Anyone who knows me knows I am my Grandaddy’s girl. I always have been. I love him more than any other man on the planet. Seriously, he is pretty fantastic. I have been lucky in that department.
He is the man in my life who I never want to disappoint or let down. He supports me completely. He is one of my most loyal readers (although, sometimes I imagine him shaking his head bewildered at some of my antics.) I try hard not to imagine him reading what I write on here because sometimes I want to talk about men or sex or any number of other things that I cannot imagine discussing with him.
My Grandad is probably the first silver fox I ever met. Let me tell you he is one handsome dude. I have always been proud when people remark how good-looking he is. Duh! What else would my grandfather be? (Hands off! He is married to my Granny!)
I can always expect a phone call checking up on me if I am out-of-town and have not posted anything on Facebook for a while. (That is totally my excuse for the excessive number of traveling selfies.) He is so proud of his family. He always remembers to call on birthdays. (Please, don’t let me forget to call him tonight when I get off work.)
My Grandad has taught me a million different things. I know how to make hummus. I know where tumbleweeds came from. He explained how the horses walking beside the racehorses are NOT the racehorse’s BFF (I am still sad about that one.) He explained how interstates are numbered. (When I asked how he knew that tidbit, he just shook his head and told me he looked at the map.)
I think his favorite place in the world is Costco. (They should really think about giving him a royalty or something. He may be one of their most loyal customers.)
I can always count on him for a wine suggestion.
I know he just wants me to be happy, safe, and to enjoy my life.
I know you are all jealous that you do not have a Grandaddy like mine, but I am not sorry and I am not sharing. (Well, except with all the kids. As long as they remember I was here first. hehe.)
I would do anything to make him happy and proud. I am who I am today in part because he has loved me my entire life, no matter what. I am a lucky girl.
Happy Birthday Grandaddy! I love you and I miss you! I will see you when I come home for a visit in April. (I will call you tonight when I get off work.) Have a fantastic day! Thank you so much for all that you still do for me. I don’t think I could ever repay you.
I know. It’s funny to make fun of all the silly people who take selfies all the time. I completely disagree with those folks though. There was a time I went out of my way to avoid being in pictures. I hated seeing myself. It was entirely too easy to avoid being in the photos.
This all started to change when I was taking my son to New York City. I found a walking tour with a photographer. I realized how few pictures there were of the two of us together, and I desperately wanted them. This was the beginning of my commitment to my son to give him photographic evidence of our life together. I have never heard someone lament they had too many photos of their loved ones.
These photos and the selfies I have been taking with my friends and family are a way to demonstrate I care enough to want a reminder of our relationship.
There are so many people from my past I can barely remember. I have almost no photos of us together (that is if I am lucky to have any at all.) I will not live life that way anymore. I understand before we had instant access to a camera and seemingly unlimited electronic storage it was more difficult. There is no excuse now.
Trust me, most of the time I think I look horrible in these pictures. I got the wrong angle, my chin is super fat, or my nose is all wrinkled up. The people who know me know what I look like. They love me no matter what face the camera managed to catch. If they don’t, I don’t give a shit anyway. I am not totally made up and looking fabulous in all of these photos. I am just my most authentic self.
When I was choosing these photos I was deliberate about choosing memories I loved and not focusing on my perception of my flaws. This is hard for a girl like me. I tend to focus on all the reasons I should not be in the pictures.
Then I get a grip. Of course I should be in the photos of my life! I should get as many photos of me with the people I love as possible. We should really stop worrying about what we think people are thinking about us, and realize most people don’t care. We are hurting ourselves and our friends and family when we refuse to take a picture with them.
These are just a few of my favorite memories from this year. I have been so lucky to be able to go out and meet new people. I have had so many awesome adventures. These people are so special to me and I am excited to have photos I can reminisce over. I would not trade any of these photos for one airbrushed inaccurate representation of my life.
I have no intention of stopping the selfie craze. I refuse to hide from the camera anymore. I hope more of us continue this zany trend.
My son and I are driving down the street listening to a morning radio show. Queen Latifah is the guest. He is about nine years old.
The Boy: Huh. I thought Queen was a guy.
Me: What? Queen? Oh! Do you mean the rock band Queen?
The Boy: Yeah, We Are The Champions.
Me: That’s a rock band. The lead singer is Freddie Mercury. (Secretly relieved I know this bit of trivia.)
The Boy: Oh, yeah. What’s he doing now?
Me: He died a long time ago.
The Boy: What did he die from?
*At this point The Boy lets out an exasperated sigh. He gives me the look I have grown much too accustomed to. You know the one, the look that says “my mom is the stupidest person to ever live.”
The Boy: Mom! (all annoyed and incredulous voice here.) To AID someone is to help them. (insert eye roll)
*Really? He is nine. How am I already stupid? This is decidedly unfair.
Me: Oh, AIDS is an illness some people get.
The Boy: Okay. How do you get it?
Me: It develops after you catch a virus called HIV. It makes your body unable to fight off infections.
The Boy: (eyes are a little wide now) How do you get HIV?
*Oh, shit. Remember age appropriate. What do you say about this? You don’t want him to be needlessly afraid. My mind is racing a thousand miles a minute. DON’T screw this up. You don’t want to break your kid.
Me: Ummm. You used to get it from blood transfusions, but now they screen blood so you don’t have anything to worry about.
The Boy: Why did Freddie Mercury have to have a blood transfusion?
*Oh, crap. Seriously kid? Now, remember this is not a civics lesson. You do not have to go into Gay rights or how we don’t judge people who are different.Get it together.
Me: Well, you can get it from exchanging bodily fluid. Moms who have HIV can pass it on in breast milk, some people get it from doing drugs, and you can get it from unprotected sex.
The Boy: Oh. Okay.
*Wait a minute! Why is he not asking what that is? Hmmmm. I wonder if he knows what protection is. I kinda hope not.
Me: Do you know what I mean when I say unprotected sex? Do you know what protection is?
The Boy: Yes, I sure do. You always wear your cup!
Me: (After breathing a huge sigh of relief) Yes, you do. Never take it off.
This short exchange was a turning point for me as a mother. I managed to have a somewhat informative conversation with my son and even managed to say “sex” to him without nearly vomiting. I find him endlessly clever and I was quite impressed by his insightful questions. I probably could have done without his assumptions about my inherent stupidity… but, you take what you can get.
Do you have any funny stories like this? How did you handle these questions about adult topics with your kids?
I would not recommend watching the montage videos of soldiers coming home to their family if you have issues with your absentee father who was devoted to the US Army.
When I was a little girl, my father was stationed in Germany. I did not know much about it, however I imagined him there patrolling a chain-link fence which was erected to keep the bad guys away from the regular people. I obviously had no idea what the Berlin Wall was and in my mind my dad was a hero. I did not mind that he was not there for me, he was busy saving the world.
Fast-forward about 30 years. It has been almost 20 years since I have spoken to my father. I was minding my own business, playing on Facebook, and I opened a link to a video of soldiers coming how to their families. I felt like I had been kicked in the chest. My father never even told me when he was being deployed, much less when he came home. He had become a mystical figure to me. Not a father at all.
I suppose if I am being fair, it really has nothing to do with his status as a soldier. The fault lies strictly in his refusal to be a father. I always imagined by the age of 35 I would be “over it.” For the most part, I am doing well. I know it has nothing to do with me and all that jazz. The only part that sucks is when I am caught off guard and wishing I could go back in time and he would be a different person.
I continue to grow and learn how to be a better person. I am fully aware of my issues about this topic. I own them. I am fine. It is okay to feel the emotions and to be honest about my disappointment in regards to the person who gave me half of gene pool. I don’t have to be him. I can learn from his mistakes. I can forgive him for failing to be the one thing I needed him to be.
My family does not look like a typical family. I am a single mom and I am not raising my son alone. I work a lot, and now I am traveling for work. My son does not live with me. My family takes care of all the day-to-day child raising stuff. My son’s Nana and Mamaw have been so gracious and kind to enable him to attend the school he wants to go to, and they make sure he has everything he needs every single day. They do all the hard stuff.
I suppose you could say I am the lucky one. I get to do all the fun stuff. I get to take him on trips and when we are together there is usually lots of movies and going out happening.
Actually, if we are being completely honest, my mother has assumed the role of primary caretaker for my son for almost all of his life. We could blame it on my age when he was born, or we could blame it on my limitations when it comes to organization, or we could just avoid placing blame at all. Yes, we all know I was entirely too young to have a child. Here is the thing, I love my son more than anything on this earth. I would give anything for him to be safe and happy. I am doing just that every single day.
I consider him in every decision I make. I consider how it will affect him. I may not see him every day, but he is the center of my universe. I work hard because I want him to see you can achieve anything if you do the work. I wish I could spend every day with him, and it is just not feasible. I need to support him financially.
I am not your usual mother. I don’t cook. I am messy. I can’t keep my schedule straight, much less his. I am your typical ADHD adult, who is just trying to muddle through as best I can. There is no magic answer. I see those moms who manage to juggle their career, marriage, children, and social lives, and I get overwhelmed. How on earth do they do that? Oh. I know, they don’t spend 30 minutes each morning pondering how their hair dryer works and wondering if there is a better way to make one. They dry their hair and get on with it. They don’t get distracted on the way to the shower by the pen and paper sitting on the table and stop to doodle.
Real moms can go to the grocery store with a list, and actually buy everything on the list. I usually lose the list on the way to the store, and end up buying pens. You should see the number of pens I own.
You know, I am a nurse practitioner, guess who I call when I am sick? Yep. My mom. Guess who I call if my son is sick? Yep. My mom. I lose every bit of common sense when it comes to real world application of my training. I can treat you in the hospital or the clinic, but if you have a stomach virus in my house, I am completely inept. You will likely just get a cold, wet wash cloth. (Those cure every thing, by the way.)
The problem for me, is that I feel guilty. I feel like I am less of a mom, because I don’t do all the stereotypical mom things. I work and provide. That is my role. I strive to provide a good life for my only child. I love him desperately, and I will do whatever it takes to provide a good life for him.
Why do we judge each other when we don’t know the whole story? Why do we hold ourselves up to a standard we don’t even understand? Families work and do what needs to be done. If we are lucky, we have all the familial support we need. So, what exactly is a mom? I don’t know. The only thing I do know, is that I would work every hour of every day if it made a difference for my son.
Imagine a rugged, gregarious, elderly man. He is quick to tell a story and flirt with all the ladies. He was the toughest cowboy who ever lived. He has never been sick a day in his life. He does not even notice the cut on his hand. He will blush and admit to some memory problems, however he is quick to reassure you that he is doing just fine. He explains all the help he receives from his family and friends. He tells you about all the things he is still doing. This man is healthy as a horse.
It is easy to assume he is doing just fine, until you realize this is the third recitation of the same story. He goes to church every Sunday. He spells out his daily routine. He will regale you with tales of his fishing adventure just last week! Biggest fish he has ever seen! He still drives around the town he has lived in for 70 years. All the while, he keeps forgetting about the cut on his hand. He looks down with a puzzled expression every time the bandage enters his field of vision.
He just wants to go home. Yes, he is well aware that his children want him to move closer to them. He is indignant and proud. He can manage just fine.
Sure, he may have had some difficulty managing his bank account- that darned internet is too complicated for him. It’s not surprising he does not remember which way to turn when he drives down that particular street, they must have changed it all up. There is entirely too much new construction around here anyway. It is just a waste of the tax payers money. They keep changing the roads every week!
He just wants to go home. There is nothing wrong with him. He is fine. He has been taking care of himself for 65 years. He raised four children. Of course it has been more difficult since his wife died. She had always cooked the meals, taken care of the house and laundry, and managed all the finances. He sure does miss her.
Keeping all his medicine straight is difficult, his doctor gives him too many darned tiny pills, and have you ever tried to open one of those bottles? You almost need a hacksaw to get into one of them. It is okay, the lady that cleans his house puts them into a box for him. One says AM and one says PM. Problem solved.
He finds the bandage again. He is getting slightly irritated at the discomfort. He starts pulling off the gauze so he can leave. He does not need to be tied up. Why would he have his hand wrapped up? He needs to get that mess off so he can go home. Besides, that is not his bandage. He doesn’t need it.He does not believe he would care to buy that today. He promises to come buy it another day if I need the sales commission.
He tells you about fishing last week. It was the biggest fish he has ever seen. He reeled in it all by himself. He is demonstrating his manly prowess, and proving he can take care of himself. Sure, he lost his wallet again. Nope, he has no trouble getting where he needs to go. He has never been in an accident or had a traffic violation.
He is quick and sure to answer your questions and concerns.
He can tell the best stories about when he was a cowboy. He still tends all his own fences. He just plowed his garden last week. What on earth could you possibly be saying? Of course he can fend for himself! Besides, he has wonderful friends who drop by and check on him.
He was horribly confused and combative in the night. He pulled out his IV site (more than once.) He spilled his coffee repeatedly. He wanted his pants. What kind of nonsense is this? Stealing a man’s pants? He was not going to stand for this. Fine, you know what? He has money. Where is his wallet? He will buy his pants back from you. He never uses the call light despite repeated reminders. He keeps insisting he is not in the hospital.
You realize he has no idea who you are. You have spent countless hours with him over the past few days, and in fact you were just in his room fifteen minutes ago. Every time you walk through the door, you are greeted joyously. He does not remember the nasty tone of voice he was using with you last time you were in here. He does not remember that you are the one who will not allow him to go home. He tries calling you darlin’ and he gives you a little wink.
It is not too hard for you to redirect him. All you see is a sweet old man. You can even laugh at times. Some of his antics are funny. He is “pleasantly confused” and you are well aware he does not mean any of it. This is not the man who raised you. You have not witnessed his decline from greatness. You are not the one who will have to go home and feel remorse for not being able to make it work with him at home. This is just another day at the office for you.
His son sits with a resigned expression at the bedside. He never interrupts or corrects his father. He only fills in information when his father looks to him to answer the question. I keep trying to give the son an opportunity to pipe up and let his father know he can’t go home in this condition. I try telling this man he can’t stay at home alone at night. I look to his son and wait for him to tell his dad he has to come stay with family. He only asks me how long I think his father will need someone to stay with him. I can see the wheels of desperation turning over in his mind. Oh. He is not always this bad. Okay. The infection could explain it. Perhaps a few days or weeks would be sufficient.
Turns out, Paul Harvey was not going to chime in “With the rest of the story.” (If you don’t know that reference google Paul Harvey.)I am mildly concerned, but feeling a little better. This confusion could be the delirium so many patients experience in the hospital. Nope. Not at all. Charming Grandpa has not been doing well for a while. Ok, no problem. Just get him to go home with his son. Phew. Glad I solved that problem.
It is painful to see adult children struggling with their new role as a protector and decision maker. What do we do when the body still works, but the mind is no longer able to handle the complexities of life? How do you take away your father’s car keys? How do you finally insist they cannot live at home anymore? It is not stubbornness that leads to their insistence to stay home. They are unable to realize and comprehend the reality of their cognitive decline.
So, what happens when they refuse to go to an assisted living, nursing facility, or even to live with relatives who can look after them? How do you compel someone to leave the home they built and raised their family in, when they feel fine? I somehow managed to convince myself patients with dementia actually understood how confused they were. Oh! This is why we perform mental evaluations. People do not know when they are confused. They truly believe everything is fine. Now what? You seem fine in short conversations, you are not physically debilitated, why would I say you need to be forced from the home you built with your own two hands. Yes, I remember you still mend your own fences. Yes, you used to be a cowboy. A real cowboy, not one of those fancy boys.
This is not an easy process. We don’t like to hold people against their will. You can’t just kidnap grandpa because you decide it is the right thing to do. Furthermore, NO ONE EVER TELLS YOU HOW TO DO THIS! Maneuvering through all the rules, insurance regulations, and red tape is maddening. Now, imagine trying to handle all of this if you live and work somewhere else, compounded by the fact that your parent has everyone fooled. He looks great! He is at church three times a week. He does not realize how severe the problem is, and neither does anyone else, until something happens. He gets lost and drives 3 states away. He leaves the stove on and starts a fire. He takes all of his money out of the bank and no one can find it.
There is no easy answer.
However, your grandpa with dementia may be entertaining a group of nurses tonight. He will keep them on their toes. They will watch over him while you try to sort out his affairs. They will nurse him back to health from whatever ailment landed him in the hospital. They will make sure someone is keeping an eye on the guy who likes to Pole vault over the bed rails while they rush to take care of their other patients. There will probably be a bed alarm that shrieks out every time he tries to get out of bed. A gaggle of nurses will rush to the door to protect him from harm. He will not remember the instructions he received 2 minutes ago to use his call light. These nurses will quietly ask you about discharge planning, and express concerns about him going home alone. They will be there to support you while you go through the hardest experience of your life.
He will vacillate between irritated and charming. When he turns on the charm in an attempt to manipulate his way out of this situation, he will capture a few hearts. He will demand he be released from this prison. Charming grandpa will constantly interfere with all attempts to treat his medical condition. He will forget he is sick.
Dementia is hard.
The aging cowboy has no idea this is happening. He will tell you again about his fishing trip. He will rip the bandage off his hand, and try to get the string, actually, those are sutures and I really wanted them there, out of his hand. We have only had this conversation 27 times in the past three hours. The cowboy will become furious at his wrongful conviction, and as soon as he gets distracted the situation never existed. He will politely ask to go home. He feels fine. There is nothing in the world wrong with him.
His son will tell me how his dad is the strongest, toughest, and bravest men he has ever known. He is facing a tough battle. He will have to overrule the ruler. No one will be able to convince him he is not a terrible son for taking his father from his home. Worse, it may not even be safe enough for his father to come live with him. The son will have to vigilant to prevent the cowboy from absconding into the night.
If they live long enough, even the strongest men (and women) are at risk for developing cognitive decline. It will happen in bits and pieces. Things will appear manageable even after they are careening through a mine field. We have to support the families of these super heroes. We have to reassure them, offer guidance, and listen most of all. It is heart-rending to watch.
Basically, there is no easy answer. It is difficult to prepare for this situation because you want to believe it will never be that bad. Your dad is the strongest man in the world, why does he have to lose his independence?
I bet you thought you were going to get away with never hearing about another Tough Mudder again. After all, remember how hard the last one was? Have you seen me at boxing lately? Hey! I have been working! And traveling. And resting. . . I know. I have to find a boxing gym. More about the latest in Adventures in Employment later. This is about my friends.
Tough Mudder in Snowmass, Colorado. Right after Mesa, I had considered trying to train for this one. Here’s the thing, it is at a ski resort. Yep. They were climbing up and down mountains. Right. So, after my training plans fell through I graciously opted out of this adventure. My Kick-ass, awesome, brave, tough-as-nails tribe have never looked back. They had things to do.
Details are sparse at this point and it is not my story to tell. However, I was having my butt kicked at work, all the while trying to sneak a peek for their progress occasionally. I was living vicariously through my Muddy Buddies.
My Tribe is filled with great people. We have no problem being authentic with each other and this is one of the best parts of having a group.
For your viewing pleasure: I can’t wait to hear or hopefully even read all of their stories.
Trust me, the beer at the finish line is a big deal.
Hydrate and heal your broken bodies my friends.
The great thing about Tough Mudder is the way everyone even complete strangers, end up as part of a big family. The physical challenge is such a small part of this adventure. There are mental and emotional obstacles for so many of us.
In case you are wondering, my next Tough Mudder is in about a month. I am taking my son to experience this adventure with a HUGE group of lovely people. I know some of them, the rest I am excited to meet. Yep, it is still going to be hard. I am still terrified of heights. I am still fraught with self-doubt and anxiety. None of that matters. We have totally got this.