Hey Y'all!

It took me awhile to get here, but alas I'm finally joining the blogosphere of bloviation. It took a rant floating around in my head to send me toward this journey, but so be it. We'll have some fun here too. I promise. Thanks for stopping by! Don't forget to leave me a comment or two. ~ diane

Sunday, May 30, 2010

When the Child Becomes the Parent

Rollin’ up the pant legs because I’m about to step in it. I can’t help it. It’s a subject that bewilders my mind and one I’ve never been able to resolve. This situation of aging parents becoming their children’s responsibility.

Stop right there. Admit it. You just bristled at the mere mention of it, didn’t you? How dare you! What loving child wouldn’t want to care for their aging parents? Right? Well, yes, but . . . let’s talk about that for a moment.

When I was younger, my 70-something maternal grandmother took care of her 90-something year old mother in her Amarillo home. Granny was bedridden and required diapers. This was long before Depends disposables, and Grandma, not owning a washer or dryer, had to cart urine-saturated clothes, diapers, and bed linens to the laundromat seven days a week. One day, Grandma fell and broke her hip, then had a stroke while in the hospital. She was permanently paralyzed on her left side, basically bed-ridden the rest of her years. Granny was moved into a nursing home where she later died, and not long afterward, we moved Grandma into our home in Tulsa, where my mother cared for her as best she could. I watched my mother age about 10 years in just a few months. Eventually, the task became too overwhelming. Then began the long nightmare of moving Grandma from one nursing home to another. Which is a whole other subject for another day . . .

At the time, the complicated dilemma didn’t register in my mind: providing a caring and loving environment for an elderly parent in your home, thus giving up your own life, and in many cases, your life’s savings; versus finding a retirement home, nursing facility, or ACLF for them. In many cases the second is not an alternative because the cost is prohibitive. There are thousands of beautiful, well-kept facilities that take wonderful care of senior adults, but they come with a hefty price tag. So what do you do? Turn Mom and Dad out on the street? Of course not.

Now that I’m my parents’ age (how did THAT happen?), I’m in a rare situation in that my mother is no longer living, and my 86 year old father is living on his own in a wonderful retirement community here in Nashville. After their experience caring for my grandmother, Mom and Dad were careful to make provisions for their own retirement years so they wouldn’t have to depend on their kids. I love my father and would gladly welcome him into our home if he needed a place to live. But I’m so grateful his health is good and he can still be independent.

But so many friends of ours find themselves on a different path. Case in point. “Cindy” and “Bill” (not their real names) are dear friends of ours. Their children are grown and gone. They enjoy their grandchildren, and with Bill near retirement, they were looking forward to traveling. But Cindy’s parents were not in good health. Her mother is wheel-chair bound and her father suffers from Alzheimer’s, so they can no longer live on their own. Finances prohibited them from moving into an assisted living facility, so instead they moved in with Cindy and Bill.

That was a couple years ago. Now, Cindy and Bill’s lives are no longer their own. Cindy’s mother smothers her every movement, and her father is out of touch with reality. The other day he removed every piece of Cindy’s underwear from her dresser drawer and put it in the trash, which was picked up before she knew what had happened. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Cindy and Bill’s finances are drained, and I’m guessing they’re about to lose their minds. But what can they do?

There are so many factors that come into play in these scenarios. For many, they feel trapped. For others, they feel guilty for wishing their parents could move out. They may resent the siblings whose lives are unfairly “detached” from the responsibility. They may be angry as they watch their savings evaporate while providing for their parents.

And yet, I vividly remember a scene in a movie about this topic. A gentle, elderly woman in a nursing home wept as she told of her children who never visited her. She cradled her empty arms. “I gave them life. I nursed them at my breast. I gave them everything because I loved them. But they have no time for me now. Not one of them.”

So I’ll ask you again, what’s the answer? What’s the “right” alternative? Granted, every situation is different. Every family history and dynamic is unique. But as our life-spans extend longer and longer, and more seniors need long-term care and assistance, more middle-agers find themselves at a crossroads, asking these hard questions.

I wish I had the answers. But this much I do know. For those who walk in Cindy and Bill’s shoes, they need massive amounts of prayer and truckloads of TLC from the rest of us. They need us to “parent-sit” so they can have a night off. They need a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear, not lectures. They need vacations. Lots of them. And so much more . . .

Life is never easy. But it’s especially complicated when the child becomes the parent, and the parent(s) need to move in. What say you on this difficult subject?

*Stock photos, not personal photographs.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The eyes have it . . .

Last weekend I had quite a scare. We were at my Dad's Friday night playing Scrabble. I kept noticing this big black gnat dancing around Dad's face every time I looked at him. Swatted it a couple times only to find that it just kept moving wherever I happened to look. Ah! That was no gnat! It was a floater! I've always had eye floaters, though most of the time I'm completely oblivious to them. But this one was dark black and predominate. And bugging the snot out of me.

By the time we got home, I noticed the "gnat" now had a new little friend. It looked like a very black, inky version of those twisty-tabs that are on loaves of bread. This one was curled around a bit like a paper-clip, only not. It too danced around my vision. I realized at that point that both of these were in my right eye, and I started to get concerned.

I took a shower and noticed the gnat and the twisty tab had been joined by shooting stars of light. Okay, now I was REALLY concerned. The stars darted back and forth across my vision in wide arcs, and were then accompanied by huge flashing arcs in my far-right periphery. Like a giant right-hand parenthesis mark imitating a bolt of lightning. Persistent, flashing and starting to give me a headache.

I went online to read about floaters and got scared. Really scared. Everything I read indicated the possibility of my retina detaching. "See a physician immediately." Oh. My. Gosh. I have often said - take my hearing, take my taste buds, take my sense of smell or even my vocal chords, but PLEASE GOD don't ever take my eyesight. Fear took root in my gut and I started imagining the worst. Like never being able to read again, unless my hands moved across lines of tiny bumps on a page written in Braille . . .

My earthly rock, otherwise known as my beloved husband, suggested I go to bed and see how it was in the morning. Through the night the shooting starts and lightning bolts kept flashing whenever I awoke. But of course it was The Weekend. And where do you find emergency opthamology care? I wasn't about to go to the ER after my recent root canal nightmare in Dallas. But I kept worrying about it. Finally, at the insistence of my dad and sister, I got the name of an opthamologist who had an emergency service. In less than 20 minutes he called me back and completely put my mind at rest, assuring me it could wait until I could see him on Monday.

Monday afternoon, Dr. Felch spotted several lesions, what he called tiny pieces of the eye's gel-like vitreous that had broken loose inside the inner back portion of my eye. But the retina was intact and my vision was still perfect. He said the floaters would eventually fade away, and unless I lost field of vision or had what appeared to look like a curtain rising that blocked my vision, I should be okay. "We'll keep an eye on it," he quipped.

So, while I'm greatly relieved it's nothing more serious, I'm still annoyed by this new mass of floaters running amok of the old mass of floaters, like so many black taxis colliding at rush hour in Times Square . . . And when I read, it's as if there's a big fat fingerprint smeared on my glasses. Only there's not.

But I'm trying to keep my whining down and my humor high. After all, as I told some writer friends, at least I'm not having to shop for a stylin' eye-patch to rock the pirate in me . . . And we're not having to train Darby to be my seeing-eye pooch. Which is good, since she thinks leashes and harnesses are highly insulting.

The experience sure made me do some serious thinking. About the precious gift of sight. About the joy of reading and all the books I still want to devour. About the faces I love. About the beauty of the world that I so often take for granted - the spectacular colors of spring, the serenity of a sunset on a beach, the snow-covered mountains in winter, the innocence of a baby's smile . . .

So I'll ask you. What would you miss most if you lost your sight?

FYI: if you tell me reality TV, I'll have to ask you to unsubscribe from my blog. Just sayin' . . .

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mind if I brag a little?

Concerning our recent flood tragedy here in the Nashville area, I don't even know where to start. But what I'd like to do is a whole lotta bragging. First, on this AMAZING community in which we live. The Nashville spirit is alive and well and never better. I am overwhelmed with the outpouring of compassion and hands-on hard work by so many here. Our church, Cross Point Community, has been sending out teams into hundreds of neighborhoods, lending a hand to complete strangers who just need help. Ken and I took part when we could this week. At one house, I spent hours helping sort through precious family photographs, salvaging what we could of their life’s history in pictures. Today we helped gut homes right down to the 2x4s, including the one in this first picture.

In Kingston Springs, the community just outside of Nashville where we live, the damage has been tremendous. Six houses across from the middle school and high school were swept away in the blink of an eye. They used to stand where all that water is in this picture. Homes throughout our town were submerged and ruined. People showed up even as the rain kept falling, rushing to help move what they could to second floors before the worst hit. Amy and Katie, who own the Red Tree Coffee Shop here, immediately set up a command center in their shop to help organize relief efforts. They’ve kept us all informed via Facebook posts as to the needs and locations of homes needing help. Girls, I'm bragging on you! Hats off to you and so many others for the hard work in helping our little town.

Even though our hill-top home survived the flood, we lost touch with my father who lives in a retirement community off Coley Davis Road (right) in Bellevue where the floodwaters completely cut off all access. We were also cut off, unable to get out of Kingston Springs to check on him. But my son-in-law, Ben Schmitt, wasn’t about to wait around for the waters to recede. On Monday, he grabbed his friend Derek Wells and the two of them parked on the shoulder of the I-40, climbed over the embankments, and rushed to Harpeth Madows. Eventually they found Dad, his home safe and dry. He had no electricity, cell phone service or working landlines, but he was safe. I can’t tell you how relieved we were to get the news! As you’d expect, I now consider my son-in-law a SAINT!

But Ben didn’t stop there. He has worked tirelessly this entire week, getting up at the crack of dawn each day to go out and help those in need. Several of Hannah and Ben's friends lost everything in homes that were flooded with upwards of eight-feet of water. Ben has helped tear out drywall and insulation, pull up flooring, sort through water and mud-soaked belongings, and so much more.

For a guy who’s normally seated at a soundboard, producing music, he’s certainly gone beyond the call of duty this week, and we can't brag on him enough. Back when our daughter told us she'd fallen in love with a guy known as "Snake" (a nickname given to him by Dolly Parton, for the record), you could imagine our concern! But once we got to know him, we couldn't love him more. And after this week? Well, he's not just our son-in-law, he's a hero!