Angel food

Grandma’s infamous ‘Angel Pie’ recipe fell off my bulletin board in the kitchen this morning.

Picking it off the floor, it seemed like an invitation to a party of memories.

And just the perfect one, flying my direction on Father’s Day.

In my seasoned life, more family members have departed than remain. Yet remembrances are rich and still full of life.

And every June, I imagine these special family members having their own holiday picnic in Grandma’s backyard. I see Grandpa, Dad, and my husband smiling as the main meal is brought out. Soon they’re devouring crispy fried chicken and fresh butter slathered sweet corn on Grandma’s signature blue and white tablecloths.

And there I am, watching every bite from the swing.

It’s about to turn even sweeter as Mom starts serving strawberries laced with sugar laden whip cream on Angel Food Cake.

And then the back porch screen door bangs in the breeze as Grandma proudly presents her mile high Angel Pie to the fathers on their sacred day.

She slices one big piece for a Grandpa who built a second swing inside the garage for his granddaughter. He knew as his health further deteriorated, he could still watch that granddaughter swing from his kitchen chair.

And Grandma slices another for a Dad who played an active role in raising his daughter, in an era when it wasn’t the norm.

And then a third, for a husband who was passionate about adopting a non English speaking 12 year. His unconditional love would prove to shine the brightest in the toughest of those teen years.

After the feast, I watch the women shake the tablecloths clean to tuck them away for the next holiday.

The three wise and loving men in front of me pat their full bellies, looking content.

And it seems the granddaughter, daughter and wife is content as well looking up at the majestic clouds in the sky

But she is also hungry.

Soon the woman takes a journey to the bakery in search of her own slice of Angel Pie.

She’s found there is nothing like a little food for the soul.

New perspectives

It was something I hadn’t seen before.

A two year old, four year old, and seven year old, sitting still at the same time.

And my three grandkids kept on with this peaceful focus, watching the animals grazing before them.

Maybe I just hadn’t noticed before.

But then I was also slow to pick up that my once wild and wooly caterpillar of a teenager suddenly grew wings.

And then blossomed beautifully into her role as a mom.

I told her so in a Mother’s Day card I tucked into her May birthday present yesterday.

“Thanks for being such a great and loving mother to my grandchildren,” I wrote.

I like to think I’m transforming as well, growing new wings and new perspectives.

This Mother’s Day’s day I drove to my mom’s old care facility after buying a bouquet of daises and box of chocolates. I was there to attend their weekly church service.

I haven’t been back since Mom left.

I do have tough memories of my mom in the care facility with her tearful pleas to go back to her old house. And I’ll never forget the painful care conference with my husband at my side when I realized his dementia had actually surpassed that of my mom’s.

But I also have plenty memories of laughter, with Mom entertaining caregivers and fellow residents while I’d dispense her beloved Dove bars to the crowd.

As I entered the facility today I asked the receptionist to pass out chocolates to any mothers who were working.

And I asked her to share the daises with a resident who might be struggling, or having a particularly rough day.

Once I walked into the tiny chapel, I recognized a few ladies who used to sit at Mom’s dining room table.

I suddenly felt at home.

And I felt Mom right in the room with me.

The small group sang classic old hymns and listened to a sermon directed to the elderly women in the group.

“Remember to always ask for help if you need it,” the minister reminded them.

A gentle, smiling usher from the local church asked me if I would help out some Sunday with the service.

The woman said she is getting older and many of her friends are now residents themselves.

Sounds like she was listening to the sermon.

Though it isn’t something I would have done a few years ago, I’m thinking of helping out.

I can’t think of a better Mother’s Day gift for Mom.

And I know a peaceful new perspective can be mighty good for the soul.

Moms, May and Magic

Every year I’d buy Mom the same gift in early May just as the pink and white crab apples trees would start smiling for the camera.

Mom’s present would be the best and brightest hanging plant of the season for the back porch.

But she wouldn’t receive hers on Mother’s Day like most moms.

My mother would receive her gift early on May 5.

It was Mom’s birthday.

With my own blooming apple trees as a canopy, I dragged a couple of old boxes out to my backyard last night with a goal of sorting through and tossing out most of the contents.

The first I discovered was full of Mom’s old photos. I almost closed the box before starting knowing this pastime wasn’t going to help my melancholy mood any.

Mom’s been gone for two years now.

But I kept going, throwing out tired old albums, duplicate photos, bad shots, and pictures of people I don’t know.

My sour mood remained, but I grabbed another box from the garage anyway.

Though this time I quickly dropped it when I heard something rattling inside.

A mouse maybe? A squirrel?

Yet it didn’t sound quite like either one.

The rattle had a lilting magical quality, like ‘fairy dust’ for the ears.

I opened the cardboard box slowly, and then saw the light.

Or maybe I should say ‘lights’.

There were plenty of them.

Hot pink, lemon yellow, royal blue, lime green.

And the colors were twirling faster and faster.

Right on top of a mini princess wand!

Instantly my last memory replayed of Mom together with my two year old granddaughter. I could see them smiling and giggling as they joyfully pushed the heart shaped buttons of the magical, musical toy.

Then underneath the wand I discovered more buried treasure.

Magnificent photos of my daughter with her own grandmother.

It’s my last memory of the two of them together as well.

Yet the magic still continues to this day.

My daughter will be forever blessed to share the same birthday, May 5, with her grandmother.

And my granddaughter will soon be receiving a slightly used but priceless princess wand from me.

I believe memories truly are a gift, but shouldn’t be left hung out to dry.

Instead the very best of them should continue to be lovingly recycled.

Gentle souls

Today my Facebook news feed gifted me a joking reference to two elderly women and senility.

Maybe call it holiday humor.

But I call it cruel.

I admit I’m overly sensitive after a decade of care taking for my late parents and husband afflicted with Alzheimer’s and dementias.

But there’s nothing funny about a grandma asking her grandkids on Christmas Eve, “So who are you?”

Or discovering one morning your spouse can no longer speak full sentences.

But I may have been bothered most by the post’s unkind reference to aging women.

Feeling a bit old myself this morning, I couldn’t help but think don’t mature women deserve better?

What ever happened to respect and dignity, anyway?

I spent yesterday visiting two gentle souls in different locations, each nearly ninety years young.

Both of these women are bright, full of life and ever so wise.

And they’re also gorgeous.

The women reminded me of another elegant lady I knew who passed away earlier this year at 96. An accomplished author, she kept researching and writing well into her 90s, publishing her last book at 92.

All three women have taught me much. And yesterday the two I visited with shared some invaluable lessons.

First, just because you’re older, you’re still vibrant and very much alive. You can offer wisdom and perspective the young never can.

Second, should memory become impaired in one’s final years, gifts of love and warmth will still shine through.

I’m thinking these gifts will be more than enough to top off my stocking come Christmas morning.

Signs on the path


I encountered conflicting messages on several signs near a stoplight this afternoon.

On my right, the one at the Lutheran church proclaimed: “Be happy, be heathy”.

But on my left sat others, as part of a Halloween display.

The setting was a small grave yard, with tombstone signs advising, “Rest in peace”.

The irony was jarring.

Yet later on a relaxing walk below falling gold leaves, I found a message in the earlier sign paradox.

I know for sure my husband and parents who’ve passed from Alzheimer’s and dementias are now at peace.

And they’d all want me to be happy and healthy, which I am.

But I did keep my walk brief to go home and fill out more paperwork.

As I’m well aware I will be calmer once their three small estates are finally completed.

iPods, music and memories


Although the experience was a first for me, it wasn’t exactly on my bucket list.

I don’t go to movies much, but there was one I wanted to see before it disappeared from view.

I knew it wouldn’t be of interest to everyone, though it had been the audience favorite at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

So after deciding to see a movie by myself for the very first time I drove over to a theatre that only shows independent films.

Buying my ticket, I noticed fancy imported chocolate bars for sale next right next to the popcorn. Had it been that long since I’d been to a movie, I wondered?

I quickly grabbed one, as dark chocolate always make for a good companion.

The movie I was there to watch was “Alive Inside”.

It’s a documentary that follows the story of a man with a vision about the healing power of music. He believes that an iPod personalized to the music taste of someone with Alzheimer’s or other memory loss can be a powerful and joyous thing.

The experts who were interviewed, and the filmmaker through his chronicles, quickly proved the point.

It seems personalized iPods can succeed where prescriptions often fall short.

I sure wish I’d had one for my husband packed with the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and all that opera music he loved so well.

In the theatre this afternoon, I counted just 16 people.

I’m sure most of them were family members and/or caregivers of someone one with memory loss.

But I know watching the movie resulted in a several valuable lessons for me:

-One great idea with tons of tenacity can truly make a difference.
-Even though memory loss is a tough subject, some joy can always be found.
-With an aging population and the predicted growth in memory loss, the more we know about creating happiness for those afflicted the better.
-Independent theaters who play movies that won’t generate a profit should be rewarded.
-Imported chocolate is always a better option than popcorn.
-And finally, when you go to a movie by yourself, you get to sit wherever you want.

And here I thought I was just going to a movie…