I don’t ride on coattails.

Squalls of impending change. That is the moment I am in!

Schools is ending, a major shift in the way I spend my time. While I have yet to lock in my future plans, I know what I don’t want. I won’t fail to follow my own.

A good friend today asked me to join in on her plans. It was to move away, start fresh in a new city. My reaction was expected “You know that I can’t”, referring to my parents. She offered a compromise, and I said no.

But what was this really? The truth- this wasn’t my dream. 

While I may not have been able to articulate this as clearly in the past, I proudly know that I have never done this- made a change that wasn’t my own. I didn’t follow a breaking relationship 3000 miles away, I didn’t take a ‘good enough’ job at an organization I love. I didn’t choose my place to study abroad based on friends’ choices.

And the same is true today. I want to live out my dream. However unplanned, frightening, and winding it may be. And while this might take daily courage and weekly doses of fortitude, it’s the only way I want to go.

My way. However it goes.

Her simple band

Plink.

 

It hits the floor, rolls under the mahogany furniture, forgotten forever. Or at least that is how I envisioned this possibility.

Instead I walk up the stairs, find Mom in the sunroom. She has a new cozy pillow and is smiling widely. She recognizes me. Or so I hope.

We exchange our hugs and kisses, our hi’s and how are you’s, and spend a moment, each with big smiles. At one point, I glance down and see a passing of silver and then gone again.

I stand up and over Mom, trying to cradle her hand, and realize she has taken off her wedding ring, and has it barely hanging on her pointer finger.

“Oh gosh how did this happen!” I say and we both giggle. As I slip it on her ring finger again, I realize how easily it now moves.

 

I have never seen her without it. This band is always on her hand and in her heart.

 

Later after sister arrives, we decide to take it with us and not run the risk of losing it forever. Sis says I can take it- I do, but tell her soon we will put it away with all the other items. It doesn’t need to be mine nor do we need to decide now. But for the moment, it goes on my right hand for safekeeping.

 ***

Hours later, it still remains on my finger. I don’t want to take it off. It feels foreign, as it obviously hasn’t earned a common and snug feeling. And yet it does not feel strange, it feels comforting. I am wearing it to protect it, but it adds an element of security for me.

I don’t know how to go about this. I don’t know how to linger as we let go. I don’t know how to lose my parents, when the outside tells me to focus on creating this role for my own.

Of course, this is not the ring I thought I would cling to at this moment in my life. It sits on the opposite hand, better rooted from falling away. It represents the past, a beautiful one. While it’s shape denotes no ending, it’s presence is an ominous sign of slipping away.

And yet, it is one that surprised me. One that fills my heart with joy and sadness in separate spaces. On my hand in this moment, it breathes new life.

These moments remind me of the trickiness of this disease. There is no easy pattern to follow, no foolproof guide to tell you what to expect. Maybe she will always remember us, maybe she won’t. Maybe she will laugh and giggle until her final days, or maybe she will change so radically in front of us. While Alzheimer’s has expedited her life, the current reality is painstaking in duration.

12 minutes of “a day in the life”

A few months ago, I came across an ABC News Report on Alzheimer’s. The son of a an Alz patient and a news anchor both underwent a twelve minute stimulation of what it can be like for a dementia patient.

For me, just watching this let me understand some of my Mom’s patterns a bit better. For someone who is constantly surrounded by the disease, reading and educating myself about it, I still learned from this exercise.

So in the heyday of “Still Alice”, bringing great awareness to  the silver screen, take a few moments to gain another perspective.

Just one more day

Driving home from a late night class  a week ago, my thoughts theme-dashed around change. A new year starting but with endings in sight, how do we rectify these dichotomies.

I thought about my upcoming birthday. Well, what do you want, I thought?

TH-WACK. Right in the chest it hit. Knocking the wind out of me while brimming of tears begun at my eyes.

I want one day before 2/27 back.

Memories of life last year flooded back. Visits to the house and trying to find new ways to entertain and be with Mom. Promises of tennis matches and lunch dates with Dad in NYC to come. And later small mentions of Dad’s issues with grip in his left hand.

More than a week later, this thought still hits at my emotional core. It’s true. I want that back.

And that small, still voice dares to remind me…I still have a few more. While these days are different, filled with change, filled with losses and grief, there are a few more.

While I can’t rectify these two things, there is space for them both.

So welcome home.

Be slow, icy conditions ahead.

“It’s bad out there. I put salt down but be slow and be careful”.

A few wise words from my land’mama and friend. We had a small ice storm in the morning. I slept poorly and was rushing around to do “all the things that had to get done”. Work. Oil change. Doctors phone calls for parents. Call the pharmacy. Call the garage. Speak with the boss. Etc.

Yet, when I got the email at noon I thought, “hmm, maybe this is one of those moments where being slow means more than just don’t slip on the ice”. I need to breathe. I need to take a step back, and despite all the stress in my life, try to make sure it I can still find me in the rain, in the slippery and depressing points of life.

So whether it is the proverbial ice patches or the literally ones out my door, I hope by slowing down, being patient and being in the moment will help me weather these storms.

Christmas Memories

As I have mentioned, I have been clutching to mementos. I clutch to
Mom’s locket with pictures of sis and I as babies. I grab ash trays I
will never use but love the story behind them. And recently going
through clothes that no longer fit Mom, I grab one sweater.

I have this vivid memory of Mom at our family friend’s house one
winter evening, actually Superbowl Sunday. She is in a gorgeous long
skirt, wearing soft and flattering sweater. Many times this memory
has morphed Mom into having long flowing hair, and I can see myself in
her.

I grab this sweater and love the coziness and connection it brings me,
loving to tell the story that it is much more than knitted cotton, at
least to me.

While going through old home videos, I catch one Christmas recording I
haven’t seen in years. I’m watching the toddler versions of ourselves
both Christmas morning and in the evening when the family came over. I
laugh at my childhood confusion of a 2 year old as I sob when all the
gifts are gone and I do not understand.

And then, in the frame is Mom. She is handed a gift from my Aunt Dee.
Mom opens it and swoons “thank you, it is so lovely!”

And its the sweater.

Her sweater….and now mine.

What’s even more wonderful, is the connection this also brings to my
aunt, who died when I was 12 years old. This sweater has family and
Christmas history for me.

I watch my Mom walk around, twenty years younger, kissing my cousins and aunts and uncles,
wishing them a Merry Christmas and she handing them gifts. I
remember how she was. Who she really is…and remember how much I love
seeing her in this way.

So. Thank, you. It is indeed so lovely.

Of normalcy

I cross the intersection and glance at a window facing the street. A figure is jumping up and down, waving frantically at me despite the strong glare. I see it is my friend, Kathleen.

I enter the building, grab a glass of my favorite fruit infused water. I stroll over to another office, greeting another soul. Despite our conversations, I cannot recall her name and it is well beyond on the point of decency to ask. But she asks about me, my family, our lives and my work. She is another ray of light.

With such pleasantries, who could believe I am about to enter a life changing meeting regarding my parent’s health?

I know I am blessed. Not just for the amazing family I have or the way in which I grew up, but even in the shit that is the now, that there are these moments of grace. My friend handing me contrabanded chocolate from her desk, or another asking how my “Seth” is…an homage to my boyfriend, who is both ingeniously funny and a stand-in for a famous comedian. Its the knowing smile with the nod of understanding that we need to discuss anything else, but the real reason that we are here.

These small interactions brings normalcy. It’s people who understand the stress of this disease, who care enough to ask, to voice the tough questions, but also let me feel the real world. In a place as dank as a cancer center, their spirit fills the room, especially when they are jumping up and down to greet me. They offer 30 seconds of order. Of jubilant energy. Of hope. All while arranging the care necessary to fight one of the worlds most aggressive diseases.

But without that ineffable spirit…it would not be the same at all.

 

**** Thank you Kathleen and dearest name-forgotten friend!

No regrets

No regrets.

 

No regrets means living fully.

No regrets is embracing the adventure.

No regrets means reflecting on the past AND moving forward.

No regrets is finding joy in every place you can.

 

No regrets is more than living without mistake. It’s nearly the antithesis- it is believing, baring, and barreling through the missteps.

It’s continuing the journey despite the hard times and alongside sorrow. No regrets means having faith while surrendering control.

It’s the father of wisdom. It’s the financier of betting on yourself. It’s the constant cheerleader, the one who never misses a game. It’s the hard-worker, who reminds us the importance of practice. It’s the essence present, when all else has evaded.

No regrets means living this life without overdependence on the errors of the past. Thus, no regrets takes us ordinary beings and drives us to our best self. One absolutely worth being.

Before & After

I suppose many moments in life are punctuated by the clear line of before or after.

For me, that moment is now “before tumor” and “after tumor”. While grateful it is not my own, it is part of my story. Part of my life.

Dad’s tumor brought a full stop to our lives. It severed the world we lived in- one of life, even with Alz or struggles in finding our way. We three knew how to care for the fourth.

This abrupt change has shifted the world to before and after.

Before cancer, and after.

Best of…DIY!

I love a great do it yourself project. I’m not the craftiest of persons, but I do love these fabulous tricks, DIY, or homemade creations as you may call them. While every now and again I find a goo one, I thought I might share them with all of you!

Do it your self awards (starting with the first three I have used for years and the last three all discovered this past month!)

  1. Cleaning product: I love the more natually side of products, but I also want it to work. I want it be working as hard as I am attack the soap scum! This concoction of vinegar and baking powder does wonders for stuck on foods for a kitchen surface to toothpaste in the bathroom. I put mine in a small spray bottle and get to work.  You can also create a similar solution to clean your oven in a healthy, non-toxic way.
  2. Yogurt: This one I learned about a year after my time in FrancisCorp. Truth be told, had I know about it beforehand, we certainly would have been eating this then! Fresh, homemade, less bitter yogurt- yes please! Now with this one, patience is key! It takes a few batches to get your yogurt to the thickness you want, but well worth it.
  3. Plant Food: Every gal loves a nice bunch of fresh flower. But nothing is sadder than seeing them wilt by day two. By taking a little vinegar and sugar, you can feed your flowers to last as long as two weeks!
  4. Hair-cuts: Recently I was out with some grad school gal pals. I comment on T’s new hair cut. Looking for my own new do, I asked where she got it done. She told me “I did it myself”. As I said, “whaaat?” our other friend B also said “Yah, I cut my own hair too”. Well, I just had to try it. And this chick guided me the whole way (and I also love how I can rock out to a great Broadway musical during a tutorial vid ;) ). TRY IT!
  5. Fruit fly traps: This is one of my newer finds, but I love it oh so much. I’m not sure if it is because I always have a stack of banana hanging out for smoothies or that I live in a 120 year old space, but man those fruit flys are pesky. When my dear friend Jane from Spain posted this, I was in heaven!
  6. Gar-scrap-ening: It’s not gardening, it’s not composting, it’s growing food from scraps. Say what?! As my mother’s child, I have a fairly black thumb. I try gardening, growing food from my window boxes, and I’m just not all that successful. I keep trying, and maybe one day I will get it. But this trick, both as a frugal grad student, and foodie makes me thrilled. The first 3 are pretty stinking easy, and I’m having great success with the first 2 I have tried!

What do you think? Are you game to trying the cleaning wonder or going to take the big dive and trim your hair?

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My garden of scraps, fruit fly trap and my handy cleaning solution!

Share your other favorite do-it-yourself wonders!