Finding Joy in an Unlikely Place

They say your parents are your first teachers.

#Truth

       Like most kids I thought my parents hung the moon and were the smartest people around.  That lasted until I was about 13 or 14.  At that point I couldn’t believe my parents had made it as far as they had without my wise and far superior input.  I mean seriously I knew EVERYTHING.  On the night of my 21st birthday I taped the following quote to their bedroom door:

    When I was a boy  girl of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man  around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.   Mark Twain

My parents, especially my Dad, laughed and made a point of telling me they were glad I had finally figured it out.

So throughout the years there were times when I leaned heavily on my parents wisdom and times when they leaned heavily on mine especially as they eased ever so slowly into the digital world.  Well my Dad did, my mother had no use for it.  At one point Dad’s computer served him well as a convenient place to play solitaire just like their  DVD player was a rather expensive clock.  Once he got the hang of email there was no escaping the many forwards and the endless jokes he passed on.

About a year ago my  93 yr old widowed mother suffered a stroke, followed by another about 2 months later.  It threw her into dementia.  We could no longer say she was just forgetful.  It was too obvious.  In due time we moved her to Memory Care where she is today.

There is no doubt that dementia is a cruel disease.  I would not wish it on anyone.  And yet there is that crazy silver lining that shows up whether we want it to or not.

We were fortunate to be able to do “porch visits” with my Mom  until November.  After that it was window visits but for various reasons those were not the best.  Then it was Facetime.  Mom didn’t get those at all.  Finally on March 18th we were able to visit in person taking all the necessary precautions.

Today was my fourth in person visit.  Each visit is different.  Two visits she fell asleep on me and wasn’t at all excited to see me.  The third visit found her alert and active.  Today’s visit she was in bed taking a nap and was happy to see me.

I have learned not to set expectations about these visits.  I stay very much in the present moment with her which is a blessing and a joy.  She is teaching me to just be present and more importantly to meet her where she is at and how much she can interact.  I slow down and do something I need to do more of..just be.

Today there was nothing but love in the room between us.  I greeted her with my usual “Hello Beautiful”   She  smiled.  I am always tickled to see she knows who I am.  I am prepared for the day when she doesn’t know me or mistakes me for someone else.  I will meet her where she is at when that time comes and if she needs me to be someone from her past, like her mother…well I can do that.

She asked about my husband…a good clue she couldn’t remember his name.  It is all okay.  She told me she had a surprise visit from her Mom and Dad.  I chuckled and said ” Wow that is so nice!  I too would be surprised if they came to visit me!”   Yes a little dark humor can be a coping mechanism.  I saw the comfort she got from that “visit”.  She mentioned my Dad and asked where he was.  Our answer is always “He is on a business trip”   She nodded.  There is joy in that as well.  She no longer suffers the sadness of his death.  She looked up and said “he left without kissing me goodbye”   I replied ” I’m sure it was early when he left”  She said “True, I will look forward to his kiss when he returns”.  I quietly sent out a message to the universe to have Dad  “visit”her like my grandparents did earlier.

My mother has rounded third base and is heading home in the final inning of her life.  It is not without its starts and stops.  It has multiple hiccups.  She is still teaching me and showing me that love knows no bounds, that sitting, being present, slowing down are good values to hang onto and perpetuate.   I practiced it yesterday when I  plopped down with my almost 14 yr old granddaughter on a huge bean bag chair.  Our heads were touching.  She was showing me something on her phone and we were laughing, talking about life, school, boys and cooking.  She has obviously not figured out that I don’t KNOW everything although I think grandparents get a pass on this phase of  teenagers.  I was in no hurry to move or have the moment end.  It was my favorite part of our visit.  Thanks Mom.

If Covid had allowed I would have crawled in bed next to my Mom today and put my head next to hers.  I got as close as I could. My phone was off, I had no place to be but there.  She smiled. Mom’s day refreshes multiple times a day.  She has reached the point where nothing really troubles her and joy abounds.

Do I wish I could have her totally back?  Of course, who wouldn’t? I am grateful that I have found  a peaceful place to be with her in my heart and treasure each time I get to hear her say ” I love you too!  Bushels and bushels.”

One of our porch visits 🙂

Thanks Mom for the life lessons, all of them… love you.

 

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It Matters to Me

Dear Mom,

It was so good to see you today!  I love your smile and how you light up when you see me.

You looked good.  For 94 years young you look younger than some other people I know. Shhh..we will keep that a secret between us.

You asked about Dad..as usual he is traveling for business.  You shrugged knowing how often he does this.

I brought you lunch. You were delighted and promises were made to warm it up when lunch time rolled around.

You said you were tired so I left to fetch some items you needed.  Toothpaste, tooth brush, socks, washcloths and some new sheets.  Easy enough, or so I thought.  Turns out full sheets are tough to find.  Well tough if you want them to be pretty and soft.  I hope you like what I picked.  They are soft but I couldn’t find floral so I had to settle for a blue geometric pattern.  Hopefully you love the softness more and can understand that floral sheets are hard to find.

I did find some beautiful rose colored washcloths.  They are soft and plush.  There is nothing worse than washing your face with something akin to sandpaper.

Of course the toothbrush, toothpaste and socks were the easiest except socks in your tiny size are not plentiful but I found them..go me.

I can’t bring everything over until tomorrow.  You will be surprised I know since every day is brand new to you.   Every minute is fresh with the previous minutes escaping from your memory moments after they pass.

You won’t remember that I even came by today.  You might remember your yummy hamburger 🙂  Food seems to be more memorable these days.

You accept that Dad is on a business trip.  It would be too painful to remind you every time that he is gone.  4 years today as a matter of fact.  You constantly look for him and ask about him.  Believe me I wish he was here too but it would be hard for him to see you like this.

I have so many questions that I want to ask but you are unable to answer.  I look through past photos…long before I was even in your thoughts as a possibility and I long to know that carefree spirit in the hula skirt or peeking out from behind the shower curtain in your dorm at nursing school.  I think we would have been friends and had a grand time together.

How I wish I had paid more attention to your cooking and how you put recipes together.  I asked you today but you couldn’t recall.  Lost opportunities. Thankfully I have your recipes in your beautiful handwriting that makes me smile.

As I carefully picked out the sheets and washcloths today I wondered why I was being so particular because in my brain I knew it really didn’t matter to you.  The color or the pattern, maybe even the softness or thread count were of no consequence.

My heart told me what is true..it matters.  It matters to me.

I am thankful you still remember who I am.  I am thankful I can see you in person and give you a quick hug.  I can brush your hair and tell you I love you.

In that moment it matters.  It always will.  I picked everything out with love today and that matters.

While I am often sad when I leave your room in Memory Care, knowing you would rather be with Dad,  I am thankful I get to tell you I love you one more time.

Love you Mom..bushels and bushels,

 Jennifer

Mom on her 80th

Me and Mom on her 80th!!!

 

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It’s Thoughtful Thursday! The Easy Way to Bring Joy to Yourself and Others

When was the last time you received a handwritten letter or note?  Bet it has been awhile.

I love receiving unexpected notes or letters .  Even if I know everything that is going on in that persons life  it is always good to see familiar handwriting in my mailbox.

You can bet it is the first thing I open.

Why is it so special?  I can only speak for myself but I always feel a little extra love  when someone takes the time and makes the effort to write a real note, find a stamp and get it in the mail.

It is the personal touch that means so much.

When I find letters from my grandmother in her very distinctive handwriting it is like having her here next to me.  At some point in time she touched the paper and wrote those words.  It will never be like having her physically here  but it is something I can touch and hold.  Just seeing it makes me smile.

Thoughtful Thursday started with the intention of writing real letters.  I have fallen down on the job lately so I am jumping back in and committing to sending more letters via the post office.

Just like painting it has a soothing, relaxing effect on me.  Watching and feeling the pen glide across the paper and taking the time to think of what I really want to say makes me slow down and be in the moment.

While you may think e-mails are forever, maybe not.  A handwritten letter has a life of its own.  At least it feels that way.  And opening up an older one feels like a treasure found and a bit of the past come to life.  I have all the letters my husband wrote to me while he was on Navy deployments and while we were dating.  I have a box of love letters between my parents and handwritten notes and recipes from my grandmother.  They are a bit of my personal history.

I also have letters my grandfather typed.  He even managed to find a typewriter  and write one while vacationing in Europe in 1964.  I imagine they had business centers back then as well but instead of computers they had  typewriters.

Honestly it is not cheating if you don’t like your handwriting and you want to type it but always remember to add a handwritten P.S. and your own signature 🙂

I will type some of my letters but my way of typing is definitely old school.   🙂  A throwback to my grandfather 🙂

Love this script typewriter

Yes I have a fascination with typewriters.  I make mistakes, I x them out.  It is so fun.  And I get lots of reaction from the recipients.  The added bonus is there a real satisfaction at pounding on the keys.  Not sure why but just the extra force needed feels like I am accomplishing something.

Here is the other cool thing about mailed letters:

Letting go of the immediate reply

I am never sure if it arrived or when it did and I never  expect a handwritten response.  Of course I would love one but that is not why I do it. I do it for the connection, and mostly just for the pleasure of imagining the smile on someones face when they open their mailbox to find something besides the ordinary bills or advertisements.

Ok..there is the possibility the person won’t smile..but I’m guessing they will.  And guess what?  I may never know and thats ok.

I send it off and hope it does its’ job to bring a little joy to a someone special.  Give it a try..it does a heart good.

Now as always..go out and make it a Thoughtful One.

Jennifer

 

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It’s Thoughtful Thursday…thankful for the mess

In the last four years you have read about my monumental task of cleaning out my parents house after my Dad died unexpectedly.  At the same time we also had to move my mother into Assisted Living.  Honestly much of that time is a blur in my memory.

I am still dealing with some of the aftermath.  Well a lot of it.  My parents didn’t throw out much.  The moment that is seared into my memory is opening a box and finding throw pillows from  the couch we had when I was five.  If it hadn’t been 10am I would have started drinking and Kahlua in my coffee does not count.  Well maybe it does.

In any case I am currently going through all the boxes of photos and memorabilia we dumped in my office after the final clean out.  I had to take a break after we finished.  Going through boxes is the most mind numbing experience.  I’d rather go to the dentist or take algebra again..and fail it ..again.

Lately though I have been thankful for the “classy hoarding” my parents did.  “Classy Hoarding” is a phrase I coined to refer to a house that looks put together but has closets and a basement just plain stuffed!  If the house could have groaned and let out its’ seams it would have done it!

So why am I thankful?  I am thankful because I am finding so many unbelievable treasures .  Treasures only to me and my family but still they are priceless.

Among other things I have found a letter written to my mother from  grateful parents whose young son died.  They wrote eloquently about how much they appreciated her kind and loving ways towards their 12 year old son as he passed away from cardiac problems.  My mother could not fill in the details ( unfortunately) but it was during her last weeks of nursing school.  The only thing she could say about it was that it was very sad.

I found humorous photos of my Mom and Dad in their youth.  As a child you never envision your parents as being wild and while this was the mild side of wild it was fun to see. It was  long before they were worried about what anyone would think and I found it refreshing.  I wish I could ask both of them about this time in their lives but one is in heaven and one is sadly in the throes of dementia.

I found letters written by them as a young engaged couple in love.  And then there is a lovely letter from the father of my mothers’ best friend extolling her virtues to her new in laws who did not approve of the marriage.  My grandparents thought my father could do better . Then my parents eloped and that didn’t help. They did recant those feelings many times over and became  Moms’ biggest fans.

In that same letter Ted Holtzinger painted a picture of my Moms’ tireless efforts on the pediatric polio ward before there was a vaccine.  Also as you read this please know that at 5 feet tall and 80 lbs my Mom was not much bigger than her patients.

           Ted wrote:

        I wish I could tell you of her heroic efforts on behalf of the littlest victims of this city’s worst polio epidemic.  She worked around the clock for what must have seemed like endless days trying to save those who were most seriously afflicted from death or from a life sentence to the worst phases of crippling that makes polio such a dreaded scourge.

     I saw her there one night when the epidemic was at it s height., her hands and arms reddened to the elbow form the hot packs that she was administering to the sufferers of this worst form of polio, I watched her wince as she lifted hot pack after hot pack from the scalding water and I said a silent prayer of thanks for women like Betty who could forget self in service to others so grievously afflicted and yet so needful of  her administrations.

My mother never told us about any of this.  I am so thankful this letter and others like exist and were saved so that I may have a glimpse of my mother before I knew her.

By the way I also have the response my grandfather sent many years later and it was eloquent as well.  Not sure why he waited so long but grateful I have the two letters to go side by side.

So on this Thoughtful Thursday what is my point about all these treasures?  Can you guess?

Write a real letter.  A real one.  Not a text or an email…a real honest to goodness letter.  Make a copy and save it.  Who should you write it to?  That is for you to decide but in this day and age of digital it is refreshing to hold a letter that can be read over and over again without turning anything on.

Tell someone what they mean to you, write down memories of fun times , special life events and anything that has become family lore. If you see someone like my Mom doing something so very special let them know you noticed.

I know it is all the rage to be minimalistic and to get rid of everything that isn’t nailed down.  I get it.  And all that is found will be digitized in case the originals are lost.  In the meantime it is a joy to hold a letter once written by a friend, a grandparent, my Mom, my Dad.  They once held that piece of paper.  The connection is real.

So thank you Mom and Dad…it has been hard but the rewards are bountiful.  I am so happy you saved this part of our history.

Now as always, go make it a Thoughtful One..and if you are so honored go hug your Mom and Dad !                                                                     Jennifer

 

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It’s Thoughtful Thursday..Spread kindness like glitter

I lost a friend to cancer the morning of December 24th.  She did not want to leave her family, husband, kids, grandkids or friends.  She was not so much concerned for herself but for them.

I have another friend who is awaiting test results.  She is hoping for good news.  Not so much for herself but for her family and especially for her recently widowed mother.

So many are fighting battles out there. Battles that they entered unwillingly and have little control over and yet their concern is for  those around them.

So I’m asking you on their behalf and those like them that just for today to be a little kinder, a little more forgiving, slower to anger, better at scrolling past social media posts  and not leaving comments you may end up regretting.

Let us love more, smile always and find new ways to be thoughtful.

We can all benefit.   Your thoughtfulness may make someones’ day just that much better and no doubt yours as well.

Those small acts of goodness are like a handful of glitter..it sparkles, it spreads brightness and once scattered  it goes everywhere.  Let’s put a little more kindness glitter in the world and make it sparkle.

Go be that sparkle of kindness ..makes you smile just thinking about it doesn’t it?

And as always..go make it a thoughtful one…with a little glitter:)

Jennifer

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