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Archive for the ‘aging parents’ Category

“Gotcher raincoat?” my mom

/Bobbe White 4/5/18/

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Most of my writing referenced Dad, be it customer service, strength or humor. It was safe to say that Mom lived in his shadow, but was no shrinking violet. I looked up shrinking violet: it means shy or timid. This was not my mother. Call her, “Quiet Steel.” Man, she was/is a strong woman! Most acquaintances did not experience this quality about her. Here are examples.

 

CRYING: I’ve seen Mom cry, oh, maybe three times in my life. If she’s 93, this averages once every 31 years. Not often. It doesn’t mean she was unfeeling and certainly, it wasn’t that she didn’t feel sad at times. She just expressed it without tears. She was a soldier when all else crumbled around her.

 

WARM & FUZZY: Not. My sister, Cathy, and I regret we didn’t get many hugs, kisses or “I love yous,” from her. This was just Mom. It is one thing, however, Cathy and I have vowed to do differently with our own children and grands.

 

DRILL SERGEANT: If swim practice was scheduled, my fanny was in the pool, on time, every time. She slid on ice into a ditch once, on the way to practice; we eventually made it. Piano lessons? We were there. Dance class: in our tutus, on time.

 

DISCIPLINARIAN: Whenever we went out to dinner, if we even hinted at misbehaving, Mom pinched my thigh. YOWSER! I’ll be good. I’ll be good. She didn’t tolerate back talk or eye rolling. Cathy tested this more than me; I remained very afraid. At age four, I shoplifted (one and only time) at Illinois School Supply. I was so excited about my colored pencils I showed everyone in the car. She made my sister march me right back in the store and confess. Geez.

 

HEBREW SCHOOL: Every Thursday. Get over it girls and learn something.

 

ORGANIZATION: Mom planned and executed. She made a list for everything. Even into which dish the broccoli should go. We never – I mean NEVER – went anywhere, when she didn’t say, “Do you have your raincoat?” Even during a ten-year drought, we’d have our vinyl raincoats or ponchos rolled up tight and stashed. Just in case. (See photo of Bobbe in her raincoat, age 2. Yes, even then.)

 

THE SOFTER SIDE OF SHIRLEE: In 1970, some unusual events inspired Mom to write the booklet: “Love Is…” It is profound. She never promoted it, obviously, when I unearthed a shoebox full of them in their house. I also found a treasure she wrote and here it is. It’s rather deep and I had no idea Mom’s brain was so prophetic. It almost makes sense it was written in the 70’s, except I know mom didn’t smoke pot! (I’m sorry, Mom, I realize I could get my thigh pinched for that one!) Interpret it to your own needs…

 

WALK WITH ME

Shirlee Schecter

April 4, 1971

 

Walk with me in the sun or in the dark – the sun melts your tension and the dark holds you close to let you think. To walk alone is to free yourself from the bite and snap of the scene about you- to feel the wind, whether it’s warm or cold, is like a shower in the morning that wakes you and makes you tingle and get alive again to face what will still be there or what is yet to come-

 

The walk alone is needed; but to walk with another is better. To talk is to walk with the mind as well as the body. It can be brisk and pointed, sharp and stimulating; or it can be quiet and meaningful and an easing of doubts and soothing to a tired soul. One can be alone and walk, but then you walk with your God; and in thinking, you talk with your God and you are not alone.

 

To walk with another is to be aware of sharing, but even then, two alone cannot live on an island and survive for long; neither can just two walk together. Each one must reach out to many whose lives touch and whose paths meet, some in love and some not.

 

A family shares and family loves; and where there is strain within that unit, you find an ingredient so vital that it pursues your whole direction. One cannot turn off the emotional self- you are surrounded by it and cannot walk away from it – it can surround you like barbed wire and there is no escape, then you walk in a circle; but in walking, you are doing, and to live and survive you must do something. Then you are making the motions of being alive and find there is always a way out of the circle that seems to close in like a whirlpool in the water, first pulling you down, then releasing you once more to tread the water up and thereby walk again to life –

 

Walk with me and share life with all those who touch my life –together. –Shirlee Schecter, 4/7/71

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Leave it to Irvie: Goes Out With a Giggle

irv profileIt’s been quite a week around here, since Dad died February 22nd. In honor of the fact that he died on George Washington’s birthday, a profile picture which I thought looked a bit presidential is  featured. Also, before we go any further, I apologize that this post at least twice as long (or more) than I prefer and probably you prefer. If it’s TLTR (too long to read), just do what you can. No rules here.

Let’s just say, “Alzheimer’s Disease – or any form of dementia- is one ugly beast”. I hate it and what it did to Dad and so many others. I hate that many of you are currently in its grip with your own loved ones. But hate is an ugly word, so let’s focus on some good stuff, shall we?

What I learned: that even in the darkest hours, humor can bubble up through the tears.

And yes, there were some bubbles of humor during his last week. First, Dad’s very mean roommate, bless his gnarly heart, caught me at a bad moment. Really bad:

Him (growling): “Is it time for me to go into dinner yet?”

Me: “I don’t know.” (Queue major snotty attitude, like a bitchy 13-year-old in puberty.)

Him: “Why don’t you know?” (Dripping with sarcasm.)

Me: “BECAUSE I DON’T WORK HERE!!!!!!!” (Note: all bold caps and multiple punctuation marks.)

Him: “That’s the problem. Nobody works around here.”

All staff in earshot: (laughter).

Boy, did that feel good. Don’t cross me, Buddy. I bite back. Hard. Fortunately, there was a private room open and Dad was moved into it for privacy.

Funeral arrangements: I had many questions:

“Do we put britches on him?”

Funeral director: “It’s a good idea, in case the body would have to be exhumed for an investigation, DNA match, and etc. (Uh-oh…they’ve Googled Dad’s cousin, Mickey Cohen!)

“Underpants?”

Funeral director: “Yes.”

“Socks? Shoes?”

Funeral director: “Socks, yes, shoes are optional, usually not.”

“But Dad was a shoe man. He MUST wear shoes.”

Funeral director: “That’s fine.”

We started coordinating the outfit. I’d ordered (Thank goodness for Amazon) an Ohio State golf shirt, representing two of Dad’s favorite things: Buckeyes and golf. Jeff contributed an undershirt (Dad ALWAYS wore one under his golf shirt), slacks, socks, belt and Topsiders.

I delivered the outfit to the funeral home. Then it hit me out loud, “WAIT! How is Jeff’s 10½ shoe going on Dad’s size 12 foot?

Funeral director: “It won’t.”

“Will you just cut out the heel?”

Funeral director: “Probably. “It’ll be like he’s wearing CROCS.”

Me: “I don’t think so. I’ll be back.”

There was one obvious solution and the universe delivered. Dick’s Sporting Goods golf shoes were on clearance: Walter Hagen’s, $29.99. YES! Anybody who knows me knows I love a good theme: golf it was. It was my secret, because few shared my humor, except for Dad. I’d explain at dinner, after the burial. It was out with the Topsiders, in with the cleats.

We held a private graveside service with military rites. Dad probably would’ve wanted a parade and fireworks, but it was going to cause much anguish among some family members and wasn’t worth it. Let me just say, “Every veteran deserves military honors.” The meticulous flag folding, presentation, twenty-one gun salute and Taps were so touching and deserved. (In my opinion, he deserved a 42-gun salute for his P.O.W. deal, but Dad hated rifles anyway, so never mind.)

Traditions: If you’re unfamiliar with Jewish burials, you need to know the casket is lowered during the service. Unlike other religions, the mourners leave and the crew finishes later. After lowering, the funeral director, Jeff, pulled a strap out from one end. A vault company employee, we’ll call, “Harvey,” tugged and tugged, but Harvey couldn’t release his strap. It was stuck under the casket corner. As a last ditch effort, HE JUMPS IN THE HOLE! Yes, he did. I looked at my Jeff wide-eyed, then at our son, Nick. You could hear Harvey’s boots land on top of Dad’s new roof. The grave was deep enough, that Harvey disappeared from sight. He climbed out with the strap, as if from a swim pool. I mean, how else would get out, right? Each corner of the metal frame, which held the casket, had a plastic cap on the four corner domes, to protect from scratching the casket, if contact was made. One of the four caps fell into the hole. We heard Harvey groan, as if to say, “Noooooo, not again!” Yep, HE JUMPS BACK INTO THE HOLE!  I look at Jeff again wide-eyed; this time smiling, then at Nick who is wide-eyed and nearly smiling.  My girls are snickering/crying/stifling soooooo hard, they can’t contain themselves. They were audible. The officiant looked at them, smiling nervously, as if they were out of order, which they both were and weren’t. It WAS comical, you have to admit. I wasn’t much better, holding my program underneath my eyes to cover my full smile. I was crying (not from grief); the substitute rabbi and funeral director wouldn’t know which kind of tears were falling. All I could think about was Dr. Seuss’s “Hop On Pop!”

The bottom line was (sorry, bad pun…) Dad would’ve absolutely LOVED this series of events so very much. He would’ve been crying from laughing (i.e. “Craughing”) if he’d been on the outside looking on. In fact, he’d probably said out loud ,”OH MY GARSH!”

Sidebar: In support of the vault company and the funeral director, Jeff Spear, for whom I cannot say enough good things, they were probably sweating bullets. We decided this might happen a lot more than we know, as most of the time, the mourners are not present. Leave it to the Schecter’s to have Murphy’s Law of Laughter*. It truly was the best and most fitting end to a sad situation.  

A serendipitous moment occurred when I attended POUND class on Monday morning, after the funeral. Two of the songs were: “Raise Your Glass,” by Pink, and “Thanks for the Memories,” by Fallout Boy. Coincidence? I think not. Those two songs are now part of my play list, because we did, (raise our glasses) and we are (thankful for the memories.)

One last thought: I thought for sure I’d be finished with my book on aging parents, before any of our parents died, but whenever we put an assumption out there, the universe proves us wrong, right?  This is such unusual, therapeutic material, for possibly the final chapter, and for which I’m most thankful. I think it was meant to be Dad’s final gift to us: laughter. I’ll take it. RIP Irvie. 1924-2018.

The end. Yes, that it was. Quite the ending.  bw

*Murphy’s Law of Laughter: “At times when you shouldn’t be giggling, the oddest thing will set you off in uncontrollable laughter.

Puppygate: gauging aging.

 Bobbe White/1.13.18. 

 

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We have an unconventional method for gauging aging at the White house. It involves baby gates to keep Lily White, the black Lab, from roaming room to room. After reading, you’ll understand how gates experience aging cycles, not unlike humans.

 

For Puppy Lily, we used 24” gates. She never attempted to breach security. As she grew from tip to hip, our hips were growing too. Growing older. I occasionally caught the gate, with either the front or the back foot, causing the whole damn contraption to fall down. I wasn’t alone. Jeff cussed puppygate more than once, too. At this point, we should have tried harder to maintain range of hip motion by bicycling, if only to practice mounting and dismounting. (i.e. swing that lead leg a bit higher.)

 

We downsized to a 17” gate. Thankfully, Teen Lily never attempted to escape. It was a major victory, physically and aesthetically. In time, however, we started tripping over 17”. I purchased replacement gates and pitched the broken ones.

 

Clearly, it was downsizing time again. We now have a 7” gate. It’s a breeze to hop! Old Lady Lily still minds, mostly because her 77 year-old hips couldn’t do it, unless there was a piece of salmon, ham or pumpernickel on the other side. Obviously, we don’t store our food on the floor, so she’s out of luck and leap, as well. Every time I scale that 7” gate, I fist pump the air and yell, “YES!” Sadly, it’s only a matter of time before the 7” gate trips us too.

Aging stinks worse than a dirty dog, but I’ve determined our next four gate levels, in descending order.

  • Level Four (3½”): Playing cards propped vertically across the thresh-holds.
  • Level Three (2¼”): Playing cards will be turned horizontally, end to end. That should be a piece of cake…
  • Level Two (1”): Dominos, and
  • Ground Zero: dental floss. I figure that, by then, we won’t be able to pick up our feet and can just shuffle across the border. Not only that, we probably won’t have any teeth anyway, but we can still floss everyday. It’s just that we’ll be flossing the floor. Sit. Stay. Floss. bw

(Photo guide: Lily White is pictured above. The 7″ and 2 1/4″ gates are featured. If you look very closely, you’ll notice a Royal Flush…)

Dad’s Lesson or Dad’s Gift?

Wtad.com/whitepages/102017

 Bobbe White

 Dad/Irvie turned 93 Sunday. It was a simple occasion. His food is pureed now, which sort of blows the whole cake ‘n candle thing out of the water. Alzheimer’s. Grrrr. Cake, candles, gifts and photos are just window dressing we can do without anyway. His needs are small. Our quest for dignity is large. We get that in huge doses, at the Illinois Veterans’ Home. They love Dad/Irvie, awake or asleep. And that is enough for me. 

“Hi Dad!” is how it began. “Hi Babe!” he replied. “YES… this is good!” I thought. “He knows me today.” Rationally, and my sister, Cathy, reminded me, “He calls everybody Babe!” I know. He always has. He would walk in the bank and address his favorite employees, “Babe” or “Doll”. It wasn’t creepy, nor was it a slur. It was a term of endearment at many levels. The nurses say that when they get a “Babe or a Doll” from Dad in the morning, they know it’s going to be a good day. It’s more commonly called, his, “Once a week awake day.” Hence, he’s become known as “Once-a-Week-Irv.” It fits his former sense of wry humor very well.

I told him it was his birthday. He looked puzzled at the mention of 93. But the fact that he was awake to hear it at all was something. He sleeps a lot now, but he didn’t sleep through his birthday breakfast. And that was enough for me.

 Cathy visited later. He was awake for then too. We considered this a good day. We tacked a couple of birthday cards on his wall. I’m not sure why, but in lieu of all the other birthday bells and whistles, it seemed like a festive thing to do, even though he can’t see that far, nor read anymore. Okay, it made little sense, but it’s hard not to mark the day with a little fanfare.  

Cathy and I shared our visit experience and the agony of the Alzheimer’s process, not to mention the longevity. It’s not that I want him to go, but what is the purpose of his existence in this state? It’s confusing, heart wrenching and overwhelming. Then I pulled out of my you-know-what, this idea. I texted her. “I think that Dad’s final gift (or lesson?) to me to have patience with his situation. Everything runs its course for a reason, even if it’s not what we like or understand. Maybe his gift to you is to be stronger.”

 She texted back, “Good thought…I’ll hold on to that.” So, look who’s giving the gifts on his birthday. And that’s enough for me.

A Check….Seriously?

/Wtad.com/whitepages/9.14.17

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Bobbe White

It’s Thursday, September 14, 2017 and in today’s news, the Hurricane cleanup begins in Florida and continues in Houston. Kim Jong Un is still running loose with bad hair and fires in the west are clearing their own path of destruction. How do you stomach all of these disasters, when you look around your own sky and it’s blue and clear and perfect? Oh, nothing’s perfect, we know that, you silly goose. That would be like knocking on Mother Fate’s door.

I speak too soon as we Midwesterners don’t have it exactly perfect, even though our weather has been, in comparison to the south and the west. We, too, are being held captive by our computers to freeze our credit. Equifax, have you had a rough week? What I’d like to know is, who hasn’t been affected by this breach? Not many, I’d bet. If it’s not this, it’ll be another Target deal, WalMarket or God forbid, Hobby Lobby. If you shop with credit or debit, you’re in the game and sadly, this is our new normal.

The alternative? We return to cash or checks, but can you fathom the long lines at the grocery store? STORE RAGE! It’s bad enough that yesterday I forgot my wallet and had to painfully take time to write a check out for milk, cereal, dog food and chicken drummies – not all for the same meal, of course. I heard everyone in line rolling their eyes out loud at me. One dude said, loud enough for me to hear, “A check? Seriously?” I went fifty shades of red, because I’ve been that person in line, waiting behind a sweet, little, old lady as she digs her checkbook out, asks for a pen, writes most of the check and then asks the cashier, “How much was it again?” Then she screws up the amount, voids it and starts over. That was Yours Truly yesterday. No pen, just a check. I could feel the cart nudge me from behind, as if to say, “Geez you old bag, hurry up!” The icing on the impatient customers’ cake was when I asked for a cart to roll out my bags, since I’d overachieved with a hand basket. (I’ll probably go to hell in a hand basket if I ever do this maneuver again.) When our daughter worked at the grocery, she said they hated it when people like me shoved three weeks of food into a little red plastic basket.

After this, I’ll try to have patience with check writers in front of me. You don’t know what they’re going through in their life. They may have lost their debit card or had it stolen or breached.  Maybe they were on the Equifax list. You don’t know. (Remember when breach was only used in terms of our levees on the river system, or when a baby couldn’t be delivered that way?)  Let’s all cool our jets. If you’re in that big of a hurry, just send your grocery list in on-line, have it delivered and avoid the store all together. But don’t whine when you get pickles instead of shampoo. Your grocery list may have just been hacked! bw

Alphabetiquette: more couth after youth

wtad.com/whitepages/8.10.17/Bobbe White/

Alphabetiquette (n.) al-fuh-BET-i-ket) simple manners for couth after youth.

By surprisingly popular request, this is a continued list from my 1.27.17 post, where A -D were introduced. These are common sense manners we see broken every day, everywhere. I post these, not because I am Ms. Manners, but because certain actions bug people. Our culture has become more relaxed, which can be refreshing in some cases, but not all. Manners are increasingly not being taught in the home, so is it left to the rest of us? As always, email me the stuff that bugs you and our Alphabetiquette team will work it into the list. Since 1.27.17, one more “D” word was added. Here you go…

Digitaliquette (dij-i-tul-i-ket) The art of knowing when a food item is to be eaten with your fingers or a fork.

Earbudiquette(eer-bud-i-ket) (1) Checking yourself from singing with your iTunes, when wearing earbuds. Buds do not instantly morph you into Celine or Justin. (2) To remove at least one of the two earbuds, when someone obviously wants your attention. (3)The reverse of this, is having the restraint from wanting to chat up a person wearing earbuds, especially when they’re hoisting an 800lb. bench press.

Entertetiquette(en-tur-et-i-ket) (1)Holding doors open for others when entering a building or room, instead of letting it slam in front of them. (2) Exhibiting patience when merging onto a freeway.

Exitetiquette(egg-zit-et-i-ket) (1)Holding a door open for someone, instead of letting it slam behind you when leaving a building or room. (2)   To thank the host(ess) before leaving a party (3)Having the wherewithal, when leaving the freeway, or turning a corner, to turn on your car winker.

Expressiquette(egg-spres-i-ket) (1) To get an honest, actual count, up to 10 items in your shopping cart, to determine if you belong in the Express Lane. (2) To use discretion while nursing your baby in public.

Electiquette(e-lek-ti-ket) Stifling the need to talk about politics or politicians, unless you have something nice to say, which very few do.

Eyeballology(I-bol-ol-o-jee) (1)The study of focusing on the person with whom you’re conversing, rather than reading your phone, printed materials, TV, or Netflix. (2) Understanding that when you are engaged in conversation with person “A”, it’s rude to scan the room for persons “B” through “Z”. This can be particularly difficult for persons who are taller than I am, which is about everyone.

Flanelletiquette(flan-el-et-i-ket) Having the ability to avoid wearing p.j.s in public. (Also see slipperetiquette).

Follicletiquette(fol-li-kul-let-i-ket) (1) To wash and groom your hair on a regular basis.(2) To refrain from examining and extricating your split ends or chin hairs in public. (3)To wash away eloped hair in the sink, tub or shower.

Funeraliquette (fyu-ni-rol-i-ket)  This post isn’t long enough for this topic. We recommend Googling “do’s and don’ts at funerals” articles. A few basics are addressed here: (1) snacks and candy at the wake, visitation or service are usually for the family. Keep your mitts off, unless invited to partake. (2) Do not snap your chewing gum. It’s annoying. (3) If you are an “Ex”, ask the family permission to attend. The last thing needed are family feuds, resembling Congress trying to get along. (4) Silence phones, stop texting, reading or posting to Facebook – or any SMS while in attendance. (5) Absolutely no selfies, even if you run into an old acquaintance at the service. (6) No butting in line.  (7) Don’t come late; don’t leave early. (8) Dress respectfully. (see flanneletiquette). (9) Use your inside voice or softer. (10) Contain your giggles, which will turn into chortles and snortles, because you know you shouldn’t. Avoid sitting by these people who ignite this type of behavior in you. You know who they are. Is it you? Confession right here: when nervous, something happens to my brain and just about anything can tickle me. (11) Pull your vehicle over to the side in respect of a passing procession. (12) No honking or waving. This is a funeral procession, not a parade. (13) Under any condition or fleeting temptation, do not, I repeat, DO NOT practice pick-up lines on pretty girls or dudes, whom you find rather hottish. Tacky, tacky, tacky.

That’s it for now. “M.O.M” (mind our manners), because when we don’t, our mothers are perched by our ears saying, “Don’t you do that!”  Send me your own.

 

Get It, Girl

wtad.com/white pages/7.19.17

“When you know your why, you can endure anyhow.” John O’Leary

 

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Last Tuesday was a difficult day, one of many, because that’s life.  There was the day we had to take Dad’s keys away. That was a doozy. Or maybe when we moved Dad into the Veterans Home – without Mom. That one was the mother of all tough days.

After enough of these, we begin to understand that no matter how many tough days we have, their purpose is merely preparation for the next tough one. It reminds me of track hurdles. I attempted them once, but was never adept. Leg #1 cleared the hurdle, but then there’s that Leg #2. It’s like an educational program: “No Leg Left Behind.”  But the back leg just won’t rise up enough. I still can’t hurdle, even though the hurdles are now shorter. Pet gates at home are hurdles. They keep Lily White corralled. If I had a nickel for every time Leg #2 leveled the gate, I’d be retired on a beach in Fiji. The lesson: next time lift leg higher. It’s hard -sometimes very – because of  “it”. Yesterday “it” was a tough conversation with Mom. Who knows what it’ll be tomorrow?

What’s that troubling issue in your world? Imagine you’re on a relay. The runner prepares to pass the baton to you. You must grab it and immediately hurdle. Without tripping. Not this time. Tuesday, I told myself, “Just get over it. No moving gates aside, like I can with Lily’s gates. I got over it. It wasn’t easy. Tough’s hard.

There are other ways to help clear the hurdles. It’s whatever works for you. Here’s what I did. Tuesday I dressed for strength. My earrings were from Poland. Korey gave them to me on that trip. We toured Auschwitz I and II,  to understand history and the conditions in which my P.O.W. father was forced to live. And because that girl of mine/ours is one strong gem, conquering hurdle after hurdle. She inspires me. My necklace and ring are from Jeff. If he was a boxer, his robe would read, “THE ROCK”. Sometimes I’d like to throw rocks at him, but he just builds me a path with them. My bracelet is from Nick, given to me on his and Jenna’s wedding day. As a four pound preemie, we prayed he’d have strength to survive. Did he ever. Let’s call him, “ROCK II”. Mr. Strong & Steady, Jr. My skirt is from Jenna, who exhibited unbelievable strength on the premature death of her dad. She’s currently hurdling a new career like an Olympian and also being strong for Nick throughout Grandpa’s death. Love that girl, like our own. My hair is from my mom. Talk about a strength in the face of adversity. Whoa. Now, it’s my turn. Sure hope I got that gene. Finally, my shoes. I recently attended “Let’s Rise!” conference. Jeff Googled it and thought I’d find inspiration and rejuvenation. He was correct. I’d forgotten my shoes, so had to buy some. Wearing them reminds me of what I learned at “Rise”: with thought and preparation, we can do more than we thought.

It’s been tough before.  It’s tough today. It’ll get tough tomorrow. I need to get it done and behind me. After Tuesday, I’m not jubilant, but relieved and a bit stronger. I’m doing the right thing. I know that feeling.

No resting on laurels, Girl, get strong for the next tough opportunity.  At Hobby Lobby, I saw “Get it, Girl”, an 8”x 8” light-up, home accent in Barbie colors. I know! I called later. They held it for me.  At 90%, it probably won’t drop further…better grab it for $2.50.

What’s your “Get it, Girl?” What thing gives you strength?

Find it. Own it. Get it.