Forced to Get By or Get Out

   It’s warm and sunny today. The leaves are green, and a floral scent hangs heavy in the air. Local strawberries make a sweet, juicy dessert.

            On a day like this, memories of the recent saturated spring begin to fade. The months when winter held us in its icy grip feel even more distant.

            But any day this week, a pop-up thunderstorm could knock out the power. A heavy rainstorm could flood streets. And next winter, the risk for blizzards and ice storms will return like clockwork.

            Acts of nature aside, nearby industrial accidents, chemical spills, or other manmade catastrophes are all possibilities that nobody wants to think about.

            In the event of a disaster requiring either sheltering-in-place alone or evacuating, is your loved one prepared? Are you?

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Safeguard the Story

Safeguard the Story

Three couples sat lined up at four-top tables as they nursed large cups of coffee at a fast food joint in the middle of the Corn Belt. Nearby, my daughter and I were finishing a quick lunch with hopes of making good time to our destination. But when we couldn’t help overhearing their conversation, I felt compelled to listen for a few minutes longer.

            Their exchange transitioned from the history of farmland holdings and antiques to old photographs and 8 mm home movies. “I worry about these relics being lost with the way technology is advancing,” said one silver-haired gentleman.

            “You know what else is priceless?” he went on. “Back in the 70s, I made tape recordings of my grandmother telling stories.”

            “Movies?” his nearby friend asked to clarify.

            “No, just voice recordings. On cassette tapes. What happens when we don’t have the devices to play these anymore?”

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Sensitivity for the Season

  Let’s face it. The holidays can be hard. Although it’s easy to identify one’s own burdens, it can be challenging to also be sensitive to the suffering of others.

            Our family had a series of rough winter holidays. For about a decade, each November through January held a tragedy or loss. As a result, grief has become a habit. Even when it isn’t fresh grief, the season holds sorrowful anniversaries.

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When It’s Not Like Any Other Day

            Early on the Friday before the start of school, my teenage daughters and I lingered in our pajamas over a breakfast of ham and cheese omelets as we talked about doing something fun for the Labor Day weekend. “I still have to finish one more work project that’s due on Tuesday, so I better shower and get to it,” I said.

            I stepped into the tub, thinking about my work commitments and the start of a new school year. Summer had come and gone too quickly, and I hoped to salvage the long holiday weekend for something other than work.

            Like any other morning, I reached down to wash my legs. But unlike any other morning, something popped in my back. My left leg and foot immediately went numb, and I felt searing, excruciating pain in my back. The slightest attempt to move intensified the agony.

            Bent over in the tub while the hot water continued running, I was imprisoned by pain. My attempts to scream for help failed because every breath deepened the affliction.

            As I realized my predicament, alarm set in. Since I wasn’t home alone, I knew rescue would come sooner rather than later, but the pain was frightening. 

            Half an hour later, I heard a beautiful sound on the other side of the closed bathroom door. “Mom? Mom?” Thankfully, she had a request that sent her in search of me. And, she found me-immobile, naked, wet, and crying.

            “What happened?” she asked.

            “I don’t know. Get your sister. I need you both.”

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Her Point of View

When the 11 p.m. news ended, Evelyn climbed the stairs to her bedroom. She held the handrail that her son, Robert, had installed at his wife’s insistence ten years ago when death stole her companion of nearly 60 years. 

            She liberally applied moisturizer, guided by her blurry reflection. Her eyes used to be a clear ice blue, but now they were dull – just like her life. Dragging her nightgown over her head bothered her shoulder and left her breathing fast and shallow. Evelyn leaned on the vanity with both hands until her breathing slowed.

            Then with a sigh, she trudged to bed. Lying in the dark, she thought about the next day. Another week with with nowhere to go, no one to see, nothing to look forward to. Not long ago, she did things with friends at least three times a week.

            But that was before her son took her car keys. He thought two accidents in two months were two too many. But nobody was hurt in the simple fender benders. It wasn’t her fault that someone parked where they shouldn’t have.

            Maybe her daughter-in-law could take her out tomorrow for lunch and shopping. Shirley had a job, but why couldn’t she take the day off? Evelyn wanted to hear about what the grandchildren were doing these days. They hardly ever visited since becoming teenagers. With a plan to phone Shirley first thing in the morning, Evelyn drifted to sleep.

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Midnight Supplication

At nearly midnight, we hear a faint knock on the campus apartment door.

Following the first day of a professional conference, overstimulation and dorm-style beds mean we’re still awake. Angela, the resident night owl, opens the door.

Margie softly requests our help, unsteady on her feet from weakness and fatigue. “I must have left my medication at home,” she says. “But I need to have it.”

We’ve known Margie for several years, through annual attendance at the conference and from Facebook. We understand the urgency of her request because Margie has a chronic health condition that requires medication for maximum control. She used public transportation to travel from her home in the Midwest to the conference in the Northeast, which means she needs help to get her medicine. Angela volunteers to take her to the local community hospital’s emergency room, assuming that obtaining the prescriptions will be a simple matter.

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Life is a Highway

By Crystal Hayduk

Sitting behind the wheel of his “new” car, a 25-year-old, brown Lincoln Continental, he was as happy as I’d ever seen him. The sun reflecting off the chrome could not outshine the gleam in his eyes.

“Dad, why such a big car?” I asked through the open window, standing in the parking lot next to his purchase. “This thing is a gas hog!”

“Get in.” He gestured to the buttery leather seat beside him. “Let’s go for a ride.”

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5 Ways to Motivate & Encourage Seniors

5 Ways to Motivate & Encourage Seniors

I recently read a very helpful article about ways to motivate and encourage seniors. The article is an excerpt from the book “How to Communicate Effectively with Seniors.” 

The author states, “Caring for, and having successful relationships with older adults often requires unique interpersonal skills and strategies.” He then lists five ways to encourage and motivate older adults.

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