Thursday, May 31, 2012

"E" - our honourary senior

All lined up and ready to start the day

As many of you  have probably guessed by now, seniors are an intrinsic part of my world.  Partially because Matriarch Bear is definitely one.  Partially because, while I am still under the magic combined numbers of 6 and 5, I am steadily heading upwards in that direction.

And partially because I have found that seniors, while not perfect and while definitely prone to all the maladies that plague the human race such as being petty or sharp-tongued, are - as a general rule - accepting.

Accepting of the ravages time places on our bodies and minds.  Accepting of people who move slowly, have hearing difficulties and whose memory is somewhere between on the blink and wandering.

The seniors group at our church has become a wonderful support group for me.  Always encouraging.  Always welcoming.  Accepting of my altered abilities as they're coping with their own.

But today, I don't want to talk about me.  I want to talk about "E" - an honourary member of our group.  Membership, if there is such a thing, starts officially at 55, but "E" is nowhere near those magic numbers. She is a housewife and mother, probably in her late 30's or early 40's, with two growing boys.  She is still in the chauffeur stage of life - chauffeuring her boys to their activities.  Immersed in her home life.  Dedicated to her family.

So how did "E" become part of our group?  What in the wide world is someone whose hair is still the colour it was at birth (without supernatural aid) doing in our group?

Boarding and getting settled for our annual outing

Several years ago, her husband's elderly grandmother who is dealing with one of those dreaded debilitating, neurological dementias moved into a nursing home in our area.  Yes, you read me right.  Not her mother.  Not even her grandmother.  But her husband's grandmother.

Rubber necking while the guide points out various places of interest

"E" has taken on the responsibility of providing outside encounters, socialization for her husband's grandmother.  I've watched her faithfully bring grandma to the weekly women's meetings and the monthly senior's meetings.  Tenderly watching over grandma, ensuring her comfort.  Helping her walk to a chair.  Bringing her refreshments. Always putting grandma's needs first.  I've watched as other members solicitously pull out a chair or make room for "E" and grandma.  As "E" heads to the lunch line at the seniors' meetings bringing back one plate for grandma and later returning for her own.  Always putting grandma's needs first.


Inside the bus - original German church 

I've watched as the seniors held up the bus for the Shunpiking tour for "E" and grandma.  As younger seniors moved out of seats close to the front for "E" and grandma.  As "E" made sure grandma had the window seat.  I watched "E" with her face shining, alert, taking in our trip and enjoying it to the fullest.  I watched as "E" settled grandma into a cozy table for two at the lunch break, left for a bit and came back with a plate of lunch for grandma.  I watched as others in the group came by one or two at a time to say hello to "E" and grandma.  I watched as "E" tenderly guided grandma back to the coach after the lunchbreak and settled her back into the window seat.  I watched as at the end, "E" was trying to gently guide grandma out of the seat and off the bus pressed now by time constraints.  Her re-entry back into the world of being a full-time mother and commitments urging her to hurry.  Get off the bus.  Get grandma back to her nursing home.  Get the children to piano lessons.  Sandwiched between generations.  Striving for a workable balance.  To be able to meet both sets of needs in the same person at the same time.

Inside the bus - taking in the cemetery beside the old German church

An impossible task.  Yet one which "E" works towards daily in her life.  In her journey.

An inspiration.

My inspiration.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Welcome to My World ... in pictues

Vintage Suzanne - wearing a "survivor" scarf behind a camera

Fine JOY in unexpected places
Within the last few weeks, I started putting a picture titled "welcome to my world" on my Facebook page.  It's a result of this blog where I was first able to verbalize the concept of "my world" - what it is, what defines it, how I am learning to live within its scope.  How it can be as confining or as wide as I choose it to be.  How altered abilities or disabilities (whichever way you perceive them or whatever words you choose to describe them) do not define how well a life is lived.

my "crack" garden - reseeded Alpine columbine in the crack
between the driveway and the house
For me, I find JOY, unexpected JOY in the journey.  Joy in supportive relationships.  Joy in those quiet times with special people.  While most of my life is lived in my "safe" place, forays into the outside world are made possible by those who love me - and know me anyway.  Those who understand the journey I'm on; the places I've already been in that journey; where I am now; and - most importantly - what I need at this moment in time to successfully navigate this journey.  Their expectations of me are not the same as they once were.  Where once I was an active person whose role was defined by doing; I am now by default more of a passive person whose role is currently defined as being.  Yet significant people accept this and seem to be simply happy when I do show up.

St Jacobs Millrace walking trail
Then there's my garden.  A given in my existence both before, after and during trauma and recovery from trauma.  I may not have the energy to keep it up and weed it, but I still enjoy the flowers as they start to bloom in their season in their turn.  I love to watch how the earliest flowers come up and bloom, followed in succession throughout the spring, summer and early fall by others in their turn.

Bluejay seen while walking on the Millrace trail
Although energy, or rather lack of, is a constant concern - along with balance issues - I have always enjoyed a good walk - especially if I have a camera with me.  Papa Bear makes this a reality for me, by walking with me.  Holding out his hand.  Stabilizing me physically when my body starts to go off kilter.  Holding me up.  Holding me together.  As we walk, his eyes always sharper than mine, spy various birds or other wildlife, such as this Bluejay, knowing what's going to happen when my eyes adjust.  We stop.  He waits patiently as I bring up my camera and focus.  Taking pictures in rapid succession.  He smiles knowing this brings me pleasure.  Knowing that he has an integral part in my recovery.

Put me on a trail, close to nature, with a camera strapped
around my neck - and I'm a happy camper
Matriarch and Patriarch Bears were both amateur artists.  Sibling Bear also inherited the "art" gene.  Me?  I've always said that my talent was in enjoying what others painted.  However, my talent has also been acknowledged as having "the eye" - a way of seeing things in a different way and framing them behind the lens of the camera.

After each walk, each foray into the big, scary, outside world, I upload my pictures and review them.  Each time I review the images brings back the unique specialness of that moment in time and brings peace to this soul which has been tormented and fragmented by trauma.

Joy.  Peace.  All - and more - are to be found in the journey of recovery.  In the commonplace, the normal.  Being.  Taking time to grieve the losses and acknowledge not only what remains but that what remains is good.

Backyard, garden, and "live-in gardener"
Notice the dwarf blue spruce -
if it's blue and dwarf I love it!

This is just a peace of my world.  (pun intended)




Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shunpiking 2 ...Our rural heritage in Waterloo Region

Old Order Mennonite school parking lot
Buggy bridge built by Mennonites
... after lunch when everyone is ready for their afternoon nap, especially seniors, we pile in the big, lime-green bus and start the second half of our adventure.  At that point, I was ready to sit back, close my eyes and rest.  I felt surfeited not just with the good food but also with the many pictures I had already taken and the camaraderie with the others in the group.  In short, it would have been fine with me if we had headed directly back to the church parking lot - and our cars.  And I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt that way as I saw others who closed their eyes for a while

However, I soon caught my second wind as we started to meander through Mennonite Country.  Camera in hand - again.  Ready to snap anything that caught my interest.

Rural Waterloo Region - you're as apt to find horse drawn
vehicles as you are ca
Touring Mennonite country was an interesting concept - especially for a group of people who have lived in this area for many years.  Where the sight of horses and buggies out in the rural areas is almost as commonplace as - well - as seeing cars on the road.  Where the malls on the fringe of town have shelters for the Mennonites to stable their horses while they're either in the mall or catch a bus to take them further into town.

The bridge beckons
While it is most common to see the Mennonites and their horse-drawn conveyances either on the very edge of town or out in the rural areas, I have seen horses and buggies clip-clopping along inside town - which makes life on the road interesting.  Ever tried to pass a skittish horse pulling along a flimsy buggy with people inside it on a road with no shoulder and no passing lane?  Gets interesting - and dangerous.

But, I digress.  This second half of our trip was like seeing something as familiar as the furniture in the living room in a totally different light.  Looking at details, rather than seeing the familiar room as a whole.

So what benefit will this half of the trip have for me - except a nice, leisurely ride around the countryside?

Inside the bridge
West Montrose covered bridge - the end of our trip
When you have a guide who is well versed in the area, the answer is a lot.  Our guide took us past buildings I'd passed by before, stopped the coach, and explained whether the business concern was Old Order or David Martin Mennonites, what the difference is, how to tell them apart, etc.  He showed us a Mennonite business which manufactures solely for Home Hardware.  Their warehousing system is simple:  pull a trailer into the loading door, fill it up with the product as it's made, when the trailer is full, call Home Hardware to pick up the full trailer and deposit an empty.  Simple.  Yet effective.  I'd say very effective.

He showed us a Mennonite concern with no visible sign of electricity, yet hanging from the side of the house was a meter.  The wires were underground.

Another business which apparently makes leather bridles, etc. and has customers worldwide, operates off a satellite system to receive orders.

Mama Bear - in all her glory - on a "good" day
Notice the red "survivor" scarf barely visible around my neck
We ended our afternoon at the West Montrose covered bridge - the last covered bridge in our area.  Like children on a field trip only more slowly and with a lot less energy and chatter, we exited our bus and headed downhill to the bridge where our guide joined us and gave us more information of this particular piece of our heritage.

Unfortunately, some concern has decided that this beautiful, peaceful area rich in heritage would make a great place for a gravel quarry.  The fight is on.  Who will win?

Only time will tell.  But in the meantime, it's been great to enjoy this piece of our heritage.

Typical scene in the rural areas surrounding Kitchener-Waterloo







Saturday, May 26, 2012

Shunpiking

Pronounced:  shun-peye-king meaning to travel the back roads.  A term coined by early settlers to avoid the toll roads or "pikes" and thus travel other, back roads to get to their destination.


My companions for the day - notice all the shades of white, gray
and "no" hair
The seniors group at my church, called room 55 meaning you can join at the tender age of 55, has a yearly spring outing.  Last year, we went to a mission organization called Ontario Gleaners where they procure vegetables, chop them up, dehydrate them and package them into soup mixes for distribution by missionary organizations to third-world countries.  This year, we chartered a bus and a guide (another over 55) to take us meandering through the back roads to "forgotten" parts of our local heritage.   I had my own idea of what this trip would be about and where it would lead us.


Our tour guide for the day
I thought we would travel along the outskirts of town on back country roads.  I was partially right and partially wrong.  Our first stop was a subdivision (no pictures taken) very close to the church property in a very developed area - not out in the country at all.  Our local ski hill to be exact.  Why?  Because (a) apparently it's the highest area on our local region and (b) is called a Kame, a deposit made by a retreating glacier thus forming what is now known as Chicopee Ski Club.  So right off the bat, I learned something new about the area I have lived in for more than 30 years.  It was actually formed by a long-ago, long forgotten glacier.

Next on our agenda was the Doon area of Kitchener, specifically after transgressing some more new subdivisions, the Doon Pioneer Tower.

Doon Pioneer Tower - and the new subdivision surrounding it
Interspersed on our travels was commentary of the local history.  Who had originally settled this area.  Where they had come from, culminating in this early segment of our trip, to a visit to the Tower, long part of our local history which I had never seen before, but was instantly fascinated with.  I'm sure the local residents must have thought that our big, lime-green tour bus was either lost or we were crazy.  Perhaps a bit of both?

As we meandered our way through town and around town, our guide pointed out various places which fascinated him, and which I also found intriguing, such as the stone house behind the stop sign on the left.




German cemetery
An old German cemetery tucked away in the corner of town.
Original German church established in the 1800's
An old German church, originally called St. Jacobs, tucked away at an obscure corner in the country







Noon day lunch break at the Crossroads, a popular, local buffet-style restaurant in Mennonite country was a welcome respite.

By the time we arrived here for our lunch break and a time of relaxation, refreshing and camaraderie, my mind was so full of information about our area that I didn't think there was any room for more - and we had an afternoon left to wander around Mennonite country.

This is where this post will end for today.  Next post:  second half of the trip.

Hope to see you there.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Most of my "best" blogs ...

have never been written let alone posted.

What?

How can that be?

Simple.  Most of my blogs are written in my head while my body is otherwise occupied.

My world has changed considerably in the last twelve months from one of doing to one of being.

Previously, I was active.  Actively involved in a job I loved and was good at.  Actively involved in my family.  Cooking.  Photography.  Talking to friends.  Having lunch with friends.  My garden.  Taking day trips with Papa Bear.  Enjoying the family.  Having barbecues and bonfires - which goes back to cooking.  The rumour is that if you go away from my house hungry - it's your fault.  Driving wherever whenever.  My only limits - besides the fears I've been working through - were time and my own creativity.

Working full-time does crimp one's style - although it affords one the financial resources to have that style.  A catch-22 situation.  But one I was willing to live with.  Besides, I got a kick out of interacting with people, handling problems situations and, in general, got satisfaction out of a job well-done at the end of the day.

And then came 2011.  All of the above was stripped from me.  My job:  a thing of the past.  Ditto my health, my energy.  Even my self-worth, for a time, was stripped from me and I floundered badly.  Trying to stay afloat in what felt like a never-ending sea of quicksand.  Trying to suck me in and force me down.

Fatigue, weakness set in.  It started setting in before the stressful situation in 2011 reached its peak.  Like a slow slide down a long hill which couldn't stop.  The slide itself wasn't dramatic. It was the boulder at the bottom of the slide which caused the damage.  Damage I still hope to recover from.  Damage I hope is reversible - in time.  With patience.

My world now consists more of being.  Although passive rather than active, being has some good points.  For one, if I do make it someplace, people are thrilled to see me.  It makes me take the time to "smell the coffee" or the roses.  To enjoy the "little" things in life - like seeing butterflies in flight.  Bumblebees having a convention in a patch of unknown purple flowers.

But while the body is weak, the mind is still active.  Still able to think.  Engaged in thinking while the body is otherwise engaged.

So while I lie in the bathtub in my daily oatmeal soak to alleviate the constant itching, my mind turns to what I'd like to write in my blog that day.  In those 30 minutes, I can write the most fantastic blogs you've never read.  Because by the time, I get up the motivation to write has gone down the drain with the bathwater.  Even the memory of the words in my mind have disappeared.  Maybe a kernel of an idea remains.  A kernel I try to put into writing, but the words, the phrases, the impact elude me.  Time and time again.

And so the best blogs remain locked in the prison of my mind - waiting to be released.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Welcome to My World

Recently I've started posting a picture on FB I've taken each day and calling it "welcome to my world".  After all, cuz'n bear has her Bob of the day, others post pictures with captions from different sites, so why shouldn't I try to follow these and yet differentiate myself?

My world has changed a lot in recent years.  From 2006-mid 2010, my world became a journey of recovery.  The old was going.  New was around each corner.  My world became a neat place, a place of growth, of new experiences, of changing relationships.  It became a place of expectancy where I grew and changed weekly.  Life was good.  I was having fun.

Did my life change with a whimper?  Or did it change with a bang?  I think it was mostly a process of erosion inexorably taking place over months.  For the most part, slowly.  Yet with moments of crisis, of trauma, of severe stress.

My world was divided into two parts:  inside the stressful situation which was confined to one place, albeit a significant place in my life; and the rest of my life.  The outside world.  My family.  Safe places with safe people.  While the one continued to go downhill; the other continued on its upward journey.

Yet even that wasn't enough to keep the inevitable from happening.  It may have slowed down the process.  It may have even made the injury, when it finally happened, less severe.  But it could not stop the inevitable train wreck of my emotions, my body, my life from happening.

Post 2011 has been a journey of survival.  Surviving stress breakdown, psychiatric injury, complex PTSD and all the myriad affects and effects these phenomenon impose on the body and the mind.  Surviving the at times overwhelming siren call of suicidal ideation.

My world has changed dramatically from being an energetic, outgoing, independent person to one who fights to have the energy to wake up and get out of bed in the morning.  At it's worst, my body is plagued with itching so severe that I can't bear to have anything or anyone touch my skin.  Cognitive skills necessary for driving are severely impaired.  Confusion ensues.  Driving is only an option on my good days.  On my bad ones, I stay inside with my DVDs, my computer, my knitting.

My body temperature is completely out of whack.  Sometimes freezing.  Five minutes later, sweating.  And then back again.  Like a pendulum which I have no control over.  Making my world that much more interesting to navigate.

My world consists of my home, specifically my office where I have all the necessities for life:  DVD's, yarn, needles, hooks, patterns, my computer. a space heater and a fan.  Also a phone.  A rocking chair. And, of course, the cat who has seemed to know from the beginning that something is wrong and sticks by me closer than a brother.

Human interaction is mostly through the computer, through social media when I can't leave the house due to one or the other of the affects.

Yet, my life still has value.  My life is still worth living.  Even in its altered state, life is still good.  Challenging, to be sure, yet still good.

Like "S", "B" and the other seniors I met during my sojourn at the residence, I find ways to reach out and touch others.

Welcome to my world.

More in another blog.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"B" Stands for Beautiful

Today's blog features another resident who stood out in my latest experience being a "youngster" in a senior's residence: "B".  Since yesterday's moniker was the letter "S" - near the end of the alphabet, it only stands to reason that the next moniker should be near the beginning of the alphabet.  I could have used "C" or even "D" but "B" fits perfectly because in my mind this woman epitomizes the essence of inner beauty.  Beauty of the soul.

"B" came into my view in a very prosaic way.  Matriarch Bear and I sat at the table with "B" and her friend during meals.  The reason being:  there were already four people at Matriarch's table for four so there was no room for Matriarch's little cub.  The ever helpful staff was going to give Matriarch and her cub a table to ourselves but I tend to get very quiet around Matriarch and have trouble pulling her out of her shell, so I asked if there was another table we could join for that week.

That is how I came to meet "B" and her friend.

"B" must have been a beautiful woman in her youth.  She is still pretty in her 91st year.  Her face framed with a halo of pure white hair, reminding me of an angel.  An earthly angel.  Her mind alert.  Her eyes gentle.  Her voice soothing.

What impressed me was her attitude.  Widowed in mid-life, "B" forged a new life for herself in her early 50s by becoming a home care aide with three of her friends.  She continued in that work until retiring at the tender age of 85.  Yep.  You read right.  She retired from homecare when she was 85.

Her eyes sparkle, her voice comes alive as she talks of the work she did.  How she enjoyed going out and helping elderly people who were mostly confined to their homes.  Doing things for them that they could not do for themselves.  It fulfilled her.  Gave her memories to share with others.  Memories as a survivor still in recovery from PTSD et al that I needed to hear.

One day our conversation somehow turned to Pearl Harbor and she told me that she remembered exactly where she was when she heard the news.  How she worked in a factory during that period of her life while waiting for her fiance to return from the war.  Again she shared good memories, positive memories of the people she worked with, how they impacted her.  It was as if she was going back through the decades and actually seeing these people once again, as they were when they passed through her life.

She recounted going to Pearl Harbor at some point and how actually seeing Pearl Harbor and the Arizona helped her reconcile the trauma of Pearl Harbor.

As "B" invested herself in others prior to entering the residence, "B" still invests in others.  An avid knitter, she is now in a group outside the residence with other knitters.  They make hats and mitts for school age children in the vicinity who don't have the money to buy them.  Again, her eyes light up as she talks about this group and the various things she has knitted over the years and donated to various causes.

Just before I left, she saw me in the hallway and said that she had made some crosses the night before and had one for myself and Matriarch Bear.  That shocked me.  After all, "B" had only known me for a few days.  Good days, yes, at least for me.  How kind.  How thoughtful.  How generous.  Apparently, she has made these crosses every year for some years around Good Friday.  I thought her crosses were the traditional, simple palm crosses given out at churches on Palm Sunday.  I was surprised to find that her crosses were made with ribbon.  How many hours it took her to make these crosses, I don't know.  All I know is the light, the gentleness, the acceptance and the love in her eyes as she gave me my cross.

I cherish this momento.  Each time I lay eyes on it, I see not the object but the person who gave it to me.




Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"S": A man of courage

Visiting the residence on Christmas, I delayed our departure with Matriarch Bear to go to Sibling Bear's  for the big day because I just had to greet all those I knew.  Ok.  So my greeting consisted of rushing them with a big hug and smile and singing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" while jiggling up and down.  Not exactly a pretty sight.  But hey!  Everyone got a laugh and a smile out of it.

One of my favorite residents - actually my hands down, favorite resident - was one of the recipients of this display which he accepted with a huge smile.

Today, I want you to meet "S":  my favorite resident.

Now why did I pick the letter "S" for his blog moniker?  Why not start at the beginning of the alphabet with "A"?  Too prosaic.  Also too organized for me.  Besides that if I start with "A", then if I choose to highlight another resident, he or she will automatically become "B".  Bor-ing.  So "S" it is for today.

I became acquainted with "S" during my first in-residence visit in late 2011.  As a recoverer from Psychiatric Injury, I have developed hyper vigilance  - which was in full affect at the time.  Every nerve cell in my body on high alert - including my hearing.  I kept hearing this strong, highly intelligent sounding male voice from the table next to us.  I kept craning my neck to discover who this voice belonged to.  No, it couldn't be.  The gentlemen associated with this voice is affected by one of the choreas which causes his upper body to spasm.

Then, I kept hearing other residents talking about this man called "S" and how helpful he is.  All the things he does around the residence.  So I started watching this man who fights against his body every step of the way.  Every action.  How could he be the man I kept hearing everyone praising?  Could he even do the things he was purported to?

Then I actually talked to him.  I discovered a man with visible disabilities who genuinely cares about people, is determined to be useful and to live his life - despite the disabilities - to the fullest.  While his body betrays him, his mine is strong.  Intact.  He focuses on his abilities.  He also gets creative on how to handle some of his disabilities.

Most noticeably, "S" uses both a wheeled walker and a cane for mobility purposes - depending on the circumstances.  He also uses the residence's wheelchair as a mobility device using the seat to carry things since his hands/arms are otherwise occupied with the handles of his walker.  The first time I witnessed this was when "S" came through with with a case of bottles on the seat of the wheelchair.  My assumption was that he liked to drink - a lot.  Later I discovered that it was Wegman's (the local grocery store) day for the residents.  "S" was collecting the cans, bottles, etc. from the residents using the wheelchair as both his mobility device and collecting area to transport these things from the residents' apartments to the residence's van for transport.  Upon arrival at Wegman's the cans/bottles/whatever are put through a machine and the resident gets deposit money back.  Cool, eh?

Next, I kept hearing how "S" is active in the garden.  At that time, the garden was pretty well put to bed for the winter so I wasn't sure how "S" did this, what his role was, or if he even did anything at all.  All I had was heresay and ... well ... I may not be from Missouri but I sure do have the "show me" attitude aka I won't consider it as truth until I actually see it.

My second visit was in March.  It was then when rising early one day, I spied "S" walking around the residence again using the wheelchair as a mobility device.  This time with a bucket on the seat.  Conversing later with "S" about how I had inadvertently spied on him, he revealed that each day he walks around the building x number of times.  The last round, he looks for things growing in the garden which shouldn't be. Thus, the purpose of the pail - for putting the weeds he's pulled up.

Other faces of "S".  He's on the residents' council.  He makes things with his hands for other residents.  He plays pinocle.  And - the piece de resistance - he's know as the computer expert.  Reason being:  he knows the way to the computer room.  Also how to log onto the old, antiquated device.

"S"'s beloved garden 
I  have no idea what causes the chorea.  We've never talked about his disability and I've never asked.  I have no idea what his background is.  What he was before he entered the residence.  Whether he's a veteran or not.  Or even how old he is.  We've never talked about the past.  "S" focuses on the present.

My hat goes off to this man who could well be sitting in his apartment focusing on what he's lost.  Instead, I see a man of strength, of character who in his quest to live each day to the fullest enriches the lives of others in his vicinity.

Looking forward to seeing "S" next time I visit....


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The World Narrows

In my last post I explored in short form some of the similarities between the seniors I met at the residence and myself.

In this series of posts, I'd like to explore that concept further.  How has PTSD and trauma affected and limited my life?  What am I dealing with now?  And how am I navigating these waters?

But first, let's look at the world of the senior.

"The Wall" - in the dining room - decorated with the residents' art
This one doesn't really need an explanation, now does it?
For my beloved seniors, their world has become narrower as they age.  Their major focus at this point in their lives being on the happenings inside the building in which they live.  Besides the daily meals and meds - which are major parts of their day, there are many activities going on throughout the week.  Some inside the building like indoor Bocce (yes, they really have adapted Bocce to the dining room), bingo, sing-a-longs with various individuals and groups, and movies in the family room (they showed Sister Act while I was there), etc.  Others are forays outside which the residents have to sign up for:  excursions to the mall or the local grocery store, transportation for doctors' appointments (a biggee when you're older and your health issues have increased exponentially in recent years).  There was a sign-up excursion into the country the week I was there.  Also, the once a month happening called barber and breakfast, primarily for the guys in which they're taken to the local barber followed by breakfast at a local restaurant.  A lot of their world view comes from the newspaper and television.  Very few at this point in time appear to be computer literate.  But then we're talking about people, some of whom were born before U.S. involvement in World War I; most of whom lived through the roaring '20s and the Depression years and can remember exactly where they were when Pearl Harbour was bombed.  Many of the men - and one woman, Matriarch Bear - served in World War II.  One "younger" senior served in the Korean conflict.  So far, there is no one young enough in the residence to have served in Vietnam.  Yet.

These are men and women who have lived their lives well and still are alert and as active as their health issues allow them to be.  Each has a unique story to tell.  Each had a life before they got old and entered the residence.  Each one still has a life to live.

One of Matriarch Bear's many pieces of artwork

As sight and hearing have degenerated, many have given up driving and rely on others, usually family members, to provide excursions into the outside world regularly attending church with relatives, family dinners, community events, etc.  Matriarch Bear has enjoyed art lessons with one of her cubs, weekly concerts during the summer held alongside the Erie Canal which runs through the town.

The entrance to the world of Matriarch Bear and my friends at the residence
As mobility issues increase, walking becomes confined to the halls of the residence on bad weather days and around the residence on good ones.  For Matriarch Bear and others, health issues make walking any distance a struggle; therefore shrinking their world even further.  Her church is now the weekly service in the family room presided over by a rotation of churches in the area.  Yet, she continues to enjoy her life to the fullest.  Wild horses could not keep her from attending the weekly Bingo - and winning.  Playing games with one of her cubs - and winning.  Her body slowing failing her yet her mind still strong and alert.  Her sense of humour intact.  Her ability to make others laugh sharper than ever.  She - and the others I met that week - are survivors.  Survivors of two world wars, survivors of the Great Depression.  Survivors of the worst life event of all:  aging.  Yet, I've seem them face each new day, each new challenge, with wit, humour, determination.  Forging a new life, a good life - even though narrowed.

These people inspired me while I was visiting them.  Memories of that week inspire me now.

So, going back to the original concept, how did I as a survivor of trauma afflicted with complex PTSD and experiencing the severe affects of latent stress fit in with these people?  What are the similarities?  What causes me to identify so strongly with Matriarch Bear and the other folk I met that week?

What indeed?

Perhaps it is best to leave that answer for tomorrow.  Let these people have a post of their own.  They deserve it.

My hat goes off to them.  My heart goes out to them.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What do a senior and a person with complex PTSD accompanied by all the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue share in common, if anything?  More telling, why would this deranged mind even come up with such a question?

Because I have an overactive mind?

Because I like to think outside the proverbial box?

Or maybe just maybe it's because this deranged mind recently spent a week with her Matriarch Bear in an assisted living facility interacting with the residents and staff while actually living the life in the residence?

If you're taking this as a quiz, option #3 is the correct answer.  Pat yourself on the back if you chose this option.

The dining room between meals
I found I had a lot in common with these dear folk - hair colour aside.  The dining room at meal time is, for all practical intents and purposes, the social hub in the residence.  Everyone (or almost everyone) is there.  Seated at mostly tables for four, this is where the seniors get the majority of their social content.  I loved the conversations I heard.  Since memory loss affects the majority of the residents, I overheard, and even participated in, the same conversation over and over.  Long term memory is still pretty good for most, short term memory can be slim to nil.  The PTSD combined with the latents effects of severe stress has drastically affected both my memory and my cognitive skills.  So, I fit right in with these dear folk.  Actually, they made me feel great as they accepted me for who and what I am and my "altered abilities" didn't affect them negatively at all.  I didn't have to be perfect.  I just had to be kind.  Works for me.

The living one - midday

Hearing.  Hearing aids are one of the most common devices in the residence, probably second only to mobility devices.  You could usually tell when someone didn't quite hear what was said but was gamely trying to be neighbourly and keep the conversation going.  Made some interesting conversational threads.  My hearing has been declining recently, so again I fit right on in with the crowd and was accepted as a "young", not quite there senior.  

While residents must be mobile to live in this residence,
this resident uses the residence's wheelchair as a mobility
device for his daily walk around the grounds and to hold his tools
for working in the garden.
Quinte ingenuous eh?

I mentioned the mobility devices.  I observed that they come in all sizes shapes and colours from the simple cane to those new-fangled wheeled walkers with the seat.  Matriarch Bear's is red.  She would have preferred purple though, but she ended up with red.  Her table mate, M, has a purple cane with a silver stripe circling it which I saw Matriarch Bear eyeing rather enviously.  These devices are mainly called for due to balance problems - which I now have as well brought on by the severe stress I endured ending in 2011.  For one who has found that the grocery cart makes a great mobility device while shopping, again I fit right in.  I also didn't have to bring my own cane or walking stick, I simply borrowed Matriarch's Bear.

Eyesight.  Memory.  Hearing.  Balance.  And a myriad assortment of other maladies associated with growing old are commonplace.  People are treasured and valued not because of how much they can do but on who they are, how they treat others.  I was valued because I smiled and made people laugh.

Now these are my kind of people.

Hmmm ... better start booking my next "trip" to the seniors home soon.