Archive for the ‘Moral stories’ Category

I grew up hearing the phrase, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.”  I saw that emotion — hope — shining in the eyes of a desperate mother more than 30 years ago in an Idaho hospital, and I shall remember it always.  Our oldest son, Kevin, during his first week at college had been in a  horrible automobile accident and lay in a deep coma for three days while we waited for the unknown, seeing him minutes at a time in ICU, and then more waiting until we were permitted to see him again.  We met so many good, kind and concerned people during our stay near his bedside.  Some had family members in various stages of recovery so we all shared in the profound commonality of grief and worry.   However, uppermost in all of our thoughts, struggling to banish any negativity, was hope.

We watched our son lying there, seemingly so calm and relaxed, outwardly unscathed by his ordeal, all injuries being internal, including a severe concussion, leaving us to wonder if his brain had been permanently damaged.   He looked so normal sleeping peacefully, except for the occasional outbursts of profanity.  “It’s all right,” said the doctor.  “Base man is injured and angry, and he hurts.  That’s how he responds.  It’s normal.”

There was another couple whose son had been in ICU for some time, until his doctor had him moved to another ward.  Still hooked to his IVs, he needed additional nourishment so they inserted a feeding tube.  Ken and I visited with the parents as they watched over their 15-year-old who had been returning from a football game with a friend at night, his friend at the wheel.  It was dark and the RR crossing was unmarked.  Undoubtedly, they never knew what hit them, and now he lay there, still unconscious, but alive.

Unlike Kevin, the boy was rigid, his hands curled up into tight fists, his body responding not to any stimuli.  We spoke very little.  What could we say,  just giving them a hug for comfort.  My inward thoughts told me this boy would not recover, yet when I looked into his mother’s eyes, I saw the familiar agony and worry we all shared as we hovered over our injured children, but beyond that I could see there was also the most tenacious of all emotions: hope.  The boy was alive and where there’s  life, there’s  hope.

“Mr. and Mrs. Romick?”  asked a smiling nurse.  “Your son is awake.”  We wondered if he would recognize us — he did — but it would take a long time before he recovered.  We were able to fly him home two weeks later to begin his journey back.  I have always wondered about the boy from the train wreck.  We didn’t see the parents again following our visit with them.  Was he able to overcome those tremendous odds?  Were the prayers, faith and hope of his parents enough to bring him back?  I hope so.

And it’s hope that sometimes levels our roller coaster ride with Alzheimer’s — at least from time to time.  When Ken has longer periods of being Ken, and he calls me “Sweetheart,” I find myself hoping.  Treating him holistically, I must have  faith that what I give him in the way of supplements will do him some good, even though I have absolutely no medical training, and it’s because of hope that I continue.  After all, the medical community doesn’t have much to offer.

Today, it was a bit of joy and laughter from both of us that gave me my needed spark of hope.   We were out shopping and just before we returned home, I said that I should stop at one more store.  “Where?” Ken asked.  “The Dollar Tree,” I answered.   Having a bit of  a hearing problem, he hesitated, looked at me a little puzzled, yet smiling and said, “The Adult Tree?”  Then he laughed repeating himself, “Adultery — do they have a store for that?”  Then we both laughed.  Poking him in the ribs I said, “You made a funny.”

We had a wonderful afternoon, but at sundown, the moods returned as did the agitation and other symptoms of AD, but I was nourished with my spark of hope.  Reality check:  I know after nearly six years that his brain is ravaged, yet if he yoyos with good times to mellow the bad, then perhaps it will postpone that awful day when I must consider placing  him in a full-care facility.  Meanwhile, I too can keep in my thoughts that where there’s life, there’s hope.

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The ghosts, goblins, fairy princesses and super powers have come and gone from our house, leaving no tricks, their bags bulging with treats, meaning another Halloween has passed.  I enjoy the sporadic parade of kids in masquerade (I don’t even mind the older set as long as the candy holds out, their voices already hitting the low notes of “Trick or Treat,” who come later in the evening).  In the past so did Ken.  This year he made no recognition of the holiday when I placed pumpkins on the porch, an immense spider clinging to an equally over-sized web hanging from the roof, and a friendly ghost stuck in my juniper bush which was sprinkled with candy-corn lights.  The house looked festive and inviting and I raced to the door with my caldron of candy at the first ring.

I could see the groups of small fry in costumes were confusing to Ken, who managed to get to the door in front of me offering out a jumbled scolding to a mom and dad with little ones.  I pushed in next to him explaining “Alzheimer’s,” adding, “You didn’t get your candy,” as they all scurried down the walk.  The parents, looking a bit unsettled, shouted over their shoulder, “That’s okay.”   I moved my chair next to the door so it wouldn’t happen again.  I strive to be as “normal” as possible, but as Alzheimer’s gets worse, the problems get bigger and more difficult to manage.

Soon, Granddaughter, Jessica, 10, arrived looking extraordinarily beautiful, glittering petals covering the skirt of her fairy princess costume, a jeweled snood for her hair and wings with which to fly, everything stitched and put together by Sabina, her talented mom.  Jessica, while enjoying the trick and treat part, almost likes being the hostess more, taking over my duties handing out the candy while her parents talked with me and Ken, who soon relaxed, his son’s presence and friendly banter calming him.

As I survey the growing problems as caregiver to a person suffering with Alzheimer’s (not to overlook what caregivers all over the world are experiencing) I think of the little ones out on Halloween night with plastic pumpkins and decorated bags carried to collect their evening’s loot.   As young as they are, they have problems and for them, their problems, when they arrive, loom just as large as our problems are to us, which reminds me of my seven-year-old friend, Robert.

While visiting grandparents in Northern California, he was allowed to pick out his own pumpkin.  Selecting it from the vine, helping load it into the wheel barrel, and then into the car, his Aunt Chrissy declared that she would buy the 95 pound pumpkin for his birthday.  At home, the gift sat proudly on the front porch until some thoughtless and mean-spirited thieves took it while Robert was in school and his mother, Malena, away from the house.  Robert was inconsolable.  He sobbed until Malena thought his heart would break, nor did he understand the ways of the world, or why anyone would take his special gift.  The theft of his Halloween-birthday pumpkin was, to Robert, the biggest problem he had ever encountered, and a problem he was unable to solve.  Our story, however, has a happy ending when a family friend, who is also a police detective talked with Robert, assuring him the “force” would see that his pumpkin was found and returned.  Meanwhile, our detective located an equally large pumpkin and, back in full police uniform, delivered it to Robert’s porch. 

Problems and adversity are a necessary part of our growth in life and they have no age preference, whether they be problems dealing with dirty, rotten scoundrels, age and illness, business problems, problems of the heart, families in crisis, or problems of young marrieds making their budget stretch to cover the mortgage.   Like pain, no one can measure the severity of another’s problems, nor can anyone decide if the problem is big or small — only he to whom the problem belongs is allowed to make that distinction.  One thing, however, is for sure:   no matter what the behemoth which might lumber into our lives, the enormity of it is always lessened by love from those who care: sometimes a stranger, family members, friends or a good and kind police detective.

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With a four-year-old boy in tow I had one more stop to make before going home: the produce stand.  “Can I buy some gum?” he asked.  “No,” I said. “You’ve had enough treats from the other stores.  You don’t need anything else.   Disappointed a bit, but accepting my decision he was, in fact, a very good little guy, obedient, polite, considerate and a joy in my life.  I filled the basket with fruits and vegetables and stood in line to be checked out.

Before we got to the cash register I noticed the lower section of the open counter was filled with all sorts of tempting goodies.  I looked at my small son and shook my head to remind him that I had already said, “No.”   The clerk bagged my purchases and placed them back into the shopping cart, which I wheeled across the parking lot to the car.  There was barely room in the trunk for my week’s supply of groceries,  but I managed to find spots for these last purchases.  Then we could go home. 

He climbed into the front seat, sitting quietly next to me as I turned the key in the ignition.  With just a bit of trepidation, my loving little boy handed  me a wrapped piece of pink bubble gum and said, “Here, mom, I got me some gum and I got you a piece too.”  The engine died.   My sweet, thoughtful child had swiped me a piece of gum.   His first undirected gift for me was stolen property.   So, right there in the car, he got the lecture about stealing, as best delivered to a four-year-old, then the directions:  “I’ll go with you,” I said, “but you must return these two pieces of gum to the store and you must tell the man at the cash register that you took them without permission, without payment and you are sorry.”   Standing in front of the clerk he mumbled his apology and confessed his crime.  I was the one who wanted to cry. 

The theft happened  many years ago.  My little boy is all grown up now with a family of his own, and apparently has kept his nose clean.  So much so that he is a councilman and a rotating mayor for his small city.

Today Ken and I went grocery shopping.  Like his own little boy of long ago, helping is his speciality.  Together we meandered through the supermarket stopping at produce first.  I select, he bags and arranges the items in the cart in a very methodical manner.  Alzheimer’s seems to do that to the brain.  He is very compulsive — almost obsessive — about arranging things in his own way.   That’s okay because he feels good when he has accomplishing something.  At the checkout stand, he asked if he could put everything on the conveyor belt, so I stepped behind the cart and handed him the hard-to-reach items.   Step by step we went through the process: scan, ring up, pay the bill and down the conveyor belt where the customers in this store bag their own groceries.  I bagged and Ken filled the cart.  Keeping my eyes on the adjoining conveyor belt, as well as ours, I had to remind him several times  that those other items were not ours.   

Finished, Ken rolled the cart into the parking lot and over to our car.  Tailgate down, we emptied the cart item by item revealing an extra something underneath it all.  There on the bottom of the cart lay a four inch stack of plastic grocery bags which had been placed on the bagging shelf waiting to be hung on the rack for customer convenience, and Ken took them — like son, like father — but he didn’t say anything about taking them for me.   No gift intended.  Naturally, he assumed they were just something else we bought, and was ready to stuff the loot in our car.  “No,” I said, “leave them in the cart.  They belong back in the store.”  I put Ken inside the car, fastened his seat belt, closed the door and told him to wait for me there. 

 So what do I say once I get inside?   Something like, “My husband took these shopping bags by mistake and I’m bringing them back?”  Certainly it was the truth, and they would understand about him having AD but I didn’t want to go there.  I was tired and just wanted to go home.   Pushing the cart with its incriminating evidence through the exit as someone was leaving, I looked around.  Everyone was busy and no one seemed concerned with the contents of my cart, and there, right in front of me was an empty checkout stand and an empty shelf with an empty rack just waiting for a stack of bags.  Quick as a shot I removed the bags from my cart, plopped them on the shelf and I was gone.  No explanation needed, nor was there a  need for the  childhood lecture about stealing.  In his dementia, even the trip to the store was already forgotten.

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