Monuments

A friend sent me a message: “Go to news. Notre Dame is on fire.”  I leapt up from the computer and for the next two hours or so I was riveted to the T.V screen as I watched the Cathedral, the heart of Paris burning.  I was saddened.

My Bert and I have had the privilege of visiting famous monuments and landmarks around the world.  They remain in my memory, in my psyche, and yes in my heart.

On separate occasions I have cried, laughed, cried and laughed at the Berlin Wall.  I even own a small piece of it from when it was torn down. My Bert and I raced from Amsterdam to Berlin to witness the ‘unzipping’ of the refurbished Brandenburg Gate by President Bill Clinton.

I got goose bumps the first time I saw Westminster Abbey, The Blue Mosque, The Great Pyramid of Giza, Notre Dame de Paris, The Taj Mahal and so many more.   There are entire cities that I consider to be monuments.  Jerusalem, London, Paris, Athens, Rome, The Vatican, Amsterdam all come to mind.

Whenever I think of Denmark the small sculpture of The Little Mermaid brings a smile as do the Manneken Pis in Brussels which dates from 1388.  They are beloved symbols that give a unique identity to a particular place.  They are more than interesting sculptures.

The Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado means we are in Rio de Janeiro.  Going to the opera at the Sydney Opera house is one bragging right I hold dear. And you know you are in Australia.

As I looked at Notre Dame I was grateful that we had toured it as a couple, as a family, and with travel companions.  I wondered if we would live to see the ‘after’ even if only virtually.

As the fire burned my thoughts were turbulent.  I was filled with dismay and sadness.  I am not Roman Catholic.  That did not matter.  I am neither a Parisian nor French.  That did not matter.  I was looking at an iconic symbol.  That is what a monument is.  A symbol that is universal that can appeal to anyone. 

Great literature, art, music, dance, drama, architecture are ways in which we showcase our creativity, share our talents and demonstrate the human need for beauty that transcends the mundane.   They speak to the soul.  Monumental works like Notre Dame validate that need and give credence to Keats’: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.”

When we toured Notre Dame the fact that it was the keeper of the Crown of Thorns was awe inspiring.  I enjoyed seeing the art, the craftsmanship that went into the building but uppermost in my mind was the history.  The same words I said then came back to me as I uttered them again: “If only these walls and stones could talk.”  Notre Dame burned at the beginning of Holy Week.  Ironic, isn’t it?

I wondered if the egotistical Napoleon was turning in his grave recalling his glory when he crowned himself Emperor of France in Notre Dame.   He had no great love for either the Pontiff or religiosity so he may have some ambivalence about this destruction.  As the spire fell I wondered if all those nobles who travelled past its doors in tumbrels to be guillotined found some macabre similarity to their own fate.  They lost their heads and now Notre Dame was losing its own.

As I mourned the passing I wondered if some were cheering that this was a symbol belonging to ‘the other’ not to them.  History, literature, religious fervour, art, music, wars, and love are all part of Notre Dame and they were fighting for space in my thoughts as I watched.   That is a monument.  It means everything to some and something to everyone else.  You may be indifferent to it but it cannot be ignored.

The Meander:   Over one billion Euros were donated within forty eight hours for the restoration of Notre Dame.  Extraordinary!  I cannot remember any human disaster that raised so much in so short a time. Hmm…

Experts estimate that it will take up to fifteen years to rebuild Notre Dame. With utter conceit I looked over at my monument, my Bert, and wonder if it will take up to fifteen years for his spire to topple.

Howsoever long it takes, if I am still alive, I will rejoice for one and mourn the other.  The Light and dark together as ever.

Friendship

This is not friendship day or week or month.  It seems to me that I get a beautiful, sweet message about friendship and friends almost every week and they all end with an order to send it on to my friends because it is friendship day or week.  If I should add them all up there would be a thousand weeks in a year just for friendship.    My friends know how much I value them so I do not mind getting friendship messages but I need no reminders.   My friendship is on tap every day all year.  And it is a two way street.

My friends cross all boundaries, cultural, religious, social, and economic.  There are friends I have not yet met.  I have often opined that I was not blessed with a large family but I certainly made up for that lack with a host of dear friends.  Better yet, I get to choose them even as they choose me!   My friends live all over world and all are dear to me.   My friends fill that need of humans to have companionship who share a commonality of purpose, desires, mores and love.   There are all occasion friends and special event friends but they are all friends of the heart.  I laugh with them; cry with them and the hugs are wonderful.   My friends are full of kindness.   I write about one of my darker days and I get a beautiful bouquet with this card enclosed.

I laughed!   What a friend.    I have been sustained by the outpouring of love since that post.  I was refreshed. 

So it is with a full heart that I say “Thank You” to my friends.  Thank you for giving me strength, love and courage to carry on.  Thank you for sharing the ups, the downs and the in between.  Thank you for being by my side to laugh, to cry, to rejoice at successes and to commiserate with me at disappointments.

Thank you for bringing me back to the light when I have those dark days.  Thank you for the laughs, for laughing with me and laughing at me. 

The Meander:  My friends make the anguish less and me more.  Thank you!

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Birthday Appraisal

I have just celebrated a birthday.    On the morning itself I turned to my Bert and said:”You can wish me Happy Birthday”.  “Oh, is it your birthday? “Yes”.  “Happy Birthday, Sweet Pea.”

The telephone rings and it is the first greeting of the day. “Who was that?”   “That was our son and daughter-in-law.  They were singing the birthday song to me.”   I begin to sing and he joins in.  “ Are they coming today?”  “No.  The family celebration was on Monday.  We had a lovely meal and you really enjoyed your shoe-string French fries.”  “Oh”.

My birthday was wonderful and different. It began with a Caregiver Wellness programme which included Dancercise, Music Therapy and Meditation. There was a fabulous lunch, then dinner with friends at a Japanese restaurant.  We sat at the Teppanyaki Bar.  My Bert exclaimed as the flames shot up towards the ceiling: “Gosh, I am HOT!”  Naturally everyone seated at our station laughed.  The evening was filled with laughter.

My birthday is a time of introspection; of reviewing the past year and looking with hope towards a brighter year.  That has not changed.

However, this year my astrologist friend told me that this was a special year for all who are born on March 21st.  She referred me to an entry in Google quoted here:

Your horoscope for March 21 to 27, 2019. This is no ordinary change of season. Spring has sprung on a super full moon in Libra and with the sun in Aries supplying added life force to Chiron in Aries, a transit that happens once every 50 years. … Aries is the sign of new beginnings, fresh starts, and action.”

I kept on reading the lengthy article as I was curious.  It proved interesting until I got to such deep astrological pontification on ‘Solar Return’, ‘square aspect’ and ‘Mars-North Node aspect’ the latter supposedly having great impact on my relationships and love life.  I am a caregiver for my Bert.   I can teach all aspects, astrological or not about love.  I gave up on the long form and with tongue firmly in cheek parsed the above short version specifically for ME, the birthday girl.  Here goes:

“This is no ordinary change of season” – It never is in Canada.  Snow in May and golfers teeing up in December are par for the course. Groan.  For me the seasons change on a daily basis and they are: a good day, a bad day, a day when brain cells die, a miracle day of almost normal.

“Spring has sprung” – Hey, hold your horses.  It is still only March!   Meteorologists will tell you that spring arrives on March 1st.. Huh?  Yet March does bring hope for warmer days.  I can feel that spring is in the air and I celebrate the fact of life, new life, my life, my day.

“A super full moon in Libra”- I did see the super full moon.  It was heavenly! (Geez!).  I did not care that it was in Libra or Libya or wherever.  It was full.  It was bright.   I was happy to see it.

“The sun in Aries”- If I had the power the sun would always be in Aries and every other Zodiac sign.  I am a child of Light.

“… supplying added life force to Chiron in Aries…every 50 years”:  Yes, the sun is a life force.  The rest being Greek to me I went to Google.    I found this among other soon to be forgotten tidbits:

In astrology, Chiron is referred to as the “wounded healer,” and on Feb. 18, this strange, and oh-so-unique, comet will conclude an eight-year-long transit through the dreamy sign of Pisces, and slide into fiery Aries until the year 2027. Naturally, this asteroid’s energetic influence will play a role in both our lives, and in the collective overall. So, yeah, this is definitely a big deal.”

No big deal to me as I will be long dead before this fascinating phenomenon comes around in 50 years.  Neither does being on fire for the next eight years inspire jubilation.  Also, since being sidetracked is an ever present danger when on the internet I also found out that Chiron is a comet, a key, the biggest superpower we have which helps us unlock our greatest gift from the heavens.    Somewhat oxymoronic for a “wounded healer” I thought.

The best was last.

“Aries is the sign of new beginnings, fresh starts and action.”  Every day is a new beginning.  For my Bert I could say every minute is a fresh start.  As a caregiver I am always doing.   I saw this as being given permission to be positive, to never give up.

The Meander:   Astrological prognostication or not, life is not dictated by our stars but by ourselves.   We can choose how we will overcome the vicissitudes thrown in our path.  I choose that no matter how dark the day I will try to face the challenges with a positive attitude for the rest of the journey.  We will make it with a little help from our friends… and astrology.

A Darker Day

Alzheimer disease has been called The Long Goodbye.    It is also The Long Grieving.  Over the last few weeks I have watched my Bert lose some more brain cells.  Now I am more instantly aware that it is happening.  That was not always so.  Prior to this it would take some prolonged period of imperceptible change for the loss to be noticed.

One morning he had his yogurt after his sandwich as usual.  The next morning he does not eat it and I ask: “Don’t you want your yogurt today?”

My Bert looks at his plate, his cup, and his knife then picks up the banana peel and says:” Oh, yes, I do.  I want my yogurt.”   He begins to put the peel in his mouth.  I stop him and give him the yogurt.  I do not wait for this to recur.   I know yogurt is now another item that befuddles his mind.  His brain no longer recognizes that so familiar item which has been a part of his breakfast for as long as I can remember.

My Bert now tells me goodnight and says he is going upstairs to bed.  There is no upstairs in our home.  In fact we live in a condo and have always lived in bungalows.  He needs to be reassured that yes, this is our bedroom, yes, this is our bed, yes, I will be sleeping in that same bed, yes we will be sleeping together and yes, Jan, Gerard, Ossie, Wendy, Marg, Meintje and a few more people, all who are already dead will be sleeping with us too.    I offer no correction nor explanation.   If my Bert is less anxious having them with us, well, come on in.

Each day my Bert tells me repeatedly how much he loves me.  I wonder if he is saying it to reassure himself.  Maybe it is just that familiar phrase he has been saying for so long and so often.  Maybe he likes the smile it brings and the:”I love you too.” I know it has not lost its meaning for him nor for me.

I sometimes catch a vacant look, accompanied by an unintelligible mumble.  I wonder what is going on in his brain.  Do the amyloid plaques cause any sensation as they fill up and kill off another cell?   What about the tau tangles? Do they emit any sound as the deterioration accelerates?  There is no indication of pain but I wonder if there is anything, any sensation that tells my Bert something is amiss.  I will never know.

My Bert is entering the late stages of dementia.  I am in the beginning stages of grieving.   

To see the Light you must live in the now, yet I cannot forget what was.   I remember the good times, the fun we had, the amazing life we lived but I am remembering in the past tense as if my Bert is the past.  I censor myself.  My Bert is still here.  There are still moments of absolute clarity and I can see what used to be in the here and now. 

Now I understand the ambiguity of memory.  It can be soothing and at the same time cruel.  Memory is the handmaiden of grief.  The mind of its own volition brings up memories and by definition that means the past.   I am remembering the then, the before and it is making the now unbearable.  The mind and my memories are not static or finite.  Therefore, neither is the grief.  I am grieving the loss of yesterday, last year, our beginning and yesterday.   My memory meanders with the mind’s stream of consciousness, skittering hither, thither and yon and grief is its partner.

My Bert is slowly leaving me.

The Light dims as I contemplate the inevitable.

Imagining the after is unendurable.

There is still some light.  The loss is not complete.  I grieve but do not yet mourn.

Not yet.

The Meander:  My respect and admiration for caregivers is immeasurable.   No matter how special this particular challenge is, the journey is heart breaking.  It tests the will.   It is an obligation made bearable by love.   You have no choice.     I know.  I love.  I hurt.  I am a caregiver too. 

A Sombre Tour

I did not sleep well the night before we landed in Dakar, Senegal.  I knew the reason.   We were going on tour to Ile de Goree.  So many of my friends had visited and told of the emotional toll it took as they walked through the House of Slaves. 

The House of Slaves on Ile de Goree is a Museum and UNESCO World Heritage site that commemorates the darkest period of man’s inhumanity to man – The Atlantic Slave Trade.

Goree was the holding port for slaves.   Of the approximately 45 million human beings who were torn from their homeland to be sold in the New World, nearly 20 million left from this place to face the treacherous Middle Passage crossing.   First begun by the Portuguese, this trade in human ‘cargo’ went on for three centuries from 1536 to 1848.

At the entrance to the Museum stands a statue depicting a female and a male slave.  They are bare breasted.  The woman holds onto the man her face uplifted.  The man’s hands are lifted high holding two parts of a broken chain.  He too looks upward.  There was an involuntary hush as we walked from the statue and through the doors of the Museum. The slave house had rooms measuring eight feet by six feet in which up to twenty persons, shackled by their necks and arms were held.  They were allowed one daily bathroom break.  Families captured together would most likely be separated here as they would be once they arrived in the New World.   If you came to this holding pen you had already lost everything including your name.   After all cargo was a numbered commodity not a person.   You got a number and your next official identity would come from the person who would buy you and therefore owned you.

Dare to show resistance, to rebel and you would be relegated to two small cells, so small you were unable to stand up.  You would be shackled, seated, with your back against the walls.  A hopelessness seemed to emanate from these two cells. Doom, bleakness, darkness, defeat, despair hovered in the air. My stomach knotted. I gasped audibly interrupting the guide.

“Sorry,”   I said.

“It is OK.  Many people cry in this place.  In fact Nelson Mandela was almost in the same place you are when he wept.”

We continued the tour and came to the Door of no Return or ‘last look’ door.  I took a picture, the same place President Obama had had his picture taken.   I cried.  I could not help it.  I imagined the heartbreak as each one realized that once they passed through this door to descend to the waiting slave ship it would be the last look they had of their homeland.   Now they were losing the last vestiges of belonging, of home.

They had lost their personhood when they were traded for guns, trinkets, food.  There was a formula to assess the value of this human ‘cargo’.  Children as tall as a man’s leg, females tall enough to reach a man’s chest no matter their ages were desirable, even more so if they were virgins.  Men were assessed according to their weight.  If a man weighed less than 60 kilos they would be taken but kept in a special holding room at Goree and ‘fattened up’ with beans to ensure a better price when sold.

The strongest, fittest, tallest men were the most valuable.    They may be worth a gun or two or more.  No problem, as these were going to bring a high profit when re-sold in the New World.  Also, they were the ones most likely to withstand the rigours of the Middle Passage crossing.

I struggled for breath as I listened to the atrocities, to the barbarism.  I was ashamed at the description of the ‘cargo’, the ‘goods’, the ‘numbers’.  They were human beings, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, princes, princesses, chieftains, innocent children.  There was no nuance or balance to my emotion.   What I felt was raw, rough, deep anger.   This was beyond cruelty.  And this abominable trade lasted for over 300 years!

I had studied this bit of history; I had watched the movies and documentaries, seen the depictions in books and listened to erudite speakers.   No cinematographer, no author, no speaker or history scholar could capture the emotion of seeing this up close.   Walking through the Stygian gloom of The Slave House shook me to the core.   This was evil, pure and not so simple.

The tour did not end there though the rest seemed immaterial until we visited St Charles Church, built by the Portuguese in 1658 and the place where you got the best view of the House of Slaves and Ile de Goree.  I could just envision the pious and devout congregants leaving mass and looking at the island, maybe see a ship loading the ‘cargo’ and mentally counting the profits the ‘cargo’ would bring.

The Meander:   I wept when I first visited The Berlin Wall and wept with joy as we were at the re-opening of the Brandenburg Gate by President Bill Clinton.  I wept at Auschwitz and said a prayer for my late brother-in-law, Theo, who was held in Dachau. I weep for sadness and weep for joy but my tears at Ile de Goree were the deepest most hurting tears I ever shed.  I was weeping not only for the 45 million but also for the current 20 or 30 or 50 million living in slavery.   For these the chains remain unbroken.

Oh, by the way, we are Celebrating Black History Month!

It’s a Journey

Life is a journey is an oft repeated cliché.  There is truth in it.  What better way to describe the path we each travel from birth to death.

My Bert and I recently celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.  I have been pondering our journey together.  There have been many journeys within the journey.  All began as unknown territory.

Journeys begin with hello.  They end with goodbye.  Some flash by like comets others are slow perambulations.   Some are sunlight, some are dark night; some give you strength, some make you weak.

Some you want to hold forever; some you can’t wait to let go.  Some make you laugh until you cry some only make you cry. 

There are journeys that you seek and journeys that are thrust upon you.

Some journeys lead you to people who become Lifeliners, friends forever.  Some lead to people who are fleetingly important for just a moment in time.

Journeys are moments, no matter the duration.   Some are landmarks of your life that help you find your soul, your strength, your spirit.   Journeys are multifaceted.  You juggle the segments, living them concurrently.   Journeys teach you to multitask.

Journeys are never straight, direct or easy.  Yet once you begin you must continue.

Some journeys seem never ending.  You stumble, ineffectual, distraught, full of fear, numb with disappointment.   You see chasms and dangerous cliffs, mountains that seem too high to scale.  There are twists and turns and unexpected obstacles.  These are the fragments that seem to be put in your path to frustrate you, only you.  Now comes the realization that this is really your journey, only you can walk this particular road, only you can make the decision which path to take.

 It is wonderful when you can take control of the journey.  You have solutions to problems, answers to questions; you dream the impossible and see it become possible.   You start out in uncharted waters diving into unknown territory and surprisingly make a safe, happy landing.   Yes, some journeys are wonderful, delightful and satisfying.

Each one has a life journey.  How you travel it is up to you.   You can accept the help of friends and family with grace.  You may show gratitude for the kindness of strangers.  You may be lucky to give love and have it returned twofold.  In the end your journey will be a reflection of your truth, of you.

More than 50 years ago My Bert and I like so many others have over the years, made a decision to walk our journeys together.    What a journey it has been and continues to be.  On this challenging leg the decision on how the journey unfolds is mine to make for both of us. I can make us both miserable; bemoan the unfairness of it all or I can embrace the privilege that it is to be a caregiver to the one you love and to whom you are the world.

My Bert and I are still saying hello to love, to life, to joy.  We embrace the moments and while they are fleeting for him and lasting for me they are our moments.  His journey and mine will commingle as they have for more than 50 years.    We will continue to walk in tandem and greet each day with hope that it will be a good day.

The Meander:   The day you are born is the day you begin to die.  That is inevitable, inescapable and undeniable.    As my Bert and I continue to say hello at the dawn of each new day I hope we will both be able to rise to the occasion and be ready to say goodbye at journey’s end.  In the meantime we will keep on with the journey.  We will live the moments and not look around the bend.    Why bother? What is there will come without fail.

A Golden Night

Friday January 11, 2019 I woke up very early.  The weather report said it was -12 Celsius with a wind chill of -20!  Brrrrrrr.  But this is Canada in winter.

January 11, 1969 was on a Saturday.  When I awoke then it was already 28 Celsius with a projected high of 30!  But this is Jamaica in winter.

The coincidence did not escape me.  Fifty years married and a 50 degree difference in temperature.

On Friday, January 11, 2019 my Bert and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary with 50 close friends.  It was a Golden night, a night filled with love and Light.

The setting was special, decorated in gold and white.  The dinner was marvellous. The toasts were heartfelt and warm and so eloquently delivered.  Best of all was the love that seemed to permeate every corner of the room.

I saw friends making friends.  I saw smiles, heard joyous laughter, saw caring glances and chuckled at the comments made at our ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs.

It was a night to reminisce.  Fifty years is a long time together for any couple.  During that time we loved, we argued, we worked, we had successes, we had failures, we gave, we received, and we brought two wonderful children into the world.  We mourned, we hoped, we laughed, we always laughed.  We travelled the world, we helped, we got help, and we supported and received support.

It was a celebration of friendship.  Throughout our lives my Bert and I have been blessed with the most wonderful friends.  We are so grateful for that so decided we would do our best to have some of them share in our joy and to let them know how much they mean to us.  They were representative of so many more whose influence and guidance and love have helped to make us who we are.

It was a night of family and friends who are family in every sense of the word.  There were some we missed, but who were with us in spirit.  Our best man at our wedding could not be with us in person but he was with us in song as his recording of The Prayer was played.  At our age some who wanted to be with us could not for a variety of reasons but we still felt their love.

The highlights are many.  The wonderful paean from our dear friend; the tribute from our beloved son; the reading of Sonnet 44 Elizabeth Barrett Browning ‘s  How Do I Love Thee.

However, the greatest moment of sheer immediate and spontaneous laughter happened when we attempted to renew our vows.  Our family friend and Minister had in perspicacity and necessity reduced the vows to a simple: “…Bert I ask you, do you still want to be married to your wife Paula?”  Bert looked at him and said: “Let me think about that.”  The laughter filled the room.  I was in stitches as I thought: “That’s my Bert.”  As usual, my Bert set the mood for the rest of the night.  It was laughter, joy, Love and Light in the company of family and friends.

The Meander:  My Bert and I opened the dancing with ‘our song’ Unchained Melody.  As we danced, my Bert held me close and sang the words throughout to me.  In our eyes was only love. Love endures.

Resolutions

No doubt resolutions are being made left right and centre.  Resolutions are being broken even as I write.  Resolutions made at the stroke of midnight as 2019 dawned are already in the trashcan of what might have been.  I rarely make resolutions even though I see the New Year as an opportunity to begin anew, to look forward, even to dream and to plan.  However, to continue my ruminations on 2018 I have decided to take a leaf from Melinda Gates’ book and choose one word to guide me throughout this year.  It has been reported she does that and since I am not that enamoured by resolutions this seems a good alternative.  I have chosen ‘Light’ to be the word that will guide me throughout 2019. I have decided to walk in the light to see the light and whenever possible to be the light.  It sounds laudable but  I have to acknowledge that this may be the hardest objective I have ever set.  Yet at the same time I have some confidence that it is the one I may be able to attain.

So far keeping resolutions has not been my forte.  I am going to lose weight is a recurring theme which starts with gusto and swiftly ends with gusto – usually with the Valentine chocolates.  I am going to start and stick to an exercise regimen.  Yes!  Except that I have not decided which year this is to begin.  Since I make the resolution at midnight I should begin on New Year’s Day.  If I have stayed up until midnight I am too tired to start that day, and by January 2nd the enthusiasm has curbed to the point of lethargy and there is a book somewhere that is calling me.  How much more civilized to exercise in such a peaceful, restful, and for me the necessary occupation of reading a good book while swaddled in a soft throw and curled in my favourite chair.  The mind needs exercise too!

This year I am transitioning from the ridiculous to the sublime of resolution making.  No resolutions, just   a word and determination.  Walking in light, seeing the light, being the light is incredible conceit, a pipe dream, or maybe setting me up for failure.  Yet I think, even though it is only day five, that I will succeed better than I have ever done before. 

Living with a loved one with Alzheimer disease is living in darkness.  Caregivers know that because until this we have lived in light.  This is my first purposeful plan that is not me focused.  This is for my Bert.  My Bert needs light.  He needs to see the light outside, inside and see me as light.  His happiness is my light, my happiness is his light.  Caregivers live for two.  I want to shine a light for my Bert, for other caregivers and everyone I meet.  Still I am being selfish as I believe I will benefit the most if I succeed.

This is also the first plan that will perforce depend on outside help.  It is family, Lifeliners, friends, counsellors, my support system who will walk in the light with me, seek to see the light with me and encourage me in my efforts to be the light.  They know and they care.

The Meander:   “Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” — Helen Keller

This is from someone who knew the dark intimately.  I wonder how invincible I can be against Alzheimer disease.   Then again it is not a ‘difficulty’ it’s a disease. I do not have to be invincible.   Come walk in the light with me. 

Ruminations on a Year-2018

We look at the world; the world looks back at us.   Some call me brave.  Brave?  Far from it but I do accept responsibility.  They call us a loving couple and that we are.

“Oh, Bert looks so well, you would hardly know he has Alzheimer disease”.  If only they knew.  I choose to accept the compliment on behalf of both of us, after all carers get so little thanks, if any.

“How can you write so positively about your situation?”  I choose to do so.  No, I do not have a Pollyanna complex.  Rose coloured glasses obscure too much.   I have to see clearly not just for me but also for my Bert.  I hurt.    Of course I do.  However, I am grateful that I do see the glass half full and have been blessed by an offbeat sense of humour and with a partner who makes me laugh.

“You are a Saint.”  Hah!  Leave that sobriquet to Mother Teresa.  There are times when I must be more akin to the devil incarnate.  Have I experienced bitterness?  Yes, but as Norman Vincent Peale said: ”Change your thoughts and you change your world.”   Sure I will have negative thoughts; they come with the territory, but I hope they are not bitter.

In 2018, the learning curve reached a peak.  We sit on a plateau not knowing when the change will come.  Will it be again upward or will it be a downward helter-skelter tumbling into the abyss?   More than likely it will be a combination of upward learning as we tumble ever downward.  I choose to let the future be, holding on to the present and refusing to be weighed down by the past.  2018 taught us we can live, differently yes, but live nonetheless.  This is neither bravery nor sainthood, just accepting the things we cannot change.

In 2018 I learnt banging my head against the wall only results in a headache. Therefore I count to ten or maybe twenty or maybe…  I must be long past a million by now.

In 2018 I learnt that I am actually quite pragmatic as I know I have to acknowledge the darkness.  I have to grant how awful, how evil, how depressing this disease is.  Yet I must also look for the infinitesimal spark of light within that darkness.

2018 taught us to live by smalls, like small mercies, small moments, small comforts, and small miracles.  We learnt to wonder at the beauty of one song within the symphony, one iridescent droplet after the rain, one star within the constellation.  In a shrinking world our universe expanded.

In 2018 I would sometimes awaken with tears streaming and fall into a chicken and egg reverie.  Are these tears of joy for a rare good night’s sleep or is the sadness deep in my soul finding release?  I try to unravel the conundrum while in my suspended animation shifting between waking and sleeping I endeavour to decipher the meaning of the tears.

The yin and yang are played out in every way thinkable every day.  It seems that happiness and sadness are always holding hands, walking in tandem and interlaced with uncertainty.  What’s next is an ever present question and the answer is always we do not know.

The Meander:  As a new year dawns I promise myself that when I see myself sliding into the slough of despair I will ponder the imponderables:  How can there be darkness if we do not know light; how can we know good if there is no evil.  I can be joyful because I am intimate with sadness.

Holiday Wish

Early in the month I decided that I would not write about anything to do with dementia for this post.  Yuck!  What a downer.  So I got out the travel journals.  I read a particularly funny episode to my Bert.  He does not remember but it was good enough to elicit a response.  With a look of wonder he said; “We did that?” and declared that it was ‘good’.  I was still not inspired.

Then early this morning on my way to the kitchen to put the kettle on  I glanced at the dancing coloured lights on the balcony roof and stopped as my spirit lifted.   It was still dark out and the only light inside came from the Christmas tree and decorations.  Part of our Christmas decorating is a laser light placed on the balcony so that it covers the ceiling and one wall with dancing lights in ever changing combinations that appear to be moving, twinkling stars. 

“Bert, come here.  Come look at the lights on the roof.”  I pointed upward and my Bert laughed with delight.  His eyes opened wide with wonder.  As the shapes shifted, as clusters became individual little stars, as the green and blue, and red vied to outshine one another, Bert went right up close to the window and just laughed aloud again.  “They are really pretty”, he said.  I agreed and laughed along with him.

There was a knock.  Our helper was here to get my Bert ready for the day.  Reluctantly he turned and went to the bathroom. A memory inserted itself.  I remembered how my Bert would be ecstatic at the dawn of the Winter Solstice.  Every year he would rub his hands together and laughingly declare: “Hah, tomorrow we will have about two more minutes of daylight.”   It was never the longest night but the shortest day.  My Bert loves light and this holiday season.  He greeted the march to longer daylight with the exuberance of a child.

My holiday wish to you along with health, happiness, joy, love is that you will encounter many small miracles.  May sunshine light your path and happy moments be your constant companions throughout the coming year.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

The Meander:   Every night before bed my Bert laughs with the lights. He will do that tonight. Each time it is a new experience. That is good. This morning my Bert and I held hands and for just a brief moment in time we lived among stars. Worth repeating and we will.