Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Count your blessings, they say. Think positive. Easy enough for people who aren't going through major life changes or depression.
I left for work this morning sulky and downcast. Though inspirational music played cheerily on my car radio, I couldn't muster one good thought. I arrived at work and the day began. Little by little, the routine began to settle me. I found that being busy was good for my spirits. And when a co-worker and I took a long walk during lunchtime, I turned my face upward to the shining sun and whispered a prayer of thankfulness.
As we returned to the office, I received a phone call from my son. He was going to spend a little time with my mother, his grandmother today. She had a doctor's appointment and he had volunteered to take her. He had questions for me, and I could hear in his voice that he was a little agitated, but he patiently answered the receptionist at the clinic while being respectful to my mother who kept talking in the background. My heart cracked in half as I thought of my son's goodness. It can't be easy for an almost thirty-year old to "hang out with grandma" one day a week. It can't be easy watching her mind failing, and answering her questions over and over, or listening to stories he's probably heard hundreds of times by now.
He took her out to eat after the appointment--something he does each week. He made sure she took her afternoon pills, knowing how much I worry about this every day. My mind could settle a bit as I relaxed and knew that Mom was in good hands. Matt is my mother's shining star, you see. She adores him and still refers to him as "My Darling." This is a name she has called him since he was a baby. I would walk into the house with Matt in my arms, and the minute he'd hear her say those words, his little feet would start kicking and he'd get the biggest smile on his face.
When she asked the other day who Matt was to me, my heart sank. But then I thought: at least she knows him. But I couldn't believe she didn't realize he is my son.
Matt is my shining star too, though. He is the blessing I am most grateful for every day of my life. His name, Matthew means gift of God, and it is appropriate. Any time I'm really down, I think of Matt and smile. His good heart, his infectious grin, his passion for causes that are right. Such a good young man. The best.
I am proud of him for more than this. He is someone who picked himself up from his own bout of depression. He cast off shyness that he'd had as a child, and did something about it. Matt took his passion to a whole new level and began doing what he really loved. Playing crane machines and making kids and their families happy. His YouTube channel and popularity have skyrocketed and I cannot think of a more deserving person.
I watch him at meet and greets when fans line up to talk with him. He takes time with each and every one of them, asking where they are from, and still humble enough to be amazed when they say they've come from out of state to see him. I see the looks on the faces of the children, the excitement of meeting their idol, and the joy from being there with him and it warms my heart. Matt gives of himself going above and beyond to make sure each child and family get plenty of attention. He's helped several kids who have been depressed as he shared a special story on his YouTube channel called "Draw My Life." And he donates his many wins to special charities and events. Yes, I cannot help but smile and feel very, very blessed when I think about the amazing person my son has turned out to be.
God, thank you for Matt, this gift you've given, this shining star for so many of us. And if anyone should be a true star in every sense of the word, I pray that Matt's popularity would grow and flourish even more in the years to come.
Hey, if you have a minute, check him out. Subscribe to his channel. I think he'll make you smile, too.
Matt's Facebook Fan Page:
Matt's special story: Draw My Life:
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
I have chosen Valentine's Day to share a few small stories that I hope will encourage and bless you. If you are a caregiver of an elderly family member, please know you are not alone. And know that there are moments, these sweet moments that you will remember forever.
Love in the Golden Years
Love in the senior years: A true inspiration to me. My parents were married over sixty years. Sixty years of ups and downs, good health and bad, happiness and sadness. But one thing remained: a steadfast love. It was this love that inspired me to write stories; theirs, and another couple: my husband’s elderly aunt and uncle.
Louise, my husband’s aunt, had a stroke several years back and was hospitalized and eventually moved into a nursing home. Her husband, Hubert, took the time every single day to drive to see her. He helped her eat, talked with her even though she couldn’t speak well, and made sure every need of hers was met. There came a time he couldn’t drive any longer, and he would wait as the senior bus picked him up, not wanting to miss one day with his wife.
When he suffered his own health crisis, he ended up in the same care facility. Though they weren’t in the same room, Uncle Hubert would wheel himself down the hall to spend time with his beloved each and every day.
Hubert and Louise didn’t have many family members, so I became a regular visitor of theirs. I watched as love appeared to grow even stronger as Hubert sat by his wife’s side, gazing upon her as if she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, and talking to her as if she was the only person in the world who mattered.
Then came the day when we had to tell him that Louise had passed away. Brave man that he was, Hubert made it to the funeral. When he stood from his wheelchair to give Louise that final kiss, I thought my heart would break.
He would live another two years without her, and it was during that time that I would grow closer than ever to him.
One Christmas morning my husband Jim and I went to visit Uncle Hubert in the nursing home after Aunt Louise had passed away. We signed the guest book in the front lobby and walked through the doors to the hall that leads to the patient rooms. A little way up the hallway, Uncle Hubert was sitting in his wheelchair, the only patient in the immediate area, an expectant look on his face which broke into the most beautiful smile the instant he saw us. "Merry Christmas," he said, extending both arms toward us. We embraced and went into the dining room with him to chat. A lump formed in my throat as we spoke, realizing we probably got the most wonderful present by giving our time to this dear man. "I knew you were coming," he said to us. It was the strangest thing. We could have chosen any time that day for a visit, yet he knew in his heart it would be then. All our love, Uncle Hubert....
Basket of Love
There is a basket my mother keeps near her kitchen table, spilling over with love letters and cards that Dad sent her through the years. We lost my father only four months ago, and these writings have become a beautiful link to his love for Mom.
Every so often when I’m visiting, Mom pulls a crumpled page out and asks in a shy, giggling, school girl kind of way, “Did you ever see some of the notes your father wrote me?”
In her dementia, Mom doesn’t realize that I’ve heard the letters read many times now. But to her, it’s the first time. It’s a way to reignite the passion she and Dad shared, and makes her see herself as my father always saw her: as the young beauty he once courted.
Though the ravages of aging are upon her, the thinning, gray hair, bent body, and same sweatshirt stained with jelly from the previous day; inside is the young girl. The one my father loved.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
He made her a fresh pot of coffee. He headed out the door at seven a.m. most every day to buy her favorite jelly doughnut. He took her for car rides to a favorite spot; a small creek that ran under a stone bridge where they would sit like young lovers as if parking all over again.
He watched the same movies over and over because she didn't remember that they just saw them. He listened to her countless stories--ones that he'd heard hundreds of times through the years. And he looked at her with true love--the kind of expression I've never seen since on any man's face.
Yes, my father's love for Mom was noteworthy. So much, that it will stand the test of time. He's no longer here, but his love lives on in photos, cards and hastily written romantic letters which spill out of an old basket in my mother's kitchen.
The photos are worn, but the sentiment is there: true love, undying love, faithful love. My father took his marriage vows seriously with love and honor. Sticking by in sickness and bad times.
I could see it wasn't easy in his final days at the hospital last fall. At first, Dad hadn't wanted us to bring Mom around--once again fearing for her and trying to protect her with his literal last breaths. But we knew where she belonged--right at his side. And so we trekked daily to the hospital, placing her in a wheelchair and wheeling her to be with the man she adored. He smiled when he was able, held her hand at other times. The kiss I saw my mother give Dad before they wheeled him into surgery was long and lingering. No young passionate lovers have ever seemed as enamored of one another as my parents did even into their eighties.
Someday I hope to write a book centered around the words my father used to pen his beautiful notes to Mom. For she blushes and acts like a schoolgirl while reading them to us. And we listen, me, my brother and son, as she shares the words that will live on long after they are both gone.
That, my friends, is a true Valentine story.