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Pick me UpDog PileWhile we were visiting many of our family members in Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota, our cousin, Bill Spencer surprised us with a copy of a slide show that he had put together for his family. We were so busy while we were there, that there was no time to take a look at the slide show. When I got home, I looked at it briefly, but nothing really in depth. Yesterday, I took another look…a longer look. I had no idea what a gold mine that slide show would turn out to be. As I watched it, I felt like I had been instantly transported back in time. It was so fun to look at those old shots of all of us as kids. It also felt just a little bit lonely when I looked at holiday pictures from the time right after we left Superior. Prior to that, we would have most likely been in some of those pictures, and I’m sure that my cousins would agree with me when I say that feels a little bit sad too.

Cheryl and Pam had always been good friends, and the younger kids naturally partnered with Bill and Jim. That could have left me feeling like a third wheel, but I got along just as well with the younger kids, so it worked out very well. The reality was that I thought the stuff the younger kids were doing was more fun most of the time anyway. Not to say that I wouldn’t have wanted to spend time with Cheryl and Pam, but I was a pretty active kid. and the rough housing that the younger kids and I did was quite appealing to me. In fact, I probably instigated much of it…if not all of it.

I was really into gymnastics, with tumbling being my favorite part of it. My sisters and I used to practice our tumbling on the front lawn, so it stood to reason that we would do that when our cousins were there too. We practiced things like cartwheels, hand springs, and touching our toes to our head…which turned out to be a little difficult for my cousin, Jimmy, try as he might. And believe me, his trying was pretty funny. I don’t know if he really thought that he could pull his legs up to his head with his hands, but believe me, you can’t do it. Either you are limber enough, or you aren’t. It’s as simple as that.

The younger kids would do their best to gang up on me, to prove their superiority…or maybe it was just the mere number of them against me, or maybe they had a little help from Aunt Doris. Whatever the case may be, sometimes I found myself out numbered. Of course, it was all in fun, and we had such a good time when they were here or we were there. Just looking at the picture of the dog pile makes me smile. All I can say, is that I’m glad I didn’t have all those kids on top of me. I would have been squished for sure!! What crazy, fun times those were.

Seeing my cousins this summer, took me back to those carefree days. Sometimes, you get used to being away from those you love, and you somehow don’t realize how much we miss those times, until we go back for a Head to ToeUpside Downshort time. Then, the memories flood back in. You talk for hours about all the old times, and you suddenly realize just how much you have missed those times. Nevertheless, time has marched on, and you can’t go back to when you were young. All you can do is try to keep the memories alive in your memory files, and pull them out once in a while so you can relive those moments. Those days are gone, but the memory lives on to remind you that those were the days, and they were great. Childhood is but a fleeting moment, but those days will always be a part of who we are.

Yesteryear's FootballAs we start football season, I recalled a picture that I had seen among my mom’s old family pictures. It was a football practice session most likely at a local school. That reminded me of something I had read a while back about the changes in football gear over the years. As we all know, football can be a dangerous game. Sometimes, the players are hurt slightly and sometimes, quite badly. Unfortunately, it was those injuries that have founded the need for better protection, and therefore, better gear. When American football appeared on college campuses in the 1870’s little was known about the brain damage that could occur from some of the impacts that are a natural part of the game.

In those early years, head protection was rarely worn. As far back as the 1900’s, they had the “head harness” which was a soft leather version of today’s helmet, but it was mainly to protect the ears. I suppose it did, but it also made it difficult to hear, so not many players wore them. Newer versions of the helmet appeared as the years went by, featuring holes for the ears, so they could hear the plays and movement around them. They were made out of plastic, and featured a suspension system to keep the helmet from sitting directly on the player’s head. This also provided a little bit of cushion for their head. Of course, we now know that those older versions did not provide enough protection from concussion, Football Todayand the newer versions probably don’t do enough either, but they are much better than their predecessors.

In the early years, players were subjected to ridicule for putting padding in all the necessary areas that we now know need protection. It was treated as…well, wimpy back then. Now plastic is a part of shoulder pads and pants. It isn’t a perfect solution, but the key here is to keep the players in the game, if possible, because we all know that one of the best things about fall is football…to some people anyway.

Many people think that the elderly have nothing left to give to this world. They are pretty much done, and maybe even waiting to die, right? I couldn’t disagree more. I have been a caregiver since 2005, and while there have been challenges and sadness, the overall experience has been very rewarding. While there have been times when they are irritable, or even downright grouchy, I have found that if you will just walk a mile in their shoes, you will walk away with a new understanding of what they are going through and why they might have mood swings.

I have also found that if you take the time to listen to things they have to say, you can learn a lot about their lives while you are caring for them. These people have live in times that we have no idea about, and listening can teach you a lot about the past…a past that is your heritage. So many of my stories have come from just such talks about days gone by, and I will be forever grateful for having been given the opportunity to hear about it. All too soon, these people could be gone, and with them go all the stories they have stored in their heads. If you have that opportunity, I strongly recommend you have a talk with your parents or other aging loved one so that you can see what it would have been like to walk in their shoes.

Last night and this morning, I found out what it really is like to walk a mile in their shoes, when I experienced a headache that just would not go away, and would not allow me to even think much. My neck was out of place, and after my Chiropractic appointment, I felt much better. Still, it was an eye opener for me, because the one thing a caregiver can’t do, is feel the pain of their patient. For days now, I have been and probably will continue to try to minimize the back pain my mother-in-law feels in an effort to get her to continue to walk. She experiences pain in the low back and would love to get out of walking, which is something I can’t allow, hence the need to minimise. I doubt if she will believe me when I say the it is not so bad, but with Alzheimer’s disease, she will also not remember it later….a very good thing. Nevertheless, I will do whatever I can to minimize it, because after the horrible headache I had last night, I can honestly say that I have walked a mile, or maybe two, in their shoes.

Our family is no stranger to miracles. Sometimes things happen that change lives in an instant. In the blink of an eye you are faced with a situation that is so serious that you have no time to think, and it is just as well, because you can’t wrap your mind around what you are seeing anyway. You find yourself running on autopilot, because it is the only thing that keeps you going. It is at that moment that your faith in God to take care of your child is the most important thing in your life…and theirs.

When my grand nephew, James was six, his dad brought him home after a visitation, and he and my niece, Toni were talking in her back yard while James played. Boys being who boys are, James decided to jump off the deck and swing on the clothes line wire. Unfortunately, the clothes line pole was not very solidly in the ground. When James hit that wire, the pole came down and hit him squarely across the back of the head, cracking his skull. Blood went everywhere, and Toni and Jim couldn’t believe their eyes. Here was their precious little boy injured and bleeding in front of them, and their minds were struggling to come to grips with what they were seeing. They sprang into action, grabbing a towel for his head and rushed him to the hospital.

James began to ask for his grandma, my sister Cheryl, because he wanted her to reassure him that he was going to be ok. Cheryl was called to the hospital, and when she arrived they all prayed over James, and the doctors took him into surgery. James was in surgery for 4 hours, during which time a Titanium plate was placed inside his skull. That plate will be there for the rest of his life.

So many things could have happened that would have brought this situation to a very different ending…but they didn’t. James came through the surgery with flying colors, and the doctors were amazed. He couldn’t have visitors, for a time, because too much movement and stimulation makes it hard for the brain to heal, and there was much healing that needed to happen.

James did remarkably well in the healing process…miraculously so. No other explanation works. He was back to himself very fast for having had a serious head and brain injury, and there were no ill effects from it. It was a miracle. Today that walking miracle is turning 15. James is a sweet, loving young man who is a joy to his parents. His has grown tall, strong and handsome. I don’t know if he knows what a miracle his life is, but we, his family know. We can never forget what God has done for James. His life was repaired and given back to him by a loving and miraculous God. Happy birthday James!! We love you!!

When toddlers are placed in close proximity with a baby, it always seems like the first thing they want to do is touch the baby’s head. I never could figure out what the attraction was. Of course, the last thing the adults want them to touch is the baby’s head. And maybe that is the exact reason why they go for it. Whenever someone hands a baby to someone who is or seems inexperienced, the first thing they say is, “Watch his head!!” It makes the head all important I guess. Or maybe it is because the baby’s head is often pretty bald, so like any other bald head, some people want to rub it…another thing I never could figure out.

When my grandchildren, Christopher and Shai were 16 months old, my third grandchild, Caalab arrived. There were times when Shai, at least, wondered why her parents had to get her a brother. He cried, and she really hated that, but in many ways she loved him too. And to these two best friends and cousins, who spent much of their waking hours together, Christopher and Shai found Caalab to be something of an oddity too. They hadn’t been around babies much, and so they didn’t really know why Caalab did the things he did…like crying, especially when they touched his head or tried to pick him up. They couldn’t figure out what his problem was. And all Caalab could think of was please don’t drop me or poke me in the eye.

For parents keeping the baby safe from the other kids can almost be a full time job, and yet the older children don’t mean any harm. All they want is to be involved with this new little person who takes up so much of the adults’ time, and seems so important to them. I think they are just curious. They want to help out with the baby. They want to play a part in this new life that has come into their world. And they want to see what makes this baby tick, so to speak…probably part of why they have to touch the baby’s head. To a toddler, babies are something very new…and toddlers really just want to understand what all the fuss is about.

As a little boy, just learning to walk, my grandson, Caalab reminded me so much of his mom. Amy took those first teetering steps…about two of them, and from that point on, she ran. She didn’t have time to walk…she had places to go. Caalab was just like that, with one small exception. When Amy started walking/running, I found that getting those cute pictures of the baby plopping down on the ground because they couldn’t balance very well yet, were next to impossible. Amy just didn’t fall.

Caalab on the other hand was a fall waiting to happen. It wasn’t because his balance was off or anything, but rather because he simply got ahead of himself…or should I say, ahead of his own feet. When Caalab wanted to get from point A to point B, he always felt that doing so as fast as possible was the way to go, and in his mind it seemed like a good plan. But, as is often the way with plans…they just don’t work out quite like we saw them in our heads.

When Caalab would start across the room, his upper body was always way ahead of his feet. So much so, in fact, that it wasn’t that it was so far to fall that concerned us, but rather what was going to hit first. As you might have guessed, it was usually his head that hit first, and with uncanny accuracy, as if he was aiming for the sharpest corner in the room, or the decorative handle that might do the most damage.

It wasn’t that Caalab was clumsy, because he definitely isn’t, and really never was. Caalab was just in a hurry. He wanted to see everything, go everywhere, and do everything…now!! He would get so excited, and even though he had run into things head first before, he would still take off at break neck speed, and the next thing you knew, there he was…sporting a new bruise or cut…usually on his forehead. These little boo boo’s were the direct result of head meeting stationary object…always followed by very loud screaming and crying from little boy. Every time there was a new boo boo, I could almost feel the pain, but once his little boo boo was bandaged and/or kissed, Caalab was all better, and off again.

Thankfully those early walking years gave way to the years of far fewer bruises. Caalab learned how to keep his feet caught up with his head. He is still in a hurry a lot of the time, but we don’t have to consider a full time football helmet for him anymore.

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