Alzheimer's Life marriage Memoirs Parkinson's Disease

Today in (My) History

January 12 (the day I started this post) would have been my husband Jimmy’s and my 42nd wedding anniversary. We married in January of 1980, him fresh out of high school and me between college semesters. Our honeymoon consisted of a weekend trip to a town 40 miles away. We had to be at school and work that Monday, after all.

We married at my childhood church with about 50 guests in attendance. I bought my wedding dress and veil out of the Montgomery Ward catalog and didn’t have it altered. I didn’t even realize that might have been needed. My two sisters were my bridesmaids and they wore coordinating pink dresses. The groom and two groomsmen, his brothers-in-law, wore rented tuxes, that 70’s version with the ruffled shirt.

January 12, 1980

We didn’t even hire a photographer, and our cake came from the local grocery store. But by golly, we were married, and we made it last. Through thick and thin (both of us!), through poor and not-so-poor but definitely not rich, and through gain and loss (births of our children, deaths of his family members), we trudged on, committed to the vows we took in 1980. There were times when we didn’t like each other very much, when we wished we could walk away, when we wondered if this is all there is. Everyone does. But we were committed.

And what a surprise when the years passed so quickly and we found ourselves with no children at home and with grandchildren! What a blessing that we lived long enough and persevered long enough to enjoy grandchildren together!

Too soon though, Jimmy started showing symptoms of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. He was only in his mid-50’s. Both his mother and his older sister had passed away at age 59 from Alzheimer’s. We didn’t want to believe that it was happening to him as well. And with the Parkinson’s in the mix, his struggle seemed twice as difficult.

Picnicking on vacation in 2018

I lost him January 16, 2021 at age 59. I lost my best friend and lover, my supporter, my cheerleader, my confidante, my rock. I miss him. Happy anniversary, honey. Until we meet again.


Being a Grandparent

It’s a Toddler’s World

According to the toddler, that is.  Toddlers are unique creatures.  My fellow teachers and I used to say that about freshmen, but that is another blog post.  I’m sticking to toddlers today.  If you happen to live with one, my heart goes out to you.  If you are a stay-at-home mom with one, you deserve a medal.  If you keep toddlers in daycare or preschool, or you are the mother of twins or more, you deserve a Nobel peace prize.  It’s not an easy task being responsible for the care and nurturing of a one-t(w)o-three-year old.  I know this because I am experiencing it firsthand.  Again.

Thirty years ago, God blessed me and my husband with toddlers, but time has a way of smoothing out the rough edges in our memories. All I remember are the sweet sticky kisses, the cute outfits, the chubby smiles, the little hands in mine, the occasional tantrums.  Photos of my two sweet babies can bring tears to my eyes.  Those moments can never be recaptured.

Fast forward to last December.  My son and his wife invited me on a week-long vacation with them to help with my then two-year-old grandson.  It was a bucket-list trip to a tropical locale I would never have seen otherwise.  “Wake up, Coco!”  These were his cheery words at 6:30 in the mornings.  At least Mom or Dad would have the coffee ready.

Never idle, he loved to give his Coco a heart attack by jumping fearlessly into the pool whether he remembered how to swim or not.  But after a wave surprised him at the beach, my daring little grandson became terrified of the ocean and preferred to play in the sand.  Loving grandma that I am, I stayed out of the inviting blue water and built castles in the sand so he could kick them down.  Laughter is preferable to crying any day.

Me and my two-year-old grandson

These fears may seem irrational but we have to remember how small these tots are in this great big world.  Recently I took my daughter, her two-year-old, and her newborn to the hospital for the baby’s PKU test.  My two-year-old granddaughter has a fear of her doctor’s office across town with good reason, but when she saw the hospital she freaked out.  Changing my original plan to drop my daughter and newborn off at the door, I parked in the parking garage and we all got out to make the trek across the street to the hospital.  An attendant driving a golf cart offered us a complimentary ride to the hospital but Toddler screamed until we declined the ride and walked a good quarter mile in misty rain to the door.  Great for a newborn.  Toddler was upset the entire time we waited in the lobby for her momma.  There was no way she would have gotten on the elevator.  We tried that once before.  Irrational?  Maybe.  But it is a big scary world when you’re only two feet tall and don’t get to make your own choices.

Hubby with our two-year-old granddaughter

Even at that, it’s a toddler’s world, because their objections to our choices for them can make us reconsider in a heartbeat.  I changed my plans several times just that day.  As a grandparent, I get to do that as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.  Unlike parents, I get to leave and go home to a quiet house.  I’ve done my time.  But I would gladly do it again, and will continue to coax, coddle, and cuddle my grands for the short time they will let me.  Years tend to fly these days.

Do you have toddlers in your life?  Please share!


Being a Grandparent

Why Grandparents Seem Crazy

Grandparents sometimes get a bad rap.  Parents complain about the grands spoiling their babies, giving them too many things, feeding them the wrong things, indulging their whims, and showing up too often to visit.  Maybe we grandparents are guilty of all of the above, but there is a really good reason.
You see, we know that time is short.  Shorter than you can imagine, and it is getting shorter by the minute.  We have been where you parents are, with the endless diapers, formula, childhood illnesses, doctor visits, homework, extracurricular activities, sleepovers, ad infinitim.  We remember how tired you can get, and how the days sometimes drag on and on without any breaks. 
Me with my children circa 1992
Do I look tired?
What you may not realize is that one day you wake up and your children have moved out.  You realize that you will never hold your little baby again, that you will never bandage their scraped knees, and teach them to ride a bicycle again.  You’ll wonder why you didn’t realize that last diaper was the very last one, the last Tooth Fairy gift under the pillow was the last one, and the last ballgame was the last one.  High school came and went, graduation supplies were ordered, pictures taken, parties attended, and then the dust settled and your baby moved off to work or college.  There is no way to recapture those moments of raising children.  You have a window of time in your life in which to give your all, teach lessons, soothe hurts, and guide the next generation to adulthood.  That window is smaller than you think.
Me with son Matt circa 1993
Me and Natalie circa 1993
Tired again?
Suddenly there is an empty nest.  You and your spouse rediscover time together, your children get married, and you welcome new sons- and daughters-in-law.  If you are blessed, there are new relationships.  And then the news comes.  You are going to be a grandparent.
Whoa.  Your life is about to change in a marvelous and wonderful way.  Are you ready?  Of course you are.  The baby about to enter your world is your second chance.  You get to hold your own flesh and blood again.  You get to look for family resemblances again.  You get to watch a baby grow into a toddler, then a child, and then maybe even a teenager and an adult.  But there’s a twist.  It’s your child and their spouse who are the parents.  They have the power to give or withhold privileges.  In order to be able to be with the grandchild you must consider the wishes of the parent.  If you are like me, you are blessed with wonderful children-in-law who recognize your need to grandparent and their children’s need to be with their grandparents.
Proud grandma Coco with her new grandson.
Coco’s two boys.
But there is still an element of desperation.  You see, you know how fast these babies grow.  You know that every time you see them they will have changed.  You know that any moment not grasped and savored is a moment lost.  You are free of the responsibility of feeding, clothing, and housing them so all you have to do is enjoy them.  As grandparents we must keep this desperation in check so that we don’t damage the tenuous ties we have with our grandchildren’s parents.
Proud Coco with granddaughter.
Coco’s two little girls.
So, parents, perhaps you can understand a bit better why we grandparents seem a little crazy.  We are desperately in love with your children. They are, after all, our second chance at having you little again.
Any desperately devoted grandparents out there?
Being a Grandparent

Letter to my unborn grandson

Dear Baby Coker:

In a few short days you will be here!  I have been longing to meet you in person since I heard last summer that you were coming!  How exciting to think–to KNOW–that I’m going to be a grandmother!  How strange to finally be here, at this time/stage in my life, with my own baby boy about to have a baby boy of his own!
My heart is full and there are many things I want you to know, things I want to share with you and your parents but cannot find the time, spoken words, or opportunity to do so.  I hope you will learn these things, read them often when you are big enough, and forever treasure them in your heart.
1.  First of all, YOU ARE A GIFT.  You were given to your parents by God, Who is trusting them to raise you “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”  (Ephesians 6:4)  You have and will continue to bring much joy to your parents and grandparents.  Oh, the joy when I first saw you, your tiny fingers moving on the ultrasound!  I wept!
2.  THERE IS NO ONE ELSE LIKE YOU.  God Himself “knit you together in your mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13), combining the DNA from your mother and father into unique sequences that no one else in the whole world ever had or ever will have.  You are the only you ever!  And you are precious in God’s sight as well as that of your parents and grandparents.
3.  YOU HAVE A PURPOSE.  God has created you to fulfill the plan He has for you, which will ultimately bring glory to Himself.  You must trust Him to guide you into fulfilling that purpose for your life.  Your parents and grandparents will help you as you navigate through the twists and turns of life.  When it gets rocky, we will help you over the rocks.  When you stumble, we will help you up.  When it gets dark, we will help you find the way.  
4.  YOU ARE SMART.  You will be compared to others all your life.  Others will be faster or slower, make better or worse progress, be stronger or weaker.  You will be urged to try harder in school or sports or other things.  Just remember that you have your own unique talents and abilities and you will move at your own pace.  And that is okay.  The only person you should compare yourself with is you.
5.  YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.  You are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” according to Psalm 139:13.  Your mind, body, and soul were created by God Himself and, as many have said, “God doesn’t make junk!”  Your body is a marvel of different parts all working together so that you can move and think and dream and do things.  From your smallest toe to the last beautiful hair on your head, you are a masterpiece!  From your skin down to the tiny atomic particles in your DNA, you are the most complex machine in the world.  You are a miracle!
6.  And finally, YOU ARE LOVED.  I think it is safe to say that your parents love you more than they love themselves and would give their own lives to save yours.  So would I, and so would Pop, and probably your other grandparents.  You are a part of your mother and father, made from their own cells, and they were made of the cells of your grandparents. The kind of love we have for you is the highest love God has given to us.  It is the kind of love He has for His own Son Jesus.  “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15:13)  When you feel as if no one loves you, as if the whole world hates you, remember this:  you are loved!
I already love you to pieces.  I can’t wait to meet you in person and hold you!  What fun we will have!
Life Memoirs

Meaningless Drivel Monday: Parents and wake-up calls

When I was a child I thought my parents would always be there.  It never occurred to me that I would someday grow up and they would grow older.  My parents were young when they married–only 16 and 17–and then they were parents of two children before they were 20, and four by the time they were 25. I made them grandparents when they were in their early 40’s.  I didn’t realize how young they were until I raised my own children.  At 54 I am still waiting to be a grandmother.  Having now reached their 70’s, they are beginning to slow down a bit.  And have health issues.
Funny.  I remember my grandparents on both sides having health problems but I guess I never really thought it would happen to my parents.  

My mom is the healthiest 72-year-old I have ever known.  She keeps herself active and trim with a sensible diet, exercise, gardening, and yard work.  So we were all blindsided when she received a diagnosis of cancer just after Christmas last year.  Breast cancer.  Thank God she had gone for the mammogram she dreaded.  The “ductal carcinoma in situ” was caught before it became life-threatening.
After a lumpectomy and four weeks of daily radiation treatments she is back to her usual routine.  

But the whole episode threw our family for a loop.  Cancer.  So close.  And now when I and my sisters fill out medical forms we have to check yes, there is breast cancer in our family history.  You can bet we will never miss a mammogram.

Then another whammy hit our family.  At 73, Daddy stays active as a small business owner working on lawn mowers and golf carts in his backyard shop.  He moves slowly these days because of bum knees, but surgery could help that.  He just hasn’t decided to do it yet.  He is also a Type 2 diabetic, but he monitors it well and takes his medicine.  So when he landed in the hospital with an infected foot caused by him digging on an ingrown toenail, we all paid attention.  

The doctors ordered intravenous antibiotics and kept him on those for five days before finally releasing him.  We took turns taking Mom back and forth to visit him every day.  It was a wake-up call for him and the rest of us.  He is taking his diabetes more seriously, and Mom is paying more attention to the meals she prepares for him.  I was also diagnosed with diabetes five years ago but am not on medication at this time.  As a result of Daddy’s situation, I have resolved to start exercising and eating better.  

Realizing that your parents won’t live forever is tough.  I mean, you know it down deep in your heart but believe it is a long way off.  This year I have realized that my mom and dad won’t be here with me forever.  I have to resign myself to that fact.  There are no guarantees that I will outlive them, but there is one sure thing.  God has “appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27).  None of us will live forever. What to do?  Make the best of what you have been given today, and love the family and friends God has given you.

My beautiful and stylish mom.
My handsome Dad on his golf cart with Lucy, who loves to ride with him.
Mom and Dad make a cute couple under their holly tree after a rare Texas snow.
Make it count.  Show your loved ones you love them.  You never know if today might be your last chance.