Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Life's Story: Trash, Treasure or A Box of Chocolates?

Life is like a box of chocolates, we learned in a movie. 

However, as one candy manufacturer realized, when people are given an insight, a map, of what's where with a description of each piece and its location, they sell more boxes of candy and the level of satisfaction with their product is increased.

And for more and more people, no matter how well we try to arrange and plan, life gets in the way and takes out all or most of the dividers, supporters and weakens the container. So while we would like to be "special" and "individual", we become like the box that's missing those special pieces providing the support and the ability to maintain the integrity and individuality of each piece.

Life is also like going out on the weekends to various sales labeled: Garage, Yard and Estate. And then there are the formalized Flea Markets, Consignment Sales and Antique Stores.

At a Garage Sale, the surroundings are usually just as they're labeled, outside of someone's home and either in the driveway or in bad weather perhaps inside the garage. A yard sale can be in the back or front of a house.  Pricing at both is usually in the cents and small dollar range with perhaps a few items of "greater value" -- lawn equipment, furniture, large pictures or some "treasures" priced a little to a lot higher, depending on the experience, knowledge and desire of the person to let go, get it out of the way or simply just "get rid of it".

An Estate Sale, however, paints a picture in the mind of the prospective attendee of cherished items now having to be "sold" or "parted with" due to need that can be financial or it can be simply due to moving or sadly, death. Sometimes "professionals" are hired to price, arrange/display and manage the entire procedure receiving a commission or fee. There is a level of service, even of knowledge and certainly of caring about managing the sale to benefit the owner and the prospective buyer.

What's the difference?  You can often find the same items at each of these places. Some may be in better condition that others but some may be exactly the same. 

Our Elderly are being treated like items at Garage Sales, Yard Sales and a few are privileged to receive Estate Sale status. It's all about how much you can afford and for how long. It can also about your willingness to change your life early enough to invest in a level of care that changes as your needs change -- with or without Long Term Care Insurance. It can also be about the challengs in life you face and how they deduct from the bottom line you've laid and the plans you've made. And, its about the willingness of families to support their members through providing levels of increasing care and support either in a separate residence or within the family home of the younger members.

Looking around our area, I see many more facilities that are Independent Living with a few also having Assisted Living. How they define their care is somewhat dependent on their State's Laws regarding these facilities but it's also dependent on how much money the individual has as to when they change the definition of care they're willing to provide -- or the physical condition escalates to where constant supervision and medical care are necessary.

My experience over the past half dozen years entering into this "nightmare" of eldercare using funds or support/assistance beyond what we could personally provide or my Mom could financially afford, has shown a high level of waste, want and need by people who are wasting away waiting for the end to come while trying to make the best of each day never knowing what level of care they'll receive.

Large groups of our most aged elderly, those 85 and beyond, are entering facilities where they are made more and more dependent on others.  In Mom's facility, within six months of entering, people went from a walker to a wheelchair and no real effort was made to strengthen their muscles, ensure their balance or oversee their needs so they could remain upright and walking. Mom's facility didn't provide one on one "movement" intervention; an occasional "activity" perhaps once a week, was there if you remembered, if you wanted to attend. Personalized Care might be in the directives of the State Guidelines for residents of Long Term Care, Skilled Nursing Facilities but no one really cares enough to ensure it's being provided.

WHAT A CHANGE.  We can't wait for a baby to take their first steps, to become independent and to take care of themselves. We spend years as parents getting them to be "competent" and "capable" and then take away their ability to move freely, make choices about when, where and what they'll eat or do and throw them in with a complete stranger who may have serious problems or just doesn't like "sharing" and so makes life very difficult.

NO CHOICES.  As a facility resident, you get what you're given. It's up to you or to your family or friends to make the area more "liveable" where the facility choses for you to live.  A closet with a high bar to hang your clothes on?  Well, you just have to "ask" someone to get what you want. It might take an hour or an entire morning, but eventually someone will answer the call button or remember to check to make sure you're dressed for the day

Marketing and advertising paint a picture of "gourmet" meals and show "caregivers" walking alongside, sitting beside and providing so much varied assistance and caring. Dare you to visit on a regular day when there is no special program, no expectation of family or friends visiting (no weekends, no evenings, no holidays or dates close to these times) and see the reality of Senior Care which is quite different from what is publicized.

TOO BUSY.  Some are definitely overworked due to understaffing by facilities that do not consider personal care needs important and base their "worker scheduling" on "medical needs".

Here's the reality of life in an SNC: You might not be able to stand and reach for something you want/need; you may need assistance getting on or off the toilet, getting into the "medicine cabinet" that's placed well above your head for a toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant or other items; you may not be able to see yourself in the mirror in the bathroom as well as you'd like while seated in the wheelchair because it's hung so high; you may not be able to maneuver your wheelchair in and out with the trashcan that's placed against the door to the bathroom to hold it open because it always swings shut without the weight of the can against it; you may not be able to remember where you put those personal care items you remember now and again you'd like to use; drop something under the bed and see how long it takes for anyone to notice; misplace anything and have staff tell you "they'll take care of it" only to never see it again.

JUNK. GIVEAWAYS. TREASURES.  How do you want to be classified when you need to live in a Long Term Care facility?


Most Importantly:  How are you going to ensure you receive a level of care consistent with your personal needs and beneficial to providing a life that's worth living?


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dying, Death, Decay: Natural Yet Unwanted

It's Spring...supposedly....with temperatures mimicking early Fall. Unnatural? Signs of changes to our planet? Doom and gloom? Death watch?

The flowering trees in our area this year were extraordinary. Remembering the bitter sub zero weather for longer than almost anyone can actually remember; Mom could have because she was 99 when she passed, it's amazing we had such a vibrant and amazingly beautiful Spring.

As each floral awakening of buds and bushes occurs, I wonder at the beauty, of the survival of the plants through such difficult times. Plants and people. Both amaze me.

Mom lived during times when there weren't shots for measles, mumps and other childhood diseases. Survival of children beyond the age of five or six was often extraordinary.

Mom's nine siblings all survived into adulthood and her brothers, six of them, each lived many years beyond their service in World War II. One brother did go to Canada, the "baby boy", where he served in their Mounted Police; I've no one to ask about this choice now as his wife and daughter are both gone and the son who survives served in Vietnam and has become quite the recluse.

What are the odds I'll live as long as my Mom and Grandmother? Ages 99 and almost 91, respectively? They weathered life's challenges; the stress and the losses. Each worked hard and each worked at living daily lives challenged by late in life Dementias. Will that also be my fate?

My beautiful bouquet of roses sent by my youngest son have almost all drooped and shown through falling apart their time has come and they are no longer "living". Six are left; three white, two pink and one mauve. Our family numbered six: my husband and I, our three children and Mom.

These too shall pass, I tell myself. Time will take its toll. Before we realize each of their time has come it will be here and those remaining will join them in their own time.

Unwelcome and unwanted, dying and death visit families. It brings a bittersweet time for those remaining. We want to be positive; to "know" we'll meet again if we have those beliefs, but for many it becomes surviving in the here and now that presents as much challenge as dealing with the then and when their loved one(s) departed this life.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Not a great thought, really, when you consider the process. Who wants to think about those passages? Few I know do.

Yet we see new sprouting from old; life extending through what appears to have ended.

Life continues to surprise us in its ability to go on and to return.

Hope. Faith. Love.  Basic elements of life. Basic concepts of death.

Life is truly a circle. As I move around this shape I wonder when and how I will complete its path. And as I go, I can only live each day reminding myself I make this circle in the here and now and each day I complete a part of it.

I pass along to my children and their children and perhaps someday, if I follow in my mother and my grandmother's footsteps, I'll be able to pass along to my great grandchildren, what has been given to me: a love of and respect for life and a desire to create a life that has meaning each day that I am given.

Dying, death, decay, are natural yet unwanted but a little easier if we are fortunate to live a life of sharing and caring for and about one another during all the days of our lives.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Roses: Symbols of Death and Symbols of Life

Reminder to self: on special days, check front door. Youngest son, always thoughtful, may send flowers. Not a good idea in 80 degree weather to have two dozen roses, no matter how "young" when picked and well wrapped, sit in blazing sunlight for a day or even two.

They are beautiful. Red, pink, mauve and white. Elegant and simple; most surviving but a few showing their ordeal through wilting in the earliest stage of their unfolding.

I've always loved flowers. It's one of my earliest and best memories of childhood. I used to not look forward to visiting my Grandmother because the drive took well over an hour and our car didn't have air conditioning so it was really uncomfortable in Summer. Stopping, on occasion and not always because money used for buying ice cream wasn't commonplace but a special treat, was always part of my "wishing" as we drove back from our weekly visit to Grandma's house. My grandfather passed when I was quite small so I remember my Grandma more than I do him.

Grandma would manage to stew a chicken, another luxury both for her and for us, and in the Spring and Summer, she would always tell me to "Wait just a minute, dear, before you leave. Let me cut some nice, fresh flowers for you." And she did. Lovingly gathered remembrances of a woman quite old (to me) with many grandchildren but always making me feel special with this parting gift. .

My Grandma would wrap the flowers in a wet rag and if I was lucky, some of them would survive the journey in the blazing hot car with windows rolled down making the back seat, where I sat, more like a wind tunnel where you hung on for dear life. Didn't have seatbelts -- back in the day.

She passed at almost 91 when I was pregnant with my first child, a son. I flew back to Mom's from Michigan where we were living; a very rare treat because flying at that time was not like it is today; women dressed up and so did men; it wasn't like a bus ride, it was a very special experience

Grandma had "common" flowers and those that mainly bloomed year after year. Her garden was on the back of her house but that was the entrance you used because that's where the gravel driveway was. Driving up the short hill that led to the house we'd pass a shed that had a sharpening wheel sitting prominently outside. Grandpa always kept his tools well sharpened.

A little farther over sat the most dreaded area I never wanted to go near but always had to pay a visit during the several hours we'd spend at Grandma and Grandpa's -- the outhouse.

The smell of that area will never leave my memory. And the insects! I hated the idea of going near it by myself and always begged Mom or Dad to go with me, hold the door open a crack and be ready to swat or step on anything that ventured near or (shudder) into the "two seater" where I held my nose and tried to ensure no piece of clothing got near anything it shouldn't.

I remember a concrete walk, short in length and poured by two of Grandma's six sons; they wanted her not to have to walk in dirt or mud when she had to use the outhouse. It didn't go all the way to "the facility", but it helped, I suppose.

As I've grown older, I can't imagine how she did it for as long as she did; she was about 87 when she moved from that little house to live with one of my Aunts. Or maybe she was a even older. I remember it wasn't long after a Spring or Fall when she chopped down a tree next to her house that was getting too big and she couldn't seem to get any of her "boys" to get to doing it, so she did it herself. The trunk was bigger than my fist is today. Did I mention we women are determined and some say "strong headed" in our family?

My Grandma lived to be almost 91 and my mother lived to be 99. What they saw in their lives; the history, the discoveries, the changes!

Roses recently have been for funerals. Red roses for my husband; deep pink roses for my Mom.

My husband gave me roses, red ones, several times during our time together; while we dated and when we were married. Pink roses, a shade deeper than the colors of their dresses, were carried by my bridesmaids; the maid of honors dress and roses were an even deeper shade.

Roses for a special Valentine's Day when my then "boyfriend" had already graduated from the college we both attended and was living in Michigan working in his first job; red roses; one of three bouquets delivered at the house I shared with three other girls. What a day that was!  We screamed, we cried and we felt so "special". I'll never forget that day.

Roses. A white rose I handed to my mother and a pink rose taken at the last minute from the bouquet I was laying in front of the statute of Mary; I walked over and presented them, one at a time, to my Mom and to my husband's mom as my new husband walked with me.

We walked together for decades. Now I walk alone but still beside his memory and with our daughter who in so many ways resembles us both.

I've raised roses. I've raised many types of flowers. I've become my grandmother.

Mom never really had a house before she came to live with our family. Once there was a short rental of a house but that only lasted a few months; flats and apartments didn't have flowers or space to plant anything. Mom loved flowers, though, and every chance I had, I'd put them in her room when they bloomed in our garden or get them from a florist, just to say "I love you, Mama".

Daughter and I always found a way to take a flower or two to her in the Skilled Nursing Center even when she wasn't "liking us" or turned away and followed the Undue Influence of her abuser, Julia.

As I've begun to write. I think the healing process is finally really beginning. It's been a long time. A time of complications and many challenges. Three deaths. Three times to begin another mourning process.

Flowers. For my husband. For my mother. For our beloved family pet, our cat.

Flowers for Mother's Day. From a son who's always been thoughtful and whose gift of love is seen as a gift of life and love at a time when these symbolic flowers have for so long in my life been symbols of love lost, love set aside, love buried yet always within and surrounding.

Thank you, my son. Thank you, my daughter. You are living gifts of Love.

You are roses in my bouquet of life.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Three Times Three: Screams of Guilt Beginning to Subside

Gone but never forgotten: three years for my husband and daughter's father, three months for my mom, Grandma, and three weeks for our beloved family pet, our tabby cat, a family member for two decades.

At a Green Day event last week, I was standing at a table with a local provider of used medical equipment about donating a wheelchair and walker and some other items. A woman walked over and also asked about donating.

Two people who may never have met except in this way with so much in common: she lost her husband two years ago, she lost her mother two months ago.

She mentioned how no one prepares you for this part of life and how challenging it is to make your way through each day until suddenly you realize how much time has already passed since the life changing event actually happened.

She'd just started back to work; I was returning to work in the field I'd loved for so long and made my professional home, where I'd not had the courage to apply since my husband's death.

We worked together for so many years in this field and I needed to grow in another direction before I could return to prosper growing where I'd been planted and thrived for so long.

It's a large company and chances of meeting this person except for this particular event might have not occurred for months or even years.

We talked, the woman and I; not for long but for long enough to exchange contact information and hopefully keep in touch. If not, this chance meeting served a much needed purpose for me and I hope for her.

On the surface, it was like looking in a mirror -- the reflection of someone looking back who had been formed by so much personal loss and survival.

Now I can share. Now I can compare. Now I can talk.

I've begun the part of my life's journey where I contrast and perhaps settle the still continuing "what ifs" and "if I'd only".

They used to scream at me, these feelings and thoughts, about what I might have, could have, should have --- done, said, been.

Words or actions I believed would have stopped, changed, delayed, redirected -- or any other adjective or adverb of change for what inevitably did occur and over which I and they had little if any control in the outcome and result.

In reality, daughter and I did the best we could, at the time and under the circumstances of what we knew, were told and could do. But when it comes to end of life or even the journey moving in that direction, there's always those lingering "what if" and "why" that continue to fly around and pursue you long after the times have passed.

I am grateful for small things:

Memories we made and did not wait "for another time, another place, more money, more time ...." to make.

Reaching for "stars" and willing to dream and turn them into realities.

Including many in our lives and in our hopes and dreams.

Taking chances, seizing opportunities and being willing to walk alongside others on rocky roads, bumpy paths.

Together, finding ways around what seem to be dead ends in roads less traveled.

Making mistakes -- they gave us the opportunity to see the strengths and abilities we built together to overcome, outdistance and go beyond while learning and growing as what we were -- individuals and a family unit.

Treasuring one another and measuring one another not by other's standards but by standards passed down by generations who preceded us and who will follow:  faith, hope and love.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

First Mother's Day Without My Mom is Bittersweet

Today is my first Mother's Day totally without Mom. She chose to be buried in a small cemetery near where she was born and spent the early years of her life. It's more than an hour's drive one way to visit her grave.

We were the only ones following the hearse in January to take Mom home again. Daughter and I driving our car and praying we'd make it knowing there were repairs that really needed to be done but we couldn't afford.

Sons came in from their homes across the country bringing their families; my grandchildren and Mom's great grandchildren. They chose to not follow the hearse and understandably so as the children needed something to eat before the long afternoon and one family's extensive drive home the same day. 

We'd had a short two hour "wake" for Mom that morning and some family and friends came to pay their respects. Then, we were on our way to take Mom to the church where she'd been confirmed, for our final goodbyes with Mom's family members who lived in the small town and surrounding areas.

As a young girl, Mom went to work in the "big city" to provide for others still at home. She sent them money and bought both necessities and gifts for her family.

All her brothers went to serve in WWII and Mom served alongside so many other women working in factories and supporting the war effort.

Mom's one last wish was to have Taps played at her funeral.

Military protocol would not allow this last salute to a woman who served her country the only way she could at the time -- building the equipment used by the men flying missions both of war and of mercy thousands of miles from home.

Daughter brought a recording of Taps on her phone and we stayed after others had left. Grandma's last request was honored.

Later that evening a cousin called. The one we'd asked to play the Taps; Mom's Godson and one of a few remaining real buglers playing taps at funerals.

On his own, as a "private citizen" he returned before sunset to the gravesite with his bugle and paid tribute to Mom. 

I cried when he called and I cry when I write this; thankful for those who care and find ways to celebrate life when others put "protocols" in the way blocking recognition of an under-recognized War Service -- women who supported our country in the only way they could at the time.

Mom received another tribute daughter and I will cherish all the days of our lives. To understand the depth of meaning of this event, a short return to the time before Mom's death, after my husband's passing, is inserted:

After my husband passed and was buried, about two months later we had a visitor we'd never had before. A hawk, a large, beautifully graceful and magnificent creature who flew directly into the towering oak tree that now stands more than forty feet tall; a tree that was a cutting from a backyard tree my husband's father had planted in their backyard decades before. 

Dad "rooted" the cutting and gave it to us a couple of years after we bought the home we love so dearly today. It's now as tall as his tree was then.

The hawk faced the house and I could almost see directly into its eyes as I stood at the kitchen sink and looked out the window. This was the window where I'd watched my husband and our sons and daughter work and play, my father-in-law catch fish in the small pond and the amazing changes of the seasons passing year after year after year.

At first, I was amazed seeing the hawk simply because we'd never, in all the decades we'd lived in the house, had a hawk come to visit. Deer, raccoon, geese, ducks, neighborhood dogs and even a rare coyote and once an owl even became entangled in netting daughter placed over the vegetable garden she'd planted, but never a hawk.

Birds of all types flew in because of the small pond and other non water fowl built nests and had their young only to fly away and sometimes return as adults to start the cycle of life again.

We would always find spare pieces of bread or purchase birdseed (when we had money to spare) and share with them. Some would visit close to the house, especially the geese, who almost "knocked" on the door (actually one did peck at the door one Spring) asking for us to take notice of their return and bring food for an expectant mother goose or their recent hatchlings.

So, this appearance of yet another wild creature near our home came as no surprise. What was surprising was the "vigil" it seemed to keep and the way it would come and go.

Over the months after my husband's death, the hawk would come to visit on a regular basis, arriving when I was feeling down or reaching my wits end trying to survive yet another crisis; it would perch in the tree and look toward the house. Its appearance always seemed to coincide with my overwhelming sense of need to return to the time when my husband was beside me and we would "get through" whatever life threw our way.

After a while, I started asking it to return when it hadn't appeared for several days, as I gazed out any window that faced the tree. I'd tell the hawk how much I needed it to return, needed a sign my husband was still with me in some way. Amazingly, my spoken or unspoken request would result in a visit.

I came to see the hawk as a sign of everlasting love enduring and eternal.

The severe winter and Mom's advancing Lewy Body Dementia took great tolls on our everyday lives; we saw our time with her as becoming less and less.

Then, what seemed like suddenly but had taken many weeks, we were on our final earthly journey with Mom/Grandma/Great Grandma keeping our vigil, journeying with her as life allowed, alongside her during her days/nights of passing and then to her final resting place.

I drove our car immediately behind the hearse, just as I'd done when my husband passed, my daughter sitting beside me as she'd stood beside me during the challenges we faced with two lives moving in this final direction.

Mom passed on the third anniversary of my husband/my children's father's burial; both were buried on a Monday and both in the first days of a new year on a day in January that wasn't typical even though the weather before their deaths was cold and very wintery.

We stayed close as we drove because we hadn't been told the route we'd take but knew we had to go from a small suburban community near where we lived, over several roads to a major highway, across a bridge spanning a large body of water. This was our final journey with her along a roadway into the past, a small town that to this day remains almost the same as I remember from my childhood.

To get to the main highway from the funeral parlor travelling from the city and state where we/she lived for so long to the hometown area/state where she would be buried, we had to go to a road widened many times to accommodate growing neighborhoods and traffic. Access required a right turn and a sharp somewhat long descent onto a ramp, a half cloverleaf, and onto the roadway.

Daughter and I were mostly silent as we followed the hearse. Two remaining family members there for one another as we'd been through one death and now travelling for a second time the familiar but unwelcome road of final departure from this earth and life together.

Following closely, emergency lights flashing to let others know we were with the hearse. No sign on the car that we were a "funeral". Just the three of us as we'd been for so long during Mom's journey with Lewy Body Dementia. Others came in and out of our life but we three were the "warriors" who suffered, endured and tried to overcome the effects of yet another life challenge to our family.

Moving in unison with the hearse, we both began to edge onto the roadway leading to the final highway journey taking us to where Mom would rest.

From our left we caught sight of the largest and most magnificent hawk, even more impressive in size than the one who visited regularly after my husband's death, flying on a downward path that brought it directly over the hearse from one side to the other within inches of the top. A dip of one wing was visible as we watched this amazing final tribute.

This unexpected, silent and quick appearance was followed by what seemed like a disappearance almost into thin air. Daughter and I were both amazed and each questioned the other about what we saw.

It was real. It was amazing.

The day before, visiting with my second son and his family at the hotel where they were staying, I shared the story with my oldest granddaughter, who'd just turned thirteen, about the consistent visits by a hawk to our home

When we were at the church before saying goodby, my grand-daughter turned to me and said, "Nana, I saw two hawks when we were driving here. They seemed to follow us for a long time."  I told her Great Grandma and Dad were watching over them now, together, as Grandpa did for so long by himself. Then, we shared the "fly over/salute" given Great Grandma by the single massive hawk on our way to the church.

Now there are four generations of women following in one another's footsteps. This great grand-daughter like her grandmother (her Nana), her Nana's mother and her great-great grandmother all carry the same name. Not always as a first name but definitely as a "namesake". All shouldered what life gave them putting family first. Character and integrity important in their lives.

I look forward to how she'll carry forward the legacies of the women she's named after. I look forward to how life and love will mold her and make her the person her daughter, grand-daughter and great grand-daughter will someday share stories about. 

Mom is in my thoughts a lot these days. Especially today, being Mother's Day, as well as yesterday, the third month anniversary of her departure from this life.

Love. Hope. Faith.

Memories of Mother's Day and other holidays, joys and even some sorrows, challenges faced and overcome and even tragedies that only time could repair or replace.

Each day we write our life's story. Today and tomorrow are filled with opportunity and the prospect of another day.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Three Deaths; Three Restarts; A Family Unit Survives Outside Challenges

When my husband passed, I felt like I was living in a form of gelatin. The world around me seemed to be there but it seemed to be varying in consistency and moving ever so slightly in varying directions over which I had no control.

I felt like I was functioning at the time. I moved forward but I always felt like I was leaning backwards in time and space or at least living on a slant. To all appearances, I was "moving on"; making decisions, taking actions and even showing some "progress" into a new life forever changed through circumstances beyond all of our controls.

Grief, I believe, isn't definable by someone's deciding there are stages or types and everyone goes through them. For me, grief has been a constant battle as it was so many times in my life to survive, thrive and manage odds and situations beyond my control. Times on my journey I would not choose and did not want but also could not avoid.

Personally, I didn't want to join or attend a group dedicated to grief understanding and/or recovery. Not for me. Also not interested in a group for survivors of anything including the death of a spouse.

Possibly because I had support and gave support living each day with a family member who walked the same path, lived the same journey and understood enough to be both supportive and needing support. We reached out but not to join others in the same circumstances.

Instead, we reached out to find out, to be there for those who remained and those who needed us and who we also needed.

Right or wrong, we've travelled the distance. Surviving outside influences and actions that could have destroyed who we were, believed we could be and wanted to be.

Looking back -- always easier than looking forward -- what we chose to do, what I chose to do, may not have been agreeable to others and they might have seen our choices as unrealistic and even pushing us farther down in life.

Not so. We chose to keep our home despite it taking every penny we could find through making choices to sell items we felt would provide for that need. Oldest son isn't speaking to me and has withdrawn all contact with his family including his children. That's his choice. He's always had challenges and in my opinion finds faults, real and adjusted viewpoints, to mask his challenge of dealing with his own life decisions and actions.

Our home gives me solace. Even with its mounting challenges in making mortgage payments and holding life together. I've been able to get jobs and so has my daughter. We've taken whatever we could to hold our life together. And, that is the focus for the two of us -- our life together. We make the decisions, together.

Many cannot understand this choice. Many her age are torn apart by the media who call them "boomerang kids" -- those who return "to the nest" to live with their parents.

We just never stopped living together in our family unit that once included her grandmother, her father, her mother and her.

I had a conversation recently with a young man where I work who's chosen to return to live with his parents for another personal family reason. He has a job; he could make it on his own; instead, he chose to provide support when it was needed by his presence and abilities greatly needed by his family.

In my mind, that's a sign of personal courage and integrity not to turn away and go on with your life but to see the need in others lives; a definition of family in the past and for the future.

That was what my Mom did all her life and even though she never really talked about all she did for family members well before I was born, I saw through her actions and heard in her words during our trying life times how important our family unit and her family remained to her.

A legacy my mother gave me: 
                 Look outside yourself and live and give to others.

Death chose how to redefine our living arrangements; it was not a choice we would have made. A family of four (plus one amazing family pet, our cat) now down to simply two. I have faith, though, this change will continue and as time moves forward we will regrow through a new addition of a like minded person who will add greatly to daughter's life and my own.

Decades of making choices including others best interests while allowing them to come and go, leave or stay and always freedom within the unit of the family others seem to have difficulty understanding. That's the basis of many "Gen X'ers" lives we seem not to want to see. These are the nonselfcentered, nonselfserving young men and women of a new generation.

Get real, media!  See the positive effects of a society that has an inner strength in supporting the family unit in ways those who travelled life's difficult roads have done. Families come in all shapes, sizes and types as we're told.

Start accepting the differences in lifestyles chosen by those who "return to the nest" and give them the support and positive recognition they deserve!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lessons Learned from Living With LBD & Being the Survivors

Daughter and I have one another. For this, I give thanks every day.

We've kept our home, a constant struggle economically in these most difficult times. Not working for as long as I did caring for Mom and my husband took tremendous tolls on what we'd saved and what we had.

Learning that choices made along the way of life may seem for the best at the time, may remain positive as the years pass while still causing great upset and difficulties.

Understanding some may never understand the value of what we chose to do as having the significant value we see.

The work I've found and daughter's found, often just in the last moments when we were "going down" for what we thought was the last time.

Struggling isn't always a positive action. It's never "fun" to wonder where and when the basics of life will be there or how you can make it to and through the next challenge waiting around the corner or behind the next turn.

Been there. Done that. Didn't want to again. Not my choice. Realizing I was too long away to truly understand. Down, but not for the count. A hand always reaching out from unexpected places and people, holding onto ours sometimes for a long time and sometimes for short periods but always there when we need it even if not the way we felt we needed.

Knowing I would do it again. All of it. For each of them.

Learning about people and especially family members and some friends. In the beginning they're there but then they go away. It's all right; it's difficult for them. They don't know how to act, what to say and certainly not who we really are. Their lives, too, will change in many ways as they travel life's road.

Survival is more than money.  Caring, sharing, discovering inner strengths and outer resources.

Taking even more pleasure in daily life "freebies": beautiful sunrises and sunsets; amazing weather; food, of any kind; finding extra change and knowing you can get gas to go to visit Mom yet another time before she leaves this life.

Anger comes along for the ride, too.  Frustration tags along. Disbelief in systems and people who should and could see, hear and speak up, IF ONLY .....

Realization life is personal and private while being up for grabs in the social media world we live in.

Despite one son's claims, I do have value, I have succeeded and I will continue...

Sadness for those who cannot or will not set their "egos" aside and see others needs and dreams.

Joy despite sorrow. Laughter amid the tears. Faith continuously abiding. Love eternal and beyond life as we know it. Hope for tomorrow here and tomorrow there with both sides giving Life.

These are some of my daily lessons and I know there is more to learn.