Monday, July 25, 2011

Advising the Baby Deer

Our yard is graced by woodland creatures. We see red fox, very timid, who race away through the cool morning twilight whenever they see me head out for the newspaper. There are bunnies and a few people swear they've seen mountain lions, but we've never spotted one in five years, or any sign of one. We get the most joy from the regular visits from the deer. It's especially wonderful when their fawns are born.

This year our herd only had three new babies, twins from one of the does and a single baby from another. Until today, they've only visited with their mothers. Today the three came together to our yard to play without any adult supervision. I guess they're growing up, but haven't lost their spots yet. I went out to sit on the deck after dinner and they all scampered through the pines away from me, then stopped at a safe distance. There they turned and stood looking at me.

I moved slowly, sitting at the table on the deck and said, "Hello, deer. Don't you all look wonderful tonight!"

I always talk to them, using my most nonthreatening voice. I treat them like they should expect people to talk to them. Gradually they wandered back until they stood in a wary group about ten feet from me, heads canted, listening. I told them we were planning to take a trip, and would be gone a month. I asked them not to forget me while we were gone. To take care of each other, and keep growing strong. I suggested they listen to their mothers, even when they didn't like what they were hearing.

Have fun together, I said, and be glad you have family and cousins around. That's important now, but will be more important in the future. And make sure you take care of yourselves, because winter is coming. I know it's been hot lately, but when the snow starts to fall, it will balance it out. I explained that I clomp around in the yard once the snow covers the ground, so they should get used to seeing me around the yard, and not just on the deck.

With a rustle and a bark, one of the mothers came through the shrubbery and pines. She stood and watched for a minute, then turned to leave. "Hi there, Mama," I called. She looked back, but kept moving. I wondered if she is one of the babies from the last five years, all grown up. Impossible to tell.

As the three from this year's generation fell into line behind her, I realized how contented I am to be living here. The feeling comes over me often.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

When I'm Not Writing

At the Crested Butte Writers Conference I attended recently, I was fortunate to meet many wonderful writers. They touched and inspired me in many ways. One evening we had a reader's night. Sitting in a large circle, we took turns reading some of our work. (No, I didn't read. I did, however, join one of the others playing guitar at the end of the evening.)

There were a wide variety of genres being read. I sat with notepad open, taking names so I'd know who I wanted to buy from the published authors, and follow from the pre-published ones. Some, I felt sure, would soon wind up on my book store shelves—they were that good. (I do realize there is no such thing as soon in the publication business...)

Tonight I want to mention one writer in particular. Marcie Telander had slipped through the conference days without my noticing her. We'd never sat at the same table, or shared a meal together. Suddenly I became totally mesmerized listening to her read a poem entitled "When I'm Not Writing." It was such a clear view of the dichotomy of a writer's life that afterwards I asked permission to reprint it on my blog. She said I could, but then we failed to connect for me to get a copy.

Today she emailed it to me. I reprint it here and recommend you visit her website to enjoy more of her work. Just click the link. And thanks, Marcie. This is such a keeper.

When I Am Not Writing by Marcie Telander

When I am not writing

I am sure that constellations, galaxies,

whole universes are


When I am not writing I starve

and the scent of forbidden

fruit, in the form of feasts,

fetishes, the phantasmagoria

of words

are being served up

and devoured by others,

not I.

When I am not writing,

I always bore


When I am not writing

I am grieving—

I am the Orphan.

When I am not writing

my characters are

planning to run away

or worse, write me out of

the plot.

When I am not writing

I can take time

to stare at my cat,

lie across my horse’s warm

lazy body,

make long slow hours of love,

with a real human being.

When I am not writing

I can actually listen to you,

and not be seduced by

the dialogue in my head.

When I am not writing I am

a devoted partner, a fabulous gardener

an ironer of sheets,

an arranger of flowers, a harvester of wild plants,

a dancer of tangos, a greedy reader of books,

a sultry singer of scat,

adventurous explorer, and peaceful, pausing

Madonna in the sun.

When I am not writing

I am glad, guilty,

despondent, elated

clanking with envy—

I may drink too much, I rage—

I yearn, I feel divorced and

set free, at last! And--

I am always seeking

that lover

who left me last chapter, last

week, and is still,

if I am worthy,

waiting just around the

next parenthetical bend.

When I am not writing I am calm, still,

myself at last---

but, do not trust me for a second.

Deep inside there lurks the

desperate lover who

is ready to kill or die

for all those characters, voices,

terrible, wonderful relationships

that could,

should be born—

when at last,

I am

writing again.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Are We There Yet?

As difficult as this trip has been, there have been bright spots of joy blended into the mix. I'll begin with those, then explain the current predicament and when we plan to return home.

We've spent time with our youngest son, his beautiful wife and their children—our grandchildren. I got real giggles from Aiden when I called him a "cheap date" at the frozen yogurt store. We met up there for an evening treat. Grandpa decided to buy for everyone, but Aiden is only four months old. He didn't get any. He was happily watching everyone enjoying their choices when I told him he was a cheap date, and he must have thought that was the funniest thing I had ever said. Laughing babies are such a blessing. Granddaughters enjoying frozen desserts are, as well.

It was more fun with a cold delicious bowl than I ever remember having before. By the way, I chose banana with miniature Reece's Cups on the top. From my point of view, it was perfect. We went from there to Target, where we walked around and the girls got to pick out their new backpacks and lunch boxes. They both wanted the same ones, so Ruth is going to have fun making sure each girl gets the right bag and box when it's time to leave home. Maybe she'll put names on them. Disney Princess bags and Tinkerbell lunch boxes won the competition in both little hearts.

Yesterday morning the local theatre had a free showing of How to Train Your Dragon. Neither of the girls had ever been to a show in public before, although they watch movies at home with the family. They did beautifully. John and I joined them, and Ben bought a huge bag of popcorn to share. It was a movie John and I had seen before, but it was much more fun with the girls. I was amazed at just how respectful and quiet they were. Kate isn't three yet. Ashley is just four. I figured their first trip to the movies would entail some hushed whispering about behavior. It never needed to happen.

Some memories are worth more than gold. Near the end of the movie, when things were getting really exciting, Kate reached up and kissed my cheek. I looked over and she smiled at me. I held out my arms and she climbed on my lap for the last ten or so minutes of the film. It reminds me of that wonderful old hymn... "Precious memories, how they linger. How they ever flood my soul."

These moments have kept us sane. We return to the home where my mom is dealing with deterioration and dementia. My step father is not doing well. It appears he has had new small strokes that effect his balance, and he can no longer walk properly. He keeps falling and wants no one to help but her. She can no longer leave the house. He won't cooperate with anyone else. He barely eats. Doesn't want the walker. Refused assistance from the nurses (2) and physical therapist who have come to the house to help Mom.

It's been a nightmare for her, and an exercise in frustration and patience for us. We can keep her grocery list filled. I can change her bandage twice a day while she heals from her surgery. I make sure she's not spending her energy on cooking or clean-up. I can lend an ear and a shoulder to lean on. What needs most to be done is beyond me. I cannot make her see the need for him to be in a care facility. I can't show her how emotionally fragile she's become without upsetting her more.

Big brother to the rescue. We'll leave for home Sunday after church. Pat and his wife will arrive Sunday afternoon. Already I know we've stayed beyond what is wise. I run out of my medications five doses before arriving home. It's the seizure medication that worries me most. I'll call my neurologist today and see if he can phone in a small prescription to get us home. The blessing, all problems aside, is knowing Pat & Betty will be here to support Mom. You can get a clear image of them. Think salt of the earth.

We can head for home knowing Mom won't be left alone to make impossible decisions.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Caretakers Have it Tough

Until you're in the same house for days at a time, it's impossible to realize how very difficult it is to be caretaker for a loved one who has dementia. There are the obvious problems, but there are hidden ones as well.

If you try to explain something to them and go beyond two sentences, they cannot remember the first sentence when you get to sentence three. Neither do they care. Trying to have a serious discussion with someone who sits there grinning at you with a "talk to the hand" look on his face makes me want to scream and slap. You can't do that. It wouldn't help anyway. It wouldn't work with a two year old, and it wouldn't work with a 97 year old with dementia.

The current crises, and of course we're having one or I wouldn't be up at 5 a.m. writing, should be classified as, "I won't do that. People will think I'm old." Again, when you're 97, why would you care? Your years should be counted as memories or milestones, badges of honor. Not demerits. He's decided that he can't use a cane. Physical progression of age has determined that he cannot walk without it. He grips walls and furniture as he makes his way through the rooms. Walls work quite well. Furniture tips over, pulling him down and crashing on top of him.

He's a big guy, well over six feet tall. My mom is about five foot two. She can't pick him up. He refuses help from anyone else. He has fallen three times in the last two days. Each time he swears at my husband, who "must have pushed me." After all, it has to be someone's fault, and can't be his. He won't allow my big strapping husband to assist him from the floor. He wants my little mother to do it.

On Monday she'll call a visiting nurse. She's afraid to take him out of the house without the cane he refuses to use. She can't even continue sending him to the Senior Concerns adult day care center if he can't walk without falling.

We'll be here another five days. It's not enough. She refuses our offer to stay. She needs more support than a visit can provide. No wonder I'm not sleeping. There are no easy answers for a caretaker. Apparently there aren't any for a daughter who lives so far away, either.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Difficult Decisions

The call came from my son just as Mom and I walked into the pharmacy to purchase more bandages. She had another skin cancer surgery on on Wednesday.

The good news is that it was basil cell. The bad news is that the Mohs surgery took three rounds to get all the cancer, and when they were done the surgeon needed to remove part of her ear lobe to do a skin graft, replacing part of the ear he had needed to remove. It was a painful process, leaving her swollen and unable to wear her hearing aid in the only ear with any hearing.

It needs to be cleaned and re-bandaged twice a day. I've never seen her so needy. I'm used to her being strong and opinionated, independent. My heart is with the kids and grandkids. This was their last day at the beach. When Ben called to invite us to the beach I told him the truth, as far as it went. John didn't want to get back in the sun today. He would prefer to go after the worst heat of the day was past. Could we head out there around sunset? No, they'd be putting the kids down right after dinner, since they were leaving the beach in the morning.

Mom had already asked me to take her to Bingo today to see her friends—a little sympathy, a little fun, she said. My step-father has severe dementia and this was one of the days the bus took him to the adult day care program to give her (and other care givers) a breather from their difficult routines. She wanted to make the most of it. I waited hours before agreeing. The next three hours were already promised. My heart was torn. I have so little time with these sweet grandchildren, but how much do I have left with my mother? She turned 90 in December. There was no decision to make.

Ben will call me when they get back to town from the beach. Mom's already talking about Saturday bingo. Her John will have to go along, so if my John (my mother, sister and I all married men named John, so it sometimes gets confusing) and I come along, they can play pool together while we play bingo. Four hours is all she's asking from my day, counting travel time. Will it work out? I'll have to hope Ben calls early and invites us over early or late, rather than in the afternoon. Children nap in the afternoon, right? That's what Mom said, hopefully suggesting just one more day at bingo together at the senior center in town.

I've often thought of the quandary I'd be in if given the choice between an out of mind and an out of body experience. If I could be in two places at once, it would be so much easier. Since it's not my choice, I guess an out of mind experience will have to do me. It'll last longer, anyway.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Day at the Beach

I honestly cannot remember the last time I spent on the beach before today. Whenever it was, I guarantee it wasn't nearly as much fun. There's something magical about grandchildren. Sharing anything with them enhances the experience, bringing it up a level.

My perfect day at the beach before would probably include sitting in the parking lot listening to the waves and watching them roll in. I don't like sand. It makes walking painful and difficult, and gets in any crevice available. I do, however, love the sound the ocean makes as it breaks along the shore.

My iPod has a few different CDs burned onto it that help me enjoy the sounds without the sand, even without leaving Colorado. One has the beach sounds during a storm. You hear the waves as a storm comes in, with rain and then thunder added to the pulsing of the ocean. It's a super nature CD. I have a few others that just have the sound of waves, or waves and seagulls, whales, or whatever sea life is within microphone range.

None of them bring me quite the same level of contentment as ocean sounds and grandchildren, though. There's something quite unique about the sound of a child's laughter coming in with the tide. I love watching their sturdy legs running along the edge of the foamy waves, daring them to douse their legs as they race.

Kites fly overhead. Babies sleep beneath the shelter of makeshift awnings. The newest of those belongs to me—grandchild number three from son number three. Surfers paddle in mediocre waves, proving this is California, while Kate pauses to rest and accidentally falls asleep in the sand, a smile on her not quite three year old face. Cousins come and peek at her and whisper "be quiet" in voices I can't believe she sleeps through. Her good mama pulls a towel over her so she won't sunburn. It's a sweet scene.

Watching my tall son, a father three times over, patiently and with great pleasure dig a huge hole in the sand to fit several children was more fun than digging it myself. Duh. All the children love Ben and Ruth. I can see why. They're fun. And when a couple of the older cousins dug a trench around the side and collapsed their hole (with them still in it) no one got upset. It was that kind of day. Maybe I do like the beach after all.

Ode To So Cal Friends

After a couple of days in California, I've stopped to think about my attitude toward the State. People I love live here, and many of those who have moved away can't wait to visit. If I could get the people I love to visit us in Colorado instead, I probably wouldn't come back unless we were going to Disneyland. I do love Disneyland, especially on a drizzly day when there aren't too many people around.

I'm not sure how a person can live somewhere for over 35 years and never feel like that's where their roots are. It was home, but my heart wasn't in it. We had some wonderful years in California. Friends worth driving two days to see still live here and have never driven out to see us—yet. Sooner or later they will also retire, and travel will undoubtedly go both ways. It's beside the point.

What I'm trying to discern is my emotional distance from an area that holds so many ties for me. I have friends, relatives and a history here. I drive past the home where we lived from 1976 until 2006, and there isn't even a twinge of nostalgia. We raised three sons there, and I feel all the emotional impact imaginable when I think of them, but looking at that house that used to be our home? I feel nothing beyond what I would feel staring at an old piggy bank used to save up to buy what you really wanted.

We used to drive through Hidden Valley together, John and I, and he'd say, "Someday I want an acre of my own." Even then John felt about the suburbs the way I did. Now we have that acre and a little more. One of the things we first liked about the home we chose in 1976 was that it was at the end of a dead end road, turn right, and pass three vacant lots. They put the road through, made it a major traffic artery, and put homes so close together on all those vacant lots there were twice as many students in the classrooms at the local school.

Crowding, of course, combined with traffic is bad. Weather is something very few people complain about in Southern California. Except me. I always did. I think you have to have seasons. I don't like Summer to begin with. If I don't get a Winter to balance it, then I'm really cranky. If it's just one of four seasons, then I can deal with it (as long as I have air conditioning.) The rumor in Southern California is that it really doesn't get that hot, so you don't need a/c. Lies, I tell you—lies! You need it. My air conditioning system was about four showers a day and a fan in every room. my friend Sherrie (one of the people worth a 20 hour road trip to see) took me for a drive. We saw Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley. She drove me up Potrero Road, and we saw the old hills where John and I used to drive and dream together of our 'someday' acre. The beauty is still there. It was hot, but it's Summer, so it's probably hot at home, too. There was traffic, but there's traffic aplenty in Denver. I wouldn't be able to live in Denver, either.

As always, I come to a point where I know that I'm glad I came. Even though I never managed to grow roots here, so many wonderful people did, that part of my heart will always feel welcome to visit.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Notes From The Road

All I had to do all day was look out the window to see why we never drive on holidays. Yet here were are, driving on a holiday weekend. Hello, Fourth of July traffic. All the idiots are out, and all the police vehicles you'd think people would notice. Cars whip past us as we follow the posted limits. Then we pass many of them as they sit hunched over the wheel down the road, uniformed officer at their window. Do they think they're invisible or just above the law?

We passed a herd of bison as we climbed the Eastern slope of the Rockies, and normally we would have stopped for photos, but this is not a normal trip. We're heading to California to see family and meet our newest grandson for the first time. If we want to make it in time for the fireworks to begin, we
can't make any unscheduled stops.

A sudden heavy rain cleans our windshield, and a slick convertible races past, top down. The driver's hair is plastered to his skull, and his passenger is slumped in her seat. She appears to be yelling at him. John is laughing, enjoying the scene. I get a mental image of the driver eventually pulling over. He opens his door and a flood comes out of the car. John pulls up by the passenger door and offers the lady his hanky.

Within a half hour we had gone from 61° in a Rocky Mountain rain storm to low 90s. By the time we stopped in Parachute I no longer wanted to look at our temperature gauge. We dropped off a birthday gift for my sister in law, promised a longer visit on our way home and got back into the air conditioning with refilled coffee mugs and empty bladders. Leaving Parachute behind, we crossed the Colorado River and noticed how full and swift it is this year. It looks beautiful.

Have you ever seen a horse with a bit between its teeth? We finally walked into our hotel room in Mesquite, Nevada just before midnight. The time change allowed us to turn the clocks back to eleven, but that didn't help my body much. Now it's time for breakfast and today's run. We have grandchildren to see, kids and a mother waiting. Fun and fireworks. I hope they're ready to see Grandma sleeping. Just kidding.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Carter Lake

This seemed appropriate, since we're going to leave home for a couple of weeks, to let everyone see why it's so very difficult to go away at times. When we lived in Southern California's suburbs, I was always ready to go—anywhere. In fact, we generally tried to find a place that looked amazingly like where we now live. After five years in Colorado, we still drive up our hill and say, "Aren't we blessed?"

I hope you've enjoyed these photos, a few of the many I took this week. They are some of the things I most love seeing here at Carter Lake.