Regrets 101

“I’ve got a bad case of the 3:00 am guilts – you know, when you lie in bed awake and replay all those things you didn’t do right? Because, as we all know, nothing solves insomnia like a nice warm glass of regret, depression and self-loathing.”
― D.D. Barant, Dying Bites

I am thankful that computers don’t fill a room anymore. And those punch cards that the young people of today have never seen, who misses those? These are my thoughts today as I am crocheting at 5 a.m.. Gotta love my canine alarm clocks and their small bladders. My mind wanders when I crochet, and often my destination is regret, the land of could have, should have and wish I would have. When I discover that I made a crocheting mistake 10 rows back, I wish I would have been paying attention! I grumble, but the fix is easy. I unravel all my hard work, fix the stitch and begin crocheting again. No one will know. But me. Usually the whole world knows I screwed up or behaved badly, or maybe I just feel that way.

I am 64 years old, and my regrets could circle the globe. I can’t erase my past choices and behaviors, and playing “If only…” is a losing fantasy. So what do I do with my bag of rotting regrets? If I can right a wrong or make amends for my poor behavior, then I can change a regret into a learning experience. Damn those learning experiences! What about the “road not taken”? I had many forks in the road and I decided which way to go. That is my reality, and what could have been is not real. Now I try to live in reality as much as I can. Imagination is wasted if I try to create a new past; better to use my imagination in the present tense. I try not to create new regrets by staying in the now, and paying attention. I am getting short on time for do-overs.

A spider weaves a beautiful and ornate web,and without a thought,we destroy it. I am sure that the spider does not regret its choice of corner, or the design of the web. I had a life with Roger and we built a web of relationship, love, memories, dreams, anger, tears, laughter, and more love. Dementia destroyed our web, and unlike the spider, I had so many regrets that I was afraid of being buried alive. I should have loved him better. I should have realized that he was irreplaceable. I shouldn’t have yelled at him when he started to behave differently. I should have known that this was the last walk, the last bike ride, the last smile. Sit and listen to a group of caregivers and you will hear litanies of regrets and guilt. I sat and listened to my fellow caregivers, and shared my pain. I stayed long enough for the miracle of self-forgiveness.

Regrets 101

An Adventure

Roger loved to tell stories, and people loved to listen. We shared many experiences that later became funny stories or “adventures”. Unfortunately, a lot of our adventures initially started or ended with WTF! As in “How did we get HERE?” or “What’s going on?” There was usually some swearing involved, and a discussion about who was to blame. Only later did we see the humor, or good fortune in our wrong turns or mistakes. When you take a wrong turn, and your hike ends at a trailhead over five miles from your car, you first swear, then decide who is to blame(I told you so!), and finally consider your options. We shared our predicament with a friendly looking couple and asked for a ride back to our car.They were not going our way, but kindly offered to take us to our car anyway. We had a great time talking about our children and commiserated about the difficulties of dealing with teenagers. Before we knew it we were back to our car. This soon became a story, one of many, about our hiking adventures. The more Roger told the story, the funnier it became, and we were able to laugh with others about our predicament. Our lesson? Read your trail map…carefully.

Another hiking adventure! A friend recommended a trail, and said the road to it was a bit bumpy, but quite doable. So we set off in Rogers 2 door Saturn Coupe, and turned up the road that would take us to the trail head. At first the road was just a little dusty and bumpy, but conditions quickly deteriorated to a dust bowl and mountains and valleys in the road. And then, just to make things interesting, there was absolutely no way to abort the mission and turn around. It was keep going or else! We crawled up the road, held our breath that our low riding car would not bottom out, and swore. Miraculously, we made it to the trailhead and hiked one of the most beautiful trails we have ever taken. Photos from the day captured the glorious scenery and our smiling faces. We braced ourselves and headed down the road from hell. We had no car or human casualties, but we did have an inch of dust on our brave little vehicle. A car wash was our next destination, but our adventure remained shiny and new. Lesson learned? Be cautious of road condition reports when your friend drives a 4 wheel drive SUV and you do not.

Of course, not all our adventures were “the road less travelled….”  or “Life is a daring adventure…” poetic happenings . Sometimes the adventures we experienced were very painful, and the “daring” was just showing up and hanging on. When our son, Tyler, was very ill, we had to travel a road of fear, worry and lots of courage. Adventure means “encountering unknown risks, usually involving danger”. My adventures in aging are full of unknowns and some danger.I could hurt myself writing or crocheting, or I may always stink at playing the banjo. Can I show up and fail? Can I show up and be myself and risk telling the truth? What if so and so doesn’t like me? We all know how this story ends. Death may be the biggest adventure of all!

Last Sunday, Susan and I thought we were headed to Lyons and then home. How did Denver get in the way? By the way, Coal Creek Canyon was beautiful. But that’s another adventure/story….

An Adventure

I’m 64

When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now…
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?

John Lennon and Paul McCartney
On October 31, I turned 64. Life snuck up on me and I cried “Boo Hoo!” My birthday suit has certainly aged in 64 years; lots of wrinkles, drooping, sagging body parts and salt and pepper hair (more salt than pepper). Me,and my vanity, are horrified by the city maps of spider veins on my legs. My legs were one of my best features in my 20’s and 30’s, but the years of standing on hard floors selling books finally caught up with me. Now I am grateful my legs hold me up, and I can move my legs for exercise and take my doggies out for a spin. We don’t say or write the word “walk”, because Roscoe and Mia get too excited, race to the front door and whine until they rule the sidewalks. If I ruled the world, I would be at the front door whining to get out too!

It is now a week since my birthday, and I have not been able to cure cancer or bring world peace. And of course, I am still bitterly disappointed in my attempts to right all the wrongs my HOA board has caused. I have decided to dial my intentions way down. I will get out of bed everyday, drink lots of coffee and then? Well the “world is my oyster” and if I get irritated enough I will become a pearl. Guaranteed, because we all know that life offers lots of irritations. So I will scratch when I itch, and grow through the pain. The pressures and pains of my life are forming diamonds too, so at 64 my jewelry box is getting full. I do like bling.

I must have learned something in 64 years, right? Or did I just get old? If I continually ask myself “How important is it?”, I can prune a lot of dead wood from my life. My grief counselor talks about the gifts of grief in between the tears. Recognizing that there are a zillion things that aren’t important, means I can devote my time and energy to the few things that are important, like love of self, family and Mother Earth. I have learned that we are all family, although I can’t see Donald Trump as my brother, and I still disown him. The “pursuit of happiness” is not a gun in every toddlers hand. Kindness is quiet and soft and does not need ammunition to be effective. I think I am finished warming up in the bullpen and ready to replace my old self who has given up too many joys. If you see me crying (and you will) I am washing and shining my pearls and diamonds.

I’m 64

Chocolate or Casserole

Forrest Gump said “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.”Forrest had a good analogy, but I see life a bit differently. “Life is like a casserole. I never know how it will taste, but I am responsible for choosing the ingredients.” I might have leftovers and this inspires me to put together a casserole using the leftovers. A can of this and a can of that and some spices, and I have a casserole. As vegetables ripen in my garden I want to use them. I think, how about a casserole? My favorite is the eggplant casserole my Mother used to make. I could be motivated to make a casserole because I spotted a great casserole recipe in my favorite cooking magazine. Whatever the reason I decide to make a casserole, I choose the ingredients and hope the first bite confirms that the casserole is yummy.

So isn’t a box of chocolates better than those dumb casseroles that mix everything together? My choice of chocolate is limited by the manufacturer. Choosing a chocolate is like reacting to what life presents and my choices are limited by what I see in the box of life. Forgive me for this cliche, but it may be better to think outside the box! My casserole is original and creative and subject to change.

My life experiences, and emotional and spiritual histories are the ingredients I have on hand for my casserole, but I can always run to the store if I need something. My past life experiences have to go in the pot, I can’t change the past but I can learn from it. Then I can add my attitudes and beliefs. My attitude of gratitude and positive expectations bring out the best flavor of my life experiences already in the pot. I shopped a lot of places before I finally learned that I can’t buy my attitudes and expectations, they are strictly homegrown. I have learned that whining and people pleasing are very bitter, so I don’t use them anymore. Doubt and fear taste like rotten eggs, so I nix them as well. I always like to add some creativity and enthusiasm, because it spices things up. I also add salty tears, but if the casserole is too salty I know I can throw it away and start over. I am not afraid to start over, because I know that it’s a great opportunity to experiment and make an even better casserole. My faith in a higher power keeps me going. Grief does not ruin a casserole, but no one goes looking for it. Grief makes a rich broth and becomes THE ingredient that makes a gourmet casserole.

Don’t forget to use your best casserole dish and don’t over cook it. Risk trying something new and don’t be afraid to experiment. Trust that your casserole will all come together and taste wonderful. Have some chocolate for desert! Forrest would approve.

Chocolate or Casserole

The War on Terror

October is Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) awareness month. Susan Schneider Williams, the widow of Robin Williams, described Lewy Body Dementia as “the terrorist in my husbands’ brain.” This is a perfect description of how LBD kills its’ victims. It attacks and disables cognitive functions, causes hallucinations and delusions, and cripples the body with Parkisonian symptoms. Ms. Williams editorial is available in the most recent issue of Neurology. In her editorial, she describes how Robin suffered from extreme anxiety, delusions, tremors and difficulty reasoning. He was unable to remember his lines in his last movie, when memorizing pages of dialogue had once been easy for him. They went from doctor to doctor seeking a diagnosis. The autopsy of his brain showed an unusually severe case of LBD. She has asked for help for increasing LBD awareness, improving early diagnosis, and research into more effective treatment.

Like a thief in the night, LBD steals the personality of your loved one. I remember saying to a good friend “I want my husband back.” He never came back. I lost him to LBD, a progressive and deadly disease. LBD is very personal to me. I watched my husband go from a vibrant, funny, quick witted, very physically fit man, to a man who could no longer smile or ride bike. Rogers face became like a mask, and I begged him to smile. At the time, I thought he was depressed. I didn’t know about the mask of Parkinson’s. Then came the falls on his bicycle. He commented that he had fallen more in the last few months than he had fallen in years. He tried to hide his failing memory, but I was aware his memory was declining. He couldn’t manage his medications, so I took over. He was fastidious about his money and it seemed he didn’t care much anymore. I found mistakes and omissions, and managing the money became my job too.

And so began the difficult journey to a diagnosis. Roger was depressed, Roger did not have Parkinson’s, and then a diagnosis that seemed to fit; traumatic brain injury. Months earlier, Roger had fallen, hit his head, and was briefly unconscious and confused. He had a CT scan that did not show any bleeding in the brain, so he was deemed O.K.. His symptoms seemed to begin after his fall. I was relieved that we had a diagnosis and that rehabilitation was likely to improve his cognitive and motor skills. Sadly, he did not improve after months of rehab, and finally he was diagnosed with dementia. I remember the awful feeling that my world had turned upside down and my husband had a terminal illness.This was a battle we would not win. Roger died November 1, 2015. Although Ms. Williams and I have never met, we are bonded by the horrible pain of Lewy Body Dementia, and our inability to stop the disease.

Lewy Body Dementia afflicts 1.4 million people in our country. Even though it is the second leading cause of dementia in our country, second only to Alzheimer’s, many people have never heard of it. A common question is “Lewy who? Education about LBD is desperately needed. Not all dementia is Alzheimer’s! Patients with LBD are likely to have hallucinations, problems with movement resembling Parkinson’s, and fluctuations in alertness and cognition. Patients with Alzheimer’s are less likely to show these symptoms. It is very important to diagnose LBD early because of drug sensitivities that can harm or be fatal to LBD patients. Conversely, drugs frequently prescribed to Alzheimer’s patients (Aricept, Namenda and Exelon) can be more effective with LBD patients. There is much more to learn about Lewy Body Dementia and I am happy to share what I know. You can use “Comments” to contact me. Check out lbda.org for
comprehensive information on LBD. I hope a majority will soon be able to say “I know Lewy.”

It’s time to stop the “terrorism” of Lewy Body Dementia.

The War on Terror

31 Days

For me, the 31 days of October are rich with sentiment, and emotional highs and lows. I look forward to October with anticipation and trepidation, very ambivalent. Consumers are quite enthusiastic about Halloween, spending 8.4 billion on costumes, candy, decor and being frightened. The scream houses give adrenaline junkies a good fix. I know it will be a rough ride for me. I will get my adrenaline rush from the fight or flight response.

My son was born in October and he is the best gift life has ever given me. I wanted a child so badly, and the universe did not disappoint me. He is now a young man, doing well as he travels thru life. I enjoy spending time with him and appreciate his dry sense of humor. Now if he could get married and give me a grandchild to spoil!

My father died in October. I remember it was a beautiful fall day and my grief turned the leaves gray. He was a gentleman in overalls. He could talk to anyone, and genuinely liked people. I treasure the compliment he gave me about how well I was doing with my son. After a weekend at home, when I left to return to college he never failed to show up to say goodbye. He loved to hear about the roads we took to get home, especially if we discovered a short cut. He didn’t need to worry, our destination was the farm, and the gentleman farmer.

My friend Gayle went home to Florida to die. She died in October. She was 26 years old. It was melanoma and it had spread to her spine. The last time I saw her we went to a Rod Stewart concert at Fiddlers Green. We had the best time, getting into the music. Gayle complained that her back hurt, but said she was having a great time. “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart

And of course, there is my Halloween birthday, October 31, 1952. My Mom says she could hear trick or treaters outside her hospital window. When I am asked about my Halloween costume , I often say I will wear my birthday suit. Halloween kind of over shadows my birthday. When I was young, my birthdays were notorious for break ups with boyfriends and other sad events. Last year I spent my birthday with Roger, helping him to die a good death. He died the day after Halloween , November 1, 2015.

Not all my birthdays were sad, and I am looking forward to my birthday this year. My banjo teacher has me learning the Beatles song “When I’m 64” for my 64th birthday! The other song I am working on is “Ring of Fire”. Turning 64 is like falling into a ” burning ring of fire” . Life goes on, and my Halloween costume is ready to go! The wrinkles are so realistic…

31 Days

Mutts

img_1043Ozzie

A mutt is a dog with parents of a different breed. Some mixed breeds are created by engineering which breeds to mate. i.e. Puggle, Chiweenie, Labradoodle, Cockerpoo and Pitchu. Wait a minute! What is a Pitchu? It is a mixed breed with Pitbull and Chihuahua parents. Let me introduce Ozzie, a Pitchu. He is the size of a Chihuahua with a Pit Bull face, muscular Pitbull legs and brindle Pitbull coloring. His ears are a just a bit smaller than a Chihuahuas’. The result is a very cute, but very unusual looking little dog. Because Ozzie is a dog, he is not teased or bullied, and does not suffer from poor self esteem. We humans are not so lucky.

What about humans? We are mutts too. We have a female and a male parent (different breeds). We have 23 pairs of chromosomes which contain our genetic material. Combinations of genes can’t even be counted. We are truly one of a kind. Amazing!
 

 

 

 

 

 

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