Tag Archives: memories

Reflections ~ Interesting Insights on Years Gone By

There is something about spring that invigorates a person. Or maybe it’s the end of the tax return pile. Whatever the case may be, I have begun to attack the pile of papers in my garage – with a vengeance.

In the interest of time, I have started with my archives of financial records. You do not want to know how far back this stuff goes – really. It can’t just be thrown away, it must be sorted and shredded – everything with a number, name, or address, must be converted into parade confetti. I chose to start with the financial records because, quite frankly, I could quote the record retention rules in my sleep. There are a few extenuating circumstances in my history, but, for the most part, the general rules hold. This means I can whip through these boxes with relative abandon. Unlike my husband’s records, I do not have to spend time deciding if I keep, scan, or convert something to unrecognizable ash. Nor do I have to decide if a pile of documents should be sent off to some company archivist.

There is a point to this meandering and that point has to do with the shredding of a few decades of a person’s life. Watching things disappear into the blades of the shredder can be therapeutic, disheartening, and sometimes sad. Here are some of the things I am remembering/discovering about the person that was, and is, me.

Sometimes arguments cannot be resolved. No matter how hard you try, some people will never understand why you will or will not do or say some particular thing they feel so very important. Newsflash — it isn’t important anymore. Why was there so much hurt wrapped up in the struggle?

I never thought of myself as an activist; I’m discovering that when things touch me in some important way I am very much so, and have been for a long time. Among the debris of so many years was a record of how I responded to one of the worst fire seasons Western Montana has ever suffered. The photo with this post was taken during the August 2000 fire in the Bitterroot National Forest. I honestly don’t recall if that was the same year that so much of the forests in Sanders and Kootenai Counties were in flames. There were three things I undertook to change or to help alleviate the burden our fires imposed.

Bitterroot National Forest, Montana, August 6, 2000. Photo by John McColgan working for the Fairbanks, Alaska division of the Forest Service. The photo is public domain.

Bitterroot National Forest, Montana, August 6, 2000. Photo by John McColgan working for the Fairbanks, Alaska division of the Forest Service. The photo is public domain.

One was to find a way to help those that were accepting animals from areas burned or in danger of going up in flames. I contacted the Purina headquarters and they contacted their area distributors to mount a campaign to help reduce or eliminate the cost of feeding the four-legged refugees. One of the ranches accepting animals from all over the state called me personally to thank me.

Another thing I did was to contact Habitat for Humanity to ask them at the national level to look at the possibility of helping those who had lost their homes to the flames. Most people in Western Montana are pretty independent folks, and if helping someone raise a house or a barn was part of what was needed, then, well, let’s just get it done. I’m not sure if this initiative went very far. I think it was inherent in their policies that the person in need contact them.  They did make sure that the local chapter made their presence known.

Next I see that I wrote a long and impassioned letter to some government official, with FEMA, I believe. The letter was impassioned but it was also thoroughly researched. For whatever reason the federal agencies engaged in fighting the fires had decided that it was an actionable crime to assist in the firefighting unless you were certified and part of their crews. In Western Montana that meant that many logging and ranching families, with the appropriate equipment, and intimate knowledge of the lay of the land, were commanded to stand down. Even if their solution could stop another 1,000 acres or so igniting while they awaited “appropriate response.” This was a fire season so devastating that multiple agencies could provide no more help than 1 person per 100 acres in flames. I personally knew many families who, forced out of the field of battle, drew back, and simply fought for their own homes and acreage. Mandatory evacuation was not an option, it was a battle cry.

There are other bits and pieces. Things I volunteered for, people I contacted in hopes of matching up a need with a solution. For instance, finding a research program for a friend whose child had a rare form of epilepsy. All from my desk on the outskirts of a tiny town in Western Montana. No money, just a phone (on dial-up internet), some skill at putting thoughts together in a logical, impassioned order, and an apparent talent for finding people to talk to.

I guess I haven’t changed all that much. I may have better tools, better resources, a more mature sense of immediacy; but I still see my primary mission in life as finding a solution to problems. It’s not all that hard to give a bit of time here and there. We all have experiences that can help other folks. Very often we know of someone, somewhere who just might know how to fix a particular problem, or knows someone who can. Just make sure you know when to say “no” or nothing gets done. Believe me, I’ve been there, too.

Be a presence in the world that draws those who need you and your unique skills. Be the solution you want to see. Someday as you sit in front of a shredder, such things may give you hope that the fight is worth the effort.

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My Tree of Memories

The season is upon us. All of the celebrations that our species has come up with that center around the return of the sun are swirling around us. A carefully tracked and joyful expectation as the giver of life begins its slow journey back to warmth and longer days. Solstice this year is the 22nd of December, a few brief days before the sun will reach 1 degree along its return path, the mark of the ancient day of Saturnalia.  Many Christians do not realize that this time of year was chosen for the celebration of the birth of Christ because the Roman Saturnalia was an excellent cover for gift exchanges, celebration of the renewal of light—the return of the Son. It is, however, quite appropriate.

 

It is also a time of reflection. My tree is a tree that hubby and I purchased in Canada. A great deal offered by Canadian Tire that served us well for a number of years. This is number seven, I believe. There were years when all he really wanted was the small white lights that glowed in our darkened living room; and years when he wanted us to hang everything we could load onto the poor thing. It is a tree of memories.

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Hanging from its branches this year is a hodgepodge of years past. There is even an angel from my very first Christmas, handmade ornaments, gifts from friends, bits from office parties, ornaments that I don’t even remember where they came from – souvenirs from sharing. That, I think, is what Christmas trees are all about. The excitement of Christmas mornings, the quiet of warm evenings with hot tea or cocoa and music—memories captured in the glow of Christmas lights.

This will be the last year for this tree. Somewhere along the line this year I made a non-decision to avoid additions. This is a year for memory. A year that has gone relatively well, all things considered, even though I still step on landmines; and find myself somewhere else, somewhen else.

I have learned, in this journey, that there are friends you never realized were there. There are families made of caring people who suddenly, without prompting, check to see how your day is going. There are people that smile at you for no particular reason. I try very hard to be one of those people. I know how much it means.

This is a time a year that I find both joyful, and sad. This part is nothing new. While we all run around and try to ensure that our version of the season is first and foremost in everyone’s mind, we need to remember that there are those that really don’t care what you call it; their days are the same, lost, hungry, cold, or afraid. On that scale, I am a very, very lucky lady.

So, I must ask my friends, my readers, to take this time of year to seek the magic moment, the moment of sharing. It doesn’t have to be much – it just needs to be human. When asked how to tell a child who God was I suggested this. When you see someone reaching out to help someone in need – when you see a smile that draws a smile from someone else – when you touch a heart that is aching – in that moment – when you see the connection – that is the face of God. (and not that breakfast sausage guy) Be a spark that creates that moment.

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Reflections ~ 12-25-12 The Pages of Our Minds

IMG_0965 Christmas.  A time of memories, a time of joy, and a time of sadness.  As magical as it all seems it often reminds us of those who cannot be with us for any number of reasons; sometimes the reason is permanent.  Today the curtain pulled back for me, just a bit, but enough to give me some small joy and to wonder yet again at the marvels of the human mind.

Most of my fans are aware by now that I am a caregiver for my husband who has vascular dementia.  The diagnosis was given some time ago now.  I believe it was early in 2011 followed by a major change in his capacity in May of the same year.  Our lives have been quite different and at least some part of that is recorded in my little book, Who I Am Yesterday.

In that book I describe some of the ways I have learned to cope.  There are also blogs on this site that try to explain that we do still have moments that can be enjoyed, times when things are, well, almost normal and days when it is trying.  Today was beyond normal; it was magical.

We have a few Christmas CDs that we have always loved.  Boston Pops, a Jazz version of some favorites, a few chorals and then there is the Nutcracker.  He was having trouble following a few things and I managed to get his hearing aids in; to his amazement he realized how different things did sound.  I asked him if he remembered taking me to the Nutcracker all those years ago.  His immediate response was yes.

Not too long after that he came to me and said he didn’t know how to explain it but he knew he had taken me to see the Nutcracker but couldn’t remember actually doing it.  Did I understand?  I told him I thought I did.  He remembered he was supposed to remember; or there was knowledge of doing something but not quite feeling it.  He agreed and, as an experiment, we started to take a bit of a walk down memory lane.  I started with when we met and in a few paragraphs brought us up to date.  He said, “I remember that it happened, but I don’t remember it happening.  Why can’t I remember?”  I explained that just before we visited Vancouver Island (yes, I remember) the doctor had him take a test (yes, I remember that too) and it seems that you are losing some of your memory.  “Oh.  But do you still want to be with me?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, quite.”

How incredibly fascinating that the human mind can develop these pathways where one type of clue, one piece of “connection” can open a path, however narrow, to the pages in our minds.  I think one of the reasons that I do find our life an adventure is because I am always discovering something new about how the mind works.  Some secret little door that I did not see before.

Our conversation continued for some time.  There were other things he remembered, even if the details did not come through.  For a good portion of the day we touched the past – and it was beautiful.  Yes, I believe in Christmas miracles.  I really do.

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Filed under Caregiving Backstage

Reflections ~ November 25, 2012

If I could
chase away
the watchers
in the yard
the voices
in the night

If I could
drop everything
fix the phone
fix the bookcase
find your friends,
make it work

If I could
find the lost
you can’t describe
move the things
you never saw
put it back

If I could
say where she went
where he went
why we’re here
and not there
wherever there
might be

If I could
know what
you’d eat
what you won’t
what you’d wear
or not and when

If I could
I’d change
your world
give it shape
and harmony

I’m sorry, love
I truly am
I only wish I could

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