Seniors Situation Room Edition 6 by Dawn Ford

CFN – Where do you go to change your feelings when your heart is hurting? How do we transcend these cares when there is nothing we can do to change something?

My brother Ron and I go to the Lodge every week to see our much loved older brother. When we leave, Ron never fails to say that he wishes we didn’t have to leave our brother there. It is not the Lodge he is talking about. The Staff are so great and treat my brother very well and he is comfortable there. It is this huge change: this never going home again and being with the family that hurts so much. And we have to accept it and walk away.

I have a friend who just recently moved into an Assisted Living Center and again, the care is great. But I take her back after an outing and walk away missing the close daily friendship and fun we once shared.

I also go to the Villa once a week to visit a very dear friend who had a debilitating stroke a few years ago. We painted together for years and enjoyed our friendship so much. I am grateful that she is as well as she is and we have a wonderful visit, but, again I have to walk away.

An aunt by marriage is there also and has a form of dementia which causes her to forget that we just had a ten or fifteen minute conversation before I leave her to visit my friend. When she sees me again, sometimes only a few minutes later, she says,” Oh, Dawn. What are you doing here ?” and practically the same conversation starts again. Most often when I leave my heart is hurting. I think some of it is because there is not much in their rooms of their lives. Where do you put your treasures, your books, painting supplies, writings, music…all the stuff of your life is gone except for a few ornaments and photos. It leaves me with a lonely feeling often on top of the one I already have when I have to walk away.

If I don’t have my car and the weather is good I can head for the park, walking along side of the flowing river .They say you can’t take a depression for a walk. Sometimes there are baby ducks with their mother swimming with the current or just letting the current take them. I love the majestic trees and the fresh air. There is some solitude and peace there for me. But I can’t sing….well, I could but the paddy wagon might arrive shortly.

But if I have my car I take what I call ‘the long way home”. I learned to do that some years ago when I worked in St. Raphael’s at a treatment center for alcohol and drug abuse, employed as the nurse and family therapist. Like a lot of people, I traveled through all kinds of weather, sometimes in the freezing rain on dark mornings and returning in the dark late afternoons in the same storm. Or enjoying wonderful sunny days anticipating seeing a mare and her colt or a baby calf with it’s mother in a lush green field. Birds chasing a farmer on his plow as he drops seeds into the Earth.

One day, a late afternoon snow storm howled it’s way to St. Raphael’s and as I was leaving my boss said that I should take the King’s Road through St. Andrew’s because the plows had to come out for the school buses and that route would be the best. Someone had given me a John Denver tape of all his music which I knew and loved. I got in my car feeling so emotionally heavy. The day had been fraught with problems. A resident had taken a seizure and had gone to hospital to be checked in an ambulance. There had been other medical problems to attend to. An irate daughter had chewed me out on the phone over her ‘no-good father’, one of our residents. A distraught wife in my office had yelled and cried for quite awhile because she couldn’t come and attend to her husband’s needs such as giving him his medications, etc. And then the worse news possible. A few days earlier the girlfriend of a drug addict, a resident in our center, had called him on the phone and told him how lonely she was. He left the center and went home to her. On this particular day we had received the awful news that he had overdosed. A wonderful man was dead. The girlfriend would be lonely for a long time. Yes, I was going home feeling pretty heavy. It was stuff I couldn’t change, but hurtful nevertheless.

As I drove through the storm that day, watching the blowing snow hit my windshield and trying to be particularly careful, it seemed like there would be a long dreary trip ahead of me. There wasn’t a lot of traffic, which helped a bit. At some point I put the John Denver tape in the machine and started listening to his wonderful voice. Somewhere around Martintown I was singing “Seasons of the Heart” out loud. Then “Perhaps Love” got me through a few more kilometers. By the time I reached St. Andrews’ I was full into “Montana Sky”, one of my old time favorites. I played the tape a couple of times singing out loud to every song as I drove through the blustery snowfall. I ended up walking into my house still singing Country Roads.” I felt great; I felt refreshed! What had happened? I had just come through a big snowstorm taking the long way and yet, those things that had happened that day at work…those things that had made me feel so heavy seemed long ago and far away from me and my life. I had never felt refreshed after driving through a snow storm before. Tired and relieved, maybe but never refreshed. Whatever it was, I was glad to be home and be able to go on with what I had to do that evening. Tomorrow’s problems would take care of themselves. I felt balanced again and ready for my evening.

A few alcoholics had told me that before their big drinking days they had started stopping at a bar after work to unload their heavy day before going home to their families. That and a probable lowered blood sugar level had made them want to feel differently before going home. The friendly bar atmosphere had offered some solace, the alcohol had smoothed out some feelings and there had been some space in between their work day and home life. I guess a coffee shop didn’t do that for them. One guy told me he loved to sing in the bar. Now that he was sober he had no where to sing and didn’t know if he could sing sober anyway. Unfortunately the addition of alcohol had made the visits more of an ‘addiction in the making’ in the long run. Seemed to me that some of the same things were in place: singing and distance. Each time I tried the long way home singing, my feelings were transcended and I felt refreshed. Maybe the singing for a long time does something to the brain chemistry – more endorphins are produced. I don’t know, but I know something changes the way I feel.

Now when I need to, especially after leaving one of the nursing homes and walking away from loved ones and feeling that hurtful heart, I take ‘the long way home’ or my version of it. Whenever I can, I drive around town or out a bit into the country singing to some of my favorite music and always come home refreshed. It works for me!

One day I was visiting a nursing home and went outside for some air. An elderly lady was sitting on a bench smoking. Big, big puffs of tobacco smoke hit the ozone layer, I am sure. I introduced myself to her and she said her name was Flo. Our conversation went something like this:

Flo: Do you live here?

D: No…not yet… I usually visit a friend of mine here on Fridays.

Flo: It’s Wednesday.

D: Well, I think … maybe it is Friday, or so I thought.

Flo: That means tomorrow is Tuesday.

D: Uh..I think it is Saturday. I’m hoping it is Saturday.

Flo: I play bingo on Thursdays. That’s tomorrow.

D: Tomorrow is Thursday?

Flo: Yes, today is Wednesday. We play on Thursdays.

D: Oh!.

Flo: Do you play Bingo?

D: No, not too often.

Flo: Well, today is Wednesday so I will be playing tomorrow, Thursday. I hope I win.

D: I hope you do too, Flo.

With that I said goodbye to my new friend and went back into the center. I met a nurse who is a friend of mine and she asked me why I had a little smirk on my face. I asked her if she knew what day it was. She laughed and said: “You must have been taking to Flo.” I felt better.

And now From The Funny Farm:

A farmer, after having a few beers at the local pub decided to take a short cut through the graveyard on the way home. He accidentally fell into an open grave. While he tried frantically to get out, he was so tired and finally gave up realizing that someone would be there in the morning for a burial and that he would be helped out. Meanwhile, another farmer in much the same condition after a few beers took the same route home and fell into the same grave. He tried to get out but couldn’t. The first farmer approached the newcomer from behind and tapped him on the shoulder saying: “You’re never going to get out of here.” But he did.

Have a good week, Dawn


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