The Conversation

Cindy's Stories
Stories About People from 2006 Pages

January 2006: My Aunt Lois lost a very special sister, Ruth, who was in her 80s, this last week. She and my cousins are adjusting to this loss. Life is unpredictable- have you noticed that too? Even when something predictable happens, we are often caught unawares. Life continues though, whether we think we are ready or not, and we continue striving to understand our existence, looking for meaning in the messiness that is our life. Mankind has done this for eons; it is a process filled with honor, even when none is felt at the time. Precious moments become obvious only in retrospect- memories of everyday conversations and being with others become transformed into something tangibly precious. A woman in her 80s, having met me five minutes before, told me so the other day. She was a generous soul to attempt to give me so much so quickly. The outer boundary of being, our death and the deaths of those we love, transforms what we have taken for granted.

Later in the day I visited with a woman midway through her 10th decade of life. She told me of the many states she had lived in, periodically struggling to remember names, places, things. I chuckled with her about it, giving her permission to be the way she was without embarassment. She thanked me for talking with her, for sharing time with her, and asked me to come by again. I told her I come to her building about once a year. Her eyes widened, "I might be dead then!", she exclaimed. Yes, I told her, but if she were still around I would make a point to stop by and visit with her. She shook her head yes. This was what we had, and it was good.

It is late, the actual turning into the new year is approaching as the sun chases the night, and the day, around the world yet again. Best wishes for all. Best wishes for all.

The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced.- Aart Van Der Leeuw

January 2006: I worked the last two years with Mary Bradley, the two of us working throughout four counties. We spent day after workday together- you have to get along or, well, or it sucks. Mary and I got along.

Mary had many, many stories to tell from her long and eventful career in nursing, some amusing, some insightful, and all with a point. Mary,like myself, enjoyed sampling foods from around the world and a, albeit more tempered, liberal political view. Since we spent a lot of time together driving and eating out for lunch, this was all good.

If you click on the picture of Mary and I up on the left, it will take you to a nice old Chinese poster revamped by Jay to reflect our work.

Mary retired at the end of November 2005. We had a celebratory potluck luncheon complete with a projected photo/picture collage presentation put together by myself with the assistance of our co-worker Anita Brown. It was fun. Mary and her husband Ike enjoyed the send-off. We all wished Mary the best.

The picture on the right is of Anita, clicking on it takes you to a meeting form Jay found to help us keep our brains sharp as we deal with the aftermath of losing Mary.

and, when the time comes to let it go, . . . let it go.- Mary Oliver

January 2006: It is all so very interesting, and yet there seems to be no end to the things I do not know. That is good too, as otherwise there would be no surprises, or purpose.

So I continue to wander around, talking to people, asking questions, stumbling into people's lives for a living- a social worker knocking on doors, entering into strangers' living spaces for but minutes, then moving on. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the stories pour out, how much so very many people have to share, how long so very many people have been waiting so that they could tell me their story. It never ceases to amaze me, even though I know, oh so intellectually, that all we have, in the end, is our story.

I knock, and often it takes quite a while for the occupant to make it unsteadily to the door, a surprised or suspicious face tries to understand my purpose, and most often doesn't really, but decides that I look nice enough to invite in, as the kitty hides from the unknown. I gaze upon belongings filled with history: photos from long, long ago, paintings and crafts done by a steadier hand, travel treasures, furniture and objects whose style much of the world has forgotten about. There are questions about my purpose sometimes, and sometimes querries, since I am a social worker, about programs, resources, financial assistance, or what in the world am I supposed to do about this? handing me articles and ads about the new Medicare drug benefit. I give what answers I can- to the latter there seems to be no answers.

The life stories come- sometimes they come rushing out of the bearer's body practically before I can take my seat:

They are so nice to me here. They stop and listen because I cry. I had a hard life; I learned everything the hard way. My dad was alcoholic and mean, he would tell me I was stupid. I have a speech problem and people thought I was stupid because I talked like this- the kids made fun of me at school, they were mean. My family yelled at me and told me I couldn't do anything. I didn't know about the birds and the bees, but I found out and my mom tied me down and made me have an abortion. No, I never had children because they tied my tubes too. I spent lots of time in the hospital. My mom would get so mad at me because I couldn't breathe with my asthma and would shake me and tell me to stop. I had to learn everything myself, but I did and I worked hard- I was a babysitter, a house cleaner, a hotel janitor. The people here are nice, they know I cry a lot.

Sometimes the fast and furious stories are ones the staff who see them all the time have not heard. And sometimes I hear stories of relatively charmed lives, world travelers with lovely things, with successful children, but most of these also have their own pain.

I am going to give these to my grandson (pointing out envelopes in a box filled with papers and souvenirs from trips to exotic countries taken decades ago)- I loved those travels, what fun! Yes, I fell and broke my back! But I have had many accidents- 7 car accidents, can you imagine? And none were my fault! They (pointing to a sienna-shaded portrait of two young boys) were 5 and 6 when I had the bad one; I was in the hospital for six months and couldn't walk for a year. I have no friends here, I like to stay in my room. Tears well up in the 85 year old eyes. There was no one to take care of them, I had to put them in an orphanage until I was better. Life is funny isn't it? So many accidents and still I am here! I don't know why.

Once again I have to pry myself from the room of yet another person who asks when I will return. One time I felt like I was going to have a heat stroke if I did not get out of the room kept so very hot by its occupant- a person I was warned would not talk to me, yet I could not get out of her room until more than an hour had passed and I had promised to say hi the next day. If you have time, if you stay still and open your heart, there are stories from lives now coming to a close begging to be heard.

"The universe is made up of stories, not atoms."- Muriel Rukeyser

February 2006: More interesting science news- click on the 1903 Triscuit box for info about links being made between viruses and weight gain- catching fat from each other, so to speak. Additionally, courtesy of Jay, some info related to the "Groundhog Day" movie alluded to in the first piece on this page: Deja Vu.

I guess every age of man has thought it had just about discovered and defined everything we needed to know. When talking with elders I have often marveled at the changes they saw in the 1900s, in their lifetimes: radio, television, indoor plumbing, heating houses with other than woodstoves, telephones, cars, phonographs, planes, refrigerators, washers and dryers, stoves that cook without wood, mimeographs, electric typewriters, jet planes, reel-to-reel then cassette tape players, word processors, VCRs, faxes, computers, cell phones, CDs, the internet, yadda, yadda, yadda- you get the idea. It seems we still have not reached the end of the knowledge journey, the place where we know everything- is that a surprise?

"My father hated radio and could not wait for television to be invented so he could hate that too."- Peter De Vries

February 2006: I have made it to the local hospital a couple of times to catch a weekly closed-circuit educational broadcast from the university. The topic varies each week for this hour and a half presentation; all have been interesting. The series goes on for about 10 more presentations- great and it's free too!

It is interesting to be roaming hospital halls again- familiar sights, sounds, smells. I marveled today at the comfort I felt there, remembering my first foray into medical social work and how uncomfortable with the surroundings I was- I remember remarking how the hospitals were filled with sick people! The social worker is not sent to see fortunate, happy people- who among them needs a social worker anyway? No, go see the 32 year man with the shaved head who was just told his newly discovered brain cancer would end his short life in about 30 days, or the family with the premie in the nursery who the nurses think might have some domestic violence going on, or the young high-powered company exec who is now learning to feed herself again. Interesting stuff that seemed scary and hard for quite a while... but now, those places are familiar haunts.

When Kira spoke about becoming a nurse, I mentioned that hospitals pay very well and always need nurses, but she reacted strongly to the idea of working in a hospital, especially an ER. I replied something about how our comfort with different settings changes over time, that it is hard to work with children when your own are young... she looked up at me. This evening I walked down the hospital halls, out to my car and wondered at this comfort I felt with the setting. Ah, yes, it is the laziness in me! The place is full of people with great needs- one need do so little to do so much there.

The main thing in life is not to be afraid of being human.- Pablo Casals

It is mind boggling how many discoveries and scientific advances are being made these days. How will we ever keep up? I learned a lot about medical advances when I worked in hospitals because there one is constantly exposed to new diagnoses and new treatments to learn about and hospitals usually offer a wealth of lectures and presentations to take advantage of.

Working alongside doctors allows you to realize more fully how very human doctors are- seems silly doesn't it? When I worked at the inpatient geropsych unit one of my favorite doctors said that my patient had an "essential" tremor. I asked him what that was and he told me that they had ruled out this, that and the other thing as a cause or diagnosis, so it was deemed an "essential" tremor. Oh... Yes, oh, now I saw the clinical path taken to arrive at this diagnosis. Fittingly I blurted out, "it just means essentially you don't know shit!" My favorite doctor, who I think also felt more human the more I got to know him, shook his head and smiled, "yes". It is an oft unappreciated burden, one that can lead to irritability and aloofness, to be thought of as some sort of god, when one is only human. I often sought to relieve the doctors I worked with of the burden of themselves or others thinking they were gods of a sort.

I have also found it interesting that patient problems which doctors had no solution for are often deemed to be in the patients' heads. These invariably are problems or symptoms no cause has been found for, thus... Science seems to be making steady headway, figuring out some of these problems so that the symptoms can now be deemed "real" diseases and the people who suffer from them can at least be validated, that what they are experiencing is real, if not actually treated or cured. Clicking the cartoon above will take you to information about one of these diseases, the other cartoon takes you to interesting camera work.

All of us necessarily hold many casual opinions that are ludicrously wrong simply because life is far too short for us to think through even a small fraction of the topics that we come across.- Julian Simon, Professor of Business Administration (1932-1998)

My current job gives me relatively little time to interact with elders, and I do miss that part from my old jobs. I did, however, have occasion to speak with two ladies recently who made interesting observations. The first lady I had noticed walking about with her head bent way down, as if she were always looking at her shoes, even while moving forward. When I asked her about it she told me she had begun to have pain in her neck just a couple of months before and had found holding her head down relieved some of it, although she found it disconcerting that her shoulders ached also. I told her yeah, I knew about neck pain that radiated down to your shoulders because I had that problem myself. She looked up at me and exclaimed, "Oh I know I shouldn't, but it makes me feel so much better to know you have pain too! And you're so young!" Hmmm, glad to be of service.

I talked with a lovely married couple another time. The wife dozed off while the husband explained about how they had moved into a large retirement apartment from their home a few years back and fared well enough, with him being the care giver for his wife. She would periodically rouse to an almost-awake state while he talked, smiling with her eyes closed. The kids had moved mom and their belongings to the little apartment they had now, where there were staff to help, while he was in the hospital- because he was not expected to live. Luckily he did, but no one wanted him straining himself with his wife's care and he grudgingly obeyed them. It was hard for him to get used to not being the one to help his wife of many decades, but the reality was that he was no longer in any shape to help her without killing himself. The wife roused from her nap, smiled at me and joined in the conversation, talking about how nice they were when helping her. We talked a bit about how odd it is to have help while you're naked in the shower, "you get used to it. You need help, your body is able to do less and less. But that's the way life is, it's hard, but it's good. It's funny that way." She had one of the biggest smiles...

The picture of the flower-smelling cat links to adult material, so I know you will go there.

Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough.- George Bernard Shaw

Well, we ended up finishing up what I was there for in Olympia on Tuesday, so went back home- another long and exhausting day for this middling lady. It has been busy lately at work and I am so glad I am off for two weeks, time for a break.

So, the fun nun picture to the right links to a history site with some limited information about the first U.S. territory to grant women the vote. Women can be tough, they certainly had to go through a lot to gain voting equality.

For whatever reason, the last few days I have thought several times about a lady I met not too long ago. When I went to see her I was pleasantly surprised to find she was a fiesty, smart and active senior. I knew she'd had hemorrhoid surgery recently and discreetly asked her a question about her "surgery", leaving the type of surgery vague on purpose. She laughed and said quite simply "Oh, I'm a perfect asshole now!" I liked her, she was charming in her own way.

To have someone who brings out the colors of life and whose very presence offers tranquility and contentment enriches my being and makes me grateful for the opportunity to share.- Kathleen Tierney Crilly

I love fiesty 93 year old people:
"So, I noticed you had some chest pain and had to take some nitro a few months ago. That's good that it happens so infrequently."
Oh, it happens all the time! I just don't tell them. They only knew that time because it happened when I was with them.
"Oh. Have you been in the hospital since living here?"
No! If I have that kind of problem, I will just pick up the phone and call the morgue- I'm not interested in going by the hospital on the way! The people here are great, the nurses wonderful, and the manager, oh, she can tell you to go to hell and you'd enjoy the trip, she's great...

"If you live to be one hundred, you've got it made. Very few people die past that age."- George Burns

As I came home from work yesterday I saw a young girl, maybe eight years old, walking along our one-lane road, nearly to where she would be crossing the end of our driveway. I slowed down as I approached, although already going quite slow, the girl hurried across our drive and I began turning into it. The girl turned, I thought at first to watch me pull in, but she turned as if surprised, opening her jacket as she turned. Flower petals fell from inside her jacket, dropping to the ground where Jay sets our garbage can every Wednesday evening.

I positioned my car, parked, and gathered my items as I opened the car door. Thank you for not killing me. I'm glad to be alive. I examined thoughts that came through my mind and, finding none to reference these words from a child, said "Oh?" It happens to me a lot, cars almost hit me. Thank you for not killing me. The girl said this as she scooped up flower petals from the ground. I voiced the only idea my feeble mind came up with, "you have to be careful". As the little girl started walking back toward where she had been coming from when I first saw her, I heard her say I like being alive.

"Often and often afterwards, the beloved Aunt would ask me why I had never told anyone how I was being treated. Children tell little more than animals, for what comes to them they accept as eternally established."- Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936)

Last month I ran into a lovely lady in her later 80s. She kept busy going on walks, watering plants, filling her bird feeeders, and paying attention to the world. We chatted for a while, then she showed me her autoharp and played me a few chords. It was a nice interlude, and it held a surprise. Something she said caught me and made me ask her how long she had been playing the autoharp- Oh, a while, maybe ten years she replied! She set a wonderfully high bar for me strive for in my later years, when I too will be trying to keep busy and engaged. She and her husband had done a fair amount of traveling and had on display some nice photos, which I commented upon. The lovely woman pulled a small photo down from a high shelf as I started to leave. The picture was of a very interesting rock formation she said she had run across at Petrified Forest National Park. I made some "oh, that is nice" kind of comment, thinking I should not further comment on how the petrified wood looked vaginal. But I needn't have hesitated, since she went on to say it herself, chuckling a little into her hand It looks like a part of a woman doesn't it? Umm, yes, indeed, very interesting I replied with a smile as I left. I liked her a lot.

Later I tried in vain to find a similar picture on the internet. I did get a similarly curious one, coincidentally also composed of wood, in an email from someone- it is above, on the right.

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape...- Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973)

Yesterday I met a lovely elderly woman who talked about how much she liked where she was living. But, she explained, this enjoyment was tempered because she missed a close friend who had recently moved out to be closer to adult children. The woman said she missed this friend dearly, like many others who had left as she lived there, although many had only left when they died. She said she felt lucky to still be alive and enjoyed thinking about old acquaintances but, despite being able to see their faces in her mind's eye, she had trouble coming up with their names. She shrugged, such was life.

I told her that I understood this well, that more often than I liked to admit I too had trouble coming up with people's names when called upon, even though I knew their names. She chuckled and we both admitted we often resorted to covering this deficit by using another word or name. Then she smiled at me and said "Welcome to phase one!" Yes, indeed, a lot more to look forward to.

So, this little story is prelude to comments my brother Don (forever known to me as Donnie) emailed to me regarding my 9/8/06 entry. He had checked with my dad and they thought Grandpa Jardot died later than '63 or '64, more like '66, since Grandpa was born in 1897 and died at about 69 years old. He went on to make comments about my aging memory... Yes, indeed, I am once again off.

I always place everything from my childhood in relation to my fifth grade year because JFK died 11/63, during that school year. I think it was my Great Grandpa Watkins that died that school year, and my Grandpa Jardot followed a couple of years later. I lost my last grandfather, Grandpa Ellison before the Detroit Tigers won the World Series in 1968. [Grandpa] Everett Ellison was one of all-time biggest Tiger fans... Childhood lessons about life, death, and loss, circling back, once again, to life.

The picture up at the right is a scanned anniversary card given to my Grandma Jardot by Grandpa, perhaps in the '40s. My Uncle Paul has guarded these treasures for the family for decades- thank you Uncle Paul.

There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don't expect you to save the world I do think it's not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.- Nikki Giovanni

"It's a lot safer than it was when he didn't go the first time."- Ben Barnes, former Texas lieutenant governor, when asked if he had any advice for President Bush as he prepares for his first-ever trip to Vietnam next month.

Lord, these pages of mine go on and on... It is surprising that only from time to time do I question whether something I am thinking about has been written about before. Perhaps I should question this more often, but what the heck!

The Vietnam War really started raging when I was in high school and many of us youngsters were still naive enough to think that any war entered into by our currently elected politicians was just and right. Time changed most of our minds. During my freshman year at Central Michigan University the time came for the male 18 year olds to await the drawing of their draft numbers. Every year the dates for each day of the year were drawn and numerically ordered. If November 12th was the first date drawn and you had just turned 18 last November 12th, you were number one in the draft lottery, the deadliest Lotto around. I remember being in my boyfriend Jack's dorm room as we listened to the results of that lottery. There was a lot of drinking, cheering, crying and puking.

I can't remember for sure what Jack's number was, but it was something like 69 at a time when they were still drafting up to maybe 100. He came from a line of preachers and was actively against the war; it took him much of the next summer to get the materials together for the draft board interview but did get designated as a Conscientious Objector. Luckily he did not have to serve even in that capacity, because the draft wound down and the war ended. It was a terrifying time, one which not all of the people my age made it through alive or in one piece. So, you see, I have nothing against President Bush for having avoided service in Vietnam.

Sometimes we see or experience bad things, and yet when we have the opportunity to do things differently, we do not. When we escape and become powerful ourselves, we sometimes, if we act unconsciously, mimic what we learned that people in power do... Is this a factor in our current foreign policy? Is Bush creating world instability, inciting hatred for our country and going to war so that the current younger generation too will experience the hell he did? Hmm, I doubt it is that simplistic.

Jack wanted to avoid being placed in combat and avoid being involved in killing, in war. Most likely President Bush's motivation to avoid the Vietnam War was different than Jack's. If so, then maybe he took away from the experience different lessons, or maybe he took away none at all.

Self-importance is our greatest enemy. Think about it - what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellowmen. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone.- Carlos Castaneda

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Page Created March 2006

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