. It was awe inspiring.
We have all at one time or another in our lives, been interested in horses. It just seems to be in our nature. We might go from a rocking horse, to a stick horse, to one on wheels, and eventually to one that is powered by horses. We even name our cars, school mascots, teams, etc, after horses a lot!! There is no doubt…we love horses.
When I was little I had a favorite rocking horse, that I trained to make ruts in my mother’s hardwood floor. We also had a German Shepherd dog named King, that my sisters and I used for our horse…and he was just gentle and kind enough to allow that.
My girls had a stick pony that my father-in-law made for them, which they loved. He gave them the ponies when they were 2 or 3, and they rode them for hours. Oh, the adventures they had! They headed out west, to play Cowboys and Indians…or just rode out across the plains to see what might lay on the other side of the hill…all this of course, in their imaginations, because they never really left the yard. But, that didn’t seem to matter. In their minds, they were explorers, or cowgirls, or just country girls out on a lark. They were on their ponies…just like at Grandma Hein’s ranch.
We went to visit Grandma and Grandpa Hein every summer, and my girls just adored them. Going to their ranch was that adventure come true. They explored the barn and found eggs hidden outside the chicken coop, where the hen was hoping to keep them safe for hatching, and avoid having them used for breakfast. They wandered over that next hill to see what might be there, and found an old play house where they would spend countless hours living in the old west.
And…they would get the chance to ride a real horse once in a while. Grandpa Hein would set them up on a huge horse, bareback, because their feet wouldn’t reach the sturrips on a saddle anyway, and he would lead them around the corral, while in their heads, they would build a story of being a real cowgirl in the old west.
Our trips to Grandma and Grandpa Hein’s ranch every summer were a rare treasure that my girls got to have, and one I will always be glad we gave them. Grandma and Grandpa Hein always made them feel so very special, as they did Bob and me. They were Bob’s grandma and step grandpa, but to us that didn’t matter. Grandpa was just Grandpa, and they were wonderful. We love and miss you both!!
When my girls were little, and learning to do chores, I wanted to make it fun for them. Since they were little, they, like most little kids, loved having their picture taken. I got this crazy idea to take pictures of the cleaning process, and the girls loved it! Most kids are that way. Having their picture taken and being able to have a little memento of an event is just cool. And since I had a Polaroid…remember those…they could see the picture right away.
They were great little helpers, like most children at that age. And I think the pictures really inspired them. Too bad those years don’t last…right? All too soon, come the days when you tell them to do their chores, and all you hear in, “Oh Mom!! Do we have to!!” So, you enjoy those years while you can. The girls were always wanting to help out, and they did a pretty good job too. They were willing to listen and eager to please. You see, I thought I had it all figured out. And my plan was working too.
Unfortunately, with their teens, came boys and then cars, jobs, and other activities, and suddenly helping with housework just didn’t carry the same excitement…and pictures didn’t help…at all!! What is that all about? Pretty soon, just like every parent before me, I found out that the girls would do whatever it took to do just about anything but clean house. And I can’t really say that I blame them. I hate housework too…don’t you?
Friends often go in and out of our lives, as our interests change, especially when we are young, but once in a great while, something very rare and very special occurs. That very first friend becomes a forever friend. Such was the case between my daughter, Amy and her friend, Carina. The girls met on the first day of kindergarten, and from that day to this, there has never been a time when they weren’t friends. Carina became so much a part of our lives, and Amy a part of Carina’s family’s, that we both said that they were adopted daughters.
When Amy came home from school that first day, I asked her how she liked school, and all she talked about was her friend Carina. Little did I know that this…Carina, was about to endear herself to our family for life. Rarely did a weekend go by without those girls spending the night one place or the other. They both just became a fixture in the home of the other, and none of us seemed to think it was the least bit odd.
As the years went by, their interests changed, but always seemed to include the other in some way. They both loved gymnastics and later they were both in the Kelly Walsh Dancers. Carina’s career as a flight attendant would take her all around the world, while Amy’s life would keep her right here in Casper, Wyoming, and into her marriage, but no matter how far apart they were, they remained friends. After 9-11, Carina’s life would change again, and bring her back to Casper, and later into her marriage. And now, they are closer than ever.
Once in a while, a rare friendship occurs, and that is what happened between two little girls named Amy and Carina, and our lives would never be the same…and that is just fine with me.
Kids have such a fascination with boxes. They would almost rather play with the box than it’s contents…provided, of course, that the box is big enough to hold the kid. I’m sure I was the same way, but I don’t recall just what the fascination was. Maybe it was like a secret hiding place, but it never seems to stay a secret, and the kid doesn’t seem to want to stay hidden. They want to be noticed.
It could be that it just strikes them as goofy, which would make sense, because while I don’t know about your kids, my girls loved being goofy and giggly. Being inside a box was always something that they enjoyed, so maybe I should have skipped the gift, and just found a box. And it didn’t even have to be a gift…in fact most often wasn’t, that provided the perfect box. Usually it was some appliance or some other such thing, and just as soon as the item was unpacked, the question started…”Can we have the box?” And they would be off and running on their adventure.
I kind of think the main reason kids like boxes is that they are cozy, and a sort of a place of their own. Like a play house, they climb in and just sit there, because there usually isn’t much room to move. So they look at each other and laugh, or look at you to see if you can understand their secret delight. And of course, if you would just take a picture, they would be thrilled, because moments like these are meant to be saved on film.
And just in case a box was unavailable, it really wasn’t a problem, there are always ways around that problem. Just turn a kid loose with a clothes basket, and you were good. This isn’t something that is unique to any generation either, as any parent or grandparent would know. Every kid just loves it!
Bob and I had daughters, and Bob is a mechanic, so when it came to assistants, well…he usually had one or two small ones. Bob always said that girls need to know how to work on their own car…just in case. I guess he figured that if he started early enough, they would adapt to it, just like children learned English. So, whenever he was outside working on a car, he would have one or both of the girls standing on the bumper, or a box or sitting on the fender, watching…and learning, of course!!
Funny thing about little girls…as they grow up, they are less and less interested in the working on a car thing, and more and more interested in the guy working on the car, and of course, I’m not referring to their dad. Sure, they still humored their dad, once in a while, but it was becoming more and more obvious that his girls were not going to follow in their dad’s footsteps.
In fact, early on it became pretty obvious that mechanics was going to be a…well, part time profession, at best. Before he knew it, they became interested in different forms of transportation. And I think Bob began to get the feeling that he was losing ground, as far as the mechanic training was going. Like most little girls, the engine was quickly losing their interest. Also, like most little girls, their daddy wasn’t. They would go on to humor him, by helping him from time to time…even to this day.
But, the reality is that while their dad is a great mechanic, our girls are totally not mechanically minded. They are just very sweet girls who love their daddy, and would do just about anything for him…even pretend that they enjoy checking the oil in their car. How blessed Bob is!
A few years ago I was watching a show that used to be on television called “Rescue 911” about a boy that wandered away from his mom, who was on the phone with his dad, and ended up in a terrifying situation. They were in a mall or airport or something…that part I don’t recall. What has stayed in my head was what happened afterward. The boy was excited about their upcoming adventure, and ended up stepping onto the escalator without his mom. She was only distracted for a moment, but that was all it took. Not knowing the danger, he simply sat down. The boy was wearing a sweat suit…the next level of danger. When he got to the bottom, his clothing got caught in the teeth of the escalator, and he was trapped. A young man saw it and tried to tear his clothing so he could breathe, but with a sweatsuit, it was impossible. Just before his life would have been ripped from him, the young man rescued him, by hitting the kill switch…thankfully. I’m sure that boy has never forgotten it. It is embedded in his memory for life.
I know, because when I was about 4, my mom took me and my sisters to tour the new bank in town. We had gone upstairs via the escalator. The bank was beautiful, and we all had a great time. mom decided that it was time to go. We went to the escalator, and she helped me on. My sister stepped to the side to look at something, and seconds later, my mom and my sisters got on the escalator, about 4 or 5 steps behind me, with people in between us. There was an older woman about 2 steps in front of me, and when she reached the bottom, she panicked. She began to back step. It wasn’t her fault really. She was scared. But, I was just a little girl.
When my feet ran into the old woman’s feet, it pushed her off of the escalator, but I fell down. Back then it was common for little girls to wear frilly dresses with a full skirt, especially when going somewhere special. That dress was quickly pulled into the teeth of the escalator. My screams could be heard all over the bank. The manager came running. He assured my mom that the bank would pay for all medical bills and buy mea new dress. He begged us not to sue, which my mom had no intention of doing, but he didn’t know that. True to his word, the bank took care of everything…that they physically could.
Over 50 years later, I still cannot step on an escalator without feeling a lurch in my gut. It is no one’s fault, it is just part of who I am. Traumatic events…even in the very young, just don’t go away easily. I felt nauseated while I was watching the episode of “Rescue 911” that night. I was still able to vividly remember those events. When the program was over, I was shaking. It was more real to me than anyone could ever know.
I know it was no one’s fault, and there was nothing my mom could have done, but I want to tell everyone to be careful on escalators, especially with children, as it could easily cost them their lives, if they are caught in one of these. I have seen people allow their kids to take a ride on the escalator…alone. I want to yell at the parents…ask them, “Don’t you know what could happen?” But all I can do is stand by and pray the God will protect those unsuspecting parents and kids. Please…don’t let your kids ride an escalator alone!!