Category Archives: communication

What’s Cookin’?

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What’s Cookin’?

Things have been busy with Rob and Laura. Last week I went in for my usual Monday visit and found that Rob had been struggling that morning. Laura assisted him with getting out of bed and with both of them in their 90’s, I was immediately concerned. We determined that it would be best to get Rob to the doctor which left us several hours before we could get in.

We filled our time with the tasks of getting ready and eating lunch. When that was behind us, Rob and I worked on a puzzle. Confession, I adore puzzles, BINGO, Scrabble and pretty much anything that appeals to the over 80 crowd. What can I say, I’m an old soul. This puzzle was unlike any I’ve ever worked on. It was wooden and the individual pieces were works of art. The shapes of each piece varied from people, dogs, flowers a seemingly endless variety of small wooden masterpieces.

Here’s a link to the manufacturer in case you are a puzzle geek like me. I get nothing for the link just sharing my joy of puzzles – Liberty Puzzles You can also order custom puzzles based on a photo. Rob showed me a puzzle he had made for Laura which was based on a photo of quilts that she made. These people are crafty!

We all went to the doctor and got Rob some antibiotics. I brought over some macaroni & cheese I made for them to sustain them until my next visit. When I came back later in the week, Rob was still not feeling well so I ran some errands while my friends stayed tucked in their warm house. This past Monday I got to meet their daughter and her dog who came to visit over the long weekend. Today I’m making the Beef Stroganoff which I will take to Rob and Laura tomorrow. What’s cookin’ in your world?

 

*The featured image is a puzzle which is available through Liberty Puzzle.

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Don’t Stop Believin’

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Don’t Stop Believin’

My regular readers may recall that my father died this past September. We had a complicated relationship and I was mostly on the losing end of that situation. We’ve gone from childhood abandonment – to awkward random sightings – to being able to socialize and converse about superficial stuff. We weren’t close, we weren’t estranged, we were in some weird limbo state that we were never able to breakthrough.

Everyone goes through emotions when their parents die, even if you aren’t close. I didn’t know what to expect in this situation. My father in-law whom I adored died this past May, that was heartbreaking. I miss him every day, I carry that with me daily. With my own father it was different, like our history, it was complicated. I didn’t know how to “unpack” this complex variety of emotions. I even went to see a Medium about it, I wasn’t impressed.

So now I refer to my father as “Ghost Dad” and we chat. Mostly I chat, he’s a pretty good listener. The Medium I saw said I could ask him questions (simple yes or no questions) and if the answer was yes I would be granted a yellow rose of some sort. Well that sounded like some basic bullsh*t to me. Our relationship wasn’t generic it was a kaleidoscope of dysfunction, not something a yellow rose could handle. I came up with my own sign and I told Ghost Dad about it several times, dozens of times. I wanted, no demanded, a unicorn on a unicycle farting rainbows.

Pretty outrageous sure, but the guy owed me. Here are the links to digital bits of my soul that I have thrown out to the universe in an effort to exorcise the demons:

Broken

Less Than

I’ll Buy My Own Flowers

Anyhow, if you actually clicked on the links and read through that mess, apologies. I know it’s awful and maybe it made you cry…I want you to know that I’m doing well. On Christmas, I got a present from a good friend who did not know about the very specific sign. Here’s a picture:

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Socks which feature a unicorn farting rainbows with “Don’t Stop Believin'” on them. Sure there isn’t a unicycle but I’m still taking it as a sign from Ghost Dad. He heard my expletive laden rants and he has repented in his own way. Today I choose forgiveness.

I have felt so much lighter since I received these socks. So much so that I told the practical side of my brain to sit this one out, Don’t Stop Believin’!

 

 

*The featured photo is of a mug that my outstanding friend Katie gifted me. I’m pretty sure she knew about the unicorn sign thing, she just gets me. Thanks Katie!

 

 

 

Aye, Aye, Captain

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Aye, Aye, Captain

The key chain in the featured photo belongs to my client, Rob (not his real name), he is 94 years old. Gawd, I love a man with a sense of humor. I visit Rob and his wife Laura (Pssst, that’s not her name either) twice a week. Their pseudonyms come from the Dick Van Dyke Show, my blog, my rules. Our visits usually consist of errands and me refilling the numerous bird feeders that surround their home.

They keep the bird seed (several varieties) in the basement and I’ve been asked to check the mouse traps down there as well because apparently mice like bird seed. I don’t have any personal experience with mouse traps (thank you husband) but I don’t want my nonagenarian friends taking a chance on the wobbly wooden steps that lead to an unforgiving cement floor. So I glance toward the mousetraps and give a prayer of thanks each time I find them empty. Last week I accidentally set one off when my foot brushed against it. Fortunately it isn’t flip flop season. Once I’ve checked the traps, I fill four old coffee cans with three types of birdseed and then I make the rounds. My clients are happy, the birds are happy and the mice have stayed out of the traps thus far, everyone wins.

This week one of our errands involved taking my clients to the bank to close an account. Laura told me there wasn’t much in it, just a pesky out of the way account she wanted to close in order to consolidate funds. No problem, the branch is near the grocery store, easy peasy. When we get to the bank and my clients state that they want to close an account, they get ushered into a fishbowl of an office. I sit outside the office but I can peak in because, it’s a fishbowl. After a few minutes I go into the office to see what’s going on because I’m concerned that maybe the employee is trying to strong arm my friends into keeping their account, or worse.

I’m not comfortable being in this situation. I’m at a bank with two elderly people that I’m not related to and they want to close an account and walk out the door with significant funds. It turned out that my clients had four certificates of deposit in this institution with maturity dates that went to 2021. At first the employee was extolling the benefits of keeping the CDs in until they reached maturity at which point my clients will be knocking on 100 years old. I gave her the FFS are you kidding me look which likely made me look like a potential criminal….then I asked my clients to think about what they want to do. I followed up with, if you close the account we must deposit the funds into your primary bank today. We left with a check for over $30K. which was thankfully deposited into their other bank before I left them for the day.

This incident created an emotional collage for me. These are new clients, I’ve only worked for them for a month and here I was in this financially sensitive situation with them. My first instinct was to protect them from the bank, I just wanted to make sure that their money was safe. I got a long slow look at how vulnerable they actually are and it made me sad. Later that afternoon I sent an email to their adult children to keep them informed, they are the lucky ones. How many elderly people have to navigate this stuff alone, without a trustworthy relative or helper?

 

 

 

 

Twit, Follow Me @thebrycewarden

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Twit, Follow Me @thebrycewarden

Hello friends, I wanted you all to know that I have won a very prestigious award. No, no, it’s not one of those tag “you’re it” posts when I assign you homework. Those are fun and educational…this is from the Twitter. You know something is super important if there is a preceding “the”.

Now let’s be honest, I’m a lifelong card carrying Luddite, I do not embrace new technology. And by new, I mean any technological advances in the 21st century. My technical skills fall somewhere between infant and hard core Amish. Practically a blank slate over here.

It being early January, I am trying for the best version of myself. I’m not giving up eating so I had to find something…so let’s get better at the Twitter. Yesterday I engaged in a bit of banter and stumbled upon a contest for “fledglings” defined as Twitter accounts with less than two thousand followers. As it happens, I am slightly under that threshold, by slightly, I mean to say I am approximately 1,750 shy of 2,000 followers. So you know, a few shy (Warning Shameless Plug: please follow me @thebrycewarden and maybe tell your friends).

Anyhow these lovely people @The_Fledglings have weekly contests where you can comment with an original non-assholish tweet to throw your hat in the virtual ring. The idea is to grow your followers. Of course my first attempt at this was a fail because you know, Amish. I did a screenshot of my tweet and dropped it in the comments. The kind people informed me that I needed to drop a link and they even had a tutorial for idiots like me who need a tutor for Twitter. Twelve short hours later, I finally followed the rules and linked my tweet.

You guys…I’m a FLEDGLINGS WINNER! I am almost embarrassed at how happy this makes me, almost.

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Hey Stranger, Don’t Tell Me What To Do

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Hey Stranger, Don’t Tell Me What To Do

A friend posted something on Facebook yesterday that pissed me off. Not sure if it was guilt/shame related or if my reaction was strictly oh FFS not again. This particular post was

8 Things Kids Need to Do By Themselves Before They’re 13

In fairness, these were logical tasks, nothing extraordinary in the group…but why? Why is this person specifically qualified to determine when my kids should make their lunch or do their own laundry? She seems lovely but honestly, she doesn’t get to make the rules in my household.

This can be extended to all of those what to wear/when posts too. As if I need a stylist telling me that sleeveless is no good unless your arms don’t have that flabby mass where muscle tone used to be. I can make those critiques on my own. Personally, I think I’m going to let my freak flag fly higher with each decade. It seems I care less and less about what others think with each year, by the time I’m 90, I may embrace the nudist philosophy or maybe I’ll start piercing everything and 90s hair, don’t care. If I make it to that age, I hope to have my wits in tact and perhaps a mo-hawk, I’ll probably skip the tongue piercing. Probably.

Far, Far Away

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Far, Far Away

Scene: A middle-aged woman walks into an upscale chain restaurant (is that an oxymoron?).

Me: Hi, I’m meeting a friend for lunch, we would like a table for two.

Host: Do you have a reservation?

Me: (Slowly turns head from right to left and counts 5 patrons on my left hand as I spy with my little eye a dozen or so bored employees standing around) No sir, I do not have a reservation, think you could squeeze us in?

Host: Right this way Miss. (He knows I’m not a Miss but guys in any kind of service industry know better than to say Ma’am to any woman under the age of 80 In New Jersey. Southern friends you get a pass and with that accent you can say Ma’am and no one gets offended however, if you bless my heart, I’ll know we have an issue.)

Me: Super, thanks.

So this friend and I haven’t seen each other in a handful of years. We’re both 50 now, we met when we were 15 and became roommates in an adolescent rehab in Long Branch, New Jersey. You probably would never be able to guess this if you were looking at us from afar, just two humdrum moms or perhaps business associates having lunch. I was wearing nice pants and a chenille sweater (I know, I can’t believe chenille is back in style! I love it until you wash it and then the material disintegrates like makeup melting in the summer sun). My friend wore a cute blazer and a beautiful necklace, we were quite civilized, at least if you were judging us on our apparel.

A friendship that spans more than three decades is equal parts decadent and comforting. There is an easiness and a candor to our conversation which surpasses most friendships. We talked about some awful things yesterday; death, health issues and politics. We shared our inner most feelings about our parents which would surely be met with some shock and disdain by a more casual observer, someone who didn’t know our individual histories. There is nothing casual about this friendship though, we have been in the trenches together and on separate paths, and damn it if we both aren’t frickan’ amazing.

The world was not kind to either one us when we met. She came from a family that looked perfect on the outside and was the stuff of nightmares once you pulled up the rug to take a peek. Her father physically beat her, her mother enabled it and added her own emotional and verbal abuse to the toxic mix. Both of her parents worked full time and lived in a desirable neighborhood in Monmouth County. It was a sprawling suburban oasis which bordered more rural areas. They were the kind of people that would send out a Christmas letter which contained a recipe for something delicious while listing the academic achievements of their two children. The letter would include a photo of all four wearing LL Bean with a festive backdrop. Lies, all lies.

My crazy was less subtle. I came from a broken single parent household with a mother who had stopped drinking a few months prior. I didn’t have a tattoo, if I did it would just be three letters – FTW. I was writing that on everything jeans, notebooks, walls, this was in the 80s so I feel like I should get partial credit for the rise of WTF, but I digress. I was a hot little mess and there was no mistaking me for the future Homecoming Queen. I was goth before goth was a thing and the chip on my shoulder was the size of a flying saucer.

So here I was goth girl with the yuppie who wore Ocean Pacific. We found common ground as we were both taking French at the time and shared a tutor named Maximilian. Max was great. He treated us like we were worthwhile, had a genuine interest in our well being and didn’t try to sleep with us (that was shockingly rare). He was keenly interested (or at least made me believe he was) in my profoundly dramatic and somewhat awful poetry. He even gave me a journal so I would have something special to write my poems in, it was incredibly thoughtful. In return, I introduced him to blueberry Hubba Bubba which may have been the single worst gum ever invented. Max, always the gentleman, accepted this token of my affection as if it was a Parisian gourmet treat.

Sample of profoundly dramatic and somewhat awful poetry:

You can never catch me

I’m never within your reach

you just have to set me free

like the waves on the beach

It was March of 1984 when Genevieve and I crossed paths. It was her first stay and my second. My first introduction to our juvie resort was in October of 1983 when I, by some miracle, actually decided to get sober. I got out in December of 1983 and my mother immediately got remarried. That marriage was incredibly brief and led to a cataclysmic shake up of what was once a family of three – my mother, twin brother and I. Our little family was scattered into the universe – my mother trying to find a safe place to start over, my brother couch surfing with friends and I got sent to a cult farm in upstate New York which claimed to be a recovery halfway house (that’s a book all by itself). I ran away from that place after a month and was basically homeless. The rehab in Long Branch agreed to take me in until I could get into another halfway house (one less cultish, Koolaid optional).

From fifteen until now, so much life has been lived, good and bad times. We used to go to AA meetings and often found ourselves at the same one on Tuesday nights. It was there that I found out that Genevieve went “out” again and used. I was devastated, I sobbed and feared for the worst. We had both been sober a couple of years at this point which was remarkable. We watched the revolving door of recovery enough to know that plenty of people never make it back. She did though, a testament to her own strength. I don’t think I have another recovery in me which is why I have been sober since 1983, I’m pretty sure I would lose myself into a permanent oblivion if I ever “slipped”. Slipped isn’t that a nice word for the potential to destroy your life…moving on.

We got sober as teenagers, we are both living, breathing miracles. We did the stuff that teens do – dated inappropriate guys, most of whom were not worthy of us. I say that looking back at a girl who had no self-esteem and shitty role models. I was the poster child for the fragile no-daddy girl, she hated her father, we were both ripe for bad relationships. She married her worst mistake, I dated mine off and on for 4 agonizing years. In between we commiserated and went out to clubs with big hair, high hopes and short skirts.

She had her first baby when we were 19 and she married a guy that beat her when she was pregnant. I threw her baby shower and saw some suspicious bruises, she never admitted it, but I knew. By the grace of God she left that relationship. She worked and put herself through college while her daughter was a baby and into the toddler years. She became a CPA and made her way up the corporate ladder. She met a nice guy about 25 years ago and they got married and had two children. Her path was slow but steady and she fought tooth and nail for everything she got.

I was in a bad relationship in my early twenties that held me back from my own potential. When it ended, I set up a 5 year plan which included finishing my BA and purchasing a house. The most empowering thing I ever did was to buy a house at age 30 and wouldn’t you know it, I closed on Genevieve’s birthday. A few years later, I married the right guy and we have two teenagers, a large dog, a gecko and a carnival goldfish with a will to live which defies logic. When I say that I am living beyond my wildest dreams, it is sincere. I didn’t dare to dream of the life I have now.

So here we were, having lunch…two miracles sitting at the table speaking our minds with the freedom of that invisible safety net of a friend who knows your history. Someone who saw you as a phoenix rising from the ashes…we both flew far, far away.

 

 

That’s My Business…

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That’s My Business…

I recently met with client who used the word “f*ck” as a noun, a verb and an adjective. She switched tenses with the finesse of a linguistic ninja, it was spectacular. The fact that this person is an ordained minister is the icing on the cake. I love my job.

I started a small business in 2014. I fill in the gaps for people when life gets complicated. My usual clients are elderly and they need a little TLC. I check in on them while their adult children work. I share a meal, do some light housekeeping and socialize. I am the eyes and ears for loved ones when they can’t be there.

I’ve visited clients in their own home and at nursing homes. I used to visit a 97 year old man who was in a nursing home. Twice a week I would take him out for lunch at Chick-fil-A and each time he acted like it was the best meal of his life. Every week he would hold up his drink with the wonderment of a young child at Christmas.

“What is this?” Jack would ask

“Sprite” I’d reply

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever had” Jack would say that every week.

It’s incredibly rewarding to be the best part of someone’s day, even if they don’t always remember the details. My lunch date never could get my name straight but he always leapt out of the day room chair when he saw me. He walked across the room with a happy stride and a wide smile planted on his face.

One time around the holidays, I told my nonagenarian (great Scrabble word) friend that he looked festive, things got jumbled a bit. But I liked his version better than mine so we went with that.

“You look festive Jack!” I exclaimed

“Did you say I look sexy?”

“I sure did.”

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Sketch by Lisa McMillen – http://www.cicalisadesigns.com/

It isn’t always so fun and carefree. There are often medical concerns lurking in the background, potential embarrassing moments and the sad realization that this friendship likely won’t last that long.

I used to visit Edith, she was 88 and had severe dementia. One day I came in for my usual lunch visit and she wasn’t wearing pants. How do you handle that you ask? I said “Edith, you didn’t tell me it was no pants Monday” and I promptly got her dressed.

I have a client now who has dementia and a feisty sense of humor.  Last week we were walking in the hallway (“airing out” as we call it) when I had a brilliant, awful idea. The residents put a lot of thought into the decor around their front doors. Wreaths, plaques, photos and other seasonal tchotchkes line the narrow shelves that flank the apartment doors. I suggested that we switch a few of the wreaths around and then watch to see what the residents would do. She thought it was the best idea ever. Of course we didn’t do it, we only dream of being that rotten, but it made her laugh.

I always look for ways to add humor and preserve a person’s dignity. If someone doesn’t want to be checked on I’ll tell them I’m there to walk the dog or do laundry, we a find a way to make it work. My goal is to make them feel like a friend is stopping by to visit because inevitably that’s what it feels like.

I meet most of my clients through a friend or family member. My business is based exclusively on referrals. I tend to have one or two clients at a time because I can serve them better that way. The family dynamics vary with each client but they all love their family member and are so grateful to find reliable help. They each hold a special place in my heart and I am honored to be entrusted with their care.

 

The Show Must Go On

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The Show Must Go On

A couple of years ago I thought – Wouldn’t it be fun to host a variety show to raise some money for the school district. I’m not sure what part of my brain thought I could pull this off but other people encouraged me and the idea moved forward.

Suddenly I’m working as a PR person, casting director and stage manager. Let’s be clear, I am not remotely qualified for any of those jobs and yet, there we were. I had two things going for me – the President of the Ed Fund (Prez) and the School District Superintendent (SI). Without their help it would have been a complete disaster. Even with their help, we barely averted a catastrophe.

Prez and I spent a lot of time hosting auditions and just figuring the whole thing out. Neither one of us did anything like this before and it required a significant amount of sweat equity. About two months before the show we decided to get a professional jazz quartet to be our headliner. The cost would be divided among four volunteers.

Things were starting to fall into place, press releases were sent out, a coherent schedule was coming together and ticket sales were brisk. About a week before the show we were informed we couldn’t have full use of the stage and the jazz quartet got another gig that night. Dafug?!

We got the stage cleared and shifted the schedule around to have the quartet open instead of close the show. Ok, we got this. We held rehearsal two days before the show and it was a complete disaster. The acts showed up at random times, the sound guys were having technical difficulties, total chaos ensued. I really thought this would end poorly with some expert level public humiliation.

We trudged forward. The next night Prez and I worked with the sound guys to get the order of the show finalized with lights and sound. We stayed until midnight to make sure everything was set for the next day. By the way, the sound guys were two high school students who were also donating their time. I can’t even tell you how much respect I have for their work ethic. We bribed them with food, rides and gift cards. The show would not go on without them.

The day of the show was finally here. I went to my daughter’s basketball game in the morning and was talking with a good friend of mine, another mom in the district. She asked if I was nervous. I told her that I was a little, but at that point we had done everything we could to make it a success so I just hoped for the best.

Our Superintendent was going to emcee the show with a member of the faculty. Two hours before the show he got a text saying that the other gentleman could not attend because he fell down the stairs that morning. I requested proof of the injuries. I saw a photo, sure enough the guy was busted up. I tucked that one away in case I need to get get out of some future event. I’ve got three sets of stairs in my house, it could happen.

We decided to have the show again the following year. It was easier than the first year because we had some idea of what we were doing. We were better organized, a little more confident and things were going smoother than the first show.

The show is held in the high school auditorium. We are guests of the school and need to respect the rules of use. There is an elevated stage and two pianos on each side of the area in front (not on) the stage. Last year I had a parent insist that one of the pianos be moved for his son’s act.

Stage Dad: Excuse me, who is in charge of this show?

SC: I guess that would be me and Prez.

Stage Dad: We need to move that piano to the stage.

SC: I’m sorry, we can’t do that. It’s stationary, trying to move it would be risky and would likely put it out of tune.

Stage Dad: No this is unacceptable it has to be moved! No offense but I’m going to need to speak with someone higher up.

SC: Oh you mean the person who signs my checks? Sure, oh wait a minute…I forgot I don’t get paid. You can discuss it with the Superintendent.

This year will be our third event and I won’t even be there. In true cringe fashion, I realized I had a date conflict while sitting in a recent event planning meeting. I was looking at a flyer for the show and my brain was trying to sort out why the date seemed familiar, oh that’s right I will be out of town. Keep in mind I helped pick the date of the show, yay me! We tried to change the date but the auditorium isn’t available so I guess I’ll miss it (no stairs required).

 

 

*Featured Image Sketch by Lisa McMillen http://www.cicalisadesigns.com/

I’ll Buy My Own Flowers

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I’ll Buy My Own Flowers

On Monday I went to visit a Medium (I’ll insert the eye roll for you). Personally, I would love to believe in magic, the Tooth Fairy, comprehensive affordable health insurance and “the afterlife”. Truth is, I don’t know what happens when we die. My father died in September and I’ve been struggling with the aftermath so I figured why not see someone.

I got the name from a dear friend who lost her husband several years ago when he died suddenly at 39 years old. Someone dragged my friend to see this woman and it was an amazing experience. My friend is more of a skeptic than me so I was intrigued. I got the number and made my appointment.

While I didn’t expect a miracle, it would have been nice to get a clear cut sign. A little wave from the people on the other side that I think of often. I was most curious about my father since we had some unresolved issues. Well, now I guess it’s just me with the unresolved issues, he’s been pretty quiet about the entire thing.

In my grief, I’ve had some heated one-sided conversations with my father and his second wife (she died twenty years ago). I basically cursed them both out for neglecting myself and my brother. I give my father the bulk of blame for this…as a woman and a mother, I can’t let his wife off the hook entirely. Abandoning us for a couple of decades until they figured out what to do with us (not much). Justifiable anger is the stuff that will rot your soul. I want it gone. So I thought perhaps seeing a Medium would help.

I did go in there as a cynic, a non-believer if you will. I have no poker face, and a very thin filter. My resting bitch face may have given away my cynicism. She immediately told me to uncross my legs so she could look for breaks in my aura or energy or something. I don’t know, apparently I have a 50 foot red aura which indicates some anger (thank you resting bitch face).Later in the conversation (not a reading) she said that she hoped my aura would change to green for emotional healing.

She also acted kind of weird at one point. Not sure if this is normal for this setting (OK, nothing is normal) but here goes:

Medium: You are the most spiritually evolved person I have ever seen, what could you possibly want to learn from me. I’m an asshole, you’re a saint.

Me: Um, whaaaaat?

Medium: You’re a saint, I’m a pig. Why are you here?

Me: I wanted to see if you saw any…um, relatives around me.

Medium: That’s not my specialty. Do you have photos?

Me: I do.

And she looked at a photo of my father and of my father-in-law (he passed away in May). She talked about them both made some observations. I was pretty quiet as I didn’t want to feed her information (still a cynic despite her pegging me as the most spiritually f*cking evolved person EVER).

In my one-sided chats with my deceased father I have requested a very specific sign and it is pretty ridiculous. Let’s just say that I demanded to see a-black-lab-juggling-flaming-swords type of ridiculous. (Psst…that’s not it, I can’t tell you the real sign because then if I see it somewhere I’ll just assume one of my blogging friends engineered it. Yes, I realize that is also ridiculous, don’t judge me I’m grieving, damn it). Let’s just say my new Medium pal suggested another sign as reassurance from my father, flowers. I may have rolled my eyes out loud when she suggested this because it was so far removed from the sign I envisioned and it’s just so damn basic. Bitch, I am not basic.

So I left there pretty much the same way I came in, a non-believer. A deeper realization that if my father didn’t put the effort in while he was on earth, why would I think he would change now. This isn’t new information, I know this, so today I bought my own flowers. Heal thyself.

The Man on the Bed

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The Man on the Bed

I made a new friend yesterday, his name is Lenny and he’s 85. He happens to be dying of lung cancer but we didn’t talk much about that. I went to visit him as a hospice volunteer. Lenny’s house is a treasure trove of art and dust. His room smells like urine and his clothes are in a pile on the floor near his bed. If you can look past that, you are rewarded with art from several cultures and genres.

Soon after I arrived I noticed a copy of “The Man on the Bed” painting. This painting was created by Robert M for the December 1955 Grapevine (an Alcoholics Anonymous publication). I commented on the painting and informed my new friend that I was sober 35 years though I don’t go to meetings anymore. Lenny also got sober in the 80’s and attends 6 – 10 meetings a week.

The man is on oxygen and has a catheter and it doesn’t stop him. We joked about the car he drives which happens to be a Ford Escape and we decided it was the perfect name for his vehicle. Indeed he is escaping every time he leaves the house. For an hour or so he is welcomed into a warm room full of people he is fond of, embracing the humanity of it as a respite from the confines of his bed.

We talked a lot about Lenny’ s life, he’s had a fascinating life. He was born in Copenhagen in 1934. He spent his childhood in institutions as he was abandoned by his parents. His country was under German occupation during World War II when he was a child. He has vivid memories of interacting with German soldiers as a young boy. He recalled one memory when he was affectionately picked up by a German soldier and placed in the sidecar of a Zundap motorcycle which had a machine gun attached to it.

He never sat in a traditional classroom, he taught himself to read by working out the captions under illustrations. He has always been drawn to art and artists. He credits his time at the Summerhill School in Suffolk England for encouraging his creativity. He described it as a free range approach to education, no classroom required.

He became a mason apprentice at 14 and got his Mason Certificate and Union Book four years later. He traveled the world through his trade and spent time in Sweden, Norway, Germany, Greenland and Australia. He came to the USA in 1963, he arrived on old freighter which was riddled with bullet holes. He disembarked in Hoboken, New Jersey and got his green card.

We didn’t spend a lot of time talking about his three marriages. He did tell me that each of his wives was wonderful and that the blame for failure was his alone. He had four children and two died from overdoses. We didn’t dwell on it, he took the blame for that as well. He told me he was a lousy father, not at all present for his children when they were growing up. Three decades of sobriety has a way of smoothing out the rough edges of self acceptance.

Sometimes you need to spend time with the dying to fully appreciate living. I can’t wait to visit my new friend again.