Category Archives: Friends

Dementia

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Dementia

Dementia is a beast. I have a client that I visit a couple of times a week, she has moderate dementia. I’ve been visiting her and her husband for almost a year and we’ve gotten very close. She’s a bit feisty and I like to tap into that side of her personality, she seems happy there.

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 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.

She turned 80 this past weekend. My friend celebrated with her extended family and she sounded happy when I called her. I was surprised she picked up the phone. She is very picky about which calls she takes and I didn’t think she would recognize my name on the Caller ID. I suspect her family urged her to answer.

That’s the awful part about dementia. You forget – people, places, names, events….where the bathroom is, what’s a brush, how to read. My friend still recognizes that my face is a friendly one and she enjoys our time together. She just can’t connect all the dots.

Today she asked me if I liked any boys. I told her I still liked my husband, she chuckled. She asked again a few minutes later and I simply said “not really.” I never press a person with dementia or try to explain complicated situations. I’ll distract them to try to calm them but I avoid correction. Any change gets her antsy. It could be a different pill container or a blue cup instead of a red one, change is hard.

Last week I was straightening up the apartment and I noticed a pat of butter in a dose cup. The kind of cup that cradles the lid of cough medicine. There sitting on the bathroom vanity was a pat of butter in a dose cup. That’s what dementia looks like. You try to make sense of it but it in the end rational thought does not prevail. You just find the logic where you can and hope to ease the stress and anxiety with some laughs along the way.

My friend wrote a note to me on Tuesday. She wrote in on a napkin, her way of making me promise I would be back soon. This is what she wrote:

 

“I will come

on Friday.

Hurry Up or Else!

Keep this.

Love, Helen”

 

 

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My Seat at the Table

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My Seat at the Table

Yesterday I took 7 girls to the mall. My daughter recently turned 13 and that was her birthday wish. She actually wanted to bring one more girl but we ran out of seats. I try to keep my mouth shut whenever I drive a carload of kids. You can get some good intel if you’re quiet. My problem is I want to sing along to the songs on the radio. Car karaoke is one of my favorite pastimes and I’m quite passionate about it. I lose all restraint if something by Queen, Journey or Pat Benatar graces the waves. I get a lot of side eye from my daughter who rides shotgun on these excursions.

The mall is a solid 40 minute drive away so I got to hear a few things. At one point they were discussing whether they want to have boys or girls later in life. There were mixed views, most stated that girls would bring a lot more drama than boys. I felt a little sad over that and realized this is a message they are receiving from all of us. I also recognized that indeed there is more drama in my daughter’s life then my son’s. He also is less apt to discuss his social issues with me (perhaps a classic closed off male?). So there were two stereotypes tapping me on the shoulder. Try harder mom.

Last year when I did a similar trip to the mall, I trailed behind letting the girls lead the way. This time I was asked to sit in the food court. I agreed to that as long as there were consistent texts and they met me at an agreed upon time. They had an hour and a half off the leash. I got texts from my daughter letting me know which stores they were in. Then something awkward happened.

While I was doing time in the food court, I was texting a good friend telling her my daughter wanted to get a second piercing in her ears and how I told her to ask her dad if it was OK. I also mentioned that I had never been more certain of a “no”. That text was meant for a friend but I accidentally sent it to my daughter. I got a hmmmm….response on that and I’m sure that will boomerang it’s way back to me. She forgets things all the time (gym uniform, socks, hats) this is something she will remember. I didn’t say anything bad just gave away that I talk to friends about this stuff and she gathered some intel of her own for how I attend to some parental issues. Quid pro quo.

Eventually we made our way to dinner at a chain restaurant. They seated us at a table that would have been considered Al fresco if we weren’t still indoors. The table was outside of the main seating area and in a corridor with a low metal fence creating a boundary between diners and shoppers. The girls looked at the kids menu and the regular menu and they all settled on some variation of pizza from the kids side. I didn’t ask them to order from there they just did it on their own. This is a considerate group.

At one point they asked for crayons to use on the kids menus and that was a pleasant surprise. A bunch of 12 and 13 year old girls comfortable enough with their friends to still be kids. I know that will change in the months to come so I soaked it in. At one point they realized our table could be seen from the security monitor that is displayed near the mall entrance so frantic waving ensued.

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They also spent time making pretend promos for shows that exist only in their imaginations. They tried duplicating the Disney promos where the promoter draws a heart. Then a sad discussion about the end of the K.C. Undercover show. Everyone at the table is a huge Zendaya fan. I was happy to have some understanding of the topic. I suspect at some point in the near future I won’t have any idea what they’re talking about or I simply won’t be at the table. For now, I’m keeping my seat.

Observations of a Winter Break (REDRUM)

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Observations of a Winter Break (REDRUM)

The family just got back from four days in the frozen Tundra, also known as New Hampshire. The plan was to spend some quality time snowboarding with the kids and visiting with another family at a mountainside resort. Confession, I don’t snowboard or ski so I basically read and freeze my ass off waiting for them to come off the mountain.

Road trips are painful. Specifically my ass hurts from all the sitting. Just when my coccyx was healing – Boom, 10 hours in the car. I wasn’t the only casualty. My husband managed to poke himself in the eye with an eye drop dispenser. I won’t mention that he was putting the the eye drops in while driving…oops. No worries, I was steering from the passenger seat while this circus act was performing “on the road”.

Our family of four in a hotel room makes me claustrophobic and cranky. I love my family, I do. I just don’t want to be physically tethered to them 24/7. The lack of physical personal space and privacy puts my inner loner on edge. My husband and I each shared a bed with a kid. After years of being physically assaulted by the combative starfish that our children morph into while they sleep, we have devised a system. We use pillows, towels, blankets, anything we can find to create a barrier in the middle of the bed. Sure it takes up valuable real estate in an undersized double bed but, it cuts down on bruising and resentment.

The hotel we stayed at reminded us of “The Shinning”. In fact, rumor has it that Stephen King was inspired by this hotel which used to close each winter. Not The Stanley Hotel in Colorado but the Omni Mount Washington Resort. Who knows if it’s true we just like to tweak the kids a bit, retaliation for the lack of bed space. I may or may not have written R E D R U M on the bathroom mirror when it fogged.

It was cold while we were there, colder than Antarctica during our visit. Antarctica was a balmy near zero while we dipped into double-digit negative temps. I had never experienced those temperatures prior to this trip. It was so cold it made the news:

https://www.boston.com/weather/weather/2017/12/28/mount-washington-breaks-low-temperature-record-for-the-day

The first day we arrived I had a massage scheduled. It only lasted one magical hour. The waiting room was gorgeous with chaises, dim lighting and they had snacks. I didn’t want to leave. I pretended the appointment lasted an hour longer just to soak in the calm and partake in the peppermint tea and trail mix. I foolishly took my phone off of airplane mode and was promptly hunted down by my daughter, rookie mistake. If there’s a next time I’m going to “forget” to bring my phone.

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My not-so-secret hideout for a blissful hour before my daughter tracked me down.

The first full day there the hubs and his childhood friend decided to do a zip line canopy tour. I mean who doesn’t want to dangle on a frozen wire a 100′ off of the frozen ground. It was supposed to be a 3 hour tour. It lasted about an hour and a half because they were the only people “brave” (insert stupid here) enough to do this in -25 temps. When he left, my parting words were “please come back with all of your body parts”…”still attached”. Then I rolled over into the pillow barrier that saved me from countless blows from my daughter (Starfish 2). Starfish 1 luxuriated in having the bed to himself.

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This is not my husband or his childhood friend. Apparently some other fool thought this was a good idea.

While the men were out the moms and kids met up for a historic tour of the hotel. Well, one kid, out of the 4, joined the tour for 20 minutes while the rest stared at their phones while sitting together in the Conservatory. The tour was fascinating and we learned a good amount about Joseph and Carolyn Stickney, the visionary for the hotel and his wife.

Joseph Stickney made his fortune through coal and the Pennsylvania Railroad. He was very passionate about building the Mount Washington Hotel into a grand destination for the ultra rich families that would visit it for entire summers. They broke ground for the hotel in 1900 and it opened in July of 1902. The architect was Charles Alling Gifford, this was his best known structure.  Mr. Stickney hired 250 Italian stone artisans to work on the hotel and some of the artisans family crests still decorate the columns in the main dinning room.mtwash-omni-mount-washington-main-dining-room-interior-overview.jpg

Sadly Joseph Stickney died in December of 1903. Carolyn inherited the grand hotel and became one of the richest women in America. Ten years later she married into French royalty and became known as “Princess Carolyn”.

According to our guide, Princess Carolyn became a bit “eccentric” which is code for rich girl gone crazy. She had a special table in the dinning room. Before entering she would see what the other ladies were wearing from her private balcony. If she felt outdone by a guest she would change, some evenings she changed a handful of times before sauntering down to her reserved table. Once the princess was seated, the dinning room doors were shut and no one was allowed to enter or leave until she departed. I heard this was the inspiration for the Eagles song “Hotel California” – I just made that up do not Google it.

In 1936 Carolyn died and the hotel went to her good-for-nothing nephew. Apparently he was a rich party boy without an ounce of sense in his head. The hotel was shuttered within six years. World War II didn’t do it any favors and the grand property fell into disrepair. By 1944 the hotel switched hands a couple of times and became a host to the delegates which formed the Bretton Woods System for financial trading against the US dollar (which eventually collapsed in 1971). Financial details, blah blah blah the real travesty was described to the tour attendees as the great white paint massacre.

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Prior to the global financial meeting of 1944, hundreds of painters were sent to the Mount Washington Hotel with 50 gallons of white paint per person. The instructions were simple yet profoundly idiotic, paint everything white. The painters dutifully and unmercifully followed their orders as they painted over mahogany columns and Tiffany glass windows with reckless abandon. In 2006, the property was acquired by Omni Hotels & Resorts which, has since poured millions of dollars into the restoring the property and adding some modern perks to keep it viable. It’s a gorgeous property.

Back to our family trip, on the second full day the men and kids went snowboarding (-5 f). The other mom and myself dutifully led our kids to snowboarding lessons like Sherpas. Then we spent the next 8 hours in a crowded frigid ski lodge on the lookout to see if we could spot our kids. How they managed to last that long in sub zero temperatures amazes me. We thought for sure they would be finished after lunch but those fools went outside again until 3pm. We continued our watch and plotted our next family trip, we are both vying for a Southern destination next year.

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I’m pretty sure one of my kids is in this picture. Like 20% sure…nope those are strangers, sigh.

Some how they all made it off the mountain with all body parts intact and no frostbite. Moms breathed a sigh of relief and we all went back to the hotel for a final meal together. This time we ate in what was once Princess Carolyn’s private dinning room. Rumor has it that this area escaped the great white paint massacre because they simply ran out before they got to it. It was a great way to cap off the vacation at the hotel.

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Fun fact the red “Porters Chairs” use to line the hotel’s porch. The hooded top provides shelter from wind. These are replicas. The painting to the left is an impressionist style portrait of Princess Carolyn which she commissioned.

On the road early the next morning, OK 9:15ish that’s pretty good for us. I was up each day by 7am going up and down 192 steps to fetch coffee and breakfast staples. I would also sneak in a few minutes to drink my coffee and stare out the window, not a bad view. That is Mount Washington. The thickest white line is where the cog railway travels to and from the mountain peak. You can read about it here – http://thecog.com/cog_history.php

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You can see the reflection of a light fixture in this photo. Another fun fact is that Thomas Edison attended the Grand Opening to turn the lights on which he designed. On a personal note, I am solidly team Tesla.

Our trip home took a long 10 hours which included a nice lunch in Brattleboro, Vermont. I can recommend the New Englandah at the Whetstone Brewery, the clam chowdah also got rave reviews. The only downer was the state of Connecticut. For some reason they can’t get their sh* together in the traffic department.

I have never traveled through Connecticut without hitting some type of clusterf*ck on the highways. On the way to New Hampshire we encountered several slowdowns due to accidents and rubbernecking, all in Connecticut. On the way back we experienced something really special.

We were traveling on Route 15 and encountered a slow down of magnificent proportion. After about an hour of turtle speeds, we found ourselves near the front of the slowdown where we identified the culprit…a snowplow which managed to take over both lanes of the highway. This was happening to opposing traffic as well. In the twilight, the highway resembled a gaudy necklace with 2 rows each of red and white lights. Here’s the rub, there was no snow on the damn highway at the time. So overtime pay, a bad attitude, drunk on plow power or just mindlessly following orders…we will never know the reason why those plows decided to destroy traffic. It does however, seem like an appropriate way to end 2017.

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Notice the clear roads where the plow can’t reach. This genius was plowing already plowed snow on an 8 inch shoulder tying up two lanes of traffic for miles.

Red Sweater Likes to Prank

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Red Sweater Likes to Prank

I know we’re all crazy busy with the holidays. A quick, cute story from my day at the office. Bear in mind, my office is an Assisted Living Facility where my job is to bring joy to my clients. I’m a cynic by nature so some days I have to dig deep. Today was easy.

I took Helen to a Christmas Carol sing-along in the activities room. Sometimes it takes a while (a solid hour or more) to get my friend ready. Today she was dressed when I arrived. I think I heard distant trumpets blaring and the sound of angels singing at this good fortune. We were soon on our way downstairs.

We found a spot and got seated. A nice lady was playing the organ and the residents were singing along to carols. We followed along with the program which, thankfully had lyrics printed for all 33 carols. There was a tenor about four seats to my right who had an impressive set of lungs. Across the room someone was dressed as Santa. It was obviously a female Santa based on the boots and the range of her voice. I love it when people go all in to make things special. She was definitely all in.

After the singing there was cake. One thing I really enjoy about seniors is their love of sugar. Any occasion is an excuse for dessert. After cake, Helen and I stood and I hustled to make a clear path for her. A gentleman sitting to our left took a dramatic pause to put his right foot out in Helen’s path in a faux effort to trip her.

Helen gave him some side eye to which he replied “what, I didn’t feel a thing”. Upon closer inspection, I realized our red sweater friend had a prosthetic leg and a good sense of humor.IMG_3373.JPG

My Clients, A (Brief) Love Story

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My Clients, A (Brief) Love Story

I don’t mean to brag but my job is better than yours. I started a business a few years ago to fill in the gaps for families. I run errands, let the dog out, greet kids at the bus stop, take people to appointments; a variety of services for people that need help. Sometimes it’s a one time deal, other jobs are long term. As the business has grown, it has taken a definite turn toward the more mature client. Most of my steady clients have been in their 80’s and 90’s, their families hire me to check in on them with a social visit.

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I have always been fond of the elderly, even as a child. My cousins would pair off during holiday gatherings and I would visit with Nana and Pop-pop. I loved their stories and their inability to filter themselves. Even as a kid, I found it refreshing to be around people that simply spoke their mind without fear of reprimand. This fondness has followed me my entire life.

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I currently visit a couple twice a week. Ralph and Helen have been married for over 60 years and they still kiss each other goodbye and say “I love you” when one is going out without the other. These are usually outings to a social activity within the assisted living facility where they reside. Ralph is a frequent participant in Wii Bowling and Helen likes to beat me at tabletop shuffleboard.

The featured image for this post is the face of the card that they gave me the other day. Here’s what Helen wrote inside:

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I adore these people.

You’re Bleaching Whaaaat?

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You’re Bleaching Whaaaat?

Anal bleach, this exists people. Let me back up (wink) and explain. The hubs and I went to a party last night. A majority of the party was a group of friends known as the car guys and their wives. The car guys met through their love of cars and somehow, despite this seemingly shallow connection, have sowed deep rooted friendships. For a handful of years we have socialized  – parties, annual beach getaways, vacations and weddings. It’s an interesting group of friends, the book writes itself.

Last night’s party is one of the group’s traditions. There is always an “adult” gift exchange, some variation of the white elephant. I always aim for funny with potential for mildly offensive, it’s my comfort zone. I brought a “People of Walmart” desk calendar, who wouldn’t love that! I also brought a book with stickers for adulting.

This is a bit of a rub because I was actively brainstorming this idea a few years ago. I got sick of sewing (OK my father in law sewed…but still, annoying AF) badges on my daughter’s brownie sash. Throughout the process (basically, when I had to safety pin badges on 3 minutes before an event, because, that’s what I do) I would think, damn there should be adult badges. But badges are such assholes with their need to be sewn on and they are kind of a commitment. Badges are the tattoo of the sewing world. No, I thought to myself, stickers would be better – cheaper, less hassle. Wouldn’t you know, someone else thought it was a good idea and bippity, boppity, boop – –

So back to the party. The hubs and I brought two gifts – the People of Walmart desk calendar and the adult sticker book. Oh and the party had a plaid theme. Most of the guys looked like lumber jack wannabes with some variation of red & black checkered shirts. The ladies hit Victoria’s Secret hard and got the same pattern in PJs. I wore normal clothes with a plaid scarf because I’m a chicken shit. I tired to find something plaid, I really did. I ordered a plaid skirt from Amazon and honestly, when I looked at it, I heard the sound of bagpipes in my mind and I didn’t want to look like this –

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The sad part of is I didn’t even win the “Least Festive” category (oh yes there are contests too). Some bitch in a pink sweater dress won. I can’t even win at losing….hey wait, I think that means I did win at losing. Screw you pink dress lady, I’m a bigger loser than you. I feel better now.

Back to the gift exchange. It was some variation of a white elephant except there was a board and you had to pull instructions from it…like find a brunette and exchange gifts. This was confusing to me because I have highlights, am I blonde, brunette, I don’t freakin’ know anymore, the bleach has gotten to me. So I went up to some lady who looked like Velma Dinkley with much better hair and exchanged gifts. Did I mention that I did this out of turn and it was completely inappropriate? Oh and I’m the sober one at these events which makes it all the more laughable.

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I slithered back into the kitchen after that awkward moment and Chrissy (one of the car guy wives) says “keep that bag, don’t let them get it.” So I basically hid in the kitchen area with a few of the guests, protecting my gift like a momma bear with her cub. At the end of the exchange we all opened our gifts. Chrissy gifted us with “marital aids” which would have been the highlight gift of the evening if this didn’t show up – one of the other wives went home with this. It was placed in a really cute bottle holder, dressed like Santa. It looked innocent enough, sigh.Picture 1 of 1

Folks I didn’t know products like this existed. I’m not a prude. I’ve had a Brazilian Wax or two in my day but (butt) really, I don’t even want to go to the trouble of whitening my teeth. Reminds me of a movie I saw recently (hysterical, BTW)-

 

So this was our kickoff to a month of parties. This one will be tough to top.

#MattLauer #TaxReform #Russia #Pocahontas – because I need traffic, damn it.

Life Hacks for Surviving the Holidays

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Life Hacks for Surviving the Holidays

Geezus it’s barely December and I’m already feeling the anxiety swell. So many events, gifts, decorating, cooking, cleaning and our family calendar is exploding. Trying to take a deep cleansing breath to prepare myself for the madness. Here are some things I may or may not do to get through the next month.

Refuse to get offended. That’s right, I won’t get offended over much of anything. Parties I don’t get invited to (phew I needed a night off), gifts I don’t get and people that say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. I think you need to tuck your privilege in if you get insulted by a salutation that doesn’t start with “Hey @sshole”, just my opinion.

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I will not force traditions. Traditions are great, until they aren’t. I make seven fishes for Christmas Eve. It’s a nod to my Mother in law who passed away in 2007. I am not Italian by birth so I was excited to embrace this as something my kids will reflect on later in life (thankfully they like fish). That one is a keeper. Seeing some variation of “A Christmas Carole” or the “Nutcracker” every year is repetitive and expensive so we gave it up.

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Speaking of traditions….maybe you are one of the millions who has that Elf on the Shelf creature living rent free in your home. Sick of moving it? We watched this in mid November, oddly enough the kids have lost interest in Dash.

Just say “No.” No is indeed a complete sentence which does not require further explanation. You really don’t have to go to every event that crosses your path. Or scale back if you are so inclined. I go to a cookie throw down each December. It’s a great time and people that bake need to bring 10 dozen cookies. It’s a fun competition and I still attend the party I just don’t bake 10 dozen cookies to cross the threshold. The hostess has cleverly turned this into a charitable event by encouraging non-bakers to donate to a local Ronald McDonald House. Everyone wins and there are still cookies.

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Back up gifts. This one has saved me a thousand times. Have some back up gifts on hand, already wrapped and ready to go. I keep extra gift cards, bottles of wine and a few generic toys and books on the ready in case it’s needed. It doesn’t have to be expensive just something to ease that awkward moment when someone  hands you an unexpected gift.

 

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Meditate. This always invokes an image of the Dalai Lama sitting crossed legged, breathing in exaggerated “Aaaaaaaaaaaaahs”. Sure that works but it isn’t the only way to meditate.

According to Psychology Today – Meditation is the practice of turning your attention to a single point of reference. It can involve focusing on the breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase known as a mantra. In other words, meditation means turning your attention away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment.

Yesterday, I worked on a 1,000 piece puzzle. It calms me and clears my head. Your meditation can be anything – walking, knitting, exercise – as long as it takes your full concentration and shushes your brain.

Whatever and however you celebrate, I hope it’s great!

Middle School (pssst….it NEVER ends)

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Middle School (pssst….it NEVER ends)

Today I witnessed something that made me shudder and think….G-damn this middle school mentality never ends. I was visiting an elderly client, she isn’t quite 80 yet, so not that old (the definition keeps getting pushed back…..pretty soon everyone will be young or middle aged until they reach triple digits then and only then will they be considered elderly). I was slightly horrified to realize how much an assisted living facility (ALF – wait, wasn’t that a TV show…) can mirror middle school.

The hallways are filled with seasonal decorations. Each apartment door is decked out for whatever holiday is up next. Some of these people get carried away and I think there must be some kind of secret contest or perhaps it gets discussed at dinner. Dinner is a big deal. The time and table placement of the reservation reflects some kind of ALF hierarchy which I have not yet decoded. My clients aren’t regulars in the dinning room and I think it’s decreasing their stock.

There are popular residents and those that struggle with physical issues and/or social anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, some of the more outgoing residents deal with physical and social issues, they just soldier through it and show up at dinner and bingo every chance they get. The introverted shy gals like my friend can get lost in the shuffle. Pair a quiet  personality with a touch of dementia and the friend list gets anemic.

As we often do, Helen and I were playing table top shuffleboard in the lobby. We do this about twice and week and we both enjoy it. We were having fun, talking smack to each other and taking turns playing poorly, when a group sat at a nearby table. It started with just two people – Janet and Bob. Janet was talking about a recent hospital stay. She and Bob compared notes on blood thinners and MiraLAX. It was entertaining to listen to and not an uncommon conversation given the demographic.

Soon the two were joined by 3 more and the topic changed to a recent party. One of the ladies just had a blow out celebration for her birthday, a surprise party. Over 50 people attended and it took her more than an hour to read through all of the cards….she mentioned that no less than 3 times. I wanted to shout “we heard you the first two times Marge” but that seemed inappropriate. I could tell my shuffleboard partner was not happy. We played one more round, hearing details about a cake and how good the food was, then we headed upstairs to the apartment she shares with her husband.

As we were slowly shuffling out of there, my friend whispers “have you ever felt out of place?” to me. I knew she was upset about not being invited to the party. I got her upstairs and we talked it out a bit. I handled it the way I would with my kids who are both deep in the throes of middle school. First I validated her feelings. “Yes” I said, “I have felt out of place and it sucks. I’m sorry you are feeling that way.” Then I suggested a few things and gave the other people the benefit of the doubt. I said, “I don’t think they were discussing the party to make you feel bad. They were probably just rehashing the experience and not considering how it might make others feel.”

My friend was grateful but was still upset and I wanted to help her beyond this 20 minute conversation, if that is even possible. I suggested the same things I have to my daughter in similar situations. Insert yourself into the activities so you are not overlooked. Make it a point to go out and try new things. Go to dinner, bingo and think about focusing on one or two friends instead of trying to get into a larger social group.

The only thing worse than talking to your kids about the horrors of socializing in middle school….is talking to a nearly 80 year old about the same damn things. It broke me a bit but I kept it together. I gave her a hug, told her I loved her and that I would be back on Friday. Oh and I gave her a big bowl of ice cream because sometimes, ice cream gets you through the tough stuff.

 

Last Call

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Last Call

I encountered a situation yesterday that was a first in my ten years as a hospice volunteer. A couple of days ago the Volunteer Coordinator sent out an email asking for a volunteer. She gave a summary of the case including the town, first name of the patient and a description of the requested visit. The patient was in my town so I responded immediately that I would like to help this family. The next day a secure email was sent to me with the patient name, address and contact information.

Last night I called the patient’s wife to schedule the visit. A woman answered the phone and I asked if it was Helen, my contact. “No”, the shaky voice replied. I explained the reason for my call and a slight sense of dread was building. “No need to visit, he died about an hour ago. He’s still on the floor waiting for the funeral director to get him.” I could hear the tears in the voice on the other end of the phone and then it clicked, I know this person.

“Jan, is that you?” I asked, sure that I knew the person on the other end of the line. “Yes” she replied. I gave my full name, said how sorry I was and asked if there was anything I could do in that moment. There wasn’t anything to do, except to express my deepest condolences which is what I did. She thanked me for the call and we said good-bye.

I could picture my acquaintance on the phone. Tears, that keep coming when you think you’re all cried out. I could feel her concern for her newly widowed mother. I wondered if she ate dinner or if she would sleep over her parents home to ease the adjustment of that awful first night. I imagined a fitful night with not much sleep, except for an hour or so when the emotional exhaustion just overwhelms your body and forces you to rest despite your mind’s best efforts to keep you up. I could sense the headache, the nasal congestion and the scratchy throat, remnants of many tears shed. I felt her grief and I took a little piece with me. I still have it.

Alternate Universe

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Alternate Universe

I’ve managed to create this nice little alternate universe for myself via my blog. I have a handful of in the flesh friends that know about it, but not many. My blog followers, select few that you are, have come here like a gift from the blogosphere (that’s a legit word). I get a slight tingle when I see a new country highlighted in the WordPress stats. Today someone from Japan read one of my posts. No idea how or why they got here but isn’t that cool? I’m in Pennsylvania, typing away and someone in Japan just wandered in. It’s fascinating to me probably because at my age, I can still remember when none of this was possible.

For those of us over 30 (OK well over if you’re going to get particular about it) doesn’t it blow your mind how much technology has changed in the past 20 years. How much more will change in the next 20 years? I suspect we will have autonomous flying cars, artificial intelligence that can learn beyond human capability and a staggering unemployment issue and oh yes, Mars isn’t off the table – thanks Elon Musk.

What are we losing with all of this technological advancement? Do we have to lose something, is that required? I don’t know but I have observed a some things that concern me – instant gratification, loss of privacy and a lack of creativity and freedom.

I have two kids a tween and a teen. They have reasonable restrictions on device time. There are no devices allowed in their bedroom at night. For one kid it wouldn’t even be an issue as he doesn’t care at all. My daughter, on the other hand,would be up all night on Instagram, chatting with friends, making bad musically videos and would be busy not sleeping.

The ability to text, tweet, post and communicate instantaneously has helped to create a generation that expects instant gratification. Midlifers, remember when we would call our best friend in 5th grade on the corded phone on a table or attached to the wall? The phone was always located in some public space in your house and you had to push down on buttons or worse, stick your finger in the circle of the corresponding numbers to spin the phone wheel and call? And, gasp, sometimes no one answered or the phone was busy so you had to try to call them again later and move on with your 10 year old life. Kids don’t do that today. They rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to hear back from a friend and if they don’t hear back immediately, a bit of panic sets in. It’s kind of crazy.

I remember being bored plenty as a kid and I would go outside or write in a journal. We had to make up our own games to pass the time and if we were lucky we got some local kids to join in. We played spontaneously and we figured stuff out. You didn’t like everyone and everyone didn’t like you but you could usually make it work long enough for some variation of tag or cops and robbers. I don’t see that much where we live, sure it happens but it’s special when it does because it isn’t the norm. The usual here is organized activities and sports.

Kids aren’t off the leash much either these days. We need to know where they are all the time because there are bad people out there (and no sh*t, there really are bad people out there). Hell there are sneakers with tracking devices in them now….it’s kind of like Little Johnny is on house arrest or maybe block arrest. Their expectations for privacy are at the bare minimum. They don’t want you to walk in on them while they’re getting changed but most anticipate some level of monitoring of their electronic activities. Late 70’s and early 80’s kids wouldn’t stand for that. We kept our stuff private and if someone read our journal there was hell to pay. Our parents didn’t know where we were half the time and we couldn’t be tracked with a Find My Phone app. If they asked where we were we would either tell them or make up something that sounded reasonable. It was kind of awesome.

Here’s a little something to make you laugh, courtesy of YouTube