Saturday, March 29, 2008

Taking Care of the Caretakers

A number of years ago I tucked a refrigerator magnet into my daughter-in-law's Christmas stocking. It said, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" In retrospect, I don't think she understood what I was saying. I think we found one of those unexpected cultural gaps and she heard me telling her that it was her role to keep ME happy. In fact, I was trying to tell her to take care of herself in between taking care of three teens, three pre-schoolers, and a much younger husband.

My friend Jo Ann needs to find ways to take care of herself. She is the wife and sole caretaker of a spinal chord injury patient who came home this week for the first time since his accident. She needs to find a way to sleep a full seven uninterrupted hours. She needs to find things she can do at home that please her, but which can be put down whenever and picked up two hours or two weeks later without loosing her place or train of thought. She needs someone to take in a meal occasionally, someone to visit, someone to do routine stuff like put the machines (the dish washer, washing machine, vacuum cleaner) to work. She needs someone else to take care of the yard so that she can concentrate on her husband. She needs to understand that she cannot do the things her husband needs if she is exhausted and resentful of the time and energy he requires.

I am reminded that I, too, need to take care of myself when I am thrilled just by walking at a brisk pace. I am reminded when I find an able-bodied someone to share a shopping trip, a day in the library, or an afternoon at the Art Academy. I am reminded when I enjoy listening to the teen-agers on the City bus.

And I am reminded when it takes several days to get beyond my father's criticism that I spend too much time on the telephone. Excuse me? What does he expect me to do with my life? You don't make a lot of new friends taking your parents to the doctor. Or to the grocery store. Most of my friends are somewhere else. They -- YOU -- are an essential part of my support system. I need to visit with you periodically. Besides, it's MY telephone, not theirs. I use it when there is nothing else planned, in the empty hour of time here or there, and especially on weekends. I don't use it in the living room while he is there. I shut the door to my bedroom when I am talking inside. I try to do a lot of my conversing outside so I won't be intruding on his space -- or my mother's space. I've even gone to the mall to make telephone calls. I've learned to multi-task -- do routine household chores like setting the table, filling the washing machine or emptying waste baskets one-handed so they get done despite my being on the telephone. (The NEXT phone, due in June, will be Blue-Tooth ready!) But my calls last more than the alloted 1 minute, and therefore are offensive to him.

Then there's the issue of recycling. My father won't. Won't compost. Won't consider a less polluting vehicle. Won't hold garden waste until green garbage day. Won't plan ahead to cluster his tasks. Won't consider public transportation. Won't conserve water. Won't recycle plastic. Won't use energy-efficient CF lighting. But today is Turn Out the Lights night in support of the fight against global warming, and he was offended that Mother -- who is extraordinarily proactive in issues of environmental protection-- wouldn't turn out the lights.

A wise and experienced lady told me this morning, "Honey, that's all senile behavior. Don't let it get the better of you."

Look for the good. Give thanks! Keep praying ........

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Easter. Bunnies. Eggs. Spring. Daffodils. Gold-white-orange-yellow. Wildflowers, carpets of blue or white or yellow on green.
Easter. Risen Christ. Faith. Love. Endurance. Perseverance. Trust. Example.
Easter. Joy. Promise. Forward movement.

And so we have come full circle. I couldn't face an Easter service this year. Last Easter's music brought too many tears. I keep the little tag from inside the plastic egg from Mountain Lutheran Church in Groveland tucked in the corner of a framed photo of Ray: He is Risen Indeed! Now Mr. Purrkins' ashes are there on the shelf with Ray's picture. And a 4" pot of miniature daffodils.

I am thinking more and more about being back in Groveland. I long for the QUIET. The "to-do" list is growing, both for en route and once I get there. I might feel different about going back if I had my own space in Hawaii that wasn't governed by my parents' schedules and preferences. Right now that's not possible, and defeats the purpose of my being here at all. On the other hand, I have been able to do lots of evaluating and know myself better than I have in a long time. This is a very good thing.

Halleluia! HE is risen indeed!
Look for that silver lining.... give thanks .... keep praying ........!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Stretching the Brain

The other evening mother and I went to the Neighborhood Forum conducted by the State Representative for the district. She happens to be a personal friend, and the legislator for whom my brother works. Yes, Ray and I met Lyla through his art, not through Hawaii connections. It's a long story, but one that affirms the "there are no coincidences" view.

Anyway ... I was expecting to hear Lyla speak. Instead, the speaker was Dr. Axel Timmermann from the International Pacific Research Council at the University of Hawaii. The IPRC is a part of the Oceanography Dept. at the University with a goal of understanding both the causes and the effects of climate change in the Pacific region. Although I am sure that he toned his talk down from a presentation to a group of academicans, it was still a challenge to follow his message. The Message is the same one that Al Gore gives in "An Inconvenient Truth". CO2 levels are dramatically rising, and have been since about 1950. As CO2 levels rise, so do temperatures in the ocean and air. Polar ice caps and glaciers are melting. Sea levels worldwide are predicted to rise an average of 3' by 2100. Life forms -- most publicized are corals and polar bears -- are in trouble. The last time there was a comparable rise in CO2 was 55 million years ago. Then we had major volcanic activity in the North Atlantic to blame. This time we can only blame ourselves.

What are the impacts? A 3' rise in sea levels puts several popular neighborhoods on Oahu under water. What would Hawaiian beaches be like without their protective coral reefs? What happens in other coastal areas -- western North and South America, the Gulf Coast and the entire Mississippi Delta come immediately to mind. What happens to our ability to grow food crops as air temperatures rise? What happens to the food chain as life forms at its very bottom (those things that feed the critters that feed us) disapper? It's something to think about.

Meanwhile, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the US met this week in Texas. There has been lots of turmoil in recent years in the Episcopal Church, much of it from the Diocese of San Joaquin -- which includes Tuolumne Co., California. San Joaquin has had the reputation of being among the most conservative areas in the nation. Twenty years or so ago we elected David Scofield as Bishop. He soon became John David Scofield. Ray and I were voting delegates to that convention. We were among those who did NOT vote for Scofield, and among the few who afterward refused to sign the "loyalty oath" saying we would support him as bishop. The Episcopal Church has always been an inclusive church, making a place for everyone. Over time, Ray and I began to feel that we were not welcomed in our own denomination -- or at least in our home diocese. The red-white-and-blue shield of the Episcopalians began to disappear from local churches, replaced by Anglican symbols. In December, at Diocesan Convention, a majority of the delegates voted to remove themselves from the authority of the Episcopal Church in the US and affiliate with an Anglican group based in South America, the Southern Cone. This is like a US state saying that it doesn't like the policies of the Federal Government so it will leave the US and become part of -- let's say, Australia. This week the other US Bishops took away Scofield's rights and privileges as a priest and bishop in the Episcopal Church -- as in taking away ones rights as a citizen in your country of birth when you are naturalized in another country. So the Diocese of San Joaquin is beginning the healing process and reforming itself as a place where all are welcome. I think this is a political process Ray would have enjoyed being a part of.

Give thanks! Keep praying ....!

Monday, March 10, 2008

It's Really Mother's Yard

You have to love 94-year-old women who still tend their own gardens. We're not talking a few pots and 6'x6' of grass here. We're talking close to 10,000 square feet of yard that includes two mango trees (both over 60 years old), a lemon tree, a guava tree, the newly planted guapple that is supposed to be a cross between a guava and an apple, several banana trees (you can't kill these guys ...), a Surinam Cherry (aka Princess Eugenia cherry) bush, and one more papaya tree --- all of which bear fruit that gets eaten for breakfast, made into something edible, given away to whomever will take it, or sliced/diced/pureed/juiced and popped into the freezer. Then there's the look-at stuff: the Bird of Paradise, the 3 dozen or so orchid plants, the Royal Ilima bushes that Daddy hates and periodically cuts down, the Ixoria with its wonderful hemispheres of brilliant flowers that seem to bloom forever but are terribly susceptible to powdery mildew, the brilliantly multicolored crotons and the Lantana, several varieties of ti leaves, ferns and ornamental grasses -- and the lawn. This is green garbage week, which means the City will haul away for free all garden waste -- with certain limitations. No can or bag can weigh more than 50 lbs. You can't put in sharp things that could poke out eyes. If it's not bagged or in a can, it must be bundled. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of green garbage week are always garden days. If I can't find Mother in the kitchen or at her typewriter, I only need look in the bushes that ring the yard. She'll be in between or behind something that's two or three times her size, perched on a one-step rubbermaid stool and armed with a large butcher knife, a pruning saw, and a hefty pair of pruning shears. I've learned that if she cuts and throws, I can follow around with a garbage can or -- when I can get away with it, bags -- and bag or bundle, then move everything out to the top of the driveway for pickup. Bags, you see, are only used once and cost $$$. Which, I remind you, they have enough of.
Have I made a difference? Although no one would be caught saying Yes!, I was instructed to call a classifed ad in to the evening newspaper today -- the one that gets run free for 7 days. Yard helper wanted, 3-4 hours once or twice monthly. Easy. $10/hr. Kahala. (with telephone number). She recognizes she can't do it all herself. Daddy wouldn't even if he could. He figures if the lawn is mowed, the garden work is done. But life is easier with two working, and green garbage is only picked up twice a month. Oh yes. HE hired the yard man. HE will direct the yard man. SHE may not. The yard man will ONLY do lawns. So this second yard helper is a small act of defiance.
As for the bundling -- that's all done with rags. My mother grew up in the country, was in high school and college during the Great Depression. Nothing goes to waste in this house. Every garment -- including underwear -- gets stripped into more-or-less 1" strips and used to tie things up. If it's too small to make useful strips, it gets cut into larger pieces to use for cleaning rags. If a garment still has some life, it gets washed, ironed and sent to Goodwill. Maybe I will suggest she cut strips for rag rugs which I can make next winter!

I give thanks that my mom is still able, at nearly 94, to do this much for herself. I look forward -- because looking back does me no good. I keep praying, and hope you will, too.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A New Blog Home

Ah, you found me! It's new home, a new look, and all because some asked to make comments. Thank you, Linda! Comment away. Oh yes, and because I am considering changing Internet Service Providers.

It's been a full year. This is the between week, between Ray's passing and his memorial. A year ago I was numb. Now I find myself tearing up (as in weeping, not shredding!) at odd moments, talking to his photograph regularly, missing him like crazy, and discovering every day some little thing he taught me that has made a huge difference in my life, lifestyle, world view, or how I deal with people. Amazing guy, our Ray.

After 6.5 months in Hawaii I find myself itching to get back to the mountains, country living, and the community of which I have been a part for 30 years. Now I've made flight reservations, so "going back" will really happen. Oh, it has to. I still have a house to deal with, people to see, things to do.

Yesterday's adventure: eliminate one papaya tree. Mother wanted it GONE, as she wanted to put her new little guava-apple cross into that garden bed. Daddy got out his chain saw (electric) and several hand saws and set to work. That was about 10:00 a.m. At 12:30 he came in for lunch and announced that feeble folk should not be allowed to use electrical equipment. I think that was his backhanded way of saying, "Bonnie, do this for me." Then he added that the chain saw wouldn't work any more. That was enough to kick me into "fixer" mode. Maybe it ought to be "allow-yourself-to-be-used" mode. Seems that although he knows how to plug the chain saw in, push the safety button, and press the trigger to cut, my father doesn't know now to clean his machine. It was so full of sawdust that the chain couldn't move. So I took it apart, cleaned it out a bit, finished the last cut to fall the papaya tree (not a big deal, folks -- this tree is only about 8" in diameter, about 18' tall, and no leaves or branches except in the last 2'), then bucked it up into sections that I could move. It is supposed to go in the "green garbage" which is picked up twice monthly and composted -- as opposed to twice weekly and burned. But Daddy doesn't understand about green garbage or any other kind of recycling. Everything that Mother or I cannot (or choose not) to rescue goes in the same garbage can and is hauled away on Wednesday or Saturday.

After cleaning the chain saw again so it could be put away, I announced that if he can't do it himself, and if he is going to use the chain saw, he will have to find someone who can maintain it for him. Lot of good that will do. He ought not to be using a chain saw at all. Maybe his newly hired yard man, who is supposed to come twice monthly and mow the lawns, will operate and maintain the chain saw!

Give thanks! Look up!! Keep praying .....