circling the wagons

“Yup.
The end of a way of life.
Too bad.
It’s a good way.
Wagons forward!
Yo!”

John Wayne

A faithful friend is a strong defense;
And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.

Louisa May Alcott

18POzvZ

I’ve spent the better part of the past two years circling my wagons…
As I’ve been riding on a merry-go-round of all things focused on caring for a dad…
one who has been more child than father…
as it should be noted that that has been pretty much him for the majority of my adult life.

As a life long high school teacher, I can multitask with the best of them…
except when it comes to a crisis…
then my mind and actions narrow.

I become steely eyed…
as I grow laser focused,
blocking out most everything that sits on the periphery of life,
as I turn every available resource to the problem.

Trouble is, there have been a myriad of troubles during the course of
the last couple of years…
all of which have kept me and my sights narrowed and hyper-focused
for much longer than is most likely healthy….
hence my back, or whatever it is back there that has me unknowingly holding my hand
to my lower back as I go about my day in a gingerly fashion….
So unlike my ADDness of darting here and there all before blinking…

As an only child caring for two elderly individuals who have varying degrees of dementia,
as well as a wealth of physical ailments…
and who live miles away in a different city from my own…
it has all left me more and more isolated and emotionally spent

It seems my closest friend these days is the main caregiver who spends her days
making certain no one falls or forgets their medications…
let alone forgetting to eat…
which for one of them is a constant battle.

I live on the road, traversing back and forth.
The days I spend not traversing,
are spent on the phone with various doctors and healthcare facilities,
or paying a sea of endless bills,
or simply organizing a home and household other than my own…
A house that is nearly 65 years old and needs much in the way of care….

My phone rings constantly with the calls from an ever growing confused 88 year old man
who has decided he will die in the hospital come Friday during his surgery…
as his wife, my stepmother,
just can’t understand and is irritated as to why he keeps having to run to the loo.

The concept of a large tumor and bladder cancer has simply flown totally
over her head as she has decided she hates the new dishwasher.
I had to buy it,
have it installed
and now she hates it
for the one single reason…
that I bought it…
Go figure…

She now demands that the caregivers hand wash every dish and glass.
Just as she refuses to eat the groceries brought into the house
because she is convinced they have all gone bad and are rotten upon
arriving fresh from the store.

And if it’s not dad calling, it’s the caregivers calling with the latest craziness
as I work my magic to put out the fires of bodies and minds fighting themselves….

The journey getting here was slow and almost unnoticeable at first.
There were, however, signs and warnings…

Signs and warnings, that perhaps in my naiveté,
I thought would all turn out differently
or never materialize in the first place…

Just like the pictures I had in my mind of my future with my mother…

That when she would one day grow old and grey…as dad is now,
I warmly entertained the thoughts of how we’d have fun together…
We’d go to lunch and to the antique shops we each enjoyed when she and I were younger..
Just as we would then travel and see the world…together…

But those thoughts were smashed 30 years ago when she suddenly died from cancer….
So I don’t know why I try to imagine things as a certain way,
as that is not how they will be…

For the snowball has picked up momentum and is barreling at breakneck speed toward me…

And so, yes, I have circled my wagons…
drawing my camp ever near.
As my circle in life has tightened..
excluding many from what once was…

My eyes have narrowed
As I hold my cards tight to my chest,
lest they reveal too much…hopefulness…

Yet this story of woe is not as tragic as it might seem…
Nor is this heart bitter as it might sound…

For despite the fact that my world has shrunk from what it was…
from my friends
from my freedom
from my choices
from my comings and goings…

there has been much…
inward growing
inward learning
inward bending
inward moulding
inward shaping

For the winds of this life are shifting…
And attentions must be turning…

So I ready myself and my camp
for that which comes our way…

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’
declares the LORD,
‘plans for welfare and not for calamity
to give you a future and a hope.’

Jeremiah 29:11

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

Amen.
A prayer attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr (1892-1971)

What? You talking to me?

We live in deeds not years In thoughts not breaths In feelings not figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives who thinks most, feels noblest, acts the best.”
― Philip James Bailey

DSCN6332
(wary eyed pigeon, Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014)

When my son was a little boy, he and I spent a great deal of time together. And not that it’s odd for a mother to spend a great deal of time with her child, my child happened to be only child with our living in a separate community from the one in which I taught, way back in the middle of 20 acres of woods. I was pretty much his only playmate, up until it was time to start school. His dad worked long hours so it was often just the two of us.

A favorite pastime would often find us curled up on the couch watching his favorite shows, with cartoons being a big part of our viewing. My dad had spent time with me watching cartoons so it just seemed natural for me to do the same with my child. And I must admit that those are some of the best memories I have of those simple easy days spent contently together–nothing special, no big deal–just he and I simply enjoying being together and laughing as we watched a silly cartoon

One of the cartoons we both enjoyed watching was the Goodfeathers.

800px-Goodfeathers_2s

Goodfeathers was the cartoon’s world take on the movie the Goodfellas. I’d never seen the Goodfellas movie but I knew enough about the movie to know that it was a story about the Mob. The cartoon was so tongue and cheek and such a funny take on the stereotypical life of Italian Americans and Mob life that I think I probably enjoyed it as much, if not more, than my son–and if the truth be told, most likely on a vastly different level. That subtle little nuances that only I could pick up on.

The Goodfeathers even had their own version of Marlon Brando’s role from the Godfather–a role portrayed by the Godpigeon.

good feathers

And so it was, on an idle evening stroll, along a beautifully old victorian era street lined with the brownstones of days gone by, that I spied a lone pigeon lounging along the rim of a bird bath. My proximity to him seemed to make no never mind, so I stopped long enough to take his picture.

Later, when I was actually going through the myriad of pictures I’d taken throughout the day, I noted the wary eye this pigeon shot my way–with the immediate thought and words of a young Robert de Nero—“What, You talking to me?”
Which in turn immediately sent my thoughts tumbling back in time, many years prior to a delightful time of joy and innocence when a mom and her young son lived a simpler time of contentment. . .

IMG_0794
(cookie and little cookie, on his wedding day / June 7, 2014 –and it should be noted, he’s little cookie 😉 )