The sweetest lady took care of me last night…

Those of you who have followed this blog have noticed that I have been “quiet” for a while. Every now and then you simply need a little time to “refresh” yourself, and I guess that is what I have been doing. “They” tell us that most individuals conduct a “self-analysis” of their lives every 10-12 years – to determine if we are on the “right path;” or if our accomplishments have been what we strove to attain; or simply if we are “happy.” This self-examination often coincides with those birthdays that end in a “zero.” I have always been off schedule in that my self evaluations never coincide with the BIG birthdays…So I guess that is what I have been doing for the last 9 months or so. I keep thinking that maybe people are tired of my stories and that I should stop, but then I get an annual report that indicates I have thousands of followers in 77 countries. Those numbers simply take my breath away! I am humbled, and think, that maybe, just maybe, people need to hear some of my truths…and some of my craziness. So……I am back for a while. Hope you enjoy, and if you do, please become a follower, and leave me a comment now and then. I love hearing from you guys!

Most of you know that my Mama is the main reason for this blog, that she had Alzheimer’s Disease, and that some of the stories involve our journey through that living hell. Today is such a story. We tried to keep Mother at home, as long as possible, taking care of her ourselves. My Father was the main caregiver, with help from each of the children. Each month, I would go down and stay with them for a week or two at a time.

On this particular visit, Mama certainly recognized me, and during the days, we would visit, laugh, and love on each other. Each night, I would sleep in a bed right next to hers so that I would be able to hear if she needed something, or attempted to get up by herself. On this night, she woke up around midnight, needing to go to the bathroom. We kept a potty chair at her bedside during the night to make everything easier and more comfortable for her. I got up and helped her get out of bed, and assisted her with both verbal direction and physical assistance. When your brain is atrophying, and signals are being neither sent nor received, something so simple as going to the bathroom can become a huge challenge for both the caregiver and the person needing care. It took us a while, but with patience, compassion, and simple communication, we were able to accomplish what she needed.

The next morning, Mama woke up early, all bright and cheerful. I jumped up, went over to her, gave her a kiss and said, “Good morning!” As I was helping her up for that first cup of coffee, she looked at me and said, “The sweetest lady helped me all night long! She was so nice!” I looked at her and said, “Mama, that is wonderful! I am so glad that someone sweet was there to help you.”

Now, as we know, I WAS THAT SWEET LADY! In the night, she never knew, or recognized, that it was her own daughter providing care and assistance. And for me, it just did not matter! I did not care WHO got the credit for providing the care. I was just glad that she saw me as someone who was caring, sweet, and willing to help.

This event made me wonder how we view ourselves when helping another person(s), and why we choose to help someone else. I am not referring to just health care, or physical assistance. I’m talking about ANY time we provide help, whether it is giving someone directions who is lost, holding a door open for someone out of courtesy, slipping someone a little cash to cover an unmet need, lending physical assistance when friends are moving into a new house, or just listening when someone needs to talk. It could be ANYTHING!! Do we provide help because we want recognition or credit that we “did a good deed,” or because it makes us look good to others? Is it a selfless act, wanting nothing in return? Or do we want “credit where credit is due?” I often wonder if we would be as generous in our giving, if we knew no one would ever know… A.M. Burton, grandfather to Amy Grant (a well-known gospel singer), stated the following: “Life is made up of golden chances, opportunities to do good. One lost is lost forever. If we miss doing a kindness to a friend, we can never do that kindness again. If we might speak a pleasant word, or offer a bit of worthwhile counsel or advice and fail to do so, we can never have just that opportunity again. Giving is a way of life.” I want my giving and helping to be selfless. I don’t need the recognition or credit. I want it to be given out of caring and love. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

 

Uh oh! Christmas decorations….

To say that my Mother loved Christmas would be an understatement. Oh, how she loved the season, the family gatherings, the cooking and food, and oh my, THE DECORATIONS!! She delighted in coming up with a very creative, unique “design” for our house decorations each year. She would visualize the concept and bring the idea to my father and me to figure out how to “make it happen.” I will admit that there were quite a number of years that she almost had us stumped as to how we would accomplish what she wanted. But each time, we eventually figured it out…The result was usually magnificent, meaningful, and beautiful. Our house was the one in town that everyone drove by to see. I am not talking about those really tacky light displays you see in some neighborhoods or on TV shows. Each year we created a different winter wonderland of lights and design. We usually won a city award, although that was not the intent. Mother just loved the beauty of it all, and what the season meant. Now for this week’s story…

My family was never rich by monetary standards. Actually, looking back, we were poor; however, we, as children, never knew that. I tell people that I had a storybook childhood, and I did! I can remember when we finally got our first television set. I was probably around seven years old. We were so excited! It was a small black and white TV. There was no way that we could have ever afforded a color television set. However, I had always determined in my mind, that when I grew up, and was making money on my own, that I would buy my parents a color TV set. It was one of those dreams that you definitely want to make come true…

Our family was full of traditions that were followed at Christmas time. The entire extended family would gather at my grandparent’s home on Christmas Eve. We would have refreshments and open gifts. All I ever remember of these times are much love, wonder, and laughter. Each family would then go to their own homes, all of us children (the cousins) almost vibrating with the excitement and anticipation of Santa’s visit. The next morning, after we had all celebrated our individual Christmases, we would return to my grandparent’s home for Christmas dinner. What a feast that was! And all the kids got to play with their new gifts. Wonderful, wonderful memories!

On this particular Christmas, I had returned from college, and had begun working at a local nursing home – the very first position of my career. I was living with my folks at the time. They still had an old black and white television set, and I knew what was in store for them this special Christmas. I was about to make good on that childhood dream of giving them a color TV. However, being my Mother’s daughter, I did not want it to be just a box that they unwrapped…I wanted a little surprise and “creativity.”

One of my old high school classmates just happened to own an appliance store. When purchasing the new television, I had convinced him to deliver and set up the TV at my parents’ home while we were over at my grandparent’s home celebrating Christmas Eve. (Now that is what small town living is like…I even left the front door open so that he could get inside the house!) Upon returning from my grandparent’s home, I was beside myself with anticipation. My plan was to go in first so that I could see their reaction when they entered the living room. I was not going to say anything…I was just going to “be casual” and see how long it would take for them to discover the new “addition.” I walked in like normal and saw that the TV had indeed been delivered by “Santa.” And then I waited….Everyone was bringing in their gifts, taking off their coats, and of course, my little brother noticed the TV first. He just hollered out, “What is that?” My Mother and Father turned around, saw the TV, and then she looked straight at me and started to cry. Of course, by this time, I was crying also. She grabbed and hugged me, whispering, “I could just whip you!” (For those of you who are not Southerners, that means that I had done something I should not have…lol) She never wanted to be the recipient of our monetary success. This is one of my most favorite memories, and I bring it to mind to enjoy during each Christmas season.

For me, Christmas is not only a religious event that I celebrate, but it is a time when I get to show the people whom I love just how special they are to me (although I try to do that every day of my life). It reaffirms for me that dreams can come true, and that there is still some wonder left in this world. I hope you take the time this year to enjoy the “wonder.” That’s what I will be doing! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…