Losing It – Or Not?

Losing It – Or Not?

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“How long are we supposed to keep the cards up?” Mary, my co-worker was confirming our plans as we worked on stocking some greeting cards.

“Until January 20th.”

“Until January?” The puzzled look on Mary’s face matched the confusion in her voice.

“No. No! July 20th. Not January. Don’t even ask me where that came from! We’re supposed to keep the Father’s Day cards up until then.”

“The Father’s Day cards?” Again, Mary has a look of utter confusion on her face.

“Ugh! No. Not Father’s Day cards. Graduation cards.”

Why did these wrong words keep rolling out of my mouth? It was starting to scare me. Now granted, we were both tired and had just finished a grueling holiday season that ran from Valentine’s Day, to Easter, to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Graduation. We’d had more hours than either of us liked for the past four months and we were exhausted.

But, still…

I’d love to pass it all off as exhaustion setting in and my numb brain was feeling the effects. But what made it scary for me is my family history of Alzheimer’s, or Dementia. I know that there’s a medical difference between the two. I tried to look it up one time. I remember that one is treatable and one is not. However I don’t think many people understand the differences between the two and both diagnoses are used interchangeably in society in general, along with our own personal family.

One or the other, whichever one it is, all I know is that three of my four grandparents suffered from it, along with Papa Goss, my great-grandfather – Grandma Jones’ dad.

I was around eight years old when Papa Goss died. A year or so earlier than that, he’d had to be put in a home, because his mental condition had deteriorated so badly. Being so young, I don’t remember the particulars. I only remember the joking about it, about ‘going to Norwalk’, which was synonymous for ‘going crazy’, or ‘losing it’, having to give live in ‘the looney bin.’ When I think of it now, it seems callous and cruel, yet I know that wasn’t the intent. A devastating situation had intruded upon the family, unasked. There were two ways to react – we cry or we laugh. The family chose laughter. That was our coping mechanism to deal with something that none of us would wish on another living person.

Years later I heard stories about Grandma Cline, in her last years. I heard about the time there were guests in the house and Grandma entered the room stark naked. Now this was Grandma Cline we’re talking about. The woman who never showed more neck or arm than she had to. The most modest woman I’ve ever known. If it were earlier years, she would have been one that wouldn’t have dared show an ankle in public.

It took Grandpa Cline years to catch up with her. He lived until age 97. Unfortunately, his mind slowed long before his body stopped. I remember visiting Uncle Arnold’s house one weekend in Arizona, when Grandpa Cline was there visiting from Indiana. As I left the table to use the restroom, I overheard Grandpa asking Aunt Phyllis, “Who is that woman?”

Aunt Phyllis answered, “Why, that’s Patsy.” I wasn’t crushed, because I understood that Grandpa’s mind hadn’t been his own for quite some time.

And then Grandma Jones began to follow in her father’s footsteps. We could tell when Grandma’s mind began to slip. Fortunately it wasn’t in drastic ways and she was still able to live alone, independently, until her last stroke a few weeks before her death at age 85. But we could see the progression worsening slowly.

So, yes, when I stand there and mix up my months, and several minutes later mix up a holiday event, I panic.

I can guarantee you, when I get emails from my all-time favorite doctor, Dr. Andrew Weil, whenever they mention Alzheimer’s or Dementia…I open those!

I want to live to an old age – 85 to 95 sounds just about right to me. But I want to do in a healthy body, with full mental capacity.

So when a wrong word slips out of my mouth and I throw my hand over it, just ignore me. I’m trying to embrace life, all sixty years of it, and I want to stay sharp as a tack for the next twenty or thirty years too. Even if I end up joking about it ‘losing it’…because that’s the Jones family way…we’ll laugh ourselves out of anything.

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Ladders and Changing Roles

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Ladders and Changing Roles

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A ladder played a minor part in a humorous realization yesterday. Although I’m sure that any customers in the store that saw me standing in the aisle laughing to myself thought I was one step away from the looney bin.

I was at one of my stores, the last one of the day. I’m a part time merchandiser for a greeting card company. I was at the drug store and needed to get a box of graduation cards to change out an area. I went back to the stockroom to get the box that I’d put up on a top shelf last week.

When I say top shelf, I mean high top shelf. If I stand there and raise my hand in the air, I’m still about four inches shy of reaching the shelf. If I stand on my tippey-toes I can barely touch the shelf. So why I stood there and raised up as high as I could and thought I could get the corner of that box, that was peeking over the edge, I don’t know. Obviously it was not going to work. I turned and scanned the area, looking for their ladder.

About ten feet away a girl was working in the aisle, filling a cart with products. She was young. I’d be surprised if she could legally buy alcohol, although sometimes looks are deceiving. But if she were in her twenties, it was barely inside of that decade. “Can I help you?” she asked.

I laughed and explained. “Oh, I just need a ladder. Some days I’m just not as tall as I think I am.”

“I’ll get it for you and pass it down.” She scooted around me, got the towering ladder from the far end, and proceeded to set it up and start climbing it.

I wanted to protest at that point. I appreciated her getting the ladder for me, but I knew I was capable of getting the box down myself. After all, I’d used the ladder to put it up there a week earlier. But I bit my tongue and let her help. Then I thanked her, put it on my cart and went out to start placing the cards.

As I stood in the aisle opening up packages I began laughing. Loudly. Somewhere along the line, there had been a role switch and I wasn’t aware of it until now. Now I was the ‘elderly’ lady getting help from a youngster.

Before I’d been the youngster helping out the elderly ones. When Chris, my youngest, was a toddler, I’d bake cookies and we’d take them to the nursing home one Friday a month. We had elderly neighbors, Genevieve and Elmer, who we came to love and helped as often as we could in a variety of ways. We adopted elderly woman at church and met them for lunch.

I was always the young one lending a hand to those older than me. Now I’m not. I’m on the receiving end of the kind deeds now. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. It was funny. There was also a twinge of angst as I thought of the cycle of life and how I’m on the other end now. But I also knew that I had to allow this young girl to be the giver of kindness. I want others to accept my helping hand, so I need to also allow the kindness to come in my direction. What goes around, comes around.

Once I was done laughing, I wandered off to find the manager and let him know how much I appreciated Victoria’s help and her giving spirit. After all, one day – way down the line – I may be standing in a store with my walker and may be needing help from a stranger to retrieve an item. In the meantime, I’ll keep helping when I can and I’ll learn to accept also. We’ll keep the kindness circulating – no matter where we are on the age spectrum.

Fighting in a Sari

April is the A to Z Blog Challenge. We’ll be posting to a different letter as we work our way through the alphabet. I’m posting snippets from a Work in Progress, Embracing 60, scheduled for release this June. Thanks for joining us! Come back tomorrow for thoughts on the joys, delights, and sometimes aggravations about reaching milestone birthdays!

Fighting in a Sari

Adorned in a sari and armed with a shield and sword, this 74-year old woman abolishes the notion that grandmas sit around in rocking chairs and knit socks. Meenakshi Raghavan Gurukkal is the oldest female practitioner of Kalaripayattu, an ancient Indian martial art form.

She first began practicing at the age of seven. Later marrying her guru, she was able to continue her training since the school was a family activity. After her husband’s death in 2009, she continued the school and has a full roster of 150 students. She performs at 60 different shows throughout the year in a magnificent performance of skill and agility.

There’s no rocking chairs in this woman’s future as she continues to be true to herself, and to be an inspiration to women everywhere to live life fully and embrace whatever age you are.

 

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