Showing posts with label MIL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MIL. Show all posts

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friends are the family we choose

A good blog  friend sent us the most lovely Christmas card, Bea,  yes you did, with a wonderful photo of a cardinal on a snowy branch. with handwritten lines, "friends are the family we choose."  So very true.   Here we are two empty nesters anticipating  more of the care free life and at a time when we  should be free of responsibilities tying us down.     I miss my old folks, or maybe it's that now I am the oldest survivor,  the family historian.  For whoever cares.  That's the point, hardly anyone does care. We have been thinking more and more about things in general this year and how to begin to really live our lives as we choose, not by obligations dictated by the needs of others.   Tomorrow is promised to no one. Good friends recently reminded us of that; another good friend  has suffered strokes and is now debilitated.  We have been blessed with good health.    

December  2012 Florence right seated, blue and gray
 in the SNF with Santa, the annual Christmas party.
For someone who will be 96 in January, not bad.  
 Our retirement move here from CA was to provide a better quality of  life for ourselves. However we had another problem, that remains with us, MIL,  who continues going rather strong physically just as she continues further along the dementia road at almost 96 .  Wherever we moved we had to bring her along and  at the time she still had a sister, aunt Marie living here so she was amenable to return  home to MN.

Florence in the middle uprooting  Jerry and his sister,  Dianne
from MN  for CA 1950
Jerry is a saint he deals with everything without any assistance only from me,  although he has two siblings, neither of whom are involved and neither of whom would be even if they lived closer.  In 1950, shortly after the sudden death of her mother and despite advice and pleadings to not do so, MIL  left MN with Jerry and his sister for CA , to  marry Lyman.   Jerry left CA  returning  to MN alone to live with his grandfather and then enlisted in the Air force at 17, stretching his age to enlist. After Lyman died in 1990, MIL became Jerry's responsibility. She has been one of those women having to be cared for, looked after by someone else all her life and it has worked for her.
Florence and Lyman their 25th anniversary in CA

My career in long term care along with my family gave me an abundance of expertise and experience yet it is tiresome.  Jerry's  full sister has been dead for several years but the other two, his halves, the  younger Larson children,  roll along merrily without any responsibility for their mother. I suspect if they think of anything, could be that they will not inherit the $$ they thought they would; it is being paid to the SNF which has enhanced our lives. Still it is the  overseeing, frequent check in visits, follow ups with medical issues, appointments, my doing laundry, keeping her in clothes, buying, and on it goes.  We have more freedom to travel today yet hesitated to plan too far ahead, the back of our minds nag,  "what if...."   It makes me laugh out loud when some of the "family" say that they would like to come to see her, but then they never give up any part of their lives or plans and so they merely chatter along.  So many excuses.

But slowly we are working through this trial just as  we have others in our lives. Today we booked a 20 day land tour and cruise package to Alaska for August 2013 John Hall's Alaska, the Klondike, the works.  It is expensive, but we are also looking forward to spending our  hard saved money while we can.  Here is the link to the tour package by a local MN company out of Lake City.  They will even babysit our car and take us to and from Minneapolis for the  connecting flight.   Destined to become good friends,  that's what happens when you lack family, you choose friends. 

Our own plans are going to take first place, if we do not do this for ourselves,  there is no one else who will.  Besides all that, we deserve it in spades. It's a new attitude.  Make way for us.  This is our time of life,  our friends have assured us of this repeatedly.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sepia Saturday 93 sleepers

I've been really attempting to get the extra room uncluttered from all the stacks of photos and memorabilia this week and what I happened on fits right in with the theme--I love it when a theme comes together!  Actually if I  spent more time rummaging photos I am sure I could have found even more Sleepers. And this has also distracted me from another task paper work on financials, but I am willingly ignoring that.  Not a pleasant task these days.  

First I begin  January 1, 1943, Springfield IL, my father, Lt. Lewis S Ball,  pilot, sound asleep on his US Army cot, sleeping bag  pulled snug, with Mom's photo on top;  one of the guys grabbed his camera and took this.  I still have that 8 x 10  photo of her today, it survived through the years and is a beautiful Sepia itself.  I also have the gold and amethyst necklace that she is wearing in the photo, a gift from him to her, her birthstone and just as beautiful today as it was then, so many years later.  This photo is   in his scrapbook but I scanned it for this post. This is my oldest sleeper photo.

Next forward to 1969 and my uncle John Irwin, asleep on the couch, in exile from the bedroom,  in Pennsylvania.  I don't know the particulars but my aunt Virginia likely snapped this Polaroid of her  wayward husband to preserve the memory. On the back side she wrote, "John  being punished." He doesn't appear to be bothered by much here.  Perhaps he'd imbibed a few too many,  perhaps there were too many words exchanged, never the less it does not appear to be interrupting his sleep. 

Now to the right is a 1980 pose captured by my Uncle Carl of "Joe" one of his friends on one of their many hunting trips, where the men gathered in a cabin at the end of the day.  I don't know  who this fellow is, but Uncle Carl was quite the photographer of their events and so he is in the cyber world for all to see.  I was sorting photos this week and found this and when Alan put the Sleepers as the theme for the week, I knew I was in business.   Was this the end of a long day in the woods?  Too much to eat at the evening meal?  You can speculate with me.  

1984, to the left here are my in laws about whom I have recently blogged--that is Lyman to the left and Florence to the right.  They have made themselves  at home and comfortable in our living room in Newcastle, CA.  As I have mentioned before,  our home was their vacation site.  I suppose it was a compliment that they felt so "at home there" but I often wondered why they did not stay with their daughter, Barbara who lived 30 minutes away.  As I recall this particular day, I arrived  home from work  and there they were, awaiting when I would prepare the meal for everyone.  The newspaper on the table has a headline, something about "retirement." 

Well the photo to the right is 1986, Jerry's cousin, Milo (actually  his cousin's husband) who was catching up on some rest after a rough day at the work for the city on its maintenance  crew.  We were back in  La Crescent on  a trip we took across the country from  California to Minnesota, to Pennsylvania and then swinging back westward through the south.  So we stopped at Milo and Jeanette's.  We had come in from visiting, camera in hand and got this pose. These days, Milo does sleep a lot in his recliner, he has aged and tends to nap away the afternoons.  It is not the same as Jeanette passed away years ago, and although he has a live in companion, he misses her as do we.

1989 another one to the left,  from Uncle Carl's photos.  This man is Fred Hemming and he was in the Army, 809th Tank Destroyers in WWII with Uncle Carl.  Each year the men and families gathered to reminisce and usually to tour some site.  This time they were in Altoona, PA, I believe which meant that Uncle Carl and Aunt Marge had likely made arrangements for the group.  As we have seen, no one was safe when Carl, the photographer was around.  

For my finale I could not resist this one, also from Uncle Carl's collection.  This is Punkin, his last pet and beloved "pal."  After Aunt Marge passed in 1997 Punkin and Carl went everywhere together.  He  had many photos of Punkin.  I have to say, I have shared an array of sleepers and to end this post, let sleeping dogs lie.  (Groan.....)
1988 Punkin
As usual, click on the title to get to the Sepia host site and see what others are sharing this week.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Applefest Parade 2011 more MIL saga

This was the 65th year for the local Apple Fest in La Crescent, a tradition established way back when there were  apple orchards all over the hillsides and this tiny town of 5000 was even smaller, without any thought of expanding. In it's early years there was always a prgram with recipes and information about La Crescent.  Today most of the information is sponsored about town by the Chamber of Commerce and a group of local volunteers, The Applefest Board, so designated by themselves.   Here is a page from the 1954 program:

1961 Program cover

These days there is no published program.  The carnival comes to town, there is a craft  show of sorts and a flea market of sorts, and old cars come out on display, and the finale on Sunday is a parade.  Despite our visits here when we lived in California and being citizens of the town for the past six years, (Six, OMG,how time flies...) I had never gone to the Sunday Applefest parade.  Sometimes the rain kept me away, sometimes we were traveling, and there are any other myriad excuses or lack of interest, not being a native Crescenite.  It became part of my mystique to state, "I've never been to an Applefest parade." Rather odd because when we travel around the country if there is a local parade, we generally attend. More so odd because I do love a parade!

You know that  Jerry's mother is 94 and  for the past year has resided in the Golden Living Center (skilled facility) here in town.  You also likely know that life has not been easy having to look out for the old lady, to put it nicely.  Her other  two living "children" her daughter  in Colorado and son in California and have not visited her, but what else is new?  In 1990, twenty one years ago now, after the death of Lyman, her second husband and  father of the other two siblings, we became the "chosen" or drew the short straw to look over and after her. This is a twist of life in itself as she did limited to naught in raising or mothering Jerry, her eldest and first born.  He and his deceased sister, Diane, were from  her first husband, Diz; that marriage lasted briefly, through the birth of Dianne following which Florence moved back to the family  farm with Mom and Dad who  raised the two kids while she "worked" and played. Part of the time was interrupted by her commitment into a state  mental institution by  her sister.  I can't help but believe she should have been medicated most of her life and not let loose. 

1950 Dianne, Florence, Jerry leaving La Crescent
  Immediately following her mother's death in 1950 she departed La Crescent to the consternation of the family and against all sound advice, dragging her two kids along to Las Vegas, where Lyman who would become her second husband and father of the other two would come from California to  meet them and they would be married.  On a desert highway, she nearly killed herself and the kids enroute and turned the wheel over  to Jerry, age 13,  to drive the rest of the way into Las Vegas while she fretted her misjudgement.  All this so  she would  have a man (Lyman)  to take care of her, the two kids be damned.  It is quite a tale of a person who did what she wanted without regard for others; it is a tale comparable to that told in  "Prince of Tides" and would consume pages of words to lightly  describe, some of which I've shared.  

But here we are today still responsible for her although the burden is decreased with her being in 24 hour care. Taking a look at her today people might think, "what a sweet old woman."  Those people would be very wrong.  So we go along with our lives and try not to be drawn into her cantankerousness and nonsense.  Jerry says, "she does not get to rule nor ruin us."

Jerry and I have said, "If she could be 1/4th as agreeable, and content as Carl was" in reference to my 93 year old uncle who passed in May in PA.  But Florence is not Carl, neither is she content,.  I am  convinced, personalities really do not change later in life, that as an elderly friend told me years ago, "People just become more of who they are."  So today with her enhanced dementia she is more Florence, although she is still quite mobile with use of a walker, and has no  chronic illnesses, she is more miserable and more unhappy and bound to maintain her family at ends with each other.  She has been most successful at the latter, which has been  something I have never understood.  But she always wanted to be the center, the manipulator, the one in control though in truth she led a life of being controlled. Lyman actually maintained her in a delayed state of adolescence taking her here and there, to the grocery store, telling her what she could and could not do, and so on, their life suited them, I suppose.  Right before his death  on one of their visits to our home, where they felt free to come unannounced, Lyman apologized to Jerry and warned him that he would have his hands full with his mother in years to come, that the others would not participate and that it would fall to us.  Over our married years, everytime I think we have made in roads in building a semblance of cordial family with these people, I am proven wrong. I no longer try.

Florence never drove again after the 1950 escape.  But today, her legacy there is little of  sibling relationship between Jerry and the other two; Diane died in  2004.   Barbara, the sister in Colorado,  is the spitting image of Florence in facial features and in personality, given to self centeredness, secrets and moodiness, two failed marriages and now in a relationship, busy with her own life.  Rodney, the little brother in California, has managed to escape the tentacles of  Florence and her mental legacy and is about living a decent life with his family.  He recognizes his mother's mental short comings and expects naught and is master at ignoring and avoiding. Actually both sons, Jerry and Rodney,  have adapted the tactics of  ignoring or letting it not phase them.  We keep in touch at times by email and the like.
But back to Applefest 2011. Each year, staff  at the Golden Living Center pick two residents to  be their royalty in the parade and to be honored at the senior luncheon.  Bingo, you guessed it, Florence was chosen as a Golden Apple.  Well meaning  intentions were that she would be pleased, which she was off and on, but being herself she had to complain to elicit more attention and to be constantly assuaged. She would complain how she is not social, like her sisters were, and that is true, partly because she cannot hear in  normal conversations and partly because she lives inside her own thoughts and  years back from the present.  She and Frank, a male resident who is a long timer from the area were chosen to ride in the horse drawn carriage and to attend the senior luncheon donning royal capes.  to the right is the newspaper photo, which she collected  from everyone who had a paper to send  to all Diane's survivors in Southern California.  That's a side of the family we have no contact with and that is just fine.       Somewhere in her demented head she has assumed herself as the mother figure to Diane's prodigy, most of whom have lived the drugged life and on  the ragged side, in and out of prisons, you name it they have done it.  

End of long post, this year we were both compelled as duty called to go to the parade and take some photos of the Golden Apples.  These photos  we have shared online with our side--Allen, Angel and grand kids, and with Rodney.  Barbara who has not spoken with us in over a year now  either has chosen to keep her email a secret or only uses her work computer. I do not develop photos so anyone not online loses.  The rains came but the carriage for the two  Golden Apples was early on in the parade following the young  queen and her court and others, so they did not get wet, as at the end of the parade they were whisked back to the facility.

Frank and Florence, the two Golden Apples
The pesky autumn gnats that arrive here were out in full force Sunday and I spent a great deal of time swatting them away from my face.  They seem to be drawn to me like a magnet.
Golden Apple Carriage.  The boy along the side was
refilling  his candy bucket to throw to spectator children along the route.

Following the carriage, the Lancers, our
High School Marching band

More of our Lancer's High School Marchng Band

The young royalty escorted by Applefest Board
Apple Annies, local singing group

Last but not least, in case you think I exaggerate to have a tale to tell, how about this 

There were about 70 more entries, and community people who participate in the parade, but we took few more pictures and did not stay as the rains began and we departed for home.  MIL just called on the phone and despite claiming to not be interested, was angry that no photo showed of her in today's newspaper, after the Applefest.  I tried to tell her it is for the young people, who were featured at the carnival and around town.  She replied, "It's a big joke!  That's what I think."  Now she is convinced in her mind that they did this just to ignore and slight her, ahh go figure.    It's all supposed to be  about her!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Moody, shoes and never say never

Dining room looking toward sun room
I have just finished dusting all the living and dining room furniture which took about an hour. I figured I'd best get a handle there as we prepare again to hit the road. Fortunately our home stays really clean, tightly and well built, little dust and no animals or smoke so this is not something I have to do weekly. Trouble is I hate domestic chores, and most of our furniture is antique and or antique like with curlicues, etc. Once in a great blue moon I don't mind, but generally I am not amused. It is then I consider hiring a house cleaner because there is so much else I would rather be I grumble along. Then I get back to my reality which is I would be very unhappy to have our treasures damaged, broken or nicked and I am fussy about having things done right...a genetic characteristic from my late aunt Jinx and late Uncle Carl. In CA when I worked, I always had house cleaners, some very good some not so and it did not matter if I used an agency or had a private individual everything was not always the way it  should have been in my eyes. When Jerry retired years before I could,  he volunteered to assume the dusting and vacuuming which is primarily what the paid help did and so he did. I ask him today what happened to that? He remarks that I am retired now too! This usually starts a conversation about how I did not retire to become a domestic goddess and we go on. He tells me to go ahead and hire someone and then I have to admit I can easily do this one room at a time when I choose, I just don't like to. Yesterday at my book club meeting one of the women said she and hubby were considering selling their home and moving into a condo because she was tired of house upkeep which led us into discussion about so many other things we prefer to do. At this point I shudder to even think of moving anywhere, just when we have the house the way we want it. Oh no, that is not in the imminent future, so I will likely continue to grumble. I  put on some Rod Stewar CD's on, turn up the surround sound, crank it up there and rock around with Rod.  

Florence, MIL in January at the SNF, her birthday celebration
Meantime thoughts about what I could be writing plague me. Lately I have been reminded yet again to not ever disdain anything I see in stores let alone saying, "well I'd never buy that or spend that much on that." I posted on Facebook these brief thoughts after taking 94 year old MIL shoe shopping Saturday, driving 30 some miles up the high way to Sparta, WI to Arenz shoe store where they specialize in the geriatric, hard to fit and all sorts of better shoes. I post one of her recent photos here as I  talk about her and so it may be of interest to see her.  Anyone who remarks that she appears to be a sweet old lady is reminded that appearances are deceiving  But I digress,  I have not been able to find shoes to fit this woman for the past several months because she has a small but very wide foot with bunions and arthritis; I have purchased and returned maybe 25 pairs of different shoes and nothing fits. I was dreading taking her as it is not a fun experience to spend time with her, but here I was driving up the highway with her, something I'd rather not do but no one else will and so here we go. No way could I persuade Jerry to go along and it is his mother, I remind him. Oh he had a handy excuse he had to haul two truckloads of cut down trees and shrubs to the dump which he can only do on Saturday afternoons. Fine.

Florence,MIL, among her other issues like dementia does not hear and so conversations are not possible. At least in the car I can turn on music which she can't hear whilst she continues to talk about whatever is going through her mind. Honestly I miss my relatives who though aged were pleasant company. Downtown Sparta is an interesting old dairy farmland town with several stores still operating.   I fantasized that after we bought shoes I could buzz by the Quilt Corner but that was not to be. Here is just one link to Sparta, WI if you are curious

Getting her fitted and convinced about the kind of shoe she needs took over two hours. We endured her ramblings about not being able to wear hose anymore, no kidding and now she doesn't go anywhere so she does not need to dress up and cannot wear dress shoes, etc..and of course she had to regale the sales lady with her  current bowel movements and lack there of.  Why does she  feel her bowels are of interest to everyone?  It has always puzzled me among other things why she would wear shoes that did not fit her feet, something I have never understood as foot pain is not tolerable to me. Once in CA during one of their frequent visits when FIL was alive, I had shoes  to donate to the thrift store because they hurt my feet , so they could not have a place in my closet. She was visiting at the time and took those shoes, despite that they did not fit her.  You get the idea I do not have fond memories of and with this woman and sympathize with all who endure MIL's.

The saleslady was very patient and assured me it was not a problem as she is used to this with the elderly, but even she was stretched to her limits. When we arrived I explained to the sales lady this would be difficult because MIL does not hear and so speak loudly and then her dementia is likely to result in any response.. related or not to the question.

Of course MIL, whose finances are managed by Jerry,  inquires as to the price of everything and her thrifty (aka cheap) side begins to surface. I personally do not care what the shoes cost so long as they fit and give her the support she needs; I am giving up my Saturday and we will get shoes for her else mayhem may emerge from me. I tell the saleslady to not divulge high prices because the old lady will balk like a mule and then I will have driven all this way for naught. I tell her to say everything cost $50 and even that is too high to MIL who still talks about and wears the one good pair of shoes she owns. That is a pair she bought with me five years ago and paid $100, she claims the only time in her life she spent so much on shoes, I have heard this story over and over and over. Besides I was there when we entered that last store in the mall that day after being in each store  that sold shoes and wasting three hours;the charming young man who waited on us convinced her to buy the shoes.  Hallelujah, I could have hugged him.  He flattered and appealed to her vanity somehow once again demonstrating that she is  susceptible to any man who talks a good line.  This is another strong  theme in her life story.

When Florence finally agreed to a decent shoe after trying on 18 different pairs (after which I  quit counting and sighing) and wandering around with her walker looking at every shoe including ones she never would have worn in the past let alone now I felt like celebrating! Not having a bottle of wine with me, I knew I'd have to wait till I returned home. Neither did I have a flask along to take a nip!

My new SAS golden sandals
But now I get to the never say never part of this post.  I admired the sandals the saleslady wore in black patent leather and asked what they were. Turned out they were SAS, a quality brand that used to be made in Maine but now are made in Texas. I see in the SAS display the sandals  in gold leather and know it is the shoe for me. If the shoe fits, go for it.   I have had a fascination with gold shoes all my life; recall my post about my first pair of "golden slippers" as a child, a present from Aunt Fran.  If you are curious, you can visit that post at

I ask for these sandals in my size and when I try them on I know this is heaven for my  feet and must have them.  The sole reminds me of the Birkenstocks I wore in CA as it molds to fit the foot.  There are two buckles, one adjusts the toe strap and one the side.  The sales lady and I have a good laugh reminiscing that these type of sandals were once known to us as thongs, but today we cannot say that in "polite company"  as thongs now are underwear. 

Well to wrap back to the title, just last week I was in a Herburger's department store and noticing that many  well known shoe brands including Clarks are offering flip flops,  rubber  like shoes that can be bought at WalMart for $15 tops but these major brands are priced at $40 on up.  I thought to myself, "who would pay that for rubber flip flops?"  I also felt smug that I would never do that.  But here I am on Saturday of the same week, forking over $139 for my new golden SAS.  Well at least my new shoes are not rubber and I am loving and living in them all summer.  After all, I deserve these and more for spending the day with MIL.  Back home, Jerry gasps at the price and shakes his head saying, "next time take along a flask and have a shot, it would be cheaper!"  He is amazed at so little leather for so much money and comments that his boots cost less and have easily  10 times more leather.  But I remind him, these were made in the USA, not China and  I deserve these and more!