Five {really thirteen!} Books That Changed Me

This morning I was watching Super Soul Sunday on Oprah’s OWN network, and she was playing old inspirational episodes. One of them was an interview with Betty Eadie, the author of Embraced By The Light which was published in 1992. It chronicled her Near Death Experience, and at the time was the most lengthy and detailed account that we had of someone’s experience of dying and coming back to life.

I had been urged to read this book by my friend Hope who had had a Near Death Experience, and it had been recommended to her as a way to make sense of what she had gone through. {Hope has since crossed over, and you can read my post A Visit From The Afterlife to see how she came through to me in a dream}. Reading Betty’s book set me out on a search for knowledge about what happens when we die. The books I read, combined with personal experiences, did something more than convince me of the existence of an afterlife-it convinced me of the existence of a Higher Power. Sometimes I call it God, sometimes The Universe, but either way, I am a true believer and I credit the authors of many many books for that. Reading the same themes from so many different people, I couldn’t help but believe.

At this time, the New Age section in Barnes & Noble was about a four foot section – and only about 4 shelves high. Not even close to the aisles devoted to it now. I was thirsty for information and all I could find were astrology books and books about the Occult. There were the scientific books, of course, like Life After Life by Raymond Moody and On Death & Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, but I had read them in a Death, Dying & Bereavement class in college, and they were both good, but very dry. Same with the studies of Edgar Cayce – interesting, but not what you’d call a page turner. These books are all important in the study of Life After Death, but for the average reader who is curious about it, but not a doctor or scientist, I have found some books on the topic that turned me from reluctant skeptic to believer. I thought it would be nice to share the titles that I learned the most from with my readers.

1) The Bridge Across Forever / One
By Richard Bach

Years before reading Embraced by the Light, I had my first taste of Destiny and Soul Mates and how everything is connected to everything else when I read these two – in this order. I was suddenly hooked on metaphysics, and I didn’t even know that was what it was called yet.

2) Out on a Limb / Dancing In The Light
By Shirley MacLaine

Over a decade before Embraced by the Light hit the bestseller list, Shirley MacLaine wrote Out On A Limb. Anyone who loves to read or write about the paranormal and metaphyical needs to show some serious gratitude to Shirley. She took one for the team back in the early 80s by putting herself out there in the public eye, vulnerable to the hostile criticism, accusations of insanity, and vicious jokes by late night comedians that got passed around at water coolers the next day. I was in middle school then, but even I remember the hype surrounding it. I never really took her seriously (c’mon, I was ten!) Until I read these two books-again, in this order. You have to see how she goes from skeptic to willing ambassador for reincarnation and even UFOs! She was chosen for that. She had the means to devote her life to learning and because of her celebrity, her books got into the hands of enough people that the collective consciousness began to shift. Sure, there were the ones laughing, but there were just as many starting to quietly question things. People who like me yearned to learn more. I was late to the party, as I didn’t read it till about 10 years ago. Evidently, it was meant for me to have read some other books first, so that I could truly appreciate her metamorphosis since I was going through one of my own at the time.

Anyway, she rocks, you should totally read them, and if you own a dog, you should then read Out On a Leash.

3) Life On The Other Side / The Other Side And Back (and all of her books-but these first)
By Sylvia Browne

I was a property manager for a while, and there was a girl who lived in the apartment next to my office who was a Reiki healer (or whatever you call them…she did Reiki!) an we talked about metaphysical, new agey stuff when she would hang out in my office. One day she brought me these two books and they changed my life. Sylvia had gone through the same Catholic upbringing, but not getting anything out of it. She started to question things that she was being taught, because they didn’t make sense to her. I had felt the same way, and now she was showing me that it was ok not to just blindly follow the dogma of a religion because that is how you were raised. I learned about the Gnostics and I learned what the other side is like by her channeling her spirit guide. A lot that came through validated other things I’d read about what others had experienced. I also learned more about something I’d always known but many do not: the fact that psychics, mediums and the like get their gifts from GOD, not from the devil. They are not devil worshipers. This is why I felt it necessary to share that it was through learning about psychics and mediums {and psychic-mediums} that I came to start believing in a Higher Power. Would Satan-worshipers let that happen?

4) Heaven is For Real
By Lynne Vincent and Todd Burpo

A story about Todd’s son Colin’s journey to the other side. A kid couldn’t make this stuff up. This kid saw Jesus-FOR REAL. I saw him on a show talking about how he met Jesus. He later looked at many pictures of Jesus, but when he saw a painting by young artist Akiane Kramarik entitled Prince of Peace, he said that was him. Akiane has also seen Jesus, by the way, so here’s 2 kids who saw Jesus and one had the God-given talent to paint a realistic painting of who she saw. Unbelievable, but ya just gotta believe it anyway!

5) Left To Tell
By Immaculee Ilibagiza

Now, this one’s not about life after death, but it was the nail in the coffin, so to speak, for my belief in God. Long story short, she taught me about forgiveness by forgiving the people who were hunting her down during the Rwandan Genocide. The way she was obviously protected by prayer on multiple occasions was what sealed my faith. I took her story and learned how to forgive a boss for causing stress because she knew not what she did. I didn’t tell her that, but I forgave her in my heart. It changed our relationship, so that by the time she was let go, I felt genuinely sorry for her. It changed the way I have dealt with other people going forward, and it made me a better person {if I do say so myself, haha!}. Everyone should read this book. It’s AH-MAY-ZING.

So those are the ones that made a specific impact on me, but I highly recommend some others after you get through those and you need more: Read on if you’re interested!

90 Minutes in Heaven., by Don Piper

God on a Harley / Heaven in High Gear, by Joan Brady

Everything Happens For a Reason, by Suzane Northrup

Anything by Sylvia Browne {Past Lives, Future Healing is pretty fascinating}

Anything by John Edward, James Van Praagh, Gary Zukav

Welcome to To Be Read Mountain! Happy Reading!

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Mail From Dad

It’s Father’s Day, so I wanted to share something that happened to me last week.

I have watched enough medium shows and read enough books about the afterlife to recognize a sign when I see one. How many times has Theresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium, told someone that their loved one was with them when they were wearing something of theirs, or doing something in honor of them? It happens all the time. Or someone will find pennies from heaven that they know came from someone they lost? Or every time they see a butterfly, they feel it is their departed loved one sending them a spiritual hug? These themes come up over and over again, enough for someone like me to have zero skepticism.

My dad used to sit outside a lot, and he always called cardinals “red birds”, so when one flies by at a time when I need to feel some reassurance that everything is going to be okay, I take it as a sign from my dad.

I have a tie tack that was my dad’s. It is an elephant standing on a ball, which is significant because when my dad was a kid, he survived the horrific circus fire in Hartford, CT. His mom had told him not to go, but he went anyway. (This story was told to us often as kids to reinforce how important it was to obey our parents if they told us we couldn’t do something) Lucky for him, they were up in the top row of seats and his friend sliced the tent with his pocket knife so they and others could escape tragedy. So this tie tack is my lucky charm. I wear it when I need strength to be at my best.

I wore it to a job interview, as I would normally do, and while I was waiting for the interviewer, I touched the elephant and whispered to my dad to help me out. The interview went amazingly well, but that’s not what this story is about. It’s about what happened later that day when I checked the mail.

{Now, for those of you who don’t know much about me, my husband and I moved to Rhode Island a year and a half ago after living with my mom in Connecticut for five years. We had moved in while my father was still alive to help my mom out as he was suffering from Alzheimer’s.. He passed away six months later.}

Anyway, as I was going through the stack of mail so that I could toss the junk, there was a mailer from a Rhode Island furniture store that we had never heard about in Connecticut. Naturally, my husband and I had changed our address with the post office over a year ago, and my last name hasn’t been McCue for 13 years. That’s what made this so cool. The Cardi’s Furniture mailer was sent to my Rhode Island address to “Donald McCue or current resident”.. This address has nothing to do with my father, and our mail forwarding had stopped months ago. There is no conceivable way that this should have happened, so I know it was a message from my dad that everything was going to be okay.

On Friday, driving home from my third interview for the same job, a cardinal flew across the highway right in front of our car Seems like a good sign..

Thanks for the mail dad, and Happy Father’s Day from “The Poor Kid”

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For Hire: Awesomesauce

FOR HIRE: One honest, hardworking, smart, detail-oriented, loyal, customer-focused, friendly, passionate, well-liked team player, with natural leadership ability, who will efficiently do whatever needs doing, not stopping until it is done right.

I am comfortable leading or following, in the spotlight or behind the scenes, for all the glory or just a requisite pat on the head. Living and working by the Golden Rule, I am respected by employees and co-workers as one who holds herself to the highest ethical standards, and treats others how I would like to be treated. I think on my feet, making decisions quickly with enough foresight to know what will or will not work. I can either run your business, or be the best one-person support team you could ask for to help you run it better.

I’d hire me.

How does a person like this stand out from the hordes of faceless resumes competing for the few good jobs out there? This person does not show up when you look at a resume. A resume shows the tasks that someone has done, and where they spent their days, but it says nothing about that person’s personality or values. It takes just one meeting and maybe a phone call to a reference or two to know when you have found the person you have been searching for to fill that fabulous position. I just can’t seem to get to that point, now that the world of job hunting is so technologically advanced. As a hiring manager in my current job, it is impossible to know anything from an online application, so I know how it is on the other end.

That’s right. I have a job already. I have heard that it is easier to find a job when you have a job. I never intended to look for another job, but much has changed in the few years since I decided to make my career with this company. (Due to said company’s social media policy, I will not name it here). It was a company that had integrity and I believed in its mission statement. I’d left before for greener pastures, but returned when I saw that I had left a good thing. I had planned to retire from this job, but now I am left to question that decision due to massive changes to the company which sent a lot of good people to the unemployment line.

But I digress….my point is, going to work every day under a cloud of uncertainty was not what I signed up for. Not wanting to have to rush to find a job if I find myself suddenly unemployed, I have started the search. Just in case. But I am not having any luck.

I recently applied for a position for which I am more than qualified, at a company that I respect, in an industry about which I am passionate. In this case, my resume does show that I have the skills, and in my cover letter I expressed why I was interested, and why I would be a good fit. I never even got a phone call. I guarantee you that the person they hired is not as good as I would have been, but I never even got the chance to try.

Something great is out there for me, I know it is. It may be with the company I work for now, or it may be something I never even thought of before. Either way I know I am not meant to be doing what I am doing now, and I want the opportunity to do something better. I work too hard, and I give too much of myself to a job to not get anything out of it, and barely eke out a living. It just doesn’t seem fair. If I were working for a good cause, or doing something I enjoyed like writing or working with animals, the sacrifices I have to make in life would seem worth it. Right now I feel like a drone. A worker bee working until I die. The last year and a half went by in the blink of an eye and I can count on ONE HAND how many fun things I did outside of work. I look back and see that I was not living, I was just working.

So if you or someone you know is in need of the best possible employee, I could be that person. I am in retail now, and would certainly excel in that field as I have plenty of experience, but it is not what I would call fulfilling. I used to hold out for hope that I would finish writing my book and win the publishing lottery, but those days are long gone, and so far I have yet to win PowerBall. I know that my husband and I would be awesome running our own business, but we have no start up cash. Now I just hope to find whatever it is that will make me happy and pay me what I am worth. Until then, I will keep going to work every day with the most positive of attitudes, because that is what I do.


Filed under Employment

So This Is What Having A Good Day Feels Like!

I had a really good day today.

It wasn’t a “great” day. It wasn’t a “spectacular” day. It was, however, a really “good” day.

Now, hopefully you have had mostly good days, so you may not take the time to appreciate them when they happen, because they are so common. They’re nothing to blog home about. Unfortunately for me, it’s been so long since I had a really good day, I almost didn’t recognize it.

I felt the need to share my day with you, so you can see how in hindsight, even an ordinary day can be a really good day.🙂

1) I had the day off, and I got to spend it with The Husband, so it was already shaping up to be a “pretty good” day!
2) After midnight, which counts as today, I was tweeting with @ericaluckedean, whom I haven’t talked to for a while. She cracks me up, and I read her blog Chasing Bacon and laughed my butt off.
3)For the 1st time in a over a week, we got Dunkin Donuts, and I had, HANDS DOWN, the best bacon, egg & cheese breakfast sandwich I have ever had., #FTW.
4) Got a text from co-manager that my District Manager called for me to congratulate me on a good day in credit & customer service survey scores yesterday. Since he usually calls to yell at me, this made it a good day. Only wish I had been there to take the call!
5) It was a beautiful sunshine day to drive to Connecticut to visit my mom in the hospital (Her being in the hospital is not a “good” part of the day, but later you’ll see the silver lining….omg, just realized that the door to the room across the hall from my moms had a sign that said something about silver linings)
6) On the ride, The Husband and I had a Best of Crosby, Stills & Nash Sing-a-long. (Suite Judy Blue Eyes is my favorite song)
7) Got to talk for a half hour in the front yard to our old neighbor, whom we spent a lot of time laughing with while we. lived with my mom. We got all the gossip about what’s happened on the block over the last year
8) Got a text from work that the scary new market manager made a surprise visit to our store and wasn’t happy. The good part about this is that I was not there. Normally I would not say that, but after the week I have been having at work so far, I don’t think I could have handled it. It would have been a “REALLY” bad first impression, resulting in a “really” bad day.
9) We went to see my mom-she has dementia, and had fallen and hit her head and gashed her arm. When we get to the hospital, she is incoherent and can’t name her children. All tests came back good. So, we still don’t know what’s wrong, but a lot of the bad possibilities, like a stroke, have been ruled out, so that part was good.
10) When we got there, she looked like she was at death’s door and when she did try to talk, she sounded like the low-talker from Seinfeld.. It was scary, and the day was precariously close to heading toward the “bad” end of the day spectrum. Then, about a half hour after my sister left, Mom woke up more when she had to take a pill. We kept her talking, and she started to speak more clearly and was making more sense. Then she looked at The Husband and like she would have when we lived with her, she clearly said, “So, Dale, those Yankees aren’t doing so good, huh?”. She knew his name. She could remember the names of most of the Yankee players, and was talking with him about last year when the Yanks got beaten by her Orioles. It was great. We talked with her for an hour before she started to drift off, so all in all, seeing that her mind was back to where it was before the fall, made it a ‘”really good” day.
11) We were starving when we got back home to Rhode Island and decide to get take out. The place we wanted to go to was closed, so we ended up stumbling upon the best pizza and grinders (subs or heros to you non-New Englanders) we have EVER HAD!! Catanzaro’s in Cranston is our new place. It was a great food day-breakfast, donut snack, awesome pizza/grinder/salad, and now a piece of See’s Candy.
12) The Yankees were actually on tv in our area tonight, and they won.
13) The last thing I did today was post a blog! Yay! #amwriting

So that was “Elaine’s Really Good Day”! I hope it inspires you to appreciate the good things that happen in your day that may seem small or inconsequential. When you put them all together, you almost can’t see the bad parts of the day. I’m hoping to have better days ahead by trying to acknowledge and appreciate the good. We should all give it a try. It might make everyone happier and more grateful.

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Filed under Alzheimer's, Good Times, Inspiration

The Year of the Mousicorn

I have blogged before about how much I love the fact that Twitter has connected me with so many writers and how we encourage each other through the writing process. {For those who don’t follow me yet, I am @mousicorn} I have been tweeting with some of these folks for a couple of years now, and I have seen many of them get published, or at the very least, finish their work in progress and start to query agents.

Recently, one of those writers {Jamie Handling – @JEHandling} Direct Messaged me asking if I would read and critique her latest work, and as I scrolled up to a previous conversation between us from October 2011, I was shocked by what I had tweeted:

“…I haven’t queried yet, but I am 90% done with my book, so I’m thinking early 2012 I’ll be starting.”

Then later in the conversation:

“…2012 is going to be the year though – I can feel it!”

It is not like it was an unrealistic goal to have set for myself. I really was 90% finished, and I knew what still needed to be added and/or expanded in order to be in great shape to start querying agents. I was so close, I could taste it.

Then my real job turned my entire life upside down.

In October 2011, I was still in the Sales Manager Training Program at JCPenney. I was chomping at the bit to get placed for my first assignment, and was heading into another holiday season. There is no chance of me writing anything during the months of November and December, because every ounce of mental and physical energy is spent on survival. This is not an excuse not to write, it is simply a fact of life in retail. There was a lot of extra effort involved too, since I was still waiting on being promoted and had to be 100% on my game. {Not that I am ever less than 100% on my game, perfectionist Virgo that I am!}

I knew that come January, I would have the chance to take some time off and that is when I get my best work done on my writing. {I know, I know – writers are supposed to write every day, but that doesn’t work for me – I am a binge writer}. That elusive time off did not happen because I was promoted and relocated to another state at the end of January. The first 3 months were a whirlwind of getting used to a new state, new store, new job, and new responsibilities. Each month put more and more onto my plate: The 1st month was the beginning of JCP’s four year transformation and I was responsible for training the team members on all of the changes; the 2nd month I had to administer annual appraisals to half of the store; the 3rd month was annual inventory. I was working long hours and trying to get acclimated to my new life, so there was no time to write.

Summertime is usually slow for retail, so I thought I would have some “me time” to get back to my writing. Then in the 4th month our management staff was literally cut in half company wide. I was thrilled to still have a job, as many of my friends were not so lucky, but I was thrust into a position that combined two positions that were higher up the chain. I used to be one of two Sales Managers with three other managers between me and the Store Manager. Now there was no one. I had to step up in a way that I was not expecting to have to do for a few years. Everyone else who was put in this new position was either in one of those two eliminated positions for a while, or had been a Sales Manager for a while…I had only THREE MONTHS under my belt! I had a lot of work to do and a lot to prove to myself, the higher-ups, and the people I had replaced. I could not let my guard down for a second, lest people would start to question why I had been put in a position that I was not at all qualified for.

In a normal situation, this would be hard enough, but JCP’s transformation added an extra layer of stress to all of us. Every month there was new construction happening, new procedures being introduced, and new technology to not only learn but train everyone how to use. Anytime we thought there was a day that we could take a breath and have the 30 seconds to exhale, something else would crop up! My vacation in May was cancelled due to all the layoffs, and then my vacation in July was cut short due to the Regional VP coming for a visit which could make or break my career. {I nailed it, FYI!}

The rest of July and August was Back-To-School, followed by more construction in September. In October I had to hire people for Holiday, and then all of a sudden it was November again! At this point, I was done putting off my writing for JCP, and I had resolved that I was going to participate in NaNoWriMo {National Novel Writing Month…it happens every November}. I was going to write during my lunch breaks {Correction: I was going to start TAKING a lunch break, and write during that time}. I was going to close my door and put a sign on the outside saying “Do Not Disturb”. The first two days, I stuck to the plan. I was doing NaNo! I was making time for ME! I was putting ME and MY LIFE first instead of my job! It was a great two days!

I came crashing down from writing nirvana after a meeting about the dreaded Black Friday. I had never been in charge of something as big as Black Friday before, and now it was up to me and the other manager to make sure that it went off without a hitch. Because of the transformation, this Black Friday would be much different than any we had experienced before. We literally had no way of knowing what would happen or how to plan for it. It was like planning a vacation without knowing where you are going, how to get there, or what to wear when you arrive.

My stress level had just been turned up to eleven.

From that day, I was all JCP, all the time. I rarely had a day off, and when I did, I was made to feel guilty about it. I was responsible for keeping my Store Manager calm for the two months in which he had historically been referred to as “Holiday Dave”, which was not a good thing. I had never had this level of responsibility in any job I had ever held. Needless to say, I somehow managed to not only hold it together without tears or a major meltdown, but Holiday Dave was kept at bay, which I take full responsibility for.

Obviously, there was no time to write. All year. 2012 had gone by in the blink of an eye and I was no closer to finishing my book than I had been in 2011. How could I have let another whole year go by without doing what I truly want to do? I was SO CLOSE to finishing!!! What the hell????

Well, that is SO not going to happen again. No job is worth killing myself over while ignoring the thing that I am passionate about. I have read through what I have written and made notes about what still needs doing. Now when I sit down to write, I can open the page with those notes and pick which one to work on that day. The final pieces are in bite-size nuggets now, making it less overwhelming. When I read it after being away from it for a year, I was surprised by some of the things I had written that I had forgotten about. It was like reading something someone else had written, and you know what?

It didn’t suck.

I am done putting off till next year what I can do today. I want to be the person on Twitter asking my writing buddies to read and critique MY book! I want to tweet and blog about the process of trying to get it published! I want to get this baby kicked out of the nest so that I can get back to the three book series that was screaming to be written during NaNo! I want to finally finish what I started so that I can move on!

2013 is the year. If it doesn’t happen in 2013, then it probably won’t ever happen. This is my year…The Year of the Mousicorn.


Filed under Writing

Remember When Halloween Was Fun?

When I was a kid, Halloween was completely awesome.

It was a much more innocent time in the world. Sure, it wasn’t perfect. If it was cold, we had to wear our winter coats over our costumes, which may have been a good thing in some cases. We weren’t allowed to eat any candy before our parents carefully inspected each piece to ensure that no crazy psychopaths had tampered with them. Apples that were probably thought to be a healthy alternative to candy by a well meaning neighbor were discarded on sight. For those of you who weren’t around for this, this was in case they had been injected with poison or were hiding a razor blade–this was rumored to be a strong possibility back then. Still, it was a blast!

Store bought costumes were different characters yet all the same, so no one was trying to outdo everyone else at school, and no one was singled out for not being able to afford the hot costume of the year. They all had a molded plastic mask with a flimsy piece of elastic stapled to each side of the face. This was supposed to stay securely around your head, but if the elastic made it through the whole night of trick-or-treating, it was a Halloween miracle! Not that you wanted to keep it on all night because the eye holes never lined up quite right, the plastic made your face sweat, and the mouth hole was too small to get sufficient oxygen to your brain. We kids were making Darth Vader breathing sounds before he was! The rest of the costume was nothing more than a piece of fabric attached around the neck like a hairdresser’s cape. I remember being the Wicked Queen from Snow White, and that mask was pretty creepy…but not as creepy as what I stepped up to the next year.

I am not sure that the Yogi Bear costume even qualifies as a costume, even by 1970s standards. The head was made out of thin card stock and you put it together by putting Tab As into Slot Bs. I’m not kidding. When finished, you had a three dimensional and quite angular Yogi Head. All the running and jostling caused the Tabs to become detached from the Slots in different sections throughout the night. Plus there were even bigger eyehole issues since it sat atop my shoulders so the eyeholes were too high and I had to stretch my neck out or look down and out the bottom of the head. It was one of those not-so-well-thought-out costume ideas. Believe it or not, the head was not even the most embarrassing part. Nope. Over my regular clothes, I wore the sleeveless zip-out fur lining from my mother’s winter coat. By the end of the evening, the head had been destroyed in frustration and this was all that remained of my costume. I looked like a homeless person, and not intentionally, like my sister who went as a hobo that year. (That was an easy costume too—raggedy clothes, a bandana tied into a pouch at the end of a stick, and five o’clock shadow produced by burning a cork and smudging the ash on her face.)

When my step daughter was little and we took her trick-or-treating, most of the porch lights were off—the universal signal for ‘Don’t bother knocking, kid. No candy here’. In my day that would have lead to the older kids throwing eggs at or toilet papering that house. She got barely enough candy to fill one of those little plastic jack-o-lanterns they sell at the drug store. When we went out as kids, my father would pull along our red wagon to put our full bags in while we kept trick-or-treating. Seriously–full bags and full pillowcases that were much too heavy for us to carry as we raced from door to door, increasing our haul.

Those were the days when people would actually run out of candy, and your mom would make you freeze half of yours, rationing it out until Christmas. Those were the days when you could trust the majority of the people in your neighborhood to not tamper with the treats or the steal the kids. Those were the days when there was only one aisle of Halloween products in Kmart—candy on one side, costumes and decorations on the other side. Those were the days when you could make orange frosted cupcakes and bring them in to share with your classmates without being sued or suspended. Those were the days when the kids ringing your doorbell lived within walking distance, and ran from house to house instead of being driven around by dad.

Those were the days when Halloween was fun.

What were your memorable costumes from childhood? Embarrassing, or wicked cool? What do you miss most?


Filed under Halloween

The Funny Thing About Alzheimer’s…

The funny thing about Alzheimer’s….

Okay, I know there is nothing funny about Alzheimer’s, as anyone dealing with this affliction can attest, but in hindsight, I’ve been able to lighten up my memories of watching my dad suffer through it. I deal with difficult situations with humor, which usually causes me to say the wrong thing when trying to raise someone’s spirits. These good intentions often are not so well-received. For me though, humor is the best defense mechanism.

Yesterday marked the five year anniversary of losing my father. For the last six months of his battle, my husband and I moved in with my parents to help my mom with the caregiver duties. Being so close to the situation was stressful, overwhelming and sometimes scary, but now when we think of my dad, we often laugh at some of the things he did and said during that time.

Like putting butter on his salad.

And putting salad dressing on his steak.

And talking to the stuffed animals my mom kept in the living room. One day he had moved the chairs and tables around so that they could all have a little party.

At the time, these things were worrisome and weird, but now, they are kind of funny.

One morning was particularly frightening for the husband. I was at work and my mom had gone mall walking. She had left dad a note in dad’s cereal dish telling him that she would be back soon, but since he had no idea what that note said, he was crashing around the house, swinging his cane around, and swearing (which he never did) about “Where the f@$% is everybody?!” The husband was in the shower, not sure when or if dad would come busting through the door and think he was an intruder. Visions of being beaten to death by the cane of his father-in-law, coupled with being the only one home and not really knowing how to deal with dad when he was like this was terrifying. Fortunately, my mom came home minutes later and was able to calm him down.

Nothing funny there, right? You would think so, until we were in the car later that day and heard the song “Rock You Like A HurriCANE” by the Scorpions. And just like that, dad had a new nickname, and we were laughing like hyenas. Since then, he was ‘The Hurricane’, and now we think of him every time we hear that song.

Those of you who have had a parent with Alzheimer’s are familiar with the fact that they keep trying to escape. They want to go home, which they think is the house they grew up in. At this point, they have forgotten the recent years of their life, and think it is 20 or 40 years ago. So since dad had gotten out a couple of times and tried to walk from East Hartford to Wethersfield where he grew up, we had to hang some jingle bells on the front door. It was interesting to see when we noticed him planning his escape. He would sit quietly in the living room for hours until the second my mother would go downstairs to put the laundry in the dryer. As soon as she was out of earshot, he would tiptoe to the door and try to open it without anyone hearing him. We would hear just one little tinkle of the bells and we would jump to our feet and race downstairs before he could get too far. For a guy with two paralyzed feet and a cane, he could move pretty quickly when he wanted to. I once caught him at the end of the driveway, and had to try to coax him in by telling him the Yankees were on. “They might be on, but they’re not doing anything for me”, he grumbled as he begrudgingly followed me into the house. He didn’t know who I was, but he came back inside anyway. To him, we were his jailers, forcing him to stay somewhere, when all he wanted to do was go home.

Okay, that story didn’t have a funny part, but if you think about it, if they don’t find a cure soon, in 20 years, there will be jingle bells on every door. People will be fitted with tracking devices on their 65th birthdays so that in the probable event that they get Alzheimer’s, they can be tracked. (Call it Alz-Jack, maybe?) We may even have to adopt the nametag policy from that Seinfeld episode, since so many of us will have the disease that we will need to be re-introduced to everyone on a daily basis. And inside all of our clothes will be tags that say, “If found, please return to ___________.”

(Hmmm, I see the makings of a sci-fi novel here…..I’ll never get around to writing it, so feel free to run with that if you’d like. Just mention me in the credits.)

Dad was super funny with our little daschund, Jaws. Jaws is a girl, but dad would always call her “little guy”. He’d laugh at her clown-like antics, and when she was running around entertaining him, he seemed like he was there, in the moment. He wasn’t confused, he was just happy. So happy, that when we were all having ice-cream cones one day, he was sneaking Jaws licks off of his cone whenever I wasn’t looking. People thought it was weird that in his obituary we mentioned how much he enjoyed Jaws, but if they could have seen the change in him when she was around, they would have understood. Now when we have ice cream, we always tell Jaws, “If Grandpa was here, you’d be having ice cream too!”

Of course the worst times were when he was in the hospital. It was awful to see him wasting away because he wouldn’t eat. All of us tried to get him to eat something whenever we could. This was probably the hardest thing we dealt with, but it also presented us with the funniest thing that happened, which we still quote to this day. If you knew my dad, you would know that he was always in a good mood, even if he was sick. He would joke with nurses and was the life of the hospital party. He was in one of these moods one day when my mom asked him if he wanted to have something to eat. He said quite innocently, “Can I go to the bathroom first?” Before she even had a chance to answer he continued, “Aaand, I’m going!” He knew he was messing with her, even if he wasn’t sure who she was. He always loved to push her buttons, especially if he had an audience. I think that was the first time we actually laughed out loud at the hospital. Even my mom had to crack an exasperated smile at that one.

There were some nice moments also towards the end. One day my husband came into the hospital room, and my dad looked up at him with the biggest smile like his favorite person in the world just walked in. This moment of recognition meant so much to my husband. I had a similar experience another day when I standing by the bed saying goodbye before I went home. I know I won’t be able to describe his expression even with a thesaurus, but it was a look of awe and wonder and happiness. I swear he was seeing me with wings and a halo. That is the only way I can explain it. Still, five years later, when I think of that moment, I am filled with joy and warm-fuzzies. He knew me in that moment and he wanted me to know that he knew, even if he couldn’t put it into words.

So no, there is nothing funny about Alzheimer’s, but it is such a difficult thing to watch a loved one go through, that if you can find anything to laugh about, I say LAUGH OUT LOUD! It will ease the pressure of your situation, if only for a moment. In that moment of laughter, Evil Al doesn’t win.


Filed under Alzheimer's