Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Guns and the death of our children

I admit it. I hate guns and would ban them from this world, if I were in control. But I am not. So, I am willing to compromise in order to save at least one more child, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, wife, husband, human being from death by gun.

Hunting rifles and that is it.

- If you have a compulsion to kill defenseless animals, have at it. Go through a background check, purchase a hunting gun or rifle, take hunter safety lessons and store it, unloaded, in a locked cabinet. Do everything you can to keep your gun secure and away from causing harm.

- Any other type of weapon that requires bullets should be banned from our shores. Killing another human is never good. I know, I know -- police need guns. But I always thought they were trained to wound a suspect or use other means to subdue someone -- with stun guns, mace and the like -- and killing was the last resort.

I would make this a worldwide requirement but for now, let's concentrate on the health of the USA, our land of the free and home of the brave.

And let's be smart about placing blame for the mess we are in, today. I blame our government. Yes, I fault the NRA for denying our country has serious gun problems and for their scare tactics they employ to  keep so many otherwise reasonable citizens armed and ready for aggression.

No, I don't blame the public that buys into the idea that they are protecting themselves and loved ones by keeping a gun. I don't think most of these people are dumb or stupid. Instead they are doing what they believe is right among their community of friends and family.

Billions are spent on this gun campaign. People are encouraged to arm themselves,  Theme park-like shooting ranges are opening for families and children. It is a disease. It is a sickness and has nothing to do with protecting rights or ourselves. Depending on a gun is as addicting and dangerous as smoking.

Reading this toddler shoots mother I wonder what thinking went into this mom's decision to have a loaded gun in her purse while shopping with her 2-year-old child. She never meant harm for herself or her child. She was protecting them, she thought. But instead, this young woman enabled  this tragic scenario. She is gone from life on Earth. she's left her child motherless and having to grow up knowing what happened. This is just one sad story out of many and it doesn't make sense.

I don't blame Walmart or assume this women's lack of intelligence just because she was shopping there, as some did when the story first broke and nothing was published about her. We will never get to a healthy compromise until people quit assuming so much about one another.

I guess the notion is to fight fire with fire. But that's ridiculous in so many ways. Does such destruction amount to security?

Why do we have a government that can't act on the public's behalf? Instead they seek studies when the facts are staring them in their faces. Lawmakers waste precious lives and time while taking money from groups that support rampant gun ownership. This study that is months overdue should be a no-brainer, yet, CDC looks into kids/guns.




Sunday, December 28, 2014

A good cheering up

This post is part of a log of phone conversations between me and my mother who has dementia. We are reminiscing and catching up. Mom is 90 and moved from the family farmhouse to a sort of assisted living apartment in upstate New York. I live in Florida. We have not had much contact for several years until I started calling her every few days, in August. My goal is to reconnect with her, be someone who will listen to her and share memories. These posts include parts of our conversations I feel important to write about such as events and things she wants to discuss from her life, her family and growing old. She so enjoys our phone calls. Her memory comes and goes. It seems like she has more alert days since I started calling, but that may be my wishful thinking. I am learning a lot about her status in life and how it's changed over the years from being the strong maternal figure to an elderly person who at times feels forgotten as well as forgetful.

I caught mom being sad when I called her last evening (Saturday). She said, "Is this Antsy Nancy? Because I was just thinking about you. I feel so bad right now, I don't have anyone to talk to, no one wants me, I don't have any friends.They just don't understand my dementia. I was hoping you would call or thinking I should call you."

Catching her in this mood turns into a great conversation with her upbeat, relieved and feeling better about her life. She is more lucid, her thoughts not so clouded, when she has hit her emotional bottom. I've learned how to get her out of the ditch and on to the high road on these occasions, at least for a little while.

I let her voice her hurt and she does have some good points. More on that later. Mom needs to tell someone how she feels and what bothers her most, in order to get through the mood. By now, I can predict her next sentence and can verbally help her get past the explanation as to why she is sad. Once it is said, she can relax a little and maybe move on until the next valley of sadness occurs.

The first good laugh, I got out of her was when I told her something funny that happened to me that afternoon. When I went to the mail box, a neighbor was there, getting his mail. He and his wife are quiet, keep-to-themselves people. A bit different from us. He got a new lawn mower last fall and loves to talk about it, even though he didn't get to use it much before the weather cooled. I offered it was a lovely and warm day. He agreed. To be funny I added that he might have to get his lawn mower out with this weather. Well, he started laughing and inadvertently farted. Of course, I acted like I didn't notice, but nearly lost it laughing when he immediately grabbed the rear end of his pants and headed for his house.

Now, that was just right to get mom laughing. Just telling her about it made me laugh with tears. As always, she had her take on the event. "He was probably holding on until he got to the bathroom," was her first thoughts as she giggled. "There are all kinds of people in this world. Everything is out there. Writers can find their characters in people. They don't have to dream someone up, because they already exist," adding I just told a very funny story.

Mom has a cold, with a lot of coughing. It is cold outside, the sidewalk stones are popping up leaving corners and edges sticking up. And the sun sets at 4:49 p.m. these days, which makes it difficult taking her dog out for an evening walk. These are gripes that I can spin from. That is where we restart our conversation with memories and more pleasant topics.

Mom's cold. Always. Every Christmas holiday, mom would spend days and weeks baking, cooking, decorating, shopping and everything else that needed to be done to meet the traditions of Christmas. By about two days before Christmas, she would have a terrible cold and by Christmas Day, laryngitis. I don't remember mom not having a cold on Christmas -- or being able to speak above a whisper. When I brought that up, mom laughed, "I guess you are right. That was a busy time of the year and I got through it. I guess now my body is just used to having a cold every Christmas. I remember being happy back then, with family home and lots of food."

The biggest reason for mom's depression is winter. It is cold, walking her dog is hard when she is afraid of falling and it gets dark so early. She wants to be somewhere else, where it is warm and the sun shines. But that isn't happening this year. She is ninety years old, frail and doesn't go anywhere without Marley, her dog. I suggested the real problem is mom is a warm weather person and has never really liked winter. she thought about it and had to agree. We are focusing on springtime and how she will be very happy, once winter is done.

We did some more memory lane traveling and talked about summers, being outside on the farm. When I was first able to help with lawn mowing, we used a push mower to cut a front, side and back lawn, which wasn't too bad and I shared the duty with my older brother (he did most of the work). The, as summers passed, mom gradually expanded the yards and lawn areas to include 
small flower gardens, everywhere. We graduated to a couple of power mowers and eventually a ride on. Mom, dad, Dick myself and Jim did our part to keep the lawns in estate worthy shape. It meant someone cutting every day. When all of the lawns had been cut, we would start over. This was all summer long. Lucky for me I grew up and left home by the time they dug the pond and turned that whole area into a large are that needed regular mowing.

She remembers it was her plan to go at the lawn expansion gradually, so as not to upset my dad who already had more than enough work to keep busy. She always loved gardening and we had two big vegetable gardens, plus a strawberry patch and apple orchard. But she always wanted to grow flowers. She would plant anything anyone gave or she would find growing wild, from gladiolas to Japanese Lantern. It all turned into a very lush and beautiful yard. "I will always remember my beautiful flowers," she says. I can fell her smile through the phone.

About those people who she thinks don't like her, I suggested she spend more time having happy thoughts about the ones she loves and knows they love her. 

She hates having dementia and knows it is robbing her of thoughts, memories and making her do and say things she later regrets, even though she doesn't remember doing or saying those things.  I have softened on my attitude about that. I know what her personality is like. When she was younger she could be judgmental and harsh. Looking back and talking to her about her years growing up, I see that she had things happening that made her angry, but she couldn't speak out. Also, her mother, who I loved dearly, wasn't always the best role model for her nor did she treat her children fairly. Mom only hints at that. There is something deep about thoughts, opinions and what is appropriate.

"I could go out and buy myself some beer and get drunk," mom says (and I don't remember what we were talking about to bring this on). "But I am not a drinker. My father made beer in the cellar and people use to come to our house in the middle of the night to get beer from him. I didn't like it. It scared me." Turns out this was during Prohibition and she was afraid her father would be caught or worse. Later she was a member of the WCTU.

I told her when I was little, we were at their friends' house and the man made beer in his cellar. When I asked her what beer tasted like, she replied, "Rat poop."  She said she's lost touch with that family. She remembered all of their names including the son-in-law, Skip. I don't know if this is right, but she says his parents never bothered to give him a "real" name, just named him Skip. "Maybe they wanted to skip this one or something," she says, and then adds she was just kidding.

Referring to someone, mom said, "He doesn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out, if he did." It cracks me up when she says stuff like this because she NEVER did in front of us kids.

While we were talking mom was having fun with her calendar. My brother Dennis and his wife Vicki spent Christmas Eve afternoon at mom's organizing her by cutting down on the number of address books she was using to one and updating the phone numbers for her. She keeps up as much as possible by calendar and Dennis said she had five of them going at once. He cut her down to one and gave her a big black marker to X out the days, so she would know what day it is. I had to keep reminding her not to go on an X spree and end up in January, already. She loves Dennis and he is devoted to her.

I have more thoughts about this conversation and will share them in a new post. 

We talked for an hour and we had lots of laughs. She was feeling much better and at ease with things. I promised to call again today and she promised to remember to go to church.

"I love you, mom."

"I love you too, sweetheart."

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

When it's Christmas

This post is part of a log of phone conversations between me and my mother who has dementia. We are reminiscing and catching up. Mom is 90 and moved from the family farmhouse to a sort of assisted living apartment in upstate New York. I live in Florida. We have not had much contact for several years until I started calling her every few days, in August. My goal is to reconnect with her, be someone who will listen to her and share memories. These posts include parts of our conversations I feel important to write about such as events and things she wants to discuss from her life, her family and growing old. She so enjoys our phone calls. Her memory comes and goes. It seems like she has more alert days since I started calling, but that may be my wishful thinking. I am learning a lot about her status in life and how it's changed over the years from being the strong maternal figure to an elderly person who at times feels forgotten as well as forgetful.

If you sent mom a Christmas card, she never got it. Or, doesn't remember getting it. Nor did she realize Christmas Day is Thursday, when we talked Monday evening. She went on about going to my brother's for Christmas and she is hoping he moved to the farm house which has been vacant since she was moved to an apartment in a senior complex. She can't get over that. She planned to live in the old house forever, and keep dad's memory alive, living with her in the house where he was born.

It is the way our conversations have been going -- from total resignation and wanting to give the property to the local volunteer fire department to living in a dream where she returns to her Tara (Gone With the Wind). She let a few "dream" things slip when we talked last night. Like she wants Dennis and Vicki to move into the farm house, so maybe she can live with them there. They already have a home, but that is beside the point.

She has more reasons for wanting to move. I am getting just her side, but she thinks the management at her apartment complex is conspiring against her  -- and her dog. According to mom, the new manager brought up things that are in her records and from the past, that shouldn't be brought up. Like her moving in with a dog, her taking the dog into community rooms that are off limits to pets in respect to residents with allergies and some other things she told me about, but I won't mention. She feels like it is a vendetta against her to bring up a list of things that happened, maybe years ago, every time something goes wrong.

Mom blames it on dementia. And this is where it gets tricky. Mom has it, knows she has it. She says she doesn't always know what she is saying, doing or who she is talking to and may not be acting appropriately. She didn't say it that way, but this is what mom meant. She thinks people who deal with people like herself should be more understanding and professional in the way they handle an incident.

Mom's gone from worrying that the management at her complex is consorting to get rid of her, to where she now hates them and is trying to dream up an escape. And I don't know the answer.

Mom told me she was very confused, but now, she thinks things are becoming clearer. I wish it were so.

Anyway, if you call her or someone else you know who has dementia to wish them a happy holiday, they probably won't remember your call -- or who you are, If you are in the neighborhood and drop by, they likely won't remember the visit. So, maybe do it for yourself. Share a memory with them and pass it on.

"I love you, mom." "I love you, too, sweetheart." Merry Christmas and Happy holidays to all.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Illumination

I want to share a post I just published on Antsy Artist Redux. It is about having ideas that turn in to creating great things, objects and experiences. We have wonderful neighbors like Liz and Horst Goeller, who are dedicated to filling our neighborhood with awe and wonder each holiday season. Their ever-growing outdoor light display brings so much enjoyment and inspiration to our retirement community. I started with an idea and grows on new ideas.

I had an idea to honor them. My idea was small and took little to make happen. Well, read on ... Ideas.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Catching up

This post is part of a log of phone conversations between me and my mother who has dementia. We are reminiscing and catching up. Mom is 90 and moved from the family farmhouse to a sort of assisted living apartment in upstate New York. I live in Florida. We have not had much contact for several years until I started calling her every few days, in August. My goal is to reconnect with her, be someone who will listen to her and share memories. These posts include parts of our conversations I feel important to write about such as events and things she wants to discuss from her life, her family and growing old. She so enjoys our phone calls. Her memory comes and goes. It seems like she has more alert days since I started calling, but that may be my wishful thinking. I am learning a lot about her status in life and how it's changed over the years from being the strong maternal figure to an elderly person who at times feels forgotten as well as forgetful.

Finally had a long talk Wednesday with my brother Dennis and his wife Vicki. Mom has been in a funk for the past few weeks over problems she's having at her complex about her dog and wanting to go south for the winter, but it isn't happening. I was worried about her and also wondering what was real or imagined from things she's telling me.

Dennis lives nearest to her and has become her caretaker, as well as guardian of the farmhouse which hasn't collapsed or fallen to the ground, as mom's friends described to her. She had a pleasant and sad surprise on Thanksgiving Day.

When she told me she had Thanksgiving dinner at the farm with Dennis and Vicki, I thought she was dreaming that, but found out later it was all true. Vicki says they intended to take the meal to mom's apartment, but since mom has been in such a low mood about problems there lately, they decided to take her to the farm, let her see that while it isn't in great shape, it is still standing.

Mom was excited about the whole event. But for a while she thought Dennis had moved in and was going to live there. That tickled her. She wants so much to have Dad's birthplace restored and someone from the family living there. Then she realized that wasn't the case, that they had turned on the power for the day in order to have dinner. Her happiness turned to despair. She was relieved that what her friend told her about the house was a huge exaggeration, but she felt sadness to know it stands empty.

So that was a bright spot and sad realization for her.

She talks about dying a lot, to me and to Dennis. She says she feels unwanted and forgotten. She wishes her family would call her -- she even has a plan.

"Why don't they get together and plan to it so one person calls me one day and another, the next. They don't have to call me all of the time. Just call and talk, like you do (me). It means so much. I don't have anyone to talk to. Other people who live here have family and friends that visit and call. I have Dennis and he takes such good care of me. He makes sure I have my medicines, keeps an eye on my refrigerator and goes to the grocery store whenever I need something.

"Liz takes care of my finances and does a lot of other things for me, but she lives so far away. I wish I could go stay with her this winter, but it doesn't look like that will happen."

Same with Jim who owns the farm property and the expenses that come with it. She'd like to stay with him in Florida, but Vicki says the logistics of getting her and her dog to either home is too problematic. She is starting to realize this and it isn't sitting well.

In the meantime, she has been very upset with her neighbors in the complex as she thinks there is a conspiracy to get rid of her and her dog. There is the problem of her taking Marley into community rooms in the complex, where the dog could shed hair. She understands there are others living there who have allergies. Or kind of. Now, she says, she can no longer take Marley on the elevator and must use the back stairway to come and go with Marley. I think she was never allowed to take the dog into the community rooms.

She thinks her neighbors are out to get her, because they wanted her apartment, but timing was in her favor when Liz applied and did the paperwork for it. It is impossible to know exactly what's going on. She tells Dennis the same things she tells me and he finds it credible.

I don't know. I found it amusing the other day when she said, "They never liked my dog. Ever since I moved in. Right after I moved in, she had puppies. How would I know she was pregnant."

She doesn't go to dinner with her friends anymore -- she thinks they are angry about something she said or did. Dennis says it is because she's stubborn. Her friends have been frequenting a different restaurant on Friday evenings and mom wants to go to the place where she gets great fish fries.

Glad to talk to Dennis and clear some things up. He visits her and checks on the farm every few days. I appreciate all he does for mom. He is the youngest of six kids and she's always depended on him.

I can see she is more desperate as winter approaches. She spends a lot of time outside during warmer weather. There is more to do and see, like the youngsters playing on the sports fields just outside her window. Or the weekly concerts and events in the park across the street. She and Marley are able to sit for a whole afternoon on a bench and watch traffic. Now, it is cold. She is afraid she might fall on the slippery sidewalk or Marley's feet will freeze.

My wish is to get her through the next few months. She will be happier when Spring rolls around.
We are still having nice long conversations about twice a week and I will keep everyone up to date.

"I love you, mom."

"I love you, too, sweetheart."
.