Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Aunt Sue's Favorite Blanket

One of the most heart wrenching times in life has to be trying to decide whether or not Mom and/or Dad can continue to live on their own.

My sisters and brother and I had to help my Mom make that choice a couple of years ago.

After my father passed away, my mom at 68 years old and for the first time in her life, lived alone.

The first few years were very difficult for her.   Things changed, though, once she moved into an independent senior living facility.

This was a multi-unit building which was located in the same town that my sister and I lived.  She had a cute one bedroom apartment.

There were many planned activities and it seemed like my mother participated in every one.

She was always busy going from her crochet club on Monday's (which she started and was the president of), book club on Tuesdays, Tai Chi on Wednesday, shopping via the community bus on Thursdays  and bible study on Fridays.

My mom lived there until she became ill at age 84.

After a bad fall, it was apparent to us that she could no longer live alone.  By then Ross and I had moved  about an hour away from her.   My sister, Elaine and her husband Al still lived in the area and suggested that my mom move in with them.

It was tough trying to convince her that this is what she needed to do.

One of the saddest days was the day that we emptied out her apartment.

Even after several months of living with Elaine, she would still ask where her favorite pasta pot was or she would want to know what happened to my father's old desk.

Once the doctors told us that there was nothing more they could do for her and that we should consider hospice care, my mom moved in with Ross and I.   Ross and I were both retired, we had a nice spare room and we felt very fortunate that we were in a position to provide the care she needed.

She spent the last months of her life with us.

My mom's sister, my Aunt Sue, who is also my Godmother, is now 86 years old.   She has been living with her son and his family for many years.   Actually, the house they all live in belonged to Aunt Sue and Uncle Don and is the house that my cousin grew up in.
The house was renovated and turned into a Mother/Daughter type of home.
My aunt has her own little kitchen area, a bedroom and bathroom.

Until recently, she too was very active.  She was always on the go.  About 9 months ago,  Aunt Sue suddenly started to have health issues.   The health problems have gotten progressively worse.  So much so that my cousin and his wife have made the decision to move Aunt Sue into a nursing home.

One of the things my mom would always say is, "How did I wind up here?"  I think that little sentence has so many meanings on so many different levels.

What happened to my life?  Where did the time go?  If I can't take care of myself, why am I still here?

Interestingly enough, my Aunt Sue is asking the same question.

"How did I wind up here?"

Many, many years before they would even think to ask that question, they went on a trip to Atlantic City.  My mom is in the center, my Aunt Sue is on the right in the dark suit and that is my Aunt Nancy on the left in the white suit.

I am planning to visit Aunt Sue sometime this week.  

I have been working on a gift for her and should be able to finish it up today.

I hope it will keep her warm and offer some comfort to her.

After all she has been asking "What ever happened to my favorite blanket?"

Monday, September 26, 2011

No More UN's

My inclination is to be pretty hard on myself.   I know for a fact that I am not alone in this.  Most of us have bruises from the times we beat up on ourselves.

I think I have found a solution to this problem.   I think the prefix "un" should be banned from our vocabulary.

I thought about some common words I use on a daily regular basis.
UNcomfortable, UNimaginative, UNaccomplished, UNappreciated, UNapproachable, UNattractive, UNcertain, UNdependable, Uncoordinated, UnBelievable...just to name a few.

Those two little letters sure do carry a lot of weight, they are very heavy.

Maybe I will try a little experiment and UNburden myself.  (Hey a good UN word.)

I believe with certainty that I would feel comfortable using my imaginative mind to accomplish the approachable task of coordinating an attractive post which will be appreciated by the ABC meme community who have come to depend on me.

Whew, I feel lighter already.

To view more of the letter U check out The Accidental Knitter's ABC Meme

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Tall Tale Full of Magical Princesses and Turtles

This is my post for  the Accidental Knitter's ABC Meme that I am participating in.
The letter is T and the post is Tall Tales.

This is a letter that I will write to my grand daughter one day, but I hope not too soon.

Dear Isabella,

Among the many stories I have told you over the years, there is one particular one that I hope you can forgive me for.

One time, after a trip to Florida, Pop-Pop and I brought you a little stuffed turtle.   You were about 4 years old.  When I gave you the turtle, I told you a little story.  I wonder if you remember it.

  One day when Pop-Pop and I were walking on the beach, we spotted a little turtle.   The turtle looked very young, a baby in fact.   She looked sad.   I knelt down, like this, and gently picked up the little turtle.   She was very shy, but I think she liked me.
After a little while, I thought I had better put her down, right in the same spot just in case her Mommy came looking for her.
As we started to walk away, we noticed that the little turtle seemed to be following us.  I knelt down again, like this, and told the little turtle that she needed to stay here on the beach.  After all that's where she lived, that was her home.  
We started to walk away and again the little turtle followed us.   I said to Pop-Pop, I wish we could take her home with us.  I think Bella would love her.
As soon as I said that,  a magical fairy princess appeared.
The Princess had long brown hair, and big brown eyes, just like yours, Bella.  She was beautiful, just like you.  Her dress was green and it sparkled.
The Princess told Pop-Pop and I that she was the Fairy Turtle Princess.   She said that she found homes for little lost turtles, just like the one who had been following us.   She wanted to know if we knew of a little girl who would always love and take care of the little baby turtle.  I told her that you, Bella, you would always love and take care of this little baby turtle.
Then the magic Fairy Turtle Princess waved her magic wand and turned the little turtle into a soft and cuddly turtle.  This is that turtle, Bella.

I remember that after I finished the story and handed you the stuffed toy turtle, you said to me, "Is that for real, Grandma?  Did that really happen?"  And I said, "Yes, yes, it did Bella."  "That's just what happened."

On your 7th birthday, you had a party with all of your little girlfriends.   You wanted to show them your room.  Your bed was loaded with many stuffed toys.   I saw you pick up the little green turtle and tell your friends that this turtle was special because she was real once.  And then you told them about the Turtle Fairy Princess.

The innocence of your belief in Magical Fairies touched me.  Especially since I knew that soon,
Bella, all too soon,  you would find out that your little turtle was never real, and there was no such thing as a Turtle Fairy Princess.

I hope you can forgive me, Bella, for the Tall Tale that I told you.
But I hope you will always remember how it felt to believe in Turtle Princesses.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Do My Siblings and I Need Oprah?

Even though I am a little behind, this is my S post for the ABC meme that I participate in.

I have three sisters and two brothers.

In relation to me, the order of birth is this:
Me the oldest
Elaine is 16 months younger
Ray 3 years younger

Johanna 11, years younger
Adam 13 years younger
Marie 14 years younger

As you can see, my parents had me, Elaine and Ray, then waited 11 years and had another set of three.
I never thought to ask my mother why this was.  At the time I guess I was too young to question it.
When Johanna was born, I was just thrilled to have a real baby girl doll to take care of.

My memory of the time when we were kids is that we were a tight knit family.  Since we lived in a small three bedroom ranch house, we sort of had to be.    At various times the sleeping arrangements were a combination of bunk beds and pull out sofas.

My parent's marriage was pretty stormy, as each one of my siblings will attest to.

Obviously growing up under those conditions shaped who we are today and probably played a large part in our relationship with each other.

As we grew up and moved on with our lives, we still managed to find time to be a part of each other's lives.

I guess my Mom was the glue that held us together.   She was the point of contact, the town crier.  We each would visit or call her and then she would pass on our news to the others when they called or visited.

That's how each of us always knew what was going on in the other's lives.

Over the years there have been some minor breaks, serious fractures, and one on-going irreparable damage to each of our relationships.

One particularly difficult fracture resulted in a couple of years worth of a combination of a number of us not speaking to one or the other.

During that time I remember watching one of those Oprah reunion shows.
You know the ones where someone finds out that she has siblings that she has never met.   (Actually it happened to Oprah herself. )

Anyway, as I sat there trying to hold back the tears, (those shows always make me cry) I remember thinking, here we were, my siblings and I, we have what those people have been looking for all of their lives and we don't even speak to each other.

My mom was still alive during that particularly bad one, but she couldn't very well take sides.  Actually I think she rather enjoyed the drama, but that is for another post.

I think, I, as the first born, may have orchestrated some peace talks and eventually we were each able to (sort of) patch things up, be cordial to one another and actually have some laughs.

I have so many memories of times with each one of my siblings ranging from wonderful to horrible.

After my Mom passed away, almost two years ago,  the personal contact we have with each other has gotten less and less.

We now get the news of each other from Facebook.

How sad is that?

I am curious about other sibling relationships.  Is ours typical?  What is yours like?

I wonder if those families that Oprah re-united would feel the same about their siblings if they had always been a part of their lives.

I miss my family.  I suppose more so now for me during a most difficult time.

I wonder if Oprah would consider coming back to do a special reunion show for us.

Here is a short video of my Mom and my siblings gathered together on a Christmas eve four years ago.
It is the way I like to remember the times we shared.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

His Daddy's Shoes

Yesterday Joe had a consultation appointment with a surgeon in New York city.   Anne went with him and  Ross and I babysat for Domani.

Domani is a happy soon to be one year old.   He makes me smile and I laugh out loud when I see him wiggle his little butt in time to the music.

Babysitting for him is a pretty easy gig.

As I was taking this next picture, my only thought was how cute and funny this was.

As I look at it now, though, I thought about how significant this picture really is.  On one level it is a just another photo of a little boy trying on his Daddy's shoes.

My hope is that Domani will not have to fill his father's shoes for many, many years to come.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Don't Cry...Be Strong...

During the last few months of my mother's life, she lived with Ross and I.

We took care of her physical and emotional needs.  We were her nurse and sometimes doctor.
Along with the loving, caring support of the women of Hospice,  we made sure she was comfortable and not in pain.

During her illness, everyone kept telling me that my priority was to take care of myself so that I could be strong for my Mom.

I never quite understood what was meant by that.

What does "taking care of yourself mean"?

And for that matter what does "being strong" mean?

Last weekend I was supposed to attend a wedding. This  involved a 2-1/2 hour car trip.  It was to be a three day affair.   Friday night rehearsal dinner, Saturday all day wedding, and Sunday Brunch.

I had all intentions of going.  But the Wednesday before the Wedding I got some upsetting news.

Suddenly I was not up for whooping and partying.

The groom's parents were very understanding.  But they thought it might do me some good to attend the wedding..."you know it might take you mind off things", they said.

I also had to let a couple of the other guests know I just wasn't up to going.   "Oh come on", they said.
"You can't just sit around all weekend."   "It will do you good to get away."  "You should come."

And then there were those phrases again..."You have to take care of yourself"  "You have to be strong".

Did they mean that by joining in the celebration of a young couple starting out their life would take my mind off of my son, his wife and their soon to be one year old son and the difficult time they were going through?

Would going to the wedding mean that I would be "taking care of myself"?  Did it mean that I was "being strong"?

Somewhere along the line, early on, I suppose, I was taught that not crying was being strong.

I was taught that you carry on, even if your head feels like it is going to explode from a migraine.

You don't let anything get you down.   There were no such thing as sleeping in or taking naps, or staying in bed with a cold.

You always fulfill your obligations and stick to your commitments.

Is that what being strong means?

After having a good long talk with myself I made the decision.  So, we didn't attend the wedding.

But what I did do was have a quiet breakfast with Ross at a place on the Island called "The Sandbox Cafe".

We had been trying to get in all summer.  We finally made it.

It's quite a quaint little outdoor dining place.

What we did do was buy a pull out sofa for our den so that when our kids and grandkids come to visit at least two of them won't have to sleep on the floor.

It needs a cozy new knitted afghan, don't you think?

What we did do was spend an afternoon with Jen, Derek, Ryan and Bella.

What I did do was start a new shawl LGG's Duchess.

What I did do was cry a lot, reflect somewhat,  listen to the new book I have been waiting for "A Trick of the Light" by Louise Penny,  knit, and spend quiet time with Ross.

I was perfectly happy to "hear all about the wedding.  It sounded quite lovely.

I think I now understand what "taking care of myself" means.

But what does "being strong" mean?

I do know that somehow I found the strength when I needed it most to take care of my Mom.

It wasn't anything I consciously did, I  just DID.

Ross was right there with me while taking care of my Mom and I know he will always be there for me as  I will be for him.

But sometimes I think we both need to do a little "taking care of ourselves."

Perhaps admitting that we need a little help and support and asking for it is what "being strong" really means.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Restricted Life Style

Today is Monday, the 18th week of  the "ABC with the Accidental Knitter's meme".
The letter is R

Nine years ago Ross and I moved into an Active Adult Community in Barnegat, NJ.  The community is one of many that have popped up down at the Jersey shore.

According to  Wikipedia  the population of our once little town has grown from 2,817 in 2000 to the nearly 21,000 which it currently is.  I'm sure the six new senior complexes have contributed somewhat to  the growth of the population.

Primarily what enticed us to move an hour away from everyone and everything was the close proximity to the beach.   Secondly,  the main selling point so aptly described  to us in detail by a very competent salesperson was the "Lifestyle".

Have you ever seen the ads for these communities?  Photo montages of very young looking people actively swimming, jogging, biking, playing tennis, working out in the on-site fitness centers, etc.

These are my favorite two couples

I'm sure these four would have never thought to skip through the woods in the rain or dance on a picnic table before they moved into the "Lifestyle".

So we were sold...hook, line and sinker.   Or was it hoodwinked by that line of...

Anyway, we signed on the dotted line.

Three months later on the day of closing we were handed a copy of the By-Laws along with a copy of  "Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions", each weighing about 3 pounds.  Okay, they might not have actually weighed three pounds, but they certainly were not light reading material. 

There are also documents on Rules and Regulations along with stated punishments for each violation.  

I think they hide the Stocks and Pillory  in the "beautifully wooded surroundings" :)

Here are a few excerpts from the "Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions".
 "No building, fence, wall, or other structure shall be constructed or maintained up any Lot, nor shall any exterior addition, change, or alteration be made until the plans and specifications showing all details of the sam are submitted to and approved in writing by the Board or the Architectural Review Committee, if one has been appointed.  Nothing contained herein shall be deemed to authorize the Board to approve any structure or plating in the easement described in Article XXI herein."

 "No Signs window signs, notices or displays of any nature oor kind shall be shown or displayed up the Lots or Units"

"No outside clotheslines, solar panels, antennas, or satellite dishes over 20 inches in diameter are permitted on any Lot. Satellite dishes under 20 inches in diameter are permitted on the rear portions of roof areas provided same are not visible from the street."

And it goes on an on.   

Ross has been on a committee for the past three years.   These seven folks have been re-writing the by-laws, rules, regulations, covenants and restrictions.  

This was a very huge undertaking to say the least.

Their task was to wade through mounds of papers, line by line and attempt to make the documents more understandable, with less legalize, and perhaps even a little less restrictive.

One of the more controversial restrictions is the one regarding vehicles.  In the original document, which was written by the developer 15 years ago, it was stated that no trucks of any kind would be allowed to be parked on the street or in a home owner's driveway.  They had to be parked in the home owner's garage.

One home owner spent thousands of dollars extending his garage so that he could fit his truck in.  Many others had to sell their trucks because they couldn't fit them in their garages. 

This is one of the restrictions the committee wants to ease.

After all many people have boats down here at the shore.  I'm sure that was one of the selling points used.    I bet somewhere in the brochure is a photo of a couple speeding along the bay.   

Most people who have boats need some kind of truck to haul their boat.

Also I see many SUV's around here, parked in driveways.  Aren't they basically trucks?

But as in any group there are always the squeaky wheels.  People who I am sure suffer from "middle child" syndrome.    

One of them insisted that a major reason he moved into this type of  community was so that he wouldn't have to deal with seeing trucks parked willy nilly all over the place.    Yes, he said willy nilly.

Another complained that he had to sell his truck, so why should the rule be changed now?   

I wonder if  Ross and I would have been so quick to sign on the dotted line if, instead of showing us the "Lifestyle", the salesperson handed us the three pound Covenants and Restrictions document.  
Can you imagine that...
    Salesperson:   Okay before I will even attempt to show you the models, which are professionally decorated and include all of the upgrades which you probably won't be able to afford, but which you will want because you basically want that model, which we created expressly to entice you into buying all of the upgrades...and before I show you the two swimming pools, indoor and outdoor, and the tennis courts and bocce courts and the ball room, and pool tables, and ceramics room, and card must read this three pound document.   I expect to see you back here tomorrow morning with a written report on said document showing that you completely understand all of our Rules and Regulations.