Tag Archive | life

A Day Alone

Yesterday I spent the late morning and early afternoon alone. Ken when to his “Harmony Club,”which is a a a supervised gathering of elderly and handicapped people. The participants exercise, play games, make crafts, and eat lunch together. They have a chance to form friendships, and they end each session by playing Bingo and winning prizes. Ken loves going because he can talk to somebody other than me, plus he enjoys being with older people. Seeing I’m ten years older than he is explains our happy marriage. 🙂

The four or five hours we have apart gives me a chance to have a little fun with my friends. Usually I meet somebody for lunch and then tie up the day with a trip to some shop to nose around for a little while. I love going downtown because there are a lot of restaurants to chose from and plenty of specialty shops where hidden treasure waits for someone to discover it.

But yesterday I chose to just be alone. I hunted new winter tops at the thrift store. (Since I discovered the place, I haven’t darkened the door of any retail shop.) Then I went home, finished my blog posting for the day, and ate lunch with Ernie sitting on my lap. (He watched my food as I enjoyed my soap opera without somebody teasing me for watching such drivel.) I didn’t talk for four hours! Believe me, that’s a record!

When I picked up Ken at 3:30 p.m., we  both looked forward to being together again. With stuffed peppers and acorn squash waiting in the oven, we had a pleasant dinner followed by a night of television. In the past, days like this would have bored me to death, but now the mundane times are cherished. Call it old age, but normalcy in our world is just fine. Achieving contentment in one’s life takes some time, and I’m glad I arrived at that place when a day spent alone becomes time well spent.

A happy life is one of balance and contentment, no matter how old or young, rich or poor a person is. I’ll warn you though. Achieving such a life is hard work. Just try it. I dare you.

An Unsentimental Journey

Today was another scorcher, and other than a road trip with my brother to my parent’s homestead, I stayed in the cool house and let my computer entertain me. As usual, I spent most of the day researching and writing on my newest book, so the day went fast.

If felt strange walking through my parents’ home knowing neither of them wouldn’t greet me. Everything was clean and neat, just the way my Dad had left it. Both he and my mother were neat freaks, and their organization still amazes me. You could eat a meal off his basement work bench, and my mother still had most of the ingredients in the cupboards to make a meal in a moment’s notice. The drawers are full of things that must find new homes and where it all will end up is still a mystery. There’s not a lot that I want, but I did put my name on a chair, a small dresser,  three of my grandma’s china cups, and a picture I painted for my mother as a Mother’s Day gift a couple of years ago.

I wasn’t melancholy about the trip because by now it is just a house. Yes, some memories linger, but I haven’t lived there since I was 18, so I have little emotional attachment to the surroundings. I think that’s a good thing. I hope my children feel the same when they have to dispose of the materialism I leave behind, but I also hope they do have some attachment for a few of the things I’ve collected. Sometimes I don’t think either of them have a sentimental bone in their body, and it’s all my fault.  I raised my girls to be independent and the rough edge of that kind of upbringing is to not get attached to anything.

The following months will be full of new adventures as we four children absorb or discard my parent’s belongings. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I tell you about the emotions that may or may not hit me. It’s been my experience emotional things come out at totally unrelated times.

Miracles Never Cease!

flowers 003My world is perfect today. I mean it. PERFECT! The weather is sunny, warm, breezy. The birds are chirping. The house is quiet and serene. And for the last week, miracles have come into my life–one after another.

I told you about the fixes to our money situation, but that pales compared to the news I got yesterday. Believe it or not, my Dad is NOT DYING! I kid you not. His failing kidneys have fixed themselves and through proof of a blood test, his kidneys are functioning normally. Everyone is flabbergasted.

Of course, he’s still got cancer, and he’s very weak because he’s been in bed for over two weeks, but who wouldn’t be? I tell you, this man is amazing. He’s shooting for his 90th birthday.

We all thought his rebound was temporary, except for Dad. He complained the hospital staff didn’t do anything for him. He complained they didn’t take him for a walk or do any therapy. He rejected the morphine that was ordered. Hospice patients typically don’t do such things, do they?

So, now he is being moved to the nursing home for 30 days to regain his strength. There he’ll have company all of the time because through various stays he’s gotten to know the staff. He told me the people there are nice to him and he didn’t mind staying there for short bits. After he gains his release, he’ll go back home with home health care nurses coming to check in on him.

That’s the real miracle in all of this. The human spirit calls the shots. He’ll go home; and if he wants to, he’ll die on his own terms. No one deserves this more than my father. He’s the hero in my life.


What’s It All About?

cropped-sunrise.jpgI typically don’t write about religion or politics because no matter what is said an argument will ensue. Today, I’m breaking that rule because I met someone yesterday who raised some pretty heavy questions, which I’m still contemplating this morning.

The scene took place at my father’s bedside in the hospital. The girl was one of my father’s neighbors. She brought her 10 year old son and a cute squishy soft stuffed animal to keep my Dad company as he waits for death to come.

After I introduced myself and Melissa sat down beside me, she had a lot of questions about my father’s situation. I’m sure many people do, but they are afraid to ask, but I got the impression that Melissa always shares what she is thinking. She seemed surprised my father was awake and alert. She marveled at his sharp memory. But she wanted to know when my Dad was scheduled to die.

Thank God, my father is as deaf as a post. I hoped he was sheltered from Melissa’s questions about how much time was left for him and what was hospice doing to help his death along. You see, since my father has rallied since he first was admitted to the hospital, he believes he’ll see his 90th birthday. For some reason, that milestone has become important to him.

But it is unlikely Dad will achieve that milestone. The kidney cancer is spreading and his kidneys have failed. His heart is so weak, just getting out of bed and stepping into the bathroom took all of his strength.

After I tried to change the subject a few times, Melissa said, “I just don’t get it. Why do people have to suffer to die? What does life and death really mean? Why are we here, anyhow? What’s the point?” Whoa, Melissa—those are very heavy questions. Not exactly bedside conversation.

She looked at me with searching eyes and said, “I’m not religious. I didn’t grow up knowing about God and stuff. I want to believe, but I really don’t know how to go about it.”

At that moment, I knew I met Melissa for a reason. She was looking for something to hang on to. She cared for my Dad and wondered why he just couldn’t pass if there was no hope. So I tried to help her. “Nobody really knows for sure what our purpose is. Scholars and scientists have searched for answers just like you are now. What I can tell you, though, is Jesus taught his followers they could have a personal relationship with God; they didn’t have to have belong to a church, and God would hear you, if you just talk to Him.”

She thought about it for a while. “So, how do I talk to God?”

“Well, I just talk to him like I do when I’m talking with one of my friends. Pretend you’re visiting over a cup of coffee and say what’s in your heart. I use my time in the car to talk to God.”

“Really? I can just talk into the air and God will hear me?”

“Truthfully, you can just think about something, and God will hear you. Whether you believe it or not, God lives within you. We’re all connected to each other that way. That’s why you care about my Dad as much as you do. God brought you here.”

“It really works that way?”

“I believe it does. And that’s all that’s important.”

She nodded and said, “Thanks, Barb. This has helped me.”

I don’t know whether our exchange at my father’s bedside enlightened her. My intention was to relieve her sadness and frustration of losing someone she carried about. Believing in God or the Universe or the Source, is important to most of us. I think we have to believe that there is more than to life than what we understand here. We have to believe that we are everlasting spirits who take on form for a short time and then are released for eternity until we decide to take on form again. I believe I was supposed to be there for Melissa. I hope she finds some of the answers and peace.


Am I Waiting for Godot?

waiting rooms (1)I feel a little like the characters in the famous play, Waiting for God, by Samuel Becket. Lately, like Estragon and Vladimir, I am not even sure what day it is half of the time. Like Vladimir, I feel like I’m basically living the same day over and over. My past life of travel and new explorations are over, and   I find myself waiting all of the time these days.

Because Ken moves so slowly, whenever we are going someplace together, I need to wait for him because his walking has become so labored. When I take our friend  Patrick out for coffee, I have to wait for the two of them, only running ahead to open the door. Now, I’m waiting for the “next shoe to fall” with my father’s ailing health. The waiting goes on and on. I wait for the UPS guy to deliver my latest novel to my front door. I wait for inspiration to come for a new post everyday for my blog. I’m also waiting for my editor to get back to me about “Stephania in America.”  And so it goes.

Am I really living a life like the play where  nothing really happens, but yet audiences stay glued to their seats?

As in the play, years pass. Time has no meaning, but yet it changes both characters. Even with the sameness of everyday, time seems to go faster for me. Here it is Saturday and I really don’t know where the week has gone. The only exciting thing I did was teach a writing class and cut the grass.

But everyday brought a surprise. On Monday, a dear friend had us over for lunch. We talked about her daughter’s wedding that would happen on May 31 in Cancun, Mexico. On Tuesday, we enjoyed a lunch outside. On Wednesday, I had one of my older students open up to me about her struggle for a better life. Our life stories have been very similar, so I could encourage her with what has happened in my life. I asked her if she ever had a house plant that no matter what you did, it failed to flourish until you moved it to another location, and then it flourished. I told her that she just hadn’t found her place yet and she needed to keep exploring. On Thursday, Ken and I enjoyed a date at a nice restaurant because he finally felt strong enough to get out of the house. On Friday, I got the best gift of all. My father had rebounded from wanting his angel wings to routing for another Chicago Cubs victory against the Southside White Sox team. And here it is Saturday already. How did that happen?

Unlike the bleakness of the play, which has gotten audiences to guess at it’s true meaning for years, my life seems to be a quest for peace and joy. I don’t see my surroundings as dull, even though they are very mundane. So what does it all mean?

Perhaps the true joy of life is in the waiting to see what the day has in store. I figure it’s my  job to make the wait worthwhile. Forget Godot. Go on without him. I’ve found my path in caregiving for people I love and my joy in  writing. Who could ask for more?