What Alzheimer’s Hasn’t Taken

There are so many things that Alzheimer’s takes from a person, and from those who love him.

The scope is so big and so profoundly heartbreaking that I don’t think I’ll ever find the words to be able to capture it.

But one thing that Alzheimer’s hasn’t yet taken from us is the ability to live fully and completely in a moment.

Yesterday, I sat with my father and told him how much I loved him. As I did so I was living fully and completely in that moment. And so was he.

I told him that the life he’s led has been an example to me and that I aspire to one day be like him. I told him he’s lived with Φιλότιμο. It’s a word that means honor and integrity and morality and so much more — it’s really hard to translate. I told him the highest compliment someone can pay me is to say that I remind them of my father. I told him these things and others too, and as I said them every molecule of who I am was working so hard to fully communicate them. And every ounce of who my father is was working so hard to fully comprehend and appreciate what I was saying.

We were both working so hard to live fully and completely in that moment.

(I didn’t mention that most of the time people tell me I remind them of my mother.)

:)

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When I took this picture, I wasn’t living fully in the moment. And neither was my father.

It’s been more than 10 years now. Maybe it’s been 15. I got up before dawn with him that morning so that we could hike up to Agios Elias before the day got too hot. It’s well outside of the village and it’s uphill the whole way.

I carried my burdens with me up that mountain. I suppose they’re the typical things a young(er) working mom would be carrying — angst about things that had happened with the kids or at work; anxiety (and hope) about all the things that were to come.

I’ve had many mornings since the morning I took that picture. And I still carry lots of those things around with me.

But yesterday, on Father’s Day, I understood what it meant to live fully and completely in a moment.

And I was so thankful for that. It’s the thing that Alzheimer’s hasn’t yet taken from me.

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Family Fitness!

TO: The US-based aunts, uncles and cousins
FROM: Mary
SUBJECT: Family Fitness!

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 9.17.13 AM

I’m so excited we’re going to be doing Family Fitness together! Here are some of the exercises that we’ll be doing.

I wanted to share these videos with you because I find that knowing in my head what the perfect form looks like makes it easier (achievable) to master it IRL.

I love you  guys so much and I’m really happy that we’re all going to be helping each other work on our fitness this summer!!!!!

Theia Mary

p.s. please note: my use of millennial acronyms demonstrates that I have my finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist. #throwdown.

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Avoidance

It’s 9:30 a.m. on a beautiful sunny Saturday in late March.

So far this morning, I’ve made plumb jam.

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I’ve baked scones.

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I’ve read two magazines and a newspaper.

I’ve even blogged!

All in avoidance of this:

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It’s a big truckload of shredded leaf mulch. I need to spread it all over my garden.

I’m always so optimistic when I order the mulch. I’m so eager for spring when I think about having it delivered.

Then, it arrives. And all my enthusiasm for it just kind of melts away. Like the snow..

I will get to the mulch this morning…

Just as soon as I’m done cleaning up my desk and getting my papers in order….  .

:0)

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Friendship is the bread of the heart

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It takes a little bit of effort to re-connect with people.

There are always so many other things that seem to get in the way of it.

Your friends from the past… they keep popping up in your head…you think of them… you remember them…. you wonder how they are and hope that they’re healthy and happy… and in your head, you really, really want to re-connect with them.

The problem is, this stuff just happens in your head.

You get busy. Or something else takes your attention away. Or you promise yourself that you’ll do it tomorrow. But somehow, it just doesn’t come together.

Then, one day it does!

You manage to re-connect.

And it’s awesome.

You pick up right where you left off. (Even though that was like 5  or 10 or 15 years ago; neither of you can really remember exactly how long it’s been…)

And the experience leaves you so energized and happy.

You remember all the wonderful things you loved about the person. You also get to remember the things that drove you bananas. ;-)

For those precious minutes that you’re together, you both get to travel back in time. Together you visit the past that you shared. And as you do, you see it through each other’s eyes. And you remember it more clearly. It becomes richer, more vivid, and somehow … it feels closer in time.

You both get to indulge in the people you used to be. And, walk forward, to catch each other up on the people you’ve become.

Growing older has some downsides. But one of the huge upsides is that there are so many people with whom you’ve had the chance to share something special.

And when you find the time to re-connect …. well, you get to have that something special all over again.

Today I re-connected with Betsy. It was awesome. It was so, so awesome.

And it made me thirsty for more…

Mary

p.s. for the record, Betsy doesn’t do anything to drive me bananas.

p.p.s. the title of this post is inspired by the Beautiful Penelope and is taken from the works of Mary Russell Mitford, the poet, playwright, novelist and essayist born in Hampshire England on December 16, 1787.

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“Here’s what you missed….”

When I was working, there were so many conversations that I had to keep track of. So many developments happening simultaneously.

I managed to stay on top of it. I was really good at just keeping my finger on the pulse of everything.

The funny (and sad) thing is that while I’d never really miss a beat at work, I’d miss lots and lots of stuff at home.

I would literally zone out during dinner. The people I loved most in the world would look me straight in the eye and talk to me, and I would be looking right back at them — but I didn’t hear a word they said.

The love-of-my-life recently told me that one of the things that he likes most about Gap Year is that they all have my full attention. He told me it used to be “painful” to watch #2 trying to get my attention, and I’d be completely zoned out, thinking about work.

What’s worse (and I still cringe when I think back on this) is that I’d miss the volumes spoken through silence.

I know there were times when I could have lightened the load that one of my kids simply by hearing their silence. Adolscence can be such a difficult and lonely place. I deeply regret the times I missed hearing the voice of silence. I regret this most of all.

It’s embarrassing to own all of this. I wish that it wasn’t me who did these things.

But here’s the thing, you guys…. you can never get too bummed when you blow it like this.

I’m not trying to minimize or in any way excuse it… It was a huge miss on my part. I’m finally coming to the place where I own it. Heavens knows I’ve previously spent plenty of time excusing myself for it; numerating all the things I did well as a parent; as a spouse. It was a huge miss. I own it now.

But I’m not going to let myself get down about it.

The future is SO HUGE. It’s just so big. There are so, so, so many conversations that haven’t yet happened — and lots of them are super important ones.

There will be joys and disappointments and accomplishments and total, spectacular failures.

They are all coming. And they’ll all be expressed in some way, shape or form.

This time I’m listening.

I think that the people I love most in the world see this in me. I think they’ve forgiven me for all the stuff I did miss. Or at least, they’re on their way to doing so.

So here’s a bit of perspective for my friends surfing that monster wave that is work…

If you miss something at work, someone will brief you; someone will catch you up; someone will have your back.

With the people who really matter most in your life, that won’t always happen.

And sometimes the fact that you totally missed it hurts them. Deeply.

It’s just something to think about, I guess. It’s something I was thinking about and I wanted to share it.

Thanks for indulging.

<…. we now resume our regularly scheduled programming.>

:-)

Mary

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Stillness

A friend had me over for coffee this morning. Then we went to a Yoga class together. It was a perfect morning.

During class there’s this part called sha-bas-a-nah. The object is to bring stillness to everything — to your body; your mind…

It’s usually my favorite part of class because it’s at the end and you’ve been working really hard you get to rest…

But today, it occurred to me — during sha-bas-a-nah — that when I’m done cleaning this whole house top to bottom… that’s when I’m going to have the space I need to be able to relax and think and figure out what’s next.

Every day, when the love-of-my-life comes home from work and I report what I got done that day he tells me to back off a little; to relax.

I am not going to be able to relax and really think about what’s next until I’m done putting everything in order.

That’s what I’ve been spending my time doing these past days.

I now have a spotless refrigerator; a beautifully organized garage; a sparkling clean grill; sheets that smell of sunshine because they’ve been line dried… and all these things are giving me pleasure right now.

Getting them done is keeping me busy but reflecting on the beauty of the order and the cleanliness that comes with that gives me pleasure and happiness.

I need to get all of it done. I need everything in this house to be in order before I can find the stillness which I need before I can figure out my next step.

How’s that for introspection? See what happens when you go to Yoga?

:-)

Happy Friday!!!!

Mary

p.s. Fridays are just as happy on the other side. Just in case you were wondering. :-)

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Gap Year Begins

It’s been a long time since my last post. Lots has happened. Not all of it great.

My family has been through a lot this year. It’s been hard.

Most recently, I was one of 2,000 Yahoos who lost their jobs as part of a re-structure of the company to position it for future growth.

I’m still trying to get my head around it. Every day it gets easier though.

I’m to live in the moment, and not stress out about the future.

I’m trying to really explore and enjoy and treasure the things that I have — and not focus on, or lament, or mourn the things that I’ve lost this year.

So if you’d indulge me, dear reader, I’d like to take you on this journey with me.

Bringing you along will help keep me on the path. I need to keep it positive. And having you along will help me do that.

So here we go. My first post of “Gap  Year.”

Prior to getting laid off I used to fantasize with my kids and the love-of-my-life what it would be like to have a “Gap Year.”  A year that I take off. I stop working. And I do all the things that I never had time for.

For them that meant things like my learning how to cook a restaurant-quality Calamari dish, my helping them re-decorate their rooms, my going to sports practices and actually watching the kids rather than the Blackberry.

For me it meant I’d stop being distracted and have my mind elsewhere when I was with the people I loved most in the world. I can’t even tell you how many conversations I’ve just completely missed even though I was in the room at the time and the people I love most in the world were talking directly to me. I hate it that I would make them feel like whatever I was absorbed in was more important than what they had to say. For me, Gap Year meant I would stop doing that. And so much more.

The upside of getting laid off is that I get to have a taste of Gap Year.  I don’t know how long it will last. It might not last a year. I’m not quite sure what is going to come next.

So, like I said, I’m trying to live in the moment.

My Monday morning started with an Italian Proverb.

After the game the king and the pawn go into the same box

Every night, before #1 goes to bed, she writes something to me on her white board.

She’s been writing me these notes every day since “Gap Year” officially began. I wish I had taken pictures of all she wrote. I think I was just too numb those first days.

I’m sure she won’t keep doing this indefinately. I’m sure the notes will putter out and fade away.

Regardless…. In this gesture I am reminded that I’ve gained so much more than I’ve lost. I don’t think I’ve ever started a Monday morning feeling more happy than I do today.

Happy Gap Year!

Mary

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