Grandma’s nuggets of wisdom

Grandma's nuggets of wisdom

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Point > < Counterpoint — vegetarianism

Vegetarian? Vegan? Or good old-fashioned carnivore? People who eschew meat for health and ethical reasons are in the minority, but their numbers are growing among the young and old alike.

Vegetarian? Vegan? Or good old-fashioned carnivore? People who eschew meat for health and ethical reasons are in the minority, but their numbers are growing among the young and old alike.

My point-counterpoint posts feature Grandma’s opinions vs. mine — written with her words recounted as accurately as I can remember them.

point
My granddaughter tells me I should stop eating Spam and potted meat. Well that’s just ridiculous. I’ve eaten meat for 88 years, and I’m still here! So how can meat not be good for you?

I grew up on a farm, and I learned how to wring a chicken’s neck when I was 12 years old! On Sundays there was nothing better than Mom’s fried chicken and potatoes with gravy. We worked hard from sunrise to sunset — you can’t survive on tree bark. Animals on the farm were raised to be food, period.

Every Thanksgiving Mandy and her family eat some cockamamie thing called a tofurkey. Heh heh they probably make it with leftover glue from the horse factory. She tells me this soy business is good for you — well the only people I ever heard of eating it were Chinamen. I’ll stick with my American turkey, thank you very much.

counterpoint
My adventures in vegetarian cooking began long before I actually took the plunge myself. Just a few days after her seventh birthday, Chloe’s New Year’s resolution was to stop eating meat. I said I would too, but I only lasted a few days. Ten years later, she’s devoutly vegetarian down to scouring labels for gelatin. At first I was afraid it would stunt her growth, but she’s as tall as her sisters and it hasn’t stopped her from running track or cross country. To say I’m impressed with her willpower is an understatement.

I’ve been a pescatarian myself for four years now, but I’m seriously considering becoming a vegan. I already pay more for free range eggs and organic milk at home, but I know I’m not getting those when I eat out. And just because something is organic doesn’t mean the cows are treated any better. I’d say my original decision not to eat meat was probably 80 percent ethical, 20 percent health oriented.

Veganism — if I can commit to it — is definitely more of a health-related choice. Just today I read on Ofcoursevegan high blood sugar levels are linked to dementia. I’ve never seen a fat vegan, which leads me to believe becoming one might be my best bet for avoiding a multitude of health problems. I’ve written before about my fear of memory loss and how to avoid it. Now’s the time to put my money where my mouth is.

It’s not the fear of giving up foods I love that’s stopped me from taking this step yet — it’s part sheer laziness, part fear of becoming the self-righteous person so-and-so who lords their politically correct choices over everyone else. The teetotaler who makes snide remarks about everyone who’s drinking … the ex-smoker who can’t walk through the ostracized smokers clustered outside without dramatically waving away smoke from their face and fake coughing … I hate those people, and I don’t want to be that guy. Giving up everything but fish meat-wise was probably a good trial run for testing my tolerance. I’ve done OK so far, and although I’m convinced every hamburger that touches their lips is inextricably tied to crashing ecosystems, intolerable cruelty and self poisoning, I think I can keep those opinions to myself.

I’m more worried about the laziness. If I’m faced with the task of shopping for ingredients I’m not likely to find at my local store, purchasing new gadgets to cook those ingredients and hunting down more than three or four new recipes, I may just eat cereal for dinner. Until I win the lottery and can afford a personal chef to prepare my delicious vegan dinners, I’m going to stock up on almond milk. Just in case.

This blog was prompted by the WordPress weekly writing challenge.

Readers are their own reward

Wonderful Team Membership award

The Wonderful Team Membership award

If no one seems to understand
Start your own revolution, cut out the middleman
—  Billy Bragg, Great Leap Forward

I admit I didn’t have much confidence anyone would read this blog when I started it. But I decided to regale WordPress with tales of Grandma’s shenanigans and my best efforts to care for her anyway and see what happened.

The results have blown me away.

When I got the email a few weeks ago that my post was chosen for Freshly Pressed, I felt like I’d won the Pulitzer. When I saw the little digital trophy for 100 followers in my notifications yesterday, it felt like a standing O. And when my fellow bloggers nominate me for an award — however symbolic — I’m genuinely honored.

So thank you, Ardenrr, for the Wonderful Team Membership award. Musings of a Dancing Wino keeps me in suspense, your sense of humor makes me laugh, and your writing talent humbles me.

Here are my own nominees for the award. Most of these aren’t blogs I’ve been following long-term but rather those on which I found interesting posts related to topics I’ve touched on that may interest my readers. (It feels awesome to say “my readers!”)

Gardencatsandmore — She has cats. She loves gardening. What’s not to love?

For the Rest of Her Life — A blog about the challenges and joys of caring for an elderly mother.

mykeystrokes.com — In Good liberal gone bad I lamented Grandma turning her back on her labor union roots. The post I linked to here cites some interesting statistics about why seniors may be turning against the GOP.

Life with Jess offers a useful checklist for people considering whether they or someone they know could benefit from palliative care.

Our Long Goodbye is the record of one woman coping with her mom’s struggle with Alzheimer’s.

The Intolerable Gap — Interesting commentary on several timely subjects; I admit I’m including it because I don’t remember the generation gap and therefore I’m no boomer. 🙂

with love Jo gives a Macklemore concert rave reviews. Now I’m even more excited about seeing him in October.  If you’re a Macklemore fan too, Grandma rapping to Thrift Shop might make you smile.

bechristbeautiful posted a beautiful religion-based defense of Macklemore’s song Same Love, which forced me to remember not all Christians are fundamentalists.

Caregiver Connections looks as if it could be a valuable resource for caregivers. The post I linked to is uncannily relevant to some of my recent posts.

Chat@Care-giving offers excellent advice about — among other things — avoiding guilt trips.

Senior Homecare by Angels explores why gardening can be good therapy for seniors.

Chocolate Vent writes about something I didn’t even know existed — Silver Alerts.

Life of a Clare Bear posted a hilarious video starring old people with a sense of humor, something  I wish Grandma still had.

Ofcoursevegan introduced me to another topic I was completely unaware of: elderly vegans.

Any bloggers who choose to accept this completely symbolic award can:

  • Grab the logo and put it in a post
  • Link to your nominator, a.k.a. me
  • Nominate 14 blogs of your own

Old people are great — if they don’t live with you

Is Grandma "a sweet old lady who just needs a friend." or "a cranky old lady with no social skills who demands to be taken care of." It depends on whether you can visit then drop her off or you're her primary caretaker.

Is Grandma “a sweet old lady who just needs a friend,” or “a demanding, anachronistic battle-axe devoid of social skills.” It depends whether you can drop in for a visit or you’re her primary caretaker.

I used to like old people.

I held doors for them and picked things up when they dropped them at the store. I checked on them when they lived next door and did odd chores like dishes and taking out the trash. I’m still polite to elderly strangers. It’s the one in my basement I have a problem with.

Of all the things that irritate me about Grandma — and there are a lot — it’s her sense of entitlement that bugs me the most. This nagging angel/devil pair in my head take turns whispering, “She took care of you when you were young. Turnabout is fair play.” and, “When you were a kid you appreciated everything she did for you. I can’t remember the last time she said thank you, can you?”

I’ve always been big on manners — my own, my children’s, even strangers’. It’s not uncommon for me to loudly say “You’re welcome,” when I hold a door for someone who doesn’t acknowledge it. So when I spend a few hours shopping for Grandma and delivering everything to her, I expect a “Thank you!” not a “Where’s my credit card!” The older she gets, the ruder she is. She is not someone I would check on if I lived next door.

Except if I were her neighbor, Grandma would be nice to me. I know this because everybody else who helps her out gets thank yous … tips for chores … offers to pay for gas … I don’t even think this is a conscious decision on her part. I think she reasons she took care of four generations, and by god now someone’s gonna take care of her. I just happened to win the draw.

Luckily, one of Grandma’s drivers seems to have taken a shine to her. Initially Shelly hanging around after she dropped Grandma off made me suspicious. “Does she think I’m not taking care of her? Is she a career criminal who knocks old ladies in the head and steals their money? Why on Earth would she sit down there with Grandma, who makes all kinds of unpleasant noises and retells stories that even new acquaintances have already heard 20 times?” I kept asking myself.

I guess Shelly just likes old people, because today she called Grandma to check in on her. Grandma’s doctor switched her to Pradaxa, which means goodbye Warfarin and bi-weekly lab checks. It also means Grandma doesn’t see Shelly as often. I actually thought about asking Grandma if she wanted Shelly to stop by and visit with her a spell — that’s Grandma-ese for come over and hang out. But Shelly beat me to it.

Grandma’s friend is coming over Sunday, and they’re going out for ice cream. Bless their hearts. I’ll nonchalantly grab the Kleenex ear flap out of Grandma’s hat as she leaves so she doesn’t look completely bonkers. And later, when I’m on my way downstairs to clean up Grandma’s routine messes and I hear her tell Shelly thanks for stopping by, I’ll remind the voices in my head, “Don’t worry. She’s just being nice because that’s not her granddaughter.”

Epilogue
Someone told me this post was mean, so I immediately took it down. But after some minor edits and a second opinion, I think it’s OK to leave up. For years I’ve felt guilty about being a “reluctant caregiver” — I’ve never denied I’m primarily motivated by obligation, not love. I do still love my Grandma, but she’s gone. And the person who replaced her is a real pain in the ass.

But after reading Paula Span’s article, I’ve decided it’s OK to feel this way:

“We need to allow people to be reluctant,” she said. “It means they’re dutiful; they’re responsible. Those are admirable qualities.”

See? I’m not mean. I’m admirable. Save the guilt trips, haters.

Image credit: genika / 123RF Stock Photo

The quest to bathe Grandma

It may not qualify as Herculean, but it's no small feat getting Grandma to take a shower.

It may not qualify as Herculean, but it’s no small feat getting Grandma to take a shower.

Brave Perseus beheaded Medusa.

A laundry list of tasks stood between Jason and the golden fleece.

And Odysseus had to squeak by Scylla and Charybdis to get that gig named after him.

Maybe my quest pales in comparison. But these guys all had the gods helping them out. Listen well and you shall hear how I bathed Grandma armed with nothing but a detachable shower head and a really big towel.

I woke up Sunday morning with a sense of dread I couldn’t quite place. I knew I didn’t have to go to work, and I’d volunteered the night before. Then I remembered: it was Grandma’s bath day. The mere thought sent me back to sleep for several hours.

Eventually I had no choice but to face my fate. I gave Grandma her morning meds and reminded her it was bath day.  Before I could even finish the excuses started. “I haven’t had my breakfast yet, and I didn’t sleep well last night,” she protested. “That’s OK, I’ll be down later when you’ve had a chance to wake up,” I stalled.

I’d bought myself time, but I couldn’t enjoy the day with the task hanging over my head. Finally, around 2:00, I went back downstairs. “Why don’t you get ready to take your shower and I’ll be back down in a little while,” I said. “Where’s your helper?” Grandma slyly asked. “Tam’s busy. I’m giving you your bath today,” I said. “That’s right,” I thought as I went back upstairs, “Sunshine has the day off. Today you’re dealing with the War Department.”

Knowing Grandma’s pace, I vacuumed and cleaned upstairs for a good half hour. When I came back down, she was still milling around aimlessly. “You need to warm that bathroom up,” she reminded me, despite the fact the basement was already uncomfortably warm. I started to protest, but I already knew Grandma approached showers like an ordinary person approached a pit of vipers: fully armed, with no sudden movements and ready to shriek at the slightest thing — all against a backdrop of jungle-like humidity.

After what seemed like an eternity, the bathroom was suitably scorching, the clean clothes were in place, a protective shower cap covered Grandma’s head, and the water was warm — but not too warm. I held her arm as she stepped over the base of the shower door, but she still reached for the water control for balance. “Don’t touch that. It won’t support you and you’ll make the water too hot,” I told her. “I’ve got your arm, just sit down.” She grabbed for the water again before sitting down on the built-in bench. “I need my washcloths! Two of them!” she ordered from the bench. Knowing better than to ask why two, I grabbed them from the shelf and handed them to her.

If you’ve ever tried to stand outside a shower and hold a removable shower head, soap up a washcloth and completely avoid getting wet in the process, you have some idea how the next few minutes went. I handed Grandma the soapy washcloth and stared at the ceiling counting to infinity as I held the water down by her legs. When she’d finished her front it was time for the next feat of simultaneously holding the water, steadying her arm and washing her back. I wished in vain for an opposable big toe or a third arm.

It was impossible to keep the shower head pointed at her feet for this portion of the proceedings, so every time the water got within a foot of her head, she shrieked. By the fourth time I was ready to accidentally-on-purpose spray her in the face, but like all great heroes, I resisted temptation and carried on.

Finally the water portion of the shower was over. But we weren’t finished. We still faced the drying off. The redressing. The water sopping up. The mat rehanging. For someone with no interest in personal hygiene, Grandma is uncannily particular about everything associated with the post-bath experience. I completed these tasks in a whirlwind because if I spent another five minutes in the bathroom my flesh would melt. Once her camisole and underwear were on, she shuffled by me and headed for her living room chair.

Once she was seated, there were a few more shrieks when I placed the sacred sponges between the designated toes, plus one “Ewwwww” for good measure when I put the fresh pair of socks on her gnarled old feet. With a final burst of patience, I helped her put on her two blouses and whatever those things are that cover her legs but are not pants.  At last, the quest was complete.

I grabbed her dirty clothes and headed for the stairs, surprised to hear a “thank you” as I left. At the last minute I realized I didn’t have the mysterious second washcloth …  But Grandma was clean, and the quest was complete. Only a fool would go back.

Image credit: ariwasabi / 123RF Stock Photo

Don’t fear the reaper

For people who aren't looking forward to their bodies outliving their minds, better alternatives may be on their way.

For people who aren’t looking forward to their bodies outliving their minds, better alternatives may be on the way.

Take a walk with me, dear readers, into the not-so-distant future …

You might note I said walk, not drive. That’s because fossil fuels are exorbitantly expensive now and only the uber-rich can afford to drive. Nobody can afford air conditioning either, and thanks to climate change it’s hotter than hell. Corporate greed and the rising cost of living have depleted retirement funds, so there are millions of indigent old people shuffling around in the heat, waiting to die.

Nobody’s kicking back and enjoying their golden years in their back porch rockers — they’re miserable. Some bravely forego their medication and let nature run its course. But fear of death is so ingrained many keep taking the pills the pharmaceutical companies make sure are in plentiful supply. These people are not really living, but they’re not quite dead — they’re in manmade purgatory right here on Earth.

Yuk huh? You’re telling me I slaved away in corporate America for 40-odd years to end up like this? No thanks. Fortunately, an alternate, more optimistic future is also possible.

In this version, people choose when they die, and the process is pharmaceutically enhanced to be pleasant — even enjoyable. Millions of dollars are saved because modern medicine shifts its emphasis from preserving life at all cost to giving people the tools to make the when-to-end-it call themselves. Retirement funds aren’t decimated by expensive, futile treatments because people no longer fear death. The average person consumes fewer resources because life expectancy is replaced with life optimization. We don’t automatically expect to live longer; we control living better.

I realize there are faults with option two: religious beliefs … societal taboos … people with Alzheimer’s or dementia who can’t make choices for themselves … medical breakthroughs yet to be made. But the nightmare first scenario could be reality if mankind stays on its current course. We can’t just keep extending life regardless of its quality; the planet can’t sustain it, and it’s not fair to the young people who shoulder the burden of perpetuating programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Journalist Alexander Zaitchik explores these issues in depth in his article Global warming, LSD, euthanasia: Bring on the death panels. He combines a lot of ideas I’ve touched on, such as modern medicine’s ability to extend life having a point of diminishing return and my own fears of ending up like Grandma. She told me just the other day she’s not ready to die, but if she could let go peacefully and comfortably would she continue her existence comprised of eating, sleeping and doctor visits? Even if she would I bet a lot of other people in similar situations would opt out.

I’m a pessimist, but I’m not alone. Zaitchik cites numerous examples of fiction tackling end-of-life issues, immortality and a world increasingly hostile to the elderly. He also notes medical research is exploring the therapeutic qualities of drugs like LSD and their potential role in making death a more palatable option. I’d feel a lot better knowing I don’t have to dread the day when my mind gives out but my body keeps going.

What about you? Is this idea blasphemy? Or is it an idea whose time has come? It’s nice to believe everyone will have the health and resources to enjoy a few carefree golden years, but wouldn’t you feel better knowing there’s a Plan B if things go awry?

Image credit: albund / 123RF Stock Photo

Three cheers for versatility!

The Versatile Blogger“English? Why are you majoring in that?” my stepfather asked me 20-something years ago.

“Because I’m going to be a blogger! Duh.” Now don’t write to me to point out blogs didn’t exist 20-something years ago because this is my imaginary response and the space-time continuum doesn’t apply.

I love blogging. I adore my readers. And I’m honored the hilarious blogger of Is Everyone an Idiot But Me? likes my blog well enough to nominate me for the Versatile Blogger Award.

In the spirit of the award, here are my nominees — blogs I enjoy reading and hope you will too. Please note: If you think bloggers recognizing each other is silly or pointless or beneath you, kindly do the needful and ignore my nomination.

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

Storyshucker

Musings of a Dancing Wino — I know you were already nominated. You’re just that good. 🙂

The Dimwit Diary

Waiting for the Karma Truck

J T Weaver

The Irrefutable Opinion

Ramblings From an Apathetic Adult Baby

Ray Ferrer — Emotion on Canvas

The Top 10 of Anything and Everything

Ben’s Bitter Blog

The Accidental Coochie Mama

Marbles on Trains

And here are seven random things about me in no particular order of importance:

klimtMy favorite artist is Gustav Klimt. I traveled to Vienna, Austria to see his work. I’ll never forget it.

butterfly mosaicI love butterflies. I love Chicago  This is a butterfly in Chicago.

degree cat I have a master’s degree in journalism*. According to a website I won’t publicize by naming, it’s one of the world’s most useless degrees.

machu_pichuSeeing Machu Pichu in person is on my bucket list.

mackintosh

My favorite city in the world is Glasgow, Scotland. It’s home to incredibly nice people, Charles Renne Mackintosh’s architecture and amazing Indian food.

iris

I love irises. They smell like SweeTarts.

industrial

I’m left-handed, which means I’m more likely to die in an industrial accident. If I mention my new job is operating a bulldozer and I suddenly stop blogging, assume the worst.

*This cat doesn’t really have a degree. But if he did I’m sure it would be in something practical like accounting.

Image credits: luq / 123RF Stock Photo | rook76 / 123RF Stock Photo | gortan123 / 123RF Stock Photo | princesszelda / 123RF Stock Photo | Nostal6ie / 123RF Stock Photo | hannamariah / 123RF Stock Photo