Tag Archive | 92-year-olds

JOY – My Special Word for 2014

JOY Cross“Abbey, Mim & Me – Our Special Words for 2014” was the first blog post I wrote this year. I explained that rather than coming up with any New Year’s resolutions for 2014, I would spend the year focusing on JOY. The idea of choosing one special word to focus on for a whole year came from Debbie Macomber in her book, One Perfect Word: One Word Can Make All the Difference. The word I chose was JOY; Mim chose ENOUGH; and Abbey chose PLAY. To help me remember to think about my word, I bought an amber-colored glass cross with the words, “The JOY of the Lord is my strength” printed on it, and it hangs from a suction cup on my patio door. Every time I slide the door open, the JOY cross clinks on the glass door and I think about my word. Most nights I lay in bed before falling asleep and I think about the joy I have experienced that day.

I’m sure I’ve been more aware of joy in my life this year than any year in the past. The irony is that I’ve also experienced more than my usual share of sadness. Maybe that’s why God gave me the word JOY to focus on in 2014. I’ve been to lots of funerals for friends this year, and about half of them (4) have been for friends about my age – mid-sixties. But even at funerals, there can be joy, as we get together with old friends we haven’t seen in a long time and remember good times together with each other and with our friend who is no longer with us.

One of the biggest changes in our living situation happened early in 2014. For most of 2013 we had only one nonagenarian living with us. Before the end of January, another 92-year-old moved in. A couple weeks later a third 92-year-old moved in with a neighbor along with the understanding that she can rely on us for the general management of her care. Keeping up with three (now) 93-year-olds is keeping us very busy! All of them are very active. One is an avid reader and enjoys going out with friends and family. She has some kind of social engagement almost every week. The other two go to bingo once a week and have two or three other outings every week. All together, we have lots of good times together – a regularly recurring source of JOY.

The hidden JOY of being somewhat overwhelmed by all this added caregiving responsibility is that we now have six independent caregivers who help us out several hours a week so that Mim and I can take two afternoons off almost every week to do fun things – like going to movies and shopping at resale shops. (The best of many good movies we saw this year was “The Theory of Everything.” We both highly recommend it.) Mim and I were also able to get away for four quick mini-vacations – a first in many years. We visited friends in Wausau for a Wisconsin-style lobster fest. We went to Minnesota for the 150th anniversary of Gol Lutheran Church, Mim’s family church. And we went to our Christmas Mountain timeshare a couple times – once to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and once to just relax for a few days. We had lots of JOY to celebrate with each getaway.

Abbey head-on colorJOY would have been a good name for our dog Abbey. She brought an incredible amount of JOY to Mim and me and to everyone who lived with us during the eight years she was with us. When she had to leave us in November, there was a great big hole in our home. One of the 93-year-olds said the same thing every time she came into the house from one of her outings, “I miss Abbey so much.” Abbey would always be at the door to meet us. All three nonagenarians and Mim and me quickly agreed we wanted to get another dog to love us and be loved by us as soon as we could.

Within a couple weeks, Floey (short for Florence Nightingale, caregiver in training) joined our family. She’s been with us just over a month now, and already she’s taken on the role of bringing each one of us a daily dose of JOY.

Floey sittingJOY definitely was “the perfect word” for me for 2014. Focusing my attention on that special word helped me find and recognize and appreciate how much joy is in my life.

Which leads me to what I think will be my word for 2015 – GRATITUDE. That word keeps coming to mind whenever I try to think of what will be a good word to focus my attention on next year. I’ll decide for sure by January 1 – but I think GRATITUDE will be the word.

JOY Cross and Pond - closer

Let the birthdays begin!

Annas 93rd BdayLet the birthdays begin! Anna, the first of our trio of 92-year-olds, celebrated her 93rd birthday on Sunday. I asked her how she felt about turning 93. Her response: “I don’t feel like I’m that old. It’s just a number. It doesn’t mean anything. Life is good.”

Carolyn will turn 93 in June, and Marty in July. Then we’ll have a trio of 93-year-olds that we get to assist day-by-day through their later years in life.

As I was thinking about birthdays, I remembered a conversation from forty years ago that several of my twenty-something-year-old friends in Chicago were having. Arden, a newly ordained Reverend, said “I look forward to getting older. Just think of all the wisdom I’ll gain with each year of life.” (Arden grew up to obtain a Ph.D. in theology a few years later, taught at a Christian University, and eventually became the visitation minister of a large Methodist church.)

Now that I’m 65 instead of 25, I kind of agree with Arden. But even better than all the wisdom Mim and I have accumulated over the past 40 years, just think of all the wisdom that resides in our home right now. Taking advantage of that wisdom, I asked Anna what she thought about Arden’s comment. She said, “He’s right. I’m still learning something new every single day.”

How does she still continue to accumulate wisdom day by day?

"Sparrow and Berries" as colored by Anna.

“Sparrow and Berries” as colored by Anna. Notice the subtle shading, especially all the different colors in each leaf.

Every Monday morning she gets up very early, between 5:00 and 6:00, to get ready to go to the East Madison Monona Coalition on Aging (EMMCA) Day Care program for the whole day. There she meets with several other elderly people to work in the kitchen, play games, watch a concert or a movie on a big TV screen, and just plain visit with whoever is there for the day.

On Tuesdays she goes to Deerfield to play Bingo and have lunch with some new friends she has made over the past couple years.

On Wednesdays she goes to Lake Mills for the day for a “Reaching Out Respite” program. Every week is something different there – sometimes they listen to guest speakers, sometimes they sing, sometimes they play games or do exercises. They always have a good time with their friends.

On Thursdays she stays home. She spends most of the day sitting in her chair next to the patio door that goes out to the deck. (In nice weather, she sits on the deck.) From her chair she can watch the birds and other wildlife on our back yard pond and in the adjacent wildlife preserve. She often wonders what the birds are thinking and saying to each other as they fly by the deck. Sitting in that chair is also where she uses her colored pencils to create beautiful pictures.

On Fridays she often goes back to Monona (EMMCA). On the weekends she usually stays home, and her daughter comes to visit for a few hours. As Anna says, “Life is good.”

American author Herman Melville wrote, “To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.” Mim and I are so fortunate to be able to learn from all these masters of wisdom that God has dropped into our lives.

Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist lay leader in Japan, has summed it up nicely,  “The wisdom and experience of older people is a resource of inestimable worth. Recognizing and treasuring the contributions of older people is essential to the long-term flourishing of any society.”

Let the birthdays begin – as we all continue on our journey to wisdom.

Anna has an amazing eye for detail when her hands are holding colored pencils.

Anna has an amazing eye for detail when her hands are holding colored pencils. She must have known a cat with those exact markings sometime in her life. She also must have remembered from her childhood on the farm that chicken feed attracts other birds, too.

The Three Nonagenarians

3 ladies drinking - woodcut

Three 92-year-old women walk into a bar – an artist, a nun, and a state legislator. The bartender asks what he can get them. The artist wants a cup of herbal tea; the nun wants half a glass of milk; and the legislator asks for one glass of red wine – specifically, Menage a Trois.

I don’t really know the rest of the story yet. These are the three women we are caring for right now at Country Comforts Assisted Living – and we’re all having a wonderful time learning to share our lives with each other. The experience is teaching me that God really does have a sense of humor.

colored pencils

The artist spends hours every day creating beautiful pictures with her colored pencils. She grew up on a farm in northern Wisconsin and cherishes her rural background, even though she lived most of her adult life in Milwaukee. I’ve written about her in this blog before. Her most dominant personality trait is being thankful for everything.

praying-rosary

The “nun” really isn’t a nun. She’s a very devout Catholic who reminds me of my stereotype of a sweet, elderly nun. She spends much of her day reading, praying, and listening to sacred music. She is also very appreciative of any kindness shown to her, and she doesn’t want to be a bother to anyone.

wisconsin_state_capitol_statues

The legislator is a well-read, politically active, former state assembly person. She is meticulous in her appearance, and expects people to treat her with the respect she deserves. She cares about what’s going on in the world, and reads extensively to keep herself well-informed. She reads two daily newspapers, a weekly paper, and several magazines. She also watches the news on TV.

All three women are widows who have lived alone for many years. For a variety of reasons, they can no longer live on their own, which is why the three of them and Mim and I have all become friends and companions.

The 92-year-olds make a most unlikely three-some. I’m sure there was some chuckling among the angels up in heaven when God decided to put these three women together in the same household when they were in their nineties. Despite their differences, they enjoy each other’s company. I’m feeling the urge to write a mystery novel about “The Three Nonagenarians.” The basic storyline would be that Mim and I take Abbey for a quick walk, but something happens to us and we don’t come back. The three women figure out how to live together without us as they solve the mystery of what happened to us and manage to get us back. I’ve never written a novel before, so I don’t know if this will ever happen. But it’s fun to think about.

It’s also fun to imagine what God must be thinking in bringing the five of us together – “The Three Nonagenarians” plus Mim and me. It’s delightful. The five of us sharing this stage in our lives is a continuing source of unexpected JOY, a special treat for the year when my “perfect word” is JOY.

JOY candles