Monday, November 16, 2009

Rotary Ann? Not Me!

I will have to say very decisively that I am not a “Rotary Ann.” You may never have heard of that term before and maybe it has been done away with as it surely should have been. But long ago my husband, Brad, belonged to the Rotary Club and the spouses of these stupendous men were referred to as their “Rotary Anns”.

I know the Rotary Club does many good works and it offers a great place to schmooze and network, but this practice of referring to their wives as Rotary Anns to me was grating and de-grading. Being a Rotary Ann meant to me that I wasn’t good enough or equal enough to be a Rotarian. It meant that I obviously didn’t have any dreams or ambitions of my own so I could use all that un-used time being a side-kick to my husband as he performed great deeds and reached the pinnacle of his ambition.

My father in law belonged to a Barbershop Quartet Chorus. It was fun to hear them sing and they were very good. Their spouses also were organized as a support group to the men. I’m sure they had a name but I can’t recall it at the moment. Their help was needed and they were kind to offer it. But as I watched them in action, I wondered if this was all they did or if they had goals of their own they were pursuing. Maybe they were destined to always hang around in the great shadow of their collective husbands’ glory.

I would feel differently if I thought it worked both ways. But would our husbands really like to be referred to as Relief Society Ralphs? Or is there a support group for the Sweet Adelines made up of adoring husbands? I think not. Those husbands are pursuing their own careers and their own interests. They don’t have time to tag along with their women-folk as those women trudge up their female ladders of accomplishment.

I know it is important to be supportive. But how can I do all the things I want to do if I fill up all my time being only the supporter and not the do-er? How will I have the time to practice the guitar and sing and write and speak and improve my photography skills and garden and bike and scrapbook and organize if I’m always supporting Brad’s career, sports, dogs, fishing and old cars?
This is sounding a bit whiny. I didn’t mean for it to. Actually, Brad is very supportive of my activities and once in awhile might not mind being called Relief Society Ralph. But I can’t imagine him traipsing around with me carrying my camera equipment any more than I would follow him around tying his fishing flies. Once in awhile, though, our interests cohabit—I can take pictures of the beauty while he fly fishes. I like those times.

I just wanted to say that I need my own interests and time to pursue them. They make me feel accomplished and useful and worthy of my place here on earth. I don’t need to belong to organizations made up of subordinates.

To those who enjoy the role of Rotary Ann, however, I apologize.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Aging is Going to Be the Death of Me

September 2009

Aging is going to be the death of me—literally, I hope. At least I think I hope. Actually, maybe it would be a lot easier to just go down in a plane or get a quick life-taking disease. Watching my Mom age makes me see the hardness of it. But that’s another story.

I don’t think of myself as old. I kind of think of myself as thirty-five, which I say is the perfect age. Forty isn’t a very good sounding age because the word “forty” isn’t very attractive. Maybe I think that way because my dad would always comment on an unappealing person as “fat, forty and 4F”. I still don’t know what that means. Do you? Anyway, even though I am now twenty years past forty, I think of myself as young. At least until I look in the mirror, of course. But I try not to do that too often.

Several incidences have brought me to the conclusion that I might perceive myself as young but others certainly don’t. Here are just two of them:

I had an obligatory meeting to go to that I knew was also going to be attended by an old high school friend. I hadn’t seen him for a very long time, but he had been an especially good-looking guy in high school and I somehow expected him to look the same. I even dressed particularly youth-fully so that he would definitely have to say, “Wow, Elizabeth, you haven’t changed a bit.”

Well he didn’t look the same. At all. He had a pot belly, was quite bald and wore suspenders—suspenders! I was shocked and disappointed.

And what’s more, he did not say, “Wow, Elizabeth, you haven’t changed a bit.” After contemplating for awhile, I realized he didn’t say it because it would have been a big fat lie. He was probably just as surprised at my changes as I had been at his.

On another occasion, I was in Wal-Mart waiting in line to have some fabric cut. (What I possibly could have been sewing, I can’t imagine right now.) Standing in line, I had time to analyze the clerk who was cutting everyone’s fabric and this was my thought process:

“Boy, they really get old people to work in here. That lady’s hands seem translucent and feeble and her hair is so thin. She’s a little old woman.”

After some closer observations, I realized with absolute horror that this woman had graduated from Westwood High School with me. She was my age! I was stunned!

By the time it was my turn to be waited on I was in a stammering mode. “Hi,” I managed. “I remember you from high school.”

“Yes” she said. “And I remember you, too.” She seemed a little cool. Maybe she had read my thoughts. I got very self-conscious.

“I bet you get to see a lot of people from the past in here,” I ventured.

“I do,” she said. “And they all look so old!”

I had been thinking how old she looked and she almost outright said that I looked old, too. The nerve!

Old age is like a disease that you never think you’ll catch. You’re so surprised when you turn fifty or sixty or seventy and everyone else seems surprised, too. No one is as surprised as I am to be sixty years old. How did that happen? Wasn’t I vaccinated against aging? The years just seemed to tumble over each other racing to get me to this age. I have to stop and consciously remember that I have already had my turn at youth. I had a very wonderful childhood. My twenties were pleasant. My thirties were delightful. My forties, although I have already disparaged the sound of “forty”, were maybe some of the best years because they came with new vision and new attitudes. My fifties rushed by with lots of experiences and now here I am at sixty and it seems like before I can count as high, seventy will be here.

I finally have to concede that I am no longer young. I have caught the disease and it’s my turn to be this age. My fingers have been pried from youth and I will try to accept it with graciousness and dignity. I will try not to give dirty looks to the checker at Fry’s when she gives me the senior discount without even bothering to ask me if I could possibly be old enough to qualify for it. I will try not to whack my grand kids when they say I’m starting to look like Grandma Great or my kids when they say, “Oh, Mom, you’re so cute when you ride your bike.” I will acknowledge the fact that my face now needs a lot more concealer than makeup base and that when the welcomer at Sam’s calls me “young lady” he really doesn’t mean it. In fact, he means the opposite.

I may not be young but I am definitely not old. Not yet. Actually, if the long lives of my close relatives are any indication, I think I'm only about two-thirds through this complicated yet fascinating life. Think of that--thirty more years! Great things can be accomplished in thirty years so I can't let aging get in my way. And I absolutely refuse to think of myself as "old" for thirty whole potential-filled years.

Awwwww, the world is mine--still!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dad and Alzheimer's

I cried today in my Spanish class and felt rather silly. When I cry there is no hiding the evidence because my eyes get red and my face distorts and of course my nose runs uncontrollably. So I had to explain to Professor (actually “Profesora”) Jarvis the reason for my unbecoming tears. She had put a beautiful Spanish song on a CD player for us to listen to and the tears came because the music reminded me of my Dad. He loved music and especially that sung in Spanish. He loved to sing it and loved to listen to it. So while the music played, I thought of my Dad and wished he were right there listening with me because he really would have enjoyed it.

Dad died of Alzheimer’s three days before Christmas in 1999—just in time to join the Heavenly Choirs that Heaven must have at Christmas time. His disease lasted for seven years before death mercifully let him rest. It started slowly and then progressed into a terrible fiend. The first we realized that something was wrong was during a game of Boggle. Dad usually could play it so well, but this time he couldn’t spell the words right. It was very alarming because he had always been such a great speller.

Then as the disease progressed, Dad couldn’t make his mouth form the words he wanted to say. One of the last words he could manage was “Snowflake”. He loved Snowflake, Arizona, where he was born and raised. No matter where individuals said they were from, Dad would ask, “What side of Snowflake is that on?”

Alzheimer’s is a dark and dreadful illness. To the victim perhaps it feels like being sucked into a vortex with no chance of escape. And to those who love the victim it is a frantic but hopeless reaching to save. Once in awhile, though, Dad’s Alzheimer’s brought moments of humor, kindness and insight.

One day in Snowflake, my niece, Lori, was going to take him swimming at the town pool so she told him to get his swimming suit on. He came out so ridiculously dressed that if it hadn’t been tragic we could have laughed for hours. His suit was on rather crookedly and he had on one sock that was pulled up to his knee. On his other foot was a shoe and on his face was a look of triumph. He was like a delighted child who had gotten dressed without help and was now ready for a much deserved swim.

Often, Dad refused to go to bed so Mom would have to have someone help her get him there. One day it was my husband, Brad, and my son-in-law, Cory, who came to the rescue. They had to nearly drag him to bed with him angrily resisting the whole way. When they finally got him into bed and covered up, Dad’s manners got the best of him and he said quite kindly, “Thank you!”

As Dad got worse, his countenance became terrible and he even scared himself. Mom finally had to put newspapers over all the mirrors in the house because, looking in the mirror, Dad would think an evil person had intruded and it made him extremely agitated.

Before the mirror quit being his friend, however, a remarkable experience happened that taught me a great lesson and makes me happy still.

Dad had had Alzheimer’s for several years when he, Mom, my sister, Maxine, and I visited a dress shop in Lakeside, Arizona. As Mom was busy looking for dresses, Dad passed a mirror that covered a whole wall of the store. Maxine and I watched in amazement as Dad performed the most interesting charade in front of it. In his sickness, he didn’t realize that it was a mirror and as he passed it, he thought he was seeing a long lost friend. His ability to speak was quite gone by then, but he could make the motion of words. He greeted himself, acting very, very pleased to see this old friend. His arms went out in greeting and his nodding and smiling showed how happy he was. He communicated with himself for about 5 minutes in this very friendly way. (I guess I had let my mouth hang open with incredulity since Maxine quietly suggested that I close it.) Mom was so embarrassed when she caught on to what Dad was doing because, understandably, she had a hard time seeing any humor or bright spot in Alzheimer’s at all. With great annoyance, she told him to stop and to come with her. But Dad kept “talking” to his “friend”. Finally he looked into the mirror, and then pointed to his wife as though he were saying, “Well, it’s been real nice talking to you, but the Mrs. is calling and I’ve got to go now.”

Mom was humiliated, but Maxine and I were in awe for we recognized the priceless lesson we had just witnessed. Dad had done what all of us hope to do—he had looked in the mirror and liked the person he met there. If every mirror could be greeted with a similar fondness, life would be easier all the way around.

Dad liked himself. What a tribute to a life well lived!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Disappearing Act

Sometimes I would just like to disappear. Not go off on some vacation or anything, but just disappear. Voila! I especially feel that way when I remember something really stupid I have done---like when a friend offered to bring meatballs to an Open House and I didn’t remember that she had offered. Then as we were getting the food tables all set up and they were immensely crowded and the friend called to say that the meatballs were ready and she’d bring them over, I let the other friend who was trying to arrange the space on the tables convince me to say, “No, we can’t use the meatballs!”…...Well, when I remember thoughtless things like that that I have done, that’s when I imagine myself just slipping off my chair as I slowly diminish and then by the time my body hits the wall, I am gone. Totally disintegrated. No more. That sounds very inviting.

Other things can make me feel like disappearing—Mothers Day at church, for example. Well, to be truthful, Mothers Day and I have finally come to an understanding. But I feel like disappearing right now. One of my children is lying in bed and it is after 11:00 in the morning and the cleaners who only come every other week are ready to clean his room but he won’t let them in and his room is atrocious. He says he will clean it himself, but he won’t. It’s not the room so much that makes my disappearing act so appealing. It’s what the room stands for. It’s what the body still in bed stands for. It’s the opportunities missed, the life not fully lived yet. My soul aches. And I want to slowly slide off my chair and disappear.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Two Great Salad Recipes

My birthday party was a huge success and I thank everyone who came!! When I figure out how to do it, I will post some pictures so you can remember how much fun we had. Some have asked for the salad recipes so here they are:

FROG EYE SALAD (my standby for every occasion, mostly because a few in my family love it)

1 1/3 cups (8 oz) Acini de Pepe (a tiny pasta)uncooked
1 can (20 oz.) pineapple chunks, drained (reserve 1/4 cup juice)
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 pkg (3.4 oz.) vanilla instant pudding
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple, drained
2 cans (11 oz. each) mandarin oranges, drained
2 cups cool whip
3 cups miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup flaked coconut (I definitely leave this out because Brad won't let any coconut in the house!)

Cook pasta 11 minutes in water as directed on the package. Rinse with cold water and drain well. In large bowl, beat reserved pineapple juice, milk, sugar and pudding for 2 minutes. Gently stir in pasta and remaining ingredients; cover. Refrigerate at least 5 hours. Makes 12 servings.

(Brittany Robinson Cotter gave me this recipe)

Cheese filled Tortellini (which is found in the refrigerated section)
Cherry or grape tomatoes cut in halves or fourths
Fresh broccoli cut in small pieces
Litehouse Ranch Dressing (Litehouse is a brand found by the fresh salads. Don't use the "light" Ranch)

Put the tortellini, tomatoes and broccoli in a bowl in proportions that look right to you. Then add the Ranch without overdoing it. You might want to add toasted pine nuts which are really good. We would have had them at the party but they got over-toasted!

I am going to try to be more diligent in adding to this blog. I have hundreds of things I want to say and I need to get them out of my head because they are really buzzing around in there.