Lucky, Insignificant, and Grateful

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

How do you feel when you look at the stars?

I feel lucky. Bright, sparkling stars in a dark sky are magical. I feel lucky to be in the presence of something so beautiful. And if I see a shooting star? I’m taken back to when I was seven, and our family was vacationing at Ocean Isle, and there was a massive meteor shower. We laid on top of the pergolas that led to the beach. Laying on our backs, shouting, “Look!” “There’s one!” “Ooooooooh!” For what seemed like hours we laid there, enjoying the night sky.

When I see a sky full of stars, I feel lucky to be a part of a world where my presence is insignificant. That there is a big, wide, amazing world (worlds?) out there. That what I’m seeing is light years away. That I’m seeing the stars as they were previously, not as they are now. That perception is constantly changing.

And I’m grateful. For another day. Another night.

Buying All The Things…

I generally avoid taking Mom to stores in person. There’s the whole COVID thing, but even more importantly, it generally ends in tantrums and fits, which I haven’t figured out how to handle. And this weekend, she wore me down. She was incessant. “Why can’t we buy something?” “Let’s go to the places where they sell things.” “Can we do the thing where we get all the things?”

I needed a dryer clamp to re-attach the vent to the dryer. “Would you like to come to Ace Hardware with me, Mom?” “Oh, yes!” she exclaimed excitedly. She dutifully carried the shopping basket as I browsed dryer clamps. She was intoxicated by the selection of all the things. She ran her hand gingerly over the vents, and pipes, and tapes, mesmerized. After selecting the proper clamp, I indulged her by walking up and down each aisle, even though we didn’t need anything else. She asked if we could buy a couple of plants, one with pink blossoms, another with white. We added them to our basket and checked out.

In the car, she asked where we were going next. I told her home, and she burst into tears. “You promised me colors!” she sobbed. I had no idea what’s she was talking about. “You got some colors. You have pink, and white, and green,” I say, pointing to the plant she’s holding. “Noooooooooo! The purple, and the blue!” I’m flummoxed. “Mom, I don’t understand. Tell me what you mean.” She wails, “I’m so stupid!” “No, Mom, you’re not stupid. Tell me once more what you’d like so that we can go to the right place to get it.” “SHUT UP!”

I have patience. Until I don’t.

“I’m sorry. Did you just tell me to shut up?” She sobs quietly. She eventually tells me she wants to buy clothes.

We enter Target, and she pushes the buggy. We walk up and down aisles. She gazes longingly at the items. We are in the children’s section, and she picks up a sweater set, size 24 months. “So beautiful…” “It is pretty, Mom.” “I want to buy it.” “For who, Mom?” “LORI!” she shouts exasperated. “For me!” “Mom, this is children’s clothing. This won’t fit you. Let’s head over to the adult section.” “LORI! You don’t know what you’re talking about. Of course this will fit.” I place the sweater set back on the rack and we make our way to the adult clothing section. She pouts and sullenly follows me to the women’s clothing section.

“Oh! I like this one! Can I have it? Do we have any money?” “Yes, we have money. That’s really pretty.” I hold it up to her to make sure it will fit. “It looks like it will fit. If you’d like it, you can have it.” “I need three, or four.” “Why don’t you pick out three for today?” We walk through the department, and she lovingly caresses each sweater, exclaiming how beautiful each one is. She chooses three, and I tell her good job, and we’ll check out now. “NOOOOOOOOOO!” she yells and starts crying. People turn their heads and stare. “Mom, you’ve got some beautiful sweaters; let’s pay for them and go home.” This is my first mistake. Thinking that logic will resonate. Still sobbing, she blubbers, “You don’t let me have anything.” Again, I try logic. “Mom, you have three beautiful sweaters. Let’s walk towards the check-out.” “I hate you!” and she stomps her foot.

I want, so badly, to grab her by the arm and drag her to the check-out. And I’m overcome by a sense of deja vu.

I’m four years old, and we’re shopping at the downtown Sears. I’m not sure what I’ve done, but Mom is not happy with me. She grabs my arm, by my teeny tiny bicep, hard, and yanks me through the store. I remember her yelling at me, saying that she would never take me out in public again.

Back in present day, I sigh. I hug Mom and she pushes me away. I start walking towards the front of the store, and she walks a few steps behind me, stopping every so often to look at something. She’ll catch up with me and add something to the cart. When she stops to look at something else, I take it out of the cart and hang it, in the wrong place, in the wrong department, saying a silent apology to the team members working that day. Occasionally, I turn to look and she’s not there, so I backtrack, wondering which department she’s snuck into. After a half hour of this, we make it to the check-out and are on our way home.

We pull up in front of our house and before I can turn off the car, she turns to me, “Can we go shopping?”


Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

Where do you go when you need solitude?

If I have the luxury of time, I head to the mountains. One of my favorite things to do is hike without the consideration of time. Wandering up hills, down paths, staring at the sky, sitting still on a rock or hillside, embracing the quiet. It’s my time to think about hard things, or nothing at all.

If I don’t have the luxury of time, I head to my back deck. Our house is built on a hill, so even though the deck is off the main floor, it’s among the treetops. In the summer, I’m surrounded by a canopy of hemlocks and maples, green all around. In the winter, it’s more stark, but still offers me a quiet escape, even if only for a few minutes.

Sing, Sing a Song

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What is on your music playlist right now?

I don’t really have playlists. I love music. I love playing the piano. I love listening to live bands. I love listening to music on the radio or on Pandora. But I have never taken the time to curate a playlist.

If Mom and I are in the living room, then it’s a Pandora “Classical Music” station. Lots of Pachelbel and Bach and Beethoven. She “journals” – cuts up the daily newspaper and tapes it into a composition notebook. Sometimes right side up, sometimes upside down, sometimes mismatching articles. And coloring around the newspaper clippings with colored Sharpie markers. I’m generally clearing out my email inbox or reading. The classical music is a lovely background for either.

If I’m in the car, it’s usually the Hamilton soundtrack. I know it’s years old, and I still can’t resist singing along, very loudly. It brings back such lovely memories of seeing Hamilton in San Francisco with my theater gals, and with my parents. And memories of a Hamilton-themed Bat Mitzvah, so much dancing and exuberant joy with good friends.

I Love to Laugh

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What is your favorite part about yourself?

Without a doubt, my smile/sense of humor/laughter. That’s kind of three things, but more like multiple sides of the same coin/die. I love to laugh, and I laugh often. It makes me so happy when people like to tell jokes. I generally can’t recall punchlines, so you can tell me the same joke multiple times and I will laugh as though it’s the first time I’ve heard it.

Mom likes to sneak up on me and tickle my neck, which drives me crazy. I’ll lift my shoulders so high I look like a turtle pulling back into her shell. We’ll pretend to tickle each other and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Word humor and puns bring me so much joy. I’m lucky that I work with really smart people who are quick witted. They’ll share plays on words and puns in Slack, and tears will run down my face because I’m laughing so hard.

I also love reminiscing and laughing at funny memories, especially if the person/people I’m reminiscing with enjoys doing so. One person will say, “Do you remember when…” and another will add a detail, and then another will jump in, and then we’re all laughing hysterically. And it feels so good when I’m laughing so hard that I can barely breathe, tears are pooling in my eyes, and my stomach hurts from guffawing.

Honey, Sweetie

Mom has been begging for a dog and cat for several weeks. I thought this was a passing fad. It’s not. Several times a day, she says, “When are we going to get a dog and cat?” She cuts out pictures of dogs and cats from the newspaper and leaves them on my desk. When she asks, I tell her, “Sure. We’ll look for one soon.” All the while hoping she’ll forget about this desire. (Note: I would love to get a dog, and I don’t feel I could successfully take that on right now.)

One of my water aerobics pals suggested a robotic pet. I did some research, and it seemed robotic pets are a popular solution for people with dementia who want an animal. I ordered this cat, and hoped for the best. It arrived today while Mom was at adult day care. I unboxed it, disposed of the box in the recycling, and familiarized myself with the cat. It purrs, it meows, it lifts its paw, and it sheds (really? that’s a feature of a fake pet?).

When we arrived home, I told Mom to sit on the couch and close her eyes because I had a surprise for her. She closed her eyes tightly, and I brought the cat in. I placed it in her lap, and told her to open her eyes. She stroked the cat, smiled, looked at me, and said, “It isn’t real.”

Well, this wasn’t the reaction I was expecting. I smiled and said, “It’s a cat! Don’t you like it?” She petted it, and it purred loudly. “Put it over there.” I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. She took the cat and placed it in front of the fireplace. “That’s where she belongs.”

She sat on the couch and looked at the cat. “Is it real?” “Yep, it’s a cat.” She walked to it and leaned over, “Hey, honey sweetie. How are you baby?” She then looked at me and asked, “Where’s the dog?”

I returned to the website and placed another order…

Mom meeting cat

On the Road

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

Write about a dream you remember.

My dear friends, R and W, had converted a huge tree into a camper van. They had built it themselves, and you entered through one rounded door (that’s probably against safety regulations, but it was a dream). The canopy of the tree included both a captain’s station (driver and mate) with a huge windshield, and multiple beds in a loft. The downstairs was beautiful handiwork (wood, of course), with nooks for reading as we were driving. The vehicle was large enough that no one got motion sick, even if we were walking around or playing cards. We were on a road trip, and entered a National Forest (?) or tourist attraction (?) where there were many trees. But also pathways, with lots of people. We parked the tree car, and got out to wander on the trails and get something to eat. As we started walking, I said, “Hey! Shouldn’t we lock the car?” They laughed, saying that no one would suspect it was a car; it blended right in. They were right. 🙂

Time Travel

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

If you could, what year would you time travel to and why?

I’d travel back to December 2018, right when Dad was diagnosed with amyloidosis, and we were told he’d likely have 18 months to live (he passed four months later). I’d spend every day with him, talking. We could talk about anything and we’d be happy. In reality, we did talk a lot. Jokes that we had heard, him trying out for a AAA baseball team (and how he never realized his arm could hurt so much after just pitching one day), his journalism career, building the cabin, spirituality, favorite books. But I would do so knowing we only had four months (not 18) and pack as much love as possible into each day.

Confident we were beating the odds

Or, I’d travel back to July 2015. When I met Mom and Dad in Italy for vacation. And we had so much fun exploring markets, eating gelato, visiting museums, and exploring cathedrals. We watched glass blowers in Murano. And bought antique jewelry. And rode gondolas in Venice. That was the summer we recognized the first signs of Alzheimer’s in Mom.

In a gondola in Venice

Maybe I’d travel back to December 2009. I had joined Mom and Dad in Vienna, Austria, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Each day we walked from Christmas Market to Christmas Market, snow falling gently on us, arm in arm, laughing constantly. There was music everywhere, beautiful string quartets. We ate great food and drank delightful wine. Then we spent Christmas in France with dear friends. It was one of our best vacations together. We were all healthy; we were all happy.

In Paris, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary

Or maybe I’d travel back to June 1973. We had just moved into our new house in Rural Hall, NC. Dad drove to downtown Winston-Salem each day for work in an old, tattered, dark green Volkswagen Beetle. When it was time for him to return home, I’d walk, often barefoot, through the woods, along the quarter-mile gravel driveway, to wait and watch for him. I’d see the dark green Beetle Bug turn the corner at the end of the street and shimmy towards our driveway. I’d jump up and down, my scrawny arms waving, yelling, “Welcome home!” and he’d stop so that I could get in and ride back down the driveway with him.

And we’d still have a lifetime together.

White Lies

“Mom, what’s wrong?”

“I wish we had Daddy back.”

“Oh, me too, Mom. Me, too. I miss him so much.”

I hugged her and tears streamed down her face. She sniffed several times and asked for a Kleenex. I brought one to her, she looked up, and asked, “Will you die, too?”

This is where I struggle. Of course I will die. And of course that is not what she wants to hear, nor will it serve any purpose to remind her of this.

I swallow. “No, Mom. I won’t die.”

Mom is assured. Me, not so much.

Favorite Quotes

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What is your favorite quote and why?

I have a couple (favorites are just so hard to narrow down).

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.

Anaïs Nin


Be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle.

Ian Maclaren, often attributed to Plato

I love the first quote because I’ve found it to be so true. When a friendship is forming, a new world is opening up, one you may not have realized was there. There’s something intoxicating about hope, about possibilities, about the unknown. I feel so grateful to have friendships that have spanned decades, and have evolved as our life circumstances have.

The second quote is a good reminder, applicable in just about all situations. Battles aren’t always visible. Small battles can seem insurmountable. A little bit of kindness can go a long way.