A Walk for Freda

A Walk For Freda

This morning I will be joining in the Walk to End Alzheimer's with about 1,100 other people all of whom will be there because dementia has impacted their life in some way. The weather looks favorable for a good walk in Millennial Park. I know I will see a lot of old friends and work colleagues there and I am looking forward to that. There will be a many smiling faces to greet and likely a lot of shared hugs. It should be a good morning.

One person who will not be there though, is my mother-in-law, Freda, who died after her own journey with dementia. Freda always amazed me. Despite the fact that she never learned to drive and limited her social network to her family, she could literally find a way to complete any project she put her mind to. Over the years, I watched as she wallpapered, painted, built, dug, and planted her way to a home that reflected her so well. She was an amazing decorator, seamstress, baker, and cook. She was also quite an artist. Over the years, we as a family, were forced to stand by and watch as dementia slowly robbed her of these skills. That path was painful and frustrating for all of us and that is why this group will walk today in Grand Rapids and all over the world. The hope that we can find a way to save future generations from a similar fate is paramount to the walk.

The journey through dementia took so much from Freda and from all of us but one thing that she was able to maintain until almost the very end was a sense of belonging. Toward the end of her life, we all gathered for one last Christmas in her home. At one point in the evening, Freda tapped my arm and pointed to one of my nephews and said, "I don't know who that is, but I know he is one of mine." I'll be thinking of her this morning as I walk and be thankful that I got a chance to be a part of what was hers for as long as I did.

Do not ask me to remember,
Don’t try to make me understand,
Let me rest and know you’re with me,
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.
I’m confused beyond your concept,
I am sad and sick and lost.
All I know is that I need you
To be with me at all cost.
Do not lose your patience with me,
Do not scold or curse or cry.
I can’t help the way I’m acting,
Can’t be different though I try.
Just remember that I need you,
That the best of me is gone,
Please don’t fail to stand beside me,
Love me ’til my life is done.
– Owen Darnell


Where Were You on September 11

Where Were You on September 11


In the aftermath of 9-11 Alan Jackson wrote a song the major theme of which is "where were you when the world stopped turning?". No doubt that song will be played all over the country today on the 18th anniversary of what I have come to think of as one of our foremost shared American Experiences. Most of us who were cognizant of what was happening that day will revisit where we were, who we were with and what our initial reactions were. I should state that I make a clear distinction in my mind between the experience of those of us who were not in NYC that day and those who were. It can't be anything near the same and I don't pretend to understand what those people experienced.

I was home for some reason that Tuesday morning. I was sitting on our green plaid couch, cutting coupons from the previous Sunday's paper, wearing a white bathrobe and drinking coffee. These images are sharp in my mind. The color of all these items is particularly seared into my memory. I was watching the Today show when the first airplane hit the tower. It's almost embarrassing to admit today but I had to be told that these events were done on purpose. That thought never entered my mind. My initial and very naive reaction was that something had gone terribly wrong with the electrical system used to guide airplanes.

I am a child of the 1960's and 1970's. Growing up, we had personal knowledge and interactions with the concept of war. Most of the fathers we knew had been in World War II or Korea. Our older brothers and the older brothers of our classmates were either in Vietnam or having their lives effected by the possibility of going to Vietnam.  We sat in front of televisions with anxious mothers and brothers as the selective service draft was drawn. We saw the images of Vietnam almost every night on our televisions, but all of this was "somewhere else". Not in America; never in America.

Alan Jackson's song describes a number of responses that people had that day but seem to me to focus on a just a few themes. Did you withdraw inward to yourself and your own small circle or did you reach out to be with and help others? Did you become a little more appreciative of what you have and value it just a little bit more? Did you curse a world where bad things happen, or did you look for answers and a sense of peace from your faith?

As we all know, the world did not stop turning that day but to me it does feel like it got moved off its axis a bit. I believe that day was full of losses and oddly enough some gains for us. We lost our innocence. We have certainly lost some personal freedoms as a result. But, some of us can still conjure up the feeling of pride we had in our country and our citizens' ability to respond in crisis. I think overall we have a better appreciation of those who put themselves in harm's way to protect and serve us. So, eighteen years later it seems to me that it's worth asking ourselves a similar question to Alan's. "What did you learn the day the world shifted and how have you used that to thrive in your post 9-11 life?".

So You Think You Can Blog

So You Think You Can Blog

You Got This

I got it into my head recently that I should start a blog. I thought tonight might be a good time to get started on that.  I spent some time thinking about what I would name my blog and researching how many other blogs share those titles. Do you have any idea how many out-of-date blogs there are out there on the internet? Apparently, there are a lot of other people who also thought having a blog was a good idea, at least at first.)

The next step was try to figure out how I would access this website that I purchased a long time ago when we had a store. I've been paying to maintain it  just in case I might actually get back to something like that again. I have not worked on this site recently (two years if you can believe the date on my last posting). That process took me about 45 minutes of failed password attempts and failed attempts to figure out which of the several email addresses I have had over the years the request to change the password went to.

I finally arrived back where I started only to be faced with the daunting task of creating a password. I have a whole notebook full of passwords at home and two sheets of passwords at my work. When it comes to creating a password, I'm tapped out. Twice Word Press said I couldn't use a password because I had used it recently. How can that be? I haven't been on here for two years! That fact alone should have gotten me in. Who else would even try those inane combinations of letters and numbers?

Finally, I accessed my website only to realize that I don't actually know what the difference is between a post and a blog. The help menu was no help so I decided I should go look at my daughter-in-law's website.  She's a master at blogging so I knew she would have the answer. Her blog is on a separate page of her website, so that's where I thought I'd put mine. I successfully added a page which is title "The Blog" however as you can see, this post is not there. After an hour or more of searching how to do that, I had to give that part up (for now).

Hang, The Blog page, I'm ready to write something! So, I click on the "write" button and am faced with a blank sheet ready to accept my thoughts and ideas and creative energies. And suddenly, I have no idea what it is that I thought I might blog about. It's like I'm back in school and the teacher has just given the final instructions for the Iowa Basic Skills Test and my mother sent me to school without any #2 pencils!

I know sometime in the next few days, it'll come to me what I thought I might write about on my blog and when it does, I'll be ready (well not entirely, yet).  I can find my website, I have my password written down, and I've learned how to insert photos. But the point is, I started, which was my goal in the first place. At the very least, I'll have an easier time finding the place where I could write if I have something to say.