Spring Cleaning in Summer

Memory is the only way home. ~ Terry Tempest Williams

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This post is not about cleaning per say, but more like a rearrangement. You see, Maureen and I shared an office (our spare bedroom) and it worked for a while but with both of us having ZOOM Calls, conference calls and all kinds of other meetings, it began to be a distraction. So, since I am perfectly comfortable sitting on the sofa with my laptop, I decided to move out of the office and make the sofa my office.

The reason why I bring this up is because it shows that working together for a common goal is much easier than not.

What also happens is we find things that mean a lot to us that had been misplaced. These things can be be of little significance and some can be extremely memorable. One such memorable item appeared.

Years ago, my Step-Daughter, Asheton, gave me a book entitled, “The Book of ME” A Do-it Yourself Memoir. From what I remember, she gave it to me so that I could record events, celebrations, etc, things I would not remember on my own. She knew how very precious memories were to me and she wanted to give me a method to assist me.

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely most important.” ~ Arthur Conan Doyle

With all the moving I have done in the past several years, the book was misplaced. I would search for it every now and then but would come up empty handed. I was so scared it was lost . . . that was until 2 days ago when it appeared. Maureen came across it when she was looking through some boxes. She knew how important Asheton is to me for I talk a lot about her and how much I miss her. Being she thought enough of me to get me a book I could store memories in was so very loving and caring on her part. It’s just who she is.

Throughout the book, there are quotes from different writers and authors so I may place one here and there . . . like here!

“Do not trust just your memory; it is full of holes; the most beautiful prizes slip through it.” ~ Georges Duamel

As I started reading things I had written, (starting about 7-8 years ago, when i was 52 or 53 (pre-diagnosis, but from what I was told, I was already showing signs of memory loss and forgetfulness) I felt as if I was reading someone else’s journal. I knew I had written on the pages for I recognized my handwriting but it still seemed like it was written by someone I didn’t know or remembered.

One reason, besides the handwriting, I know it was me is when I answered this question . . . “What signature clothes or accessories do you usually wear?”
I replied, “Flip-Flops, shorts and t-shirts, tropical shirts, dressy clothes but only when I have to. The rest of the time I am just, “Casual Brian”.
I can’t remember who gave me that nickname but I believe it was one of Asheton’s friends. All I can say is, turning 60 in September, I’m proud to say I’m still “Casual Brian.”

“I didn’t really say half the things I said!”~ Yogi Berra

There’s a note in the book that I wrote to myself that states, “Asheton gave me this book. She said it wasn’t because I was losing my memory, but just so I can remember things in the here and now. What a beautiful gesture!”
That speaks to the person she was and still is.

Every now and then, a person comes into your life and changes it forever. One of those people is Asheton Gloria Hill. I have a vivid memory of when I first met her and Bradley, Shannon’s children. It was a Christmas Party at Shannon’s house for the Advertising Department of the Pensacola News Journal, where I met Shannon. I found a comfortable place on the sofa so I could see and interact with everyone and sitting at my feet was this beautiful, blonde-haired 12 year old girl. At one point during the evening, she looked up at me and said, “you know, you can never leave here!” I asked her why, and she said, “you have brought laughter into our house!” and she hugged my leg.

“Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.” ~ Francis Bacon

I hope I never forget that memory. That reminds me, I better write that memory in my book so that I WON’T forget it.

Asheton and Bradley lost their Father in 2009 and that was a very tough time for them both. During the following years they unfortunately had a front row seat to a couple of my surgeries (back and neck) as well as the beginnings of my Alzheimer’s Journey.

I was a different person during that time. I was very angry, confused and frustrated. I was a bit of an ass during that time and they (as well as Shannon) were there to witness it all. It is said so many times, “if I could go back in time . . .” Well, until the #BacktotheFuture DeLorian can really go back in time, we all have to live with our consequences. All we can do is ask for forgiveness.

Asheton is now is living living in Oregon with her Partner Chris. I miss her terribly but I know she and Chris are very happy. My hope is that I will see her again one day while I still have my memory.

Memory is way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.~Kevin Arnold

Until that time, I will, once again, start filling up my book with memories from long ago as well as memories from today, tomorrow and . . . . .
I owe that to myself as well as to that little 12-year old, blonde-haired girl I met one Christmas in many years ago and who has now turned into a beautiful, confident and happy woman!

Until Next Time
PEACE

B

Ready or Not, THE Season ’tis Here!

a-charlie-brown-christmasIf you’re a Baby Boomer like myself, you will probably recognize the photos from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” For me, it brings back memories of happy, simpler times. That’s where Charlie Brown lived … in the simple times. Nothing really stopped him from doing the things he wanted to do no matter what others thought. He saw the beauty in things others didn’t. He was hopeful and did things in his own time. He was trusting … sometimes, too trusting.

Charlie Brown was just a simple guy who always saw the good in people, never judging, never holding a grudge. He’s described as, “Good ol’ Charlie Brown” is the lovable loser in the zig-zag t-shirt—the kid who never gives up (even though he almost never wins). He manages the world’s worst baseball team…yet shows up for every game. He can’t muster the courage to talk to the Little Red-Haired girl…yet keeps hoping. Even though he gets grief from his friends, his kite-eating tree, even his own dog, Charlie Brown remains the stalwart hero.”
CB Football
He is forever hopeful that Lucy won’t move the football. I think most of us wishes it will happen one day, so we cheer him on that he will, get to kick the ball at least once . . . but not this time. Lucy does what she ALWAYS does. She moves the ball away and Charlie Brown lands flat on his back.

We weren’t really surprised were we?
Charlie Brown was! As I said before, he always sees the good in people and he trusts they will not do anything to cause him harm. He trusts Lucy time after time. Why? Because that’s who he is.

(Just so you know, this post is not about Charlie Brown, but, you’ll understand in a little bit.)

Image result for charlie brown christmas tree

Lastly, there’s the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree that, in his mind, was the perfect tree. Of course, no one else but Charlie Brown saw the beauty of the simple little tree, and, as usual, they all laughed and made fun of the tree as well as him, “The Blockhead”, and hurt his feelings . . . AGAIN!

Maybe it was the Christmas Season that got to them, for this time, they saw just how much they had hurt Charlie Brown. 

Image result for charlie brown christmas treeWhen they saw the saddened little boy walk away as if he didn’t have a friend in the world, Linus anchored the little tree with his blanket and all Charlie Brown’s friends took the lights and decorations off Snoopy’s house and placed them on the tree. They brought Charlie Brown back to show him what they had done and he smiled so big. As with every Charlie Brown cartoon, he was accepted, everyone was smiling and singing and for a brief moment, everything was right with the world.

Now as a I said earlier, this is not about Charlie Brown and his friends. This is actually about reality in “Dementia World.”

Those of us who are living with a Dementia-Related illness sometimes feel like Charlie Brown. We have those days when we feel forgotten, dismissed, or if we don’t really matter. We sometimes come across people who we believe are our friends but turn out to be a “so-called friend” who pretend to have our best interest at heart, when all they are interested in is furthering themselves by using us to get there.

The feelings of abandonment and distrust we experience are not just about our friends but also about some  members of our family who no longer talk to us for whatever reason. We try our hardest to remember what we may have done to put this distance between us for we are certain (like Charlie Brown) it must’ve been something we did. When we come to the realization that it wasn’t us, it doesn’t feel any better.

When we are having a good day, we feel there is nothing we can’t do, so we take advantage of those days. We use our clarity to do something our minds would not allow us to do the day before, that is, if we remember the day before. Sometimes we do remember and we rejoice for the small victories. Sometimes we don’t and it’s OK because we know we’re not going to remember everything so we carry on the best we can.

Then there are the really tough days, the days when we go to kick the ball, and the ball is snatched away. On those days, we may literally fall on our backs, on our butts, hurting ourselves figuratively and mentally.  

If you’re thinking my point here is to make you feel sorry for me or for the millions of others who, like me, are living with Alzheimer’s or other Dementia- Related Illnesses you would be incorrect. Like Charlie Brown, we don’t give up . . . we CAN’T give up. Giving up is not an option. Giving up is an end and I can’t speak for everyone but I can speak for myself, I still have too much to do and I’M NOT READY TO GIVE UP!

What we do want are your friendships. We want your love. We want your understanding. This Disease is not something we asked for, this is not something we brought on ourselves, this is something that just happened to us and we are trying to make the best of the situation. 

Since this ’tis the Season, I ask you that if you know someone who is Living with a Dementia-Related Illness or any type of illness for that matter, please:

  • don’t assume we are receiving phone calls, letters, e-mails, Christmas Cards, etc. for you would probably be mistaken.
  • don’t assume we are being visited by friends and /or family for we may not be
  • don’t assume a gift card or other monetary gifts would not be appreciated
  • don’t assume anything about anyone, for you don’t know the whole story
  • the one thing you CAN assume is, “WE ARE STILL LIVING . . . WE ARE NOT GIVING UP . . . WE STILL MATTER . . . WE ARE STILL HERE!

I would like to take this opportunity to wish YOU, yes YOU, a Very Merry Christmas!

Until Next Time . . . 
PEACE (on Earth and good will towards men)

B

The “IS” is Now

At this time of year, most everyone starts looking back at the past 12 months with wonder as to where the time has gone. Please don’t think I’m more confused than I already am. I know it’s Christmas Eve and not New Year’s Eve. I’m just getting a jump start.

You may be thinking:
Were my New Year’s Resolutions successfully carried out?
Were plans, made early in the year, brought to fruition?
Did I become the better person I set out to be?
Why didn’t I start that Christmas Saving account like I planned?

It’s the natural thing to do. It helps to look at the un-dones and positively plan for the future, a future we don’t know.

As for me, Alzheimer’s has taken away my abilities to look at the immediate past with clarity. I’m not saying that for you to feel sorry for me, I’m just letting you know. I can see some of the past but most of it is guesswork.

The phrase, “You cannot change your past” comes to mind so there’s really no use in looking back or dwelling upon the “what if’s!”
So I look for the postive’s in having Alzheimer’s. It helps get me through each day. You see, the only thing I can do at this point is to “Live in the Moment” and enjoy those moments to the best of my ability.

So, on this Christmas Eve . . .
I will not look to the past for accomplishments or miscues
I will not look to the future for I have no idea what waits for me

I will look at the beautiful face of the woman who has pledged her love and life to me and be so very, unbeleievably thankful she has put up with me through all of this.

I will look at the faces of my 21 and 15 young adult children who each and every day day give me not only their love, but their support, kindness and patience.

I will think about my 28 year old son and the young man he has turned out to be.

I will think about the little, tiny Yorkie-Chihuahua fur ball named Dallas who has made such a difference in my every day life.

I guess not having the ability to look at the past makes it easier to look at the here and now. The past is what we had, the present is what we have now and the future, well, there’s no certainty as to what we will have.

So, if you like, you can join me on this Christmas Eve, not thinking about what was, or thinking about what will be, but instead about what is. The “IS” is right here, right now.
Enjoy It . . . Experience It!
The “IS” is now!

Until Next Time,
PEACE and Merry Christmas!

B

 

 

The One Good Thing

The one good thing, if there is such a thing, about having Early-Onset Alzheimer’s is the long term memories are still intact. They pop up at any time, day or night, with no rhyme or reason. They are just there like an old friend, ready to reminisce and bring a smile.

At 55 years old, I have a lot of memories floating around in my head. Being it’s the Christmas season, those memories are of growing up with my brothers and sister, racing to the Christmas Tree on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought us. Mag_transRED_AM-62_webI’ll never forget my first transistor radio. 1968. It was red with a black, leather covering. I asked my brothers what station I should listen to, they told me and the first song I heard was “Sky Pilot” by The Animals.
My Mom tried to suggest I listen to talk radio. lol  I stuck with the music!

A few years later, I got a green bike with green, metallic banana seat. It seems all the kids in the neighborhood got new bikes that year and despite the cold wet weather, we had to go outside and ride them.

Another year was walkie-talkies.

I remember my favorite toy of all time…a milk truck. When the door opened, a milkman swung out holding a bottle of milk. It was made of cast iron. My sister, whom I love and adore with all my heart, sort of bent my milk truck. I won’t say how, but the little milkman never swung out the door again!  😦

Then there was the Christmas, once we were older, my oldest brother got us all silk underwear. We still don’t know why, but it was a great gift!!!!

After a number of years, I started gaining weight . . . a lot of weight, enough to take on the role of playing Santa Claus. That was a lot of fun but putting on that Santa suit in the humid Louisiana December weather was no picnic. I lost about 10 lbs inside that suit.  🙂

My Mom loved the Christmas Season and she made it so special. Right after Thanksgiving (you remember when there were no Christmas decorations

IMG_2291 (Edited)
This is a pic I took of one of the actual albums my Mom used to listen to. They were distributed by GoodYear and Firestone 

displayed BEFORE Thanksgiving)

she would start playing her Christmas albums, singing along with Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, Mahalia Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gourme, as my Dad climbed up in the attic, cursing, yelling, hitting his head while getting the Christmas decorations down.

 

On Christmas Day, Mom would break out the “once a year Christmas China.” She had just enough for the adults while the kids ate at the kids table, eating off the everyday plastic plates. I felt so grown up when I was not only allowed to eat off the Christmas China but to sit at the grown-up table. The food actually tasted better! But, enough about me.

We have a saying in our family that no holiday or family get-together was complete unless my Dad (who was known for his temper) didn’t get pissed off at someone or something.

One Christmas, I don’t remember the exact year, but it was probably in the 80’s, my Dad, as usual, got pissed off at something. One by one, my brothers (I have 3) their wives and my sister all headed for the smoking spot (the front porch) to have our “after dinner smoke.” Of course, the topic of conversation turned to the times Dad would get pissed off. We laughed and laughed and were having the best time when the front door opened and my Mom came outside. We all quieted down and looked at her. She looked at all of us with such a serious look on her face and said, “I sure wish I smoked, but I gotta go back in there!”
We lost it. She started laughing. As she walked back inside, she turned around and said, “oh sure, y’all just stay out here and laugh!” with a smirk on her face, which made us laugh even harder. That was my Mom.

She had such a great sense of humor. I guess she had to, being a stay-at-home Mom, having 5 kids in a 10-year span. She had to find the humor in anything she could. In my opinion, she loved Christmas the most. She knew the family would all be together and she would fix our favorite things. She got joy out of that.

Although Alzheimer’s affected her memories and all else that came with it over the last 10-15 years of her life, I hope some of her long-term memories were still there. I hope they brought a smile and a warmth to her heart.

Being the youngest child, my Mom and I shared a lot of things. Music is my favorite . . . Alzheimer’s is my least favorite, but I like to think that my Mom, being my Mom, somehow knew I would be the one to share her Alzheimer’s so she showed me how to live with it gracefully. When it gets tough, and it does (I’m not always the happy person you see in pictures and unfortunately, I do have a bit of my Dad in me that comes out every once in a while) I feel her with me, calming me down.

My Mom also collected bells, little decorative bells, some bigger bells, she just liked them.01043e4af1cb1845977d37e9119f4c5ba7a4af24da

Thanks to my wife, the bells continue to ring. Since we have a love for
Disney, she combined our interests and gets Disney Bells every year for the tree. I can’t tell you what that means to me. I hope that tradition continues within my family for years to come.

This will be the first Christmas Mom will not be of this earth. My Dad passed away 5 years ago so at least they are together again. I just hope he has learned to calm down a bit. But if not, I’m sure Mom will take a walk out to the front porch, breathe in a breath of fresh air and go right back in to calm him down.

Merry Christmas, Mom . . . and you too Dad!  🙂

This is from one of my Mom’s Christmas albums:
Doris Day –  Silver Bells

ENJOY and have a Very, Merry Christmas!