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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gratitude November 22, 2015

It is only in the last 10 years or so that I have begun to feel truly grateful. Before that I felt entitled. Certainly not by being born white or Jewish, or the daughter of Holocaust refugees. But I felt that the good things in my life came to me because of my efforts. Either my parents or I had worked hard to achieve them or to deserve them.  I felt I was the passive recipient of good genes. I earned good grades in school. I learned how to be a patient and kind teacher and a listening psychologist. I read and worked hard at being a good wife and a good parent.
On the other hand, when hard times occurred, disappointments in relationships, or jobs or when I experienced losses, I had the feeling I was being punished for perceived failures. By not living up to the standards that were set for me, I had let myself and others down and consequently had "earned" the failures I encountered.
I also never believed in luck. I can't gamble; I am too afraid of losing.
And since I was born on the cusp of the Second World War, I studied about God and learned the language of the prayers and observed the rituals of my religion, but I never trusted in a personal God who would be there to help me in any way.
So what changed?

I was faced with a problem that could not be fixed by my efforts or anyone else's efforts. The fact that my husband developed Alzheimer's disease could not be attributed to any fault of mine, to any misbehavior or lack of concern, love or effort. His illness was not a punishment to him or to his family or to me. It just was.

Alzheimer's disease transformed me, made me realize how lucky indeed I am and how we are not in total control of our lives. Even though I exercise and watch my weight, I am grateful each day to wake up healthy. I am grateful for the sun when it shines and for the rain. I am grateful for my children and grandchildren who are healthy and thriving. I appreciate  my friends wth whom I can share a meal or an event, a greeting or a conversation.Thank you for being there.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving November 20,2015

Remind me, folks, lest this dinosaur forgot. Why  did the Pilgrims designate this day of celebrating with the Native Americans when they had survived the first harsh winter in their new land and harvested their first fall crops?
They thanked their God for what? Turkey? Corn? Sweet potatoes?

They were grateful they had chosen against all odds to flee the countries that were persecuting them. They had made the difficult choices and had experienced significant hardships not only reaching a new land, but learning new skills, weathering storms and cold to which they had not been accustomed and relating with the people who already lived here.In order to be free.

Where did they flee to?


And every so often, since then, we become "isolationist" and refuse entry to others fleeing harsh conditions, persecutions, discrimination, war and death. WHY?

And how do we justify all the Thanksgiving holiday hoopla without welcoming the stranger into our midst?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Life is Good November 18, 2015

Surely, turkeys play a large role in Thanksgiving. Mine will be donated to the food bank and we will have a vegetarian feast.
But most important are the family and friend reunions at holiday time. I am often surprised when I see people I haven't seen for a while. How did they age so much? Have I as well? I guess so, but I recognize the process in others more than I do in myself. That's normal. The changes in ourselves occur gradually over time, just as the changes occur in the people we see every day, slowly. Often we don't see the changes at all. So if you are visiting your parents or older adults, please look carefully.Gauge how they are dealing with life. What is their mood like? How has their behavior changed? Are they more mellow, easier to get along with or cantankerous and moody? Do they need assistance with the tasks of daily living they didn't need last year? Life is good when we can be with family members we love and can care for.

Have the conversation. Which one? The end-of-life one. What do your parents, aunts, uncles, friends, siblings want for themselves as they age and when they die? If you will be responsible, you need to know what they want you to do.

I will be reconnecting this week with folks I have known for 15 years. For ten years or more, the group met every six weeks for a Shabbat dinner in someone's home. We each brought part of the meals.Of the thirteen who were part of the group when we joined it, six will be present. One couple is out of town, which leaves five to be accounted for. One woman retired and moved out of state to live with her daughter and granddaughters. One woman died a few years ago and two men died this summer, including my husband. And one woman moved to an assisted livng home because she has dementia. We will rejoice at being together and by rememberiing the ones who are no longer with us.We'll drink a toast, but it will most likely be grape juice! Life is good when we can be together with friends. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Recalculating November 3, 2015

We reach crossroads often in our lives, but many of them are "forks in the road." We have two or three options and we need to choose one. What we do changes the course of our lives. In today's fast-paced world, we choose often and change course regularly, which does not stop as we age. 
For older adults that change is often not easy. We are used to the pattern of our lives and of being swayed by life to "go with the flow" without deciding for ourselves what action to take.

I had lunch with a friend yesterday who has a better ieda. She recently lost her beloved husband of the past thirty-five years. He attained the age of 89 in good health until the last few years when he survived a few surgeries and nagging physical problems. A gracious, loving man, he never complained, he kept up his interest in his world, they traveled, they visited with their blended family, He died at home, in his sleep attended by a hospice nurse as his wife slept nearby.
Now, friends and family ask her "How are you?" and she has found the perfect metaphor for her feelings. Just as the GPS in the car responds when you make a change in the direction the car's voice has indicated, my friend replies, "I'm recalculating."
Now, many of her friends are inviting her to concerts, luncheons, dinners and she is quite busy with the  seemingly never-ending financial and governmental details following a death. She is also determined to "clean house" and to part with many things she no longer feels the need to keep. This attention will decrease with time and she, like the rest of us who have lost beloved spouses, will recalclate the direction  her life will take next.