Crybabies Anonymous

I am a card-carrying crybaby. After all these years, I haven’t been able to get over it. I would love to donate my time to charities; food kitchens, reading to orphans, visiting and holding the hands of old people who don’t have any visitors, volunteering at an animal shelter; you get the picture.

But here’s the problem: I cry about EVERYTHING. And I do mean everything. A TV commercial can make me cry. I just have to think of something sad and I am awash with tears. Books I’ve read can make me cry. When I lived in Texas, I tried to volunteer at an old folks’s home. I couldn’t stop crying. However, I was able to volunteer at a place called *Bryan’s House.

My job was to hold and comfort babies who had been born of parents with AIDS or of parents who took drugs during their pregnancies. The babies were born addicted, and everything affected their nervous systems.

The child I worked with came into the world with a cocaine addiction. He was so sensitive to light and sound that the only thing that comforted him was to be swaddled tightly and rocked. I don’t remember if I ever saw his eyes open; they were always shut tight. The only reason that I did not cry over this baby was that he cried enough for both of us.

So—what’s a person to do when they want to volunteer time for those less fortunate, the needy, the sick, the homeless, the strays; when they themselves are hobbled by bouts of  involuntary weeping?

I donate jewelry that I’ve made, or I send money. Granted, it’s a pretty antiseptic way of helping, but it’s better than nothing. Surely the people I’d like to help don’t need me crying all over them.

At one point I wanted to take training to help vets suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I’m a Reiki master and I wanted to put my gift to good use. My amazing step-daughter, a veteran of five deployments overseas, quickly told me just how much I would have to do just to qualify to help them. Reiki is certainly helpful, but for them, it wouldn’t begin to help.

So I guess at this point in my life, all I can do is what I can. Right now, it’s having my dad under our roof with us. Having him here at this time in his life doesn’t make me cry; it makes me happy and grateful, and even joyful. I know he is relieved that we can take care of everything for him as he has always taken care of everything and everyone else.

As much as I would like to give time to all worthy causes, right now my focus is on my best worthy cause; my dad and his comfort. Helping him makes me happy, not sad. We have to go with what we have, not what we would like to be; that’s just how life is. Although I admire those who make room in their lives to help others, I realize that I am who I am, and all I can do is what I am now doing.

For any of you fellow crybabies out there, you are not alone. We do what we can and how we can. We can’t help being who we are, and we volunteer in our own ways. Today I raise a sodden hankie to all of us crybabies who wear our tender hearts on our sleeves. We cry if we must, but we help where we can.

*Bryan’s House: …founded at the peak of the HIV/AIDS crisis to care for children suffering from that dreaded, often fatal infection. Little Bryan Allen, whose mother contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion, was the inspiration for our name. In 1985, at only 8 months old, Bryan become one of the first Dallas area children to die from AIDS. Later, his mother Lydia and older brother Matthew also succumbed to AIDS.

…Today with capacity to serve over 1,200 people a year, we continue to honor the legacy of baby Bryan, Lydia and Matthew by providing services to comfort and support families in our community through:

  • Medically Managed Care
  • Respite Care
  • Social Services

Under our Medically Managed Care, 90% of children 0-5 years of age, 9% are their sibilings, and 1% are their families.”

 

What We Cherish

 

If you were an English major in college as I was, you will no doubt remember T.S. Elliot’s “The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock.” The lines that I always remember are these:

“I grow old … I grow old …

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.”

It is long poem, and each time I read it, it makes more sense to me as I too am growing old. In having my dad living with us I am acutely aware of how things change. After an exhausting trip to the doctor yesterday, Dad is still recovering.

The things I take for granted; knowing that the nurse will have to take my blood pressure, ask me questions, go through my medications list, and so on—it is agony for me to have my Dad go through this. Each minute saps his energy, and I wish, not for the first time, that there was a faster way to handle all this.

My wonderful PA, knowing that Dad is quite deaf even though he has hearing aids; looks him in the eye and speaks directly to him. She gives him his dignity, and time to speak. She understands how tiring this is for him, and she asks him questions kindly. In this way, they build a rapport that satisfies them both.

We leave, knowing that we will have help with Dad that may make this time in his life easier. I ask him is he is ok with all this, and he says he is. I tell him that he is in charge; that things can be done for him, but not to him. He agrees.

By the time we get home, he is nearly asleep on his feet; those feet which in earlier years could traipse through woods and fields, ski like an angel carving a path down mountains, and dance for hours with my mother.

But this is now, and he is 92 years old. This is the time when we step in to make whatever time he has left good, loving and meaningful. I know that this wonderful and sweet time is precious.

While this is a bittersweet time, I cherish it.

 

The New “Normal”

The Crankee Yankee and I moved my 92-year old dad into our home last week. Having him with us is a joy and a pleasure. It takes all the worry out of all of us; no more road trips up to Wolfeboro, NH where Dad and Mom lived for 60 years. No more phone calls in the morning and evening to check up on each other. Best of all, no more worry about Dad’s health or ability to get around.

Dad is relieved not to have any chores to do, anything to worry about or stairs to climb. We told him that we would take care of him first and foremost, and that he needn’t worry about doing anything he doesn’t want to do. Because of this major life change, Dad is doing a lot of resting. Who wouldn’t?

He has a small bookcase right beside his bed that holds everything he needs morning and night; two glasses of fresh water with bendy straws, his pills, a small flashlight, tissues, his watch and an small airhorn. When he needs us, all he has to do is honk the horn, and one or both of us are there.

My best friend (and sister-in-law) and her husband, the Crankee Yankee’s younger brother, have taken her mother into their home to care for her. They have taken excellent care of her for nearly six years. I get my best advice on how to handle my dad from her. She told me kindly that is normal for me to worry about doing the wrong things; that this will soon become my new “normal.”

We do not know how long we will have my dad with us; each day is a gift. It is my job to manage his pills, which initially terrified me—what if I made a mistake and gave him the wrong pill at the wrong time, or forgot a pill, or <insert paranoia here>. But, as with all things, it gets easier as we go along.

After all the many years of Dad supporting me; beginning with him legally adopting me when I was four years old—it is time for me to support and help him. The Crankee Yankee could not be sweeter to him if Dad were his own father.

When we lost my mom to metastatic breast cancer in December of 2015, she wanted to go; she was ready to go. She had no fear of death, and looked forward to moving on to a new transition. Dd feels the same way, and what a beautiful gift that is to us!

Of course, in my own selfishness, I would love for him to have a warm and sunny spring, a lovely summer and a beautiful fall. I would love for him to sit on the porch with us in our rockers, enjoying the scents of ripening tomatoes and fresh mint. I want him to be able to eat all the corn on the cob from the garden that he wants.

I want to drive him to the ocean and take him out for lobster rolls and fresh clams. I want him to enjoy being driven around wherever he wants to go, and I want to take him to have one more big backyard BBQ at my brother and sister-in-law’s home.

But this is not up to me; it’s never up to us. A higher and more knowing, loving presence has all our lives in hand, and when it is time to transition, that’s when we go forward.

Dad knows that all his paperwork is in order, his wishes are known, his obituary is written, and he knows that in time he will lie next to my mother and across from his parents in the pretty little cemetery in Wolfeboro. But most of all he knows that for now he is cared for, every need is met, and that he is appreciated and loved beyond all measure.

As the Crankee Yankee continues to work on the upstairs renovations (Dad’s bedroom, bathroom and sitting area), I stay close by to hear Dad when he needs anything. I don’t like leaving the house unless someone is near enough to hear him. Often I sit waiting to be needed, and I find a solace in that. I realize I don’t want to be anywhere else but here; waiting and listening. In just a week’s time, I have come to treasure this time that we have.

We never know when our time is up, but any act based in love is worth while, even if all we do is sit and wait to be needed.

It turns out that this is enough.

Pink Wallpaper?!

When Mom and Dad and I moved into our first house in Wolfeboro, NH, Mom chose beautiful wallpaper for each room (except mine; my room was large and had paneling on the walls, which suited me fine). I’m not a fan of wallpaper; I prefer paint or wood. However, I did grow up with wallpaper.

When the Crankee Yankee and I moved into the house in Exeter, NH where he and his brother grew up, the first thing I noticed was the wallpaper. Each and every room had it, except for the bathroom.

At first I wanted to tear down all the wallpaper in the house, and paint the walls the colors I loved. I pictured the kitchen, office and hallway in a warm buttery yellow, the bathroom in lime, the bedroom in aqua (the one room that we did strip off the wallpaper and then paint!), and the living room in a coppery gold.

But after going through the incredibly time-consuming and messy business it was to remove the wallpaper in the bedroom, prepare the sheetrock and then paint it, I never wanted to do it again.

I tried to ignore the wallpaper; actually, in the kitchen it’s not bad at all. It’s that Williamsburg pineapple print so popular in the ’70s. (I still like it because it reminds me of Hawaii, and I do love all things Hawaiian!).

But the living room had been papered in a light pink with tiny flowers. Not my style at all. So I just tried to ignore it. Sometimes it worked, but mostly it didn’t. But as you know in life, things change.

So how exactly does a pink flowered living room change without a room demolition? Easier than you’d think. Pink things kept coming into my life, and wouldn’t you know it—all that pinkery worked in the living room! It was just as though the Universe was telling me to get used to pink as I was going to have a lot of it.

I came into possession of two lovely pink conch shells. Four pictures that I love have pink backgrounds. The beautiful Persian rug we inherited from the Crankee Yankee’s aunt has both rose and pink in it. And get this—since we now have most of Mom’s and Dad’s furniture in storage from the house in Wolfeboro—their couch and matching chair (which we will eventually move into our house) are covered in a brown, green, ivory and PINK print!

So with life along with wallpaper, just go with the flow. It’s funny how things happen and how some people are just meant for pink wallpaper—whether they know it or not. Who knew?

Messenger of Spring When You Need It

Yesterday I was looking out of one of the side windows in the living room. It was a beautiful sunny day, but the tree limbs were bending and waving in the cold wind. It was about 20 degrees outside, but with that wind, it felt like 20 below zero.

Shivering, I pulled on another sweater. Since Dad moved in with us a few days ago, I have been hoping for a warmish day when I can take him out for a ride. But it just hasn’t been warm enough, so we all are still hunkering down and bundling up.

And then I saw it—a fat and beautiful robin flew by the window and perched on the fence. I’m sure he was eyeing the bare patches in the snow, dreaming of fat juicy worms to dig up sooner or later. He didn’t know it, but he was my much-needed harbinger of spring.

March in the Northeast is a vicious clown; it plays with your hopes of warm weather by teasing you with a few fairly good days. Then, when your hopes are up, it cruelly smacks you with strong and bitterly cold winds. It shakes the tree branches just for fun, and, if that weren’t enough, it’s apt to dump a foot or so of fresh snow on the ground just for the hell of it.

The word “fickle” doesn’t even cover the mayhem and sheer cruddyness of March. One day can be balmy and beautiful, and the next will bring snow and freezing gusts of wind. The day after that, the snow will melt, meaning that in the night it will all freeze over. Just a peachy time of year.

But then, there are the robins. They always bring me hope in March, knowing that the Earth is slowly turning its face closer to the sun. There can’t be much more winter left at this point.

The robins know this first before we do. It won’t be long until the bluebirds show up, along with the much-beloved blue herons (my favorite of all birds), the red-winged blackbirds scouting out future nest sites along the pond, the tiny gold finches and the little brown sparrows, and the magnificent cardinals with their repertoire of gorgeous songs.

Spring is just as inexorable as March; it will come and be damned to winter for another year. The crocuses, snow drops, lily of the valley, lilacs, hydrangeas, daffodils, peonies, roses, forsythia, irises; all are patiently waiting in the cold ground to pop up into spring sunshine.

Our eight raised beds are already getting themselves ready for seeds, and our compost pile is full of all the good stuff that makes rich nourishing loam. The tomato cages that the Crankee Yankee built years ago are all ready to go into the garden. The tomatoes will shoot up to incredible heights, protected by these cages.

The tomatoes will soon be followed by tiny and sweet cucumbers, hiding in the twisty spirals of their vines. The pea plants will be ready to climb the wire fences with their delicate green fingers. Our two mint bushes will spring up just in time for us to dream of iced tea freshened with crushed mint leaves. All this is prelude to corn, beets, radishes, herbs and lettuces.

March doesn’t know it just yet, but sweet April is just around the corner. I swear it’s true—the robin told me so.