Things I Want My Son To Know #21 ~ Love With All Your Might

I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents were my first loves. As I get older I realize how much I love them, how much I have taken their presence in my life for granted. In facing the proximity of loss, I understand how much I will be losing.

I have come to love my friends. Learn this soon and remember it. Hold your friends close, cherish them, stay in touch with them and don’t let them go. Your friends will tell you the truth even if you don’t like it, your friends will bail you out, your friends will cover your butt and keep you company when you need it. You will tell your friends things you may not tell your wife, and that’s ok. Love your friends back.

When I was young I didn’t know anything about faith. Now I do. Having faith is about loving the God of your own understanding; believing that you are not alone. Love God with all your might by striving for great faith; with it life is much easier. You can talk to God when you can’t tell things to your friends or your wife. Treat this relationship with the same love you give to all your relationships.

And then I learned about perfect love, the day you were born. You will be stunned by how much you love your children. You will think you have never loved so much when you meet the person you decide to marry and you will be floored to discover the extent to which that love pales in the reflection of how you feel about your children. You will never understand how much we love you until you have children of your own. Love your children with all your might, and tell them often how much you love them.

When you forget about unconditional love, remember your pets. Your cats and dogs love you unconditionally, asking only in return that you do what they can’t do for themselves. you forget to feed them, they still love you. You accidentally lock them in a closet, they still love you. You step on a tail, its forgetten in seconds. Take a leaf out of their book and remember to love the people you love without question and without expectation.

And then there were all those “first” loves. Even having had two prior husbands, I don’t really remember being “in love”, but every one felt wonderful at the time. And I have learned from every relationship I have ever been in. No matter how much the end of a relationship hurts, no matter how afraid you are of failing, or having it end, you have to love with all your might. If you don’t you will miss knowing how wonderful it is to be in love, you will miss the feeling of that first kiss, and you may miss finding the one person you were meant to be with. You know your dad and I have had our ups and downs, but I know that he is my “meant to be”. Even when I want to kill him, I can’t imagine my life without him. You will never know how that feels if you don’t love with all your might.

Love is risky; all kinds of love. Our prayerbook says that “it is a terrible thing to love what death can touch” and that is true indeed. When you open your heart, it can get hurt. But you have to love with all your might, you have to keep your heart open, otherwise how will all those people find their way in?

Things I Want My Son To Know # 17 ~ Build Yourself A Family

Ok, you may have noticed that our house has always been full of people. There are lots of reasons for this, some complicated, some not. You may also have noticed that we are a small family. Something you may not think about is that we are older than most parents of eighteen year olds. Unfortunately, there will come a time when we will be gone and you will probably be much younger than many when they lose their parents. This is not morbid, it is just a fact. Hopefully you will find a wonderful life partner that makes you happy. I dearly hope you will have children, you will be a wonderful father. That’s where your family will begin.

Make sure you cherish your relationship with your cousin Jax, you are close in age and you are the only ones. And your uncle Bev ~ with any luck he will be around a lot longer than we will. You have two little cousins that will need to know you; don’t forget them.

But in addition to those few family members that you will have, you must fill your life with people that make you happy, inspire you, challenge you to think, tell you the truth and are just plain available. Remember that none of us are perfect; if you strive to have perfect friends you will have none. But different people will fill different needs for you throughout your life.

Your partner will not fill all your needs and that’s ok. Your very best friends are the ones that will tell you when you are being an ass; and you are willing to listen. Some friends will be the best for lively conversation and challenging thought, some friends will just make you laugh and some will be there when things go to hell.

Build yourself a family, fill your life with people who love you and who you love back. Don’t waste time on high-maintenance people, they are not really friends and life is too short. Find family in your Temple community, at least you know you will fit in. Just build yourself a family however you can.

Things Your Father Wants You To Know #1 ~ Get An Education

Your father isn’t a writer, and he isn’t great at words, especially when it comes to his feelings. But he cares about your future more than you can possibly know. It is the great tragedy of his life that he did not get a post-secondary education. He is a very smart guy, and he has spent his life learning things, but many people won’t give him a second look because he doesn’t have a college degree. One of the most important things in his life is that you don’t screw up your chance at education, college and post college, whatever you need to have a better life.

Like your immigrant great grandparents who worked liked dogs to provide for their children’s education (an extremely Jewish tradition), your father would do anything to ensure that you get yours. Your father believes, and wants you to understand, that education is the key to a certain kind of life. It is not just the key to financial or work success, it is the key to a certain type of enjoyment of life. Reading, listening to the opinions of experts, researching things you are interested in, generally the acquisition of knowledge, makes life interesting, productive and fulfilling.

This year of all years, you need to step up, do what you need to do to make it happen. Your father and I can only give you moral support, you need to earn your college education, through having the grades for Bright Futures money, through working for what you want your future to be and through just plain working. There have been many opportunities not offerred and dreams unrealized for your father. It is the dream of all parents that their children have more and do better. This is your father’s dream and one he hopes you share. Your father recognizes that it is very difficult for youth to learn from their elders experiences; often needing to make their own mistakes. Some experiences do not need to be repeated.

Things I Want My Son To Know #2 ~ Don’t Be Afraid

Don’t be afraid. That’s it in a nutshell. If I had to choose one thing that I think is most important it is this… don’t be afraid. Fear informs all our bad decisions, all our non-decisions, it paralyzes us. It is not good to get hurt, but it is worse to never try. Don’t be afraid to love, you never know when you are going to find your one true love. Don’t be afraid to try new things, you never know when you will find your passion and your success. Don’t be afraid to laugh out loud, you never know when you will need those few more minutes of life (laughter adds minutes to your life they say), or when it might be your last good laugh. Don’t be afraid to tell your loved ones that they are loved, it might be the last time you see them. Don’t be afraid to trust, even when people abuse your trust it is better than living in cynicism and distrust. Don’t be afraid to touch people, hugs make a lot of stuff better. Don’t be afraid to talk to God, that way you’ll know you are never alone. Don’t be afraid to sing out loud with your head out the window and the wind in your face. Like any mom, I don’t want my son to take crazy unnecessary risks. I am afraid for him all the time and to counteract that fear I work on faith that he will be okay. But I want him to take risks, life is about risks. If you risk nothing, you get nothing; financially, spiritually and emotionally. Now that I’m old I am a little afraid of motorcycles (I have seen a lot of friends pretty broken up), but I wouldn’t trade knowing what its like to ride a beach road on a summer night on an old Harley. I know now that too much loud rock and roll can cause hearing loss, but I wouldn’t trade long nights of the best rock and roll in the world. I don’t want high cholesterol or diabetes (one I have and one I don’t) but I won’t trade the taste of a fresh blueberry pie or a profiterole. We try to protect our children from all the things we are now afraid of, but in my heart of hearts I know he has to take some risks, and I want him to take others, in spite of my better judgement. I want him to feel joy and love and laughter and a little danger, and not be afraid, and be safe.

Its All My Fault

Ok, I’m a slacker. Life got busy and I abandoned my blog, two whole weeks. Bad blogger! So I am off the Walmart kick, at least for now. It seems to me that, frequently, it is all my fault. This is what comes of benmg a “sandwich generation” caregiver. I have learned to accept blame without really taking it on. I used to argue about these things but it isn’t worth it as it is crystal clear that I can’t win any argument on this score. Whenever my dad and I get into an argument of any kind his brain seems to skip to a new subject whenever we are about to arrive at a dead end or he is going to be wrong. He just gets confused and starts talking about something else. Mighty convenient I say. Our most recent example. I was going through his checkbook for the eight thousandth time trying to find the error. I notice that he was still paying union dues to a number of locals. So I ask him why. Other than his “retired status” dues from the union that pays his pension, there didn’t seem much point. My dad says he pays his union dues because he still wants to work. Now he is eighty two, he is quite slight and hasn’t worked for at least five years. He doesn’t remember that he hasn’t worked for five years. He thinks he needs more money so he should work. He doens’t need more money and he can’t work, although he is pretty healthy; his work involved serious physical labor. So, he says, he can’t work because he doesn’t have a car. After his last hospitalization he stopped driving. The reason he doesn’t have a car is because I am driving his car. In his mind I have stolen his car. Never mind that the doctor says that he cannot drive again. Because he hallucinates, can’t remain focussed or concentrate on what he is doing. He hates the doctors I took him to because he believes they are in a conspiracy with me to steal his car; to say he is crazy. He claims that he failed the neuropsych tests because he was having a bad day and he “has always been bad in math”. He believes the doctor he never met before rigged the test. He still speaks of the car as his prize possession. He believes I am keeping him here because I want his car. Now, while it is nice to have no car payment, the car just isn’t all that. I have tried to explain to him that a nine year old, stick shift station wagon with a hundred and twenty three thousand miles on it just would not be sufficient to convince me to do this. But it is all my fault that he can’t work, can’t drive, can’t fly an airplane. That’s ok, I don’t mind.

Caregiving and the Kitchen Floor

So I have been a little busy, haven’t posted in a few days. And there is so much in the world to write about these days its hard to know where to start! But lately my self absorbed self has been focused on the kitchen floor; literally and figuratively.

So the first thing you have to understand is that my father’s nose runs all the time. It has for years. He has been to every specialist known to medicine and nobody can find a reason for it, much less a cure. Our primary doctor here, who he doesn’t trust and I like, says sometimes it just happens to the elderly and nobody really knows why and there isn’t much you can do for it. My dad has tried every over the counter symptom relief despite some dire contraindications, with no result. So this runny nose is not the usual sniffle that the phrase “runny nose” brings to mind. His nose runs long clear mucous strings.

Now when my dad’s nose runs he is clearly aware of it. Sometimes he has a kleenex, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he has a napkin of preferably, for him, a paper towel, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he will attempt to get one of the above choices, sometimes he won’t. It is apparent that while this condition annoys him very much, he doesn’t much care about how this condition might affect those around him.

Let’s just put aside the visual aesthetic for a moment (not that easy to do mind you). This discharge is now to be found on our cabinets, the microwave handle, the refrigerator door, etc. This is not to mention the dishes that he rinses and puts back in the cupboard, claiming they are washed clean (no soap ever touches them).

Most distressing to me is the kitchen floor. Now I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen. Not only do i cook most days, I feed cats, I put away groceries, dishes, etc. Our kitchen floor is tile and I spend a lot of barefoot time in the kitchen. Not so much anymore. I watch this drip direct from his nose to my kitchen floor. I hand him a tissue/paper towel/napkin as fast as I can but often it is not a matter of how quick I am but a matter of how little he cares. Sometimes he will take the offered paper, other times he will just get mad as if somehow asking him not to share snot is a personal affront. I can no longer bear to walk barefoot in my kitchen and the cabinets have to be wiped down daily.

In the same vein, when he fixes food, he leaves it everywhere. The counter, the cabinets, the floor. First step, all containers are left open for someone else to close. All foods are left unrefrigerated for someone else to put away. All surfaces are left dirty for someone else to clean. Now it is his caregivers’ job to follow along behind him and clean up but again… not so much. So in addition to the snot, the floor is always covered with food.

The final insult is almost funny. He has taken to “helping” to clear the table, which is great; can’t complain. But the placemats, which are covered with food, he brushes, blows or just tips up and slides the food onto the floor. The other night, the event that precipitated the need to write this blog, was the tipping of all the bread crumbs and corn kernels onto the floor. Picture picking up the placemat and turning it on end so that all the debris simply lands on the floor. So now we have snot, cooking debris and the detritus of a meal, all on the kitchen floor. Too bad we can’t just use a blowtorch.

Alzheimers~Competence~Memory

So my dad feels strongly about keeping control of his money.  I can understand that.  I feel strongly about keeping control of my money too.  Balancing his checkbook takes a really long time; I mean a really really long time.  The last go round took him all day and he was lying in wait for me when I got home to try to find the several (very several) hundred dollar error.  When I got it down to slightly less than two hundred, we just took the bank balance and called it a day.  I couldn’t find the error.  Even going through his fifteen year old pad on which he has written every check he ever wrote – except the ones he forgot to write down.

The check balancing thing doesn’t seem a matter of bad memory or incompetence, it seems a matter of alienation.  He looks at the thing and it seems foreign to him, and familiar all at the same time.  Then there are all the people out to get him, notably doctors.  All the doctors really don’t know what they are doing.  They are in cahoots with me to prevent him from driving, controlling his money, or ever getting better.  His feeling is that without their interference he would be flying a plane, working, winning tennis tournaments and driving across the country.  Age has nothing to do with it.  And all those pills intended to “help” him just cause diarrhea.
This has been quite the discussion.  We took him off all meds and then talked about what was critical to take and they added those in one at a time.  So far so good.  And he ended up so healthy that they permanently stopped several of his meds.  He was down to 3 kind of critical ones for his memory and his prostate.  No diarrhea.  For months, and months.  He took them in the hospital, he took them in rehab, he took them when he came home… for a while.  Now he doesn’t take them, and the caregivers are afraid of him so they don’t insist; not that it would do any good.  He is competent enough to know he doesn’t want to take his meds, even if he cna’t remember what they are supposed to be good for.
Diarrhea is back, couldn’t be the flu, has to be the meds so it is the last excuse to completely quit taking them (he was still good for a few times a week). He has a diagnosis of Alzheimers, early stage; and his memory is not so great (short term especially), but when is a person incompetent?  How do you know when the alienation becomes so great that the familiarity is overwhelmed?
I see it happening more and more.  His computer is a foreign country despite the millions of times he has clicked the same clicks.  The remote control is becoming more difficult.  Where “things” are is a constant battle of repetition.  But he gets up in the morning, feeds himself, dresses himself and pays his bills (often several times).
So… where’s the line?