Blooming in a storm

Sometimes it’s easier to do nothing.

Sometimes you realize you must.

In a four year period my father died from Alzheimer’s, my mother was diagnosed with dementia, and also my husband Richard.

Life wasn’t pretty back then.

And my coping skills were more than spent.

Since Alzheimer’s and dementia are ultimately fatal diseases, Mom and Richard also soon joined Dad in the after life.

It’s been three years now since Richard, the last of the three, passed away.

I wanted to stay far, far away from the battles of anger, frustration, and pain I often felt while caregiving.

Yet after watching a recent PBS special that spoke of the “tsunami” of Alzheimer’s, I was drawn back into the war.

With the numbers of those afflicted woth Alzheimer’s increasing dramatically, it’s no wonder the show refered to the disease as both a “human tragedy and an economic one as well” for our country.

Last week I was asked to facilitate an Alzheimer’s support group for caregivers.

I admit I stalled some in making my decision and went for a long walk around the lake to mull it over.

Was I emotionally ready? Did I have the right skill set? Did I have the time?

Then I thought again of all those caregivers. Warriors who are battling the biggest storm of their life, or at least of their loved ones.

As I finished my trek, I stood and looked at the beautiful vista unfolding before me.

Maybe I could help some caregivers find a patch of blue sky and even bloom just a little on the darkest days.

I went home and immediately sent a note of acceptance for this great opportunity to serve.

How could I not?

Shake it off

It seems that Grandma Greta has a hangover this morning after a little too much partying last night.

The soon to be 16 year old, 6 pounder spent New Year’s Eve perfecting her new sport of channel surfing.

She tweaked her tiny toe tapping technique just enough so she could seamlessly switch back and forth with the remote watching Pitbull, her favorite rapper, while ‘shaking if off’ with Taylor Swift.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Once Greta managed to come to this morning, we decided to catch up on some reading together.

While conducting a Google search on her beloved singer Pitbull, Greta pointed out an article indicating pitbulls, black dogs, and chihuahuas are the hardest canines to place in homes.

Greta, being a black chi-doxie mix herself looked a little anxious and blue with that news.

I thought I better take action.

“Hey Greta, but check this other article out. It seems as we grow older, people who volunteer for two or more organizations have much better health. Maybe we should step up our altruistic efforts again and see if we can help out our canine friends”.

I then pulled up a website for an animal rescue group we have assisted before by fostering dogs.

Pedro, one handsome 12 year old chihuahua with ears even bigger than Greta’s, immediately caught her eye.

Greta’s always had a thing for younger men.

“Greta, he surely is a looker but apparently has a foster already. But take a look at the smiling handsome senior black pug in this pic. He’s only 11!

With that, Greta joyfully jumped off the couch doing a perfect happy dance.

I just love how that girl can still just shake it off.

No Betsy Ross for me

You just know that someone who will dress up as Betsy Ross for the annual 4th of July kiddie parade has to be a pretty special father.

And a great volunteer.

I was thinking about him today and how he’s impacted so many in his community by participating in the short three block event.

Even if it’s just by painting sweet smiles on the faces of the children.

In my book, that’s huge.

Maybe more of us can volunteer to help out our towns.

I know I can.

But you won’t see me dressing up as Betsy Ross.

I’m aiming instead for the role of the white bearded Uncle Sam on stilts.

Now that ought to get everyone laughing.

Still no angel

There’s a middle school picture of me still hanging up in a busy brick building in a nearby town.

There I am.

Perfectly rigid.

‘Old pizza face’.

But at least my eyes are open for once.

I’m probably about thirteen.

And not looking happy at all about having my picture taken.

I’m wearing a long white polyester robe.

And it’s confirmation time.

Though not quite fitting the part of an angel in the shot, at least I was faking it pretty good.

I’ll be walking right past that fading portrait in my parents’ old church soon. I’ll be meeting with the coordinator of a group that helps caregivers, and those directly under their care.

It’s another one of my ’50 by 60′ bucket list items.

I’ve just offered to visit caregivers’ homes on Saturdays and spend time with their spouses or parents while they get a chance for some respite themselves.

Although the group has many opportunities, it’s the one way I can help right now while I’m still working.

This group acted as another set of valued eyes on my parents when they were still living. It’s now my turn to return the favor.

I expect to do my visiting loaded down with fresh flowers to brighten moods of caregivers.

And tactile puzzles and art projects to engage their loved ones.

I’ll also be sure to pack plenty of extra hugs in case they’re needed.

And I’m thinking they will be.

I hope I’ll make at least one small difference in each caregiver’s day as I stop by.

Though I expect I’ll be getting much more out of the experience then they will.

I’ll still never be an angel, but as I continue to age I’m happy my self absorption as a teen is now many decades behind me.

And that finally I smile a lot more in pictures, even knowing my eyes are probably closed yet again.