"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

The other day a friend on Facebook posted a "vent" about the way people respond to her beloved fairly new pup - a Pit-Bull. It wasn't really venting, more of just a lament. She was discouraged by the way people respond when she and her husband are out with their dog. People seem nervous, give dirty looks, pull their children in closer, or they move to the other side of the street - that type of thing. People tend to distrust Pits, I guess.

I found it interesting, because just a day or two before I saw that post, I had a similar situation happen to me. Well actually it was the opposite of her situation. I am not criticizing her for feeling the way she feels, just offering another perspective.

I had taken my dad, who is 92, into his barber for a haircut. As we entered the shop, a good sized dog, though obviously still an untrained "pup", greeted us. The dog ran out the door as I opened it, then back in and around our legs, like happy dogs will do. As I got him back inside, it was obvious the owner, a woman barber there, had no control over this animal. As we moved to a chair, I worried my dad would be tripped or knocked down. Sure enough, just as he was about to get to his chair, the dog jumped up on my dad, destabilizing him just a bit. Fortunately I was hanging on to Daddy by this point. I got my dad safely in his seat, and the owner of the dog (the lady barber) apologized for what had happened. So did my dad's barber. I appreciated them both for that.

Conversation continued, and while the Pit kept making his presence known and interrupting conversation, the owner finally had her daughter take the dog to another room. I knew the owner felt bad. So I tried to say something to make her feel better.

Well, being the social idiot that I am, I usually mess up on things like that. "Is he an English Bull Dog, or a Pit Bull?" I innocently asked. Someone I love had an English Bull Dog of the same coloring - white. He had just lost this dog whom he loved dearly and he was on my mind. Further, I had always known full-bred Pits to be brindle, so I really didn't think this dog was a Pit. I don't know everything. I don't think a lot of Pit Bulls even look like Pit Bulls anymore and a lot of people probably wouldn't know one if they ever saw one anyway.

"He's a Pitbull and he is still a pup," was the owner's quick response. "They aren't like everyone thinks," she said defensively. And then a customer in the other barber chair chimed in. "It depends on how they are raised and on their owner," again it was said in a slightly defensive manner.

"Dad actually likes dogs, it's ok."  I told her and everyone else in the shop, trying to make light of what had happened and to let them know we weren't anti-pit. Now, it was probably me that sounded a bit defensive. Good grief. But I also felt the need to explain...as I usually do. I don't like to be misunderstood. NO, it's more than that. I try to avoid it at all costs, probably many times to my detriment. OK, let me say it this way: I HATE to be misunderstood and painted in a different light than who I am, or how I really feel.

I continued my defense, "I'm sure he is fine. It's just that my mom broke her hip by tripping over my Beagle, so I am a little extra cautious when elderly are around any animal. They are fragile and not always real stable on their feet." Anyway, I politely said something to that effect, just to explain reality, as well as let them know the truth about our feelings.

BUT, I do not intend to discuss the yays and nays of Pit Bulls. I really don't know that much about them and I really don't care to know more than I do. I will never have one. They aren't my breed of choice and that is OK. I do have what I think is an interesting side-note. One of my best friend's husband, (then boyfriend) was the first one to ever bring a Pit Bull into our area. He had two, they were brindle. I think that used to be the norm. I know they have been bred for fighting...so fighting is in them, by the very nature of breeding...just like hunting was bred into my Beagle. He comes from a long line of Rabbit Trackers. He has a nose that just won't quit. That is a part of his genes. That part of him works first. I think that is probably the case for SOME Pits in regard to fighting. (And as a side note, if I ever knew someone was using a dog for fighting, I would turn them in, in a heart beat. Don't let me be misunderstood.)

Regardless, I am sure it is possible coloring has been changed and bred out of some lines of Pit Bulls. I guess they aren't all brindle anymore; maybe they never were. Like I said, I don't know the breed that well. And I'm sure there are lines where the fighting has been bred out of this dog, as well. I am quite sure there are gentle Pit Bulls...especially if they are not pure bred dogs, like so many are these days...and if they come from a line not bred as fighters. So there. That is only what I think. That should be OK.

But that isn't my point. My point is, because of past experiences, or "word on the street", common thought, or whatever, our views can be distorted just like anyone else's. The people in the barber shop that day thought I was afraid of Pit Bulls. They made an assumption about me based entirely on the notoriety the breed has received. They were wrong. But most everyone present let me know it was so - that I am afraid of Pit Bulls and that I thought the dog shouldn't have been there. Well they were right on one point. I don't think he should have been there. But it wasn't due to his breed, it was due to the fact that his owner couldn't handle him. I didn't even know whether the dog was a Pitbull or an English Bull Dog. He had the coloring of the Bull dog, so that was my first guess. My fear was that regardless of the breed, that in the dog's exuberance it would knock over my dad and hurt him. I would have had the same concern, if it was a Chihuahua running in and out of his feet. What is right is, until she learned better control of her dog, he probably should not have been there. At least one person acknowledged that fact after she left. "That dog is entirely too much for her," one gentleman observed. Bingo.

So I will leave the subject of dogs, but let me give one more example to get to the point that I would like to make. One example triggered the other memory, and I think it's important. Several years ago, I was teaching Sunday School at a church different than the one I attend now. As is the case with most churches, it was this church's policy to make sure the same person pick up the child that was the one to drop off the child - this, for the child's safety. It was a small church, so they probably weren't as strict as some churches; nor did they have the fancy numbers, or wrist bracelets for identification. Nonetheless, we tried to be careful at this little church.                             

I remember one time, a grandma dropped off her child to me at the beginning of the service. I don't remember if the child was male or female, and I don't remember if the grandma was black or white, or anything about her. What I do remember is the grandma didn't come back to pick up the grandchild; the mama did. The mama was one color, the child was another. (Is it OK to say it that way?) I don't remember which was which. When she came in to say she was there for her child, I looked a bit confused. You know that socially awkwardness I often exhibit, that I wrote about earlier. Well, she immediately thought my confusion was due to the difference in the color of their skin, and she was obviously irritated with me about it. She let me know of her dissatisfaction with my reaction, and she let me know without much understanding. I wasn't as tired and cynical back then as I am now, or I probably would have set her straight right then and there; explaining exactly what I was thinking and letting her know how wrong her thinking was. But I didn't. I just politely told her, that I just wanted to be sure of the child's safety and that I was following the policy of the church that the person that drops off the child must be the one to pick up the child.

In a larger church, I probably would have been fired, because I let this woman take the child without questioning her further. It didn't matter the child knew her. Parental kidnapping happens all the time, which is the reason for most churches' strict policies. So there. I don't do nurseries or Sunday School anymore...much too cynical for that or too old, or socially awkward or whatever...however you want to look at it. But anyway, the point here, is not the color of anyone's skin, or difference in skin. The point is once again, this woman assumed something about me that was simply not true. She assumed my reaction was due to her real or perceived experiences that may have been similar to what she now thought. Maybe it was only due to all the usual talk of racism, discrimination, political correctness, or a real or imagined offense. Who knows? I sure don't. I just didn't like someone thinking the wrong thing about me and then lecturing me for it.

So now to the point I actually do want to make. I simply wish we could get to the place where we are all not so easily offended. I wish we more often would give others the benefit of the doubt, before assuming the worst. I wish we could more easily see the best in someone rather than the worst. And I wish it was always OK to speak the truth.

As well, on the other hand, I also wish it was OK to make judgment calls for ones own life. If someone doesn't want to be around Pit Bulls, that should be ok. This could be a case of walking circumspectly for someone; or erring on the side of caution. What's wrong with that? Pit Bulls DO have a reputation. We don't have to LOVE Pit Bulls. That isn't required of us. We won't get away so easily, however, with not loving angry mamas. We need to love them. But is it ever OK to correct them? Is it ever OK to stand up for oneself when someone believes the wrong thing about you? Political Correctness in today's age would have us believe it is not. Christianity is headed that same route. Don't offend. Ssshhhhh...don't try to explain. Silence is becoming the norm. Just accept everyone and everything. Those who try to speak up are frowned upon these days and often badgered into silence.

Many people would simply rather be offended. Just let them, I guess. That shouldn't be OK, I don't think. We should want better. I do understand there are times for silence....for biting the tongue. There is Scripture to back that. I just notice the older I get, the harder it is. Shouldn't it be the opposite? There is also Scripture that says we should speak the truth.

SO! The truth is I really love mamas and babies and Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas. To love mamas and babies is commanded, but I will never have either of those breeds. That should be OK. Just don't be mad at me for thinking you know what I am thinking. And please just don't let me be misunderstood.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

New Years Resolutions

I typically don't do New Year's Resolutions. In the past, for as long as I can remember, I asked God to give me a word for the New Year. It would be something that I should focus on throughout the year.

This year, I decided I would continue with that, but that it also might be time to give the whole New Year Resolution thing a try. But I can't chose just one thing on which to focus. Once I got started, there were several things that I wanted to work on and accomplish.

I realized in other areas of my life, I  have always made lists. Well, I have made lists in these later years, at least. They help me remember what needs to be done, yes. But they also help me feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I like that "checked off" feeling, so it inspires me to do everything on the list. In fact, I cannot rest until everything on the list is done. Some of that perfection stuff, or Monk stuff...or maybe just plain crazy stuff that resides within me. Anyway, I have to get it done. Soooo, I decided I would make a list and call it "New Year's Resolutions" and see if I can accomplish any of it this year...this month...this week? How far will I go?   

It all seems forever away, but we know how fast a year can go. Maybe I will add some things to this list, if I think of anything else. But this is it for now. And actually, I doubt I can even fit it all in, this year, when I think of all this entails.

  • Lose Weight - get back to the weight I was at the kids' wedding.
  • Spoil my animals, while I still have them.
  • Clean and organize computers
  • Organize all photos
  • Organize books
  • Clean out back room of house
  • Clean out Folks' storage
  • Organize Items that are not mine, but that I am in possession of.
  • Pray more
  • Study more
  • Ride More
  • Pause more
  • Read more
  • Write more
  • Scrapbook
  • Photography -  maybe a new camera
  • Work more in yard, garden and barn
  • Make a She-shed in barn. Spend more time there.
  • Organize the memory items I have kept of Matt's. In short, organize everything!
  • Throw out...minimize...make room for life.
  • Be kinder, gentler, slower.
I found myself already beginning the organizing stuff. New Years Eve day, I was already going through a few items that have been carelessly stored for months now. Organizing is really on my heart, in fact I woke up to that word this morning. I hope I can do it. I have a hard time throwing things out.

Diet starts today, because I cheated on New Years Eve and the day before, knowing the end was near.
(Side Note: I wrote this January 2nd, but didn't get it posted until today. So far, in the weight category, I have gone up and down, up and down with 3 - 4 pounds.)

So there it is. Let's see how far I get with any of it. - ORGANIZE!



Friday, January 5, 2018

You Ole Crook!

Mama -  I was so thankful for a day at home and a chance while working at menial jobs to think about my mom. Well if you can call shoveling out two automobiles from several feet of snow, menial. But a multitude of memories came to mind throughout the day.

When my work was done and I finally had a moment to sit before the fire with a cup of coffee, I reached for the recent Decision magazine that had just come. But instead the little matchbox holder on my fireplace caught my eye. I  looked at the worn red holder and couldn't help but reflect once again. I had decided to keep this little container for my own when I moved my folks out of their home. It was old fashioned and now rare; one that my dad had in the basement, work room of our home with the wood stove. I knew where he had gotten it; it was my Grandpa P's and I am pretty sure it was hanging in Grandpa's wood shed for as long as I remember...all the years of my childhood.

That led to more thoughts of my mom. Yep, I knew why this was happening throughout the day. She had been on my mind when things were finally a bit slow for me....well not so much slow, (shoveling snow, you know) but free to do my own work at home rather than something for someone else. Oh wait! They aren't my automobiles. ;-) But you know what I mean. Being outside and working on my own, (and truthfully, releasing some anger) finally gave my mind time to unwind and to think, to process and to remember. And those thoughts were to continue at rest as well.

But now, I want to write about some of these memories - not really for anyone, but myself. Some day, if I were ever to forget, I can look back and remember. The memory will be written down. I think that's ok. For those reading, I suppose I use my blog, too much as a journal. Anyway, I digress.

Something I have thought about writing about in a blog post for some time is the hanger on my dishwasher. My mom made it for me, several years ago so that I could know whether my dishes were clean or dirty in my dishwasher. It says "Clean" on one side and "Dirty" on the other. It is so cute!! But my mom felt bad when I got a new dishwasher and there was no longer a place to hang it. Later, she bought me a little magnetic hook. It sounds silly, but at the time, I didn't know what the hook was for. It was a busy time, I suppose, and I never made the connection. Mama was so pleased when she gave it to me, just assuming I would know the purpose. I thanked her for it, but I really never understood. It wasn't until shortly after she passed away that I looked at that little hook that I had placed on my refrigerator and it hit me like a ton of bricks. That hook was for my "Clean/Dirty" sign!!! How could I not know that!! Oh Mama, I am so sorry! I probably didn't thank you properly either! In that moment, I moved the hook to my dishwasher and quickly placed the little "Clean/Dirty" sign on it!

As you can see in the photo, it works perfectly! I hung the "Clean" side for this photo. Mama would like that better. ;-) And truthfully, as bad as I feel about not understanding, I think my mama would be getting a good laugh at me finally realizing what it was for. And that makes me smile.

Another treasured memory is my knitted green slippers that covered my feet as I sat in front of the fire. For years Mom would make me slippers, whenever I let her know I needed a new pair. They were a treasure for me then!! I loved her slippers best. But when we moved to our new home, (well over a decade ago, now) the carpet was much worse for wear and tear on my slippers than at our other home. So I wore through them faster, but she was always ready to make me a new pair. This pair of slippers she kept for me at her home so there would be something for me to put on while I worked there or had to spend the night there. She kept them just for me...

"Don't let anyone else wear them, ok, Mom?" I had asked when I told her I wanted to leave them there at her house. Whenever I would arrive, she would say, "Do you want your slippers?" And she would go fetch them from her closet where they were placed away just for me. She wanted me to know, no one else had worn them. That was my mama. Wanting to please her kids and do for us whenever she could and however we liked. I don't wear my slippers all the time anymore. I want them to last as long as possible. This is the last pair I have that she made that remain without holes.

So there...there are a few of the types of memories working through my thoughts as I worked today, but also as I sat down to rest.

So like I said, as I got comfortable in my chair to read, my mama popped back into my mind - the matchbox holder, the catalyst this time. As my heart grew heavy again, I realized at moments like these, I need to start thinking of her in Heaven instead of reliving all these memories that make me so sad. Now I think those memories are good for me too, at times. But sometimes it is time to think of something to alleviate the grief.

Picture her in Heaven. It was like God spoke this to my heart. And so I did...and my first thought was of how happy she must have been seeing her folks again. I immediately pictured her with them. How she loved her dad! I was reminded of the special relationship they had. They would be playfully bantering with each other, now together again, I thought. And I pictured my grandpa sitting in his big easy chair, gently tapping the leather arm with his fingers, rolling them from his little finger to his index finger. He sat with a content smile on his face. Then all of a sudden in ran my mama, pretty and vibrant and young.

"Well, you ole crook!" She verbally jostled with him while laughing from deep within.

And right then, I knew this was a moment sent by God to comfort me. I hadn't thought of that phrase in years. In fact, I am sure I had forgotten all about it. It was what my grandpa would say to people as a greeting. And people who knew him, said it back to him as well. Well, especially my mama. It was their way of affection in greeting each other.

Now if anyone has read this far, don't misunderstand. I am not advocating being able to see into Heaven, or any communication from the dead, or anything weird like that. I simply think this was a gentle reminder from God, that everything is ok. And yes, God does that. My mama is good. She is in Heaven, with Jesus and with people she loves. The phrase simply made it real for me. It let me know this was a caring word from God.

I started to cry. Grateful for the memory, grateful for a time to reflect; grateful for healing tears, and most of all grateful for the assurance that my mama is doing far better than what I focus on here - that she is gone from my presence. She is that - gone. But she is far better. She is with Jesus and also with that man she lovingly called an "ole crook". And that makes me smile...through tears, but I smile.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Disappearing Sunsets

The Long Goodbye. It was the title that finally drew me into reading this book by Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan's second daughter.  I didn't want to read it for the longest time, because I didn't like Patti Davis. In fact, she talks about me in her book. Well, at least people like me - those that have never wanted to listen to what she has to say because of her past, her politics and her disrespect of her father. I couldn't imagine there would be anything worthy that she would have to say. This book was written in 2004 just after her father's death. It was December, 2017 when I finally relented and was drawn in by the title to see what it was she wanted to tell America. Because of her known past politics and my continued belief that she isn't a Christian, I proceeded with caution.

It was a short, easy read and actually beautifully written. Patti has a passion for writing and it shows. There were things I loved about the book and some things which I didn't agree. But I found nothing that I hated like I thought I would. I was wrong about what I thought she would write.  

There were two things I was struck by most profoundly. One was Patti's obvious deep remorse at the way she behaved during her father's Presidential term. She berated him, stood with his "enemies", loathed his policies and campaigned against him. There was a chasm between her and her parents miles wide and every bit as deep. I remember her during these years and I often wondered then, as did most Americans who followed politics, how in the world a daughter could do this to her father. It was heart-breaking. But just as heart-breaking all these years later is her very apparent remorse over it. Thank God a healing transpired from those terrible years with his daughter, before the president died. He knew it and she needed it.

The other thing that was so vividly apparent throughout the entirety of her writing was her father's deep Christian faith and love of our Lord. Now I always knew Ronald Reagan was a Christian. I never for one moment believed it was for show, like so many other politicians like to pretend. Most American politicians, even still today, know they must show a respect for God and the Bible if they are to get anywhere in the world of politics. Faith in God is still deeply ingrained into our culture regardless of what a biased, liberal  media wants us to believe. We want our politicians to have faith; therefore sometimes we see phony faith. I knew this was never the case with President Reagan. I did not know, however, just how rooted his faith actually was. And never in my wildest imagination did I believe Patti Davis would ever write about that faith. I was wrong. She did and she did it beautifully.

Now I have no idea if Patti Davis has ever made a commitment to Jesus, our Lord. I have no idea what is in her heart. With some, like Ronald Reagan, it is apparent. But there are some I would never venture to judge. I guess Patti Davis would be in that category. I believe she is wrong about certain things, but what I do know, is her father taught her about Jesus and she listened and remembers fondly the important things he taught her. This faith and our God permeated this book from start to finish. It was the paramount subject of her book if one is to read carefully and acutely her words.

With that preface, now I just want to talk about her book; the things I gleaned from it, and why I finally picked up the book in the first place. And probably a bit about my own experiences.

Alzheimer's - The Disease that Steals

As I said earlier, it is the title The Long Goodbye  that was mostly what drew me to this book. The other, was the man - Ronald Reagan. I knew of his long battle with Alzheimer's and I wanted to see how the family dealt with this dreadful disease. And now I would like to share a few messages that I gleaned from this book.

One came early in the second chapter. Patti speaks of ones memory having "pockets of time" that are unaffected by this disease. For her father, these pockets held hymns and prayers, probably Bible verses as well. Below is what she said when she had observed him perfectly citing the Lord's Prayer one day while sitting in church:

" They are his treasures; they always have been - the shiny stones he turns over in his hand, keeping them polished and smooth. I closed my eyes for a moment as I sat between my parents and prayed that he will always be able to recite the Lord's Prayers, always recall a hymn. I asked God to keep his treasures safe."

In the same chapter, she speaks of making friends with death. I am not in agreement with her on this. One of the things that made me slightly cringe while reading was her source and her feelings that death is our constant companion that travels on our left shoulder.

"I feel, in my conversations with my mother that we are both making friends with this shadowy presence, this unwelcome guest. Because the enemy-the true messenger of terror-would be the full progression of Alzheimer's. I never want to see the day when my father stands up in church and is unable to remember the Lord's Prayer. I would rather watch him turn toward his left shoulder and say, "All right, I'm ready now."

Now that is exactly how I feel, except rather than see him look to his left shoulder at death, I would want to see him reach his hands toward heaven and say those words. "All right, I am ready now."

Still, there is a powerful lesson in her story when one feels one is spinning out of control headed down a drain of dementia or Alzheimer's and losing all that one wants a loved one to hold on to.  

Something else she wrote, I clung to not so much because it was about the President's disease, but rather it was about how he lived his life. It was especially touching to me, because it was a lesson my dad had also taught me. Patti had asked her mom, Nancy Reagan, how her dad could have come through all the antics of Hollywood and then DC with his "innocence still intact".

"He never really participated in the Hollywood lifestyle....He did his work and left. He kept his dreams alive, and his innocence, by never giving too much away, by holding enough of himself in reserve so that no one could tarnish what he held dear."

Now there is some sage advice. It was exactly how my parents lived their lives. They never allowed anyone to tarnish what they held dear. Oh, if we could only teach our children to live in this way. But not only does one need to hold oneself in reserve, one also needs to be prepared to stand, all the while understanding the balance that is required as well. Ronald Reagan did and so did my folks. Never give too much away of oneself - there will come a time one needs something for oneself.

Achans in the Camp

One thing Patti wrote that I strongly disagree with is something that may not be all that important, but it is important to me. And I will admit it is controversial. Patti says in her final chapter that she believes it is no accident who is there in the final moments when someone dies. She had often wondered who it would be in the room when her dad took his last breath. She believes it to be ordained of God. I suppose there is some truth in her belief, but I also believe that this is something that could be controlled by someone, or even stolen from another. This can be human directed and orchestrated; by a medical team, by family, or anyone who chooses to take things into their own control. It can change everything for someone, while another may pride themselves that they were the ones that got to be there.

There are some things in life that just are not that concrete, though we like to pretend they are. Some Christians believe God pulls every little string to make things happen as He wants. I don't believe that and never have. The truth is we live in a fallen world. People's actions change things through choices they make, but we like to say it is God. Not necessarily. Just as Achan stole from the camp and it effected the whole camp, (Joshua 7) things are stolen from our lives every day. It is mostly due to man's fallen nature. The very biggest and most important part of God's sovereignty is the free will. Yes, His giving of free will is the biggest part of His sovereignty and in that, we do things all the time to mess up God's plan. Fortunately what Satan meant for evil God can turn to good. I say that here only to say God is not the author of all that is so difficult in our lives. I just don't believe it. Never have and never will. I really do not understand how the world would not be angry at God if it were any other way. Our own choices through our own free will is the only answer for those who question the atrocities of life.

And honestly the other thing is we forget that God has created an order to things. Some things are simply occurring within that order. Like gravity and the laws of nature. Those are God's design; He will not change those things outside of a miracle.

The Finish Line

One of the most difficult things for me in this book, was Patti's observation about how the Reagan family journeyed into accepting and even looking for the death that would inevitably come. There is guilt that comes from wanting the release; desensitization that comes from having to consider it, discuss it, think about it and sometimes even long for the end to come to free a loved one from his pain. Patti began to look at it as a beginning. There is nothing wrong in that. But the waiting, the anxiety, the fear and exhaustion...the guilt from looking at death as a release can be overwhelming. It simply feels wrong, like there is something wrong with you! But for Patti and the Reagan family they came to understand that the only way to maintain dignity "with a disease like Alzheimer's is if death beats it to the finish line." In that case, there is nothing wrong with wanting death to win...especially when one knows where the loved one is going...if we truly believe that.

It is normal to have guilt for wanting sweet release; craving an easy passage. Guilt seems normal in not knowing how to pray that through. What a challenge that presents.

I don't claim to understand all there is about Alzheimer's. I suppose I have been only remotely connected with it. But it helps to read another's words who has been dealt the blow of the declining health of parents and who has experienced the same difficult tasks and feelings. I get a bit frustrated with those that think they understand Alzheimer's well, unless they have actually taken care of someone with Alzheimer's. And that means their day in and day out care....most often for years! One cannot grasp the full weight of that burden from 1000 miles away and a weekly phone call or two.

Patti Davis obviously understood it. She understood it as a daughter losing her father, and one that was able to be there more often than most people who may have family on one coast with the other party on the other coast. Patti was fortunate that her dad had the best care that money could buy, so I suspect she and her family missed a lot of worry that money affairs might also bring into the equation. Needless to say Alzheimer's is an extremely difficult disease on a number of levels. Thank God for the things that make it easier. 

Her writing doesn't tell us that much about the disease or the trials it entails. Her words are more a tender portrayal of what it feels like to lose someone you love. Therein is the importance of this book, in my opinion. It is definitely worth the read, on so many levels. Patti Davis can write. And in her writing she provokes thought. But most of all, whether she intends to or not, she shares God; and the faith of a man who understood God as the most important part of his being. Jesus is the only thing that gets us through any of the difficulties in life.

I guess I don't know if everything is truly healed for Patti Davis. I hope so. But I found myself wondering why she took her mother's maiden name rather than her father's, showing a lack of pride and maybe even disdain for his highly respected name. I suspect she took her mother's name in anger during those terrible, rebellious years, but I don't understand why she would not want to honor her father's name now and take it as her own as author of this book. She still is unable to understand her father's politics. Unable to admit she was wrong about any part of hers, - even after all the great things this man did for our nation...proving his politics were most certainly correct. She still maintains she differs. That's ok, I guess if she is trying to stay true to who she believes she is. But she is wrong about who America is and has always been throughout our history. Though she now has a respect and love for America's people because of what she saw at her father's death, she still believes the false narrative that America is an Imperialistic nation trying to control the world. That is, she believed it at the time she wrote this book, maybe that has changed by now, as well. But all that aside, there is no doubt she loved her dad and the moments she had with him in his final days should be enviable for us all. Truly she has remorse for lost moments and she wants people to understand that. I suspect she hopes to prevent that from happening to others.

The Journey of Decline

Neither of my folks had/have Alzheimer's, but I believe any decline in a parent is a difficult passage. As with any aging person my folks have had some of the same ailments - hearing loss, loss of memory, difficulty in finding the right words, other communication problems and trouble with fine motor skills. Most of those are normal to aging, but they still present a challenge for both parties - the caregiver and the patient.

Most of the duties in taking care of my folks in their latter days has fallen to me and my older sister, i.e. doctor appointments, medical needs, bills, banking...stuff like that. Thank God I have a sister who also helps with daily care. Some families are all alone. Some parents are all alone. There is so much heartbreak in that. My sister and I try to bring everyone in the family into any important decisions that need to be made. My parents wanted that. But ultimately we are still orchestrating their lives by their own rules and preferences. We have always done what they wanted and expected.

Sometimes their needs are at odds with our own lives; it often interrupts, adds stress, and takes away time from our own families. Sometimes it is middle of the night ER calls. Sometimes it is simply an outing to try to bring some fun back into their lives. It often involves explaining and smoothing rough waters. Lately, it is difficult to know where to draw the line of how much we should do. Where should the sacrifice end when ones own family is suffering? Those are the difficult questions of late. We are tired, too. Sometimes I feel robbed of the soothing salve of grief that I should be able to have in the loss of my mom. The weight of it all is pressing down more and more. Life in general is becoming more and more arduous.

Through it all, sometimes I have been too busy doing all the necessary work for their care that I have forgotten to enjoy the moment. That is something that I regret in the case of my mom. Like Patti, I have regrets, too. Now that it is only my dad, I still forget to enjoy those moments. It is certainly not intentional. It is simply the busyness of the job. I forget to remember the man my dad once was. I forget to pray that he will never forget the words to a favorite hymn, like Patti prayed. I forget to look at his hands and remember the strength that was once held there. I forget to hold onto the sparkle of a laugh that reflects in his mostly now tired eyes. I hurry about. I die within. I lose patience and stumble over words and make things worse. I say "huh" too many times, frustrating him, when it may be better to simply let him believe that I heard and that I agree. I cannot enjoy the moment, because I do not know what is next and I don't know if I will have strength for whatever it is. I forget to take a "drink from my canteen" while on this journey, but sometimes it is only because I don't know where to find the dang canteen. Sometimes I shake it, only to find it empty.

I don't think Patti had to deal with the day to day challenges like my sister and I have had to. Her dad was on one coast and she was on the other. But what I do know, is in the pages of that book she revealed the best of who her father was. There is not one negative word about him. There is nothing that is disrespectful, no secrets revealed, no lines crossed, the world is not let into what the world should not know. I have the utmost respect for her for that. That is true love. Her remorse is palpable, but more than that, so is her love.

Disappearing Sunsets

One of the most poignant moments for me, is when Patti tells us that she is a child of a man who believed in pausing for sunsets. He demonstrated this to her often throughout their life together. Remembering that, in a final moment of her dad's life she paused on the beach to watch a sunset and say a prayer for her dad. "Help me make my father's passage easy," she prayed.     

I want that for my dad's life, too. I desperately want his passage easy. But also, I want "pausing for sunsets" to be part of my life, just as it was for Ronald Reagan's. There is goodness in that. I really believe that. I don't think I learned this as a child like Patti did. I do believe I finally learned it from my son. "Come see the sky, Mama", he would often say to me. "Look at the fingernail moon, Mom," he would call. Throughout his life as a child at home he would encourage me to slow down and look - to pause to enjoy the beauty of the moment. I always stopped to look when he called. It is the one thing I feel I did right. But I haven't done it enough of late. I am in a hurry. I run and don't feel. I am tired and frazzled and trying to get too much done in too little time. Life is passing me by; decisions are many and sometimes they begin to feel undirected and difficult. I hate that! The lack of control of my own life is something I must guard against resentment. Resentment is what "sits on my left shoulder" and I am not about to make friends with him. I continue to try to swat him away.

But mostly, I want to be someone who pauses for sunsets, like Ronald Reagan was. I want to teach that to others, like our 40th President did and like his daughter Patti Reagan Davis speaks of in her book. One thing we know; most of the time, when we run for the camera to catch the beauty in the early evening sky, by the time we get back the sunset has changed and almost gone in just seconds of time. Sunsets disappear just that quickly. I want to learn to pause and soak it all in and say a prayer as Patti did on the beach that day. Because the sun is setting fast in the life of one I care about, but it is also setting in mine.