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Monday, March 23, 2009

A Reawakening

It’s officially spring, and the world is waking up.

On my recent walk, I noticed ducks, fish in unfrozen ponds. Little bits of gold, flitting about -- still moving slowly in the cold spring water. They are waking up, too.

Even my own little sprouts of green are popping up – daffodills and narcissus, just waiting for me!

I’m waking up, too.

Yesterday I made a splendid Sunday dinner -- turkey breast, divinely moist with sage and thyme under the skin; stuffing (yes, I still love Pepperidge Farms crumbs, though all the best telly cooks talk about doing your own and I’m sure that’s better) with mushrooms, celery and an onion; homemade bread (OK, from a Rhodes loaf) and brownies with peppermint chocolate and candy bits on top.

It was wonderful -- and cooking it was such a joy I didn't mind when I felt terribly tired after..

I’m was so itchy to cook I almost couldn't stand it, even if doing so with one hand is far more difficult than one would expect.

It’s interesting how working differently from normal can really put you off your game. And how you learn to cope.

This weekend I put up my Easter egg trees. This I can do with one hand (especially because I actually got the trees themselves in place while I had two arms!)

And I cut branches for a third. I'll post pictures of these within a week or two, as we move closer toward Easter.

I’ve been writing thank you notes with my right hand. It takes awhile but it’s good discipline. I can make my bed and do all the things I have to do – maybe not easily, but I can do them. It’s not easy always, but again, it puts things in perspective.

It makes me think of my dad.

For the last ten years or so of his life, he was truly debilitated by his asthma, COPD and emphysema. Since I have the first two of those, thanks to a genetic thing, every time I get bronchitis I have pretty graphic flashbacks to the worst of my dad’s illness.

Then, he had a fall that for awhile still allowed him to move about on a walker but eventually required full-time care and a wheelchair.

I remember him, living in the apartment he moved into when his health began to fail, a number of years after my mom’s death. There were times when he could get around – slowly, but certainly adequately. He’d drive his little red Tempo to the nearby grocery store, where everyone knew him by name and he’d talk their heads off, because, as my cousin David says, “Ken never met a stranger.” Dad would talk to anyone, anywhere for as long as they’d listen. (This is not always a good thing!)

(The Tempo -- now that's a story for another day!)

He had friends, but at that age, many had died – or faced other challenges that made visiting difficult. If it wasn’t for his beloved ham radio, I fear he would have been in far worse straits emotionally. I so wish he’d had the Internet then – and blogs. Oh, dear – he would have been manic!

For dad, cooking was a challenge. It was easy enough when he could be the grill-meister or do big breakfasts. But mom was always the family cook and though Dad tried to adjust with easy recipes and the microwave (a silent thank you to some inventor out there!), he never mastered it. Or liked it all that much.

(I will say I do remember his reading “Chesapeake” by James Mitchner and coming up with a pretty close version of the oyster stew in the book. I was so proud of him that even though oysters are one of the few seafoods that don’t knock my socks off, I relished every taste.)

It was difficult to walk, to reach for things, to operate as he always expected he would – and should. Fully able bodied. The dad I remembered. Dapper not disheveled. Funny, not frustrated. Healthy, not ill.

Now, I’m far from that point. My life has been made somewhat inconvenient with only one arm, but I’m on a timetable, I’m improving, and this is short-lived. I can use both hands now, even though one must stay in place, strapped in the sling. And while I’m not able to lift much or do much in the art line, I’m moving about really well and will do more so in a few days and weeks.

But think about it – anyone able-bodied can lose that ability at any time. And for a longer period than a few weeks. Maybe forever.

A car accident, a serious illness, a bad fall.

In one of Becca’s recent post she mentioned the recent death of Natasha Richardson. I’d also spoken with others about this – she was on the beginner’s hill, for heaven sakes. This woman should not have died. It’s a tragedy.

But there are so many others who have similar injuries but live. With extreme consequences.

I am fortunate that kind and loving friends have visited, done lovely things to cheer me up, brought me food, help out. (And clean my cupboards, Rick! Thank you!)

Not everyone has that. And if you are the caretaker (a role I assumed for many years), you know that any single person who can help in any way – a ride to the doctor, a dinner, a surprise visit) is a blessing. A gift.

My friends Richard, Jim and Bonnie were my blessings when my dad was ill. At the peak of things, they divvied up nights to give me time off. And later, their visits were the brightest spots of his day.

I always think I’ve tried to help people. But I’ve learned over the past few weeks that there are ways I can help more; differently. A surprise visit or an unexpected gift (and it doesn’t have to be big or expensive) is a huge boost! A ride? Oh, my! That’s unbelievable (I still haven’t figured out how I’m getting to my PT appointments if I don’t cheat. Or cab it. But I have that option – not everyone does.)

I’ve discovered I really love having the time to do things like read at length, watch a DVD, fiddle with things here and there, and have some quiet time.

I’ve also discovered that I’m very used to socialization! Make note: visit elderly friends. Bring them treats.

My friend Judy writes mostly on special needs in her blog Winter Ramblings. One of the things she has noted there and in her book Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs is that special needs can occur at any time. Many of the issues she deals with really extend beyond children but work with anyone who for whatever reason can’t do the things others can.

Yes, lots to think about. A reawakening.

10 comments:

Joanne Huffman said...

Glad to hear things are going well in your recovery. How cool that you could whip up such a tasy sounding dinner.

Joanne

shoreacres said...

jeanie ~

Oh, so many things. First, it's been wonderful to see you recovering so quickly - that dinner you cooked was quite the accomplishment.

And I loved the story of your Dad. So much rings true - especially about the need for social contact.
It's Mom's great need, and one reason that we're having someone come in on a weekly basis now. I'm a pretty nice person, but she needs to see someone other than me - even though she doesn't want to.

As for your point about "it can happen to anyone, at any time", I'd take that a step further. If we live long enough, it will happen to all of us eventually. I think about it quite a bit, because apart from my mom, an aunt and three cousins, I have no family. I'd best be preparing now, emotionally as well as in other ways, for old age, because there won't be anyone to care for me. I suspect that'll be the biggest "how can I" of my life!

Again, wonderful post, just full of good things to think about. Enjoy this next "wake-up week"!

ps... I just noticed the verification "word". dadsisma. Dad sis ma. Isn't that serendipitous?!

beth said...

you sound great !!!
cooking, typing, walking in the spring sun...
what a trooper you are !!!

and memories of your dad....so sweet !

I'm actually heading to my mom and dads on wednesday...just me and my camera... so they can spoil me rotten and enjoy having one of their kids all to themselves !!

Mary Timme said...

You are so correct about special needs. I'm planning on doing a blog with references to some of the things you've mentioned. You broke the ice for me. Thank you.

BONNIE K said...

Good post! I only knew your dad in his sicker days and I love to see the pix of the young dad - he was so handsome! And I love how he had so many interests- the apple didn't fall far... Glad you were able to cook a nice meal. I just made a great casserole last night and I'll send you the recipe to keep you in the groove.

Beth said...

What a Excellent Post, Dear Friend!
I always Love to read what you think and feel and always feel so close to you when I do. I really learned to treasure my feet when I broke my ankle 9 years ago. I will go out of my way to help someone with crutches trying to open a supermarket or department store door. I remember how helpless it made me feel when I couldn't do that.
Your sure had a very handsome Daddy. He reminds me of my own sweet dadddy. So glad to hear your on the mend!
xoxoxoxoxooxoxoxox

anno said...

Oh, Jeanie, such a rich post you've offered here, with beautiful pictures, lovely stories, and important ideas to consider. It does sound like you are enjoying a spring awakening.

And it's good to hear that you are cooking again. If you can cook, then knitting can't be too far behind, right?

If only we were closer -- I'd happily give you a ride!

jet1960 said...

Great post. When Mom had her stroke and she was in the "why me?" phase, I told her exactly what you wrote about. Accidents happen in a moment and can change your life forever. None of us knows how our life will play out.

Loved seeing the pics of your Dad. Sounds like you are a lot like him in your interests.

Glad to hear you are able to cook.

robin bird said...

so much time to reflect, to feel old feelings. it isn't as bad though is it when you are able to get these thoughts out on your blog and know we are here listening and understanding and learning from what you are sharing? and perhaps relating. sending you spring love jeanie! xo

Mike said...

A heartfelt and thoughtful post. I wish I had met your father. He sounds like one great man.

Also, the picture of you with the doll is wonderful. That is you isn't it.

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