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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.

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Puppygate: gauging aging.

 Bobbe White/1.13.18. 

 

puppygate

 

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…)

Get It, Girl

wtad.com/white pages/7.19.17

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

 

IMG_4111

 

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.

To Nag, or Not To Nag?

wtad.com/white pages/6.22.17

Bobbe White

Define nag: noun 1. annoy or irritate (a person) with persistent fault-finding or continuous urging. 2. horse especially : one that is old or in worn-out condition.

Nag comes from Middle English nagge; akin to Dutch negge small horse. First known use: 15th century.

In other words, women have been nagging their husbands to do things around the house since 1417. It’s nothing new. It rarely works. This post is about getting things done without acting like a small worn-out irritating horse.

Jeff made me a beautiful seven-foot trophy case in 1973. It has a little engraved brass plate that reads, “Bobbe Schecter – 1973 – JWW.” I had been at college, while Jeff took a semester off to work and build things. He built the case for my childhood swimming awards. There may have been a few water polo trophies, as well, but not because I was any good. I could out-sprint most girls to the center of the pool to swat the ball back to my teammates. That was about it for me. I was afraid to catch that hard polo ball (jammed fingers) and threw like a weak kitten. I digress.

cabinet

The trophy case lived in my parents’ basement for twenty years. I mentioned it occasionally, “Why can’t it live at our house?” I can’t recall the answer. It then moved to my parents’ next home for twenty years. Are you seeing a pattern here? When they had movers anyway, why didn’t we move it to my house? I guess it was easier not to move it. I asked a few (hundred) more times to move it. In 2013, my parents moved to assisted living. Finally, happily, the case moved to our basement. It was placed on its side. The ceilings weren’t high enough to stand the damn thing upright. There it slumbered like a beached whale for four more years.

Last month, we gathered Korey’s things for her move to D.C. To help Jeff (and me), two guys from work agreed to carry a heavy table upstairs and out to the garage for loading. “While you’re at it, bring that stupid trophy case upstairs too.” Ha!  They did it! “Set it up in the corner.” Up, up, up it went like a flag on Iwo Jima. Our carpeting, it seems, was too deep of a pile. The case was top-heavy and it lurched forward.  Down went Shamu, to the floor, to rest in the middle of the room, as it had downstairs. Terrific. I paid the guys with two six-packs of good beer.

Last weekend, Nick and Jenna came home for Father’s Day and my birthday. Jenna asked, “What are your birthday dreams?” Nick analyzed the trophy case’s tipping point and sent us to Home Depot for shims. And we shimmied that whale right into the corner, where I hope it lives for at least twenty more years.

SPRING MUSINGS

Wtad.com/white pages/4.13.17
peeps                                                                                                                      by Bobbe White

Spring in the Midwest is a season of surprises and contradictions. Here are a few:

WEATHER                                                                                                                                              Like any season in the Midwest – we have about seventeen of them- everybody talks about the weather. My favorite comment, “I wish the weather would just make up its mind!” This is the Midwest. That’s what our weather does best: spring into summer, then spring back to winter. BoInG! BoInG! BoInG!

YARD                                                                                                                                                        I like mowing, because of the exercise. Plus, it’s great to see instant results from your efforts. However, thick, spring grass provides resistance. I pretend I’m a football player trying to push a sled and the coach is standing on it, for more resistance. Drive by our house every other day. I’ll be mowing after work; Jeff follows behind me to fertilize the yard. Okay, let me get this straight: I mow frequently. He fertilizes to make it grow more, so I’ll mow more frequently.  How does this make sense? But I don’t complain, because I like to mow.

MUSHROOMS: a Midwest phenomenon. Many people spend hours hunting for them. The environment must line up perfectly: moisture, temperature and timber. Add ticks, snakes and spiders. It’s the best. Preparation involves frying. We seldom fry food, but with mushrooms, we eat them faster than we can fry them. Those who don’t find them, buy them from other people who found them. How do you find a seller? Just listen to conversations on Monday mornings and the finders brag, “I found 13 pounds this weekend.” However, they’ll never reveal where they found them. I have “Mushrooms” in my phone contacts. I’ve paid up to$20.00/lb. I know. It’s crazy. But they’re crazy good! Sometimes, when we have them for dinner, we even add a main course.

EASTER MEMORIES                                                                                                                             As I write this post on Maundy Thursday, I remember when our daughter, Korey was the only Jewish student in St. Peter’s kindergarten. Mrs. Kuhl washed feet, while Mrs. Wavering distributed grape juice and crackers. Korey said, “THIS SURE LOOKS A LOT LIKE PASSOVER.”  Mrs. Wavering agreed, because, actually, The Last Supper was Passover. Some years, like 2017, Passover and Easter overlap, which I think makes total sense. Other years the holidays can be a month apart. Why? It’s complicated, due to different calendars.

Because we’re an ecumenical family, we also had Easter baskets for the kids. On Saturday night, I lined up Peeps from the kids’ bedrooms, down the hall, like little soldiers, to their baskets. Those little devils were hard as rocks by morning. We figured it was a better use for them than actually eating them. One year, after Nick had rifled through his basket, he seemed a wee bit disappointed. Apparently, the bunny had forgotten to include a new tooth brush. Bad bunny!

Never discount how deeply engrained our seasonal habits or traditions are. Whether it’s mowing, mushroom or egg hunts. Now, go continue –or make- your memories. No Peeps, please!

alzHACKer’s disease:  Helpful hacks for improving your communication efforts

Written for WTAD White Pages 4-7-17

Bobbe White

                                                                                                                                                                You’ll eventually know someone with Alzheimer’s disease (A.D.).  Percentages are expected to increase exponentially.  Watching Dad succumb has been educational, at best. At worst, “It aint’ purty.” A day doesn’t pass, when someone doesn’t mention their family is dealing with A.D. Check out these hacks for improving communication.

A dopt a smile before entering their room. (Fake or real, they won’t care.)

L et them lead the conversation, even if it’s nonsensical. If Dad mumbles, I either answer randomly or agree with him. Nobody insists it must make sense.

Z ip your mouth when you get the urge to argue. It’s not worth it. Nobody wins.

H ave your phone handy. Show photos. Play music. It possesses power for persons with various dementias. Select hits from their 18-25 adult years. Observe their reaction. Some music sparks happy memories, some triggers sad ones. Note bobbing head and tapping feet. With Dad, it’s not a tremor. It’s his mojo!

E ngage in conversation around someone with A.D. Even the sound of your voice can be soothing.

I nvest in a baby doll.  Watch someone with A.D. cradle, rock and love it. It’s soothing. I believe there’s an innate sense to feel needed. Even better, bring a real baby or puppy!

M ake eye contact. (Not with the puppy…the person!)

E ncourage staff to share funny situations you may have missed. “Laughter is like a dry diaper. It doesn’t take care of the problem, but it makes it bearable for a while.” Michael Pritchard.

R esolve to sloooooooow your pace. Especially if feeding them! They can’t go from 0 to 110 anymore.

S o, they don’t know you. It stinks. It’s the disease. Dad thinks I’m a waitress. He calls me, “Babe.” (He knows me!) Then I realize he calls everybody, “Babe”. (Sigh…)

The Comfort of Travel Routines

Bobbe White

3.2.17

written for wtad.com

itll-do-motel

We recently drove to Denver, for about the 37th time or so. As routes go, there are limited options from Quincy IL to Denver. Whichever way you go, it’s like going to Subway. Order #34; it’s about 7 feet long and 3 feet high. Slice the bread lengthwise down the middle with a saw. Flatten it on a big piece of paper. Squirt a mustard stripe down the middle. That’s your center line. Nothing else goes on it.. And that’s #34. Also known as “the Kansas”, because that’s what the drive is like. Or take the northern route, it’s like ordering #37, a/k/a “The Nebraska”.

They’re aptly named for the order in which they entered the Union. Took us a while to decide if we really wanted them, but some great athletes and comedians came from those states, so the powers said, “Sure, let ’em in.” Anyway, you get the picture. Long, ho-hum, hairy-dog drives.

Each state has a unique place in our routine:

Missouri, Macon McDonald’s: We order the same lunch every single time: Filet-o-Fish medium meal deal, with an extra fish and Southwest Salad. That’s it. Bingo-Bango-Bongo. They never get it right. Ever. Jeff vents about this situation, every time.  “We ought to make every kid in America set up a lemonade stand three times, before working at McDonald’s. They’d learn how to take orders and make change!

After Missouri, is Kansas and our multi-town hotel quest. I have saved the monologue in my phone notes for quick referencing.

1st: Seneca has the Althoffen Inn and McDonald’s, but we’re not tired yet. (Drive on.)

2nd: Washington has the Oak Tree Inn and Casey’s. (Still not tired.)

3rd town: “Belleville’s got squattum”, Jeff says. (We’re a little tired.)

4th: Mankato hasn’t got sh*t!  (Uh-oh.)

5th: Smith Center has a Dollar General, “But that does us no $&?#*% good.” (Somebody’s cranky…)

6th: Phillipsburg has a spankin’ new Rodeway Inn. (Got our second wind. Keep driving.)

7th stop: Norton-“Oh Honey, they’ve got a Dairy Queen! Sleep Inn looks nice.  (But, nope! Onward…)

8th: Oberlin-Oh boy, they’ve got a Chesters and a Subway. Comfort Inn too.

9th: St. Francis-“Look at that!” Jeff says. “The It’ll Do Motel.” Photo opp stop.

I must’ve fallen asleep after that…

We recently drove to Denver, for about the 37th time or so. As routes go, there’re limited options from Quincy IL to Denver. Whichever way you go, it’s like going to Subway. Order #34; it’s about 7 feet long and 3 feet high. Slice the bread lengthwise down the middle with a saw. Flatten it on a big piece of paper. Squirt a mustard stripe down the middle. That’s your center line. Nothing else goes on it.. And that’s #34. Also known as “the Kansas”, because that’s what the drive is like. Or take the northern route, it’s like ordering #37, a/k/a “The Nebraska”.

They’re aptly named for the order in which they entered the Union. Took us a while to decide if we really wanted them, but some great athletes and comedians came from those states, so the powers said, “Sure, let ’em in.” Anyway, you get the picture. Long, ho-hum, hairy-dog drives.

Each state has a unique place in our routine:

Missouri, Macon McDonald’s: We order the same lunch every single time: Filet-o-Fish medium meal deal, with an extra fish and Southwest Salad. That’s it. Bingo-Bango-Bongo. They never get it right. Ever. Jeff vents about this situation, every time.  “We ought to make every kid in America set up a lemonade stand three times, working at McDonald’s. They’d learn how to take orders and make change!

After Missouri, is Kansas and our multi-town hotel quest. I save the monologue in my phone notes for quick referencing.

1st: Seneca has the Althoffen Inn and McDonald’s, but we’re not tired yet. Drive on.

2nd: Washington has the Oak Tree Inn and Casey’s. Still not tired.

3rd town: “Belleville’s got squattum”, Jeff says. We’re a little tired.

4th: Mankato hasn’t got sh*t!  (Uh-oh.)

5th: Smith Center has a Dollar General, “but that does us no $&?#*% good.” (Somebody’s cranky…)

6th: Phillipsburg has a spankin’ new Rodeway Inn. (Got our second wind. Keep driving.)

7th stop: Norton-“Oh Honey, they’ve got a Dairy Queen! Sleep Inn looks nice.  (But, nope! Onward…)

8th: Oberlin-“Oh boy, they’ve got a Chesters and a Subway. Comfort Inn too.”

9th: St. Francis-“Look at that!” Jeff says. “The It’ll Do Motel.” Photo opp stop.

I must’ve fallen asleep after that…

Colorado: Giddy-up! We stop at the first and only gas station in the Colorado plains. The Rockies are still hours away. Looks like Kansas. We request the restroom keys. It’s seriously attached to a billy club. I feel like a Bobbe, the London Bobby, with a billy. “Who’d want it?” we ask the clerk. She says we’d be surprised.

Fast forward three days and the man at the Denver Residence Inn desk asks, “Leaving already?”

“We only reserved two nights…”

“Hmmmm,” he says. I just remember you two. (Really?) We blink at him.

“I remember people who talk to me.” He says to us. We love this place.

“We’ll be back!”

We head home and stop at the same cafe near the Colorado-Kansas border. I don’t even recall the town, at this point. All we know is, the woman who is owner/waitress/cook is still crabby. But the eggs are good and the bacon is crisp.

Nice to know some things never change.

bathroom-keys