WHAT DO WE TELL OUR CHILDREN?

 

Note – I am having eye difficulties so please excuse any errors.

I have been writing a mournful dirge in my head for weeks. I have looked many times at a photo of my daughter on the front page of the Miami News. We had spent our usual Saturday at Key Biscayne, picketing then President Nixon who was staying at his friend, Bebe Rebozo’s house.

We were with teachers and friends, young and old and all active in opposing Nixon.

This weekend, over 40 years later, how do I look at our children and say I don’t know what happened. What happened to compassion, patriotism and pride in our power to change our country. In many ways we did effect change. I was doing an evening shift at Switchboard, a Miami Hotline when we heard that abortion was declared legal – 1973.

Now, we still have sort of legal abortion, that is, if you are lucky enough to live in the right state and have money. I did not imagine an America in which I would have to fight and fight to keep this right.

And is no one concerned that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, vacationed with Wendy Wang, a sometime girlfriend of Putin. They were in Croatia in August of last year. Would a Democrat’s daughter get a pass from the press on this kind of meeting?

Is there any hope for preserving anything against the predators that roam the White House? What about on-going Health Care? Social Security? A free press? Healthy school lunches? Clean air? On and on but I won’t. There is so much to be concerned about. Worry is debilitating whether it is personal or global. We all seem to worry when we can’t sleep or when we stop and think for a minute about the disaster we all now face.

For, whether you voted for him or mot, we will all pay for this travesty of politics.

I am sure parents have always worried about what kind of world is awaiting their offspring. Hell, I’m worried if I will even have any health care when I may really need it.

If people on average incomes lose Medicare, health care period, this jeopardizes not only their financial future but their survival.

Disclaimer- I am not a friend of conventional medicine. For most of my life, I only took recreational marijuana which met many needs. Then I was poisoned by Cipro – by listening to an ER doc who wouldn’t listen to me. End of story; definitely feel I was bullied into that IV Cipro in 2009. Since then, my life has been dealing with the side effects. However, If I break a bone, need surgery, or any health issue I will need my health insurance.

I could just bore myself to death here and go and on through each Cabinet decision, blah, blah blah.

What do we tell our children and our grandchildren? We can tell them about the history we have witnessed and the lessons learned. But I do wonder sometimes if we have learned anything. I have asked young people who say they won’t vote to explain their reasons. The dominant reason is that both parties are just alike- no differences at all between the Democrats and Republicans. I haven’t heard this in last 100 days.

If anyone seriously tells me now that the 2 parties are the same I may smack them. If you think Trump and his co-horts are anything like Obama, Clinton, Roosevelt and Johnson,  you need to see a psychiatrist. These parties represent good and evil.

The only thing I can say that is honest for me is RESIST. Maybe our motto could be TAKE BACK THE SIXTIES. I had hope then. Let’s seek hope again.

ONLY YOUR OWN SELF

 

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU HEARD IT? YOU CAN’T CHANGE ANYONE BUT YOURSELF.

I did not really absorb it – jut heard it, nodded, – of course – and gave it lip service.

At 78 I might be getting it. Not through my own will. Living with your husband who has  Alzheimer’s proves the saying to be so true.

It is deceptive because the patient seems rational. And you fall into the trap of just talking the way you once did, reasoning, pleading, getting manipulative. And some late night, during too much thinking, falling for thought riddles, you get a glimmer. A glimpse of what underlies all of this thinking and trying to “fix” things through talk or writing more notes.

The mind, pernicious monkey mind, takes charge at night. Count your breaths, press acupuncture points for sleep, make lists, try this, try that and try not to think all the while recognizing the monkey mind. The big joke about consciousness is this: try not to think. I circle around, how to cope better, how to find things that interest Bill, and how to find some time for me stuff.

He can’t change or learn because of Alzheimer’s – obvious right? You would think so but I keep thinking we can have a conversation and that some it will stick. I have thought of myself as not a pessimist or an optimist but a pragmatist. I want the facts, best and worst case outcomes and then time to make a decision and I am okay. The worrying, the late night stuff goes away once I see what I need to decide. Then, except for working this idea or plan, I am able to stop chewing away at it.

But – and this was a large revelation to me because it is reality right now. And I have avoided its scope of my 24 hour reality.

I cannot fix this.

This is nearly 3 weeks later and it seems as though a lot has happened but the days seem the same. Except Bill was ill with a cold and then seemed to be so out of reach. He slept after Thanksgiving dinner right after falling backwards while trying to get up from a lawn chair. Our dog, Judy was in his lap: I had just snapped a photo of them. When we got him home he wanted to sleep. He ate a little and kept sleeping through the evening. He may have had a mini-stroke. This has happened before – of course, we fear a major stroke which is why we watch and check signs throughout the night.

He woke the next morning with no symptoms. I had seen this before following similar incidents. And what of all this: the days are much the same but I am tense. I thought today – I remind myself of an over anxious mother, always afraid the child will fall, get sick, not get invited to the party. Just one fear after another. I wasn’t like this as a mother of an active child  but I am a helicopter care giver, for sure.

And the point of this is I am focused now on how to deal with Alzheimer’s, not on elections or outcomes. There wait the demons that rob peace – political news, the anger, the fear that I won’t let get me. For me, for you, as far as I know, all we can do is right here, right now. Veer off and strange demons pop into your thoughts. The world is big, the suffering is great and here in America, we feel safe.

We aren’t safe, no one is safe from life. I have a long history of following politics, working in politics an avid interest in the dirtiness of it all, the money, the privilege, the whole sorry mess. I quit all that before the election and have learned to detach. It is a bad movie out there in some ways and I live in a movie of my own which requires all of my attention. I no longer have room for anger, outrage, regret. I seek a day without incident, a peaceful evening and sleep.

I feel free since I retired from the news and things I cannot fix. It is an illusion, I know, and it feels good. I am confined to the house or having someone be here so that I can go out and many wouldn’t see that as free. More on that later.

A thought “ just because they can’t remember the answer does not mean they can’t keep asking the question”.

WE HAVE TO WIN

DOWN TO THE WIRE

This is a simple message – we have to win. We must defeat Trump. Our country will be in a quagmire if this sociopath wins on Tuesday.

I’m not going to say I will leave the country but if I were not in my 70’s, I would say this. For many Americans. loyal Americans, will not be able to afford to leave. And where do we go if we want to leave? Most countries that would be politically acceptable don’t take immigrants unless they can buy property, start a business or qualify because of job skills.

If you have not voted, go to the polls and elect Hilary. I don’t give a damn if you like her, hate her or have become disillusioned with politics in general. We have no time for this. You are voting against a miserable, narcissistic sociopath who respects no one. If anyone belongs in prison, it is Trump.

I think conspiring with Russia to win an election is called a very ugly word. Occupy Democrats reported that his daughter Ivanka, has vacationed in Croatia with Putin’s girlfriend in the last few months. This news item included photographs. Yet Trump claims he has no contact with Putin.

Please, vote and refuse to let our country be taken over by this terrible man.

 

WHAT IS AT STAKE NOVMEBER 8, 2016

WHAT IS AT STAKE NOVEMBER 8, 2016

Why am I sending this letter to you? I know that most of you are Democrats and would never vote for someone like Donald Trump. But there may be a few Republicans who will receive this. I deeply hope that you will read it. If each of us can change one vote we can win this election. I also ask that all of you who are voting for Hillary to take one person with you to cast a vote for her.

Everything depends on us. I mean the us that can’t bear the thought of a racist in our highest office. The us that knows we are all the same no matter where we were born or whether we are poor, middle class, wealthy, black, Hispanic or any color combination. What difference is there when we laugh, are in pain, when we weep, when our children excel, when we lose a parent or a child. We cannot afford anyone in office to think, talk and act the way Trump’s supporters do.

They speak of deportation, sending Hillary to prison, even executing her. Will someone please tell me how this kind of thinking became acceptable?

In the 80’s I lived in Georgia for 10 years and it took me over 3 of those years to see the underbelly of this God fearing, flag waving segment of our country. Racism touched everything, from voting rights to schools.

Years later – 2016 – look at us now: we are seeing the racism that lives like a giant suppurating fungus spread across America.

Why does it matter so much? Ask all of Europe, ask Mexico and Central America. I wish we could hear from Martin Luther King today. Trump demeaned black Americans by insulting their culture and urging them to vote for him. He asked “what have you got to lose?” There is only one answer – everything.

We will lose the world’s respect, our freedom of the press, our economy, the future of our children – whatever you hold dear – unless you are a fascist fellow traveler, you will lose your most basic rights.

Many will find health insurance too costly. Government programs that help large numbers of us will be under assault. I cannot bear to think of the government appointments that Trump ( the world’s oldest living toddler) will make.

The cost to all of us is bigger than we can imagine. This cost is greater than any economy. The cost is our empathy, our kindness, our commitment to honesty, our willingness to help, and the things that we have stood for all over the world.

What is at stake –

Civil liberties and equal rights

Women’s rights

Minimum wage increase

Family leave for medical needs

LGBT

Environment and energy

College loans

Education for all

Repeal of Citizens United

Immigrants

The most important reason of all to elect Hillary Clinton is

The Supreme Court

We must stop Trump. Everything is at stake.

 

Alzheimer’s 101

A NOT SO UNCOMMON DAY

Early, 1 or 2 in the morning, my husband leaves the bed for the bathroom and then I hear the closet door open. I call him and the closet light goes on(when this happens my brain says – morning and I’m up). Next, light off and he goes across to the bathroom from his closet. He returns to bed to get up an hour later to try to leave our bedroom by opening the closed double doors to the hall. Solve that and he makes it to the bathroom.

In the bathroom we have a night light next to the sinks, a light that lights up the toilet area and another mounted outside the toilet that lights up the entire bowl. These are both motion sensitive and stay on about a minute. Thank you, Amazon.

Every morning for over 40 years, we have had tea, read the newspaper and have breakfast. The grapes cannot be found although they are in their usual place. We eat a cereal for breakfast so no stove involved except for early morning herbal tea. It is good for Bill to make his breakfast – he feels enough loss about so much. He wants to be useful and as much as possible it is a good idea.

Coffee, always a ritual, just not first thing anymore. Around nine we make coffee in the Chemex ritual. Yes, we have had coffee makers but no more. Neither of us like those little pouch things made in a computer like gadget. So, we are coffee snobs and probably food snobs too. I am glad I only make lunch and dinner. I really love to cook but not breakfast. At 78, I have cooked a lot. Cooking was and is my stress reducer. Get frazzled, annoyed, worrying as we all do, and my advice is go to the kitchen, that is, if you love cooking. Use that time to decompress. Making a meal can be a form of meditation.

Mid morning, errands, grocery store. I can no longer send Bill for items in the stores, as he can’t remember which organic milk to choose or where to find the onions. This is the problem as it is with washing dishes, sorting mail or many things that were almost automatic, now, hard to find words and actions that match up.

He wants to help, I want him to help. But the ability to wash a dish or remember to finish the dishes is fast disappearing.

I started writing this to go through a whole day but I have lost the mind for it, lost the heart for it and worse lost the humor in it.

Each day is much the same, food, a walk, dog adoration and a repeat of so many things. I know as we age our days become routine and we cling to the familiar. Now, it isn’t that I mind the routine for I have created much of it as I love order and doing things in a way that makes sense (to me.)

I am a stranger in this Alzheimer’s land and so is my husband. Who knew? Who would want to know? Each day I see him lose more and I see myself struggling to stay focused, do some kind of work every day as that makes it all easier to handle. I have always needed a sense of accomplishment and seldom more than I now need it, no it is a necessity. I need to feel that I am keeping up with the house, the dog, the myriad of detail that is now my responsibility. For Bill, I don’t think he now notices his losses as much as he did a month ago. He does something, loses something, asks for help but I don’t think he worries. Maybe for a moment but it is all moments.

I value the moments when we have a conversation that lasts a bit. Often, we are talking but then we are in some off the subject conversation that doesn’t relate and I know he has drifted off.

Learning, I am learning as his experiences decline, learning to be the one thing I have avoided – to be patient. And where I am right now, as a woman, mother, wife, caregiver, sometime Buddhist and friend in this situation, I am learning that to be sane and capable I have to be in the moment. And to stay out of the 4 a.m. thoughts such as – what if? how will I? when can I find time to?

The Rolling Stones said it best, you don’t always get what you want………

What I have lacked in my life is patience and I am now enrolled in Patience 101.

 

 

ENOUGH IS NEVER ENOUGH

 

Just when you think you might be getting things done, making good lists, organizing your life to be more manageable,KABOOM! I don’t know why I am surprised when unexpected events occur. Surely I have learned that a lot of what we do is solve problems, be it an avocation, job or chore. That is one of our functions along with figuring out what to cook today or is that tomato ripe enough to eat. And it isn’t if you have to ask.

Our dear dog, Judy, was looking rotund, well, fat, actually. We had watched her appear heavier and grow bigger around the middle for a few weeks. She isn’t an exercise fan so I urged her to walk more and I fed her less. As she got bigger, I dished out even less. I threatened her with a doggie treadmill. We joked about what a chubette she had become.

I took her to our vet to check her teeth, mentioned the belly looming large and added I was surprised that she weighed just 22.6 lbs. when we checked in. Judy is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and 22 lbs. isn’t fat.

The vet said, looking at her non-existent waist – forget the teeth – I’m concerned about her middle. I almost said, and aren’t we all concerned about our respective middles?

Judy was taken off for x-rays and ultrasound and next we were  referred to the UC Davis Veterinary Hospital. We were there 3 days later for more tests and the surgeon concurred with our vet, that this is a spleen problem. We booked the surgery for Monday and went home in an altered state. I really like an axiom and try to live by it, (try, I said, ) from a dear friend. “DON’T FEED THE FEARS.” But it is hard to feed your darling Judy and not wonder if she will come home from the surgery, if you will fix her supper again – she is now 10 years old and we were warned that her spleen could rupture. We lifted her very carefully. Gently, gently in speech and action was my weekend mantra.

No more suspense here, Judy had a splenectomy and over 4 lbs of fat was removed that was attached to her spleen. Surgery went well, no surprises but her temperature dropped to 94 and that scared us until they called to say she was better, wrapped in warming blankets.

We made the car like a little doggie ambulance for her and brought her home. Instructions about her were firm, wear the comfy collar, don’t let her scratch or do anything to mess up her loooong incision. And no jumping for 10 to 14 days. She was to have pain pills every 8 hours and anti-biotics every 12 hours.

Three days post surgery with three people watching her, she jumped on a low chaise, a couch and a chair. This was done with ease, smiling, as she regained her normal style of living. Her floor beds were cushy, made of flokati rugs, stuffed tigers, a dog bed plus plush covers.We mostly sat on the floor by her. What more could she want?

What she wants is her old routine. We try to stop her jumping on the couch. Then, she walks by and she levitates to the couch, lies down and is asleep within minutes.

We worry because we remember her girth, the fear of cancer, hemorrhage and waiting for the call from the surgeon to say she was okay. And that is a big difference between dogs and humans. We just think too much. Judy isn’t thinking about surgery, pain, being in a cage. No, it isn’t happening now and here is the best – she doesn’t even have to try NOT to think.

During all this my husband struggled with memory loss, impatience and frustration and worry about his Judy. Our grandson did all the driving of Miss Judy. One daughter came from upstate to be a dog nurse and local daughter helped us before and during the surgery and tenderly helped bring Judy home.

As I have said, we think too much, explain so much. And what else do people do when trying to make sense of a brilliant man coping with loss of memory and of an innocent dog needing surgery? But explain and cope we do and will continue to do, after all, this is my/our job. I do work on not thinking so much.

WHAT CAN I SAY

WHAT CAN I SAY

Late at night, awake and worried about the coming election, I sometimes wonder what is safe to say. Such as, will we wake up one morning and hear that a blithering idiot is dead and gone, hear that someone snapped, couldn’t take it anymore and committed a horrific act?

And will some people celebrate this departure from the mortal coil? I remember the death of FDR. I also remember how hated he was and where much of this hatred was open and nasty. I grew up in Indiana and many, many people despised Franklin Roosevelt and they hated Eleanor Roosevelt even more than they hated her husband. Although I grew up in a Republican family, I was an ardent Democrat at a young age. Was this just rebellion against mid-western ways and politics or was I too well read for a 10 year old?

Books and magazines were my salvation. I was forced to go to Catholic schools and lucky for me, not forced to always obey. I was raised by my mother’s sister and her husband who took on a baby when their only daughter was 21. My mother lived in another city and called the shots about religion and education. Again, lucky for me, my aunt sort of complied. She lived with a frequently repeated warning. My daughter goes to Catholic school or I will take her from you and put her in a boarding school run by nuns. I did go to the Catholic school with attendance at Mass every day except Saturday but was free to read and educate myself though the local library. When asked if I was restricted to the children’s book section (I was 8 years old) and wanted to read a romance novelist and books about atheism, my aunt replied that I could read anything I could carry to the car.

The best way to create an atheist is to raise them in the Catholic Church. Funny how that also created a Democrat. The Catholic Worker magazine sure wasn’t a Republican voice. And I soaked up all the books I could carry home, thanks to my aunt.

Now, I cringe at so much on the news. I have grown to love the weekend movies on the hallmark Channel. No stress, no torture, happy people. That is now my nighttime TV until Grace and Frankie and House of Cards return. The elections have made me at first, crazy, now detached. I have to believe, with the last vestige of hope in me about my country that Clinton will win.

Will that victory of a Democrat make my happy? Doubtful, the vote for me, is only about defeating a Nazi, fascist maniac. Of course, I must jest, as Bill Maher might say, lest I be sued. He is not so much a fascist or a Hitler throwback as he represents the worst of us. The people who support Trump, in the South, say this about strong women,” oh sugar, you don’t mean that.”

When I was a reporter in Georgia I heard this so much that once I managed to sell my house and knew I was out of there, I began responding. The last few weeks in Quitman, I said some really rude things. Such as, you are a racist, or, I don’t agree with you. Heresy, and only acceptable if you were drunk.

None of this hindered my commitment to the Democratic Party and women’s rights plus many other liberal causes. And Hillary, I think she would be faring way better today if she had left Bill after Lewinsky. But she didn’t, and like many women, stayed with a serial fucker. And if Bill had just told the damn truth, there would have been no impeachment and maybe we as a country could come to our senses about sex and politics. My motto is – balance the budget, be a stand up leader and screw who is a willing partner.

I am sad that we have the slate of candidates that we saw in the debates, small for Democrats, and a clown car of Republicans. Where are the young idealists, the brilliant future leaders?

I don’t believe much of this gossip about Hillary. I am sick of it all, can’t wait for November 8th and I know that we must defeat Trump as no one could be a worse president. Actually, I think Shonda Rhimes would be perfect with Whoopi as her V.P.

 

CULTIVATING PATIENCE

AN ALTERNATE WORLD OF ALZHEIMERS

It is a world without winners, in which both patient and caregiver live in a world that seems familiar. The world of dementia can be one of sadness, anger and sometimes, when you need it the most, a moment of shared laughter.

Then, slowly, day by day, even hour by hour, the familiar turns to a new reality. At times Bill and I, we roll along, making coffee, shopping, talking about the news, walking Judy, our dear Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, bathing Judy and planning the next day.

Then, a friend comes by and we discuss another friend’s news. Bill looks at us, states, ‘I didn’t know that.” That news being a subject discussed three times in the last day. Or, I learn through calling about a repair, that it was scheduled and I wasn’t told. Nor did Bill remember talking to the tree guy.

In the middle of writing this – I have to take time when I can get it – I have this round the clock job – I find a TV special called – Last Days. I am reminded, schooled by an 19 year old with Cystic Fibrosis that this day, no, this moment is all that we really have. This documentary is about death and how the different subjects take it on. I do know that no video is going to go deep into the heart of each person who knows that they cannot survive their diagnosis. Given that this is only a forty minute window into their lives, it has

depth and substance. One young woman, only 19, points out – forcefully – that none of us know the hour of our departure. All that matters is how we deal with right now.

And dealing with life and the deterioration of quality of life is a task most of us will face. Unless, we are really lucky and have a massive stroke or die in our sleep.

Neither Bill nor I are going to get a merit badge for patience. Bill was a great teacher, able to look at a subject and make it fascinating. I have a hard time teaching anyone to make a decent cup of coffee.

We worked together for nearly 40 years, sharing the tasks so that each of us did what we were best suited to do. This was not without strife but here we are, still dealing with the cards we have been dealt. Neither of us have a lot of patience. We have been quick thinkers, fast to react and always ready for a new idea. Now, I am seeing my lack of patience and I don’t like the loss of energy that seems to come with age.

Bill is missing his autonomy. I hope this isn’t sexist but I think men have more trouble when they have to adapt to changing health. All I can think is that when he loses more cognitive function I hope that he will forget what he is missing.

I miss spontaneity. In a way, it is like having a small child. A parent quickly learns that they cannot just grab the car keys and go. There is the nap time, meal time, the paraphernalia that accompanies mothers and their babies.

Now, it is the planning, the realization that a planned outing may not happen if one of us doesn’t have the energy or too many aches and pains on that day. And there is a sameness to each day. I remind myself that I have had a good life, a long life and if I am impatient, bored, frustrated that it is up to me to change my attitude. I am working on meditation, on patience, on making the moment what matters, not the future.

All any of us will have left at the end of life is how we managed, how we practiced kindness and above all patience because as Rilke said, “patience is everything.”

 

 

I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START

8-17-16

The current political side show is maddening, disconcerting and crazy. Seeing a so called grown man have daily temper fits is nauseating.

I do know how we dealt with children’s temper tantrums in the past. I believed that these displays were big moves for attention. My answer was withdrawing the attention. Generally this involved moving the toddler to her own room and insisting she remain there until she could control the shrieking and flailing about. This was so effective that she only behaved this way a few times. No fun without an audience.

This lack of attention would do wonders for that world’s oldest living toddler, Trump. He hates the media which gives them their opportunity to teach him a lesson. Withdraw the attention and maybe he will withdraw from the race although he is going to be easy to beat.

So, we must endure the next months in order to see the last of him. Does anyone notice that Mike Pence looks like that character Roger Sterling, played by John Slattery on Mad men? I so hope he will behave like Roger but maybe that is too much to hope for.

Since writing this Trump is practicing being Trump with his new picks for his campaign. The Drudge Report – there is scurrilous journalism and I cringe to call that website journalism. Reads more like The Enquirer except the Enquirer does have a good reputation for fact checking. It is said that water seeks its own level. Sewer level here is my take.

Much as I despise all things trump, and much as I try to not hear his voice or see his braying mouth, I do hope his new handlers are unable to teach him anything. Give him enough rope to feed the raging narcissism and we will be popping the champagne in November.

There is a banner hanging on my garage as of yesterday. It reads CLINTON 2016 and measures 4 by 10 feet. I was going to have one made that said DEFEAT ADOLF TRUMP but after sleeping on that thought, I chose to go positive. Let’s all go to work and elect a sane person. It is my belief that whether you like Hillary Clinton or not, there really is no choice but to defeat the Republicans, on all fronts.

A TALE OF 2 CONVENTIONS

A TALE OF 2 CONVENTIONS.

I certainly wouldn’t name my lap dog Pence. It is a bad call name. And I wouldn’t plagiarize a speech. Melania isn’t a very good call name, either. Of course, Trump’s wife didn’t write the speech so why blame her? I wonder what he does call his wife or does he just push a buzzer until she appears?

Looking at a Trump presidency, plagiarism is nothing compared to the havoc this tiny fingered demagogue would bring to the Oval office. Or, would he even use the office? Maybe his children would take turns at playing President as though it is an apprentice job.

This is the problem; we have no idea what he would try to do. I used to think we lived in perilous times because of wars, foreign threats, currency manipulation, the Taliban and Isis. Now, the threat is within our borders.

And today, the Democratic Convention begins. I found Bill Clinton’s drop in on the Attorney General at the airport a stupid move with Hilary under siege. Listen up Hilary supporters, we must work even harder after the bias shown by Debbie Wassserman Schultz. And the talking heads say that Debbie’s manipulations were nothing – just typical behavior within any party. But a lot of people think it was wrong and clearly people on the convention floor thought it wrong, to say nothing of the Bernie supporters outside in old school protest mode.

The first night of the Democrats in Philadelphia brought us back to reality. Of course, the party was not united – Bernie Sanders supporters have a righteous anger. I believe most of them will back Clinton if only to put a halt to the madness that is Trump.

Michelle Obama gladdened my heart. I kept saying- this is my party and then Bernie did what was needed in a masterful speech. We are the party of hope, compassion, change and all that is right with America. Let’s remember, we have lived through Nixon, the Vietnam War, the Bushes and we will come out in November and do the right thing.