I have been meaning to write for a while, I just couldn’t get my thoughts on paper~So here I am, with a brain full of random stories and thoughts and hope that they come out painting my page into something relatively worthy of your time.
I started gratiarum with the idea that I would highlight the little blessings in my life, finding joy even in the most banal things. It seems while we were living overseas, there was always something that surprised, glared or chagrined and I wrote about those. I have been back in the United States and it seems though my challenges are different, they didn’t seem quite as funny in my head. That, of course, didn’t stop the stories from rolling around and my ponderings seemed to amuse me but then fear seized when it came to writing. With that mundane prolegomenon, I’ll begin…
I am grateful. I loved most of living in Paris, with the museums, churches, saints, wine, food, and architecture. I honestly even loved the challenges of living overseas, completely ensconced in our living like ersatz Parisians. But as only a few people know, it was really difficult for Liam. Being “on the spectrum” in a country that doesn’t recognize ADHD or autism as real issues was something he, and we, had to deal with regularly. He was truly wilting a little each day. And as all of you know, when someone you love is hurting, you hurt. But with the graces that come through tears and trials, we were able to get our Liam back and we are settled in Arizona, reminiscing about the brighter parts of living French. We have traded croissants and the Eiffel Tower for green chilies and brilliant, saguaro silhouetted sunsets.
As I mentioned, back where I speak the language (I hope well, but there are days…) and know the streets and pronunciations, my life doesn’t seem quite as comical. Here’s where my dad saves the day~and my blog fodder, as he provides little comedic antidotes just about every day. I make light of it, only because it would make me cry if I didn’t. See, my father suffers sever Parkinson’s and several major ailments and diseases, with Lewy Body Dementia being one of them. While it can be extremely frustrating to deal with at times, like when it comes to finances or hiding keys, I have tried to look at life through his eyes and that makes me smile.
Each appointment for my dad, from the preventative to the necessary, takes hours. Not usually the actual appointment (there are some!) but the getting him ready, out to the car, from the car to the appointment, then just around the building. We come loaded with reading material (rarely touched) and hydro-flasks, snacks and a smile to every single one.
One such appointment was this week was for his eyes. We have spent quite a few appointments here in the last year, dealing with double vision and cataracts, this place being one that doesn’t fit the “usually” as described above. So, after getting dad checked in, I find that this isn’t a follow up but an actual routine, once a year check. With that comes all the paperwork, now filled out on an iPad, but still in need of us reading through, checking, updating, etc. It was a half hour of actually reading all the “fine print” (which is ruthless considering it is an ophthalmologist’s office and they take the fine print literally) and of reteaching my dad how to gently touch on the iPad where he wants to write, not poking like an old-time adding machine. I turned in the device and settled into the chair next to my dad’s, and grabbed my book. “Oh, you brought a book! What a great idea!”, says my dad, and he means it. You have one here, too, I remind him. He looks at it and says, “Well, I figured we’d catch up but if you’d rather read, that’s fine.” Now, that passive-aggressive statement coming from someone else would put me on the defense, but trying to see through his eyes, I see we should “catch up” because he isn’t always remembering our conversations from earlier. I put the book aside and pullout my phone, showing him my latest photos and talking about them.
A short while later, he’s called back to the first of three rooms, and I get my dad into the examination chair from his walker. The medical assistant comes into the room, turns down the lights, and says, “Hi, I’m Alexa.” My dad asks her to repeat her name (hearing is an issue, too) so she states her name loudly and sits down. My dad looks at me and said, “Do you have any music requests, Mari?” I embarrassingly let a guffaw escape before I held my finger up to my lips and said, “shhh…”, with the largest smile I had had all day. My mom got an Alexa for their house, thinking it would make things easier for my dad, as well as interaction when he fell and she wasn’t right there. It took him months to master calling Alexa because he couldn’t remember her name, or when he did, he mispronounced it. Things may need to be repeated, or explained again, or just left alone, but when the little bits of my real dad come out, I can’t keep from singing~even without help from Alexa!
Another such joy this week comes from pie. I had bought a small pie for my dad, hoping to fill his sweet tooth for the day. I had gone to buy one of his known favorites, Key Lime or Banana Cream, but settled on Chocolate Cream when the other two weren’t there. I later called my mom to let her know I bought the pie and would be bringing it by their house in a bit. There was a long pause, which is always the signal for “awkwardness arriving.” I asked if that was okay and mom recovered, saying, “Oh, yes, that’s great.” I asked if there was anything else besides the pie they needed and again, the pause. So I asked if there is a problem with the pie, thinking maybe he already had one. My mother said, “Did I ever tell you about the chocolate pie I once baked for your father?”…
The gist of the story being my mother, a young newlywed, dealing with severe morning sickness (with moi) decided to surprise my dad with a homemade pie. After spending the whole afternoon on it, my dad looked at it and announced he doesn’t care for Chocolate Cream Pie. (Wrong answer, daddy-o.) So what came forth is not what we’d expect to read, as in a pie in the face and tears, but my mom delivering the pie to an unsuspecting neighbor, making their evening but mortifying her.
Fast forward over half a century and I am bringing a Chocolate Cream pie over. My dad looks at it and says, “Mmmm…that looks really good.” I told him I went for one of his favorites but came back with this instead. I also mention I realize he isn’t a fan of Chocolate Cream, but maybe we could give it to his night nurse instead. He looks at the little pie, beautifully showcased in a box with a film window, and says, “I wonder how they made this.?” I explain the pie making process in a nutshell, and he says, “Interesting. I wonder how they get the chocolate cream in there?” I describe the chocolate cream as basically chocolate pudding, with a whipped cream topping, thinking this will be sufficient. He studies the pie for a bit longer, and said, “You know, I didn’t know they made pies like this. I do like chocolate, milk chocolate, not dark chocolate. Do you think this is made with milk chocolate?” I surmise it probably is a sweet milk chocolate and we can taste it to see, but he declines as he likes the idea of giving it to the night nurse. I put the pie in the fridge, thinking that interaction would probably be best to keep between us.
I have stories that I do need to write down because there will be a time I won’t remember and I want to hold these gems in my mind like a photograph while I can. I will also write the little frustrations, because in them, I see how fragile the mind and how hard it is to let go. I am back to my gratiarum and sharing my thanksgiving. The scenarios may be different, but I am home and feel blessed to be near my parents at this stage in life. And like they say in the movies, “We’ll always have Paris…”