I’ll wait until October….


(Scrooge played by Alistair Sim and the Ghost of Christmas past play by Michael Dolan / 1951)

For all intense purposes…the calendar date reads December 6th—well past October.
But this was my lament and statement back in say, June…

“I’ll wait until October”

Let’s back up a tad…

At the end of spring and the start of summer, we had finally decided to “makeover” two
of the three bedrooms upstairs that were long in need of redoing.

The third room that was already up to speed, is our guest bedroom.
A room that we had lovingly dubbed “Martha’s room”
as it was where my aunt would stay when she’d come to visit.

Of the other two rooms–one had been out son’s room.
A room he vacated, for all intent purposes, in say…2007…upon high school
graduation.

He occasionally returned throughout college for a few extended stints
before heading off to a fraternity house and later various apartments…and blessedly
basically forever upon graduation.

He is now married for almost 6 years, with two kids…
I think we were safe and in the clear for changing out the room.

However, that’s not to say that the door doesn’t always remain open should a need ever arise…
but it’s just that the content is now drastically and delightfully altered
as the room has been brought up to speed.

The other room had been pretty much a catch-all for things such as a
weight machine (something our son never seemed to think much of in order
to take it with him when he finally moved out–sigh),
along with boxes and boxes of files that had been dad’s world, of which I inherited
when he was no longer able to care for himself.

So my husband and I discarded, sorted, thrashed, regrouped all the stuff that was to
stay and all the stuff that was to go, turning that last room into a lovely home office of sorts.

However, it now irks my husband to no end that I went to a great deal of trouble,
not to mention expense, decorating and arranging with some wonderful old pieces
I’d found, just to simply continue using the kitchen table for my “workspace.”

He, on the other hand, uses the office religiously.

When he retired, he was accustomed to having had an office.
A place where he kept his files, bills, notices and where he sat down
to pay bills and do paperwork.

On the other hand, as a teacher, I was used to simply grabbing space at a clean table.
Hence, my affinity for the kitchen table.
I also like the wall of windows in the kitchen which provides ample light.
Much like my classroom use to provide.

I did have an “office” but “the office” consisted of a computer table with the bulk of the
room being, more or less, storage space and where we housed the kiln.
I, therefore, preferred the open space of the classroom.

For a while, following dad’s slow demise, my home “workspace” was moved to the dining room
table as the papers and boxes were growing exponentially and the kitchen was simply not the place.
Following dad’s death and the gutting of the two rooms, I moved dad and my
“stuff” to the new office.

Since the closets in those two made-over rooms were now basically gutted,
I thought I would store a few of my more cherished and ancient family Christmas ornament
boxes in the two vacated closets.

“Get them out of the attic,” I told myself.
The summer heat, in a house’s attic in Georgia, is deathly.
The winter is equally as harsh.
Not the place to store things of “treasure” but sometimes
that’s all one has.

The boxes contained much loved and long passed down ornaments.
With each ornament telling a story.

One box contained the porcelain Christmas angels and tiny nutcrackers I’d been
collecting since I was in high school.
Gifts along with those offered by long-gone family members.
Boxes that always quickened my heart each Christmas when I brought
them out to the tree.

I thought the move out of the attic would help their survival.

HA!

Do we call that the best-laid plans…????

Almost as soon as I moved the boxes to the closet, I placed one on a shelf
in order to come back when I’d next move in a few more, allowing for me to
rearrange my sorting.

Suddenly, there was a loud crash.

UGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Before even looking, I knew.

Sure enough, the porcelain angel box was on its side as pieces of angels were
strewn across a closet floor.

I opted to play Scarlett–for tomorrow would be another day…


(Scarlett following Rhett’s departure / Gone With The Wind / 1939)

I uprighted the box, scooped up all the pieces, dumping them back in the box,
all willy nilly, and closed the top…
I stopped long enough to announce aloud to no one but myself,
I’ll worry about this little disaster in October.

The small disaster was more than I could deal with or bear that day.
Or seemingly any day thereafter.
I dreaded what I would find and I dreaded the meticulous gluing that would ensue.

Well as time past, I kept reminding myself about October.

July came and went.
August came and went.
September came and went.
October…came and went.
November came and went.
December is here.

I have decided there will be no tree this year.
The first treeless Christmas in 60 years of my life.

Nor is the manger scene box unpacked or moved from the closet.

It’s not so much over the broken bits and pieces of my Christmases past but
really because the kids won’t be able to come home before
Christmas comes and goes as both work and other demands of time will keep them away.

The plan is that we will go up on Christmas Eve to spend the night.
And I’ll go up in about a week to get the kids and help out at home.

The tree is a pain to haul up from the basement–it’s large and cumbersome.
The decorating requires various ladders.
Not to mention the hauling of the ornament boxes down from upstairs.

The fluffing of the tree, the sorting, and unpacking of the ornaments—
only to turn around and pack it all right back up.

A friend of my husband’s had offered to help him haul up the tree but I told him
not to worry.

“I don’t think we’ll put up the tree this year.”
“But why?” he implored.
“Because no one will be coming home, it’ll be just us.”
“Well, the two of you can enjoy it”
“Well, it’s an awful lot of work for just two people to stare at.”

Maybe it’s the melancholy of the season.
Maybe it’s the fact that the house will be quiet.
Maybe it’s the fact that we’re both a little older.
Maybe it’s the lunacy griping our Nation.
The country is being railroaded and no one seems able to stop the madness.
Maybe I’m simply tired.

The jury is still out, but I’m pretty certain there will be no tree…

One day, some cold rainy day, I’ll pull out that box of
debris and start gluing things back together…

But for now…I did at least manage to get the lights and decorations up outside…
so no one passing by the house is any the wiser that on the inside,
only the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

Oh and by the way, my son stole the stockings I had made for his little crew…
they’ve been spirited off to Atlanta only to hang on the same mantle
my stocking once hung…
So the stockings I’ve hung are quite the hodgepodge.

Hummmmm…
maybe Ebenezer was right, “wouldn’t it be better if I just
went home to bed?”


(Alistair Sim

Ebenezer : [to the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come]
I am standing in the presence of the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come?
And you’re going to show me the shadows of things that have not yet happened but will happen?
Spirit of the Future, I fear you more than any spectre I have met tonight! But even in my fear,
I must say that I am too old! I cannot change! I cannot! It’s not that I’m inpenitent,
it’s just… Wouldn’t it be better if I just went home to bed?

“Our freedom always has this marvelous power to make what is taken from us—by life,
events, or other people—into something offered. Externally there is no visible difference,
but internally everything is transfigured: fate into free choice, constraint into love,
loss into fruitfulness. Human freedom is of absolutely unheard-of greatness.
It does not confer the power to change everything,
but it does empower us to give a meaning to everything, even meaningless things;
and that is much better. We are not always masters of the unfolding of our lives,
but we can always be masters of the meaning we give them.
Our freedom can transform any event in our lives into an expression of love,
abandonment, trust, hope, and offering.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 58
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

Dad and the chickens

Q. What did the hen say when she saw the scrambled eggs……
A. My children are all mixed up!

(anonymous)

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Meet Dad’s neighbor.
And yes, dad does live smack dab in Atlanta.
Perhaps an odd place to find free roaming chickens but-
it seems urban gardening has become all the rage you know.

The neighborhood where I grew up is now considered a prime section of Atlanta in which to buy a house. It’s an older area that has maintained its quintessential suburban charm–despite the fact that the “charming” area is shrinking into an ever encroaching city.
It appears this is a prime spot to still raise a family–far enough out yet close enough in.

The young family next door tends to 4 little chickens which they keep in a pen in their back yard. I suppose Zoning hasn’t picked up on the hens’ presence in the neighborhood as the yards are rather large for city yards and are full of trees and shrubbery—no one is the wiser that the newest neighbors on the block have wings.

A chicken just seems fitting to include in a post about Dad.
You know it’s been a while since we’ve chatted about Dad. . .

Two day’s ago I had gone out to get the mail.
Shifting through the unsundries of needles periodicals, flyers, and bills I noticed a letter from an insurance company that is not our insurance company. . .but I did recognize the name—“this is Dad’s” I silently note now gritting my teeth. Upon opening the letter it seems that at some wise point, not long ago he, me, we added my name to the policy as a contact.
“We are mailing you this letter to inform you that the above mentioned client is past due on his premium payment and if it is not revived by 3/14 we will cancel the policy. . .”
“DDDAAAAAAAAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I’m sure you heard a small earthquake two days ago and have been wondering ever since what that was all about.
No worries, it was just me screaming as I stood in the driveway reading this letter.

I immediately grabbed the phone as fast as I could as I practically fell into the house.
That oh so familiar warble answers.
“heelllooo”
“Dad”
“Uh hello daughter.”
“Hello Dad”
“Dad”
“What”
“I got a letter today from your long term care insurance company.”
“Oh?”
“Seems you’ve not paid them in a while and they’re going to cancel the policy.
I want you to pay this thing now!”
“Uh,oh, uh, I, uh, oh, uh, let me call you back.”

About an hour passes before the phone rings.

“Yes Dad.”
“Uh I called the company, everything’s fine.
No problems. They say that the account is good, all paid up.
They don’t know why that letter came.
Don’t you worry it’s all good.
I did go ahead and pay them $1000 though.”
WHAT!!!!????
“I just wanted to make sure that things were fine.”
“Dad, if the account was fine and the letter erroneous, why are you sending them so much money?”
“Uh, uh, don’t you worry, everything is fine—got to go, the Olympics are on . . .”
click

Ugh!

Obviously it is time to get back to my weekly pilgrimage beginning today!!
I drive over to Atlanta this morning noting the downed pine trees littering the sides of the interstate–the tell tale signs of last week couple of week’s ice and snow storms. And I don’t remember all these pot holes littering the interstate.

I pull in to the ever familiar driveway.
As always I have to knock on the door and just hope one of them hears me.
Low n behold Dad shuffles to the door and proceeds unbolting lock after lock.
“Hello Daughter”
(when did he start calling me “daughter”?)
Hi Dad.
Where’s Gloria?
She’s cleaning out the cat box.
Bless Gloria, something as basic as cleaning and scooping is a major production for Gloria.

I ask Dad if we need to go back to “the office” (aka my old bedroom) and sort through anything.
A swift NO shoots my way.
I meander on back anyway.
“Oh my God Dad, what in the world?”
This as I stare at 3 massive stacks of scattered papers and mail perched around an antiquated Gateway computer.

“No no, get out, just leave all that!! I know where it is. That’s tax stuff. Oh just stop harassing me.”
“Dad, I’m not harassing you.”
“Dale, Julie is not harassing you, she’s trying to help”
“Dad just let me help you sort this out.”
“No, no, get out, get out now! Just leave all this alone.”

This as Gloria begins to moan and lament, with tears in her eyes, while Dad is hollering that I just seem to come up to “get her upset.”
Great.

A very long story made short and 3 hours later. . .
Gloria and I sat at the desk slowly making our way through the stacks of never-ending paper while Dad hovered in and out, pacing as if someone was having a baby, continuing the mantra of get out and quit harassing. Gloria just keeps mumbling “we need to be in a home, just in a home, I’m telling you, a home”

Suddenly Dad reappears at the door, this time cradling a stack of old Santa Pictures he wants to show me. Pictures of my brother and I with Santa.
A diversion.
Not so fast mister, I’m on to you Dad.
Gloria tells me that he hides the mail from her. And that he’s gotten so good at lying.
Really? Ain’t no doubt.
I immediately think back to his slick little story concerning the insurance business.
Oh dear Lord, it is now official, I am now the parent of a parent who is reverting back to his adolescent ways.
Ugh.

I make my way through the 3 mountains of papers, documents, statements, bills—sorting, pulling, tossing, and scrambling to make calls. Luckily we have the major utilities automatically paid. I did however have to make a call and phone payment to Visa, pulling money from his savings. I am embarrassed to say how much he owed. That was an event unto itself but thankfully the Visa man was very kind and waived the $35 late fee—which almost made me laugh as Dad owed so much, $35 was nothing.
Thank God he had the money in savings to pay it.

The car insurance may be canceled. Of course he no longer drives (thank God) but Gloria does so I need to look into that next week. I pulled out the top 10 “pay immediately” priority bills, organized those and had him sit down to write checks. All the while as Dad chants the “oh woe is me” tune—to no sympathy on my end.

By 2PM I had a massive headache.
“Don’t you want something to eat? Let me fix you something. You came all this way and haven’t even eaten. Of course I could go all day, I don’t need to eat” Gloria goes on in this nervous sort of stupor.
“No thank you, but you go ahead and fix y’all something. I know you both must be hungry.
You know I’ve got to get on the road if I’m going to beat the afternoon rush.”
Atlanta’s rush hour begins at 5AM and wends down around 7PM with window of a lull around 2PM.

I bid my farewells with Dad exclaiming “what, you’re leaving so soon?”
Are you freaking kidding me–this coming from the man chanting for me to get out and go home an hour earlier. . .
Hear my sigh. . .
I will be back next week
Same bat time, Same bat channel. . .

The moral of this little tale, if there is such a thing with an aging parent dealing with Alzheimers-
A. Don’t let Dad have credit cards.
B. Always have Gloria intercept the mail
C. Never trust Dad. . .if he tells you one thing, the opposite will be the truth
D. Don’t let too much time pass between sorting visits
E. Don’t trust Dad
F. Patience and humor are essential
G. Never trust Dad. . .

Happy Father’s Day part II

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The P.S. to last week’s post “Happy Father’s Day”
Backup to this time last week….

I pulled into the driveway, got out of the car, and made my way to the door. My stepmom unlocks everything ushering me inside. She looks terrible—hunched over and in obvious pain—the effects of a urinary tract infection whose meds have not kicked in. I’ve known that pain!

Dad, who normally shuffles into the kitchen whenever guests arrive, stayed seated in the den, apparently oblivious to my arrival—oblivious my foot, he could see me form the couch! He continued reading the paper.

Gloria and I chat a bit but we both know why I’m there—one more attempt at putting, or trying to put, Dale’s “house” in order—-sorting over bills, finance issues, etc.—pushing him to get his act together —If he doesn’t get things together something is going to have to change. He can’t continue allowing the phone, the gas, the electricity, etc. to be cut off—only to suddenly remember as to why they were cut off, attempting to pay the bills, but first finding the bills, then having the tacking on of the additional fees of re-activation,….. again and again—-not to mention the taxes…

“Dad your taxes were due in April”
“I’m working on it”
“Dad, you’ve been working on it—it’s now July”
“Quit harassing me”
“Dad, I’m not harassing you”
“Yes you are, I can’t get this done with you hovering over me”
“Dad, how “bout I start paying the bills and handling the finances?”
“NO, absolutely not!”

He’s also taken to overpaying the bills. I know that his rationale is “if I overpay, it’ll fix this little problem for a while and everyone can just leave me alone.” Why don’t I just open the back door and throw all of his savings out to the wind….because at the rate he’s going—there will be no more savings to overpay with…..

I make my way into the den.

“Hi Dad”
“Oh Hi, why are you here?”
“Dad you know why I’m here, were suppose to work in your office today.”

Silence

“Dad, would you like for me to show you the pictures from the vacation?”
“Oooo, yes.”
“Dad, where’s your handkerchief?”
“Why?”
“Cause your nose is dripping everywhere”
“Oh”

Once I finish with the pictures, I ask if we can head on back to the “office” which is actually my old bedroom. Had I known then what was in store, for my once safe haven, I’d have had a priest come bless it as I need all the blessings available now!

“Dad, you ready?”
“No, I need to finish my Coke”

UGGHHH

Finally we make our way down the hall to the back room with Gloria in hot pursuit.

“See that stack of papers on his desk, what is that?” Gloria states rather than questions.

Dad sits down at his computer to “boot it up”

“Dad, that computer is over 20 years old, don’t you think it’s time for a new one?!”
“No”

I begin shifting through the stacks of papers and envelopes. He places a check on things he’s paid. I pull those all out of the stack.

“What are you doing!” He warbles
“You’re messing everything up!”
“Dale, if you’d file the old things away…where are those files Julie put together back in the fall?”

Silence

Gloria and I rummage through boxes and find some of the files we put together back in the fall, files he’s not touched since.

“Dad, if we could clean out your filing cabinets of all the old things, putting all these new files in, you could stay more organized”

—all this while I’m making stacks upon stacks on the floor, attempting to sort out every piece of paper…doctor bills, doctor appointment notices, pharmacy bills, exterminating bills, the yard man’s bill, taxes, phone bills, water bills, pension statements, insurance, some things dating to last year, most things current.

“What are you doing, you’re making a mess, how do you expect me to do anything with you messing everything up?!”
“Dad, all I’m doing is sorting over here quietly, you’re suppose to be getting that computer up and running to figure out what needs paying…”
“Well I could if you’d stop harassing me”
“Dad, I’m not harassing you”
“Dale, all of this can be thrown away”
“No, I’m shredding that”
“Well you don’t have to shred the newspaper…”

Exasperated, Gloria leaves for the kitchen.
Dad gets up with the paper.

“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to go recycle this”
“Oh no you’re not, you sit back down at the computer, I’ll go”

I spend the next 20 minutes in the kitchen with Gloria—the continued thought of a cute little bungalow assisted living running through her mind. I tell her I’ll start coming back once a week if she thinks it will help motivate him. I sadly know he won’t look forward to my coming, but rather dread it–which I hate, so as to why I tapered off earlier… however I know the tough conversation is inevitable.

I go back to Dad who is simply staring at his screen saver of the swimming fish—mesmerized.

“Dad, what are you doing?”
“Waiting for the computer to boot up”
“Dad that’s been almost 30 minutes”
“Well if you’d leave me alone, I might get something done!”

I make my way back to the kitchen to ask Gloria a question.
Dad hears me coming back.

“Dad, have you been watching those swimming fish on the screen saver and not doing the bills?”
“No” with a small chuckle.
“Dad, yes you have, you minimized it, you’re just watching cartoon dolphins Dad!!, you’re suppose to be working”…..more chuckles
“No” chuckle “no I’m not”

I cry most of the way home.

I wish my uncle was still alive. He was my dad’s older brother. The one who was there when my mom died and dad suddenly decided to stop being a grown up. My uncle helped me when I would be at my wits end with dad during those dark days. I think he must have been more like my grandfather—business like, jovial, sports minded, outgoing. Dad is withdrawn, quiet, preferring to be taken care of verses taking care of others—like a dad’s suppose to do. I imagine being the baby of the family, my grandmother did just that, babied him.

My uncle was almost 90 when he died a couple of years ago. His mind sharp as a tack but his body simply giving out. I miss him for lots of reasons.

I call my cousin, my uncle’s second oldest son and the closet thing I have to an older brother. There is a planned intervention set for tomorrow morning. I’m to go back to dad’s making certain he’s on track but my cousin will meet me. My dad will listen to him more so than me. I don’t think he’ll tell Jimmy to stop “harassing” him.

Dad told me again last week he’d not discuss assisted living.

“Dad, Gloria is tired and doesn’t feel good”
“I Know”
“Don’t you think it’d be easier? You pay for yard service and you don’t even go outside. The roof is starting to leak, the termites on the porch, not to mention those stairs to the basement—ya’ll can’t keep going down to wash the clothes…”
“We have the maid, she helps”
“Dad, not enough……….”
“NO, I’m not leaving this house end of discussion”
“ Well I don’t know if it is Dad……”

I always thought he’d be there when my life fell apart. When that’s suppose to be, I’m not certain, but that I just always knew he’d be there. He would help me sort my messes. He’s always been the financial savvy one of the family—managing both of my grandmother’s estates…he should have been a banker and I think truly wishes he had been. But he has always been conservative—preferring to “sit on” something rather than taking chances and gambling…..organized where I was not so….

Funny how life is—I’m finding myself in a place I did not expect, not a place of comfort—please don’t think me not up to the task because I am—certainly so–it’s just that I’m not real happy about it—actually really quite sad about it all….but such is life………

…to be continued

the following quote by St. Bonaventure is taken from a lovely blog I follow…
http://teilhard.com
by William Ockham.
I had commented on Mr. Ockham’s latest posting about today being St Bonaventure’s feast day—and how Bonaventure was the brains, while Francis the heart of the birth of the Franciscan movement…..Mr. Ockham responded that whereas Bonaventure was a “doctor” of the Church and an immense theologian—he was also a mystic—the following quote came to me, just after I finished my writing about Dad, with tomorrow’s impending visit weighing heavily on mind and heart….providing that wonderful calm before the storm–giving me pause—and allowing me the opportunity of knowing that even though I may be sad and fretful, it’s all going to be okay!!!

“We must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.
If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervor and glowing love. The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardor of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death. Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me and live.

Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination.”

thank you William for reminding me………….