Archive for the ‘magic’ Category

Lightening Flashes Over the East Bay Hills

It’s unusual to have thunder roll over the East Bay hills from across the choppy waters of San Francisco’s bay, but it did the other night, and when the lightning flashed did Ken notice his darkened room glow for a brief moment? Did he hear the soft rumble as the storm moved on? Did he wonder what it was? Was he frightened? Lost in his dungeon of disease does he understand rain, or is it just wet? Are the elements nothing to him? He knows cold and seeks out warmth from the furnace to escape from the discomfort of feeling cold, but cold and warmth make no noise, and rain is only a whisper.

Ken doesn’t like loud noises. If I make too much clatter with pots and pans while cooking, he calls out asking, “What’s going on?” What’s all that noise? A door slamming, the shattering of a breaking dish causes him instant anger. I’ve wondered if it’s the suddenness that startles him. Perhaps it’s his inability to identify the noise that causes him grief, and thunder coming from nowhere might add another dimension of mystery to his already confused mind.

When he was well Ken would wake me — if the thunder didn’t. “Listen to that,” he would whisper, nudging me until I acknowledged him. “That’s thunder! Did you hear the thunder?” “I do now,” I replied, eyes wide open. The window shades were up in the bedroom so we could just lie there in the comfort of our pillows and blankets watching the sky flash and hear the thunder clap. Listening to the rain on the roof we knew the storm was passing as the sounds diminished and sleep retuned.

Perhaps, it was because we don’t live in mountain country that we have always found the occasional production of electricity by Mother Nature in our geographical area to be so incredibly fascinating, but we did.

Remembering one year when we took our boys backpacking in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, we noticed the quickly gathering clouds and decided it was time to pitch our tents because rain was inevitable. Good thing they were the fast, pop-up tents as we barely got inside with our gear before the downpour began. It was late afternoon so we didn’t always see the lightning, but the thunder was the kind where you wanted to pull your head in, zip up the sleeping bag and repent for surely the wrath of God was at hand. Great deep rumblings and cracking sounds filled the forests around us and the grassy meadow bowed before the driving rain — and then it was over. Summer mountain storms are like that; quickly gathered, quickly gone.

Captivated, we all watched the grand finale through the flaps of our tents, our boys just a stone’s throw away. Wind pushed away the clouds allowing light to fall against the last rain showers and flood the meadow with sunshine so brilliant we squinted to see a rainbow arching across the dazzling-blue sky. Our show continued as billowing clouds edged in gray circled the horizon – a canvas yet to be painted. Director Sun was not finished, but had to move quickly – his light was fading. With a wizard’s brush and pallet he continued splashing shades of pastels against the patchwork vapors of white: orange, yellow, apricot, pink, blue and lavender – hues and tints constantly changing, dimming as the day ebbed and dusk settled ending nature’s remarkable display of talent. The tent critics’ review: Bravo! Outstanding! Extraordinary! Stunning! Magnificent!

Life with Ken has always been an adventure. Even now as we sally forth into the fog of AD, it is still an adventure – not one either of us would have chosen, much less sally forth into – but nonetheless an adventure. If he had reason, if he had knowledge – a memory – we could have shared the recent rain storm and thunder – a privilege not granted. However, in the future when I hear its distant growl, and the rain begins to fall I will be glad, being more grateful, for the good times we have enjoyed.

Someday — somewhere — in our eternal journey, we will meet again, and he can tell me how much he has missed the rain, the lightning, the thunder, and me. And then we will once again sally forth — happily — into our life-after-life adventure.

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For Charlie Brown’s group happiness is a warm puppy.  For most kids it’s Santa Claus in the mall, Christmas morning and a new bike.  For lovers it’s their next meeting; a bride and groom their wedding day; students – graduation; for the unemployed it’s finding a job, and to a billionaire watching his stocks double is cause to gleefully celebrate.  For a young couple happiness comes with a new baby, and baby’s first smile brings immeasurable joy to its mother.   Happiness can be as constant as the surf splashing against the sand, elusive as shadows on a moonless night, and as fragile as a dandelion puff.  Happiness is many things to many people, but for me happiness is a choice.

I used to be a pouter.  Not recently, but when I was a young teen I somehow came to the belief that if I looked sad there would be a vast number of boys and girls who would want to be my friend if only to cheer me.  Illogical conclusion: sad had more appeal than happy. 

Our group of girls often went to local teen dances on Friday and Saturday nights.  The adorable bouncy girls with smiling faces were soon asked to dance while I sat against the wall, arms folded across my chest looking glum, hoping a cute guy, or not so cute, would take pity and ask me to dance.  I was the absolute archetype of a wall flower, and I didn’t know why, nor did any of my friends tell me to put a smile on my face and look happy.  Maybe my girl friends didn’t see me as a sad-looking dance dunce, but I was and I didn’t like it

Eventually I figured it all out.  It was more of a growing process, a maturing process when realization cleared the mystery concerning adorable girls.  It wasn’t about adorable, but more about bouncy and smiling faces.  My friends looked happy and I didn’t.  No one, even the kindest of cute guys, or not so cute, wanted to be stuck for any amount of time with Saddie Sad Sack.  So it was that I began my long journey in choosing to be happy.  Happiness didn’t come from without, it came from within.

Happy is an easy choice when the fates smile, when Mr. Right comes along, when babies arrive in addition to promotions and salary increases, when a new house is acquired and the lawn gets cut.   Just as in the story books:  “And they lived happily ever after.”

Time for a reality check:  Snow White’s babies had colic and threw up all over her favorite dress (actually her only dress), Cinderella’s prince was a lazy oaf who expected her to run the entire kingdom by herself, and Beauty’s beast, after all was said and done, turned out to be a grumbling turkey still decked out in the clothing and skin of a handsome fairy-tale prince. 

In spite of it all Snow, Cinder and Beau decided to work through life’s problems with their men, Charming, Charming and Charming, seeking help if needed setting happiness, once again, as their goal.   The babies grew into delightful children; the lazy oaf, threatened by Cinder’s Fairy Godmother who arrived with a pumpkin and a bunch of rats, fully accepted his responsibilities.  Under the prince’s guidance the kingdom flourished even without the touch of Godmother’s magic wand.  The doctor assigned to our snarling, growling beast removed several irritating rose thorns from Charming’s bottomside, which had been hidden under his very tight tights, returning him immediately to the prince of Beauty’s dreams.   

Life does ebb and flow.  While we would all like to remain in the flow, it just doesn’t work that way.  Adversity is a part of everyone’s life no matter what their rank or station.

If we are smart, during the good times when choosing to be happy is easy, we need to recognize our bounty of blessings and place them in a memory bank for future reference.  It’s during the ebb, the tough times, getting caught in the under current of misery when it’s difficult to say, “I’m happy.”  Yes, life can be miserable, and at times we all walk through the Valley of Doom and Gloom.  Interesting place to visit, but we wouldn’t want to live there.  Remaining in misery unless there is a clinical problem is also a choice.

It is not my intention to be a Pollyanna, constantly in denial, never acknowledging that things may go wrong, did go wrong, are wrong, or that life can become an overwhelming challenge, or that life is, at times, the absolute pits.  However, it is my intention to advise all the Snow Whites,  Cinderells,  Beautys, and their Prince Charmings to recognize that life does have a mean left hook and when you get whacked it’s best to meet it head on.  Dodging, denying, and hiding under the covers won’t make adversity go away.

When Ken was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it was a tragic blow even though we were not surprised.  Knowing it was deeply entrenched in the family we had  thought we could somehow sidestep it if he ate right, exercised, and continued to live a clean, wholesome life.  We were wrong.  “Your husband has Alzheimer’s.”  That’s what the doctor said and that’s how he said it.

Did we go home happy, smiling, clicking our heels about his disease?  Of course not!  No matter how well prepared we were, the news was devastating.  We were sad.  We cried and finally we accepted the diagnosis, and then we took a road trip, planning to squeeze everything we could into a limited amount of time before the disease robbed Ken of his ability to be Ken.

I have long understood about the link between acceptance and happy before I listened to Michael J. Fox as he was interviewed for his book, “Adventures Of An Incurable Optimist – Always Looking Up,” but it was good to hear him verbalize what he too had discovered.  It was accepting his disease that finally brought him to happiness after making peace with Parkinson’s and then moving forward with his life.  Fox also emphasized how awful it would be to live in despair, but on the plus side mentioned how this adversity had led to so many amazing people and places.  I couldn’t agree more for I too have rediscovered the goodness, compassion, love and concern which is found in good people everywhere.

So I choose to be happy.  I answer the phone with a cheerful voice and keep the “Woe is me” off limits. Do I have sad times?  Do I cry?  Certainly, but I don’t remain in the negative because I choose to be happy.  There is not room for both.  My new answer to, “How are things going?” is “Smoothly.”  My grandson, Brain, tells me a better word is “Swimmingly,” whatever that means.  But then again “Swimmingly” might be a good response if it means going against the current and making it?  Perhaps I will change “Smoothly” to “Swimmingly.” 

Looking way down from where I perch in the sunlight I see the dark pit of despair, but using my right to choose I choose to not go there.  Being happy while coping with any of the Devil’s diseases is something one must choose to be on a daily basis.  That’s why each and every morning I remind myself, “Today, I choose to be happy.”

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