Caring for an Aging Parent

13 Jul

If you find yourself caring for an aging parent, please try to find support in a group of people who have similar problems and who need help as much as you do. You will find strength in each other. You may learn from others in the group about what to expect next. And listening to their stories will make you feel humble, and grateful, sometimes.

It is such a comfort to be with others who are struggling with this same issue. Besides, it gets you out of the house!

Without my support group, it would be a pretty “white knuckle” ride that I am on. Lucky for me, I found a wonderful group after a couple of searches that were not successful. Keep trying if you do not immediately find a group with whom you feel very comfortable. I live in a big city, so there were many choices. But, even if you are living somewhere where there are not so many options, keep looking.  Churches often have such groups.

 Last Thursday, my meeting was a calm gathering. No one was in GREAT distress, but each of us is moving, inexorably, to the finish line. 

 Some of these people have been in the group for years. Many years. That is important to realize. Your journey may be longer than you think. So, be prepared to stay in the group. Work on having a life of your own so that you can keep your own identity. When you do find yourself alone again, you will have something else to fall back on.

 We, all, have come to terms with the mortality of our loved ones, but it is this slow dance to the end that may be wearing us out.

 Last time, we in my group talked about the fact that when you raise a child, you sort of have a time line.  You know, more or less, where you will be at the end of the first five years and then the next, and the next. And, theoretically, things will be getting better as the child grows up.   You know that your time will be less taken up with childcare, and you can do more; you may go back to work, or create something, or even travel more. 

 But for those who are caring for an aging parent, there is NO timeline. We have no idea at what stage we are even in. This uncertainty is part of the problem. Being uncertain causes anxiety. And anxiety causes stresses in our lives– with partners, jobs, children and within ourselves. And it is NOT going to get better, in this lifetime. And that is a hard thing to allow into our brains. We don’t want to lose our parent, but it is inevitable. Sadly, only death will end the uncertainty.

So, enjoy every moment that you can. It is a blessing to have aging parents because many people do not have that option. Be thankful and appreciate the gift of being with someone at the end of their life. This is a blessing, though sometimes it is hard to understand this.

The Lifeline provided by a mentored support group cannot be emphasized highly enough for its value.  If you, too, are caring for an aging parent, I highly recommend that you find a support group– soon.

           

Copyright©.  2018 Bonnie B. Matheson

The Blue Vespa ( I normally never write fiction but I hope this may entertain)

28 Jun

The sun is shining in slanting rays that break through the trees in golden shoots of light. The trees shimmer in shafts of  glowing translucence . The day is bright with promise. The moment I open the door, I see it all, the sun, the trees with their trembling bright leaves, and something else. Something that is not normally there at all.

What is this pretty thing? Someone has given me a turquoise Vespa as a surprise gift. The moment I opened my front door this morning, it was right there in front of me.  A huge pink bow surrounded it. Wrapped around it, with a great big card saying, “Happy Birthday.” I am just turned thirty and unmarried. My handsome young son is just about to be ten years old. My life is good, organized, predictable.

 

Happy Birthday to Me!!! How did it get here? Who has done this? I do have a suspicion about who it could be. After all, how many people give you a VESPA!!??

 

it certainly IS a surprise!  It is a summer Wednesday and my son is sleeping peacefully in the house. My sweet sister stayed over for my birthday. She will be there when young Chas wakes up. So, I can leave! I can go and speed along the Virginia back roads, and I can drive up to Monticello or explore anywhere I wish. The whole state is open to me. Where shall I go?

 

I rush back to my room and take off my silk robe and filmy nightgown. I jump in the shower and skim water over my body quickly, Just a rinse. Did not get my hair wet, which is good. It is thick and long and takes a while to dry. I touch up my lips with lipstick. My mother never let me go out of the house without lipstick. When the paramedics came to take her to the hospital when she had a heart attack at 55, she asked for her lipstick to be brought so she could apply it before being put on a gurney. She arrived at the hospital, dead, but her lipstick was in place.

 

This morning I missed her so much. If only she were here to tell her about the wonderful gift in my driveway. If only she were here to tell anything to. Sometimes, she drove me crazy and other times she was my telephone buddy for hours- long conversations. And all the time, she loved me. I never doubted that for a moment. She always put us girls first. Wherever she was and whatever she was doing, she was thinking of us. Thank God for my sister, Diana. What would we do without each other. Our lives are stretching out in front of us, and we have no mother and no father to guide us. We only have each other.

 

So, ruminating on these things made me oblivious to my surroundings or even the clothes that my hands reached for in a drawer. Blue jeans, soft and worn and comfortable, and a pale lavender tank top over skimpy underwear. It was hot, after all. DO you have to wear a helmet with a Vespa? Probably, yes. With soft short boots on my feet, I was ready to go. My hair was tied in a ponytail and my hands encased in smooth leather riding gloves. Should I leave a note? Yes, that would be best.

 

“Diana, someone has given me a present! It is a pale aqua Vespa!! I am off to explore the countryside. See you later, around lunchtime, I think.”

 

As I was leaving, I made sure my puppies, Angus and MacAlister, were able to go out the doggie door to the back garden. I did not want them following me from the front of the house. They wagged their beautiful tails and jumped up to kiss me, always thrilled to do anything with me, even to say, goodbye. I scooted out without too much fuss from their little dachshund minds. They do love to follow. One, black and tan, and one, red, long- hair; medium- sized Dachshunds keep us company here at the cottage. They have plenty of space to roam about. But today they are going to be confined to the back garden, which is fully fenced.

 

And as it got nearer to my view, I saw a silver helmet was hung on the machine. And keys were dangling from the helmet. Fantastic! Freedom. After figuring out how to put on the helmet and goggles, thoughtfully provided, I sat astride the little machine and started her up. Oh, yes…I can do this. More sturdy than a bike and not heavy like a real Motor Cycle, the Vespa was just my size. And the color made me happy just to look at. People do not understand how a color can produce an emotion. But, for me, there is no question about it. I love color, but certain ones really make me happy while others make me acutely unhappy.

 

When I moved into this cottage, the master bedroom was painted a color that was probably once described as “dusty rose,” but over the years it had turned just plain DIRTY brownish pinkish. Yuck!! I painted the room “robin’s egg blue” and transformed my life. Now my room makes me happy even when I just glance at it through a half- open door. I took equal care to make sure my son’s room was painted a color he liked. He was quite emphatic that he wanted it to be red. RED!!! Oh, and did I say, I indulged him? He has a bedroom painted bright red, shiny, and deep, with curtains made of tan burlap and a jute rug, handwoven in a geometric pattern. He has lamps of various types. One, Staffordshire china, a Scot in a kilt, and one of driftwood and one made from a brass fire extinguisher, which sits tall, so it is a reading lamp. This stands by a padded leather chair whose brown hides are worn to a patina impossible to fake.

 

Outside  my house, the morning is quiet. My cottage is private, on a gravel driveway that was once part of a large farm. It is only a couple of hundred yards to a paved road. The helmet fits fine, the key turns easily in the starter, and my bike springs to life. I must figure out how the brakes work, and how much to accelerate, and how to stop.

 

Practicing this is fun. Vroom, Vroom, Vroom!!! I have always loved Vespas. Now I have my own and it is going to be a lovely day. The road runs out beneath the wheels as the gravel drive turns into Rt# 20 where I turn left (south)towards town. This is a busy road with almost no place to pull over or stop. The edges of the road go into a ditch, sometimes more of a gully. It is a dangerous road for those who do not know its blind curves and those places where driveways come unexpectedly out onto the road. There are school bus stops and the places where rain “runoff” can make the surface treacherous without warning. I know this road like the back of my hand.

 

It is early summer, and the trees are green with that freshness that newly leafed- out trees have. The air smells good. There are scents floating through the air, confused and confusing, such as the sharp scent of cattle and their manure, fresh cut grass and fresh mown hay. Gasoline from my Vespa and oil and rubber on the road. Could that be honeysuckle? Is it too soon? My hair is flying out behind me and reaching around me in the breeze. That breeze feels good because the day is going to be a scorcher. The motor hums, the wheels turn effortlessly, the scenery speeds by almost before I can register it. Riding a motor scooter is more intense than driving a car that practically drives itself. This is more like riding a horse. The power in the engine makes me feel invincible. But of course, I am not.

 

It is about four- and- a- half miles to the main road, which is a large highway. Route #250 East. I take the left hand turn that sends me up the hill at Pantops. Traffic is light, and I have no trouble nor any wait time at the light. The Vespa ascends the hill without a problem. I am glad I am not on a plain bicycle, powered by me. After a couple more lights, I turn off on the Keswick Road. This is just as full of curves as my earlier route, but the road is quite empty of traffic. I can speed up and slow down at my own discretion. My sense of power is amazing! So fun! I push the little Vespa a bit more and it responds with enthusiasm (it seems). My smile, which has been on my face since I started the motor, widens! It is such freedom to feel the wind and yet have lots of horsepower at a single touch. I love to watch the passing fields and be “one ” with the animals and the countryside, and there is power here besides my own to ease the trip.

 

Farther and farther I ride, north, in a curvy direction. Suddenly, Gordonsville looms up in front of me. Well, Gordonsville is a bit small for “looming,” but it appears unexpectedly, just the same. So, I have been riding longer than I imagined and it is time for breakfast. I find a cute coffee shop and park my Vespa easily in front, in a space too small for any car. Feeling smug as the door to the shop opens in front of me, I look around for a familiar face.

 

Oh! There he is! His back is to me as he is just paying for his coffee. I have a moment to appreciate his tall, lanky frame. He is dark- haired and hirsute. He is wearing jeans and a plaid shirt, and work boots, but they are Frye brand. Though worn, they are in good shape. All of him is in good shape. As he turns around, he beams at me. I think he must have seen me enter in the reflected glass. He was expecting me. I see he has two coffees and a bagel and a croissant on a cardboard tray. He comes towards me but beckons with his smiling face towards a table to the right. I meet him there. As he puts down the coffee and breads, he turns to me and folds me into his arms. His hug is all encompassing. It holds me, and it holds love and nurturing and caring and most important, “liking,” all in one bear hug. I am content. No, I am ecstatic.

 

“Thank you, so much!!!” But before any more words come, he is kissing me, rubbing his lips against mine, smoothly but firmly taking my mouth. He does not linger long enough to make the other patrons uncomfortable, but it got MY attention! The rush of emotion and warmth and desire that engulfed me surprised me. Was it the gift? Was it the wind in my hair, that wonderful sense of freedom? What was making me feel like jelly?

 

We sat and drank coffee and ate, sharing the bread equally, taking bites from each other’s food. We sat and drank each other in. Though I tried to thank him over and over for my present, he would not hear of it. “Just somethin’ for my girl,” he said. But I knew he was pleased with how much I liked it. “Come on. Let’s get out of here, ” he said when we were done.

 

“Where shall we go?”, I asked? “We have two vehicles. What shall we do now?” And he took my hand, guiding me out to the curb. His pickup truck was right in front of my Vespa. He put down the back and pulled out a ramp. “Give me your keys,” he said. And he unlocked the Vespa’s wheels and put her up in the bed of the truck with ease.

 

“All right, now, you come get in my nice truck, little Darling,” he grinned as he handed me up into the cab. “I know just the place for you on a nice summer morning. It is in my bed. And that is where I am heading now, with your permission of course!” Smiling a secret smile, I inclined my head in the affirmative. I could not think of anywhere I would rather be, myself!

 

**

I love being a woman!

14 Jun

I believe in womanhood, womanly arts, childbirth, and sexual activity between opposite sexes.

This is my own belief, not to be made public, universally or used to defame any group. It is not anti- gay. It is not anti- men. And it is certainly not meant to upset any other splinter group of non-conforming people. Having said that, here is why I think it.

From babyhood I loved being a girl. I suppose it may be that my mother was happy when she had a daughter. She wanted to have a daughter. ONE. She never wanted to have any more children because she herself was an only child. And a lot of her friends were only children, too. She thought that if she had Only one, she could pay all her attention to that child.

But my father had other ideas and wanted a son. So, they tried again, and got another daughter. I bet my father was worried, because his own mother had three daughters before producing him. And after that, they had a fifth child, a second boy, Avon.

 

When I was born, mother loved having a baby girl to dress up. She bought me everything that was ruffled. Lots of colors, too, and laces, and ribbons and always, ruffles. I like pretty things. As early as I can remember, I liked them. Especially shiny silky fabrics, or soft, comfortable, smooth velvet. I also like fur. Very much. I believe mother may have given me some things made of fur very early. She had loved to play with her own mother’s fur muff. And so, she probably made sure I had something like that. Fur makes me happy, even today when it is frowned upon by young people who don’t believe in killing animals for any reason at all.

From my earliest memories, I realized that it was the females who got to wear all the pretty stuff. Clothes, hats, coats, and any other decorative object; they were all much prettier for girls than for boys. It was everywhere obvious, then, that boys were supposed to care about guns and bows and arrows and balls of every type. Sports and rough- and- tumble things that got them dirty and sweaty and smelly were the domain of boys (and men). To me, there is nothing pretty about a ball used for sports. A sphere is lovely, a globe, fascinating and colorful, even a snowball is interesting, but a soccer ball? No. Nor are any other sport balls pretty to look at. Not to me. Who designed the football, anyway? And baseballs and golf balls are the same, plain and utilitarian. So, they did not interest me.

As I grew up, jewelry crept into the mix. Mother was a jewelry aficionado. She loved it in all its forms. She made sure I had jewelry appropriate for my age. Small gold bracelets and tiny rings, silver- enameled hair clips and small gold and enamel pins to wear on my dresses. All during my childhood, jewelry was a standard birthday and Christmas gift. The pieces grew larger, and the stones larger and more plentiful as I became a woman. It was part of my persona, though never as much a passion with me as it was for my sister, Dede, or our mother. They had an obsession with jewelry that I have never shared. To me, it was just an adornment, something to enhance my appearance in any of my dresses. And dresses were what I wore. ONLY dresses. Except, sometimes, as I grew up, I had culottes for riding and later, riding britches. I did NOT like pants, slacks, or, horrors, blue jeans.

 

I wore ultra- feminine clothes in those days because my mother shopped for me. She would come home with armloads of clothes for me and lay them out for me to see.  I began to have definite ideas about which ones I would wear. I am actually much happier in more tailored clothes, than Mother.

 

When I went to nursery school, I remember, I did have to wear overalls. I hated it. I can remember screaming and jumping up and down in anger and anguish because I did not want to dress like a boy.  This may have had to do with the fact that my baby brother arrived two months after my fourth birthday. And he was the “son and heir,” and my father was thrilled to have a son at last. Perhaps some instinct made me jealous of this strange animal: “a boy”. So, I fell back on all the positives of being a girl. This result was raging antagonism toward anything which threatened to mix up my gender. Being a girl became a banner to wave. Wearing coveralls was abhorrent to me. After leaving that nursery school, I remember I refused to wear any pants ever except riding britches.

I was serious about this. It lasted until I was about ten years old and met Marcia McCardle. She became my best friend, and she wore jeans. I thought she was very cool. She was a year older than I.  I wanted to do and be some of the wonderful things I saw her doing and being. So, finally, I realized that it was okay for girls to wear blue jeans. There were all sorts of ways to gussie them up; scarves for the belts, or pretty blouses– and jewelry.

Back when I was first learning the difference between girls and boys, it was war time. The second World War was ever present in my life in my earliest years. I was born five weeks after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. The War in Europe ended in 1945 when I was a few months past my third birthday, around May 8th. Later that summer, I remember being in a car with my mother when we heard on the radio (over static) that the Japanese had surrendered on August 15th, 1945. She was excited and people around us were excited, too. There was electricity in the air that day, and I still remember it. Everyone felt relief. It was so wonderful not to have to worry about war anymore. And people who were serving overseas would be coming back home. That brought happiness to so many people, and it signaled the beginning of a resurgence in the economy. And before too long, rationing would be over. Mother hated rationing on shoes. She bragged that she had more shoes than all her friends because she used the ration tickets meant for the three of us to buy shoes for herself. We wore hand-me-downs from her friends’ children. We never owned a new pair of shoes until after the war.

The key thing to remember was that women did not serve in the military unless they wished to. There was no draft for women. And if they did wish to serve, they could NOT go into combat. To me, this seemed like such an obvious “plus” that I could not imagine why anyone would want to be a man. No fighting in a war for women. It was not allowed. I did not think it sounded fun to go to war, even though I played cowboys and Indians for hours at a time. I always wore either a skirt or my calfskin culottes, and my guns were lodged in a white leather double holster with red, cut stones and silver dots decorating it. I was a cowGIRL, not a cowboy. We played elaborate games where we shot the bad Indians and won. Sometimes we were the Indians. I loved being an Indian Princess. The movie Broken Arrow with Debra Paget and Jeff Chandler and Jimmy Stewart was such a favorite of mine, I wanted to live it. I spent hours pretending to be the female heroine. I LOVED it. It was fun and easy, and we had a wonderful big yard to play in. I had a playhouse and swings and a stable and a pony. There was a fish pond and a rose garden planted in a pattern with straight beds and surrounded by semi- circular ones. There were English borders along the brick wall that separated two parts of the garden, and a grassy lawn on which to run or play games. There were a variety of trees to climb, particularly apple trees and a beech tree, which I climbed a lot, in my dress. Often, I was scolded for playing outside in my “good clothes.” They were just clothes, as far as I could tell. I hated having to change my clothes all the time.

When I was seven years old, my mother brought me home from school early one afternoon. She wanted me to witness the birth of puppies for myself. Our female Cocker Spaniel, Butsy, was having puppies and they were coming soon. This particular day, my mother and I got home in time to see several of the pups born. It was a fantastic experience. The bitch was a blond dog with a calm temperament. And she let us stay there in the doorway of the space where mother had set up a whelping box for her, in the room beyond the garage. Seeing the puppies emerge with little effort on the mother’s part and looking like cellophane- wrapped packages was thrilling. Then Butsy would bite and lick the sack off the pup with her teeth and tongue. From this strange material emerged a moving puppy with four little feet and a tail. The eyes were tightly closed. They were so cute. I believe she had a total of six puppies and I was able to see three of them born. That stayed with me. A fascination for childbirth was born along with those puppies. And it grew as I grew up, expanding and refining itself until I became a mother, myself.

That miracle convinced me once again that there is no contest between being a man or a woman. Who wouldn’t want to give birth? The most miraculous miracle of all. The perpetuation of the human race, the power to give birth is the greatest power of all. Poor men. They cannot do this. in fact, I eventually learned that men played such a tiny part in the whole process that one man could theoretically service thousands of women, certainly hundreds. But his service was minimal. Could be carried out by any man, but the woman was key. She carried the baby to term and when it was born, only she had the power to feed it. To sustain life, the mother had been given the structure and interior equipment to feed her infant until it was old enough to feed itself. Such amazing superiority made me feel sorry for boys everywhere. How embarrassing for them that they could not reproduce the way a woman can.

So, yet again, I was reminded of the benefits of being female. It was so much more fun, so much less trouble. Back then, and for some, even now, we got to choose to stay home while the men worked. It seemed their problems would never end. They had to go out and work to be able to support themselves and us. We women did not have to work outside the home. As a home lover, this seemed like a miracle to me. How did we get so lucky!?

And then, of course, there were the clothes. As I grew older and understood more about my wardrobe  compared to that of my brother or other boys, there was simply no contest. It was pathetic to see what they had to wear. My closet was brimming with colors, materials, ruffles and sparkles that no boy could ever wear. I felt so sorry for them.

And then there was the female figure. So much more interesting than the male. Men were not curvy, not sexy that I could tell (except for Tarzan, but he was an anomaly in the 1950s) Women had breasts, and rounded rear ends, narrow waists and broader hips, lovely legs and narrow ankles. Men did not have any of these. They were straight up and down and boring to look at, their bodies dressed in muted colors and unimaginative styles. Men used to be able to dress in a more interesting costume historically. But not in my time.

At any rate, I believe I have explained why, for a multitude of reasons, women appeared to me to be so much better off than men.

Add to that the fact that I knew from early childhood that my mother could get her way with my father almost 100% of the time. And most of that time he did not even know she was doing it. None of this was lost on me. It was the way of the world. Men were stoic and somewhat oblivious about relationships and “what women want,” and that made it all the easier to influence them and manipulate them. My mother was a master at it. She never nagged or whined. Yet she nearly always managed things to her liking. So why on earth would I wish to be like my father when my mother was so much more in control of our daily life?

Women were physically stronger, too, I learned. We did not have the same amount of upper body strength. And in those days few women lifted weights or did any bodybuilding. However, we were much better at bearing pain, and most of the time more resilient and recovered faster from illness or injury. If we had a cold, we could continue on with what we were planning while a man would be sent to bed with the same illness.

There was absolutely nothing, I felt, that a man could do that I could not do better, except play sports, and that did not interest me.

Still, I wonder, in the year 2018, why there is an argument about this. The fact is that we used to keep our power to ourselves. We did not shout it from the rooftops while demanding equal opportunity. In so many ways, we had more power when it was less well- known, or so loudly-advertised, that we were capable of so much. I often want to say to women, Be Quiet. You are hurting your own cause by demanding equality. We women have always been more than equal. And we still are.

 

©Bonnie B. Matheson 2018