Goodbye New York

Goodbye New York.

I gave you 2/3 of my life to impress me with the lights of Times Square and Rockefeller Center, the rolling vineyard covered hills Upstate, the Finger Lakes that were the passion of my youth.

You gave me lilacs, magnolias and wisteria in the spring. You gave me the reds, greens and golds of perfect autumns. When people from outside the state think of you all they know, for better or worse, is New York City. You are so much more than that. You are the hilly woods of the Adirondacks, you are the sweet valleys of the Southern Tier. You are the congested cities of Buffalo with their famous footballers, Rochester with their exciting hockey, Syracuse….our beloved Orange basketball and lacrosse…..go ‘Cuse.

You are lakes and towns named from the Indian tribes that owned the land before the Natives were relegated to the reservation in Salamanca. You are the sleepy villages named after the German, Italian, and English descendants who settled there. Stratford on Avon (pronounce with short A) became Avon, New York (pronounce with long A).

You are the impressive SUNY system that my children have used well. You are also the state that doles out welfare so freely that people move here just to take advantage of that.

Your snow, which is not your fault, have driven the retired to fly away…at least from New Years Eve to April Fools Day. Your taxes, which you do have control over, have forced the richest of the rich to keep their Keuka properties as second homes and make their primary residences in other states.

Maybe I’ll be back someday. It could happen. The ex-husband told me a year ago that in spite of our other issues, he knows that I am the only one in his whole life that he knows for sure will drop everything and come to help him if he needs it. He’s right. A little something about “in sickness and in health” I promised almost 40 years ago.

Other than that I don’t see it though. Except for a semester of college in Ohio, a few short vacations to Florida, Arizona, and California, and the 5 long, scary months that I spent ramming around the midwest in 2008, I’ve spent my whole life here. I need more. I don’t hate you New York. I just need more. I want a little home with a revolving view. Kind of like those little ViewMaster’s we had when we were kids. When I need a change….click…..new view.

Am I afraid?………maybe……..just a little bit. But then promises I’ve trusted my whole adult life become more real to me. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”…….”Perfect love casts out fear”………”If God be for me, who can be against me?”…….”trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”………”devils can’t, angels won’t” (my shortened version of Romans 8:38)…….

Goodbye New York……today really is the first day of the rest of my life.

Published in: on December 20, 2010 at 9:27 pm  Comments (2)  

A day in the life of…………..

The odor. It could like to knock you over at times when you pass by the bathroom.

On this day it woke me up from a sound sleep, the smell of urine wafting into my room like a good morning slap on the face.

That and a buzzing fly are my daily cues to hurry up, wake up, and live one more day to care for two people who don’t want to live any more days.

I am never quite sure what will greet me in that cavern of bodily functions but I’m nothing if not prepared. I rub the sleepy out of my eyes, slip the ubiquitous latex gloves on, and march down the hall not allowing myself to think about it. The Clorox Wipes sit right next to a full bottle of Clorox bleach on top of the hamper outside the door. A stack of bleached towels are piled high enough to fall over but the wall holds them steady.

The fly is buzzing in the bathroom.

He isn’t just any old fly. He’s the fly that’s been there for a week. I’m coming to know this fly intimately. I had valiantly tried to end the life of the poor creature several times but he’s crafty and has eluded me every time. I finally gave up figuring I’ll get him after he gets old, about two more weeks maybe.

He always comes to life in the morning, and gets drunk on the smell of urine and feces that aren’t where they are supposed to be. Today is no exception. He’s giddily flitting from one spot to another hardly able to contain his excitement.

The thought that he will soon be in the kitchen, bustling about the food, alighting on the Raison Bran is enough to put me over the edge. I choose not to think about that either. Good thing I don’t eat breakfast I keep telling myself.

True to form there is cleaning to do. A buzzing fly is generally a good indication of that anyway. I slowly extract three, exactly three, Clorox Wipes from the large tube. I carefully lay two of them on the floor where my flip flopped feet will go and keep one in my gloved hand. I place one foot on top of each of the two wet wipes and scuffle across the floor trying hard not to breathe. As I reach the other end of the bathroom I quickly open the window. I never close it but for some reason, every morning, it needs to be opened. As quickly as I can I wipe every surface in sight with the wipe I carry in my left hand. Scuffling back over to the hamper, just outside the door, I reach for the bleach. I pour it, straight, on the floor around the toilet.

Suddenly the aroma of uric acid is gone but my eyes begin to tear up and I know I have to get out. I lay a small towel on top of the little puddle of bleach and leave it there for now. Maybe that dang fly will get the hint soon and leave.

Published in: on October 1, 2010 at 11:33 am  Comments (6)  

An old blog post from another blogging time in my life………

This was written as a comment on someone else’s blog post about a song written and sung by men who had been to war. We were asked to give our take on the words and this was mine. For some reason this seems to mean something to me right now:

They sound like dead men walking, Whit. They have lost their innocence, their faith, the truth that they once knew. Their torments have caused them to see the world and others from the other side and they will never be the same. They followed the herd, baa, baa, baa, into the horrors of war and now they have lost who they are, the boys that they used to be, what they once stood for……

Don’t we all lose our innocence sometime, Whit? Don’t we all lose our faith, our hope, our love for God and our fellow man SOMETIME? Who has not felt those emotions so unique to the human experience? My wars have been different….I have not held a gun….not ever in my whole life….yet I have been to war and I defy anyone to minimize it or say that I haven’t. I know what it means to lose my hope and to lose my honor, in my own eyes and in the eyes of my fellows. I know what it means to question my own integrity and to think that I MUST be the wrong one and everyone else MUST be right. I know what it is like to hug my pillow at night and pray to die.

I know what it is like to follow the herd, baa, baa, baa, and the price that is exacted from that. I know what it means to leave the herd and have to follow another road. A harsh, rocky, lonely, narrow road. I know what it means to lose the innocence of my youth and know that nothing….nothing….will ever gain it back….that I will never trust people, any people, even the people closest to me, the same way again.

I know first hand the curse of Reuban and know that my earthly inheritance is not worthy to be compared to what awaits me in heaven. If they deny me, I deny them. My hope is not ‘false hope’ and I do not hang onto it because I have nothing else to hang onto….I hang onto it because I have ‘tasted and seen that the Lord is good’ and no one in this world, not even my dearest and best can take from me what I have experienced.

I am a prisoner of the hope the Lord has put so far down inside of me that it can never be pulled out no matter how hard someone…..or circumstances try. When my hope fled from me, He caused me to hope against hope, and a greater hope was born. A hope that is not dependent on anyone but Him. He is all my hope, all my honour, all my innocence, all my youth and all my truth. In my darkest moments, in those times when I thought I would die from the grief, I found something so much greater than my own integrity to hope in.

Ps. 18 says, “He made darkness His secret place”. For a while He was so bright and I didn’t have to look hard to find evidence of His love for me. Then it’s like someone walked in the room and flipped the switch. When the light went out all I could think of was “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1John) and it condemned me. Yet His Word says that when our hearts condemn us He is greater than our hearts. Then I saw the Psalm and God drew me into that secret place, and it was dark….and I so HATE the dark….and it changed me, Whit. Forever. I am changed and even if I wanted to I can’t go back. It would be like slapping Him in the face for all the times He has secretly met me in my need.

I am called rebellious and unsubmissive to authority….but I was such a good girl, wasn’t I? It was only when I realized that nothing I could ever do for these people would please them, that I became truly free to please God alone.

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 9:17 pm  Comments (2)  

Just as I am……..

Published in: on June 14, 2010 at 12:41 am  Comments (1)  

His truth is marching on……….

Published in: on June 8, 2010 at 1:27 pm  Comments (2)  

Blessing those that curse you…….without a word.

Well, I think I figured it out.

In everything I do I try to find purpose. Not just for the other person or situation I’m in, I can usually figure that out pretty well. But also for myself in that situation. When it comes to elder care work I know that I am serving the person, trying to make them more comfortable and maybe a little happier in whatever time they have left. Many times though, I don’t see what it’s doing for me other than paying me a living wage, working me to death, and giving me something to do in my old age.

That’s the thing about me though. I need more than that. I need to know where the Lord is in the mix.

This morning it came to me.

See, one of the problems I’ve been having in this job is that the husband, while he can be ornery at times, still appreciates what I do for them but the wife, as seemingly genteel as she can be, does not. I actually get that too because I’m a woman. Women don’t like another woman to come in and start doing what was once their job. They feel threatened. No one has to explain it to me. I understand. At the same time, this particular woman has not been able to do much of anything that she used to do for a few years. This issue is not new….and I am not the first aide in the house either.

This woman has a very underhanded way of trying to sabotage the peace around here. Whether she does it on purpose or not is up for debate. I think it’s a little of both. Some of it may come from her dementia that causes her to become confused, but some of it is intentional and I think she has always been manipulative and underhanded. Case in point, the husband has, in some ways, worse dementia, but he is never, not ever, underhanded about his dealings. He never goes behind your back. When the wife makes insinuations to him, usually about me or my son but it could be any number of things, if he becomes confused in that moment, he comes straight out and asks me the questions directly. She will beat around the bush.

So, this morning I overheard them talking and I heard the wife start to question, AGAIN, why they need someone in the house, what we are doing here, and what they can do about it. When this has happened before, which it does numerous times a day and can become quite tiring, I have approached it from different angles. One is head on. I turn to him, in no uncertain terms, explain what Tommy and I are doing here, and he settles down. The only problem with that way of dealing is that I always, without fail, end up frustrated. I don’t show it but I am. Inside all I can think of is “I can’t do this AGAIN”. Many times too, it only exacerbates the situation. She narrows her eyes until they are little slits in her head and has actually covered her ears when you try to speak reason to her. At that moment I realize nothing is getting resolved and generally walk out of the room to let her continue to badger the husband with her accusations. It seems like an unfair thing to do but then I remind myself that he married her, and stayed married to her for 60 years. Maybe this is the price he has to pay for that choice. As much as I like to save people from hardship sometimes they just have to save themselves.

Another way of dealing with it is turning on the CD player or television. That will usually get the wife to stop talking long enough to listen to the music or watch the show, which is good, but it generally adds to the confusion, at least initially. It’s not a sure fire cure.

The third way, that I have recently discovered, is just quietly, without a word, doing something positive for them. Not just housework, that works too, but something specifically for them that will bless them. The main thing that blesses the husband is having something good to eat.

So, while she is blathering on in the living room, denigrating me to him within my hearing, I just go in the kitchen and start cooking. I don’t respond to the words she is saying. I just start baking a pineapple upside down cake. Today while this was happening, I went into the kitchen without a word and made them a large hot breakfast. She stopped in mid-sentence and said, “Someone is working in the kitchen”.

BTW, I’ve been here for 2 months and I’m still “someone”. Neither of them remember my name. I’ve thought about buying myself a little name tag to wear but I just can’t bring myself to do that.

Anyway, I heard the husband reply, “Yes, someone is making us breakfast”. As soon as it was out of his mouth the bickering stopped. I guess you just can’t stay mad at someone who is doing something good for you no matter how bad you treat them. Well, to be more specific, the husband can’t. The wife was quiet then but her eyes were still angry and confused. He got up from the couch and with his walker toddled into the dining room to see what was going on. I quickly set his place and got him juice.

He knows. He knows that we are here to do what they can’t do anymore. I am here, however, so that the Lord can continue teaching me how to bless those who curse me…..and to do it in humility without a word.

Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 4:08 pm  Comments (2)  

Home free…………

In preparation for the travels that Tom, Jr. and I are going to take in the near future I have been doing some internet research. I found the most wonderful blog. It doesn’t appear to be active, and the posts I read are from 2006, but the advice the blogger gives is incredible and very handy. I bookmarked it for further reading. If you are interested, the link is: http://guide2homelessness.blogspot.com

Having been homeless at times in the past two years I can tell you that what this blogger says is all true. Actually being homeless wasn’t nearly as bad as the rejection that I experienced from family and friends (although it taught me who my true family and friends are so that part is good) and if I hadn’t felt so desperate during that time I might have enjoyed it more. I spent a lot of time at Marketplace Mall, where I was able to get a reasonably clean bathroom (compared to gas stations, well, there is no comparison), free internet, cheap refillable cappacinos at Subway and stay warm. Unlike other shopping venues, malls expect people to loiter. As long as you keep yourself clean and presentable no one is going to say anything.

While I don’t think this is a good idea, and I have learned my lesson, I even told a few people (who asked why I spent so much time there) that I was living out of my car. One person told me that I didn’t “look homeless”. I didn’t know what to say so I think I just shrugged. Looking back, I think it might be like Ben says…..I have that kind of ‘all-American girl’ look. I remember telling a cashier at a Wilson Farms store on North Clinton in Rochester, as I doled out nickels and pennies for my cappacino, that I was “poor girl” right now. He stared me in the eye and said, “You’ve never been poor”. I humphed back and said, “Well, I’ve been homeless a few times in the past year” He replied, “You’ve still never been poor”.

I think that’s what it is. I don’t ‘present’ as poor. I stand up straight, I look people in the eye, I don’t beg and I don’t take no guff from nobody. I’ve been almost as far down as one can be when it comes to not knowing which end is up and I found out that rather than give in and give up, instead I discovered this inner thing that caused me to, as I’ve said before, ‘put my dukes up’. There was this thing that just wouldn’t let go. I’d sit in my car at night and scream at God and cry until there were no more tears, but when the snow stopped and the sun came up the next day, I’d get out of my car, and throw myself at the day. I drove around applying for low income apts., looking for motels who would let me work for a room and any other thing I could think of….always ending up somewhere with free internet to keep up with my blog.

I am truly “home-free” now. I grew up in a very nice house in a very nice neighborhood. Before I was married at the age of 19 I closed on a home with my then fiance. Two years later we bought a very nice split level in a very nice neighborhood and lived there for 35 years. Before the separation and divorce in 2008 we were buying and selling (some people call it flipping) lake homes on Seneca Lake. We were good at it too. He has a serious gift with hammers and nails and chain saws. I’m the one that ‘stages’ the house for sale and then has the gift of gab to sell it. I can get you between $5000. and $25,000. more for your house than the realtor told you that you can get. I promise….and I can prove it. I did it. Twice. In the first case it was $40,000 than the realtor said but who’s counting….it’s just money.

I know that I could do that again. I’m good at it. Like, when we sold the house in Lima, I made everybody get the heck out of there. I mean, like, GET OUT! I sent them packing to the lake and moved out all the crap. You never want an empty house though. That looks bad. Looks desperate. We ripped up crappy carpet and refinished the hardwoods underneath. We replaced beaten up bedroom doors. We painted every single wall surface. We cleaned and scrubbed until that house SHINED, baby. Then I moved the furniture back in. Just what looked good. I brought back things that had already been moved to the lake. I took one bedroom and made it a “baby room” even though it hadn’t been a baby room for years. Ours was a neighborhood for young families. Selling a house is all about the power of suggestion. Show them the potential. I bought the cutest wooden cradle, Playskool rocking horse, both in brand new condition, at a garage sale. I used things I already had and I shopped for cheap accessories that I could use again in a different house. When I was done that house had never looked so good. The house I was told to ask $115,000 for (over my dead body) I asked $159,000. The ex-husband and the realtor gossiped about me behind my back saying that I would never get that. You read right, even the ex-husband, who stood to benefit, didn’t believe in me. For less than a $2000. investment at sale time, I got $146,900 for the house. It was the highest price a house in our neighborhood had ever gone for at that time. Three houses went up for sale in the next six months after ours sold.

Will, I ever do that again? Never say never, I guess. I don’t care now though. When I was homeless I realized that nothing…not ANYTHING…….matters. The houses, the antiques, the silver, the china……it’s all crap. All of it. It’s pretty to look at but it’s a burden. It weighs you down. It tries to keep you in one place. Tied to a house, tied to the earth, tied to it. “Take care of me! Take care of me!” it says. But aren’t there more pressing matters? Who has time to polish silver when there are so many more important things to do. There’s a reason Jesus said to store your treasure in Heaven where moth cannot eat it and rust cannot corrode it.

That’s why I don’t say I’m homeless anymore even though I don’t own a home and am living in someone else’s right now. I am home FREE. Free of the burden, free of the responsibility. Free.

Published in: on May 31, 2010 at 1:06 pm  Comments (8)  

More great days……….

Days are beginning to melt into each other. My couple doesn’t like the idea that they need help in order to stay in their home. Yet, the demands are so great that I rarely have time to think about anything other than feeding them, making sure they are clean, making sure the house is clean…..

My social life is nil.

I did see Ben today and that reminded me how insulated I have truly become. Except for seeing the ex-husband on occasion to pick up an extra fan or some stray kitchen items we need I don’t see anyone else that I know. Facebook, a once weekly trip to Blogstream when I can stand the slow server, and email have become my link to the outside world. Walking the north shore of Canandaigua, eating ice cream at The Muar House, and hanging out at my old Starbucks haunt seemed almost surreal to me. I’ve only been here two months and it seems like six.

The pattern of my days totally revolve around the needs of my couple and their house. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. Other times I know that I wouldn’t do anything else. I’ve lived my adult life overwhelmed. Whenever the county called with one more, or three more, children….I never turned them down. Even at 53, when they called me about 15 mo. old Gabriel, I couldn’t resist. There is something needy about needing to be needed, isn’t there?

The mornings generally start off a little rocky but are always a relief from the night before. The initial confusion can seem difficult to attend to when one is normally a little groggy. On a bad nights sleep, which is the norm, it can be horrendous. It’s still easier than the evening when the sundowners takes hold and the flashlights come out. I sleep with my bedroom door open and the minute I hear them stir I immediately go out and start working in the kitchen. This has an extremely soothing effect, especially on the husband, who I believe is secretly afraid he won’t have anything to eat unless he sees a female moving about the place. I head straight for the coffeemaker and make a full pot. It has been my salvation more mornings than I care to think about. Once the first cup is down, I am able to joke and make light of the confusion using my limited knowledge of Espanol and NYC Mafia voices. This breaks the tension of them not remembering me from the day before. I tease the husband about needing to eat and saying it’s not fair that a skinny guy like him gets to eat all the time without gaining an ounce. A smile goes a long way with this couple and I have been a smiler all my life, even on my most down days, so it works.

I quickly get a bowl of cereal at his place with a small glass of juice. As the wife sleepily makes her way out to the dining room I make sure she is taken care of too. Later, around 10, depending on when they got up, I will make what I call a “second breakfast” of scrambled eggs, toast, more juice, and/or waffles. I don’t wait for him to ask for it, by then it’s too late. At that point he is cranky and about to move into The Land of Make Believe. Mr. Roger’s knows what I’m talking about. I don’t ask either because I might get a negative response. If I do I have learned the hard way that he doesn’t mean it.

During the second breakfast I turn Susan Boyle on the CD player in the kitchen. He doesn’t particularly care for TV or music but I have learned to override that because it keeps the wife from the non-stop blathering that she is prone to and that drives him more crazy than the aforementioned. The music, in particular, is very soothing to her and sometimes I can just feel myself relax when I see her take a breath, close her eyes and inhale the sweet sound of Susan’s voice.

At that point I return to my room and leave them (within hearing distance) to their own devices knowing that I will hear a “help me…help me” if the husband needs help getting up. The more I let them do for themselves the better for them……if not for me. It truly is true that if you don’t use it, you lose it. In their case they are losing things daily but the regression will be worse if they do nothing. I am certain, at this point, that they will not try to actually cook anything other than a cup of tea in the microwave, and they show no signs of the classic Alzheimer’s wandering so I don’t have to worry about that either. I have already told the son that if that ever happens I will have to give my notice. This job is so all-encompassing withOUT that factor that I’m at the limit of my abilities right now.

Later, I will clean bathrooms, vacuum, do laundry, etc. It is set for Meals on Wheels to bring lunch five days a week. Initially I told the son that he didn’t have to have that as I can cook for them. It’s good that it’s still coming though. It gives me a break from cooking yet another meal each day and they really like the meals that come. There is this sense that it’s like take-out. While they eat lunch I usually do some kind of dinner preparation. As they are constantly looking for sweets, I bake little cupcakes or cookies. I decide what to make for dinner and take everything out of the freezer that I’m going to need for later.

Ever since I was separated from my husband and family I pretty much stopped cooking. For 36 years I cooked three meals a day. The husband took to eating cereal only after I took a job outside the house, before that expecting French Toast or eggs every day like his mother used to give him. As the family grew and grew the cooking took on gargantuan proportions. Near the end I was cooking for 8-10 on a daily basis, assuming no stragglers showed up as they usually did. I used to say that we had the MCC crowd, The Hardcore (youth group kids) the Elim students and the Roberts Wesleyan contingent. As many as 5 extra could show up unannounced any night of the week. Cooking then didn’t seem like a chore as much as I just didn’t even think about it. Food was everywhere in the kitchen in a seemingly endless stream of preparation. I view cooking as a necessary evil now. Fortunately my couple likes simple food that doesn’t require a lot of thought or attention.

As said previously, the husband likes to see me puttering around the kitchen. I think he is relieved to know he’s not home alone with a wife who can’t do it anymore. I’m not much for puttering though. I move speedily, get things done quickly and move on to other things. It’s all those years of all those kids and all that housework and all that yard work. It’s never going to change. The wife makes comments about wanting to help me and I have learned not to deny her the asking knowing that she’s never going to follow through anyway.

Afternoons are the quietest time and I have learned to appreciate them. When they settle down, I settle down. Evenings, with their constant questioning of who I am, why I’m here, who hired me, and bold statements that they are just going to up and sell the house and move back to their hometown will come soon enough. I’ve learned to let sleeping dogs lie. Don’t borrow trouble, as they say.

By nightfall I’m tired and it’s the worst time for all of this to take hold. I am trying to find ways to relax. I have found recently that I have this vacillating pain on the left side of my jaw. Having no health insurance of any kind I am pretty on top of anything that smacks of a problem. At first I thought it might be a toothache. Never having had a toothache I wasn’t sure what they felt like but I’ve heard they are horrible. The pain really isn’t in my tooth though. It’s in my jaw. I HAVE had TMJ before and that is what I think it is. I know what you are thinking…what does this have to do with everything else I’m talking about? Because the pain comes and goes I believe it is from grinding my teeth and is stress related.

So, I had a great day today. It is teaching me to make a point of having more ‘great days’. If for no other reason than if I don’t take care of myself I can’t take care of anyone else.

Published in: on May 31, 2010 at 12:09 am  Comments (4)  

Signs and things……….

There is no way that my daughter and/or son-in-law could have known how the Lord has used the song Broken Hallelujah in my life, or even that I liked the song. They simply didn’t know. Yet, they used it for this video they made of their little family. I’m not much for “signs”…but if there ever was one, this is one. Thanks Lord, I needed that.

Published in: on May 25, 2010 at 2:49 am  Comments (1)  

Arizona Rest Stop

Published in: on May 23, 2010 at 11:00 pm  Comments (2)