Saturday, April 28, 2018

Finding a new me...wooo hooo...who is she now?

It has been a year now since your passing and it will always leave a void in my heart, a blank space in my soul.  I read over my memories of  your last days and weep but it is getting easier.  And I have come to realize that I really was feeling the loss of you years ago when Alzheimer's began its claim on you and our life together.  And I was grieving long before your passing.  In this new community of retirees I watch with compassion as I witness other wives caring for husbands no longer remembering what they had for lunch.  I know what it is like to hang on to the last threads of your partner as their memory fades.  I still lose my composure when the band plays "Can I have this dance for the rest of my life?"  It was our song and we danced to it time and time again. 

So I have filled my life with writing and activism serving as vice president of our newly formed Residents Council , a sounding board for residents and liaison with management.   I hang out with family when they are available, play cards, go out to eat, go to water aerobics, plan trips, shop online and go to doctor appointments but the longing is till there.  I try to fill it with TV and Facebook, poor numbing substitutes. 

And now a new dilemma...a man has stepped into my life, a man who describes himself as a tall, dark and handsome who can drive at night and in the rain, a definite plus with old ladies.  And he has a sense of humor, a huge hook for me as laughs are a premium asset to any friendship in my book.  I'm terrified!  Not of him, he has been nothing but kind and cautious but this new awareness of how desperately lonely and vulnerable I am is frightening.  I don't know if I can trust my judgment on anything but I do know that now for the first time in a long time I am capable of pure joy, laughter and a sensuality that was long forgotten.  And I am enjoying it.  Wow!  Who woulda thunk! 

Damn Alzheimer's!  It takes such a toll on the caregiver as well as the patient.  We lose parts of ourselves without even knowing it.  I am damn lucky to be rediscovering some.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A celebration of life

At long last the tree at Johnson Center is planted and the ceremony went very well in spite of the cold weather.  About 40 attended, many of whom were co-workers of my husband and it was such an honor that they took the time to come along with family members.  I surprised myself and see it as a marker of healing that I was able to get through the whole thing without breaking down.  Here is what I read:

Today We Celebrate a Life

           " A year ago today Ken was fetching and lifting helping me recover from a hip replacement and prepare for the move to San Antonio to be near our son and his family.  The move had been in the works for months while we waited for our designated apartment to be finished.  We were moving around boxes in our apartment full of the treasures and crap we felt we couldn’t live without.  Ken had done an amazing job of reducing his paper piles to a single box.  And those of you who had seen the piles know what a job that was for someone with Alzheimer’s.  But he did it well and seemed to be really on board for the move.  The movers were scheduled for March 1.  Ready, set, go.
A week later was a different story.  In spite of the flu shots and pneumonia shots we both came down with the flu that was going around our retirement community.  Ken’s cough sounded awful.  Karen took him to the ER on February 22nd where he got antibiotics and I was told that if he developed a fever, bring him back.  He did and short story even shorter, he was admitted to the hospital, diagnosed with pneumonia, put in ICU, went into cardiac arrest, was resuscitated and passed away on February 27th.  Holy moly!  Talk about a game changer!  Karen with her ironic sense of humor said to him in the hospital, “Gee, Dad, if you didn’t want to move, all you had to do is say so.”  Our son Chris was there to the bitter end and was the rock we all leaned on and still do.  His twin brother, Keith, and his wife, Sue, were angels taking care of me.
So here we are now a year later.  I went ahead with the move though delayed a few weeks.  I am so grateful for all the support all of you have given me.  It has been amazing and such a demonstration of your connection, love and respect for this amazing man.  It has given me a year of gratitude in so many ways.  Grief is so weird and comes in waves and moments of reflection or just out of the blue.  Your support pulls me through.
Ken loved his work.  He not only loved his work but lived it.  He was excited about the space program when he first came to work here in 1964 and never lost that enthusiasm.  Wouldn’t he love the Space X launch this week! He was a futurist; he was always looking out into the years beyond at the potential of moving and living in space not just next year but in twenty years, thirty years.  He wanted a long-range plan step by step to make living in space a viable option.  He was an organizer with a following….me included…touching many lives, mentoring with kindness and patience. 
There was spiritual side to Ken that I was privileged to witness on many occasions.  He went to conferences on creativity and consciousness where he served on panels with people like Barbara Marx Hubbard, Rupert Sheldrake and Jan Phillips.  Ken loved music, all kinds of music and he loved to dance.  Did you know that?  He wasn’t a great dancer but he loved to get out on the floor and boogie.  Waltz Across Texas became our song and I have a melt-down whenever I hear it.  We held Lifetime tickets to the Kerrville Folk Festival supporting Rod Kennedy and the gang from their beginnings in the Kerrville Auditorium all the way to Quiet Valley Ranch.  Every Memorial Day would find us camping near Kerrville through the mud and the crud, rain or shine rocking to Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary or Kinky Friedman and strings of others.  Ken loved them all and loved sharing this love with his children and lastly his oldest granddaughter.
And politics?  Oh my, he was fascinated, spellbound and never hesitant to jump in with his opinion.  He served on the Charter Commission to get Nassau Bay incorporated as a city.  He served on the Vestry at the church and helped lead the struggle to remove a priest who was not performing ethically.  At one point years ago before NASA he served as a Precinct Chair and much later behind the scenes supported Sissy Farenthold in her failed attempt at governor.  As his Alzheimers progressed, he stayed glued to MSNBC covering the last Presidential election and I frequently wonder if he may have checked out because he felt he couldn’t tolerate Trump as President.
I am so very grateful to have shared a life with this geeky guy with the crew cut and glasses who when we first dated gave me an invitation to a St. Swithins Day party written on toilet paper.  His sense of humor had me hooked from the beginning.  We had millions of laughs following.  He was funny, smart and sensitive.  Who could resist a guy who can shed a tear in a movie?  What a combination we were…the engineer and the artist.  At that St. Swithins Day party in that tiny cabin midst the cedars in Austin I had no idea of the adventures ahead and the places this man would lead me.
He never failed to support me or our children in whatever crazy thing we wanted to do.  You want to play soccer?  Okay, I’ll coach the girls’ team even though I’ve never seen a soccer game.  You want to go to grad school in Georgetown?  Great, we’ll help.  You want to buy property for a studio in Webster?  Here’s the money.  You want to build a big gas kiln?  I will haul the brick.  You got a teaching offer in Australia?  Go for it.  He gave us the courage and confidence to go for it and we will be eternally grateful.
Thank you for being here today to celebrate a life well-lived.  It is so appropriate to have this lasting growing memorial for a man who dreamed a presence in space for years to come.
God bless NASA, the space program and all of you."

It feels as if the last piece is in place now and I am sleeping better than I have in months.  For some crazy reason I feel I can now get on with my life whatever that may turn out to be.  Ken will always be a part of my life and amazingly I lunched today with new residents who worked for NASA and knew Ken.  Small world and interesting timing.  He will always have a huge part of my heart but now my role is new and different, perhaps as support to others who are walking the path of caregiver.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Whoa....where did that come from?

Good heavens!  Where did that come from?  Am I nuts?  Is this what grief looks like?  I'm sitting watching some benign show on TV and all of a sudden break out into racking sobs...deep, heavy body shaking racking sobs for several minutes.  I finally get a grip, grab a tissue and then here they come again.  What the hell?  Where did that come from?  For the life of me I can't figure out what triggered this.  The whole episode was over in about fifteen minutes and then it was gone.  I felt a sense of relief when it was all over.  January 22?  Is that an anniversary of some event I can't recall?  Last year on that date I was still in rehab so who knows.  Is this the way grief works?  Wow!!!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Here come the anniversaries.....

It has just been a year ago this week that I went under the knife for a replacement for my right hip.  The plan was to get this done with full recovery before our big move to San Antonio.  The surgery went great but I guess my plan to be the "poster child" of hip replacement was a little too much for the 79 year old body.  I pushed myself out of rehab a couple of weeks early as sweet hubby was with caregiving relatives and I needed to get home to take over that job again and prepare for the big move and the 80th birthday party.  Rehab was set up at home and went well.  I can truthfully say that I am recovered.  I'm on my way to becoming a bionic lenses in my eyes, metal in my knees and hip.  Now it's my back that needs attention...this aging is hard work.  If it ain't one thang, it's another.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I survived with a lot of help from these guys plus one...

I had been dreading the holidays as it would bring so many memories of all the years together with Ken.  Somehow no matter where we were on the planet we always spent Christmas together with family.  While our parents were alive, we always managed to be with them.  It helped a lot that they were in the same town and sometimes they came to our house.  It was tamales for Christmas Eve followed by church and ham for Christmas Dinner.  Stockings were hung and brought great fun on Christmas morning regardless of how old the children were.
Well, this Christmas was saved by my son, Chris, and his family.  They kept me busy doing such fun things that I didn't even have time to be sad.  A wonderful Italian dinner out on Christmas Eve with friends followed by a tour of Christmas lights.  And Christmas Day full of surprises from Santa and lots of laughter and gifts galore.  Even Cash, the new puppy fresh out of surgery (you might guess what his Christmas present was) and old Gatsby the Beagle enjoyed the goodies from their stockings.
It was a wonderful day.  I could feel Ken enjoying the scene but it was all okay.
So now I prepare for new beginnings in this coming 2018 and am grateful for my health and that I still seem to have most of my marbles rolling around in the old noggin.
I am blessed, so very blessed!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

You've got a friend in me????

I hate to throw anything negative out during this holiday season but here goes......
A warning to all my elderly vulnerable widow girl friends and maybe even male friends:  there are folks out there who troll the Internet for people like you and me in hopes they may score a target.  Yes, there are risks to being out there on the Internet!  Yes, I know that but not until I broadcast my loss of spouse on Facebook did I experience the impact.

Within a week of Ken's passing I began receiving lots of "friend requests" from males I had never heard of or even with any mutual friends.  I shared this with a male friend and his reaction was "Just tell me who they are.  I'm going to beat them up."  Oh, great!  But months later it is still going on and I'm baffled as to how it can be worth the time of these yo-yos to go phishing for us poor lonely widows.  And what gives our status away?  Is there a software that detects us somehow?  A key word?  And I guess I am an easy target since I have a "public" setting on my Facebook account because I want to have my blog out there.

But here's where it got weird.  I got a text message from an "Edwin Nygard" who claimed to live in Las Vegas, NM and would like to talk with me.  Well, I know folk in Las Vegas so I answered it.  He claimed to be widowed for 4 years, had a son in boarding school, missed his dear wife, Ann, and could we talk on the phone.  I avoided that and then he wanted to know how old I was.  I wrote him , " Older than dirt."  I questioned how he found me and he claimed he had seen my picture.  He then sent the picture and sure enough there I was at a table having lunch with friends about 8 years ago.  He claimed he was Facebook friends with one of the women in the picture.  I checked that out and of course, no such thing.  Then there were a series of daily greetings, comments on the weather followed by another request for my age.  I asked "Why?  Are you trying to sell me insurance?"  I quit responding and the messages got even weirder--he could tell from the picture that I was the one he was looking for-- and I unfriended him.  Gone but how creepy!  I felt I was being stalked and at the same time gullible for even responding at all.

But I am amazed at the research that he had done on me and the information that was available.  How in the world did he get that picture?  Yesterday on The View Dr. Phil was on talking about this very problem and told about a client, a widower, who had been milked out of thousands of dollars by a woman who had taken another woman's identity and began an online relationship.

Yesterday another widow resident showed me on her cell phone a whole string of unanswered phone numbers she said were scams.  It is that time of year, folks, so just be wary.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

It's Christmas time in Texas complete with snow and I welcomed the lift to my spirits.  This holiday without Ken is more difficult than I imagined.  The Christmas music starts and I get all weepy.  But there have been some delightful and joyful moments.  I love to dance and find myself experiencing pure joy dancing for the first time in a long time.  Caregiving has a way of sucking the joy out of life no matter how hard you try to make it happen.  And when joy pops in, it feels so good.

I'm trying to keep myself busy and to participate in the activities offered here at Watercrest and this month is full of them with dinners out, parties and entertainment.  But the most fun of all has been with my son and his family.  My grandson has had a banner month receiving the Eagle Scout award on the 2nd.  It was a beautiful ceremony at his church and uncles and aunts came from far away to be there for him.  I had moments of tears however as Ken had been looking forward to being there for Sam.  Perhaps he was there in spirit...I like to think so.  Ken and his twin brother were Eagle Scouts and I was able to give Sam some of his grandfather's badge cards and sash which were on display along with his uncle's. 

Tuesday night I attended Sam's induction ceremony into the National Honor Society.  So fun to be in the midst of all those smart adorable young people.  I'm a very proud Nana!  I was in the Honor Society and don't remember any kind of ceremony with it...just my name on a list.  It seems that getting into college these days is much tougher than it used to be and all these extracurricular activities make a big difference. 

Today I will go to my son's home to enjoy his big office party and maybe try to corral their puppy, Cash, somewhere.  They are expecting 100 guests which should send Cash into a frenzy.  The weather is beautiful, crisp and clear.  Tomorrow I will join other residents in honoring our management with our potluck dinner.  I have decorated my apartment in an effort to keep some semblance of the holiday around.  I'm in this "fertile void" to quote Katrina Kenison, author of my new favorite book, Magical Journey, where none of the old ways of being and doing some to work anymore. I'm giving my self permission to grieve, to cry and experience loneliness.  It is all about letting go and moving on to new beginnings.  2018 brings new possibilities and hope for more joy and wellness.  I might even learn to tango...does Santa tango?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  May your holidays be filled with joy!  I'm working on it.