Playing in the sandbox

“I think when I was two years old in the sandbox. I think I formulated my basic philosophy there, and I haven’t really had to alter it very much ever since.” – Boyd Rice

My oldest son has been out of the house for almost five years, leaving home for basic training. Not too long after that, he got married, bought a house, and eventually faced a deployment. He also got to experience other “grown-up” realities, like budgeting, running a household, mourning the death of his wife’s grandmother – whom he just adored, and then mourning the loss of his own grandfather.

A boy when he left, he has grown into a fine young man. Of course, my heart bursts with pride for him, and for where life has taken him.

I love that he calls home to bounce ideas off of us; to ask questions and lay his concerns about life before us. Just recently I remembered something he said to me about a year ago at a particularly rough time.

“I wish I could just come home and go play in the sandbox.”

The sandbox his dad made was his and his siblings’ favorite spot to play. There were Hot Wheel cities, bridges made of sand and sticks, hand-carved paths for flowing rivers – which were then filled with several buckets of water. The kids and their friends would play outside in the sandbox for hours on end.

We have a shared memory, as I fondly remember the sandbox my dad had made for my siblings and me. The stuff we built and the fun we had. We, too, played for hours at a time.

A sandbox is a refuge for kids. Close your eyes and imagine the soothing feel of the sand as it is running through your fingers; or the sensation of squeezing the sand between your toes; or the therapeutic process that takes your mind off your troubles while you are busy building a sand castle.

“I wish I could just go play in the sandbox” has become our saying when life gets tough. I’ve repeated this wish to him during many conversations we’ve had regarding life, stress and when his grandfather was suffering with Alzheimer’s.

Just the other day, we were notified of a friend’s death. It was the same day that we heard that a dear neighbor is struggling with an aggressive form of cancer. And it was just a day after hearing of the very public struggles of a well-respected family in our area. There was other bad news that day, but those three illustrations surely make my point.

“I wish I could just go play in my sandbox,” I said to myself. And so I did. Closing my eyes for just a few minutes, I was in the backyard of my childhood home, playing in the sandbox. My dad was working in the yard, the sun was shining, and the warm sand felt wonderful on my bare feet.

And, for a just moment, all was right in the world.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Note: this post was featured on Midlife Boulevard on Jan. 24, 2014.

 

Wrapped in a prayer

“Pray, and let God worry.”  — Martin Luther

I absolutely love to knit, and though I’m still a beginner, it is something I really enjoy.

I honestly don’t remember where I initially learned. Memory says my great-aunt taught me, but my mom says it was her. All I can tell you is that as a youngster with a set of knitting needles in hand, I was really uncoordinated and rather confused with the process. So I crocheted instead.

As the years progressed, I became quite proficient at crocheting, but I always yearned to knit. Then I was busy raising four kids so the crafts, needles, yarn and such were stuffed in boxes and forgotten about.

It was so enthralling to watch someone just knitting away – witnessing something beautiful being made in brilliant color and a soft, comforting texture. So, about five years ago, I bought a how-to book and re-taught myself.

A simple kitchen dishcloth was my first successful project, and I have a drawer full of them to prove it! From knitting dishcloths I learned to make a baby blanket – which was simple because it was basically the same pattern with more stitches. And from that blanket I started making Prayer Shawls.

When I’d accompany my mom to my dad’s doctor appointments, I usually brought my knitting. It helped soothe me, because anyone dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient knows that with each doctor appointment or test, the family will most likely hear that the is patient getting worse, not better. And so one of the first prayer shawls I made, I gave to my mom.

The beauty of a prayer shawl is that you can choose to make it for someone in particular (which I have) or make one and donate it to total stranger (which I have done, too). I made a soft-pink shawl for a neighbor with breast cancer, a few shawls for relatives, and a few for several for people that I never met.

Beginning each shawl, I’d thank God for the ability to use my hands for His work, and then to ask Him bless the person who would receive the shawl. I’d pray for the recipient to feel God’s comfort, seek His grace, and that when they needed a big hug from God, they’d put the shawl around them and feel His touch.

Last July, my mom and I were getting my dad admitted to a nursing home. I can’t even begin to articulate the sense of loss we felt. I tried so hard to keep my composure, but once I got home, I completely broke down.

I went to visit Dad the next day, and there was a brown throw on the chair at the foot of his bed. I picked it up and handed it to a nurse’s aide, explaining it didn’t belong to my dad.

With a gentle smile, she said it was in fact his.

“Someone makes and donates prayer shawls to our new residents,” she explained.

With tears in my eyes, I covered my dad with this shawl that was made with the love and prayers of a total stranger. Maybe the knitter went through placing a loved one in a nursing home and knew extra prayers were in order. It was in that moment I realized just how comforting a prayer shawl is to the recipient.

I just wish I could personally thank the person who was so generous with their time and talents. I’m guessing the best way to say thanks is to pay it forward.

Have you made or received a Prayer Shawl? Feel free to share your story.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Joy

Geez – where does the time go? I honestly feel like we just celebrated Christmas, and we are now ending Holy Week, looking forward to the joy of Easter morning, but also another holiday to celebrate without my dad.

He loved holidays because it gave him the chance to be with his kids and grandkids. Some holidays had the added bonus of other members of our large extended family being able to join in the celebration, which just absolutely made his day. Last Easter brought the pain of watching his quick decline in battling Alzheimer’s. This Easter, though we won’t see him, we will hear him in the hymns. We will hear him say very loudly, “He is risen indeed!” We’ll toast Dad as we gather for dinner, and chat about how weird this “year of firsts without him” really is…

This Easter Sunday also marks what would have been our parents’ 51st wedding anniversary, and I still thank my husband for insisting we do something to celebrate their 50th last year. Oh, to go back and look at photos of the dinner is difficult as you could visually see the decline from the disease. And to see my aunt and uncle (Dad’s siblings) wipe tears as they watched their oldest brother struggle was also hard to witness.

But the depression we felt was diminished by the joy of having the family together. Despite it all, we ate, hugged, laughed and enjoyed life. Kind of like Good Friday….it is so depressing, but then we have the joy of the Resurrection – life is worth celebrating!

April 8th of 2011, I sent a floral delivery to my mom. The card read “Happy Anniversary. All my love, Larry.” That’s how he signed the card every year. He couldn’t order the flowers, so I did it for him. Bless his heart, he liked the flowers I sent, even though he didn’t connect “anniversary.” (And somehow my mom knew I was behind the delivery!)

This April 8th, the flowers I ordered for him this year say “In memory of.” Kind of depressing, I know, but, life is worth celebrating, and he wouldn’t want it any other way.

Blessings to you and yours.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

 

Forward Motion

A year ago at this time, we watched my Dad steadily decline, succumbing to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. The good days were becoming good moments, and those moments were few and far between.

Watching him go downhill was so difficult. Physically, he was strong and healthy. Mentally, the simplest of instructions were a challenge. Simple things we take for granted daily – like brushing your teeth or tying your shoes  – were tasks that he not only couldn’t do, but he couldn’t even understand what he was being asked to do. I remember assisting him by putting his shoes and socks on one morning. There was a brief moment of frustration in his eyes, almost like he was communicating that I shouldn’t be helping him, as he’s the dad. Maybe he briefly remembered tying my shoes when I was little? I don’t know. All I do know is that as our eyes met, mine welled up with tears while helping him, knowing that if he did have any idea what had been going on in his life with this disease, he’d be completely and totally humiliated.

For instance, Dad was 75 years-old. He worshipped nearly every single Sunday of his life. Seventy-five years of Sundays! But, on Easter Sunday last year, he didn’t even get the concept of being in church. Standing and sitting for readings and hymns completely confused him. He didn’t understand Communion – in fact, he made a scene so loud in the sanctuary during Communion that my poor mother hurried him out of the building, my sister trailing not far behind.

I think a good portion of the congregation was in tears witnessing this event. Many had known my dad for years, and they watched the steady downward spiral. It was no secret – his ability to live at home – with my mom caring for him – was coming to an end. A nursing facility was on the horizon for him – or so we thought.

As we move forward in our “first year without him,’ we now come upon Easter. It will be hard attend church and not think of the heartbreak we witnessed last year. But it will be even harder to see his name in the bulletin, as it will be amongst the long list of flowers ordered by those of us missing loved ones. His name will be listed under “In Memory of …”

There are just some things you are not prepared for when you are moving forward.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

A-A-Achoo!

Yep – that was me sneezing when I caught the inch of dust that had settled on my blog spot! I haven’t written anything on this page in almost a year. Wow. A year. Well, I’d like to say that nothing happened in that time, but, well, that isn’t at all true. I had started the blog to give myself and others a place to come to for support with aging parents – particularly, parents with dementia and Alzheimer’s. I also thought blogging would be a good way for me to expand my journalistic horizons. Good reasons to start writing. Sadly, I didn’t keep up with the blog for a few reasons – the biggest reason was that my dad was hospitalized for a month, and then passed away.

As I start to get back to life, I am doing some cleaning – both around the house and around the soul. I’ve noticed I left a lot of things that I just left hanging – this blog, knitting projects, not calling and setting lunch dates with friends, not scheduling dental appointments, etc. I am sure this lag of is all part of the grieving process. Oh sure, important things were handled, like paying bills and grocery shopping and attending school events. But in other areas, well, let’s say that the dust settled.

As a new spring season begins with energy anew, it seems somewhat fitting to begin to pop back into life from a long winter’s nap. Look for more frequent posts, and as always, feel free to leave me a n

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

ote – especially if you can relate to this post.