Does Dave Ramsey have a System for Bail Money?

I was recently reminded of one of my favorite stories about my dad. In the reminiscing, I realized not only have I never shared this with you, but that in not doing so, I’ve done you a disservice.

I’ve only showed you a picture of my dad that has been dulled by years of wear-and-tear. You haven’t seen the vibrant picture of the man that raised me.

And, you may be under the impression that Big Jim’s idiosyncrasies started with dementia.

Trust me, they didn’t.

My dad wasn’t the kind of guy in touch with his emotions. He wasn’t one that showered us with affection. The hugging and self-esteem building was mom’s job. Big Jim is the poster child for old-school parenting, and not because he has smelled like Bengay since the day I was born.

Need an example that really paints a picture? Ok. Hmmmmm, which one to choose? How about a rundown of my childhood gun safety seminar? (Sadly, they never included a catered lunch.)

Growing up we had several gun safes. You may have, or still do, refer to these as… closets. In the corner of every closet in our home sat a gun. Loaded. If someone broke in, we were to shoot them. Seminar over.

My dad uses the word “damn” as a qualifier in every sentence. So much so, one of my daughters thought “thedamn” was a word.

Think your dad was cheap?

To this day, Jim still holds a grudge due to the amount of money my mom paid for my prom dress.

To top it off, he’s a hoarder. Like many people that were raised in the aftermath of the Great Depression, he will collect anything. Tools, buckets, electric blanket cords, wheelchairs…. Literally, anything. Why? Because he never knows what he will need.

So how did this flawed man raise three kids that adore him? How could he have two grown daughters that still try and sneak attack him from each side to shower him with kisses as he waves his arms to beat us back?

The answer is simple. None of his flaws could ever diminish his strengths.

My dad was at everything. Choir concerts, track meets, softball games. He may have been the guy in the back tapping his watch as if to convey, “let’s go before the crowd breaks”, but he was always there.

He was the dad that drove my friends and I to the mall, grumbling the whole time about wasting money, but would sit in the car for hours reading the paper waiting for us.

He was the guy that a few of my friends (true story, happened more than once) called when they found themselves in a bind and didn’t want to call their own dad.

My dad is the exception to the rule. You don’t get what you see. After a brief acquaintance, you realize there is so much more.

I have countless, ridiculous, heart-warming stories, but there is one in particular that I love to tell. It is the embodiment of who my dad was and still is. It’s also, for reasons differing from my own, one of my dad’s favorite stories to tell. Though his short-term memory is shot, his long-term is holding strong.

First the backstory.

When I was about 7 years old, my parents surprised my sister and I with a beautiful bedroom set. White wood. Not the pressed board nonsense that is out now, but natural, sturdy wood stained white.

It was spectacular.

A large mirrored dresser. Tall chest of drawers. And the piece of resistance… A queen-size canopy bed.

The canopy material was stark white with an eyelet ruffle. The bedspread a soft lavender with an eyelet hem that matched the canopy. Going to bed every night was like becoming Sleeping Beauty over and over again.

Though I’ve always had a bit of a tomboy side, I credit this princess level bed as to why I wore dresses while hunting for crayfish.

Eventually, my sister and I got our own rooms. She moved on to a more mature scene and I got to keep the coveted bedroom set.
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(My sister and I sitting on said bed. Can’t see much of it, but you get the gist. Life before iPhones.)

Fast forward.

I’m a senior in high school. I get home from school and head to my room to drop off my bag. I stop frozen in the doorway of my bedroom.

Everything that had been near my bed was haphazardly piled in the far corner like a leaning tower of my childhood. Where my bed once sat, now only my mattress lay on the hardwood floor like a drug den.

Even at seventeen, I reasoned out fairly quickly that this wasn’t a B&E situation and there was one person who was responsible for this disaster.

I threw my bag on the floor and stormed out to the back yard where my dad was working in his garden. I approached with enough teenage angst to blow his hair back if he had had any. I stood staring at him silently.

“Hey! You’re home,” he greeted me.

After a long pause, I realized he needed an explanation for my appearance. “Dad! Where’s my bed?!”

“Oh! Yeah. I saw Sam today.”

“Who’s Sam?!”

My dad began a long detailed explanation about how Sam was Chuck’s son. “You remember Chuck right?” Chuck and my dad had been friends for years before he passed. Details about playing golf and Bunco together. He recounted when Chuck had passed away when Sam was 18 years old. He went traveling down memory lane for several minutes, but, in the end, gave no explanation how this had anything to do with my missing bed.

“AND!?” I bit out.

“Well Sam is going through a divorce.”

He explained that Sam had made some major mistakes leading to the destruction of his marriage. That he was now living in an apartment he could barely afford, let along furnish. In the midst of this very adult mess was his daughter. A little girl scared to sleep at her dad’s because it was so barren and in no way like a home.

“So you gave her my bed?!”

“Lori, she didn’t have a bed.”

“That’s great, Dad! NOW I DON’T HAVE A BED!”

I was furious. Without my permission my dad had given away my beautiful canopy bed and like a thief in the night, he did it behind my back.

A full belly laugh erupted from my dad.

As I’ve aged I’ve come to realize this is my dad’s go-to response when he’s facing one of two scenarios. 1-The person he’s dealing with is beyond reason. Or 2- He’s not asking for forgiveness.

What he said next wasn’t an explanation as to why I lost my bed. It wasn’t a cutting accusation meant to put me in my place. It was an old-school-big-Jim-style reality check.

“Last weekend I spent 3 hours looking for you and your friends. Running amuck in the county. I still don’t know where the hubcap on my car went. You need bail money more than you need that bed.”

I stormed off not only to prove my disgust, but also to avoid the hubcap conversation.

Even though I was a selfish, horrifying, 17-year-old, I was laughing before I made it back into the house.

This post couldn’t possibly hold all the lessons I began to learn in that moment and have continued to learn from it as I’ve aged. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of that bed and had to make the decision to be like my dad instead of that selfish 17-year-old. And, I’d be ashamed to tell how many times I’ve failed.

Worry not. This story has a happy ending.

The moment my mom got home she was reassuring me that they would buy me a new bed. Something I could take with me when I left their home. In the beginning, I declined out of stubbornness, but after one weekend, I sweetly reported to my parents that there was a lovely cross breeze with my mattress on the floor. It remained that way till I moved out.

Ok, fine!

After one weekend, I realized I could sneak out of my windows like a ninja without that big bed in the way. Bail money… in the looking back, sound advice. (For the record, I never needed it!)

Why is this one of my dad’s favs to regale?

To this day, he wonders what happened to the damn hubcap.

Make-up Can Only Hide So Much

Hey y’all! It’s been a coon’s age! I have survived the holidays, my children’s snow days, and sinus infections ravaging my family.

So what’s new with Big Jim?
He is officially 83! Woo Hoo!

New year, New Jim?
No, you crazy optimist! Big Jim has already proven, at my expense, he is ready to entertain for another year.

Here. We. Go.

Do you ever worry about what others will think of you?

Have you ever sat analyzing the way you presented yourself?

Does your hair look perfectly quaffed? Do your shoes compliment your sweater? Was the opinion you just expressed appropriate?

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Photo by Anderson Guerra on Pexels.com

In life we tend to operate under the delusion that insecurity is a mountain to be conquered. Once we reach the top of the peak, we can bask in the golden rays of not caring what others think of us.

If only that were true.

Being secure in who you are is a hill and valley situation. The second you conquer one hill, here comes a wicked east wind to knock you into a valley.

Now, I’m not talking about spiritual security or knowing your sense of purpose in this world. I’m just trying to get through a day. A two-hour block to be specific.

See, I’m one of those people that others would label secure in a superficial sense. I emphasized superficial because I want to be sure you know, that I know, what other’s see isn’t always reality.

I’m the kind of person that isn’t afraid of being in public without make-up. Baseball hats… I have a collection. Though housekeeping is something I’m fairly good at, I have a St. Bernard and four children. There will be dirt and/or dog hair even on my best day.

Even though I’m not the kind of person that habitually worries about what others see or their interpretation of what they see, it was recently revealed to me I may have a skeleton in my closet.

When I take my dad to the doctor, I am all that and a bag of chips. Hair done. Outfit coordinates. Make-up applied. I’m armed with current vitals, weights, lab results, and med sheets. Hell, I even eat before taking him to be sure my blood sugar doesn’t drop causing me to lose focus. I’m such a rock star, other old men are envious of my dad for his daughter! (They’ve never actual said it, but their look of longing can’t be denied.)

Why does someone, who doesn’t care what other’s think, go to this length when we all know, behind the scenes, everything is on fire?

Clearly, somewhere deep down, I care what the healthcare professionals caring for my dad think. In spite of what my dad does or says, his passion for noncompliance, or his Hobo chic fashion sense (you may remember the wallet story), I want them to know the person at the helm is rational and protecting him. I want the care he receives to be a reflection of the quality they see in me and, God willing, blind them to the nonsense he could unleash at any given moment.

How did I come to this place of enlightenment? Through meditation or prayer? A caregiver’s support group that is a safe place to address one’s insecurities?

Of Course not! That’s what normal people do! I, for one, prefer a ridiculous series of events that leaves me asking, “What just happened?”

Dad’s most recent doctor’s appointment was early in the morning. After rushing around to be sure I was presentable and getting my kids off to school, I zipped over to grab dad. I’m right on time, in other words, I’m late.

If you’ve ever taken an elderly person to an appointment you know that if you are not an hour early, you are late.

Dad is waiting in the doorway and starts making his way out to the car before I’m fully in the driveway. I notice he’s carrying what looks like a cane. Weird, but whatever.

Once he’s in the car, I realize it’s not a cane at all. It’s a 3-foot-long shoehorn with an ornately carved handle.

OK. I’ll bite.

“What’s with the shoehorn?”

He stares at it for a second, trying to recall why he brought it. After several heartbeats, as if the answer to a million dollar question dropped in his lap, he enthusiastically replied, “Gotta have it in case they need me to take off my shoes.”

Dad’s pride in his pre-planning is evident.

I nodded in understanding. Can’t argue with that logic.

As we moseyed down the road the seatbelt alarm started singing at us. With all the excitement of the shoehorn I forgot to remind dad to put his seatbelt on. This is normally something I help him with, but since I’m driving, he tries to accomplish this on his own.

After several failed attempts I notice he’s having a hard time maneuvering around the bulk that is in his coat pocket.

“Dad, what’s in your pocket?”

Now I want to pause here and make my first point.

What happened next I should have seen coming. As established, it’s early and we are in a time crunch (at least based on 83-year-old time frames). I take full responsibility for how the rest of this story plays out. Let this be a lesson.

You always have time to frisk your elderly parents.

Dad reaches in his pocket and produces the obstacle.

A strawberry jelly jar full of urine, in an old bread bag, secured with a twisty tie. (Dark rye bread in case you’re a stickler for detail.)

He holds it up for a quick inspection, but says nothing as he shoves it into the free cup holder next to my coffee. Now I can’t be sure, since I wasn’t looking in the mirror, but I imagine my countenance was similar to that of someone who was just surprised by a “shart”.

“Dad, what… you can’t… that’s not…why do you have that?”

Mystified at my confusion, he replies, “They may need it and I can’t be sure when I can pee.”

I fall quiet as I accept the next hour of my life. The urine is now in route. I’m stuck. Thanks to pesky littering laws, I can’t chuck it out the window. And in the confined space of a car, I can’t make it disappear in hopes dad will forget about it. That jar of urine is now a part of my day.

I spend the rest of the drive listening to the rhythmic sloshing of my, now, untouched, coffee and Smucker’s urine while my dad gives his commentary on the Super Bowl. Much like everyone else, he found it boring, but his biggest concern was regarding the “tattooed boy”.
“Now, do you think cocaine made him get the California tattoo?”
“I wonder what Janet Jackson thought of that mess. You know they thought she was a hussy!”

We get to the doctor and the urine goes right back in his pocket.

“Dad, why don’t we leave it out here and I’ll come back out if they need it.”

“No, No. It’s too cold to come back out.”
It’s 40 degrees.

I realize my only hope is that in the whirlwind excitement of getting checked in, he won’t offer the urine as a hostess gift and it will sit hidden in his pocket. I’m so close to this becoming a reality until the med tech bee-bops in with her let’s-do-things-right mentality.

We approach the scale.

“James, I need you to take your coat off so we can get an accurate weight.”

Outwardly, I smiled like a Stepford wife.

Internally… “Really lady!? Yes, he’s in heart failure! Yes, he’s on a diuretic and getting an exact weight is vital for maintaining his health, but that is none of your business! Let the man leave his coat on! Quit trying to be all good at your job! Now is not the time!”

Dad begins to remove his coat, and as predicted, remembers his precious cargo.

“Woah, woah. Hold on here. Gotta get this out of here.”

He hands me the strawberry/rye bread urine for safe keeping.

As I stood in the crowded medical office, surrounded by busy professionals, holding my expensive purse that matches my coat, an oriental shoe horn so regal it must have belonged to an early emperor, and a, surprisingly heavy, hillbilly urine sample, I was thrown into a private moment of self-reflection.

Did I really need to get up early to put on make-up?

I gotta be honest folks. I fear the answer is no.

Caregivers Unite!

Dad, have a seat. This one isn’t about you.

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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Since I was a kid I have loved superheroes.

I’ve seen all the movies. Dabbled in all the TV shows. I have heated discussions with my children about the best superhero to take into war. My youngest daughter would take the Flash.

I may have messed up with that kid along the way.

Superhero stories are a fun escape. We root for the good guy. We want the hero to overcome. Art imitates life. We need the hero to overcome.

The problem? Superheroes are cookie cutter. (A comic book purist’s head just exploded.)

An individual has a negative life event. Said event shapes them, alters them in some way. They use their power and/or resources to rectify event. In this process, they grow and realize what they were able to do for themselves, they can do for the less fortunate. They fashion a suit.

Boom. I just wrote a superhero plot.

Though the heroes are great, it’s not the cape wearers that have kept me coming back for more. It’s the villains I’m captivated by.

Oh. My. Stars! Do I love a good villain.

After all, what is a superhero without a villain? Just some random person with too much time and spandex on their hands.

My fascination with villains didn’t start with the increased popularity of the Marvel franchise and the DC Universe. It goes way back.

J. R. Ewing.

Mrs. Olsen and Nelly Olsen. (Having two in the same show… magic!)

Sylar from the underrated show Heroes.

Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent.

Jack Randal from the series Outlander. Tobias Menzies, who played this disgusting villain, also played one of the good guys in a different century. Two characters in the same show! SMH… I can’t even.

Darth Vader. Guys! Give the man a break! He’s been through some stuff.

I could go on and on, but I’ll move on to ultimate villain. The man that set the impossible bar for all villains.

Alan Rickman.

You may be familiar with his ability to portray evil from movies like Robin Hood and Die Hard. Later in his career, he took his ability to be a good villain and launched it into the realm of being the greatest villain of all time when his acting ability collided with great writing.

Alan Rickman’s portrayal of J. K. Rowling’s character Snape, in the Harry Potter series, embodies everything that captivates me about villains.

For those of you that aren’t Potterheads, I’ll give a quick run down. I’d normally leave out spoilers, but if you haven’t read the books or seen the movies yet, you’re probably not going to.

Snape is introduced early in the series. A textbook villain. Wears all black, greasy hair, a constant look of contempt. Almost all the heroes in the story KNOW he’s a bad guy. Even more fascinating, all the actual villains believe him to be a bad guy.  There is only one character that trusts him, Dumbledore.

Though it is not immediately revealed to us why Dumbledore trusts Snape, the simple fact he does, plants a mustard seed of doubt as to who Snape really is.

Most Villain stories advance one of two ways. The villain is defeated or the villain travels down the road of redemption. This isn’t the case with Snape. As the story progresses, Snape proves over and over again what a dirt ball he is. Later in the series, he kills Dumbledore! The one guy that trusted him, Snape offs, leaving readers reeling.

All hope is lost. Mustard seed crushed.

But wait. It’s not over.

As the series ends, it’s revealed that Snape wasn’t a villain at all. That everything he did, including the collaborative execution of the day Dumbledore chose to die, was to one end. The ruthless protection of the love Snape carried for a woman he lost. In fact, it could be argued that Harry, the namesake of the series, wasn’t the hero at all. Snape was.

Suddenly, the label of villain morphs into something much richer.

Ruthless hero.

Most of you are familiar with the word ruthless. It is owned by the villain side. Even Webster’s dictionary gives it a bad name.

I challenge you to throw out the world’s definition and consider another angle, an angle that has become a way of life for me.

Let me explain the why and how.

First the why…

As caregivers we pour out. Constantly. Sometimes the person we are caring for takes a teaspoon, sometimes, the whole pitcher. This depletion can be exhausting.

In fact, let’s pause there and bellow the next sentence out loud…. THIS IS EXHAUSTING!!

Feel better? I hope so, now onto the next bit of bad news.

There is no cure.

Caregiving is exhausting. If you’re a mom, your kids will exhaust you. A mom of a special needs kid… double the exhaustion. If you’re a daughter, your parent’s failing health and subsequent health crisis will exhaust you. If you’re a nurse, give your soul to Jesus, because we are talking the seventh-circle-of-hell-level of exhaustion.

The first step is admitting it, but we can’t stop there. We must accept we can’t always change it.

Are you there yet? No worries if not. You’ll catch up.

Now we have to manage it.

Some manage the stress in their life while wearing a cape. Maybe you achieve this by meticulous organization. Maybe you have a housekeeper. I honestly don’t know how the superheroes operate, because I’m not one of them.

I’m a villain (aka ruthless hero).

How do I do this? I’ll give you an example.

I ruthlessly protect Sunday mornings. It doesn’t matter if I’m offered triple time at work. It doesn’t matter if I have a houseguest. My family and I go to church. Though the entire experience is important to me, I ruthlessly protect it for the first 30 minutes.

In that small block of time, I have the pleasure of participating in what is referred to as praise and worship. For 30 whole minutes, it’s not about what I can or cannot do. It’s about what God has done and will do. It’s not about what I need or want. It’s about what God has already given me. For 30 minutes it’s not about me and it is the most therapeutic 30 minutes of my week.

Why? Quite frankly, I get so tired of me!

I could give you more examples of other areas of my life that I am ruthless in, but the point of this is not to make you my kind of ruthless. The last thing I want is a bunch of cookie cutter villains. Boring!

Now let’s address you and the three groups that as a reader you may be falling into.

Group 1

Some of you are intrigued. You’re saying to yourself, “Self, you can totally be ruthless.” Ok, but there is one rule.

You must be selective.

Maybe you decide that taking a walk alone every day is something that you need to ruthlessly protect. Good. Do that, but as your seasons in life change you must change with it. Months from now, sitting and reading for an hour may become invaluable to you.

You can’t always protect both.

Understanding this is what makes the difference between a ruthless hero and a petulant pain in the ass.

Group 2

You’re getting nervous. Hives are forming. “I could never act that way.”

Don’t confuse being a ruthless hero with being mean. I promise, I’ve never kicked anyone in the shin. The people that love me the most, love me for my ruthlessness, not in spite of it.

When I say to a friend, “I am not attending that event with you because it sounds horrible. Absolutely, utterly, horrible. I’d have to do my hair, wear a bra… no. It won’t happen, BUT I love you and want to see you. I want to catch up with what’s going on with you. How can we pull that off and fit both of our energy levels?” They know I mean it.

When people realize your willing to use the word “won’t” over the word “can’t”, they trust the other things you say.

It also frees your loved ones. No one in my life is asking, “Are you sure? Are you O.K.?” They know the answer. I’m sure and I’m O.K.

And finally…

Group 3

You are appalled! “I’m not giving up this cape! It defines me. Not only am I empowered by it, but it matches my skin tone flawlessly!”

Good for you. Wear that bad boy like it’s your job! Guess what?

You just ruthlessly protected something you need. Though you may not be ready to take the cape off, put this information in your pocket just in case your skin tone changes.

My fellow caregivers, this isn’t about learning to say “no”. Toddlers know how to say no. Let’s create a lifestyle that we protect the things we need, in order to fill up with the love that we pour out over those that deserve it the most.

One more thing before I unleash you all to spread ruthless heroism.

I want to talk to one person.

The individual who is young in age or new to this walk as a caregiver. The woman that is too tired to change her shirt, let alone her mentality. Maybe I’m addressing the mom that is terrified of being judged.

Are the sons and daughters worried that they will make the wrong decision still listening?

How about those of you that have been trained your whole life to believe speaking up equals confrontation, you guys with me?

There is one villain I left out of my star-studded list.

A man believed to be capable of such evil he was hunted before birth. A villain so despised, he had the ability to bring opposing masses together in their shared hatred of him. A man accused of being so diabolical, he died a villain’s death.

His name was Jesus.

Suddenly, the label of villain morphs into something much richer.

 

The Big “R”

The letter R may not hold much significance to some of you. To others, especially in the medical field, it’s a complete sentence.

Refused.

This is a letter that I use constantly. I can drop an R on a MAR (medication administration record) faster than you can blink. In fact, if I had a penny (not a nickel, not a quarter, A PENNY) for every time I’ve charted refused on a patient, I’d be writing this blog from a yacht.

The elderly refuse treatment. It’s what they do, it’s their version of Fortnite.

Seems simple enough. Lesson learned. Information stored in your long-term memory and time to move on. Right?

Sorry. Much like life, obstinacy is rarely black and white.

Some friendly advice, that applies to anyone in your life and not just your failing loved one, never assume that someone is digging their heels in for the obvious reason.

Many times, they don’t even know why they’re digging their heels in.

Let me replay a conversation for you. An actual conversation. One that I have had some version of many times.

Patient: “I’m cold!”
(For the sake of expedience, I’ll leave the cursing out of the conversation. Rest assured, there are a lot of “hells” and “damns” getting thrown out during this. There are always a lot of hells and damns.)

Me: “I’ll grab you a blanket.”

P: “I don’t want a blanket!”

M: “What about another sweater?”

P: “I don’t want a sweater!”

M: “Would you like a snack?”
Random? Not really. This patient needs something, is demanding something, and just because she used the word “cold” doesn’t mean that is what she is feeling.

P: “I’m not hungry!”
Oh. Well… that wasn’t it.

M: I hand her a cup of water without saying a word. Why do I do this?
1-The obvious. Maybe she’s thirsty.
2-Maybe just holding something in her hand that requires a small level of focus             will calm her racing thoughts.
3-Maybe she’s just over stimulated and by responding to her verbally, I’m throwing her further into a tailspin.

P: She holds the cup, but does not drink and says nothing.
Have I gained or lost? I’ve gained. I’m not wearing the water, therefore, I’m getting closer.

M: Again, silently, I begin to wheel her into a new environment being intentional in my body language.

This is important.

Remember, as humans we are animals. In our youth, we rely heavily on our intellect and senses to process the world around us. As our understanding lessens and our senses become unreliable, our bodies return to those good ole’ animal instincts. The elderly can sense tension. They know when you’re rushed, annoyed, or at the end of your rope and they react to that as any animal does.

I position her right next to me as I return to my task of counting meds. This is a glaring example of my ridiculous courage. Her free hand could grasp my booty like a cobra, leaving me a bruise Rocky would envy.

After just a few seconds her body relaxes and she’s watching me. That’s when I break out my One-Woman show.

M: “Halloween was a few days ago. My daughter was Supergirl… blah blah blah… I ran out candy at my house… blah blah blah… My neighbors had a party…blah blah blah”
On and on I went with random, silly, tid-bits of my night. Slowly, as she listened to something she could remember experiencing herself, she wasn’t just relaxed, she became happy.

Did this patient refuse the blanket, sweater, and snack? No.

Once I gave her what she needed, she gladly accepted my offering.

Whatever she was feeling, that she had labeled “cold”, required 1:1 attention to cure. Once she got that, she was no longer cold.

I tell you this story to set a baseline. As a nurse, I am in no way rattled by refusals, non-compliance, or general tomfoolery.

As a daughter… Sigh!

The biggest non-compliance issue I have with my dad is him properly taking his Coumadin. (A blood thinner that prevents him from having a stroke.) This fight has been going on for years and I’m soooooo over it.

His Doctor and I have done everything from education to offering different solutions to solve this. Every bright idea we come up with either only lasts a few months or never gets any traction at all. I’m on the phone with his Cardiologist’s Coumadin nurse so often I may make her my kid’s emergency contact.

Her name is Michele. She seems delightful.

The problem is the issues my dad has with this drug are valid. They hold no weight when compared to a stroke, but to my dad, valid is valid.

A – Coumadin isn’t like Tylenol. There is no instant gratification when you take it. There is no relief from a disease that he can see or feel the symptoms of.
B – Coumadin is an old drug, like Moses took it old. This makes it cheap. Right up Big Jim’s alley. BUT it requires a monthly lab draw that costs money. This instantly throws it into the propaganda realm and, as already established, “That’s how they get ya!”
C – It’s a blood thinner. For those of you unfamiliar with the unavoidable side effects of blood thinners, let me give you a visual. My dad nicks himself shaving and his bathroom looks like Sparta.

Recently we were in our routine valley where he was refusing to get the lab draw to continue taking his Coumadin. I really felt like I was handling it like a mature adult. I very simply said, “Dad, do whatever you want.”

For the next two months, I believed I was coming to grips with the fact my dad would end up having a negative health event based on his refusals. Unfortunately, my behavior would later reveal I wasn’t so much coming to grips with it, as letting it fester.

I was sitting in a waiting room with my dad for an unrelated doctor’s appointment. It was very crowded causing my dad concern. I explained that not everyone was waiting for his doctor. Some were there for X-rays or labs.

“You know, like the Coumadin lab you should be getting.”

I shouldn’t have said it. It was petty. The nurse knew better, the daughter didn’t give a crap. I provoked him and his rebuttal was swift and predictable.

“Oh I know! You’re just like these doctors. Wanting me to waste my time and money!”

Now what I said next I’m not proud of. It’s not so much what I said, because it’s the truth, but how I said it. I was frustrated and my tone was harsh.

“Dad, I’m not worried about you dying from a stroke. I’m worried about you having a stroke and NOT dying! Have you considered what that would look like?!”

Yikes! The shame was instant.

Thankfully, his name was called ending our conversation. He never brought it up again and neither did I.

Shame started the race like the Hare in the classic story. Strong, a bullet right out of the gate. Right behind it was the tortoise of Grace. The shame petered out and Grace won. Grace always wins.

The next morning my dad got his lab draw. Without a lecture or a fight, he did it on his own.

For years my dad was refusing something and I wasn’t giving him what he needed. Proper motivation. I was using the avoidance of death to reason with him, knowing full well he’s not afraid to die. So much so, it’s a running joke in our family. He walks into every gathering announcing himself, “I’m here. I don’t know how!”

My dad does not feel he needs his life extended. Come to find out, he also does not need that daughter of his, who’s just like those doctors, having any more power over him while he’s here on earth.

Proper motivation. Check.

I’ve got 99 problems and a chainsaw is one of them!

Man! Jesus Christ could deliver a line. Ask any Christian and they will have a favorite Jesus quote. Heck, ask any non-Christian. Even if they deny him as the Son of God, they can’t deny the man had game.

My absolute favorite words written in red are, “It is finished.”

Yes. It. Is.

I’m not going to focus on that one today. It would make for a very short blog post in regards to caregiving so off we go to #2.

I’m going to condense my next quote. Break it down to the four words that changed me the most. The moment I heard these words as a child, they were branded in my brain.

“…the least of these…”

Let me give you a quick explanation.

Jesus made it VERY clear how to treat the weak, the broken, the hurting. He didn’t use a parable. He didn’t have a Broadway production with a Technicolor coat and back up dancers. This wasn’t a suggestion.

It was an order.

When you see the least of these, get your mucking boots on and get dirty.

Based on my chosen career and the populations I’ve worked with during my career, it shouldn’t come as a huge shock that these four words resonate with me.

Recently, a friend of mine labeled my passion for the elderly a “gift”. I loved the compliment. Admittedly, I would have loved it more to be known as being gifted for my vocal range, culinary skills, and/or my flawless pirouette, but alas, here we are.

I am gifted when dealing with the elderly. Guess what? So are you. Every single one of you. You just may not know it yet.

Now, this is where we are going to get real for a minute. This blog is not sponsored by the YMCA. We all don’t get the same ribbon. My ribbon… probably bigger than yours. It should be. I get paid for it to be bigger. Why is it necessary to point that out? Because unrealistic encouragement is just as damaging as no encouragement.

I’m in no way saying quit your job as an accountant and become the Gandhi of caregiving. I want you to see that right now, in this very moment, you are the exact person that someone else desperately needs.

Now let’s figure out how you’re gifted.

box celebration gift package
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have yet to meet a person that doesn’t have a soft spot; a group of people or cause that hits them in the heart, a population or circumstance that you want to see a change or elevation in. (This is a pretty impressive statement considering I’ve taken care of my fair share of narcissists and sociopaths in my younger days.)

Lets tick off some examples.

Victims
Kids
Single moms
Veterans
Orphans
Widows
Addicts
The disabled

Maybe what hits your heart isn’t the cross they have to carry, but the cross they consciously picked up.

Firefighters
Military personnel
Police officers
Teachers
Nurses (this one should rank high for all of you)
Paramedics
Young athletes
Starving artists

Or maybe it’s the circumstance around individuals that brings you to your knees.

Poverty
Illiteracy
Bullying
Injustice

Now imagine I wrote each of those individual words on it’s own slip of paper and threw them all into a bag. It doesn’t matter which one I pull out of the bag, I can make any of them work.

(Disclaimer: I did not write them on pieces of paper and put them in a bag. Come on! I have crap to do. I did however close my eyes and point at my computer screen.)

FIREFIGHTERS IT IS!

fire portrait helmet firefighter
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So firefighters are your kryptonite? (And not in a Magic Mike sort of way!) Their plight softens your heart more than any other. Their courage. The ridiculous hours they put in. Their willingness to sacrifice themselves to save another.

Worthy choice.

Now get ready. I’m going to blow your mind as if your brain has been feasting on sauerkraut for the last week. You are going to understand how gifted you are with the elderly in 3…2…1.

Firefighters get old.
(Imagine me staring at you as if I just changed the rotation of the earth.)

Seriously though.

Whoever you have a heart for now, whatever it is that gets your feet moving and ideas flowing, they, by the grace of God, will grow old. They need your support even once they have fallen off society’s radar.

They are still victims with scars. Still single moms worrying about their kids. Addicts struggling with shame. They are still teachers ready to impart wisdom or officers that would still die for you if they could.  They are still those people, just a bit watered down.

And if I’ve learned anything from the brewing industry, watered down still gets it done.

So how am I doing with applying this concept as a caregiver with my dad?

I’ve come before ya’all more than once presenting my failures, but not today!

I. Am. Killing. IT.

For several reasons, this was by far the easiest concept for me to apply as a daughter.

1-   I’ve always understood that my dad had a life before I came along. I think having a brother significantly older than me always worked to drive that home for me.
2-   My dad is a hoot! I complain about his stubbornness, but as long as it’s not directed at me, it’s hilarious.
3-   My dad knows stuff. Random stuff. Some important, some not so much. It’s always fun to ask him questions.
4-   My dad has seen some shit. (Mom, I know I could have used another word there, but once I explain, you’ll ignore it.) My dad was a white, scholarship, ball player in the south during segregation… Some. Shit.
5-   My dad is a dying breed. No part of his life has been hampered with gadgets and screens. He has stories. Real stories that were lived, not Googled.
6-   I love my dad’s voice and laugh. I’m always eager to hear them. If it means hearing stories I have heard 100 times, so be it.

Though the young man my dad once was is still inside of him, mulligans have to be given.

I repeat myself when he can’t hear me. Break down questions until he understands what I’m asking. Enjoy the silence in the long pauses when he struggles to find the words or silently decipher the meaning when he uses the wrong word.

The man he’s become demands alterations to be made, but it does not erase the man he once was. I get that, and account for it every moment.

So back to the ribbon scenario and pending awards ceremony I’ve conjured in my head.

Some of you are going to feel defeated believing, “Lori is going to take the gold again.”

Nope!

I’m currently getting my ass handed to me by the neighbor guy!

My dad’s neighbor frequently stops over. Spends a few minutes talking. Helps dad get his chainsaw working (because 82-year-olds frequently have chain saw emergencies). He may bring a beer or two or check the tire pressure on the car.

Nothing earth shattering, but man, does my dad love it.

He sits in his plastic chair, in front of the garage, and waits. I pull in the driveway full of smiles and love and he waves me off. He’s waiting on the neighbor.

No matter how good I am at “seeing” my dad, it will never mean as much as the neighbor seeing him. I’m bound to Big Jim. If not by law, at the very least, by genetics. In my dad’s mind, I have to see him. The neighbor doesn’t.

Being noticed by someone who didn’t have to look his way means everything to my dad.

Maybe the old-farmer type hits his neighbor in the heart. Maybe, he feels for a guy that has a grown daughter that runs her mouth like it’s a John Deer. It really doesn’t matter.

They are friends.

Speaking for myself, and I would wager a few of you, when I have felt like the least in my life, it only took one good friend to make me feel like the most.

That’s how they get ya!

My dad has oodles of catch phrases. Seriously. The man is the king of one-liners. One of his favorites (I’d rank it a solid #3) is, “That’s how they get ya”.

Gas prices, a $.10 increase in the cost of broccoli, cell phone contracts. The list has changed with every passing decade and goes on, and on, and on.

There is always someone out to get your money. Saints and sinners alike. Trust no one and go without before you let them win.

As the years have slipped by his attitude has remained the same, but his favorite saying has a much darker turn now.

“That’s how they get ya. If I buy (insert any item under the sun here) I’ll die before I can use it.”

New boots, dentures, a recliner. With any purchase we could find ourselves at the mercy of the gauntlet. The second those new boots are laced up, the grim reaper will be given his orders to take him out.

Though this is a part of my dad’s essential make up, I’ve tried everything to change his way of thinking.

I’ve been supportive. “Dad, get what you need and want to enjoy the time you have left.”
I’ve been manipulative. “Dad, a new pair of shoes will give you more support and may help you get back to doing the things you love.”
I’ve been honest. “Dad, you’re crazy.”

All of it was for naught. This is a battle and he will be the victor.

One day, dad’s lower leg edema (fluid retention) was making him very uncomfortable. This created a sticky situation. It was the last day ice cream was 2 for $5.00. I offered to go get what he wanted, after all, he will literally eat any flavor. He debated it, but after a few moments decided I was not up to that challenge.

So off we went.

After driving through the store on a motorized cart like he was in the Indy 500 (I followed behind smiling and apologizing to everyone we passed) he scored his 6 gallons of ice cream.

Did I mention he’s diabetic?

When checking out I noticed the state of his wallet. Ragged and torn, the once black leather was now green from wear. Instead of hearing the inevitable “That’s how they get you” speech, I went out the next day and bought him a new wallet.

A few days later, I noticed my dad was still using that worn, ragged wallet.

The day I discovered this, it was on the tip of my tongue to make a comment. Something, probably God himself, shut my mouth. This is worth noting. Thinking before I speak is not my super-power.

I thought about that wallet the whole drive home. “Why do I bother? I try to get him what he needs and he won’t even use it.” As if my dad using that old wallet was a reflection of my caregiving skills.

What I did next won’t come as a surprise to any male reading this. I did what any woman does when she knows she’s right. I called my husband to complain.

Per his usual, my husband unleashed his God-given gift for psychotherapy.

“Lori, your dad doesn’t care what his wallet looks like. What are we doing for dinner?”

Oh. Maybe there’s a hidden point in there.

My dad didn’t say he needed a new wallet. He never asked my opinion on his wallet. I decided what he needed. I acted on what I believed he needed.

He was happy with his Hobo wallet.

Many words come to mind when we think of caregivers. One that isn’t attributed to our group enough is the word leader. Though weird, and sometimes twisted, being a caregiver is a leadership role and the best leaders have a servant’s heart.

In my wallet scenario, one of us (my dad and I) were desperate to gain the power we were losing. I’ll give you a hint.

It wasn’t my dad.

At the time, I was trying to decide if my dad would begin taking a diuretic to treat the fluid filling his body. We had done everything we could short of a medication and it was only getting worse. His breathing was being affected. His cough was increasing. The problem was his cardiologist was doubtful his heart was strong enough for the med.

Do I give my dad a med that could kill him quick or watch him slowly drown?

My options sucked.

Though I was the one with the ultimate cosmic power, I didn’t feel very powerful. I certainly didn’t feel like I had any control.

When I saw that wallet, I saw a problem I could fix. To walk in and have that problem still staring me in the face… Oh no he didn’t! He’s going to carry that new wallet!

Losing control on one front was causing me to pick a battle to gain control over the most senseless thing. I forgot I was a leader and servant leaders don’t hold on to power and control with both hands.

Ironic that the person who just took a diabetic to buy 6 gallons of ice cream needed control.

As far as dad’s fluid retention, there was no choice. We had to try. Since I’m writing this blog about him, you can probably surmise he survived. Big Jim proved them wrong again.

You’ll also be happy to know I’ve learned my lesson.

I was faced with a similar situation recently. My dad has a favorite shirt. He wears it constantly. Like a kid with a blankie, he waits on the dryer to finish to throw it back on.

IMG_2571

To him it’s perfect in every way. A button up, because pulling shirts over his head is getting tough. The pocket is nice and broke-in to accommodate the three pairs of glasses he carries. The length is perfect on his long torso.

Unfortunately, it’s the most hideous color of mustard ever conceived. It’s so intense it hurts my feelings.

My first thought was to order him a couple shirts. The exact same shirt. Same brand. Same cut, just in a different color. Any other color.

BUT, I’ve grown.

“Dad do you want me to order you a second shirt. I can get the exact same one online… maybe in a nice navy?”

“Why would I need two?”

It brought to mind when my daughters would wear tutus and snow boots in public in July. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is let them win.

“You’re right dad. Why have two when you only wear one at a time.”

And since I know you’re sitting on the edge of your seats, to this day, dad is still using his old wallet.

Carry on dad. Don’t ever let them get ya.

What color of M&M are you?

I’m not an only child. I have two siblings.

Why am I the caregiver?

Because life happens. Before we go any further, grab a beverage and buckle up while I throw my scrubs on.

(elevator music plays softly)

Hi, I’m the nurse caring for your failing parent.

The most destructive thing about losing a parent is not their death. It’s the relationship between the siblings.

Some of you are a part of an all-star-super-team of siblings. You’re always on the same page. A cohesive unit that works as one entity.

If that applies to you, that’s great, but don’t leave yet.

Though the sibling dynamic may not be an issue for you, trust me, you can’t always predict what’s coming down the pipeline. Let me warn you. The perfect relationships that get destroyed in this process are not destroyed by a grenade.

It’s the paper cuts that will kill ya.

The med change that your younger sibling didn’t know about. The decision to move dad’s bed so the morning sun doesn’t wake him.

These can become all-out war and if you aren’t prepared, you will be the sole soldier in an army of one.

For the rest of you that already know you come from a mixed bag of personalities, let’s talk.

I know what you’re thinking. I’ve never met the specific kind of crazy that your family brings to the table. How can I speak directly to you?

Let me reassure you. Yes I have. I’ve met you all, hundreds of times. Your family is not that special.

Families are like bags of M&M’s. The color combo varies, but there are only so many colors to pick from.

close up view colorful candy chocolate
Photo by Caio Resende on Pexels.com

I know your attention-seeking sibling. I’ve met your pathological lying sibling. Those that have been cheated their entire life… I’ve seen plenty of them.

I know your sibling struggling with addiction. The ones that lives out of state. The weekend warrior that only gets involved when they have absolutely nothing else going on.

The holiday hero, the control freak, the pot stirrer, the “I wish I could” excuse sibling.

The sibling you haven’t talked to in years that will show up the second the estate gets divided. The sibling that buys mom or dad’s love with extravagant gifts versus time. (Ricky, mom can’t feed herself. She doesn’t need an ipad.)

The sibling that becomes an all-knowing neuro surgeon with any medical change. The holistic sibling that doesn’t trust any decision that includes modern medicine. The Judge Judy that questions everything like you’re on trial.

Or my personal favorite… the Texas holdem sibling.

Does this group of people play poker to process their parent’s declining health? I don’t know, I’ve never asked about their hobbies.

This group is near and dear to my heart for another reason. No matter what you’re dealing with, minor or catastrophic, this sibling will see your drama and raise you, because nobody has been through what they have been through.

Do I need to go on?

I’ve. Seen. Them. All.

Now, let me pose a scenario.

I’m walking along and I see two bridges. One bridge is clearly dilapidated. There are large areas of missing boards. The wood is rotted. With one pound of weight, it will crumble, taking me with it.  The other bridge is sturdy. I hate the color it’s painted. There are a few empty beer bottles on it and I get the impression it will be very loud as I use it to cross, but I can see it will be around much longer than the weakened bridge.

What bridge do I use?

No matter where you fall on this waterfall of dysfunction, I’m here to free you. I’m going to tell you something that nurses on the clock can’t/won’t tell you.

You are choosing the wrong bridge.

All over the world siblings are choosing a relationship that is ending over a relationship that may survive. I realize that “may” is gamble. There are so many reasons that it is already teetering on the edge of a knife.

“I want what’s best for mom/dad.”

So everyone says. Literally, everyone.

What’s best for mom and dad is to see the people they love the most coming together. Supporting one another. Laughing, sharing old stories.

I’ve seen this play out. Several times.

All the kids come together for one last holiday, one last dinner. They sit around a table together, laughing and sharing memories. Mom or dad’s health at this point is irrelevant. They may be an active participant; they may sleep the entire visit.

So often this visit is a turning point and no one around the table is aware of the magnitude.

Hours, days, maybe weeks later mom or dad will peacefully move on to eternity.

In your grief, you won’t see the correlation, but its there. There’s a difference in their bodies from that moment on. A subtle change in their vitals or pain management needs. Tension is released from their limbs. Something shifts. What their mind no longer processes and their mouth can no longer communicate, their soul knows. They have hope. Hope you will all be ok.

Now someone, whose sibling is an unsavory character, is getting riled up. “You don’t know what they’ve done! What they put us all through!”

Betty, put your hand down.

Though I’m a geriatric psych nurse now, I started my career as a psych ICU nurse. I’ve seen freak flags and rap sheets that would turn your stomach.

I know what they’ve done. I know the damage they’ve caused.

We won’t heal those wounds today and I’m not suggesting you ask your sister who’s on parole to babysit your purse. However, we can get through the loss of your shared parents with a nugget of peace.

In my own personal scenario, my oldest brother is fourteen years my senior, lives in a different state, and is dealing with his own struggles.

My sister is two years older than me. Like, exactly two years older. Our birthdays are a day a part. We had to share every birthday, like twins without the cool twin super powers.

My sister works full time and has an autistic son that requires her to be on her game 26 out of 24 hours a day. Math seem off? Yeah. Math is different for all autistic parents.

Both of my siblings are the bleeding heart type. Cry at commercials. Love to reminisce about the old days. Tender hearted souls. Both have the heart for taking over caregiving for our dad. Unfortunately, heart doesn’t always get it done.

Their circumstances are different than mine. It’s simply not a possibility for them.

I’ve known for a long time I would take this role and am beyond grateful I’ve been entrusted with it. But my gratitude didn’t stop there! I’ve thanked God for giving me the opportunity to bless my siblings through this. God knew what they’d be facing at this time in their lives. He knew they would want to help, but not have means or the time. He knew they needed an ally.

Now I know what your thinking. “Oh Lori, I want to be you when I grow up. So well rounded. A fountain of wisdom. The poster child of stability.”

After all, I know what the rest of the world is doing wrong, right? I know how this needs to go down. Instead of typing, I should be sitting around a campfire singing Kumbaya with my siblings.

That’s the tricky part about “knowing” things. Knowledge and execution are two wildly different animals.

I’m a year into this ride and am already facing conflict. I’ve been unreasonable. My siblings have been unreasonable. I’m right. They’ve been right. I’ve been wrong. So have they.

With all I know and have seen, I still can’t seem to pull off the perfect dynamic in my own life.

So what’s my solution? (Suggestions welcomed.)

First and foremost, I’m going to pray and continue to thank God for the opportunity to bless my siblings. Even when the ornery-smart-mouth inside of me doesn’t want to, I’m going to pray through gritted teeth.

I’m going to forgive. Myself, them. Each day is new and although that may not change the consequences, I won’t carry yesterday’s feelings into a new day.

From a practical standpoint, I’m going to remember texting is the worst. Seriously. Why do we continue to use texting as a mode of communicating and relaying our feelings? It’s not just the obvious factor that intent and tone is lost, but how many well-scripted, biting texts have we wasted time constructing? Just call the person already!

I’m also going to remember what amazing assets my husband and brother-in-law are. In this season, those that married into a family tend to take a step back. “It’s not my family.” In my case they need to be involved. They are just as invested, but don’t have the history that gives them hairline triggers.

(Now if your spouse dislikes you and your parents, you may not want to follow my lead. In fact, there’s probably a different blog you should be reading.)

POA’s I get it. I’m living it and it’s so much harder than it looks from the outside.

Non POA’s, please let someone who is not your sibling tell you something.

It’s not coincidental that in a football game there is only one quarterback on the field, but many offensive linemen. The protection of the quarterback is so important one man couldn’t possibly do it alone.

If any of those linemen decide, “Screw this! I’d be a far better quarterback.” All of them will lose the game.

We all have a position. A purpose. Play your position to the best of your abilities with the belief that you are meant to bless your siblings, and you all win.