One of the pitfalls for older people is falls. So many residents here have fallen and suffered broken hips cracked wrists, or broken their pelvis. I have been fortunate with my falls, not suffering serious injuries. Recently, I slipped in the bathroom and suffered bruised ribs. Once I slipped on a wet floor in a nursing home, went down and heard a nurse say, “Pop, if you’re not careful, we’ll put you in a wheelchair!” There’s a line in an old popular song, “Someone slipped and fell, was that someone me?” ….” Last week my son, Randy, set me a nice gift, a HurryCane. The cane stands alone. This cane offers more stability and more grip. It also folds up, so you can even store under a chair or in a glove compartment. Very nice. A woman in a restaurant lost her cane and roamed the room crying, “My cane, my cane.” Someone responded, “No, its Obama!” Years ago an old, dear African American man in North Carolina taught me a wonderful prayer that now speaks to my need.
“Lord, prop me up on every leaning side.” Amen
I spent a lot of time as a hospice volunteer sitting in silence with an old man who was dying. Once I sat there for what seemed an eternity as he never spoke. I stared outside the window & wondered what my final days would be like. I remember Harry who watched old Spencer Tracy films during his final days. He asked me to pray that he die. I think of Frank, whose last days were spent in a nursing home, chain smoking and straining to hear his little radio. I think of Howard who preached a sermon on, “Have a Good Day,” and die two days later in his sleep. Thinking about these three old men prompted my mind to remember Ogden Nash’s poem.
“People expect old men to die. They do not really mourn old men. Old men are different. People look at them with eyes that wonder. People watch with unshocked eyes. But old men know when an old man dies” All three of those dear old men died, and I do mourn their loss. I can’t help but wonder what it will be like for me when that hour comes and everyone returns from the cemetery except me.
For the past week I have battled a virus which has left me hoarse and voiceless. ( Several years ago I was reading the ENT Doctor’s notes when I had the same problem. The transcription read, “ Dr. Morgan has a horse! at Redstone. What I said was, “I was hoarse!) ” “As Yogi Berra once uttered those immortal words, ? “It’s deja-vu all over again”. It was over 20 years ago I suffered the same sickness, and dear friends at Upper Room Books send me a lovely card with all manner of kind words like “Not a vow of silence! Not you, Dick. An opportunity to learn sign language!” and “Heavens to Betsy. You leave my care and all manner of ills befall you…. but remember, silence is golden.” I have kept that card and often look at it again. It’s a blessing to be silent. For some, if silence is golden, they’d be bankrupt with their endless torrents of words about themselves. Some of friends here gave such nice remarks, like “You sound like you have a frog in your throat!” Another said, ”You have an appointment with the podiatrist. Maybe you could switch positions (toe to head). and he could help.’” Many have said that my wife really finds it a blessing I’m speechless. I whispered that comment to one of our adult servers in the dining room and she said, “I wish my husband would say something. He’s like a post.” Hmm. Amazing what you can hear when you don’t talk, but listen. I don’t want to be like the old Zechariah who was rendered speechless for nine months because he did not believe his wife was having a baby. Zechariah said, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ When he did speak he praised God and said the child’s name would be John. Then the Spirit spoke through him and gave us there immortal words, ? “By the tender mercy of God, the dawn from on high will break upon you to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow death, to guide our feet in the way of peace.” Don’t expect any inspired words like these from me, but thanks for the silence which teaches us more lessons than all the words in the world. My sons may remember years ago we visited a pet shop and an old parrot in a cage glared at us. Trying to make him talk, I said, “Polly want a cracker?” The wise old bird croaked, “I can’t talk~!” But he cocked his ear to us and listened. Many we could learn from that wise, old bird. “A wise old owl sat in an oak, the more he heard the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. Why can’t we be like that wise old bird??? Indeed.
Every grandparent has a right to brag about a grandchild. I/we are so proud of grandson, Thomas (pictured at left). Here he is seen receiving an academic award at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC. He has high grades and is majoring in Business. As Thomas knows, there were some rough moments at Central High School in High Point but he was resilient and excelled at Guilford Tech where he was initiated into Phi Theta Kappa, a honor society for students with high grades. Thomas has developed in many ways, not only academically, but personally. A man jumped on a plane, sat down next to a woman and asked. “Do you have grandchildren?” When she replied,. “Yes,” he moved his seat near another woman. He asked her the same question, “Do you have grandchildren?” When her answer was, “No,” he said, “Well let me tell you about mine.” So he did. We consider ten grandchildren our greatest treasures on this earth; all are blessings. I know the Big Ten is a University conference. But we have our own Big Ten, ten talented grandchildren. I could write volumes of praise about each of them.The words of the Psalmist have come true, “May you see your children’s children.” (Psalm 128:6). I shall continue to follow their lives with great joy, constant gratitude and earnest prayers/
Another student Kayla Albert, a high school senior , has been attending our monthly Alzheimer’s Support Group. Her mother shared that Kayla had written a scholarship essay on caring for her grandfather who has Alzheimer’s disease. It is a beautiful piece of work, so well sharing how she managed to communicate with her grandfather. As she saw so many vivid images of people sitting like scarecrows staring into space, she was determined not to let “Paps” memories and thought be forgotten like the others. First Kayla used old photograph books to trigger his memories, long forgotten. She wrote, “Pap would repeat the same stories again, but Alzheimer’s tricked him into thinking it was he first time.” As the disease worsened, and her grandfather declined, Kayla sang some of the songs he loved. One his favorites was “We’ll Have These Moments to Remember.” How the lyrics spoke.” … And the present disappears. . The laughter we were glad to share, , will echo through the years” Kayla concludes, “The disease did not define my Pap along with all the other people in the world diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Since he has passed, the emails still flow into my in-box and I still attend the monthly support meeting. No one could be prepared for such daunting task but if I learned anything, it’s that each day is unique and we should embrace what it gives us.”
This remarkable 18 year old girl sets the tone for all of us who would be caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Her project gave us moments to remember. Like Joe, Kayla helped me remember so many students in my past who graced my life. I deplore those who are down on the younger generation. For me, they are bright lights in a somewhat darkened world.
PS Kayla will attend college in Maryland, preparing for a careen in occupational therapy for geriatric people.
My young student friend, Joe, has a real gift of writing lyrics. With his permission I share a recent poem he wrote, ALL THESE YEARS GONE BY.
(TWO OLD FRIENDS)p.
“Looking back now, someone’s fogged up the glass,
Now I can’t see how much time has passed. Don’t bother me, feels like it was never there, and I can’t believe that you and me are still standing here. Looking on, feels like a dream, don’t you think? I never knew how much trouble you and I’d bring. But I never cared – I think it represents us well, And looking on from here, There ain’t a story to tell.
And like the blue in the sky, no clouds to catch our eyes, Just to say we tried, and all these years gone by. Looking out from here just old scars and bones. But the sunset up ahead says we haven’t far to go. Old dust in the wind still blows itself around Like two kids that won’t settle down. Two tired old men converse on their day, Sitting in their rockers, letting them sway. Wired eyes connect, and the feeling begins:
Nothing beats a moment like this. looking up ahead, the glass still fogged a bit, I don’t notice ’cause the past sticks like a tick. So many years gone and it makes me cry. I couldn’t have asked for s better life.
And like the blue in the sky, No clouds to catch our eyes, Just to say we tried. And all these years gone by Nothing we can do now but keep passing though. ‘Cause we’re two friends with nothing to lose.
(c) Joseph Gombita, 2013
(Used by pemission)
I have been battling a bad cold/sinus virus, so have stayed indoors so as not to give it to anyone else. That’s one of the pitfalls in living of in a retirement community. We share even the bugs (on the ground and in the air). But being confined has given me more time to be still and reflect, and then write. Some time ago I wrote about the attitude of gratitude. John Kralik wrote the book, The Simple Act of Gratitude. He decided to write a thank you note every day of the year. He claimed this simple act changed his life. I wrote a letter of gratitude to my wife, Alice Ann, for he three years of service as president of our resident council. She really made a difference, and many of the positive changes in our community were directly related to her vision and leadership. Then I penned a short note to my student friend, Joe, whose friendship has rekindled many fond memories of teaching. He rekindles fire for an old soul. In my next blog I will share a touching poem he wrote about “Old Friends.” Tomorrow, April 29th, will be the 10th anniversary of my younger sister, Mary’s untimely death. I recall we were looking at moving here, when we got word that her end was imminent. So we sped across the Pennsylvania Turnpike and got there minutes before she died. Two memories linger. Her look of peace as she passed from life to death to life. And, when I stepped outside on her porch, it was just becoming dark, and I caught a glimpse of some white flowers in bloom that Mary had planted. The veil between heaven and earth was thin. Take time to be grateful. Thankful people are thoughtful persons. Do it now!!!!!!