FACEBOOK RANT PART 4: POETRY, “PRAYING!!” AND…POSTURING

Not for nothing do I choose to be an anonymous blogger. When you start ranting about “praying”, you better watch your back…and the “you” I’m talking about here is “me”.

So, kind of like my antipathy for “sweet girl”, which was the catalyst for my post regarding that phrase (making the point that there’s nothing wrong with either being “sweet” or being a “girl”, but there’s a lot wrong with using the phrase “sweet girl” ad nauseum), there’s absolutely nothing WRONG with praying and everything RIGHT with praying, if you are a believer, which I am.

Here’s the problem as I see it, and it usually encompasses all the areas in the post title: poetry, praying, and posturing.

Someone has a real problem in their life, states the problem, and then requests prayers on Facebook (this could spin off into a whole nother rant-post for Mrs. Hate). Or maybe they do a “vague-post” and just say “requesting prayers”…which is certainly problematic for a reader like me (the somewhat suspiciously cynical, yet kindhearted, sort), because then I’m wondering “are they such a dimwit that they’ve dreamed up a horrible problem like “I just don’t know what flowers to plant in the side yard…maybe I better request prayers on Facebook”, or is it a “real” problem??”. Hmmmm…nevertheless, the person is requesting prayers.

Sometimes the poster (for clarity here, the one requesting the prayers) waxes poetic in their request for prayers, but here’s how it usually goes…those who comment on the post now have a wide-open field to either say “praying!!”, “praying now!!”, “prayers going up!!”…which always reminds me of a bunch of jack-in-the-boxes popping up…or they spin like whirling dervishes and go forward into a most poetic rendition of grandiloquent and bombastic sentences. I’m not EVEN going to string together a bunch of what I would consider “grandiloquent and bombastic sentences” because, in all seriousness, I would get dangerously close to taking the Lord’s name and the concept of prayer in almost a vain way, and that is NOT good.

And what if you know the person, they have a real problem, everybody is posting “praying!!” and you DON’T post along with the herd, even if it’s all very legitimate and very sad?? And you are praying great drops of blood and sweat for them anyway, but just don’t care to hop on the Facebook prayer train?? THEN (the dangers of small-town life) “people” might “think” you, the non-poster, are so cold and uncaring. AARGHHHH. BLAHHHH.

When I ask myself what IS it about requesting prayers, using Facebook as the vehicle, that bothers me, I guess it comes down to this…I don’t believe in drawing attention to myself, I don’t believe in putting all (shoot, ANY) of my stuff out there on Facebook, whether good or bad, and I don’t believe in trying to be posturing-poetic.

Then my spiritual mind started rambling, and a BIble verse came to mind: Matthew 6:6.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

I’m no BIblical scholar, and I know it’s easy to take a verse and twist it to suit your own needs, but to me, this verse stresses “don’t pray in a show-offy way”.

I did a little Internet searching on this verse and found comments containing these phrases:

  • prayer in public that is motivated by a desire to show off
  • prayer promoted by the spirit of ostentation
  • a flowery, public prayer might be based in a desire for people to speak well of you and how kind you are instead of letting God reward you

Law, law…and I’m not talking about policemen here. I’m talking “lawzy me” over the disintegration of knowing how to act.

Sadly, Facebook and its narcissistic, stupefying influence has taken over many people’s lives, and sometimes I feel like I’m a voice crying in the wilderness, but, as always, my philosophy is to stay private, avoid fluff, and be your own person. Maybe I’ve missed something, but I’m getting too wore-out with how to write this post without coming off like a complete unfeeling, hardass atheist to think further.

To soothe my brain, I will re-read “Valhalla for the Inarticulate”, a column by Taki Theodoracopulos. Quotes from the column and links below; Taki T. states much more beautifully and incisively than I ever could my feelings about Facebook and modern culture.

 

“And don’t get me started on Facebook, whose concept has been explained to me by my son and daughter.”

http://takimag.com/article/valhalla_for_the_inarticulate_taki/print#ixzz32fEyoOQ7

“The urge to blab and spill one’s innermost secrets to strangers is more than weird; it’s sickening. It springs from a navel-gazing culture of narcissism that would have made even poor Narcissus blush.”

http://takimag.com/article/valhalla_for_the_inarticulate_taki/print#ixzz32fDR5y2u

“The slovenly emotionalism of Oprah has replaced privacy, good taste, reticence, and other such restraints people of my generation grew up with.”

http://takimag.com/article/valhalla_for_the_inarticulate_taki/print#ixzz32fD5IkrN

 

 

 

 

 


THE JOYS OF GIVING AWAY PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

what do you do if you’re a 95 year-old man

living with your daughter?

why, you cook her supper two nights a week!!

***

so, when you’re in the hospital for therapy

and you’re wanting to do something fun

making peanut butter cookies sounds like

your kind of therapy

***

Mr. 95-Year-Old had a busy afternoon

mixing and shaping and baking

the perfectly perfect pretty peanutty pleasures

but his real pleasure came when we decided to wheelchair ride

up and down

over and through

all over the hospital

plate of cookies in his lap

offering to one and all employees

“would you like a cookie? they’re just out of the oven”

***

when all the cookies were gone, he said

this has been the best day

it has been so much fun

do you think we missed anybody?

I want to make sure we didn’t leave anybody out

***

the wistful glimmer in those faded eyes

as he worried over not leaving anyone out

stays in my memory still

***

it is more blessed to give than to receive

*****

It’s been some years now since I cared for this patient, but I remember how agog I was when he told me he cooked a full supper for his daughter two nights a week. When I questioned him as to the menu, he reeled off “meatloaf, mashed potatoes, butterbeans, cornbread” and such as that. And usually a dessert!!

As I sat there on that first visit in his room and chit-chatted with this most pleasant man, I reflected on the blessings I received out of getting to know my patients. You stare at them and listen to them and you realize that perhaps you are looking at your own self some fifty years in the future. There is nothing like healthcare to make one realize the brevity, beauty, and sadness in life. All that’s wonderful and horrible in life is right there in front of you.

The postscript to this little story is this. Within just a week, the patient’s body systems started failing, and he died. The peanut butter cookie day was one of his last good days, and I’m thankful that he got so much pleasure out of something that we younger and healthier people might take for granted…baking cookies and sharing them with others.

And let’s don’t take our youth and health for granted, either.


THE LAST DINNER TABLE

her husband had a feeding tube the last ten years of his life

cancer of the larynx took away from him the ability to speak or eat

and tube feeding kept him going

***

the patient said she looked back on the years before cancer came

and remembered how

she was always busy being a wife and a mother

a farmer husband and five children kept her busy in the kitchen

and they always enjoyed their fellowship around the table

***

the day came when she set a full dinner table as she always had done

an abundance of riches

fried chicken and mashed potatoes

butterbeans and squash

sliced tomatoes and spring onions

bread-and-butter pickles

cornbread and sweet tea

chocolate cake and pecan pie

***

her husband walked into the kitchen and saw the spread

he knew he could not enjoy

and mouthed these words:

I could eat every bite of this

***

the patient said

her heart broke

and

that was the last time she laid out food as a spread

*****

How to say this without sounding tactless? This patient appeared to be just an ordinary elderly woman…small-boned, grizzled short hair, no makeup, plain of dress, quiet of demeanor. You’d see her sort pushing the buggy in the grocery store and then getting into a serviceable, old four-door car.

So what was special about this woman? Well, you’d just have to get to know her, but it didn’t take long being around her to become enamored with her spirit.

She was not particularly “depressed” at being in the hospital…she just accepted it as a part of life that the human body will fail us at times.

She had a dry wit about her that peeked out, once you got to know her. She didn’t let being in her early nineties take away her love of seeing a little humor in everyday life situations.

She had a love for her family, and they for her. Her children and in-laws were faithful “spend-the-nighters” in the hospital room and stayed during the long days also.

She had lived a plain, hard-working life as a farmer’s wife and mother of five children. What others might see as drudgery, she saw as blessings. Read Proverbs 31:10-31.

She had a delicacy of spirit and concern for others that we would all do well to emulate. Imagine all the joy she had for all those years preparing those delicious meals with vegetables from her own garden, laying it all out in all its abundance for her family to enjoy, and then realizing the sadness it caused her husband…that he could not eat it. And just like that, she quit doing what had been such a part of family life for so many years…the pleasure of seeing a beautiful home-cooked meal all laid out in all its glory.

It’s been over five years since the patient left the hospital, and I’ve wondered about her often.

My wonders were answered several months ago. Her obituary expressed the characteristics mentioned above and also stated something I didn’t know…that she had spent the last two years of her life in a nursing home where, the obituary declared, “she made many friends”. What an example of a pleasant attitude and good life until the very end at almost 100 years of age!!

This “ordinary elderly woman” was, in fact, extraordinary. She blessed us, and we loved her.

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Matthew 25:21


OVERCOOKED ROAST BEEF…THE BEST

If there are 52 Sundays in a year’s time, and Mimi cooked roast beef a lot on Sundays, then we probably had roast beef Sunday dinners maybe 40 out of 52 Sundays. The way Mimi cooked roast beef, you never got tired of it, so it was no problem to eat it almost every Sunday.

A roast beef Sunday dinner menu:

  • roast beef and gravy
  • Mahatma white rice
  • green beans (sometimes with new potatoes)
  • squash
  • brown-n-serve rolls (sadly, this is “not scratch”)
  • Waldorf salad or congealed grapefruit salad
  • strawberry shortcake for dessert

Now this particular menu lineup was not necessarily set in stone, but pretty much if you had roast beef, you’d have the rest of it. For instance, for some reason Mimi didn’t usually have butterbeans with the roast. Butterbeans were more the type of vegetable that we had with fried chicken or fried pork chops…that’s just how it was.

The gravy varied from a thin pan juice (my favorite) to gravy thickened with flour and water…also very good; it just depended on Mimi’s cooking mood that day.

White rice—was basmati even INVENTED back then???  A rhetorical question, if you will.

The fresh green beans were always delicious, and even though there was a starch hanging around in the form of white rice, a few potatoes added to the starch offering via the green beans were okay.

The squash were of the yellow crookneck variety, of course…just your ordinary delicious from-the-southern-garden squash. Mimi would scrub them a little to get the garden dirt off, slice them into medium-size chunks, slice up some Vidalia onion and green bell pepper in small pieces, put squash, onion, and bell pepper in a pot of salted water (just enough to cover), bring to a boil, and then simmer until just soft.

Then drain, put into a LIGHTLY buttered Pyrex dish, dot some butter chunks (remember…Land O’Lakes unsalted butter) over the top, and “cook” in a 350 degree oven maybe 20 minutes. Since the squash was already cooked, of course, this 350 action was just to get things heated through good.

BUT WAIT A MINUTE…this post is supposed to be about how to cook a roast beef!! I got so full of looove about the squash that I got sidetracked!! But let’s quickly finish the menu first.

Brown-n-serve rolls. Not scratch, but you just didn’t serve biscuits, hoecake, or cornbread with roast beef. Sometimes Mimi would get inspired and make some what she called “angel biscuits” which were a delicious quick yeast bread, but, more often than not, it was good old brown-n-serve rolls.

Waldorf salad or congealed grapefruit salad. This is where my younger sister and I pleasantly have a difference of opinion. Younger sister says…if we had strawberry shortcake for dessert we never had Waldorf salad. Well, I just don’t know if I agree with that or not. Must ask older sister and see what she says.

Strawberry shortcake. Sometimes we called it that, sometimes we said when we were done eating (that’s some strong vernacular talk there) “go get the pound cake and strawberries and whipped cream out for dessert”.

So, let’s see…before the roast beef cooking lesson, let’s recap what recipes need to be discussed in later posts:

  • white rice (really very easy—just have to watch the sticking)
  • green beans and new potatoes
  • squash (see the above “how-to” when got sidetracked)
  • brown-n-serve rolls (go to store, buy, read directions)
  • angel biscuits (now we’re talking)
  • Waldorf salad
  • congealed grapefruit salad
  • strawberry shortcake

 

ROAST BEEF COOKING DIRECTIONS, FINALLY

 

Mimi always bought a rump roast (and I always just hated having to hear that word or even say it and when I got older and knew that touching raw meat was just part of life and if I went to the grocery store I might have to ask the meat guy do you have any rump roasts if I didn’t see any in the meat counter and that would remind everybody within hearing distance of “rumps” like your “hiney” and it could just potentially be so embarrassing or awkward…I did LOTS of over-thinking in my earlier years).

And I swear on a stack of Bibles that it’s not the word “rump” that made me switch to buying a sirloin tip roast for my roast beef cookings; a sirloin tip just seems tenderer to me somehow.

So, you can get a rump roast, a sirloin tip roast, maybe even a chuck roast (ummm…maybe not—remember this is not a pot roast we’re cooking here)—one that costs about $15, which at this writing amounts to 3-4 pounds of beef.

Sometimes I rinse it, sometimes not, just depends on the mood of the moment…but just be sure if there’s a string around the roast to take it off. Pat the roast a little dry if you rinsed it.

You will pepper, but NOT SALT, the roast rather vigorously—a switch from Mimi’s roast would be using coarsely ground black pepper, not the fine fly-speck kind of black pepper she used. Pepper rather lackadaisically, but vigorously, on all sides (primarily the top and bottom, with a little casual shake on the sides).

Have a cast iron dutch oven getting good and hot on the stove eye. You want the cast iron hot enough so that when the beef hits the iron it will start searing.

Sear it on one side ‘til you’ve got almost a little char action going on. You don’t want the heat to be low enough and the time spent searing in the dutch oven short enough that the meat is just unappetizingly middling-tan looking. When the one side is seared sufficiently, turn over and sear the other side, then kind of fool around with searing the sides in a desultory fashion.

Have the oven ready at 325- 350 degrees.

Put the lid on the dutch oven, stick it in the oven on a middle or lower-middle rack. No water necessary AT THIS POINT.

I like to cook a roast this size somewhere between 3 and 4 hours. The meat wrapper often states “cook 20 minutes to the pound” but I-Gad!! that wouldn’t be but an hour to an hour and a half. Horrifying!! The thing won’t be done right is the only way to say it!! But then again, I am frequently accused by my older sister of cooking meat until it’s Son of Hockey Puck, to which I say “I’m sorry”…which in this family means no you’re NOT sorry one bit. I repeat to my sisters…”I’m sorry, but I just like to make sure the meat is well-done”.

It would be good to state at this point that I freely admit I’m not the greatest meat cook and have certainly overcooked meat before…we’ll never die of trichinosis in this household…but this roast is PERFECT when cooked 3-4 hours.

So, the roast is in the oven, and some of you may be wondering “well, is it going to STICK without any LIQUID??”

Answer—no, not in the beginning. The beef will start to exude its own juices for a while, but you’ll need to start checking it maybe after 45 minutes or so to see if you need to throw a little water in (the pan juices will start to get thick and syrupy and start gumming up and reducing way too much). You will add water several times during the cooking of the roast—maybe three times. Amount of water?? Maybe ½ cup at a time—or a little more. No need to turn the roast over but you can if you want to.

So, the clock is ticking…you put the roast in around 2:00 and it’s getting to be 5:00 now (this would be a weekday supper roast, not a Sunday dinner roast—more on that later***). You may be thinking “surely it’s done by now”.

Well, stick a fork in it and see if it seems tender.

Oftentimes you might feel like…well, the fork’s telling me just a little more time in the oven.  So basically there’s a good chance you’re going to cook it almost 4 hours.

When the roast is done (extremely tender), take it out of oven and let the dutch oven sit on a cold stove eye to kind of rest after all its hard work. You can read cooking articles about how the meat continues to cook, let it rest in its juices, something about the grain, etc etc, but basically just know that  1) it’s just about too hot to eat straight out of the oven and  2) after cooling a little bit, the flavor is not as “hot wet meat” if that makes any sense. My father, a beyond-wonderful man, preferred to eat his fried chicken cold, because he said when hot it was like eating hot wet chicken. Perfectly understandable, so treat the roast beef cooling time similarly to the fried chicken.

So now you’re left with the gravy quandary. Lord Jesus!! Gravy can be tricky!! Hmmm—could I be trying to STALL here and perform a DELAY TACTIC of sorts, since sometimes MY gravy comes out rather hit or miss??

Possibly. First, take the roast out of the dutch oven.

Look at the pan juices, think positive, and ask yourself “do I need to add just a little water, not so much that it turns watery, but just enough to stretch out those juices?”. That would be your pan juice gravy. All that’s needed then is to heat up the juices just a little to account for the water you’ve added, if any.

For a thicker gravy, you’ll want to start a stove eye to heating up, place the dutch oven on it, put just a little sprinkle of plain flour (White Lily) in the juices, and start stirring on medium to medium-high heat. Add a little more water, then add a little more flour, stirring all the while. Repeat ‘til you think there’s enough. Some people use cornstarch to thicken the gravy, but Mimi always used flour and never had any problem.

Sometimes in a fit of desperation if things aren’t going right (i.e. gravy is lumpy with flour lumps), it’s a good idea to stir up the flour in a little cold water BEFORE you add flour/water to the gravy. Why it works sometimes to just throw some flour in and sometimes it doesn’t work is a mystery. Probably the safe thing to do is to use the flour/water mix first, then add to juices.

Mimi could stretch gravy with flour and water ‘til you thought you had made a pot roast instead of the seared roast there was so much gravy; she just had the knack. And her gravy never misbehaved (got lumpy), no matter which way she added the flour. So irritating that it always worked for her and sometimes doesn’t for me. Another one of those cooking mysteries that can lead one to butt their head against the wall.

Either of these gravies is just MADE for putting on white rice. Gravy is optional on the roast beef…it just depends on if you prefer the purity of the meat sans gravy.

And that’s the end of the roast beef recipe.

*** When Mimi cooked roast for Sunday dinner (dinner being the meal after the 11:00 church service, which ended a little after 12:00), she would put the roast on in the morning before Sunday School, have the beans and potatoes cooked and turned off before leaving the house, cook the rice and the squash after church, and the salads and dessert were made the day before. The roast would therefore be cooking all during church time. The house never caught fire.

 

HATE POINT:  it’s hard to find anything to hate here, except maybe the brown-n-serve rolls

LOVE POINT:  families enjoying traditions like a roast beef Sunday dinner so that years later, after death separates us, the memories still comfort, and the adult children and grandchildren realize how blessed they were to have parents and grandparents like Mimi and Papa


SOUTHERN LADIES, RUSSIAN STYLE: HOW TO MAKE REAL RUSSIAN TEA

There’s all different sorts of ladies, I guess, but for me (me being Mrs. Hate), as a little girl in the 1960s, a Southern lady in a small town would conjure up this image: playing Bridge or Canasta on Saturday afternoons while eating chicken salad and tomato aspic, with pound cake and boiled custard for dessert.

And to drink?? Russian tea was always de rigueur…I could promise you on a stack of Baptist Bibles that no Russian had ever, ever lived in my small town, but Russian tea was considered quite lady-like on Saturday afternoons.

For card playing Saturdays, you didn’t dress up quite like going to church on Sundays, but you dressed a little more fancily than you would if you were just around the house by yourself. And I daresay that the cards themselves were a little more fancy than the cards one played with for everyday play.

And I should know all this, because my grandmother taught me how to play Canasta when I was just a wee awkward little girl six years old, and I watched her make all the preparations for her Saturday afternoon Canasta games, games that were rotated through the little circle of friends’ homes…of course!! One of those unspoken rules that just simmer and birth over the years, rules yielding the blessed safety and sanctity of routine, with “taking turns hosting” being the first rule.

Canasta and Bridge days were certainly a carefully proscribed affair, with allowances made for each individual’s cooking specialty and allowances made for the idiosyncrasies of the players. Examples as follows:  “you know Martha always has to sit in that chair” or “you know Julia has to talk ten minutes about her grandchildren before we can even get started” or “you know if Lois doesn’t get a wild card in any of her hands she’ll pout ‘til next time”…all harmless little comments for this little set of friends, no viciousness or spite regarding looks or husbands or monetary status. I should know, because these women were of a different time and character. Were they saints? Not necessarily, but they just “knew” that you just “knew how to act”. So hard to explain this…a combination of innocence, character, and too much hard work keeping house and going to church and circle meetings to have time to be vicious and catty.

Granny was a very neat, very thorough scratch cook with a delicate touch; no fear, there will be plenty of Granny stories to come. For this story, however, the focus is her Russian tea, which was even served in the sweltering hot days of July and August. Imagine 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon in July with the temperature pushing 100 degrees and saying “why yes, Mildred (Granny’s fantastic, plain-jane name) I’d LOVE some Russian tea”.

There was a sad time in the 1970s and 1980s when Russian tea was some concoction with a base of instant Tang powdered orange drink, or was it Tang powdered instant orange drink, or Tang instant orange powdered drink, or…so interchangeable with this Tang stuff. But hey, Tang had its place…astronauts and all that. Fun Fact:  the creator of Tang, William A. Mitchell, also invented Pop Rocks, Cool Whip, a form of instant-set Jell-O, and other convenience foods (thanks to Wikipedia reference). And Cool Whip? Oh my Lord in Heaven…oh Lord have mercy…NO COOL WHIP!! ONLY LIGHTLY WHIPPED AND SUGARED HEAVY CREAM!! (but you know, there’s something about cherry Jell-O and Cool Whip…)

However, Granny’s Russian tea was as follows:

  •  1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 16 cups cold water
  • 12 tea bags
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar

Bring to a boil cloves, cinnamon, and water.

Remove from heat and add tea bags.

Let sit for 5 minutes; remove bags and cloves and cinnamon.

Add orange juice, lemon juice, (and surely you know the juices need to come from fresh oranges and lemons…no frozen or bottled stuff) and sugar and stir well.

Strain for extra fineness and serve hot.

 

I haven’t had Russian tea in years, and I mean YEARS, but digging for that recipe and remembering Granny and her organized, efficient, phlegmatic little small-town Southern self makes me want to mix up a batch right now…and it’s going to be 82 degrees today. Not bad Russian tea weather, but I long for July and August when it’s a smothering and humid 100 degrees and I will dress up in a neat shirtwaist dress with hose and small pumps and a string of pearls and a circle pin and drink scalding-hot Russian tea. Divine.

The day came when my grandmother was 93 and lonely (but hung on to life until 6 weeks short of 100), and my mother said to her “why don’t you call up some friends and play cards?” to which my grandmother oh so truthfully replied “they’re all dead” as she stared out the crank-out windows on her little back porch. Time passed, the living room that had hosted so many Saturday afternoon Canasta games was silent, and the card-players were just ghosts lingering only in our small-town memories, except for Granny…who had both the blessing and the curse of living beyond her span.



Mary Cassatt

“Five O’Clock Tea”

 

HATE POINT:  obviously, Tang-based Russian tea, complete with instant tea powder

 

LOVE POINT:  Granny’s patience with me and enjoyment in teaching a lonely little six-year old girl how to play a grownups’ card game

 


THE OLD DAYS, OR “THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTS”

some of the greatest blessings in life

are the unexpected blessings… 

they are a gift in the midst of everyday life

and, as we look at our life, especially when we are

gifted

with the advancing of years and aging

…aging just gives us more opportunities for experiences…

we can see blessed experiences have piled up and are there

if we but recognize them and cherish them as they unfold

***

a quote we often hear is

“there are no accidents”

and here is a story about a no-accident that is a true blessing

***

the patient…an older black man

the therapy worker…a younger white woman

the patient seemed to know who the therapist was…

but the therapist had never heard of the patient

***

the patient started to question the therapist and said…

I know who you are…

your doctor granddaddy set my arm way back in the 1930s

when I was a little boy

and fell off climbing over that fence

and broke my arm

***

he was a fine man, a good man

and my sisters and I remember your great-aunts

and their cats and dogs and chickens

and their horse and buggy

and their pistol

and their palm-reading

and how we all lived out there on your farm…

all of us, my granddaddy and my uncle too

and we walked that dirt road

and fished in that pond

and played in those woods

and gathered eggs underneath your aunts’ house

***

the patient said…

I can sit in this room in the hospital

and look out the window at the woods

and remember the old days

of running through those woods

playing and running and being so happy and alive

***

as the therapist did not have the privilege of knowing

her grandfather and great-aunts

…they died before she was born…

she was

so thankful

for the opportunity to hear these stories

and meet the man who was her connection to her past

and the man was thankful to meet the woman

who had the family “blood” in her

and had her grandfather’s voice

and her grandfather’s walk

***

with tears in his eyes, the patient told me…

it’s just so good to talk to somebody about the old days

he remembers his childhood as a blessed happy time

what wonderful memories he has

and how wonderful that he came into my life

completely unexpectedly

***“there are no accidents”***

thank you, Mr. Johnny


from Doc-eeee

*****

I live outside the city limits of a small town of less than 6,000. One would think that somewhere along the way the patient, Mr. Johnny, and I would have met up, more than likely in the grocery store…which is usually the best place in town for having a friendly chat. Truth is, I had never laid eyes on him, so his searching looks at me and questions to me of “do you know who I am? I bet you don’t know me” discomfited me slightly, yet he seemed harmless enough.

Once the floodgates opened and Mr. Johnny started pouring out memories, however, I saw the past come alive. I had heard endless stories of my wild, loving grandfather and eccentric great-aunts from my mother, but there was something about hearing a stranger’s remembrances of living on the farm and the love he had for my grandfather that gave me a whole different perspective on how a non-family member viewed my family and this safe time in his life.

Mr. Johnny might take umbrage at being termed “a non-family member”, and you know what? He would be right. I felt as close to him and as comfortable talking with him as I would my blood kin.

And you know what else? Saying Mr. Johnny “had tears in his eyes” is not quite right either.

Mr. Johnny actually was speechless with dry sobs and emotions almost every time we talked. Such is the aching,  stirring beauty of shared memories of “the old days”.


A BURNING ALZHEIMER’S QUESTION: CORNELIA, DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD TIME FOR MY BATH?

my friend, if you’re reading this, it’s

Cornelia

writing about our fun times together

when you were a patent in the hospital

do you remember how we talked and laughed?

do you remember telling me about your boys and their personalities

and how sweet their wives and your grandchildren are?

do you remember talking about men and women

and saying

“honey chile, that’s just how men are”?

do you remember telling me about the cake that your mother said was

“a sufficient cake”?

I remember all those times, even if you don’t…

because that bad Alzheimer’s had to go and upset your brain’s wiring

Cornelia will always be the friend you thought she was…

a little thing like being called by a different name didn’t really matter

as long as we were having a good time together

*****

The patient, Mrs. X, was the quintessential old-fashioned Southern lady. She was soft-voiced, humble, comfortable and gracious around presidents and their subordinates and captains of industry—and yes, she truly was around them—as well as those without a penny to their name. Though I could tell by our conversations she was an excellent cook, Mrs X would just laugh that sweet laugh and say “oh, it’s just plain old cooking like I grew up with”, but such is the self-deprecation of one who knows that there is no need to “put on airs”. She had the elusive talent of being both self-assured and modest, a personality combination we would do well to emulate.

To the patient, I was “Cornelia”. At the beginning of her hospital stay, Mrs. X called me by my Christian name; I might have had to remind the patient of my name every morning, but that was no problem. One day, however, I walked in and was dubbed “Cornelia” by the patient, and from that moment on, Mrs. X and “Cornelia” shared many confidences. One of the most poignant moments I experienced with Mrs. X was when Mrs. X was unsure about whether it was a good idea to have the CNA give her her bath before therapy. I saw the hesitation and confusion on the patient’s face, the CNA was standing there with soaps and towels and basins, and then Mrs. X’s voice dropped a little and she whispered “Cornelia, what do you think? Do you think this is a good time for my bath?” So “Cornelia” said “well, yes, I think it would be a fine time.”

What went through my mind during this interchange? How unsure, yet trusting, Mrs. X was? How hard it is to witness a human’s decline, whether it be mental or physical? How easily those without strong minds and strong bodies could be taken advantage of in all sorts of ways by those with evil intentions? Of course—all these thoughts and more.

I know that we can’t solve all the world’s problems, but allowing this patient to exist in these in-the-moment safe bubbles of idly talking and laughing and reminiscing with the one she thought was her childhood friend “Cornelia” seemed to be the answer to the problem of “how to give an Alzheimer’s patient a little respect and joy on just an ordinary day”.