A Stroke Of Love: Dealing With An Aging Loved One

 

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His eyes fight the strong urge to stay open as I stroke his hair.  He wants to stay awake but the power and comfort of the human touch is too much to bear.  When I stop, he opens them again as if to ensure that I am not leaving his side.  I continue.  

The love I feel for this man is beyond comprehension yet so familiar to a love I once felt for another wonderful man, my father.  I wasn’t there the day my father died but I was there on many other days by his side, giving him all the love I had in me and more.  I left his side on a Sunday to go back to my family and he died the next day.  Thankfully, he did not die alone.

This man whose hair I stroke is my father-in-law; a man I’ve known since my teen years.  The man who raised my husband and who along with his wife, produced six of the most caring, compassionate, and hard-working men I know.   A legend in his community  known for his devotion to the town he loves and to the thousands of children whose lives he touched, while presiding over the town’s baseball leagues. Beloved by many, respected by all.

Watching this larger than life figure succumb to the inevitable and unforgiving force that is aging, is heartbreaking, to say the least.  A sight too familiar to me and one no one can truly prepare for.  

His mind and memory sharply in tact serving more as a burden than a blessing making him fully aware of his daily weakening and decline. A once fiercely active and independent man who now depends on others for all of his needs.  His dignity constantly threatened as he watches his grandchildren treat him differently in their struggle to recognize familiarity and comfort in the grandpa they once knew. 

I find my body shaking sometimes with fear and sadness for what is to come.  Intellectually, I know it is part of the cycle of life, a stage which is often celebrated and thought of as a journey to another bigger and better life.  But right now I can’t find that belief, I only have deep sadness for what was and what is to be.

He is a feisty fighter and stubborn as a mule, having survived recent major surgery to treat his cancer as well as heart surgery years back.  They don’t make them like him anymore.  He lived through the Depression, never complained about his life, hardly took a vacation and was ahead of his time in his ability to accept other’s differences with integrity and respect.  A model citizen and human being.

I cannot help but reflect on two particular memories I have with him.  While my husband and I were dating, true to his farmer background, he informed my husband that I was a good catch because I had good “onions”.  Little did I know that farming references would be a constant part of his repertoire throughout his life.  The other memory is of the time I had to host my first Thanksgiving, as a newlywed.  We are a big family but I did not think we were as big as he thought we were until (after offering to buy the turkey for me), he showed up at our door with a 30 pound bird.  Needless to say, I cried and called my mother for help as I tried to handle the beast.

The weeks ahead will be extremely difficult as we all navigate the ups and downs we continue to face.  I have got to gain the strength to accept what is and to support my husband and his family.  I will do anything I can to be there for him.  I will continue to offer my love and compassion to a man who I feel blessed to have known for so long.  He has loved me unconditionally and opened his arms to me from the day we met. And as long as he allows it, I will continue to stroke the full glorious head of silver hair he has, until he falls peacefully asleep. 

 

 

 

 

 

A Message To My Adult Children

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Look at you both, one about to graduate from college and the other getting ready to study abroad for a year.  You must be so proud of what you have accomplished thus far and pleased to see where your hard work has taken you.  It hasn’t always been easy but you have persevered thanks to your evolving maturity and strong values.

There is nothing more rewarding as a parent, than to watch your children thrive and become caring and happy adults.  This is what your father and I have always wanted for you and will continue to want in the years to come.

You have heard the same messages from both of us from a very young age.  Scatter kindness.  Be compassionate.  Empathize.  Help those in need. As annoying as those messages may seem,  as you continue to grow, I can only hope that they become second nature.

My message to you as you embrace the next stage of your young life, is to strive to become the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.  You may reach your career goals and feel you are succeeding but as your mother I can tell you with certainty, that true success is measured by your  integrity and kindness towards others.  Nothing else comes even close.

Go out there, always remembering what is most important.  Treat others with respect, put yourself in others’ shoes, imagine what someone may be going through, give them the benefit of the doubt and think with your heart, always.  Success and happiness will follow when you truly love yourself and can share that love with those around you.

Be open-minded.  Embrace the differences in others.  Be flexible and willing to try new things even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone.  Absorb the experiences fully because they all count in ultimately making you the person you will become.

Be proud of your heritage and your culture.  Don’t be afraid to share all parts of yourself to others.  Never feel shame for what you are or where you come from, instead, be the good example of your race and ethnicity to combat the unfair judgements and misunderstandings others have formed.  You have watched me embrace the pride in my culture and raise my head up high when discriminated against.  You are half Puerto Rican, it is a part of you, carry that part of you proudly through out your life.

Life is not fair.  Bad things will happen.  Things will not go as planned and life will be cruel at times.  You will hurt and feel undeserving of such struggles and wonder how you will survive them.  I can’t protect you from the obstacles you will face and may not be able to make them go away, but I will always be there to listen and most importantly, to model and illustrate the coping mechanisms I have learned throughout my life when dealing with adversity.

You have both observed me struggle with my health issues and have seen how I have been able to move forward, in spite of them.  You have watched me refuse to be a victim of my circumstances and steer you away from blaming others for your pain.

Your father has been the example of what having integrity looks like.  An honest, compassionate man who has sacrificed his needs for all of us.  Always willing to give of himself to make us happy all while demonstrating and balancing his extraordinary work ethic.  A man who never tires of doing for others in the community and who has made a significant impact on others’ lives.

My beautiful children,  I carry you both in my heart, always.  I wish you only the best as you face, head on, your new experiences.  I hope that there is always room in your hearts for your father and I and for the beliefs  we have instilled in you.    

No one else in this world loves you more. 

 

Mom

 

 

 

Love Has No Timeframe

I realize that I have written about my mother’s second marriage here before, but as I sit and watch her and her wonderful husband hanging out in my living room with me, I can’t help my desire to want to shout out their story and tell it over and over again.

My mother.  A beautiful and caring woman who has been my life line, my strength and my inspiration.  Someone who has taught me to accept what is, to make do with what one has and to persevere when the desire to quit is lurking nearby.

In her mid 70’s after having lived as a widow for twelve difficult years following the death of my father (her childhood sweetheart),  she met a man.  A man she was not looking for.  A man she was not interested in meeting.  A kind, intelligent persistent widower who had heard about her via mutual friends.

He lived in California, she in Puerto Rico.  Friends insisted they talk on the phone.  He gave her his email address, she purposely lost it. He had family in Puerto Rico and used that as an excuse to go meet her.  She reluctantly accepted his dinner invitation.

They dined, they talked, they laughed.  They dined again the next night.  And the next.   They laughed some more.  A month went by and they continued to ‘secretly date’.  Not a word was said to family or friends.  Not a word to their kids.

She traveled to the States to care for me after an operation.  While at my house, she behaved strangely.  She giggled often.  She texted a lot.  She smiled. She sang.  She skyped.  She was more giddy than my teenage daughter.  What was going on?

My husband caught her skyping in the middle of the night.  Who was she taking to?  She answered texts while at the dinner table with her grandkids watching her.  She was in her own little world.

Finally, I demanded she tell me what was going on.  She smirked, hesitated and blushed.  She informed me that she had met a ‘nice man’ who lived in California. WHAT??

After interrogating her, alerting my siblings, conducting a paid background check on him and google earthing his home,  I sat wide eyed with a dropped jaw, in disbelief.  She was flying to CA to visit him.  WHAT??

She flew to him.  She remained the moral and assured woman she had always been.  She stayed at a hotel near his home.  They dined, they laughed, they talked.  She called me to tell me they were engaged.  WHAT??

Who was this man?  Was she in danger?

Within a week, he had flown back to my home with her.  They were engaged and beaming with glee.  At a luncheon with my siblings where he proclaimed his love for her and his desire to marry her, we too were instantly smitten.  What an amazing person.  What a kind, loving and respectful man.  How he cherished my mother.  How happy they seemed.

On December 4, 2015, they will be celebrating their 5th year wedding anniversary.  They are by far, the sweetest, cutest and happiest couple I know.  They hold hands, they kiss, they watch out for one another, they travel, they dance, they dress up, they live and they love.

They say love is patient and kind.  I see that it is also within anyone’s reach, no matter the age.

Wishing them both many more years of love and health!

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Serve Your Man First

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Growing up in a traditional Puerto Rican family, I observed from a very young age the gender roles my parents and family members took on when going about their daily lives.  Although both my parents worked and had mutual respect for each other’s careers, when it came to certain things, tradition took over.

This was evident particularly at meal time.  My mother always served my father his meal before serving anyone else.  If they were at a function with a buffet style dining, she got up, went through the line, made up a plate for him first and then went back for her own plate.

As my sister and I grew older and paid more attention to this phenomenon, we made it abundantly clear how much we disagreed with this tradition and that it would not be repeated with our future husbands.  No way.

Our two loving brothers couldn’t resist celebrating this tradition and would ask my sister and I to serve them first.  We of course, didn’t.  I accepted serving my father first because he was my father but laughed at my brothers’ attempts to guilt us into it.  As it was, my sister and I were already miffed about having to always wash dishes while my brothers could go off and play.  Grrrr.

Well, it is 2015.  My husband and I have been married for 26 years (wow that sounds like a lot) and as promised, I did not take on the serving him first tradition.  If anything, due to my physical limitations, it was he who had to serve me first and do a lot more of his share of the household chores.

He did it all with an abundance of love.

As my husband and I face a change in his career which requires a tremendous amount of stress, long hours, night meetings, responsibility, devotion, commitment and leadership, there is nothing I want more than to take care of him.  Within my health limitations, I want to to help him in every way.

I want him to be healthy.  I want to make sure he sleeps well, eats well and manages stress in a reasonable way.  If this means being a “traditional” 50’s wife whose day is spent making her husband’s life easier, then so be it.

Bring on the cute short aprons and the recipes!

Bring on the drives to the dry cleaners (I’m not ironing) to pick up his shirts!

Bring on the slippers to warm his feet once he gets home!

Bring on having to take the recycling and trash out myself!

Bring on getting a lawn mower service (I’m not mowing the lawn!)

Bring on listening to every single boring detail of his day with a smile!

Bring on having to give him massages (maybe)!

And most of all, bring on serving him his meals first!

 

And I will  do it all, with an abundance of love.

 

 

 

Dear Children, I Apologize For The Behavior Of My Fellow Adults

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Dear Children,

I am so very sorry that many of us have let you down.  I am sorry that we disappoint you on a daily basis by engaging in the very behavior we urge you not to engage in.

From a very early age, we adults encourage you to share your toys, say please and thank you, mind your manners, be kind and respectful to others and to never to be a bully. We take you to church, socialize you and expose you to people who are different.  We teach you tolerance and acceptance and hope that you will grow up to be a kind and happy adult.

But in reality, we fail.  We ourselves don’t share.  We are demanding of others, we do not take accountability for our actions, we blame others, we are not kind or respectful to others and we do the bullying.  We model the exact opposite of what we want you to become, and for that, I truly apologize.

I apologize for the times we yell at your coach during your sporting event.  I apologize for giving the finger to a driver that forgot to turn on his signal.  I apologize for saying bad things about your friend Tommy’s mother.  I apologize for calling your teacher stupid.  I apologize for judging our foreign neighbors and the gay waiter at the cafe.  I apologize for encouraging you to always fight to get your way and to question all authority.  I apologize for making you think that you are entitled and owed the things you want.

I am sorry that you saw the mean things we wrote on another person’s Facebook page and for the heartless tweet we retweeted.  I am sorry you witnessed us threaten to sue someone because we didn’t get our way.  I am sorry that we are not the adults we are supposed to be.

I am forever embarrassed and appalled that you have to witness adults engage in insulting rhetoric toward one another.  Everywhere you turn, there is an adult not behaving like an adult should.  An adult with no respect for others and absolutely no civility.

I apologize with all my heart that you have to hear our elected officials, the very people who are supposed to serve us, engage in preposterous rhetoric and behavior.  I am sorry that they have made a mockery of a diplomatic and respectful process our founding fathers worked hard to develop.   I am sorry that even at the highest level, there is bullying.  I am sorry that you are being held to the highest standards at school and punished if you bully someone, yet the adults around you get away with it day after day.

I am truly sorry.

I can only hope that you see how the behavior we are engaging in, does not work.  That the wisdom beyond your years helps you recognize how flawed we are and that in spite of it,  you choose to follow your little kind and growing heart to be the person you are meant to be.  That you let your pudgy little hand reach up to the sky and grab the opportunities that await you.  That your developing eyes see no colors, no borders and no walls.  That your innocent and caring soul knows without a doubt that spreading love and kindness is the ticket to a happy and fulfilling life.

I apologize on behalf of all adults.

Love In Ten Lines

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As many of you know, I love my husband, Mr. brickhouse who I often refer to on my blog, as Mr. B.

But, there is another talented and charming  Mr. B out there in the world better known as   Mark Bialczak, who tagged me in a poetry challenge titled, Love in Ten Lines.  You can check out this Mr. B’s lovely poem here.

Well,  I am always up for a love challenge and it so happens that I awoke today feeling rather feisty and edgy.  So I agreed to participate.

I had to tone it down a bit because it was getting hot around here and I didn’t need another hot flash.

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Here are the rules:

•Write about love using only 10 lines.

•Use the word love in every line.

•Each line can only be four words long.

•Nominate others who are up for the challenge.

•Let them know about the challenge.

•Title the post: Love in Ten Lines

•Include a quote about love (this can be your own).

•You may write in any language.

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My Poem:

“Love In Ten Lines”

Take me, mi amor,

Love me at once.

Lust, passion with love,

Is love I demand.

Caress me, mi amor,

With love and desire.

Kiss me, mi amor,

Love-making with fire.

Love me, mi amor,

For I love you.

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My quote:

“Con amor, se puede”

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*I am going to break the rules (because I am stubborn and a trouble maker) and not  nominate anyone in particular.  I urge you however, to give it a try on the comment section, if you so desire.  RRRRrrrrrrrrrrr!