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.



We’re in the thick of it now. . .

It’s not fun any more. (Was it ever?)  March began with students and teachers excited about spring break.  Then spring break was extended for two weeks, then three, then four, and now who knows how long it will be before classes resume?  This pandemic has changed everything.  
Now teachers are charged with providing online, virtual lessons for their students in the hopes that students will engage and continue the learning they were supposed to do for this school year.  We can only hope that students and parents will be conscientious enough to do it.  I have no doubt that responsible, caring, and concerned parents will see to it that their children tend to their lessons.  As a former teacher and administrator of at-risk students I fear many won’t.
Many of my students were in the programs I ran because they did not have supportive homes.  Many parents were too busy with their own lives to be involved with the lives of their children.  Some didn’t even care if their children attended school or not.  
Students of low socioeconomic status may not even have access to the internet.  Their parents may be unable to afford internet service or even computers.  Students in rural areas may not have access to reliable internet service.  With libraries and coffee shops closed, what do these students do?  
Will administrators keep students back who were unable to do the lessons?  Will they be able to discern who couldn’t and who just didn’t want to?  These are questions that will certainly have to be addressed.  I’m glad I don’t have to make those decisions.  I’m glad my children are grown and that their children are too young to be in school right now.
My heart goes out to parents and school personnel.  I pray for the kids, the parents, and the educators, those who are seeking an education and those who are trying to provide education.  I pray God will bring us through this pandemic stronger and braver and more compassionate than we were, and that we will learn the lessons no textbook or computer could ever teach us–love for others.
Stay safe and well, my friends.
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?
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.