make believe

My grand-niece, Elliott Stevens is quite a girl. She is totally funny, without even trying. Her imagination runs wild, and she doesn’t need anyone else to make her fun. Sure, she loves to play with other kids, especially her cousins, but she is just as happy to play at home, totally entertaining her parents, Kayla and Garrett. Elliott sets the pace for the day with her antics.

Elliott loves to play make-believe and dress-up, a fact her grandmother, Alena Stevens knows well, so she is always looking for outfits for Elliott. On our recent trip to Wisconsin, Alena found the perfect birthday gift for Elliott…a chef’s outfit, complete with a chef’s hat, apron, and hot mit. The apron expressed Elliot’s imagination perfectly. It said, “Miss Bossy Boots.” It’s not that Elliott is any “bossier” than any other child of three years, but she does like playing the mom/boss/teacher kind of parts. Well, the outfit was a huge hit, and Elliott spent much of her birthday party wearing the outfit, and serving her guests a make-believe meal, that she had prepared herself…of course. Now we just need to add her adorable cowboy boots to the mix.

Elliott love to swim, and her parents got her a wading pool, which is great for these hot summer days. Elliott also loves to slide, and her pool has a slide, so she can do both things together. She also loves the big pools and the lake. Recently, the Stevens family got together at the lake, and Elliott got the chance to really swim. She loved it…so much so that she didn’t want to get out…even to warm up. Her little lips were so cold that they were almost blue and she was shivering. Nevertheless, she wanted to stay in the water. She finally had to get out, of course. Maybe they coaxed her with smores or something. I don’t know for sure, but I now she had a wonderful time, as she always does. They even managed to tame her many curls with the cutest little braids.

And speaking of wonderful times, Elliott got to go to the fair this year. I don’t know if it was her first, but I know that she had a blast. She rode every ride that could take her on, as well as the fun house, which her daddy had to go with her on. It was comical to see Garrett running after his little princess while trying not to bump his head, because the fun house is mostly designed for little kids. I laughed and laughed when I saw the video. Garrett is a great dad, and little Elliott keeps him wrapped firmly around her little finger…along with her mommy too. They are both quite taken with their little princess, Miss Bossy Boots, tumbling, swimming, entertaining baby girl…as are we all. Today our little Elliott turns 3 years old. Happy birthday Elliott!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Mom & Dad Schulenberg_editedMy father-in-law passed away on May 5, 2013, but my mother-in-law is doing ok. Alzheimer’s Disease has removed all memory of his passing. I know that many people look at Alzheimer’s Disease as being a cruel thief. I can agree with the thief part, in that it has taken her memory of recent events away, but cruel…maybe not. Her mind simply creates its own reality. In her mind he is not gone. He is at work or visiting the neighbors or out in the garage. Death means nothing to her. It has been the same with her parents, who have been gone for 28 and 23 years now.

I have long known that she lived in a world of make believe, but that fact never hit home as much as it did tonight, when Bob and I were out visiting her at the nursing home. She often speaks of those who are closest to her, and sometimes she speaks about you…to you, saying things like, “Caryn is going to be cooking dinner for everyone” when she is talking to me, or “Bobby is on his way to Grandma’s for the summer, to help with the cows” when she is talking to Bob. Corrie and Amy, work at the nursing home…at least in her mind, and my father-in-law is over by the telephone, so he will answer it when it rings. These were just a few of the recent things she has talked about, and things we are getting used to hearing.

Tonight…well, tonight was different. We were talking with my mother-in-law, and the conversation was following the normal lines…or at least, it was until it wasn’t. Suddenly she said, “Hun, can you help me get this afghan over to the sewing machine so I can finish it up.” She was talking to Bob, but to her, he was my father-in-law. At first we thought it was just a slip of the tongue, but then it happened again. She said, “Walt, you need to move that other sewing machine to the table.” We didn’t know exactly how to react. It was not the first time she had mentioned him, but it was the first time she spoke to him when it was actually one of the guys in the family. She thinks nothing of talking to him, but we know that he is gone, and the pain of that parting is still very fresh in our hearts Boband minds. We can’t be upset with her for what she says, because in her mind, it is reality, but to us it is make believe. Like it or not, we have to play along, because to do anything different is to make her relive his death over and over again.

I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of my father-in-law visiting my mother-in-law. Her mind will bring it up again, and it’s likely that her sons or grandsons will have to play the part again at some point. They will do it, as often as needed, because it is for her. They can do nothing else. They will play the part…so that she can keep her illusion that the love of her life is never far away.

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