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Alzheimer's Being a Grandparent Life Parkinson's Disease

You Never Know

Remember when you last spoke to a loved one who passed on? Did you realize at the time that it would be the last time?

Life is full of last times. I’m sure there are others but the earliest one I remember is my high school graduation. As we hugged and said goodbye to our friends, we even said that it might be the last time we ever see each other, but at 18 does anyone really take that phrase seriously? So many of my classmates from the Class of 1977 have passed on, and most of them I never saw again after that last time, on graduation day in May of 1977.

What an awful photo! So blurry. . .it wasn’t a digital world back then.

What about when you’re raising children and you can hardly wait for them to be able to dress themselves, brush their own teeth, use the bathroom on their own? Suddenly they are doing those things and you don’t remember exactly when the last time was.

My granddaughter used to sit on the edge of my bed and look at the tiny charms on the rag lampshade on the nightstand. I never even took a picture. I used to take my grandson to a place called The Coop, which was a neat and safe indoor play area for little kids, and then I would take him to the play area in the nearby library. I used to rock my smallest granddaughter to sleep. All these things are in the past. I never realized the last time I did them that it was the last time.

The same goes for my husband. He worked as a night zookeeper and would call me in the evening during his lunch break. He would greet me by saying, “Hey, Nutty, whatcha doing?” When was the last time he affectionately called me Nutty? The Alzheimer’s took the affection away. Heck, it took everything away.

My handsome night keeper. . .

There are so many things we used to do together, or things that he used to say, which faded away as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s stole him from me. I wish I had known when they were the last times, but maybe that would have been just too sad.

Happier times, during a rare snowfall in Texas.

Cherish your moments, the first times, the last times, and all the in-between times. You never know when they’ll never be again.

XOXO

Categories
Life

Already March

Red bud tree

Already Spring is here. The lawn mowers have been brought out of storage and are humming throughout the neighborhood. Brown yards and fields are now green, red bud trees are blooming with their pink blossoms, and dogwood trees are poised for their white outburst. Eager gardeners already swarm the nurseries for tender plants they hope don’t succumb to a freeze before summer. I pull weeds, trim off dead stalks from old lantana and hydrangea bushes. Yes, I know it’s not the right time to trim hydrangea bushes, but mine become such monsters that I have to. Besides, I haven’t seen them bloom for several years. They have overstayed their welcome, I’m afraid.

So time marches on. It’s been two months since Jimmy passed away, and I’m doing okay, I think. I’ve kept myself busy with things like writing thank you notes, talking to friends and family, taking care of grandkids, and keeping house. I even went to Costa Rica for a week, courtesy of my son and his wife. The change of scenery, the beach, the ocean. . .all were balm to a battered soul.

Me on the Pacific Ocean beach in Costa Rica

Even after the memorial service, which turned out almost perfect in my opinion, I still feel in limbo. Unsettled. Unsure. Unprepared. I’m alone in this house, on this property. I alone am responsible for its upkeep, its repair. I am a widow. I make all the decisions now. I am a widow.

Spring speaks of new beginnings. So it does. Am I ready? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Ready or not, here I come. No hide and seek here. I’m all in.

What about you? Is spring a new beginning for you?

XOXO

Categories
Alzheimer's Memoirs Parkinson's Disease

January the Bleak

I’m not going to blame January for my bleakness, but my present is bleak and it is January. Hubby passed away on the 16th, just after our 41st anniversary on the 12th and my birthday on the 6th. His suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is over, and his passing was peaceful, and for that I am thankful. I’m quite positive he is with the Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven, and for that I rejoice.

Jimmy Leon Coker

However, all that doesn’t make the quietness of the house any louder, the days any busier, the nights any cozier. It’s just me and Stella the dog rattling around this old house now. I am grateful that it’s only 1600 square feet and not 6000.

I don’t have to figure out what to fix for supper and I don’t have to defer to his television choices. I don’t have to do his laundry and I don’t have to clean up his messes. I can vacuum the floors any time I want to without worrying about disturbing him. I can leave the house and not worry about getting home because he needs me. I can eat and sleep whenever I want. This is all because I am alone.

1979

People ask me how I’m doing. I think I’m okay right now. I’ve always said I would be fine alone. I’m an independent person. Will I feel the same way next week? Next month? Next year?

The great hunter

Only God knows what happens next. He knew my fears about not being able to care for Jimmy or afford to pay for care, and that I wouldn’t have to worry about that very long. He knows what tomorrow and the next day and the next year will bring. I trust Him to bring it to pass. I choose not to worry about it. I’m really not alone. He is here with me.

What will I do? I will continue planning Jimmy’s memorial service. I will continue making phone calls to insurance companies, government agencies, and the rest. I will treasure the memories I have of our life together, and I will spend every minute I can with my children and grandchildren. I will thank God every day for blessing me with 41 years with a loyal, devoted, loving man, husband, and father. And I will miss him every minute of every day.

XOXO

A rare snow on our East Texas property just a couple of weeks ago.
Categories
COVID 19 holidays Memoirs

Post-Christmas Post

When I was younger I used to hate the week after Christmas. It was so. . .blah. After the anticipation of Christmas Day, the beauty of holiday decorations, the visits to and from extended family, the fun of school parties, the excitement of opening gifts–well, the week after was a huge letdown.

Me on Christmas morning with a new record album
and my baby sister all smiles.

Not that I wasn’t grateful for the new things, and I did enjoy them, but knowing that the decorations would soon be coming down and school would soon be resuming made the week kind of a downer.

That was then. Now that I’m all grown up with grown kids I see things a little differently. I don’t take all the decorations down right away. I used to follow my mother’s lead and keep everything up until New Year’s Day, but now it seems that the season goes so fast, I have been leaving everything up until my birthday on January 6, which is Epiphany, the day the wise men supposedly visited the baby Jesus. This year, amid the challenges of the coronavirus and details of moving my husband into a memory care facility, I may leave everything up until mid-January or even later.

My back is to the camera while my brother Allen and sisters Brenda and Sharon look toward the camera. Faces of joy.

Caring for him and juggling visits with loved ones has left me little time to reflect on the meaning of the holiday season. It was a strange one in that I did not work like crazy wrapping gifts at the shop where I’ve worked every Christmas for seven years. This year I did all my wrapping with materials I already had, and I wrapped what I had ordered online or bought at the dollar store. I haven’t set foot in a large store for months, it seems.

So I will use this post-Christmas downtime as a time to reflect on the season. I will wait for the rest of the gifts still under my tree to be given out. Covid-19 has kept my grandchildren away but I’m hoping to see them very soon. Our Christmas may be delayed a bit, but it will be every bit as special seeing it through their eyes.

As 2020 rolls into 2021 (good riddance, right?), I will ponder making new year’s resolutions and may even write some so that I can break them later. My wish for you is a happier, healthier, more peaceful new year. You deserve it. We all deserve it.

XOXO

Categories
Being a Grandparent COVID 19 glamping holidays home decor Life Parkinson's Disease

“Have a Holly Jolly Christmas. . .”

from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” 1960’s

“It’s the best time of the year. I don’t know if there’ll be snow, but have a cup of cheer. . .” And so the song goes, courtesy of the late great Burl Ives. Remember the snowman on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” animated special? I was seven years old when I saw it for the first time. It was magical. Now I can’t even get my grandkids interested. The old claymation specials have nothing on today’s computer graphics animation. Ah, but they were magical, at least to my generation.

I got distracted. Sorry about that. I have decided to have a holly jolly Christmas at my house. I don’t care if a pandemic is raging, threatening my family and friends, threatening retailers and restauranteurs, threatening the traditions we all hold dear. Maybe the pandemic is a good thing.

Our Living Room Christmas Tree

What? What did you say? I said, maybe it’s a good thing. It’s changing our priorities. We are focusing more on loved ones, and not things. We are finding out that the most valuable things in life are not things at all. The things we miss are not things, either. Hugging a friend or relative, shaking hands, whispering in someone’s ear, getting close enough to detect a special cologne, gathering in groups at holiday parties, sharing a toast, kids sitting on Santa’s lap, being able to breathe without fogging up your glasses, last-minute shopping in a crowded store. Need I go on?

We have given up much this year because of Covid-19. But look at what we’ve gained: a new appreciation of freedom, gathering with friends, going shopping and dining wherever we want, gathering with family at holidays and special occasions, going to church and fellowship with fellow churchgoers. Boy, do I miss that.

My precious granddaughters enjoying the season.

I’m going to make it a holly jolly Christmas, though. I’m going to:

  1. Enjoy small things like the lights on my beautiful tree.
  2. Behold the wonder in my granddaughters’ eyes as they look at all the decorations.
  3. Experience the delight in the two-year-old’s smile as she touches an LED C9 bulb and finds out that it’s cool to the touch.
  4. Note the pride in the five-year-old’s stance as she finishes decorating the little silver tree for my camper.
  5. Enjoy the taste of pumpkin spice in my morning coffee.
  6. Relish drinking from my special Christmas coffee mugs.
  7. Cozy up to my dog next to me in my chair while wearing comfy pajamas.
  8. Relish a morning when I get to sleep just a little bit later.
  9. Wrap each and every gift with love.
  10. Give thanks for online ordering when I can’t get to a store.
Can you see the silver tree hidden in the tinsel garland? I left it just as she decorated it.

Get the picture? There is a host of ways to make it a holly jolly Christmas. Even as my days are consumed with caregiving and my nights with intermittent sleep between calls from hubby, I choose to focus on the good. Yes, I have days, even weeks, when I wonder how this is all going to turn out–the pandemic, my husband’s disease progression, the next presidential administration, life in general. But I rest in this: my God knows it all, and holds it all, in His almighty hands.

So. . . Merry Christmas. May all your days be holly jolly.

XOXO

Little “Miss Millie” all dressed up for the holidays.