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

and

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.

Magical Moments

Early in the morning, Mom crept into my bedroom and crawled into bed beside me.

“Did you look outside?”

“I did, Mom. It’s really pretty out there, isn’t it?”

“It is.”

Silence.

“Let’s go back to my room. It’s prettier in there.”

“Your eyes are closed. How do you know it’s prettier?”

She tugged me out of bed.

In her room, we sat in her bed, propped up against her headboard, looking out over the front yard, the street, the majestical trees, all covered with snow, and soft, clumpy flakes continuing to fall from the sky.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

“It is, Mom. It is.”

There are hard moments. And there are magical moments like this.

A Life of Love

My Bloganuary prompt for today:

What is your favorite photo you’ve ever taken?

It was hard to choose just one. And it was so fun looking through my photo library and reliving past trips and fun moments with friends. But this one is one of my absolute favorites.

Dad and Mom in Italy

This was summer 2015, and I had joined Mom and Dad in Italy for a couple of weeks. It was on this trip that we noticed that something wasn’t quite right with Mom. At first we thought she was joking with us. At restaurants, she would order, and when we were served, she would say, “I didn’t order this. I ordered that,” and she would point to either my or Dad’s plate. We would switch, thinking she was joking. But she wasn’t laughing. When I would get gelato for us, I’d come back with three cones, and she’d insist that she didn’t ask for the flavor I handed her, but one of our cones. And in the evening, we’d talk about our plans for the next day, and less than five minutes later, she’d ask, “What are the plans for tomorrow?”

I took Dad aside and asked if he noticed anything unusual. It was then that he shared she had wandered off while they were in Belgium, and he and the police spent hours looking for her. He was at a loss with what to do. We talked about resources they could access once they were back home. And this picture embodies the life they shared for 60 years, full of love and adoration for each other.

To Read, or… To Read!

Today’s (yesterday’s?) Bloganuary prompt:

What book is next on your reading list?

So many…

My read books are arranged by color; it’s so calming to look at shelves with books in order by shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, and white, as well as by size, largest on the left to smallest on the right. And then there’s half a shelf with unread books stacked horizontally. So that when I’m done with a book, the “next in queue” are easy to spot, and I can choose based on what mood I’m in.

I’m about halfway through “Finding Dorothy” and am re-reading “Difficult Conversations.” I just finished “Seven Days in June” so I’m up for a new one to add to my rotation, as I like to read several books at once. I’m guessing it’ll probably be “Dying For a Paycheck” or “The Nightingale.” Or maybe both!

Books to Read!

I Scream! You Scream! We All Scream for Snow Cream!

With so much fresh, powdery snow, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to make snow cream. It’s part of the magic of snow days in the south. You take what has fallen from the sky and turn it into the most delectable sweet treat ever made.

Secretly, longingly, I hoped that making snow cream would trigger memories for Mom. We had made snow cream during the few big storms of my childhood. Would that be far enough back that she might remember?

As we finished our chicken noodle soup, I asked her if she’d like to do something special. She stared at me, not really comprehending what I was asking. “We’re going to make snow cream!” She continued to stare. “Like ice cream! Sweet and cold!” When she heard “ice cream” she got up. I pointed to her bedroom slippers. “You’ll need to put on shoes that cover all your feet.” She said, “Oh, yes,” and walked into the living room. “They’re by the stairs, Mom.” She started towards the fireplace. I followed her and gently touched her arm. “This way, Mom.” “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.”

In the kitchen, I set out what we’d need: a large bowl, a wooden spoon, vanilla, and a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Getting ready to make snow cream

On the back porch we knocked the icy top off of the mound of snow, then began scooping the powdery fluff into a bowl. Always better to have too much than not enough, so I filled it full.

Fresh snow!

Back in the kitchen, we sprinkled vanilla over the top, then began pouring sweetened condensed milk over the mound of snow.

Adding vanilla and sweetened condensed milk

Then we stirred, and stirred, and stirred.

Stirring and stirring and stirring

And then the finished product! Perfection!

A bowl of fresh snow cream
Yum, yum, yum!

Sadly, this didn’t dislodge distant memories for Mom. She kept saying, “This is so good. I’ve never had this before!” And as soon as I washed the bowls, she came into the kitchen, asking for some more of the cold white stuff. All in all, a win.

Blah, Blah, Blah

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What is a superpower you’d love to have?

I remember being asked this question in RA (Resident Assistant) training my junior year of college. My answer hasn’t changed in the 30+ years since.

I’d love to be able to speak every language in the world fluently. Can you imagine the connection that would happen if you could communicate with every person you met? Not just transactional conversations, but sharing jokes, understanding humor. Asking for or giving directions. Offering comfort. The ease at which visitors would feel, hearing their language spoken. This would be the most magical power of all.

Getting Older

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What is a cause you’re passionate about and why?

There are a few.

Ending mass incarceration in the United States.

Eliminating food insecurity.

And one that I’ve thought about more and more over the past few years: systems to support the aging population in the US. This wasn’t top of mind until I became my Mom’s guardian. And as I have navigated everything on her behalf, I have to wonder how people (especially aging persons with dementia) address this if they don’t have an advocate. I am incredibly grateful that we have resources to make this easier. Before I became her guardian, I was living close by. My father had the foresight to procure long term care insurance that mitigates the financial burden of care. I live in a city with a large retired population which has incredible healthcare resources. And as I’ve navigated this, I’ve noticed that caretaking generally falls to a child or another family member. What happens if there isn’t a child or family member?

It’s not just logistics. What about quality of life? Making sure that there’s a place they can call home. That is safe. That is stimulating. With healthy food. That may have been what assisted living facilities set out to provide when they were conceived. And COVID exposed the limitations of those facilities. One of the most dehabilitating factors for someone with dementia is isolation. And that’s what COVID forced upon folks in assisted living facilities. So. Much. Isolation. I understand they were doing the best they could with the information at hand. The isolation, though, was one of, if not the main, reason I decided to move Mom in with me. And had I known at the time how difficult it would be, I may have thought twice about that decision. But it makes me wonder what will happen when I reach that stage. And what options will be available.