Archive for the ‘trust’ Category

It’s Valentine’s Day. Let’s be nice.

I love hearts and I love flowers
I love women with equal powers
I want people to live in kindness, to exist in harmony, not in blindness.

To celebrate a loving day is empty if you can’t display the goodness we are meant to show,
The acceptance of what we really know.
To offer words with candy and hearts doesn’t matter if you don’t offer smarts.

So all this thinking has gotten me down. I suddenly realize my smile is a frown. I feel so hopeless that our world is not well. I wish the politics would all go to hell. I swear to Heaven things ought to be better. It’s all up to us, not just this dumb letter.

Walking in shadow

Another  November 11.

It is a day we honor our veterans.

I revere this day. My flag is out early. Beautiful. As I am having coffee, I begin my calls. It does not take long. Many of my veteran relatives have passed. We are losing such an important generation.

My granddaddy served in WWI. He was always so proud of his service. He was a very soft-spoken man. I have his casket flag in a case, on my wall; with a commemorative, ‘plate’ that was evidently popular at the time.

My step-dad, James Wells, passed last year. He served in the Philippines. I had always called him to thank him for his service. He was always embarrassed that I would even mention it. His brother, my uncle also served. Horace Wells was a diver, tasked with finding explosives around our boats, ships, and subs. He passed away 2 months ago.

My father, Frank Conway served in Germany, in the occupation and in Korea when the war was hot. He was an aerial gunner for a time. They had a very short life expectancy. The Army sent him to OCS (officer’s candidate school) and his entire platoon shipped to Korea without him. Enemy forces killed the entire platoon the day they landed. He has never come to terms with that.

He is proud of his military service. His very large family also had veterans. They were all Navy. Dad went Army. His father missed the civil war by less than 10 years.

When I look at this history, I feel awe and pride.

My brother, Larry Conway served 2 terms in Viet Nam. He came home wounded. He is proud of his service, but he will never be the young man we said good-by to in Jacksonville when he was 19. Larry holds himself responsible for a young man who did not come home from an air mission. The 2 crew -members were shot down, KIA and Larry felt responsible. My opinion was that a wonderful angel pushed my brother out of the way. I am grateful. He is ashamed.

Our wounded are coming home in record numbers. Now they include more women than our system is accustomed to accommodating. With that in mind, I now take ‘women magazines’ to the VA centers. I take them books that I have enjoyed, gardening and fashion magazines, anything I think they might have been missing during the last year or two. It is no longer a man’s world. It is our world. Everyone’s’ world.

We owe honor to so many.

daring

It is a nasty time of year. The leaves have begun to fall. The pine needles need constant raking. The rain makes for muddy footprints in the house.

This nastiness has made me begin to think of my abuse.

As I recognize the need to forgive, but not forget, I finally have started to see the fear of the abuser.

He beat me to a pulp one day in New York. We had dated for about 2 years. He drank too much. I could see it coming. I told him I was getting concerned that he might hurt me. He was surprised and honestly stunned at the idea. He told me that he had a tendency to do things to hurt him, not others.

I remained wary.

We got up early one Sunday to go for brunch. He decided to have a drink. It was 8AM. I could not understand the need. That was a warning I allowed to sink into my brain. He wanted scotch before we went to breakfast. We had mimosas with our brunch. We were having fun, flirting. We were in a very nice, well-known NY restaurant.

I saw it happen. His face darkened. He was angry. He began to berate me, taunt me. I sat, still, afraid to move. Then he pushed away, forcing the table onto me, everything spilled onto my dress. He stood, glared, exited.

A man and woman at the next table looked at me. He asked if I was ok. I was dumbfounded. I was in shock. I was disbelieving. I was frightened. I was humiliated. Yet, I assured him I was fine. I got a cab.

I had to return to our apartment. All of my clothes were there, my airline tickets, belongings, money, and ID. When I returned, he was asleep (passed out) and I began quietly packing. I think it was the click of my suitcase lock. He was on me immediately. He screamed, furious that I was packing, calling me names, and hitting me. I fell; I tried to shield myself, without success as he continually hit and pushed and threw me. Finally, I hit him. I hit him in self-defense, almost afraid to hit because as a woman, no one had trained me to hit. I do not even know where my ‘punch’ landed. I only know what happened next. “You hit me!” “How DARE YOU!” he screamed. Then, the beating took on a new urgency. He threw me onto the floor, began to kick, throw things onto me, and kept screaming at me, calling me names. Somehow, I got to my feet, and hit the intercom button on the wall. I screamed and screamed. In minutes, someone was at the door. I got to the door ahead of him. When I opened it, a neighbor and the security guard were standing there. I said, “He is hitting me.” they were speechless. He was a beloved neighbor. A young, upwardly mobile man beautifully dressed, polite. Angry. The woman came into the apartment while I picked up the rest of my belongings. She saw that he had ripped my clothing from me. He had even torn my leather belt in half. I was dressed again, but disheveled and able to leave. Oddly, he was in the shower. She never saw him.

As I think about that time in my life, I have realized how much he resented what I was seeing. “You hit me” “how dare you.” it makes sense to me now. His weakness was an affront. How DARE I see that side of him? How dare I become someone to see the real man? How dare me. It let him know what a little person he was. He was 6’3 and yet smaller than my 5’7 frame. How dare I show him to be so small?

I learned that once a person hits, it will come again. You need out. You cannot trust yourself or that ‘hitting person’. Make plans. Leave.

I saw him once after that. We met in a public place, allowing him to try to convince me it was all ok. It was early on a Sunday morning. I could smell the alcohol.

You can still have fun in life. You just cannot have it there.

You must not dare.

I need security

What am I missing?

I worked from the age of 16. I paid taxes, paid into social security. I gained skills, increased my income, continued to follow the rules, paying into a program that we have been warned will soon collapse.

I have seen people ‘game’ the system. I see people paid to do nothing. I see people using social security as their ‘fun money’ because they really do not need it. I see very wealthy people, still taking social security as it becomes due because they are due. I see elected officials make laws about our social security that cannot touch them. They pass laws; they do not abide by the same laws as those of us who put them into the position to represent our rights.

Today I learned that I cannot claim disability. I have a brain injury. I have 3 broken places in my back. I have a broken knee, wrist, thumb, and finger. I jammed a leg evacuating an airplane in the 70’s. That leg has caused me problems with my foot, ankle, knee, and hip. I have a broken pelvic bone.

In spite of this, I continued onward. It wasn’t hard. I was young. As I reached my 60’s it became harder. However, I was lucky. I married the man of my dreams. We agreed that I would sell my holdings, pay his debts and we would live on his earnings, which I knew would increase. I had faith and confidence in him.

Now we are divorcing.

Because I stopped working full time, stopped paying individually into the ‘system’, I no longer exist on the social security rolls. I was still working. I was cooking, cleaning, dealing with the kids, shopping, entertaining for his business connections, and keeping everything and everyone organized. In short: I was a stay at home wife. In 2010, that still means I did not work. In 2000, that still meant I did not work. Why? Every time a television program shows a man taking over the job of his wife, for just a few days, he changes forever. He is apologetic, he is apoplectic, and he is ashamed. It is WORK.

I used to say I would love to have a wife. I would love to have someone who would take care of all of the mundane chores, the errands, the cooking, the cleaning, and the crap. Everything I did not want to do would be ‘done’. Yes, a wife would be wonderful.

When I became ‘that’, I balked. It was a very difficult transition. I felt like someone had stamped ‘stupid’ on my forehead. I got little respect and began accepting that as the stupidity of the masses. I was the very same woman who had run a successful business, who kept her own home, who hired, fired, kept payroll and ran accounts. Suddenly, I was just ‘his wife’.

It took me almost a full year to come to terms with being ‘only that’. When I finally did, I began to recognize this was what so many women before me had done and I was lucky someone was willing to let me take care of everything else while he earned the most money. Heaven knows, I could not have earned as much.

Because of that, my social security stopped. Dead. Stopped. And because of that, in spite of the hundreds of thousands of dollars I paid into my account, I cannot use that money now. And now I really need it. I desperately need it. I cannot do what I did before. I cannot process my computer programs any more. I cannot count on getting up in the morning because of the headache that will not let me sleep until 3 or 4 in the morning, night after night. I cannot say I am capable of driving daily without causing harm to someone because my brain just does not understand anymore what I am supposed to do. I choose to stay put, keeping the city safe by my staying off the streets, away from that huge machine that I can still steer, but not necessarily remember the rules that govern.

I cannot be dependable. If I could, I would still run my business. If I were dependable, I would manage to vacuum my house constantly as I used to. If I could, I would not run out of so many things before I realized I needed more. If I could, if I could, if I could. I cannot.

And no help. Nothing. I am too young to draw my social security and I do not have the required credits to draw my disability because our income was lumped together and FICA paid out of the whole. Huge lesson. No wonder people complain about marriage taxes. I had no clue. I merged everything. I have nothing. I paid lots to the system to take care of myself in old age. Well, old age has arrived and it looks grim. Another old lady without income.

Let’s Pretend

Someone very important in my life is pretending. It disturbs me. That makes me question why:  not why she is pretending, but why do I let it disturb me?

She lost her husband, the love of her life. Now, she has taken up a sort of ‘cause’ to collaborate with another man, because he reminds her of her husband. The new guy is driving the family nuts. They cannot stand him. She cannot explain the attraction. I suspected. I asked. She said that sometimes she even calls him by her husband’s name, and then realizes what she has done. Fortunately, the man is so hard of hearing, he does not even know. She is paying many of his bills.

Another family member is keeping her doggy long past time. It is painful to see. The dog is not allowed outside. Ever. Will never again be allowed outside. The dog does all of its ‘business’ in the house, which is causing issues you can imagine. The dog can never be around any other dog due to an autoimmune disorder. The dog has such a small life. My family thinks it is better than putting the dog to sleep. They are continuing to search for ways to lessen the pain, to ease the suffering. My heart is breaking for the dog. My heart hurts for my family member. Prolonging the agony. I see no winner here.

Someone who used to be in my life is a chronic liar. It seems impossible to stop. Oddly, this person has high moral standards where others are concerned. He has shed people who lied. He has refused relationships with people doing exactly as he does. He pretends to be the man he wants to be. He pretends he is honorable. He pretends to be truthful. At the mere mention of a lie, he reacts negatively. He pretends.

Another person, very close to me is pretending his mom is doing well. She is not. She cannot hear, but neither he nor she will acknowledge that. She cannot remember but makes up reasons and blames others. She has begun hoarding things and creating reasons to do that. She is not well. He pretends she is.

I pretend all is well. I am out of money. I am frantic to pay my bills and find a place I can afford to live. I pretend to others that I know I will be fine. I will leave a life of luxury to live in a mobile home. My best friend reminds me that it will be the cutest mobile home anyone has ever seen. I pretend that is true. I pretend the place I park my new little trailer will be great. I pretend.

A neighbor of mine is battling for her child who is on drugs. My neighbor is a recovering alcoholic. Her husband pretends the daughter is fine. My neighbor sees the truth and cannot pretend. The daughter pretends she is clean every time she comes home to get some rest and money. Then, she leaves, buys more drugs, and pretends until she needs help again.

My parents pretend they are going to downsize. They live in an over-crowded home that they cannot maintain, in spite of the elevator they installed. They live in 3 rooms of a large home. They cannot manage much of anything but pretend they do. They pretend they will move to a smaller home and give in to age. They have pretended this for almost 15 years, when they began to look for homes in their area, slightly smaller. Now, in their 80’s, they pretend they will actually move to a 2 or 3 bedroom place, get rid of at least one car, since neither should drive anymore, and they will be fine. Neither of them is fine. They are elderly and have a list of ailments that would frighten anyone in their 40’s. Nevertheless, they pretend.

I used to pretend that love would solve anything. I pretended that one day someone would ‘complete me’. I used to pretend that my life would be different. I pretended that true love would make everything else work. I pretended that having someone to share my life with was important. That being alone was somehow sad.

When my friend lies, I pretend to believe. When my parents contemplate their move, I pretend to listen to new plans. When my neighbor says his daughter has finally learned, I pretend to congratulate. When my relative pretends her husband is still beside her, I pretend to understand. When someone tells me of love, I pretend to bask in his or her glow.

I remember how I would pretend as a child. I would pretend I was a doctor, or a nurse, or a pilot or a mother. I would pretend my future, always rosy, never difficult. I would pretend I would be popular, famous, smart, or beautiful.

When things go awry, don’t most of us pretend they will improve? I think improvement is really acceptance. At first, we cannot envision accepting the difficulty we face. Then, we grow accustomed to what life will be. Then, we recognize it did not kill us. It did not end so many things. We just learned to get along.

I guess I never stopped. I just pretend.

friends

I’ve been thinking about my friends. Learning who your friends are is important. Your friends are people you can reach for when you need to lean. I recognize how fortunate I am to count so many.

I have many friends from my airline days. These men and women have been physically absent from my life for decades. If I need any one of them, they will  immediately respond. That is friendship. I just got a phone message from one. She lives in Atlanta. We haven’t seen each other in 25 years but stay in constant contact. Her husband had an affair. Then her next husband did the same. She is living on social security, close to the bone, after marrying with houses and investments. She is now bereft emotionally and financially. She is a wonderful friend to me. We have the same pain. However, we had such fun and wonderful memories. We laugh. Everyone needs to laugh. It reminds us to live and enjoy life. We are fortunate. Sometimes we just need to remember.

I have friends from so many neighborhoods where I had homes. Manhattan, Orlando, Miami, Boulder, Colorado Springs, St. Croix, Gainesville, Salem, Spokane, Nuremburg, Munich, Frankfort, Oberammergau, Ft Knox, Redstone Arsenal, and others that I can only remember vaguely. Incredibly, I still am in touch with friends from almost all of those locations.

Now I have many friends I have never met. They are all on Facebook. According to my profile, I have 176 of them. Amazing. These men and women know of my impending divorce, know I have a cat and recently lost one, know I live in Washington and know I love to write. They know I flew, they know I care. They are my friends.

If these friends were around me on a daily basis, I wonder how much they would still want to be my friend. Am I whiny, controlling, difficult, dumb, or boring? Who knows? The beauty of this group of friends is the instant connection we all know. If I need help, look to Facebook. My friends there will immediately rally. I have seen them come together as a force whenever needed.

I have a wonderful friend nearby. We never see each other. We plan, we swear, we promise, we mean well. It simply does not happen. Like me, she is recovering from an ‘indiscretion’ from her husband, the love of her life. As he has moved on with his mistress, she has had to pick up the pieces of their lives, sell their home, and find a new place to re-start, saying goodbye to so many memories and so much pain. We ‘get’ each other completely. She is about 1 year farther down my road. It helps me to see that. I remember when I learned of her pain. Now I recognize I was not supportive enough. We all just go through the motions of help and support. We do not necessarily tie that to our hearts when we should, as friends. My lesson came later. Gratefully, she has continued to be my friend in spite of my lapse.

This is friendship. We ebb and flow. We understand and forgive. On a daily basis, it might not work so well.

As we each move through our lives, some friends come and some simply stay forever. I am blessed with both. You need some of them for a bit of time. That time finally passes and the friend needs to pass with it. They did their job. You did yours. Time to move. Time to change.

A friend just called. Incredible. We have not spoken in so long. She just asked me to come for the weekend. I am going. What could be better than a weekend with one of your dearest friends?

We have so many and they are so willing to help.

can you change the ending?

A friend of mine is not in great health; his time is short.

I have lost so many people in my life and my family. You begin something of a routine. It becomes necessary to continue in your daily life while you monitor the person who is leaving theirs. Routines help us cope. Knowing the ending is difficult but you still must keep moving forward, toward that difficulty.

It’s almost like a movie you love, but cry when you watch. You enjoy the good parts yet you know the worst is to come and regardless of many repeats, you will still cry. You love that movie.

Family and friends gather in a hospital. It is a kindness for them to come to a grim place like this. They want to pay their respects to the family and the friend. It is true respect. That respect carries through a funeral service. You do not attend a funeral for the person who is gone. You attend for the family to see how valued their beloved member was in life. It is respect.

When my mom passed away, I was determined to have a gathering of the fun and joy she created. Several people were kind enough to relate their stories of time spent with her, laughing or being amazed. Everyone in the chapel laughed, even though many of us had to give into our tears. My mom was always laughing. We said good-by in style and I know she enjoyed watching.

Because of my mom’s service, I do my best to attend those for my friends. I go because the family deserves to feel their loved one touched many lives. Respect.

I was talking to a friend today about respect. Specifically we were sharing the importance of being certain our next generation of women learns respect. So many lives change due to a lack of respect. Naturally, you cannot respect others until you respect yourself. Young women are especially in need. Our society still operates on ages-old routines. Many continue to make young girls obsolete in favor of young boys. Women will always be necessary because we give birth. However, young girls have consistently been pushed to the back. If these young girls do not learn their importance while they are children, they will have a more difficult time standing firmly for themselves as adults.

Our school systems believed that young women could not really grasp math and science. Astonishing. My father did not think a girl needed college. He pushed my 3 brothers to attend, even though none of them did well in high school. For me, it was not an option. He decided I would just find a husband. This idea is still alive and well in many families even though women are now more than half of the workforce.

Once a young woman values herself, she begins to expect equality in her life. Men do it so easily but women have to be taught by parents, teachers, and relatives. We need to change this. Once done, I believe many teen pregnancies will be avoided. When a young girl realizes she has more in life than to ‘catch a boy’, her options open fully. Once open, they rarely close. This has nothing to do with being pushy. It has everything to do with pushing yourself. Respect.

Being strong and respecting yourself means there is no sign of weakness to tears. Crying when your soul aches is a sign of love felt. You can only be as happy as you have allowed yourself to be sad. The valleys and peaks must balance. That is respect you owe yourself in life.

I wish for women. I hope for humanity. I pray for leaders who will make rules. I do not know how this will end. Movies and books cannot tell me. I have to play it out to the end. Nothing can foretell this.

How much do I wish I really knew? I wish I knew. Sometimes knowing the end isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Can I help?

The winter Olympics made me sick. I remember vividly that they made me sick last time. I can watch the summer Olympics but the winter Olympics just make me sick. Maybe I make myself sick.

I lean, move, and try to jump. I am helping. I am doing my very best to help them bobsled, short-track, race, do moguls. I cannot help myself. I have tried not to lean and move to no avail. Then, I get sick.

I recognize it is a mind/brain issue. I know my eyes have something to do with it too but I get so sick trying to lean into the necessities. Boy it makes me sick. I talked to my brother about it. Turns out he is doing the same thing. Made me wonder how many people in the world are leaning, trying to help, leaning without meaning to help. We just cannot stop leaning, helping. However, for me: it makes me sick. I get nauseous. This time was bad. I’m wondering if it’s my brain injury. It really doesn’t matter. I just know that I get sick to my stomach now. Consequently, I had to stop the program repeatedly, giving myself time to recover. I really did get sick.

My dad’s brain is not working too well all of a sudden. He has no injury. Yet, many people are older and they function fine. He does not. He has good days and he has horrible days. His brain is not working well.

My brother is somewhat ill. Cancer keeps stabbing at his body. He continues to fight it off. He is not as he was, but who of us is? I want to help. I need to help.

One of my dearest friends will not eat. She has been too thin for years and refuses to recognize it. Many of us are not doing as well as we had imagined we would at our respective ages. Illnesses and such were for the old.

We watch these incredible athletes every four years. We remember when we used to ski, to skate, to dare. It’s wonderful. Nevertheless, it really makes me sick. I just cannot continue helping them. I try not to lean. It does not work.

Where I live, my birds have begun to return. I have a wildlife habitat in my back yard and the birdhouses are already filling. It seems early but I am not in charge of the schedule. I had a large hawk here yesterday, hunting. Anytime I walk up on that huge bird, we are both startled. It flies, I watch in awe. Such grace and such deadly ability to take out little animals I am helping hatch.

One of the birds makes a sloppy mess of the birdhouse. I believe this is a Hammond’s Fly Catcher. The nest sticks and straw protrude from the opening in the birdhouse. The first year they were with me, I noticed the ‘mess’ and pulled those strands out, making the opening more tidy. It was only for me. I did not give a thought to the bird. I did not want it to look unkempt. The next morning, the sticks and straw were again sticking out of the opening. I got the point. A friend of mine mentioned the very same thing in one of her houses. We both realized that this is a trait and we need to stay out of the nesting ritual. I know the birds are back because suddenly I have sticks and straw making obvious notice in the birdhouse. I walk past, refusing to touch anything. I barely glance.

They don’t need my help. Neither do those golden athletes. Sometimes I have to sit on myself to leave things alone. This is not my job, is not my business, and is not my niche.

A friend of mine cannot let her garden be natural. Anyone who knows me, realizes I am a fan of cottage gardening. My flowers and grasses are sprouting hither and yon. I love the carefree idea. She cannot live with that. She could not let foliage die. She had to cut it so it would look better. Cutting tulip leaves and daffodil leaves will cause less growth for the next season. Soon she had no flowers. Remember that ad: “don’t fool with mother nature”? It’s true. We need to learn to leave things alone. Sometimes that is too much for many of us.

So, as my dad’s brain continues to misfire and my brother has his battles, the birds and the deer and everything wild will do pretty well. They don’t concern themselves with much of anything except survival. They will eat as needed to fuel themselves. In their world, you are not too fat. You just ARE.

In the world of flowers and grasses, they will overgrow and the weaker will not. In my world of the Olympics, the summer is good; the winter is difficult. I still try to help.

It makes me sick.

here’s to good health!

Don’t you hate it when your child is sick? They whine and complain, they ‘hurt’ but cannot explain exactly where or how, they cry, wanting more ‘mom’ time but refuse to do as you plead with them to do. They cannot understand the meds they dislike. They don’t want to be ordered about. They are not quite honest about what is at stake and how they really are dealing with the day-to-day.

You want to scream. You want to run away. You want them to grow up or let you parent. Either side would work better than what you have in the here and now.

I just visited such a household. It was difficult. Who raised this jerk? I’m sorry. I know he cannot help it. I know his mom is almost ashamed, as is the sister who had to take on the task of raising this child. However, if he will not admit something is wrong when the TV show comes on, he should not be allowed to suddenly be at death’s door when it’s time to help with the dishes or the laundry. You cannot have it both ways. Neither can a sick kid, but that’s just my opinion.

What I know is I spent a horribly frustrating time with family, some overindulgent and some just plain angry and frustrated with the attention needed by one member being under the weather. What is the solution?

The obvious one is that you wait until the illness is past. That always helps. Everyone can relax. But, what if your child is brain-injured? That child will never really ‘recover’ from this illness. Those parents don’t get the opportunity to ‘wait it out’. They live this 24×7, and have no outlet unless they are fortunate enough to have a huge support group. A huge support group. Huge.

I am seeing commercials about health care. Morgan Freeman is a spokesperson for ‘something’. I get the message. We need to help each other more often than we do. I understand that volunteers are needed. I know we should be doing more for our own. What I do not have the answer to is: how?

How does the normal family get the much-needed help when someone in their household is not going to improve but takes a majority of your time and energy? We are all so busy now. We have so many needs to fulfill.

I came home a crying fool. Afraid I had not done enough for my family unit. Sleep-deprived, angry, upset, scared. What I left behind is the mom who still has to deal with this while I fly away. I did laundry, cooked meals, cleaned the house, made beds, pushed meds on a kid who refused to take them, ran errands, and did medical appointments so that she could finally get a break. It completely wore me out. I am spent. Finally, home, I have no energy left. I have a full week ahead of me and don’t know how I’ll manage it. Tomorrow she starts with more doctor appointments, meal prep, housework, and laundry. Taking the medicine we need is not easy. He needs medicine. She needs rest, medicine, and they both refuse it because they are not capable. He needs to be fed and clothed, not simple. He wants things his way; she wants him to wear his underwear UNDER his clothes, not on top. She wants him to eat and is exhausted with the work that entails. He will not drink his juice, wants specific foods and because he is not well, she wants to provide but is close to illness herself as a result.

When I left, we all cried. I promised to come back soon. I always make that fruitless promise. I cannot afford to keep flying there but these people are so important to me. My family is so scattered. Travel is expensive and of course. I have to pay someone to care for my pet, my home, my routine, in my absence. Money. Medical. Misery. What in the world is happening in our lives? Who should be taking care of this, of us, of lives in illness when something has prevented us from having family members to do it? Moreover, with those family members, where do you draw the line? They cannot do everything. We cannot expect anyone to do anything. What is the solution?

Forgive my soapbox here, but why is our country continually working on a new health care program instead of making the program that our elected officials have, the national norm? Shouldn’t everyone have the same option at the same price? It certainly makes sense to me.

So, my stepmother will continue. I know she is exhausted. And the recalcitrant sick boy is my father. How does something like this happen? Until we find solutions for our family members whose mind has eroded, we are all sick.

what are you thinking?

I live in Spokane, WA. The US Figure Skating Championships are here, and I am normally in a front row seat. I have followed skating avidly since the mid 80’s. Fortunately, for me, attending championship contests have been constant. If I were not able to be in a great seat, I would watch it on TV, never missing a second.

Last night a very nice friend of mine took me as her guest to the championships. It was wonderful to see again.

However, what I actually experienced was not what I was accustomed to seeing.

I’ve mentioned before that I suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) a couple of years ago. It really has changed my life, my outlook, and my future. Last night I recognized it has also changed my past.

My mom had Alzheimer’s. Horrible disease. She lived in Fla and I lived in Colorado, then Oregon, now Washington. Farther and farther away from her, needing to be with her, hating to see what she was.

I made a decision about my visits with mom: I would meet her wherever she was. Toward the end, she had no clue who I was. I would watch her before I approached, to get a feel for how she ‘was’ at that moment in time. she would look at me, blankly, smile, and ask how I was. that’s mom. the more ill she became the more she morphed back into her ‘hostess’ mode of making others comfortable. because she did this so well, most people had absolutely no clue she was so ill. she managed to fool people for almost 5 years, with this disease eating away at her memories, her being. Now, visiting her in the lock-down ward was always unsettling. I wanted to scream, I’m ALEXA!! I’m your DAUGHTER!!. that would have done no good. she simply did not know me anymore. so, I decided to try to get her to like me, every time I visited with her. she had always helped everyone, everywhere. huge volunteer, all of her life. I decided that whenever I ‘met’ her, I would try to get her to enjoy my company. for an Alzheimer’s patient, that is no small feat. they are angry, frustrated, isolated, and tired of being bossed around. they have no clue who anyone is and they want ‘out’. I would go to her, smile, call her by her name, and beam at her, “HI”. she always responded favorably.

Sometimes, rarely, she would chat, laugh, and almost manage conversation. Alzheimer’s robs people of their ability to use their words. I learned to listen to her cadence and her tone. Amazingly, I usually could converse with her, on her terms. All I wanted was for her to like me. just for that ‘time’.

A brain, robbed of its use is not pretty. People do not act the way we expect them to or the way we are accustomed to them acting. When I injured my brain, my husband had his hands full. I had outbursts, my language went to the gutter, I was angry, crying, unable to do things and unable to figure out why. The doctors had warned us several times but until you live it, you really don’t ‘get it’. When I was going through this with my mom, I was still intact (almost brilliant, or at least really smart, IMHO). I just wanted her to like me. I loved her enough for both of us. I wanted her to like my company. So, we would chat. Sometimes we would hold hands. She had no idea who I was. I was careful not to intrude. I just wanted to be with my mom, or whoever she was at that time.

Sometimes I would visit her and it would go really well. So, I would stay longer than normal. Those rare times were golden and I didn’t want to miss a second of them. We would talk and laugh, her conversations would make little sense, But she liked me. She was happy in my company and I was thrilled to almost see a piece of her, coming through. If anything or anyone interrupted her, she was lost again. Sitting with a stranger. I would start from the beginning. again.

Brains are pretty interesting. she was ‘there’ in pieces. The pieces weren’t necessarily the good ones. My brain was here but not functioning very well. As a result, I was difficult and unable to care for myself.

Now I have the after-effects. my marriage is in shambles, over essentially. My brain has returned as much as it will manage we believe. If I am tired, I cannot form sentences. My spelling ability has completely vanished. I was an English whiz, math whiz, science whiz. Now, I cannot multiply. Sometimes I cannot add, no matter how hard I try. I spoke 4 languages, I seriously struggle with my English today. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles. I’m mobile, I can drive and run errands and cook and garden. I am just a bit more diminished. That’s life.

Last night I realized I don’t know a damned thing about skating. That was astonishing. My friend had gone with me as my guest years before. she evidently relied on my knowledge to help her understand the competition. It made me remember the first month I was here in Spokane, the championships were here (Skate America, I think) and I took my very best friend to every event all week. She was an athlete but knew absolutely nothing about this sport. So, I explained to keep her appraised. Last night, I could not answer the most basic questions. that was stunning to me. I simply don’t know anything much about this sport I have spent thousands of dollars on for 25 years or so. I’m a newbie.

So, just like my visits with my mom, I decided to just be ‘there’. I decided I don’t need to be in charge, don’t need to know the answers, don’t even need to know the questions. I could just be there, with my dear friend, watching a program of great challenge and superior athletes. I had been here the month I moved to Spokane, and now, 8 years later, as I am making my plans to depart, I was here again, but a different person, in every way.

And it was OK.