Tag Archive | 93-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

A Pat on the Back

Abbey Profile 2This morning I looked at my beautiful old dog Abbey and said, “Hey, Abbey. Come over here a minute. I want to give you a pat on the back – not just a few pats on the head, a real pat on the back.”

“Okay, Mom. Just a minute while I coax my legs to stand up. They’re not moving very fast any more,” she replied. She slowly stood up and hobbled over to me. Then she eased herself down to a laying position again.

“Abbey, I’ve been thinking about how much you have befriended all of our 93-year-olds. You have become one of their best friends, for each one of them, just as you have for almost everyone who has lived with us. I’m particularly surprised at how much our latest resident has come to love you. I didn’t think she could love again. But you won her over. How did you do it?”

“Oh, Mom.  That wasn’t so hard. She was just hurting a lot, and she took her frustration out on all of us.”

“Yes, but at first I thought she was a little mean to you. I was afraid she might try to push you with her walker to get you to move when she wanted to walk where you happened to be lying on the floor.”

“Oh, she never hit me, Mom. And she was in so much pain. I got out of her way whenever I saw her coming, but when she sat down, I went to sit beside her. She needed to feel that someone loved her. I could do that. Eventually, she even started to pet me. Now sometimes she leaves me some crusts of bread on her plate, and tells you to be sure to give it to me, right?”

Abbey looking up colorized 2“That’s right, Abbey. You have definitely won her over. You know what she told me the other day? She said that you really like her, that you even lay down outside her door sometimes when we’re out. She is so happy that you have become her friend.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Mom. And, you know what? I’m glad that she’s become one of my friends, too. Just like it said in the book you’re reading. You may not know it, but sometimes I look over your shoulder in the morning while you’re reading. On Sunday morning you were reading from that Edward Hays book again, A Book of Wonders. He’s a smart writer. He said,

The best way to remain fully and vitally alive all the way up to the moment of your last and final breath is to constantly strive to be sensitive to other’s needs and suffering, responding to their unspoken cries for help.

“That’s all I’m trying to do, Mom. And in the process, I’m gaining more and more friends. I’m the luckiest dog in the world. I may not be able to get out as much as I used to, but I really appreciate all the new friends you bring in to live with us. Like I said before, it’s great having an endless supply of grandmas.”

“And it’s great having such a loving dog as you, Abbey.”

Thanks, Mom!

Thanks, Mom!