Just act demented.

At the end of the visit with “Mama C”, her daughter insisted that we test her Life Alert system.  It’s the grey box with a button that hangs around the neck of fragile white-hairs.  Sometimes, it’s white and strapped onto a person’s wrist.  It’s all the same thing, a personal response system.  However, most often it’s found hung on a hook in a closet, left on kitchen sink or with a dead battery when a granny falls in the bathroom and really needs it.  On the commercial an older woman falls and says the famous line, “Help!  I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

On the same page, now? Ok, good.

Mama C’s daughter said, “Hit the button, mom. We need to test it.”  She put the box into Mama C’s hands and encouraged her, “Hit the emergency button, Mom.”

She held it in both hands and looked at it as though it was the first time she had seen the device, even though it had hung around her neck for the last six months.  After being quite unsure of what to do with it, she dropped it back onto her chest and began to watch the muted television.

After impatiently waiting a few seconds of Mama C vacantly watching Ellen dance with her audience on the small television, Mama C’s daughter sighed and reached over to hit the button on the box.  She was as gentle as she could be after two hours of this type of interaction but was losing patience quickly.

“Alert! Alert! Alert!” sounded throughout the wooden paneled walls and over the nubby pink carpet.  An unfriendly female robotic voice came over the speaker, “C, an alert has been triggered in your home.  Can you hear me, C?”

Mama C sat on the couch and continued to watch Ellen who had moved onto a game with a tricycle, a baby pool of pudding and several audience members.  However loud the robot woman yelled, Mama C remained oblivious to the demanding and was struggling to keep her eyes’ open.

“Mom,” Mama C’s daughter said, and patted her mother’s arm.  “She needs to hear you,” she continued to pat her mother’s arm to wake her up.

“What?” Mama C asked, as her eyes flew open.

“C, can you hear me?  Are you ok?” the robot woman continued.

Mama C’s daughter explained, “It’s just a test.  Tell her it’s just a test, Mom.”

“It’s ok,” Mama C smiled and said obediently. “It was just a test, honey.”

“Ok,” the robot woman acquiesced, “I’ll hang up now.  Please remember we are available 24/7 should you need us again in the future.”

Mama C nodded, “That’s just fine, honey.  I love you,” she said to the robot woman.  “Bye now.”

Such a sweet and unassuming person, Mama C was so accustomed to practicing kindness and love that these things have become parts of her very essence.  While not everyone is as lucky with illness and aging, these elements are somehow deeper than the dementia that had caused her to nearly burn her home down a few months earlier when trying to fry an egg and to drive her car while sleeping (unsuccessfully, I might add).

Taking a lesson from Mama C, let’s put emotional unavailability and reserve on hold and replace them with genuine warmth and a desire for real connection with others.

Let’s pretend to be demented in our dealings with strangers, friends and family.  If it means forgetting about past misgivings and grudges, loving unconditionally, removing the filter and saying the truth, what’s the worst that could happen?

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When one isn’t enough: cats

“This should be enough room for the cats,” I declared to my husband this morning. 

He was working in the spare bedroom/office/music jam room, which is also called the warehouse as it houses his collection of doo-dads and thingamabobs.  Sometimes the trundle beds are pulled out for friends and family and it becomes our luxurious guest suite.  In any case, today it was the office and he was doing business things from which he casually looked up and asked, “What cats?”

He was very nonchalant about it, but secretly I’m sure he felt a surge of nervous anxiety at the thought of the plural form of cat.  One cat was already pushing the limit of his cat tolerance.  There is something about finding cat hair everywhere, stepping on cold, wet hairballs, and early morning get-up-for-my-breakfast purring that gets on his nerves.

We were once a multiple cat household until my mom catnapped big George, old Wilma went to the great litter box in the sky and we were left with just one sickly white cat.  Miss Meow came to us through a series of unfortunate events, with ears blackened from mites and a skinny belly overflowing with worms.

Now she is fat and happy enough, but so alone.  My caternal instinct is kicking in and I can’t have my poor little kitty-cat lonely.  I’m confessing now, in my secret public blog, that I’m conspiring to adopt a box of kittens.  At least one or two, anyways, and then Miss Meow will be surrounded by friends once again.

They will be a gang of pals, just like on Stand By Me, the movie.  I imagine they’ll go traipsing through the hallway of our apartment looking for adventure, build a secret cat hideout behind the couch, and set up a field to play hairball underneath of our bed.

There’s just one obstacle that must be overcome before the pride can move in: my husband’s deep dislike/hatred for cats. 

What to do when one isn’t enough? 

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A Small Drama

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Standing on tiptoes to peer through the barred window, two little people were spied sitting side by side on a wooden bench completely lip-locked.  Their feet dangled as they kissed without a concern about being caught even though they were at work.  The man’s stubby arm was wrapped protectively around the woman’s tiny shoulders.  Smoothing the hair back from her ear with his free hand, he leaned over and whispered something into her little ear.

The window fogged where the voyeur watched and had to be cleared with gloved fingertips.

Peering back through the window, the little woman had a shocked and angry look on her face.   The man leered at her with yellow eyes and a mouthful of crooked teeth.  With a surprising force, she slapped the smile from his face, hopped down from the bench and assumed her full height with pride before tottering off in her orthopedic shoes.

Love in the time of Layoffs: Chaos

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For people living on love in an economy in which love hasn’t been paying well, prospects are not promising in a time of layoffs.  Today was the fateful day when my darling man found out that he was to keep his job, while 800 others lost theirs.

On learning the news, we were somber and grateful, sad for the others and happy for ourselves, all at the same time.  Swirling around our heads and hearts, these emotions mixed and melded into a sense of guilt that weighed heavier on my man’s shoulders because he was the survivor.  I was just there to greet him in the life boat and pull him away from the wreckage, but he was the one to helplessly watch his friends and co-workers be left behind in the choppy seas of unemployment.  However, it is because he is a survivor that we will be able to pay our rent, keep the lights on in our small apartment, and put food in our pesky little cat’s dish.

We aren’t the only ones trapped by this sense of guilt and helplessness at the chaos surrounding us.  Five minutes of watching, reading or listening to the news tells me this truth and more.  It tells me that we are just a microcosm of the society in which we live, a mere reflection of our humanity and current civilization.

The walls are crumbling down around us on many levels with the government on a shut-down since the folks in D.C. can’t get along, killer bees wreaking havoc on the countryside, diseases like measles and rubella breaking out when vaccines are available, and the cruel attempt to provide affordable healthcare to people who need it but are fighting it tooth and nail (in my neck of the woods, anyways).

We have entered a time of chaos.

So what can get us through and give order to our lives?  For me, it starts with embracing simplicity, mindfulness, appreciating the little things, and wine.  Of course, wine.  It helps with living on love and maintaining hopes for the future.

What is going to get you through the jumble or disorderly mass that we call life?

Here are some articles on coping.

http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/stress-tips.html

http://www.cdc.gov/features/handlingstress/

photo: The Lorenz Attractor, found on http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2009/entries/chaos/

Where to sit: The importance of a chair.

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Sitting near an elderly and most demented man, I cringed at having to readjust my bottom in the cracked and newspaper lined chair.  While at the same time, I knew the old man’s brother had dragged out their best.  He dropped it off in front of me with a smile and indicated that I was to sit.  There was no shame in his face, just pure generosity.

He was a perfect host, offering me the only chair in the home and then sitting on the edge of the only bed in the small home.  I leaned on the armrest of my chair as the demented old man rambled about his aches and pains through gums and thick lips with occasional interjections from his brother.

I panicked when the arm rest nearly gave way underneath of my elbow.  Shifting from one side to the other, the chair creaked like a limb about to break from a tree.  Naturally, I then sat as still and straight as possible to prevent the chair from completely cracking into a pile of dry sticks.

The three of us laughed when the old man said things that neither his brother nor I could understand.  And the men laughed when I nearly fell out of the chair.   We shook hands as equals and in friendship before I headed out the door.

I left feeling itchy, perhaps from flea bites?  However, I also felt the beauty in living simply and holding unconditional positive regard for others.  The very definition of hospitality was embodied in that stuffy little house by those men, despite their lack of possessions or faculties and with the sound of rats rooting through the trash in the background.  It doesn’t take much to show kindness in welcoming a stranger into one’s home and it starts with a place to sit.  Hospitality really is as simple as a chair and a warm smile, toothless or not.

hospitality [ˌhɒspɪˈtælɪtɪ]

n pl -ties

1. kindness in welcoming strangers or guests

2. receptiveness

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003