Have a good life

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Allen Saunders

“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.”
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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(cross found in the Rock of Cashel cemetery, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Just when you thought you had things situated, straightened out, figured out
and felt you were rolling merrily along feeling in charge, doing a good job of keeping your world in the middle of the road… Life’s little wicked twists and turns come calling, sending you careening out of control.

And so it was when the phone rang late this evening.
It was my godmother calling.
I’ve written about both my “godparents” before.
He is a life long Episcopal priest, Dean Emeritus of the Cathedral in Atlanta where I had grown up.
She, his wife, for the past near 70 years.
He’s soon to turn 93 and she 90.
Their bodies and minds failing in tandem.

I first wrote about my godfather shortly after I started this little blog of mine
as he was the one person in my life who had made the greatest impact–
as he basically saved me from myself when he came into my life…
when I was all of 15 years old.
I won’t retell that long convoluted tale as you can read it elsewhere if you so desire,
(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/ ) but suffice it to say, he’s meant the world to me.

Whereas he and I have shared the common thread of each being adopted, as I was a teen when we first found one another, we each had, throughout the years, a sea of ups and downs with our perspective internal baggage. We had our hard fraught moments as much healing took place over the years within both of our hearts as we walked the journey together. He taught me about unconditional love and what it truly meant–as I continued testing the depths of that love.

She was often in the shadows.
As the wife of a very busy and well known national cleric, picking up pieces, tending to children, as well as the home front, would have been the assumed standard lot for such a spouse.
Yet she was never one to shrink or hide.
This was a woman who had had a career on Broadway in the 40’s staring in Carousel along with other well known musicals.
She was outspoken and very very sound in her faith, never mincing her words.

She had more than her fair share of input into the shaping of my life.
So much so that my own mother was often intimidated.
She was the type of woman who saw what needed to be done and simply went about doing it, no matter who or what would or could be in the way or problematic.
“No” was not a word that was within her thought process.

So today when the phone rang, I figured it was a call of checking in and touching base.
Perhaps a thank you for the latest goodies I’d sent through the mail…
But no, this was not that type of conversation.

Before we even finished with the opening pleasantries of the “hey, how are yous”– she begins with “the Lord told me that He wants me to call and tell the people in my life what they have meant to me…so…I want you to know how grateful I am for…how precious you are to me…how much I thank you…how I want you to know…”

“WHOA—what are you saying???!!!” I fumble over the words.
“Well, I’ll be 90 soon, I don’t have much time left….
“WHOA—let’s not rush things shall we….” I hear myself stammering.
“Now let’s not put the cart before the horse shall we…” I continue trying to stop where this conversation is going…for all sorts of reasons–

She continues on with her “speech” when suddenly her mind takes the conversation elsewhere, in a totally different direction and tone… which is what’s more telling to me than her kind and endearing words–
Time is truly of the essence is it not…in this world that is…

Whereas my Godmother is sound in her faith and has no doubts, no regrets, as she continues pushing forward despite failing body and mind, living to hear His word and obeying those words to the very end—I fear there are not many of us who are as determined to do His very bidding up to that last breath we each have on this earth—or perhaps it’s more about having the courage to do so.

And maybe that’s it–
Courage, freedom, determination…

What is it that gives us, offers us, the courage to do and say the words God urges us to speak…. as well as giving us the “why”… as to why we are to speak certain words in the first place… and then there is the “when”… when are we to speak them and to whom.

When do we give ourselves the freedom to speak such words?
And what is it that sets our determination to do all of the above—
is it our health, our time, our circumstance?

As the conversation finally came to an end, with me most thankful as the difficulty and awkwardness of her words were crushing in on my heart, she put my godfather on the phone who proceeds to tell me he loves me and to “have a good life”

Oooooo, this is NOT the conversation I wanted to hear this evening.
Often within adopted folks there is a tiny voice buried deep within that likes to perpetuate a lie that “you’re not really ever wanted,” so hearing, as well as accepting, such deep and meaningful words, that you matter or are dearly loved, or are precious to someone can be very hard to digest… as you simply feel most unworthy…
Plus this whole signing off as if I’ll never see them or hear from them again is most unnerving–as it reminds me that none of us are guaranteed a thing in this world, especially not time…that precious commodity we so often take for granted…

So when this once prolific writer, speaker, preacher, religious leader who just so happens to be my “godpoppa” utters his parting words in an almost singsong sort of fashion
“Have a good life”
I’m like a deer in headlights…frozen in the moment.

Have a good life….
Who says that???!!
An almost 93 year old man who has spent the last couple of years fighting with his mind as it tries to shut down, and he’s hellbent to hold on…

This as I head to Dad’s today which is a whooooole ‘nuther ballgame–

So here’s to life…
Here’s to the end of life…
Here’s to how we choose to live that life, up to the very end…
and here’s to love….

May we all “have a great life…”

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 14:15

Once in a blue moon. . .there is clarity

“The moon in her chariot of pearl”
― Oscar Wilde

“What really matters is:—
1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.
2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.
3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”
4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please will you do my job for me.”
5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”

― C.S. Lewis

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(The blue moon of July / Julie Cook / 2015)

This is a tale about dementia, directions, hair and unbelievable clarity.

My dad has never had, in my opinion, a full head of hair.
It was receding and thinning from the day they brought me home from the adoption agency.

I remember when I was young when he’d proudly ask if I liked his hair cut. I’d respond with a big grin that that’s exactly what it was— a, as in single, hair cut.
Somehow he didn’t find the humor in my observation. . .

The past couple of weeks I’ve noted that dad has desperately needed a hair cut.
What hair he has, which mind you isn’t a gracious plenty, has become almost transparent, wispy and strand-like—a bit of an unkept look–as in derelict. It wasn’t helping his appearance that he’d not shaved.

Time and time again Dad has refused to allow me to take him for a hair cut as he simply refuses to leave the house.
Today, that was going to change. . .

The minute I walked in the house yesterday, I told him that we were going for a hair cut, no ifs, ands or buts. . . as in now.
I asked Gloria where the barber was located, thinking I had a vague idea.

As Dad, my aunt and I headed out in search of the barber, I made a left at the red light thinking I knew where were going. . .my first mistake.

“NO,DON’T GO THIS WAY, Dad shouts as if I was driving off a cliff scaring me to death.
“It’s the other way.”
“Really?”
UGH
“Dad, where exactly is this barber. . . I thought it was in the shopping center with the Fresh Market.”
“You go up at the light and turn left and then drive up that parallel road.”

HUH?

First of all, we’re on Roswell Rd–one of the busiest main thoroughfares in Atlanta running north and south through the city, there are millions of lights and intersections and what in the world is running parallel—
“Do you mean Long Island?”
“I don’t know.
Don’t ask me.
I don’t know anything.”

Hummmmm

“Turn at that light.”
Oooookay
“Just go up this road.”
“How far?”
“Far.”
Ugh. . .

Now you need to know that it’s been 30 years or longer since I’ve traversed most of these back roads.
Progress, which I believe is what they call all of this drastic growth and change to the city, all of which now has me painfully scanning for any sort of remembered landmark.
Alarmingly it dawns on me that all my landmarks have been bulldozed.
It is now officially a blind leading the blind sort of quest for the barber.

“Keep going straight, then turn right at the light.”
“Really?”
“Yes”
“Oh I remember that park, that’s where mom played tennis.”
“Yes”
“Go down this road then turn into that shopping center on the right.”
“No, the NEXT entrance”
“Now turn left”
“I SAID LEFT!”
“Okay dad, my God, you’re scared me to death. It’s just the parking lot.”
“It’s up in the little building on the left. . .”

About 20 minutes later we’re back at the house with my very thin, frail, wispy, 87 year old dad looking rather dapper with his fresh cut hair. . .now if only he’d shave. . .

The mind is an amazing thing.
A deeply cavernous 3 pound mass.
The synapsis fire or they don’t.
Memories mix with current events, confusing past with present.
Sequences flow or jumble, starting and stopping.
Faces are recognized or more often than not–there is frustratingly no recognition.
There may be silence or a profession of irrelevant chatter. . .
With what happened 5 minutes prior suddenly forgotten and gone forever
and yet. . .
a backroad path to an obscure little old fashioned barber shop is clear as a bell. . .
Go figure. . .

Look up

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.
I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty,
believe in them, and try to follow them.”

Louisa May Alcott

“Hope is the last thing ever lost.”
Italian Proverb


“If you’re going through hell, by all means, keep going. . .”

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill:

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(a tiny yet beautiful skipper looks upward / Julie Cook / 2015)

Spending the day situating Dad’s affairs. . .
As in. . .

Getting the taxes almost squared away with the CPA, the State and the one’s that really count, the Feds. . .

Dealing with the accident report and Police department regarding the little fender bender last week with Gloria and the caregiver while they were out on a mission. . .
Oh, did I not tell you about that?
You don’t want to know. . .

Organizing the growing mountain of paperwork, invoices, bills, receipts. . .
While musing that taking care of Dad and that household of theirs must be similar to running a small corporation or better yet, a small country. . .

Calling insurance companies. . .cars, medical. . .”please hold. . .”

Talking with the Care Agency about lining up the who’s, the whats, the whens, the wheres. . .and we know the whys. . .

Talking with Dad, who is still terribly ill. . .convinced he’s dying yet hoping they can help with the cancer. . .As I in turn inquire as to who told him he had cancer. . .With the response being, “it won’t go away, it’s cancer. . .” Ode to the rationale of psychosis

Talking with the nurse, otherwise known as the wise counsel who still has her sanity in the midsts of all of this while playing go-between with the doctor’s office, the caregiver, me and most importantly Dad. . .

Coordinating taking Dad to the Gastroenterologist tomorrow (which is today if your reading this) with as much ease as possible. . .
While hoping and praying for positive good news. . .

Taking a break, I push back from the phone, the computer, the table, and life. . .
Wondering why I came home from the Ocean’s shores. . .deciding quickly to seek a small diversion.

I step outside into the “feels like 91 degree” humid heat to weed, fertilize and deadhead the now leggy hot garden and yard.
An hour of working in a sauna, I head back inside seeking respite and a popsicle.
I look over a few of my favorite blogs, catching up on a few new postings. . .when I read a wonderful feel good story from Stuart M. Perkins over on Storyshucker
( https://storyshucker.wordpress.com )
Stuart has a Faulkneresque quality as he spins his tales of life and of his growing up in the South (Virginia that is).

His story today regarding a weekend spent at a team building seminar, coupled with my talk with the Nurse charged with caring for Dad and Gloria, each caught my attention as the similarities in these separate discussions was not lost on a sinking psyche.

It is becoming increasingly easy for me to grow frustrated, overwhelmed and sad while dealing with all things Dad and Gloria, while trying to squeeze my own family’s needs into the picture.
Heading into all of this pretty much alone—as in the only child dealing with a dad and stepmom’s rapidly declining health while trying to manage their home and lives, all from afar. . .can drive me to thoughts of drinking bushwhackers quite heavily (you’ll have to see the post from yesterday to understand–“Bushwhackers, bare feet and a needed cure all”)

And that’s when it hit me—-the sudden realization that I’m really not alone. . .
I was soothingly reminded that I actually have my own little team.
Remembering to lift my head, looking upwards to that “from whence comes my help”, leading me to the thoughts of my very own team of three–with me making 4.
As in remembering, claiming and holding onto fast and hard the lone fact that in my faith I never walk alone!
I walk hand in hand with a loving Father in Heaven—-Yeshua, His son, who takes me by the hand— and the Spirit of Life who leads me ever forward—
And it is with that thought of teamwork now flooding my mind—
that I felt myself finally exhale. . .

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(the tiny skipper amongst the succulents / Julie Cook / 2015)

Time for a little reflection

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
― John Lubbock, The Use Of Life

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(luscious raspberry / Julie Cook / 2015)

When I was in college, I worked at a girls summer camp in Black Mt, North Carolina.
There are many posts yet to be written, with some already published, regarding those summers long ago.

The camp counselors were afforded one full day off and one half day off each week.
I would find myself conflicted each time my off day rolled around.
Maybe it’s the built in work ethic I’ve been graced with or maybe my ego was too loud and proud, but whatever the reason, I would always have to force myself to take the time off.

Years later when I was a teacher, I often found myself in a similar situation. Whereas schools don’t afford their teachers time off other than scheduled holidays, I would work even if I was deathly sick–loathing to have to take a sick day. Good teachers you know, never take sick days.
They work through the pain.
And that in turn may actually equate to good teachers actually being stupid. . .but that’s another conversation for another day. . .
But like my principal always said (I had 9 in 31 years so I don’t remember which one)
“a sick teacher is better on any given day than a well substitute.”

I’ve learned over the years that a little time off, a little time for rest, a little time for reflection, a little R & R is often just what the doctor ordered. . .

When I started this little blog 2 and a half years ago, my work ethic carried over from the classroom. I transitioned into retirement from teaching with the help of the blog. I’ve posted something everyday since the inception of this little blog of mine.
In my early days of zealous posting, it was upwards to 3 posts a day.
Luckily for all of us I have mellowed.
I’ve posted sick, tired and even during major events such as my son’s wedding.
As I’m constantly thinking, observing and composing a new post throughout each and every day it’s usually God who has the last word. My original intentions usually take 180 degree turn once His hand is involved. . .

Yet as of late, my life with Dad and Gloria is taking its toll.
I’m finding myself very weary of body, mind and heart.
Each of their respective healths are declining.
Dad has been horrendously sick for the past week.
The doctor keeps throwing out the notion of colon cancer.
Which it very well may be—but I like to think not.
I’ll be taking him next week, despite the initial decision we wouldn’t go, to the gastroenterologist.
He’s sick, looking pale, losing weight and can’t eat a thing but a little bland rice, toast, and applesauce. . .
Gloria has developed Parkinson’s and the dementia is taking a toll—yet she’s fighting it and us with every breath of gusto she retains—she is like a little whirling dervish.

I love the community I have developed here.
You are my dear friends and my life-line
Some of us text, chat and e-mail–sharing our own personal ups and downs.
I don’t know what I’d do without knowing I had your prayers and support–especially on those hard days of driving and doing.

I think I may take a day or two off.
Not stop writing—for Heavens sake no—this is my catharsis. . .
But I’m thinking I may rest over the weekend.
It’s Brenton and Abby’s first year anniversary this weekend and we told them
we’d do something special for them.

So I think I will just kind of “rest” over the weekend
Rest my thoughts, mind and body.
Seek some small diversion to help clear my head and heart.

But as I say that, I probably won’t listen to my own advice and will press on like the good teacher I am 😉
At any rate, we’ll be chatting soon. . .
my love and hugs friends. . . .

Good old fashioned hate, with an extra dose of love

“I hate and love. And why, perhaps you’ll ask.
I don’t know: but I feel, and I’m tormented.”

― Catullus

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(detail of an embroidered bee on a pair of pants / Julie Cook / 2015)

Looking in the closet, deciding what to wear, I opt for the yellow pants with the embroidered bees.
In honor of Dad.
You should know Georgia Tech’s mascot is a yellow jacket.
Yellow Jacket. . .Bee. . .
Comme ci, Comme ça

Every state has its own hyped up in-state college rivalry.
You know, those colleges within each state which vie for bragging rights from one another–with such being anything from the highest recruited freshman class to the nicest campus, the best football team, the best basketball team, the best gymnastics team, the best debate team, the top research facility. . .yada, yada, yada. . .as the list goes on and on.

Here in the South we simply call it “good old fashioned hate”
Someone wrote a book about such using that very title so I’m assuming that’s what we call it.
Here in Georgia that love / hate relationship exists between The University of Georgia and The Georgia Institute of Technology, better known as Georgia Tech, or simply Tech.

I come from a long line of Georgia Tech graduates. . .
My brother, my dad, my uncle, my grandfather, my cousins, even my son took a few course at Tech.
I on the other hand earned my degree from The University of Georgia, otherwise known as Georgia or simply UGA.

People often ask about my family’s rivalry but it’s never a problem. . . not until each fateful fall Saturday in late November when The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets meet The University of Georgia Bulldogs on the gridiron—-then there’s a problem. My Uncle would get so upset, he couldn’t bear to watch the game or even listen to it on the radio—simply too stressful.

Ask anyone from Ohio how they feel about Michigan.
Ask anyone form Michigan how they feel about Ohio.
Ask anyone from Auburn how they feel about Alabama.
Ask anyone form Alabama how they feel about Auburn.
You learn quite quickly that you’ve simply created fertile ground for a fight, plain and simple,
like I say, good old fashioned hate. . .

My deep sense of rivalry satisfaction however, comes in knowing that a man who graduated from both Emory University and Georgia Tech, who claims allegiance to a yellow jacket nation, actually had to endure paying for his daughter to attend college at his much hated arch nemesis.
Enough said.

As I sat in the waiting room, the nurse stepped out to change the channel of music.
U2 was currently singing yet she told me that they needed to change the tempo as Bono was just a little too lively for my dad. I know Dad didn’t complain, probably wasn’t even paying attention, but I let her change it nonetheless.
Eva Cassidy began singing a somber and melodic Fields of Gold.
“This is to make me feel better?!” I mused to myself.
The nurse immediately noted my “bee” pants saying how cute they were.
I explained I wear them for dad.
We then chat about that whole Georgia / Georgia Tech thing. . .

Looking over at Dad, I notice that he just looks so, well. . .old.
Small and tiny, shrinking.
His clothes seem to swallow him these days.
His hair, what hair remains, sits most days a bit disheveled on his mostly bald head.
His glasses, too big for his now tiny face, are always dusty, clouding his rummy eyes.
He’s pale and frail.
Usually listing to the right as he walks. . .make that, shuffles.
We made small talk. . .or actually I attempted to make small talk as Dad rarely initiates conversation.
I asked a few short questions in order to fill the quiet of the waiting room, albeit for Bono’s singing.
“I don’t know” was Dad’s reply, “you know my short term memory isn’t good.”
“I just looked at him, feeling sad, as he began staring forward with his chin dropped in his hand as his arm was propped up on his knee.
As they call him back to see the doctor, telling me they’ll come for me when he’s finished, I lose myself in my thoughts as the song Mad World begins to play. . .
All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places,
worn out faces. . .

Not making me feel better at all. . .

The nurse finally calls me back.
I walk in as Dad is sitting in a chair looking rather small.
I take a seat by him on the doctor’s stool.
“Oh you’re wearing bee pants. . .”
“Yes Dad, just for you” I proudly smile.
He beams a smile of satisfaction.
He becomes fretful about a new prescription the doctor had told him about but I reassure him that we’ll find out more when the doctor comes back in to go over the lab results.

Dad’s hemoglobin is low. It’s been low.
Meaning he’s anemic.
There are symptoms and signs. . .
Dad is most likely bleeding internally, most likely intestinal.
Last visit they shot him full of Vitamin B-12.
Added lots of D and changed up some of the prescriptions.
He seems much better than last visit.
Not as pale, not as wobbly, not as poorly.
At 87 with one so frail, a colonoscopy is asking a lot.
As the doctor had explained to me on our last visit. . .”say he has a colonoscopy and say they find cancer—what do you do?” The odds wouldn’t be in Dad’s favor with surgery. And what of treatment? What of chemo or something even more aggressive. . .would he, could he survive?
We all agreed, with Dad leading the charge, we will wait and see. . .monitor.
Sounds good. . .

So today his levels are still low, but stable. . .so all is good. . . for now

It’s a quick ride home as he is only a Point A to Point B sort of individual. .
no diversions whatsoever!!
He tells me multiple times that he’s worried about Gloria as she’s constantly hurting and frustrated that her hands aren’t as apt to do what she wants them to do. I tell him that I hope the doctor can prescribe something for the arthritis.
He smacks his lips.
In fact the entire time we’ve been in the car, he’s licking his lips or rather moving his tongue over the top of his mouth. . . you know, the way you do when your mouth is dry and you’re trying to work up enough saliva to make it unsticky. . .but the sound is one that is enough to drive a person crazy.
I realize that his mouth is most likely dry from all of his prescription and I make a mental note to say something to the doctor on our next trip back in a couple of weeks.

There was a time I’d have gone nuts over the endless smacking sound and of the constant litany of the same worried question after worried question. My patience with Dad has not always been great.
He tends to be very obsessive compulsive. Especially in regard to my brother. I won’t go into that whole story—suffice it knowing that he committed suicide years ago and dad has a very unhealthy conscious decision in choosing not to heal.
He is a dog with a bone, refusing to let go. . .
For years he refused counseling, always preferring to wallow.
I had a hard time with Dad and all of that.

Yet thankfully time and age have a funny way of sorting things out.
Dad, unbeknownst to himself, is continually teaching me about the important things in life . . .with the kicker being that I’m finally open and appreciative to such.
Funny how that works.
And the most amazing thing of it all. . .
is that a diehard yellow jacket hating Bulldog can proudly wear a pair of yellow bee pants. . .
just for Dad. . .
Good old fashioned hate steeped in love. . .

The patience of assurance

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

― A.A. Milne

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A chive bloom and small stinging fly / Julie Cook / 2015)

The phone rang 4 times Saturday.
It was Dad, all 4 times, wanting to tell me the things he had previously told me in the previous calls. Of which were reiterations and various renditions of what he’d told me throughout the week, throughout last week and the week before that.

So far today the phone has rung 3 times. . .all calls from Dad.

Today’s calls each consisted of different subject matters yet with familiar themes.
“When are you coming back?”
“Do I have new pills?”
“Well Dad, I was just there yesterday and I’ve got a few things I have to do here at home throughout the week, but if you need me I can come back today, tomorrow or when you’d like. . .”
And yes Dad, the Doctor gave you some new prescriptions but the nurse hasn’t brought them yet—so you don’t have to do anything yet.”
“Why do I need physical therapy?”
Do you remember your little fall last week?”
“I didn’t fall, I just kind of laid down on the floor”
Sigh
“A strange little green card came addressed to me in today’s mail, wonder what I’m suppose to do with it?”
“It’s the certified mail receipt from mailing in your tax payment Dad. . .and there’s nothing to do.”
Sigh
“Oh and what’s this paper that came today from the doctor about new pills?
“That sheet is from yesterday Dad and it’s just a recap of your visit with his notes about the new prescriptions which the nurse is going to pick up for you.
“I don’t have them here?”
No not yet Dad. . .”
Sigh

I found out a long long time ago to never pray or ask for patience.
Something about God having a sense of humor and the notion of being careful what one prays for. . .It seems that there are required, repetitive actions which are necessary in order to hone one’s patience. . .that being situations, often unpleasant, trying and tiring which in turn demand more and more of ones patience. Something about those repeated situations eventually helping to produce the requested end-result of patience.

Motherhood and teaching are both good places to practice the art of needing, requiring, polishing and honing patience. But be warned, neither are for the faint of heart.

My dad and his current world are working in tandem to polish and hone my skill of patience. I didn’t realize that I was in need of an update, a refresher course, an in-service or that I had inadvertently asked for some more patience in my life. I had rather thought that I was most full in that area. . .

Yet apparently not necessarily in the area of Dad’s current tremendous need for reassurance, with that coming from the one person he’s known the longest in his now ever shrinking world—-me.

I won’t talk about guilt or the associated guilt that is a often a by-product from ones need of assurance as this post is not about that. I do feel badly when he obviously has this need to have me as a constant presence in his world. Not that I’m not there with him in and out throughout each and every week, but when life and family here call upon me, it is never easy being in two places at once—but somehow motherhood was a good training ground for being stretched thin, the need for miraculous bilocation as well as the carrying of constant guilt. But as I say, all of that is for another post, another day. . .

This current need, resonating deeply in my dad, has my head and heart swirling with the thoughts and palpable feelings of my own need for reassurance.
Reassurance that reaches beyond my need from my family and friends. . .
It is to my constant need for that of my Heavenly Father, Abba, and of His endless reassurance.
For it is in Him that I find my resting place, my solace, my lifeline.

Just like a frightened child, who in the dark of night, continuously calls out to his / her parents for the reassurance of the parent’s protective presence, I too cry out to my Father in Heaven for the reassurance of His presence in my current uncertain world. . .

And just as sweet little piglet so eloquently expresses to Pooh, “I just wanted to be sure of you”, there is indeed something deep within us all that seeks the resting reassurance of presence.

“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.”
Isaiah 12:2

Growing up

“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
― J.D. Salinger

That’s one of the things we learn as we grow older — how to forgive. It comes easier at forty than it did at twenty.”
― L.M. Montgomery

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(Guinea Wasp among the flowers / Julie Cook / 2015)

When did you know that you were all grown up?
Really grown up. . .
As in no longer childlike but rather the designated, tag you’re it, authority of all things known and those things yet known. As in you are now the expert, the one everyone has decided to turn to for help, advice, strength, guidance, knowledge, direction, responsibility. . . the one who had now been taxed with the hard decisions, the tough choices, the yeses and the nos. . .??

For some of us it was perhaps a catastrophic event early on in life. A harsh reality thrust upon us far too early and much too soon.
For others it seemed to come at the cold uncaring hand of fate, the economics of our world, the poor choices of others.

Some of us mark the milestone in much the same way as certain ethnic tribal groups who have ceremonial rites of passage. The hoopla of a 21st birthday, the last hooray of a bachelor or bachelorette party before one’s impending nuptials. Some of us know the passing of the torch occurs the moment our first child is born. . .

I thought my moment came at age 25 when my mom died and I had to care for a father who was suddenly a lost child, readily foregoing adulthood while wrapped in his utter grief. I was pretty certain it hadn’t come at 23 when I married—as I was still so green and terribly wet behind the ears back then.

I think it also happened again when my son was born. I had to put my wants and needs aside as I was now responsible for the well-being of another. Resposiblilty should equate to growing up, should it not? There was just something about losing a parent and then becoming a parent. . .
Surely that was it, the time. . . the time of losing a parent and becoming a parent that signified life as a grown up.

At 55 I figured I was pretty grown up.
No doubt about it, grown.
I had retired had I not?
One has got to be pretty old to be able to retire right?
One would think.

My son got married last year.
I have a daughter-n-law.
My hair is turning rather silveresque.
My bones are a bit more brittle.
My eyesight is eluding me.
My mind may not be exactly as sharp as it once was.
My husband keeps reminding me I’m not as young as I once was.
I’m not keen upon hearing that.

Yet events of recent weeks have once again reminded me, that I’m still not totally grown up. . .
not by a long shot.

It slowly dawned on me, as I sat splayed legged on the floor of my old bedroom, of which now acts as Dad’s office, sorting through a myriad, or more like a mountain, of unpaid bills, forgotten tax information, past due this and that, a plethora of saved junk mail, folder upon folder of the years past all while spending countless hours on the phone sorting out the disaster he had slowly created when, on the fateful day we can’t seem to recall which was which, that he woke up and his mind decided it no longer wanted to be the grownup mind of a dad, my dad.

It may have come when I began writing countless checks, signing my name where his name should have been. When I called the numerous insurance companies seeking help. When the nurse came from the insurance company to evaluate his needs. When I called a care service. When I had to tell him NO or YES to his insistence that there be no care service, that he indeed needed “help”.

Maybe it was today when we sat filling out the healthcare questionnaire for the new doctor. The personal, oh so personal, questions I had to ask, had to listen to his answers. Questions you never imagined asking your dad or having to have him explain. Maybe it was when I had to explain to him about how he had to work the blood occult test kit as he politely told me, “no thank you, I don’t want to do that.”

As he now looks to me, or rather at me, for reassurance, for direction, for help, for rescuing, with questioning rummy eyes, which now look while pleading and searching for answers. . .answers I don’t readily have. The same eyes that were the ones I looked to when, as a little girl, I would call out each night for the various stuffed animals elected to guard and protect me throughout the night, as he’d throw them to me from across the room from their daily resting spot, thrown to my excited open arms in order for me to catch them, one at a time, as we performed our nightly ritual. . .

We all know parents aren’t exactly human. . .they’re a lot like the teachers I’ve spent a lifetime alongside–superhuman, not like mere mortals. They don’t have the same ills or issues as others. They are invincible and beyond the ordinary.
That’s their role is it not. . .?

Theirs is to provide, to guard, to protect, to lead, to guide, to always be there. . .

. . . as now the child reluctantly finds herself becoming the parent,
the lonely role of grown-up. . .

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

No time for chickens. . .

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
― Mother Teresa

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(portion of a 19th century oil painting by H.A. Bossir which was my grandmothers)

Have you ever heard the expression “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”??
Well oddly enough, for almost the past 32 years, that little expression has pretty much been the mantra of my little family. I say 32 years because that’s almost how long I’ve been married and it was just around that time that this bad luck / good luck ying and yang thing started. I’m rather confident my husband would own up to being the lightening rod but we won’t hold that against him.

And of course there’s that whole “best laid plans” thing which also rears its ugly head in my neck of this world. . .

So I don’t know what possessed me to even begin to think that my happy little bucolic dream of having my beautiful chicken coop complete with a bevy of beautiful layers, hunting and pecking to their hearts content, foraging in the beautiful vegetable garden next to the coop while I, Mrs Farmer Brown, tended to my small piece of idyllic country living would actually come to fruition.
What was I thinking?

What came over me envisioning Country Living wanting to come do a photo shoot of my city girl meets farmer girl world? Why did I picture myself naming the girls. . . Marigold, Clementine, Petunia, Coq au vin, and Lady Poulet? What possessed my husband when he had a coop custom made for me last Christmas?? A coop that now just sits forlornly in the backyard, empty and alone.

And what of the large vegetable garden we have each year? What of my squash, my zucchini, my myriad of heirloom tomato plants, my wax beans, my bush beans, my eggplants, my okra, my 4 varieties of corn, of my peppers. You remember, the garden that was decimated last year by the herd of ravenous deer that nearly ate me out of house and home?? And of my Irish Spring deterrent??
What of that???

Sadly, none of that is to be this year.

Time has come calling and has put the kibosh on all my hopes and dreams. . .
well. . .maybe not all my hopes and dreams, but those of the immediate moment such as chickens and gardens and a peaceful summer.
There just simply isn’t time in the day to be bucolic while spending the majority of the week on the road driving to and from Atlanta to Dads. . .

Sigh. . .

And speaking of Dad. . .

I had not even gotten in the shower this morning when the care service we’ve enlisted, in the daily care of the blind leading the blind, calls.
“Hello”

“Hi Julie, just thought I’d let you know your dad called us this morning canceling tomorrow’s service”

“WHAT?”

“Yes, their regular caregiver has a doctor’s appt. tomorrow–we were going to send a replacement for the day in but they decided they didn’t need anybody.”

“Really. . .”

“Let me call Dad and I’ll call you right back”

ring, ring, as a warbled voice answers. . .

“hello”

“Dad, the care service just called me, they tell me you’ve canceled service for tomorrow–what’s up?”

“Well our regular girl says she won’t be here so we decided we just don’t need anyone.
And anyway do you have any idea how expensive this service is?
(his voice raising to a crescendo of stricken shock and panic)
This is going to break me! I don’t see why we need any of this care business anyway.
Why do we need all day service for seven days a week. . .”

“Well Dad, you know you both do like to eat and since you all aren’t up to really cooking, it’s nice having someone who can prepare your meals,plus someone reminding you, you know, to eat. Someone there helping with the chores, making certain you take your pills, making certain ya’ll don’t fall as walking isn’t what it use to be. . .yada, yada, yada. . .”

(with an odd sense of clarity)
“Well since you’re coming tomorrow (I am??), you can be here and we’ll be fine.
(Great)
But you don’t need to stay long because you’ve got to get on the road before the traffic hits. . .”
(ugh)

“We’ll talk more about this tomorrow Dad while we see how you two do without your “helper” for a day.

Oh and did I mention the CPA called miraculously out of the blue this afternoon asking about dad’s taxes?
You know, the taxes dad seems to think will magically take care of themselves.
The ones he’s suppose to have been taking care of for the past two years but hasn’t.
The ones I’ve threatened him within an inch of his life to take care of ASAP, as in ASAP two years ago.
The ones that are still sitting in a pile on the floor in the office, aka my old bedroom.
(albeit a neat pile since I hit that room hard 5 weeks ago)
The ones I’ve pleaded with him to let me tend to. . .only to have him defiantly dig in his heels fighting me tooth and nail over.
“Ok Dad”, I’d tell him, “they’re going to haul you off to jail.”
He’d hang his head, setting that jaw telling me, “fine, they can just take me to jail”
Great. . .
All because he has refused to let go and give it up. . .

And it dawned on me one low day last week that the reality of him actually having to let go, giving it all up is what so much of this entire ordeal and fight has been all about–the difficulty of relinquishing a role he’s played for my 55 years of life.
He knows he’s not been doing a good job for years now but something deep inside of him won’t let it go. How does the dad, the one whose charged with the care and well being of his family, turn lose of that role. . .
He’s 87
He acts like a kid, a child. . .at times.
He forgets.
He’s confused.
He likes quiet, his cat, his simple little routine.
Yet he’s still my dad.
It’s his house.
He’s been in that house for 53 years.
He lost my mom while living there.
He lost my brother while living there.
He had a grandchild enter his life in that house.
Who are these people now invading his house, his world?
And when did this daughter, this kid who couldn’t balance a check book. . .
Who had champagne taste on a beer budget, who just had to have cotton candy pink shag carpet,
who was defiant, who preferred GI Joes to Barbies,
who went to Georgia to his beloved Georgia Tech. . .
When did she become the person who is now charged with
his care,
his finances,
his life and well being,
who now dares to tell him he cannot go down the basement stairs in his own house. . .

So it is now official. . .
The inmates are running the asylum and I’m charged with picking up the pieces.

Oh to fly away

“If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.”
― Coco Chanel

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(little sparrow / Julie Cook / 2015)

So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.

Psalm 55:6

Aging parents
Alzheimers
Dementia
Failing health
Physical failings
Bills
Past due
Overdue
Banks
Credit cards
Creditors
Lawyers
Wills
Power of attorney
Insurance
Life insurance
Medicare
Caregivers
Physical therapy
Disliked doctors
An aging home
Burst sewer pipes
Waiting on the city
Repair companies
Trust
No trust
Two separate families
Differences
Demands
Tears
Fear
Dad
Step mother
Life
Death
Unhappy
Frustrated
Sad

Oh to have the wings of a bird. . .