Thursday, June 20, 2013


June 20 Morning Pond Report:

Another Rainy Day

Pattering drops and gray clouds that hang wet over the pond, hiding the mountains signal another day of rain. By late morning it is barely 52 degrees.

Osprey Over the Pond
Three ring-necked male ducks glide across the pond, prominent in their tuxedo markings of black, gray and white feathers. The females are out there, just less obvious on a rainy day, wearing their best hide-me-brown feathers. No Blue Heron sighting,
Milder Horse in the Rain
Playful Horse in the Rain
and I miss sitting on the south porch. My camp chair is soggy.

Todd is developing sprey-dar and announces the osprey twice. First, one osprey cruises north, and then he returns south--this is a presumption that it is the same osprey. The second arrival results in a pond hover. Despite the rain, I plunk each foot into Todd's discarded tennis shoes lying by the door and dash outside in my pajamas, shouting, "Come watch him hunt!"

The osprey hovers, dips, circles and hovers again. I watch how he bunches up his bird-body into an arc just before the plummet, and how he relaxes it again when he decides to glide instead of dive. Todd is in the back pasture, standing in the rain with binoculars. Then, the osprey flies low, heading south. Ripples and rain hide the fish for today.

The horses are wet and Pistol plays with his toy. Todd says it is their water bucket the horse has mangled and now packs around from pasture to pasture. They drink from the pond which is clear and free of weeds and algae. The horse's water bucket serves a different purpose.

June 20 Pondering Over Coffee:

It's not just any coffee--we are drinking a pot of Montana Coffee Traders Flathead Cherries roast. With a splash of coconut milk, it is divine. We've finished our buttermilk pancakes and linger at the table talking. Our hearts are sad, for my best friend Kate has just lost her Dad the night before. We ponder parents, getting older and death.

Heavy stuff when you live alongside a pond paradise.

No less than three friends have agonized over losing a parent to Alzheimer's. Yet, only one parent has died, the other two now reside, newly, in assisted living. Kate's Dad had just gone into hospice two weeks ago. Another friend's mother has been in hospice two years. Both friends had moved in with their parents to help with daily care. But as one friend said, "You prepare for helping with physical needs, but nothing prepares you for when the mind goes."

Where does the mind go?

Kate once gave me the clearest comparison for dementia and Alzheimer's. Her mother, suffering from dementia, has keen memories, clear thinking and seems unchanged in personality. However, she will talk of the teenagers who live in the walls as readily as a memory from childhood. Wait a minute, what teenagers in the walls? That's dementia.

On the other hand, Kate's Dad would drive, get lost and drive into things. They (meaning Kate, grandchildren, doctor and even the police) revoked his privilege for obvious reasons. But he'd argue irrationally against it, truly not understanding. His personality changed, he couldn't remember feeding the dog 30 minutes ago and his ability to reason disappeared. That's Alzheimer's.

On a spiritual level, I wonder if God is calling us home, cleaving us from a lifetime of memories and loved ones. Nonetheless, I pray for those who wander without realizing who they are. May God always remember them as one of the fold.

Missing Pieces
So, where does the mind go? My Dad suffers from a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Both my parents have shown enormous courage in coping with the changes. Many who suffer in the mind seem to revert to unreasonable toddlers stuck in the terrible-twos. My Dad, however, seems more like an innocent child. Yet, he understands that there is something "off" in his brain. Hanging on my living room wall are two pieces of his artwork--framed puzzles that he built but left out three missing pieces. They describe how he feels about his condition.

I cannot say where the mind goes and even when we feel a sense of loss, living with a parent whose mind has wandered, it is nothing compared to the ultimate loss. Death. We might even think that there is relief in death, such as the end of suffering.

But that is not true.

My two friends with mothers in assisted living, both exhausted from the strain of  living with a parent with Alzheimer's, readily acknowledge that they will look back on these tired days and long for them. Neither wants to loose their mothers to death. They focus on today, struggle with the endless calls, the confusion and find moments of grace. One friend sent a recent photo of her mother on a visit to their family lakeside cabin; her mother absolutely beaming with a cup of coffee in her aged hand. I burst into tears. It was like seeing a moment of clarity, of the woman her mother had been. A fleeting glimpse, brief reprieve, and undeniably, life.

No matter what, when we yet breathe we are alive. Life.

Which brings me to today. It is all we have. Even scripture tells us "not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34). We are called to live each day fully, not worrying about what may or may not happen tomorrow like fools predicting the wind.

Shimmy like No One's Watching!
Do you have crinkles? Are body parts gravitating to regions unknown? Do you struggle to recall names? Do you have aches and pains? Is your hair thinning, graying? Do you suddenly look like your old aunt in that portrait you used to make fun of as a kid? Now is not the time to give up living.

Do you have dreams? Are there people you love? Do you still find things funny? Do you see art in everyday objects? Can you watch birds all morning? Do you still savor a good cup of coffee? Can you walk? Dance? Crawl? Can you imagine the possibilities and believe in goodness? Now is the time to live.
A Rose for Les, Rain Like Tears

(Today's blog is dedicated to the memory of a faithful man of God, a loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and a kind man who once treated me as his own when I graduated from college, making me feel like a million bucks that day--rest in peace and wait for our revival in heaven, Les Johnson.)

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