ghosting through the morning mist as day slips from gray to gold my stomach growls the road replies with a small cafe cradling coffee I watch him devouring a mountain of syrup dripping hotcakes he turns we smile nod fellow travelers men of the frontier last night rocketing into starry oblivion riding Cat Stevens’ peace train saluting the shadows of cacti sentinels marching in the moonlight roadtripping on the loose free again all those blue highways all those maps all those little country stores all those stops to buy a soda asking directions where the heck is Boggan’s Oasis? all those steps into the unknown into the magic of surprise moments wild horses splashing through a sea of purple sage golden eagles spiraling from heaven in their mating dance “Jeez! That’s a helluva rattlesnake.” sweating cresting the final ridge running diving plunging into sparkling turquoise water erupting into rainbows and sunshine screaming with frigid delight lost in steaming holy water alone on a desert ocean swaddled in eternity sky slowly slipping from gold to pink to gone so many Shangri-Las I will not travel these roads again but they will haunt my heart when once again Fall calls the vagabond to a season for adventuring tio stib You might also enjoy: A Wilderness Pill; Breaking Trail
Superman was thinking, something he’d been doing more and more of lately. the calls for his services had dropped dramatically. The super hero market was flooded with up and comers and his agent was even having difficulty booking him for high school graduation ceremonies. He wouldn’t miss those, lately kids had been smirking, whispering out loud when he flew onto the stage, “who’s that old fart!” He had to admit that is image had been slipping. Looking down at the form fitting costume that hid little, he grimaced at the site of the belly paunch that had been building around his middle. He ran his fingers through his thinning hair, remembering that this was Grecian Formula day, needed to keep that gray hair out of sight. His buddy, Batman, didn’t have this problem. Heck, the guy was bald now, but his hooded outfit with the cute little ears hid his shiny scalp. And some of the others weren’t doing so well either. Wonder woman’s hair had turned white. Spiderman was getting acupuncture treatment for his ailing joints and Captain America had dentures. Some of his old friends had disappeared. What had happened to the Phantom and Flash Gordon? And what did these new guys have that he didn’t? And who came up with these names? elastoman? the Hulk? Are these names you’d turn to when the world needed to be saved? things had changed, time had rushed by, and he now felt outside it all, on the edges watching life go by. His phone alarm rang. He looked at the text message and sighed. Mrs. Donnelly’s cat was stuck up in a tree again. He wished lois Lane hadn’t given the old lady his cell number. Oh well, he thought, knees creaking as he rose, just another day in the life of an aging super hero. Moral: Everybody gets old, even super Man. tio stib You might also enjoy: Life in Reverse by George Carlin; Life is Like a Broken Egg
for fifty years they’d each returned
back to the same cafe
gathered round the same table
these small town knights
slowly sipping coffee
reviving the Camelot of their youth
in a breakfast of memories
more smiles than scars
the pranks, the mindless adventures
girlfriends real, love imagined
mountains climbed and races won
friends recalled and gone
they talked of how they’d loved this place
had never thought to leave
but life and time had swept them off
to chase their separate dreams
not one head turned to watch them go
the gray men and their ghosts
and silence roared to fill the void
of legends lost to most
I connect with other bloggers who focus on the challenges of living with dementia. Their stories and insights help me navigate the bumpy road we share. I’ve found the woman who writes “Stump Town Dementia” to be particularly honest, humorous, and helpful. She recently shared information on “death doulas,” a source of dementia caregiving assistance I’d never heard of before.
Do you know what a “death doula” is?
Here’s the link to “Stumped Town Dementia”-
Getting old? I don’t think about it. Never have. My life has been a constant series of opportunities, relationships, and “projects,” goals with timetables that fully engaged all of me until they were done.
Then there were new opportunities, new relationships, and new “projects.” Sure, there have been slow times, even some depressing ones, a good share of those relationships and “projects” didn’t turn out as I’d hoped. But I survived, did my best to learn from mistakes, and moved on.
And never thought about getting old.
It’s not that I had any delusion about living forever, I’ve always accepted that my life would end. That’s obvious, why make a big deal about it. Death is going to happen, I’ve watched it happen to people close to me, I’ve already been a widow once. Yes, being blind has perhaps helped me avoid much thought about aging as there’s no sign of it on my face in the mirror in the morning.
There’s no face.
But a recent documentary, “If You’re Not in the Obits, Eat Breakfast,” has caused me to pause and reconsider this aging thing. In this film, Carl Reiner, the ageless comedian, interviews a bunch of folks in their nineties and beyond, all of whom are living active, purposeful and happy lives.
90 years old.
Jeez! That’s old, really old.
Both my dad and my grandfather lived to be 82. I remember my dad at his last birthday party, relatively healthy, enjoying an evening with friends. I didn’t have the slightest clue he’d be dead in three weeks. A little heart attack, some complications, and gone. Just like that.
Looking back, I wonder if he just decided it was time to go, there was nothing left he wanted to do. I’ll never know but now I’m thinking about where I’ll be when I hit the big 82. Don’t worry, it’s a few miles down the road so I fully expect this blogging thing to carry on.
If I reach that milestone, wIll I decide it’s time to go or will I, like carl Reiner and his youthful buddies, keep seeking out new opportunities to live a full and happy life?
I like to think I’ll keep on going, but first I need to make the most out of my caregiving adventure with my wife and her dementia. That’s going to be a long haul.
Here’s hoping there will be light at the end of that tunnel and I’ll still be around to eat breakfast.
We don’t do sudden impulse road trips anymore, those wild moments when we would throw stuff together, hop in the car, and head out for parts unknown. Instead, a rash trip for us is a walk down to the drug store for an ice cream cone.
We don’t do drop-in gatherings with friends now, those spontaneous get togethers where wine and finger food would just show up and the buzz of excited conversation filled a shaded patio. We don’t get those invitations anymore. Do you think the fact that most of what comes out of my wife’s mouth is babble has something to do with this?
There are no longer any discussions about what we’ll do today, or this week for that matter. Such rational exercises are not possible with her dementia. All the planning is on me and I keep things as simple as possible.. While predictability used to annoy me, I now find order and stability comforting.
I’m having difficulty letting go of the delusion that a blind guy and his wife with dementia are a “normal” couple. Fortunately, life keeps slapping me in the face, reminding me that we’re not.
The truth is, we’re both disabled, we’re older than most of the people around us and have a radically different lifestyle. . We don’t drive. We don’t go on vacations, don’t participate in any community organizations, and our kids are grown and gone.
In truth, to most everyone else, including family members who live nearby, we’re flat out boring and awkward to deal with. So they don’t.
I’ve been pretending, hoping, this was not true, but, it’s time I face the facts.
The new “normal” is that we’re not.
Some years ago, I was listening to the radio and the announcer said he’d just heard the most amazing voice and he had to share it. The voice was that of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, an Hawaiian giant known as “Iz” to his many fans. I listened to his rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “It’s a Beautiful World” and cried. I felt like I was hearing Heaven singing to me.
I often turn to music for solace and inspiration and count among my many blessings my collection of musical artist friends.
Here’s Iz singing as he plays the ukulele, which nearly disappears in his huge hands.
Yes, I do believe each of us has a special gift to share with the world.
I was once obsessed with lists. I would rise long before the sun to be at work by 5:30 a.m.. Fueled by a cup of hot chocolate, I’d dive into my “things to do,” twenty was not a daunting number, before the rest of the office arrived at 7”30. Focused and disciplined, I checked off my cumulative responsibilities one by one.
I admit to a supreme sense of satisfaction on those days when I managed to complete these tasks before the “good mornings!” of fellow workers turned the rest of the day into chaos.
Was I really so wrapped up in being dutifully responsible that I sacrificed having any sort of other life?
Seems so. I do remember moments during that time when I dreamed of sleeping in, fantasized about a day with nothing to do, no budgets to balance, no employees to guide, no monthly reports to issue.
As the wise man said, “careful what you wish for.”
My career path has veered from architect to caregiver. There are no staff to manage, no urgent tasks to accomplish, no reason at all to get up at 5:30 in the morning.
Except when my wife needs help finding the bathroom
the multiple item “to do” list has disappeared. The day has been reduced to two priorities-
Healthy and happy.
that’s my daily work, keep my wife healthy and happy.
Has a delightfully simple ring to it, don’t you think?
Noting my wife’s continuing mental deterioration from rational adult to simple minded child, I was reminded of a piece I saw George Carlin do some years ago. Bless his brilliant and irreverent mind, George has moved on to the great comedy stage in the sky, but he leaves many laughs behind him. I think his piece on “Life in Reverse” is all-time hilarious. Wouldn’t it be great if life actually worked this way-
Life in Reverse By George Carlin
In my next life I want to live my life backwards.
You start out dead and get that out of the way.
Then you wake up in an old people’s home
feeling better every day.
You get kicked out for being too healthy,
go collect your pension,
and then when you start work,
you get a gold watch and a party on your first day.
You work 40 years
until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement.
You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous,
then you are ready for high school.
You then go to primary school,
you become a kid,
You have no responsibilities,
you become a baby until you are born.
And then you spend your last 9 months
floating in luxurious spa-like conditions
with central heating and room service on tap,
larger quarters every day and then Voila!
You finish off as an orgasm.
I rest my case.
by George Carlin, 1937-2008
“Too warm!” she told me, standing in the shower.
I realized she was no longer able to adjust the water temperature on her own, the control knob confused her. I turned the knob.
“Better,” she said.
It was another sign, another slip, another reminder of our downward journey together in a season of endings.
We’ve reached a point where what used to be easy, things that were once simple to do, are no longer so. Such changes are not obvious to her, but are painfully so for me. We are slowly sliding down to a place from which there is no return. Knowing this, I’m making every effort to enjoy the precious things we can still do together.
Recently, we took a train trip north to a small town in Oregon for a family reunion. We’ve done this before, and, as train travel is more flexible than buses and planes, it had been enjoyable. However, this time, she was more fearful, uneasy, not able to relax in a setting so different than our home world. This unease continued when we met up with family at a beautiful lakeside lodge. Ultimately, we had a good time, but I was aware of how much my wife’s ability to adapt to different environments had diminished in the past year. I was also aware of how difficult it seemed to be for other family members to interact with us. It occurred to me that it was quite likely the last family reunion we’d attend.
Philosophically, lives end, we all will pass on. Emotionally, this fact is difficult to accept. I suspect that most of the family awkwardness with interacting with us was their own fears about mortality. I wish there could have been more open conversation about this subject, but it didn’t happen.
Youth does not want to think about the season of endings, but this is a luxury I cannot afford, so I focus on gratitude for the wonderful life we’ve been blessed with, taking each ending in its turn as an opportunity to be thankful for what we’ve had and what we still have.
“I’m taking a shower with shampoo!” she tells me with delight.
Yes, we are blessed.