Night and Day Comma You Need Triple A Batteries

Friday Dad didn't want me to leave after his supper.  Parting is such a recurring struggle that I could say good night til it be morrow. 

Today Dad is a colicky baby with his days and nights reversed.  Up since four a.m., he sacked out after breakfast and slept well past lunch.  This isn't a completely bad thing.  Sitting in the sunny corner of his room I completed all the progress reports for the elementary students.  Then I read Timothy Schaffert's Coffins of Little Hope on my Kindle.

Wednesday I left a note for Maintenance regarding the dead batteries in Dad's remote.  Friday I spoke with a higher up about the problem.  Today I went to Walgreens and bought batteries.

What happens to the residents without family popping in often?  Does anyone at the facility ever check their remote controls?  Is that why all the tvs are blaring with bizarre shows?  The residents can"t zap out "Oprah" or "I Dream of Jeannie"?  And just why do I hear the theme from "A Summer Place" every afternoon at five?  Percy Faith and His Orchestra, please give me strength!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Sentimental journey

  In the recent storms this branch broke down by the creek.  It's not just any branch.  This tree and this branch used to hold the rope swing that kept my Woolly Mammoth son sane.  He was nearing ten years old when we moved into the condo complex in 1997.  He was drawn to the creek and the rope swing hung by some other kids.  Soon he was spending all his afterschool hours on the swing, sailing above the shallow water near the storm drain. I was learning to trust this as a healthy thing for a boy to be doing.  Sure, there was that one episode of poison ivy, but he lived.

In a couple weeks the Woolly Mammoth will receive his grad school diploma.  He will still be sailing out over shallow water with his own sure sense of calculated risks.  He knows that poison ivy in the winter has no telltale leaves.

In a less litigious time, the condo complex swim pool had a diving board for the Woolly Mammoth and his brothers.  It's been gone as long as my kids' pool noodles.  The first few summers we spent countless hours at the pool.  For the moment the only users are teen mallard boys.

Sometimes I want to shake parents by the shoulders and tell them the goal of parenting is to LET OUR KIDS GROW UP!  We have to give kids opportunities to make choices, to challenge themselves, to trust their instincts, to let go.  I'm grateful to my kids for giving back the same opportunities.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Identifying the Cham Cham Cham bird

Nearing the highest part of the Bois D'arc Trail the song was becoming the mantra of the world, or at least of the High Meadow area of Oak Point Nature Preserve.  The "cham cham cham" seemed to come at me from every direction and from overhead.  It might have been coming up out of the trail into my feet, too.  In the trees the Cham Cham birds were camouflaged, but loud.  They were bouncing their chant back and forth like a sweet gong in a chamber of mirrors, or Paul Horn's flute inside the Taj Mahal.

Finally an epicenter--a smallish bird sitting up like a miniature meadowlark on a barbed wire fence.  Meadowlarks are bigger, and sit on fence posts.  I can't pull their song from my tone deaf memory, but this is definitely not it.

Pulling out of the Cham Cham bird's gravitation, I walk up toward Old Morton Vale Road. The birds are in the trees and brambles, and on the wires overhead. Their joy is too great to be interrupted by my intrusion. They sit tall and chant, and they are yellow in the late afternoon sun!

My camera is not really bird-on-a-wire quality. My fifty-six year-old wrinkled neck is sunburning as I stare up, just as it used to burn flying kites on the beach, and just as full of joy in the moment.

I must know. Maybe I will never know. Maybe I should sit down in the tall grass and just listen to this unknown bird. Maybe it is magic. Maybe it is all connected:

  • Vinyl, cassette, cd versions of Paul Horn Inside the Taj Mahal owned over three plus decades.
  • Can't count the copies of John Janovy's Keith County Journal I've given away or worn out. I'm honored to experience the dickcissel's magnetism after all this time.
  • The giant dandelion in the low meadow is the road map. 
Janovy's chapter about dickcissels is entitled, "Love, Joy, Money, and Pride".  What motivates us to write these blogs, walk these trails, trace connections, and be open to new songs?  I take pride in posting a fine-tuned product, but I blog out of love and joy, to record and savor the strange, cockeyed, interwoven wonder of life.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

ConVader Belt

Use the Force, Lucy and Ethel!  Bonbons with light sabers!

"ConVader belt" is the preschool vocabulary word. 

And, if you need another laugh, you can check out the softshell turtles trying to sunbathe on the little concrete dam of the pond at Oak Point Nature Preserve.  Every time a bicyclist or jogger goes by on the trail, the turtles backslide quickly into the water.  Then they have to swim around with their necks craned checking if that annoying lady with the camera is still there before they skootch back up. 

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Snip my stems and stick me in water...

...every other day.  Add contents of a floral preservative packet, or a homemade mix of sugar, bleach, and lemon juice.  Don't let me lop off my ear.  I'm feeling a wee tad Vincent this evening.

On the upside, this is a wonderful week of flowers.  Dad noticed the bouquet on his window ledge and watched the light through the purple glass.  Maybe that is what inspired him to actually look at a book of American Impressionists while sitting up in bed.  Or maybe Dad was just energized by the cinnamon baked apple he consumed after a combined attack with spoon and fork on the slippery devils.  My adrenalin kicked in for the assault!

Not having much luck photographing my own birthday bouquet of tulips and irises against a backdrop of oil paintings. I need a tube of cadmium red light right away. Possibly intravenously.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Breaking it down--Making hummus with the preschoolers

  1. Pour Wheat Thins into a bowl.
  2. Juice half a lemon, strain and pour into measuring cup.
  3. Juice half a lemon, strain and pour into measuring cup.
  4. Juice half a lemon, strain and pour into measuring cup.
  5. Juice half a lemon, strain and pour into measuring cup.
  6. Pour lemon juice into blender.
  7. Crackle the paper layers off of a garlic clove.  Squeeze the clove in a garlic press.  This requires a strong five year old.
  8. Use tongs to fish slices of roasted red pepper from the Marzetta jar.
  9. Work the can-opener to open the Bush's Reduced Salt garbanzo beans.
  10. Spot the 1/4 cup line on the measuring cup while I drain the beans.  Say when.  Pour the 1/4 cup of bean liquid into the blender.
  11. Drain the can and dump the garbanzos into the blender.
  12. Measure 1/2 teaspoon salt and get some of it into the blender.
  13. Hold the tablespoon measure in the left hand while pouring olive oil with the right.
  14. Someone really strong needs to stir the tahini with the spatula, then measure 1 1/2 T and add to the blender.
  15. Use a spatula to mix the ingredients in the blender.  Fit the lid on which is tricky since the lid was in the recent dishwasher meltdown.
  16. Push the buttons on the blender.
  17. Scrape the sides of the blender with a spatula.
  18. Push the buttons on the blender.
  19. Scrape the sides of the blender with a spatula.
  20. Pour hummus into a bowl, holding the blender steady while the sides are scraped.

  • Begin observation/process sketches of the equipment and ingredients.
  • If you squeezed four lemon halves, how many lemons tried to teach some math? 
  • Save lemon seeds for the Science Table. Discuss why worms don't like lemon rinds in their vermicomposting bin.
  • Sniff the lemon juice.  Chalk up the Fruit Group on the food pyramid.
  • Sniff the garlic clove.  Look through the paper layers and say "translucent". 
  • Say "Peter Piper picked a piece of roasted red pepper" while cherishing alliteration.  Assign  peppers to the Vegetable Group. 
  • Talk about sharp edges and recycling cans. 
  • Consider the food pyramid group for chick peas and tahini, and remind kids that protein helps us think. 
  • Mention in passing the viscosity of olive oil, and the Oil Group of the latest food pyramid version. 
  • Give everybody a Wheat Thin from the Grain Group. 
  • Use tongs to select carrots, jicama ("that white thing"), and bell pepper slices.
  • Chat about ways to add the Dairy Group to this snack. 
  • Hummus is the new Ranch dressing!  What color is it?  What gave it that orange color? 
  • Review vocabulary--garlic press, measuring cups and spoons, juicer, strainer, blender, spatula, tongs.  
  • Applaud individual contributions to this collaboration. 
  • Serve tiny cups of water to all the assistants.  Serve tiny cups holding a teaspoon of delicious hummus made by KIDS!  Collect used cups for the garbage.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Weather watch lizard

I'd just dozed off upstairs, paperback open, when the weather sirens sounded.  Trundling down to turn on the weather channel I nearly tripped over Mr. Anole.  A flash of lightning showed him scurrying off to a corner of the living room.  Maybe he's been living on the spiders under the stairs.

When I saw this handsome dude in the cable cover outside the front door Thursday, I hoped my indoor lizard had moved outdoors permanently.  Occasional odd sounds in the condo during the quiet three-day weekend had me wondering, though.

When the weather got crazy enough I took blankets and a pillow into the bathroom.  That's the only place away from windows in the condo.  Trying to sleep on a bathroom floor is uncomfortable.  Hoping the anole wouldn't take shelter with me kept me wide awake.  Cute, yes.  Cuddly, no.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder



Tomorrow it's my turn to take a special snack to school.  I am planning to bring my blender and make hummus with the preschoolers. I will bring the ingredients, plus Reduced Fat Wheat Thins, baby carrots, jicama and bell pepper strips. The preschoolers will choose their own veggies and crackers for dipping, and choosing is always a big deal. 

I read a funny word, "hummusketeers" in a blog comment. That's when I decided on my special snack. I will go easy on the garlic. Kids will help use the garlic press, measure the liquid reserved from the Reduced Sodium Garbanzos, squeeze lemons, use the strainer, fish the roasted red pepper out of the jar, maybe help with the can-opener, scrape down the blender with spatulas ... Plus we can all dance to the noise of the blender. 

Then we can talk about the Food Pyramid.  The latest nutrition education materials call the pertinent group "Meat and Beans".  That seems to leave out eggs and nuts.  I prefer "Meat and Protein", but that's a bit abstract for young children.  I'm taking my kitchen cat since it was pouting about not being included in the fun. 

M-I-C See you real soon.
K-E-Y why? Because we like you.
H-U-Double M-U-S

In other developments, Dad says he will be twenty-two on tomorrow's birthday. Since he will really be eighty-eight, I wonder what in his head made him divide by four. I'm not sure there is method to his madness, but he does seem to know a hawk from a handsaw when the wind is southerly.
Slowly reading Viki Kind's book, The Caregiver's Path to Compassionate Decision Making:  Making Choices For Those Who Can't.  This morning the section on "care-grieving" hit home on two levels.  First, I could recognize myself as a poster girl for that telethon.  Second, I could reconsider Dad's experience while Mom was ill in 2004.  How very overwhelmed and exhausted he must have felt!  My parents were both totally compliant with whatever doctors said during that time.  It is a fair turnabout that Dad chooses noncompliance as his default mode these days.

....Care-grieving... "the grief that comes with caring for and caring about another person.  Not only is caregiving exhausting, overwhelming, frustrating and emotionally draining, it is also associated with profound grief."  (Kind, p. 105)

  • Dad isn't the person he used to be.  The person he is now is often unpleasant, and frequently nauseating.
  • Our intense link of father-to-eldest daughter with a shared birthday is gone.
  • The father who nurtured my creativity and curiosity is long gone.
  • Facility staff members keep asking if Dad was always impatient, aggressive, and combative as if I'm supposed to reveal a deep family secret.  I just want to scream at them, "No!  He was judgmental, sarcastic, sometimes belittling and occasionally  intolerant.  He was hopeless at teaching me to throw a ball, but good at teaching me to fish.  He had impeccable table manners.  He was not abusive or violent!"
  • While I don't physically take care of Dad, managing his affairs is time-consuming.  He resents his loss of independence, and I resent this big chunk of my time.  Sometimes his private room can't hold all our frustrations.
  • It's really difficult to make time for self-care and managing my own messy life.
  • Dad is going to die, possibly soon.
  • Dad is not going to die as soon or as easily as either of us might wish, which is not easy to admit.
  • People who aren't in my shoes give me a lot of advice, and sometimes they are coworkers.  Fortunately, people who are in similar shoes commiserate with me, and sometimes they are coworkers.
  • I'm going to die, too.
  • I'm going to die without being able to afford it, so I sure better not linger!
  • The people whose support I most need are far away with busy lives.  I often feel like I'm performing without Annette.

It had been over a year since I saw a movie in a theater.  Danger Baby gave me an AMC movie gift card a few months back.  Today I needed to go sit in a dark suburban mall megaplex theater by myself through all the darn ads and previews to see "The Conspirator".  Since I found Gore Vidal's Lincoln in a library at least thirty years back I've been drawn to novels and nonfiction about Lincoln's assassination from various viewpoints.  Except for Kevin Kline's Edwin Stanton, the performances were persuasive. 

Time now to prepare the dipping veggies, pay bills, and iron.  Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmelites" is in the cd player.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Catching the bus to Pierce

Got a call early this morning informing me Dad had crawled out of bed onto the floor.  No injuries, thank heaven.  He seemed about the same when I got over to Life Care, except his eyes were only half open. 

Dad's first question was if his mother still had a telephone.  I didn't tell him Halma died close to thirty years ago.  He was worried she wouldn't know he'd be arriving on the bus.  He didn't think he had any clothes or shoes that fit, and no money for a haircut.  Dad did not want to arrive in Pierce without a nice haircut.

I was worrying about Danger Baby's inlaws in St. Louis, and tuned in the Weather Channel for tornado news.  Dad was worrying about getting to the depot on time.  It's all about needing more time, or thyme:

Just In Time 
By Jule Styne, Adolph Green, Betty Comden, performed by Dudley Moore

Just in time

you’ve found me

just in time

Before you came my time was running low

I was lost the losing dice were tossed

My bridges all were crossed nowhere to go

Thank heaven in all the tossed airplanes no lives were lost!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Photo Book

Click here to view this photo book larger


Oak Point Nature Preserve

I've spend a relaxing evening and morning working on my photo projects.  Yesterday afternoon absolutely required a long walk at Oak Point Park after a tough week at school.  I'm very grateful for a real three-day weekend!

Maybe this embed slideshow will work.  Maybe not.  It shows photos from the last year visiting the park.  The links to my Flickr and 365 Projects are in the left sidebar.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Triple C 3-D darn Dubya









careful drawing

finding calm

clasping our hands

behind our backs

observing our constructions
from last week


I'm so immature

I still get a thrill

typing the AT in my email address

drawing the treble clef

curling an ampersand

circling the covered wagons

cooking chicken chili in the crockpot of letter sounds and fonts

uncapping the colored markers to write on the white board



composition is improv, says the ballet student

in art composition is the play

the arranging

the dance with the elements I did not tell the kids

Sometimes you slide your whole collection of shapes off the paper and begin to create again.  


Self-publishing has a



lack of constructive criticism.


There are crocodiles in the moat.


calls today

from the care center

Maybe Dad was always a crabapple cluster bomb

I thought he was the master of self-control

critical he was of couse

but combustible not

kicking the bath aide in the abdomen and

throwing his shaver across the room

I just bought him the darn shaver last November


The cradle will rock

Considering various theories

tonight about just when

Dad got so angry.




I blame it on Dubya.

Dad his old self would approve

Tonight Dad careemed

himself down the hall

in his wheelchair to shake a skinny

blue finger at the nurse and yell,

"You're a damn liar!" 

The supper trays weren't there yet.

He used to save that up to scream at Bush on tv

"You lied!  They died!"

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Yma opening a window

Worrying about the anole, I've opened a window.  Farewell, please and thank you, head on out!  Write if you find work...

A live lizard in the home is considered good luck and a generous wedding gift in many cultures.  A deceased lizard reclining on my miniblind is more than I want to contemplate. 

"Please do not starve to death on my watch," is the order I send by telepathy to the anole.  The staff must be sending the same wish by ESP to Dad.  He declined to eat supper, but I got him to eat a Peppermint Patty and drink a cup of coffee with two sugars and a creamer.

I should have served fritos and glurg, like the host in Tom Meehan's short story, "Yma Dream", as performed by Christine Baranski.  Should you need a laugh, check it out from your library.

I will close this with one photo of Peppermint Patties in a cut-glass bowl.  Whatever thoughts I had were lost when the elbow drafting lamp fell off the shelf above the computer.  Get the sensation!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


The Case of the Juggling Anole

She entered the condo with turquoise purse, lunchbox, and grocery sack slung over her left arm, holding her father's dirty laundry in that hand. Keys and mail were still in her right.  She nudged the twelve-pack across the entry rug with her left foot while bumping the door shut with her right hip.  It had been a day, let me tell you. 

Plunking the groceries and mail on the table, she popped open an unfortunately warm brewski, and shelved the cans of reduced-sodium garbanzos in the cupboard.  The lemons had gotten warm enough in the Buick's trunk to threaten citrus explosion.  Later, much later, she would remember to mix the good hazelnut coffee in with the Maxwell House basic caffeine source.

Any day that starts with a snake in the bathroom is going to be tough.   Snakes are not deathly afraid of tile, despite what Fritz told Eunice.  Snakes are nonchalant about linoleum.  The lizard had been partial to miniblinds.  Shake it off, she told herself. Reptile interior design is unlikely.

Kicking brown clogs under the desk, she turned on the computer and tried to mentally exit the lengthy patio evaluation of her father by the hospice nurse.  Interview conducted in the hot wind.  Her dad trying to remember that he was in Texas on West Park Boulevard in 1930 or 40 or 50 or admitting he didn't know.  He didn't know either that he'd been fighting the aides, slapping and insulting them for two days, ever since he returned from Mulberry Hill.  The RN keeping the session relaxed, picking up on hints, suggesting meds for the most agitated moods and aggressive behavior. 

Maybe she could rest some, breathe a bit, realizing the nurse was sharp, much better in person than on the phone.  Processing it all slowly, she began to sense something was off.  The picture was wrong.  Retracing steps through the grocery, the mail, emptying the lunchbox, unloading the dryer, adding the wrinkled slacks and blouse to the ironing pile on the couch. 

There it was again.  Knowing someone was in the condo, but not knowing how she knew, she stood.  Still.  In the living room looking at the sweaters machine wash gentle cold reshape and dry flat on the old bath towels.  Sunlight filtered through the miniblinds sketching designs on the carpet next to.  Next to.  Next to the Christmas ornament from the elementary students.

Why was the ornament on the carpet?  Why was a Christmas decoration still out on income tax day?  Nevermind.  The ornament hadn't been there, she knew, when she left.  She had waited until water sprayed in the dishwasher, and the snake had slithered west under the hedge before leaving for school.  The sweaters had been arranged, and knew their task.  There had been no silver ball.

The silver ornament sat next to the MOG ornament she got from the MOB--mother of the bride.  They were in front of the photos of Halma as a young girl and a young wife.  The Woolly Mammoth sat nearby on the mantlepiece.  That's where they had been for months, well-settled in the dust, but now the ball was on the floor.

Floor.  Floor.  Fl...FL... fl... fl... flizard.  The anole had been on the mantlepiece, just as sure as she knew her consonant blend sounds.  The anole had been juggling the Christmas ornaments, but now the silver one was on the floor.  The jig was up.

She knew what she would find, but she needed to see it.  Anole toes.  There.  Hiding on the miniblind slats.  "Slats".  Halma's nickname since she was so darn skinny.

10.  the jig is up, Slang . It is hopeless; no chance remains: When the burglar heard the police siren, he knew the jig was up.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Outdoor-in anole, but no carrots singing

How can it be seven years since the Woolly Mammoth's Lunch Bunch gang had the finger-flick place-kicking competition that impaled carrot sticks on the mini-blind slats?  This evening I am wishing those high school students would magically reappear to laugh with me about the anole lizard playing hide and seek in the condo.  Wishing too that Fritzi, my mother, was here to appreciate both the condo lizard excitement and the Woolly Mammoth's upcoming grad school commencement in D.C.

The anole on the mini-blinds is probably the same lizard I saw scurrying into the hot water heater closet early this morning after I'd been outside cutting flowers for a bouquet.  Still, it could be another anole.  I've been in and out both front and back doors so very many times today.  Anoles are quick.  I have no problem sharing my condo with any who get inside.

Don't know where the anole is at the moment.  I last spotted it on the theater programs saved by Fritzi, including a production with Florence Henderson as Maria in "Sound of Music".  High on a hill is a lonely anole,

Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Milkweed on Mulberry Hill

Danger Baby suggested I take kolaches to my dad, his gramps.  This morning I got two prune.  Dad was sitting up in bed in his hospital gown when I arrived.  "I was adopted," Dad announced as he started in on the kolache.  "You think?"  He said he must have been, and chewed. 

He asked if Danger Baby knew he was "here now".  I assured Dad all my sons knew he was in Plano.  Pointing out the window he told me the next building was the church, and that he was living in the parsonage now.  One of his schoolteachers lives there, too, and a nurse, and the "master's daughter".  The church, Dad said, was "First Christian Montessori", where I work. 

Explaining that I work at a private school, not affiliated with a church, over five miles away did not sway Dad.  Instead he said it cost him "a dollar thirty-two to get us out of town last night."  Where were you headed?  To the shopping mall, but he was a bit vague on this part.  He told me again about the $1.32, saying he knew his "benefactor was good for it."

I headed off to my Saturday job at the library.  Driving along listening to The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake added to my sense of disorientation.  The first time I remember feeling this way was when my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Peterson, read A Wrinkle in Time aloud with the classroom lights off after lunch.  Tesseracts and the fourth dimension were waving just out of my peripheral vision range. 
Coworkers wanted to know about a plant I had photographed earlier in the week while walking at the Oak Point Nature Preserve. The plant's structure is wonderfully galactic, plus it hosted a monarch caterpillar. In the strange realm where technology, biology, and deep memory dance to Chopin's Polonaise in A Flat Major, Opus 53, this is about a good as it gets.  If I were in charge of the world this plant would be grown on city street medians everywhere!  But what is it?  The answer popped up on a Facebook post by Texas Discovery Garden linking to author Susan Wittig Albert's blog, Lifescapes. It is called an antelope's horn milkweed, Asclepius asperula.

While I sat on the park bench eating my peanut butter sandwich and reading, Dad phoned.  Where was I?  He'd had dinner and wanted to go to bed after spending the day on Mulberry Hill.  Why didn't I come pick him up? 

Instead of trying to convince Dad I was at work and there was a lot of day left, I should have asked what butterflies he saw on Mulberry Hill.  Did the "master's daughter" go along?  Were there caterpillars on the milkweed?

If living in the parsonage with strangers and a benefactor helps Dad feel less misplaced, I'm all for it.  Maybe the schoolteacher will play Chopin on the piano in the minister's parlor.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Cake crumbs with Mr. Sunshine

Voila!  I whisked the lid off Dad's supper plate, and there was Mr. Sunshine.  I was so surprised I started laughing uncontrollably.  That started the aide known as The Lady In Red laughing, too.  She went out to the food cart to see if all the plates had carrot sunshines.  Nope.  Someone in the kitchen must think just Dad needs to brighten up.

Dad was not particularly amused, but he ate three carrots, and half each of the mystery meat, biscuit, and cake.  He drank some milk.  For him, a pretty good meal.  The Lady In Red started calling Mr. Howard "Mister Sunshine" instead.  He wore another quarter of the cake, but I tried to clean it up.

I told Dad a halfway right version of "How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin".  It was because of the cake crumbs, of course.  Then I had to go home to change my shirt due to itchiness from my haircut, which felt as bad as burned currants in a waterproof.

Feeling less itchy, I found the last cassette player in the house and popped in the old Rabbit Ears tape of Jack Nicholson and Bobby McFerrin doing that Just So Story.  Fabulous as ever!

Them that takes cake
Which the Parsee-man bakes
Makes dreadful mistakes.

Last night we had a big storm with crazy lightning and hail.  Having fallen asleep on the couch under the twin skylights, it was a multisensory wake-up tapdance and lightshow.  My flowers weren't harmed.  A few miles south at my school the hail was so large it hadn't melted away eight hours later.  The lambs ears looked stabbed and slashed with pointy scissors, not the round-tip Fiskars.

I am listening to Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake on cd. In the nap room at school I'm reading The Caregiver's Path to Compassionate Decision Making, by Viki Kind, MA, with my Mighty Bright book light, connecting my three jobs--kids, books, and Dad.  At bedtime I read a bit of The White Lioness, by Henning Mankell.  I do not eat cake in bed. 

 You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are gray.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Songs of the shrinking blind lady

Help me get up in the air
right away
right away

Dad endured the long visit from the hospice chaplain today.  The minister did not try to play hymns or jazz for Dad.  That was good.  Good, too, that the visit kept Dad up in his wheelchair all afternoon.  When he naps he is crabby... more crabby.

I want something substantial
right now

Help me

I can't get up

Wednesday I was worn out from extreme hot glueing and staff dramas at school.  I had no chitchat in me.  Dad's crabbiness was the last straw in the day.  I was worried, also, to hear from Dad's nurse that his retirement wristwatch had gone missing.

Please get me something to eat
right away

Come and help me
Those of you with wings

Like coffee, a wristwatch is a lifelong habit.  We feel out of kilter without either one.  When I went for a month without a watch, I continued to push up my sleeve and peer at my wrist several times per hour.  Dad's obsession with clocks and time over the past couple years increased as his dementia grew and his ability to make sense of numbers faded. 
I want some bell pepper salad
right now

right away

The nursing home literature suggests the decision-maker family member take away valuables like rings and watches when the resident is admitted.  Dad's watch and wedding ring are most valuable by giving him a sense of normalcy, so I left them with him. 
Bell pepper

right away 

With wrists so skinny, the watch probably slid off when Dad's shirt was changed.  It could be in his bedding, or in the laundry.  Sometimes Dad was angry it was gone.  Other times he forgot it was missing.  We skirted the possibility of theft.  "A watch like that is never lost," Dad proclaimed.  "It is always mislaid."  Hmmm?

all cut into little squares

The hospice bath aide knew what to do when I called her this morning.  She would go down to the laundry and talk to them.  She had assumed I took the watch to my house.  By noon the watch was back on the wrist under the sleeve of Dad's heavy sweater in the eighty-two degree room.
not mushed

I don't have wings and I can't get up

Dad was not crabby this afternoon.  He endured my prattle about peculiar preschoolers as he had endured the chaplain.  Once upon a time he might have called himself "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed," a phrase that originated in 1585 or 1933 depending on your source.  He was alert and not annoyed when I wrote my grocery list.

right now

Help me get up in the air

Melva, the blind lady, arrived at the skilled care facility about the same time as my father.  They were also admitted to hospice care the same week.  Since New Year's I've watched her shrink and withdraw.  She pulls her head down into collar and folds her arms across her torso.  It is sad to find her sitting in her wheelchair in the hall in her nice blue cardigan waiting for her attentive son, pleading or praying incessantly like Salinger's Franny.  She may not know her son on any given day, just as Dad my not know me.
I don't eat mush

right away

The blind lady has two voices.  Most of the time she pleads and demands in a loud, raspy monotone.  On days when the hospice chaplain visits, she sings her own hymn.  As I cannot find the lyrics anywhere, I suspect it is Melva's creation from her deep longing.

I won't eat mush

right away

We try to put our affairs in order, neatly in good kilter, but then we sit out in the hall pleading for square-cut peppers and wings with nothing but time to kill.   Dad doesn't wear a kilt.  He does not wear wings.  Most of the time he wears a hospital gown.  He gets out of that when he is going to leave his room in the wheelchair.

kilter - in working order; "out of kilter"; "in good kilter"
orderliness, order - a condition of regular or proper arrangement; "he put his desk in order"; "the machine is now in working order"

This link is to my neglected Mama Collages blog showing textile works as they progressed, including the sphinx moths/honeysuckle piece in Wednesday's post.  I wish I had more time for visual art. On the other hand, being employed is a good thing!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Childhood lore

"Indians," the neighborhood big kids told us little kids, "can walk so quietly in their moccasins that Bambi can't hear them coming.  Neither can you."  So out playing in the front yard picking blue juniper berries and plinking them into a Swanson's chicken potpie foil pan pretending to be the star of Blueberries For Sal, we couldn't just worry about Little Bear and his mother.  We had to worry about Indians sneaking up to take us captive.

Don't think this was a bad thing, really.  We felt a great safety in knowing our movements were monitored by mothers watching out kitchen windows, dads walking home from the bus stop, and the big kids generously managing our wide-ranging play.  We sorted out pretend and real, and mixed the juniper berries with mud or maple twirlies.  Then we practiced walking so softly we would not disturb Bambi.

"Indians," the big kids told us, "pick the honeysuckle blossoms, then suck the ends for a sweet drink."  This was a nice change from the blue juniper berries that were POISONOUS, and the chicken potpies that were salty fake cardboard and often burned. 

We loved that word, poisonous almost as much as the magical QUICKSAND.  We felt stronger as we dealt with these risks.

Feeling sucked into quicksand up to my neck often, I'm learning to take long walks at Oak Point Nature Preserve.  The gas to get there should be deductible as a medical expense for sanity. 

Tuesday I walked the high meadow trails marveling at the sulfur and monarch butterflies, then headed into the trees on the Redbud Trail.  I was snapping too many twigs.  Bambi would hear me coming!

Rounding a bend, fragrant honeysuckle slowed me.  I stopped to savor childhood associations.  Suddenly sad, I remembered Dad's first hip break in 2006 when he got tangled in the honeysuckle vines growing on the front yard light post.  Struck still, I caught the glistening five o'clock light on a web, and traced it to the small spider. 

Location, location, location!  This spider has a spot that will keep it well fed to grow into a big garden orb spider (although my spider ID superpowers have not kicked into gear yet this spring).

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Dishwasher Inferno

Walked into my condo at 5:30.  What was that grinding sound?  Why was it hot in here?  Please, please, please don't let the a/c be broken!  Maybe it's the old washing machine that takes half the day to fill.

No, it was the dishwasher with the dial stuck just slightly left of START. So for ten hours it had been heating and growling, but with no water. I let it cool for an hour, as it was very hot inside. Counted my pennies betting the motor or the ring of hell heat element was fried.

I am thrilled to report that the dishwasher is working right now. In a two-step error I must have leaned on the HOT WASH setting instead of Normal Wash. Then I must have turned the dial not quite to Start. Feeling very grateful the condo did not burn down.

Next time I hear the expression, "Go to hell," I will remember what these visitors looked like after their trip:

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


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