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The Simple Life

My brother is just so funny. I feel blessed to have him in my life. He makes me laugh so hard.  It’s wonderful for my mother to share this time with him too, since he had been living apart from her for many years.

I’ve noticed that he and the other people with special needs bring home beautiful pictures. The other day I was looking at this picture and I said, “Kevin, this is not yours. You’ve taken someone else’s picture by mistake.” He promptly picked up a pen and crossed out the other persons name and wrote his own name on the top! Then he said, “There you go.” As if life is just that easy. Take what you want. I wonder how many times he’s seen that done I thought. “Hmm,” I said. “He’d make a great attorney!”

My mother and I were laughing so hard at him. In his world forgery was nothing. If you like it, make it yours.

I looked at all of the artwork and started looking at the things in my home. I realized that life is just too short to collect things. The beauty of simple things that the artwork my brother produces, is better than anything one can purchase.

I sat in my living room and was sad when I noticed a small cardboard box which held the belongings which my mother was left with after being moved from her home. I took a picture. I cried to think this was so important to her.The Barbie dolls which she used to knit clothing for. No one could believe that she could do this and it was something that she took great pride in. The little Charlie Brown that plays music. The pictures. I managed to get the bronze shoes from my brother Dennis who had passed away as a baby. These she somehow never lost in all of her shuffling through the years. It is difficult to see my mother’s life reduced to a cardboard box. But then I look around and feel the weight of all the things in my life holding me down. I don’t want anything in my life. I can’t stand things holding me back from what is important. I hate greed and what it does to people. It hurts me to see what it has done. I don’t want to take care of things. Although I love looking at my brother’s pictures. And my mother’s things. It’s cute, but we all have the propensity to collect. So I want to bring joy to other’s by giving.

Now I got my mom into a pottery class to learn something new. She was making me laugh with her antics. When the teacher told her to “pinch her pot,” she said, “What?” “Yea, I said, “That meant something completely different in the 70’s!” Now she’s learning a different skill at 82 and she’ll be able to make new memories and so will I.

I realized that life is not about owning things. In fact the more time I spend with my mother, the more fleeting I see that our time is on this earth. I see that those who have robbed and tried to fill their lives with things, are missing the most important qualities.

My mother and I listened to my brother talking last night. He was telling us about the lipstick that he was going to give his girlfriend at school. He was going to put it in his purse. It’s really a fannypack. He crams all kinds of stuff into that purse. Sometimes I’ll check it just too unload some things. It’s so stuffed full. I just have to see what he’s carrying around and it’s funny. Pictures of things unrelated. I try to connect the subjects, but can’t seem to and move on. The objects make no sense,but they amuse me.

The keychains that I have given him have all found a place on this pack. I have actually had to remove some,because it has become unsafe. The weight of this is ridiculous. And the fact that one of them is a round basketball for coins, makes it hilarious with his gait and when he bowls, underhanded, my son made the remark that it’s a good thing I didn’t give him the bull’s you know what, to hang from this pack, or it would be quite a sight to behold, when he bends down to bowl! This visual just made me crack up.

He is very animated. And when he tells us that someone threw up at school it’s hilarious. He is over the top. I don’t think it happened the way he tells us and at times, I only wish I could place a hidden camera on him. There was one day that he told me that one person threw up and another girl was told that “she stinks and needed to go into the bathroom,” while the teacher was spraying the bathroom. And later, he said the same girl was his girlfriend. My son, who is not easily grossed out, said, “Come on, I don’t want to hear this! You’re girlfriend stinks!” And my brother as proud as could be, said, “Yes, she stinks! Right?” Wow! That’s unconditional love at it’s best! And, all I can say is, those special education teacher’s work very hard, and deserve pay raises!!! Treat them well. They’re very special people.

But,people like my brother are also very special and he keeps me centered. I sometimes find I’m taking him for granted and when I come back to him, I find humor in his simple words and beauty in the world around him. It is just what God was trying to point out to all of us and the reason He told us that “the meek would inherit the earth.”

Look at what a mess we have made of all of this. Greedy people have tried to use people like my brother for selfish gain. I’ve had people say, “They look at your brother like a throwaway.” That has brought me unspeakable pain.” Yes, even at his birth they thought he wouldn’t live. But God had a different plan. And his plans were to bring men to repentance through my brother. Yes, my brother who is so innocent. Who would take an art project and cross someones name and sign his name, would do this with anything. He knows no difference. He tells me everything costs “a hundred dollars.”

But who cares? My brother puts everything in perspective. Whether it a billion dollars or a penny, in his mind it’s the same price. Just as the value of a soul is worth more than everything. And as the Lord has said, “Woe to the man who gains the whole world, yet loses his own soul.”

Losing My Independence

Watching time ebb away

As I watch my mother, aging, right before my eyes, I am struck by the different emotions, I live with on a daily basis.

Since I moved her into my home, a little over a year ago, I’ve battled. I battled my own anger, guilt for being angry, and sadness.

She’s one of those stubborn, old people. Yes, we’ve all had experience with them, and some are related. I watch her, as she loses ground, and she fights me in the process. There are times, I try to escape, what I am witnessing, but I can’t. I know, what is inevitable.

She rails against me, with every doctor’s visit, new diagnosis, medicine, vitamin, change, she must make. In order to keep the vehicle going. She has an addiction to chocolate, which I must monitor. I’ve told her that I’m her Warden. At this she laughs. If she buys it, she’ll eat it all. When she gets sick from it, she tells me, “I don’t like that.” As if it’s really the chocolate which made her sick. I remind her, “Mom, it’s not the candy or the chips. It’s the fact that you’re compulsive when you eat, and you don’t stop yourself. No matter what it is, you’ll get sick, if you don’t ration it.” She sarcastically answers, “Yes, doctor.”

She picks her skin raw. I watch her, as she picks on her face. It annoys me. She was just diagnoses with skin cancer, which she has to have removed this month. I tell her, “Mom stop that picking!” She tells me, “I’ll do what I want. It’s my face!” “Ok,” I say. “Abuse your body all you want. Eat chocolate until your sick, and pick your skin right off!”

Then I feel the guilt. I wonder why I don’t just walk away, before I get angry. I realize that I’m upset that she can’t do things for herself. I know at times, I feel resentment. This mixed with love, gives me a feeling of sadness. I feel it as I wake up in the morning.

Already responsible for so many in my life. I realized I have been a caregiver, all of my life. It’s not a role, that has been given to me, since my mother became older. She had given me this role, as a child. I didn’t know anything different.

Then I married a man, who acted as if I was his caregiver. At one of our group therapy sessions, his counselor asked him, “Why do you allow your wife to do everything for you?” His answer; “Because she’s so good at it.” This is when I felt anger. Isn’t part of a marriage to make your spouse feel secure in the marriage? But then, I believe, that I attracted this to me. I still remember him telling me that “he felt he loved me, even though he didn’t know me. But when he saw me with my younger brother, and the compassion which I had, he really fell in love.” Now I can understand, that this must have been a need inside of him, which drew him to me. The need for a mother. A care-giver. Thus, the role was defined, from the start of the relationship.

I suddenly come to the realization that it “losing our independence,” isn’t isolated to an aging parent. I don’t feel as if I’ve ever had mine. Always being responsible for another. The load of care has been on my shoulders since I was a young girl. I’m amazed at how all of the trauma in my childhood forced me to take on the care of my household.

Just yesterday, as I was painting my walls, my mother looked on. “Is that fun?” She asked. “Well, it becomes tedious, I told her. “Do you want to help?” “Oh no! I can’t do that!” She said. “Wait a minute, mom. Have you ever painted, before?” It dawned on me, that although my mother bought a home, when we were kids. I never saw her make any improvements. “No.” She said. “Your brother did.” “Well, so did I,” I said. “I painted my bedroom.” Then I remembered. We had done different things in the house, but she was the spectator. She never did anything. Yes, my mother never seemed involved in anything. So why would I expect her to want to do anything now? It doesn’t stop me from trying though.

I’m older and wiser now. I balance the need to give care, where/when needed. I remember a psychologist who had spoken about this with our children. “Let them do what they are capable of doing.”I apply this principle with my own mother. She has become a child.

The other day, my daughter heard us and commented. “I was laughing when you confronted grandma about eating all that chocolate. She sounded like a little kid.” “Well,” I said, “she is like a kid. She doesn’t eat a meal, when she gorges herself with junk, and then she lies about it, when I see it.”

I know, I get upset to handle all of this, and some days, I feel like throwing in the towel. Especially as she prattles on and on, about moving to her own place. I think it’s abusive to allow someone like her to live alone. And sometimes, I think, she really doesn’t realize that I have to help her with everything. If she was to be alone, she wouldn’t survive. And then, I’m tempted to allow her to try, just so she can accept what is happening. But that is replaced with a deep compassion, for her circumstances.

Last night, I had a dream. I remember it vividly. I believe this is the Lord’s way of giving me an even deeper experience, and understanding of my mother.

I had my daughter with me, and I was struggling in my body, to do simple things. Walking, talking. We were in a pool, and I was watching her and friends, throwing a ball. A man handed it to me, and I tried to throw it. My hand went limp, as I tried, in vain, to throw and watched the ball drop in front of me. “What is wrong with me?” I thought. I used to be good at throwing a ball. It must be in the wrong hand, since I’m left-handed. I switched arms. I was getting irritated with the man, although it wasn’t his fault. “Give it to me again!” I yelled. I was determined to throw it. I tried with my left hand, and again, it fell flat.

I saw my daughter and her friends look at me, with eyes of sympathy. I just couldn’t grasp, that I had lost this skill. It is the simplest thing in the world. My body just wouldn’t cooperate with what my brain was telling it to do.

As I woke, I pondered this dream. I felt the Lord gently speaking to me. “This is what your mother deals with, each day. Her anger, is not at you, but at her lack of independence.” I was filled with a deep compassion and a new feeling of empathy came over me. “Yes, Lord, I understand now, how difficult this is for her.”

It must be very similar to someone who has had a stroke, or forced to live in a wheelchair. A loss of things, which they had known, all their lives. It is a process, akin to grieving the loss of a loved one. To know we had something, and lose it. And then have to rely on others for their help. I’m not so sure, that I won’t be like her one day. Although I think, I may be a little kinder. Constantly talking about my plans. No matter how silly, they may sound. This is the way we are to live. The Lord tells us that, “For lack vision, my people perish.” He didn’t tell us that this is age-specific.

So, I don’t try to rob my mother of her vision. This is the only thing which she has left. Although, each day, when she starts to talk about this, I tell her, “Mom, this is the day which the Lord has made. We are to rejoice and be glad in it. ” “Now how can you be glad in this day, when you are concerned about the future. Let’s enjoy each day, as we live it.” This seems to help her change the topic….at least for a few minutes.”

Frampton “stay’s alive!”

Peter Frampton 70'swell I went to see Peter Frampton, last night. I went alone. I just didn't want the hassle of trying to round up people, with the same music taste as me. I thought, this is such a nostalgic tour, for me, that I wanted to experience this.The last time I saw him, it was on the lakefront grounds, of Lake Michigan, in Milwaukee.I was with my brother, and we were right up front.It was an incredibly beautiful summer day, and seemed magical. Just to watch and listen to this great artist.Not to mention, every girl my age, lusted after him. Those beautiful golden locks and bright smile.My girlfriend reminded me the other day, that she had a poster of him on her wall and even named her dog, 'Frampton,' in his honor.As I stood in line to enter the building, I was amused at the sight of 50 to 60 somethings, waiting very patiently. I thought at the wildness of the concert in the 70's. The pushing to get forward in the crowd.Well, it wasn't violent, but just the excessive desire to be one inch closer to the front, lest we miss anything.Now, everyone stood with the courtesy of people in a bank line, waiting for a teller.Then I listened to the conversation of a in front of me. "Man, the last time I saw Frampton, it was 35 years ago."I had to laugh at that, as he certainly must have realized, it was the same story for all of us.As I found my seat, I was sitting next to a guy with long hair, to his shoulders. I thought, "gee, this guy is a true refugee from the 70's." But he didn't look to be as old as the rest of us.He introduced himself. "I'm Michael," he told me. I offered my hand to shake. Even this little gesture, has changed, I thought. Back in the day, we would grab each other's thumbs, in a signature, shake, which we believed, had changed the course of history. Our interactions, marked our era.Those handshakes, became more and more bizarre, as time went on. Now you have fist-pumping, and people bumping fists to watch them explode. Everyone decided to tweak our handshake, to make it their own.Michael, told me that he is in a band. "Hmm, you don't say. I would have never guessed by the look, he's carrying. Typical hair band, kinda guy.He told me he wasn't quite old enough to see Frampton, the first time around. So he was ecstatic, to be here.He shared that he'd started playing drums, right when Frampton, was making his tour, 35 years ago.He was a little nervous, because he was supposed to be in the row behind me, and scammed the seat next to me. All I could think was, "come on," if your going to scam a seat, get way up front, like we used to." Or perhaps he never learned these tricks.I shared with him that the last concert I went to was with my daughter, and I ended up in the middle of a mosh pit. Being slammed all over the place."Yea," he said, "these new bands aren't like the concerts in the past. I don't get that whole thing. Everyone pushing and shoving."I said, "I know, I was almost crushed to death. And you couldn't hear the music, cause you were too worried about your life!"We started laughing, as I shared that I told my daughter, "there's no way that these are hippies!""Yea," all of our people were too wasted to think about wasting there energy like that!"Now, I heard a couple guys behind me talking. "Haha! Yea, now we complain. Hey, the air conditioning is too cold! I have to leave to use the bathroom...again. Wow, the music is a little loud, let me turn down my hearing aid!"I was cracking up as I looked back and saw, they did indeed, look to be in their 60's.We all shared a common bond.Now, Peter Frampton comes out to play. All I can say is that he is incredible.I was so grateful for technology, as I didn't have the greatest seat, and I sure wouldn't employ my tactics from the past, to run up to the stage.There were two, huge screens, on each side of the stage, along with one in the center.Pictures of him from his youth, flashed across the screen and we were all reliving the past, with him.I loved being able to see his fingers, deftly playing different chords, and the unique signature of his music.And, I am not embarrassed to admit, even in his aging, he still looks very attractive. Behind the white, receding hair, I saw those same twinkling eyes, and beautiful smile.But it was his own humor, which makes him, more attractive.Then I started thinking, "Would I find this artist attractive, when I was at his last concert, in the 70's?"I wondered at this phenomena. How do we begin to like, 'old people,' according to our age?I mean, if he would have entertained us in the 70's, as the man he is now, we wouldn't have noticed how gifted he really is. I would have just thought, "That's an old guy, who can play a guitar." Is this a part of maturing? The ability to see the person inside?How is it now, I see him as an attractive man, when, it seems just a few short years, ago, I would have been saying, "Hey, that old dude is pretty good."It's weird. It's like God just ages our mind, by continuously putting our own age around us, so that we get used to seeing them and we can get past the grey hair, etc. and only see the youth inside.At one point, he said, "Ok, in the past. This is when we would have had an encore, left the stage to do drugs." Then everyone laughed.Now, He said, "we don't leave. And we only do prescription drugs, from our doctors."He also said, "I'm so excited to see all of you here. Especially since, now we only play for small clubs and birthday parties."That I simply don't believe. It was packed. If he had any doubt that he still has followers, he didn't after last night.We have a true need, to hold on to our past. The things which made us the happiest.And he was part of that. And he still is.He changed the lyrics to one song, when he sang the first verse, "Your love makes my hair stand on end," became, "Your love makes me grow hair on my head!"Gotta love him! He takes his age in stride. But any guitarist worth his weight in gold, would look at Frampton with the ultimate respect.He is still a force to be reckoned with.Thanks, Peter Frampton, for "Coming Alive!" for all of us, and mostly, for keeping your light burning brightly! Then and nowThen and now

Wanted, Single, Strong, Colonel…Oh, and Bring Your Own Toaster!

I love you, but I love my toaster more!

I was talking with my mom this morning. I realize that I am going to have those, ‘good days,’ and ‘bad days.’ She is in and out of moods, and until I find out what is happening, it’s as if I’m dealing with someone who is bi-polar.

I am now starting to listen to advice from people, who’ve told me, “don’t take her attacks personally.” Well, it’s difficult, but I realize, that if I’m going to maintain any sanity at all, I have to try to let it go.

Between, the depression, I slip into, as I’ve already shared, and the stress of dealing with her and my other issues, it is all-consuming. So I have to buffer all of this with humor. The other day, I was so exhausted, my son was sick and I couldn’t deal with anymore stress. My mother was asking me, “Who is going to turn on Channel 6, for me in the morning?” I had to explain that there would be someone here to help her.  I felt the anxiety of the past, and I realized, I had to get control of myself. I’ve had panic attacks, in the past, that made me rush to the hospital in a panic. I thought I was having a heart attack, until I found, it was a result of the Post Traumatic Stress. I now, have more on my plate than I ever had, and I am trying to find strength to deal with all of this without going back to the state I was in a few years ago.

I have found solace in my friends, and the Lord’s words to me. It is as the angels of heaven were sent to minister to me. They came calling and praying. I felt so alone, and even out of the blue, a persons communication, was as the Father’s heart, toward me. I felt him reaching down to give me a hug, and let me know, I’m not alone.

As I took my mother on a walk, around the block, with her walker, today, the Lord reminded me of how far she has come. She was so stubborn and rebellious. No way was she going to use one of “those things!” Even when I took her to Orlando, in June, we walked to the pool.  She held tightly to my arm the whole way, and a woman was at the pool with a walker. I pointed and said, “mom, that is really nice. It even has a seat, when you’re tired. Wouldn’t you like that?” “I’m not using that! She said, with such obstinance. She would rather hold onto me where ever we go, and then yell at me, that she doesn’t need my help.

I finally convinced her, in the most loving way. It was the third time she had fallen down, and I told her that, “unless you exercise those muscles, you will not be able to walk. I have this cart, you can use. It has a little basket and everything.(I didn’t call it a walker) I put a bell and a little plate on it that says, “Too Cool 4 U.” She loves it. And now she can’t wait to go around the block.

Today,as we walked, we passed the house, where the ferocious dog lives. He’s big and black and he barks really loud. There’s a sign on the fence that says, “Beware of Dog.” And every time we pass, we wait for him.  The first time, we passed, I was terrified. I have a phobia of big dogs. I also have a phobia, of fish, but that’s for another story. The dog story involves my mom.

In fact, I reminded her of the story, after our encounter with the big, black dog. We heard him coming. I grabbed my moms, frail, little arm. “Mom, don’t look at him!” I said. My mom, was just as calm as could be and kept pushing her walker along. I couldn’t believe it. We’re about to be attacked and she’ll probably just be the appetizer. I’m the main course! She’s not even phased. “Oh, don’t let him bother you.” She said. “What?” I watched the dog run right past us and to a kid on a bike. The little kid was riding by on the street and he seemed to reach down and try to pet the dog.  Ok, now I’m feeling a little foolish. Why do people have, “Beware of Dog,” signs on their yards, and the dogs are running loose? And then, there’s nothing to ‘beware of,’ anyway?

I started to laugh in relief. Then I remembered the story. “Hey mom. Remember when we were working together at that temporary job? We were up at about 5 in the morning and two houses down that big white German Shepherd came out of nowhere? He was snarling at us like he was going to attack us?” “Oh yea! That was scary!” She said. “Yea, and I was so scared, I just kept whispering, help! help!” As if someone could hear us” We both laughed. We were right outside of Dan Hunt’s house. The local cop. Yet, even he couldn’t help us now.

All of a sudden, my mom took her bag of lunch and threw it and that dog ran after the lunch. We both turned around and ran into the house. I cracked up and never forgot about how wise my mom seemed that day. She saved us both with her quick thinking. I was only about 15 years old and I think, how many daughter’s have gone to work with their mother’s and had these kinds of experiences?

I made her laugh so hard this morning when I saw that Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband wants her eggs, so that he can have more children from her. I said, “Hey mom, I want some of your eggs too. You didn’t do so well with my siblings. I feel like I deserve another crack at this. Why not let me try for some more sister’s and brother’s? Come on! How about “a brother from another mother?”

When I had taken her to the hospital a couple of times I specifically told her that if her urine test came out positive for pregnancy, “she could find her own ride home!”

But after all of her things had been pilfered from her; I brought her out of her deepest sadness, with this joke. I had asked her what it was she felt had been taken from her, that she needed so badly. She told me. Her toaster! I could not believe this and after I was done falling out laughing, I asked her, “mom, if I bought you a brand new toaster, what color would you want it to be?” She said, “A red one!” “Ok,” I said. “I’ll get you a red toaster, when you get your new place.”

So one day, I was joking with her that she needed a nice, strong man. Someone who will scare the crap out of those guys! Referring to the ones, who had taken her toaster. “How about a Colonel in the Army?” Yea!” My son said, “Or better yet, a General!”

I told her, “I’m going to run and ad for you in the personals, mom. It will say, “Wanted, Single, Strong, Colonel. Bring your own toaster!” Then I told her that I will take a picture of her erotically posing on the bed next to her beautiful red toaster. What man can resist this? We were laughing as I stated, “Hey, could you imagine, if I had to call my sister or brother and ask for your toaster back, because you’re marrying a Colonel?”

So, who knows? After hearing about Zsa Zsa, today…anything’s possible.