Life went on and by. My anger did not subside, in fact, it seemed to roil up. Often feeling agitated, I’d spend my drive to or from work screaming about all the wrongs he’d done, how he’d taken advantage of me, how stupid I’d been. In time I came to understand that I was perhaps angrier at myself for having been so duped. He is what he is. My brother nailed him: he is the way he is and he has done what he does all his life, he is not going to change. He may never understand why relationships fail him. That is the how he views it. People fail him; he doesn’t understand what he does to push them away.

It occurred to me to write him a letter and explain it to him. If he understood, perhaps he’d find peace. Maybe in time I might but for now, I am minding my life. Too often I have been called upon to fix others’ troubles. This time I am giving myself a pass — I disobligate myself from doing so. It is not my responsibility to fix him. It is only my job to take care of me. He will do what he does.

Still one more FB entry was comforting and I will paraphrase: you can’t know what you don’t know until you know it. This would include those things we may be peripherally aware of but haven’t quite assimilated its direct relationship to our lives. With two years to digest those years and events, I am feeling healthier and know I am on the right track.

This past week, I took a day off from work so that I could get some hay for my horses. It was a lovely day. The balance of the afternoon I spent sweeping the deck, something my mom used to spend a lot of time doing. When I clean it up, I talk to her in my head so, like the old days, we are cleaning it together. Spending time with nature is always so cleansing, healing.

The day was so pleasant; I spent a lot of time in the yard only making a dent with what must be done. One very symbolically freeing task was to pitch long pieces of bamboo Farmer Bob had gotten for me when I was interested in creating an oversized wind-chime to hang in the garden. With all that went on with Mom there was no time and then afterwards, this other stuff happened. Now I am not interested in having a wind-chime made with materials he brought. They were rotting out and I was tired of seeing them so I broke them all in half, tied them up and set them with the bags of leaves and other yard debris to be taken away. It felt liberating to let them go.

Letting go of the bamboo represented my letting go of the pent up anger and anxiety I’d been holding onto. Over the past two years, I’ve worked to forgive him. More recently I’ve come to realize it was me who needed forgiveness. It’s a work in progress. I’ve always expected more from myself than anyone else to the point of unreasonable expectations. Balance! That is what we all need. I am working on creating balance in my life – on all levels of my life – physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual.

Two days ago, almost home from work, I was looking down the street as I was approaching my house; of course I will pass his. The first thing I note each day is if his truck is on the curb. It was not there but his car was. Then I saw that he was also standing near the front of his car.

In the past, he’d scurry back toward the rear of his house if he detected my approach. Once he was caught as I was walking my brother’s dog he looked up, I said hello and moved past fast.

This day, he stood there, he seemed to consider moving away but then turned back, his face toward my approach and he put his finger up to the brim of his hat in a hello, as he used to do. I waived back but kept moving, parked and went in my house.

There was a bag of tabs [the little tabs from soda or cat food cans] left on my doorstep. A friend collects them for the Ronald McDonald House so I began collecting them too. My niece has taken a good many to school for their charity endeavors as well. He knew I did this so I hoped that his good will hello was not linked to his having left these tabs. A shiver of apprehension flooded me. Right away I texted Cat-Man who has been known to also leave me tabs. Yesterday he called to say he was the one so I felt very relieved.

I’m feeling emotionally stronger and healthier but I am not interested in reopening any sort of communication with Farmer Bob. No, I believe my brother’s assessment is spot on, he is who he is and that won’t change. I hate underestimating the growth of any human being but, it’s not my business to worry about him. Not my problem!

There is more than plenty for me to work on in myself. The time spent with Mom will never be regretted although I realize now how much of my life was “on hold” after I made the choice to be her caregiver. It was more of a natural extension of what I always knew in my heart. What I hadn’t thought about was the alienation, separation, emotional distress and ultimate vulnerability a caregiver may experience and that this would be a pervasively oppressive period for me.

I emerged feeling isolated in a way I’ve never known before in my life. Not only was the one person who had always been my fulcrum, my rock, no longer with me, but friends had moved on as well. It was just me and my cats and, the horses, of course, at the barn. We’d always led insular lives due to protecting the family secret but this was, by far, much more intense.

Working through the grief and the aftermath of the intense experiences the past 10 years have wrought, is a process. It will take the time it takes. Facing my own mortality, losing those I love and the normal aging process are entwined in the process. But that is what we call “life.” Today I am working on forgiving myself, being kind to myself and finding the balance a normal life must include.

As I began writing here, I imagined, like Emily Dickinson’s, “My Letter to the World.” I would write a few words, post it to the Universe and perhaps the release would aid my letting go of the ghosts that have been haunting me. There are a good many more words here than I’d bargained on so who knows how many will wade through. The intense events associated with the care of a loved one, particularly one who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s is not easy. In relating events, people who don’t know may take on that glazed over look that tells me they either just don’t want to know or can’t believe what they are hearing.

Farmer Bob is a sad individual who has the capacity to be mean. He doesn’t mean to be mean but he doesn’t understand how his compulsive quest to obtain his goals inflict a lot of garbage on those he wants to bring closer to him. He clutches the little bird in his hand so tightly, the bird flies away as soon as it possibly can get away. He’s always hurting and feeling disgruntled because he has taught himself that people are just waiting to take advantage of him. He looks for negatives and, guess what, that’s exactly what he creates for himself.

I still feel sorry for him but I refuse to give up my peace. As I wrote when I posted that FB entry: “…..people who have become toxic need to stop trying to blame their trouble on those around them….we are all feeling our way along our paths…..” Yep, we are all dancing as fast as we can…..

“To make a transition in our lives, we need to release something from our past – a symbolic lightening of our energy.”

~ Caroline Myss

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Gratefully, I was still working at the temp job for the same corporation. Just after lunch, the woman to whom I was reporting took a call from the security guard at the gate. I heard her repeat what he was saying to her. She said my first name and something about someone was here to fix the flat on my car. She looked questioningly at me and I shook my head and said it must me a different Debora. I didn’t have a flat. There was, I have to admit, a slight shiver that went down my spine but I dismissed it. No, not even he could be trying to pull some stupidity here where I am finally working.

An associate office downstairs needed some help so I went down to see how I might assist them. One of the women in that office takes over the switchboard during lunchtime. She’d been part of the message relays to my supervisor about the supposed visitor on site to fix my flat tire. She asked if I got the message and asked if everything was okay. I told her that it wasn’t me, I did not have a flat tire; it must have been for another Debora. What prompted me, I don’t know but I then asked her specifically what was said and was my last name used. By now I was beginning to hyperventilate.

She said the fella had said that I, first & last name, had left him a message asking if he could come and fix my flat tire. All the old triggers from my childhood blew into full bloom. Overridden with anxiety I was sucking air to try and calm down. When I explained that this was not true and then asked for a description of the vehicle and driver, it was definite that Farmer Bob, not being able to control his need to control and monitor my movements, had decided to come and see [I guess] if I was still working at this company. He had not bargained on meeting a guard and made up the flat tire lie on the spot – or had he been prepared? He may have known he had to pass the security booth if he’d been following and watching other days.

There is no rational explanation for his actions because they are not rational: fixated, obsessed, stalkish – any of these terms might describe him but not rational. Another woman in the office, who must have had a stalking problem in her past, flew into protection mode and insisted that the Security Guards come and speak with me. She called the Captain and asked him to also bring the guard who was at the gate when the man arrived. She sequestered us all in a small back office where we could review the information.

The conclusion the Captain offered after conferring with me was that the man had crossed the line and I was being stalked; these actions demonstrated a classic case of stalking and urged me to call the police – right there and then. I hesitated and told him I wanted to speak with my brother first and then decide what to do. It would probably be better to call from closer to home. This job was 45 minutes away. They accepted this but were quite strong in the warnings: this was classic stalking. A wide mix of individuals work in the facility, I imagine the guards have experienced a wide range of situations.

One of the guards escorted me to the parking lot so I could look at my car and be sure there was no damage. They had, after all, allowed him to drive into the parking lot. But, the car looked the way it did when I parked in the morning – all tires were fine.

When I went back to the office, the supervisor, who had arranged the meeting with the guards, was unrelenting. She was very concerned and this further elevated my anxiety. They allowed that I would call my brother, which I did. Naturally, he was also working and my call went to voicemail but I left a lengthy message. By the end of the message I was crying and emotionally distraught.

Knowing that putting my mind on something else would ease my distress, I got busy helping with the tasks I’d been called down to take care of although they offered me the option of going home. Oh, God no! I did not want to be home alone, two doors down from him. He had, in moments really, shown me how he probably had been for quite a while but I’d not seen: he was an obsessed stalker. All the anxious fear I had as a child for my father was transferred to Farmer Bob.

This has been mentioned in other posts, that my dad, when drunk, became abusive, argumentative and violent. We had to run or risk being hurt or worse. He did not take kindly to our leaving and would try to find us. He was very good at figuring out where we might be and would often pound on the very door we’d just escaped behind. Except for some very kind and generous souls along our path, I might not be writing this right now.

This may seem like another “side-bar,” but it all plays into my state of mind at the time. Those childhood years [my Dad died when I was 16] set my reaction to life. Since, I’ve been struggling to come to terms with a better reality, a better response. Now, I share all this, as I said to inform of my state of being but also because it serves to demonstrate that we are all fragile beings. As caregivers, we are so emotionally invested in the person(s) for whom we are caring; we may be more susceptible, vulnerable to those who may have motives that are not in our best interests. Motives which we might, under normal conditions, recognize for what they are.

Yet another recent Face Book post encouraged a sharing of our life stories. Another reason I feel compelled to share here is because growing up the daughter of an alcoholic, I understand the family need to hide the truth. At all costs we cover for and disguise the family secret. All families have secrets but some are less menacing than others. It took me a few years after my dad passed before I was willing to discuss the truth behind the lives we had while he was alive. The biggest door that opened to me was while away at college. A professor shared she was a recovered alcoholic and took me to a meeting. After that I began reading all the “Adult Child” [of an alcoholic] books I found. They helped a lot.

Today, I talk about the past; for me it is important to share these events. It is my belief that others may find comfort or solace knowing they are not alone, there is help available and there are others who are willing to listen and assist them. So, with this stalking business, I stuffed it, except for discussions with my siblings, for close to two years because I was so angry I couldn’t do otherwise.  More recently I’ve come to feel that my healing would benefit from sharing my story. Although I’ve not taken any polls, instinct tells me that caregivers are among the most vulnerable targets. Emotionally accessible and with a mind-set to care for those in need, we tend to draw those broken individuals to us.

My past informed my present circumstances and manifested full blown anxiety attacks, paranoia and more anger than I could imagine. My brother got my voicemail and called me back that afternoon. I asked if he would be comfortable going to talk with Farmer Bob about his actions but my brother said he did not want to talk with him. He was never very fond of him. Farmer Bob had done his best to alienate him so really, why care? Exactly! During my life I have cared too much about things no one else seemed to care about and it often yields heartache…..take a lesson Debora!

He echoed what the Security Guard and several other office-mates said, this is stalking, he has crossed the line, call the police. I asked if I could come straight to his house, I was afraid to go to my house alone – just two doors down from this old fool. With this display at my work, what else might he be capable of? He’d told me had a gun. I was more than just scared – I was almost paralyzed with fear.

The drive home was excruciating. I varied my route in case he was lying in wait along the back roads I normally drive. I took all major roads but was constantly checking mirrors and vehicles, believing he could be following me and, what? Push me off the road? I wasn’t thinking rationally because he had crossed over the boundaries of rationality…..he displayed crazy behavior so all the crazy weirdo scenarios I’d heard playing out on the nightly news were whirling through my brain. What if he was like them? What if I was his victim? He was an old farmer who knew the area well; no one would ever find my body. This was serious. Today this may sound mellow-dramatic but at the time under those circumstances, it felt pretty real.

When I arrived home I drove directly to my brother’s house which is about a quarter mile past mine. We live in a development so I thought about taking a different street around to his house but decided I was not going to give up my route at home – I’ve lived here many more years than he and he’s not going to make me feel I cannot drive or walk down the street. Still, I was highly agitated.

After talking with my brother I thought he was going to be with me when I called the police and gave them the information about the afternoon events. Once I called, he took his dog out for a “quick” walk but he did not return until after the two police officers had come by and talked with me. The expression on their faces said they didn’t want to be there; a tiff between neighbors was unimportant. Obviously they were not keying into the word: stalk. He had come to my work uninvited and lied to the security people.

They explained I had two options. Well, really three. First, I could forget it [but that wasn’t going to happen]. He needed a significant emotional event so that he would finally “hear” what I’d been saying – “leave me alone!” Second, I could take him to court. Their negative spin on this option was a clear indicator they didn’t really want to be a part of it. They layered it on about how I would have to spend a day in court and it would cost the tax payers so much money all to secure a restraining order. The third option was the one they most preferred if I wasn’t going to just let it go. They would go and talk with him and tell him in no uncertain terms to leave me alone. If he persisted after that, then I could still take him to court.

Although shaken and distraught, I was still concerned about the poor old man so said that I would appreciate their telling him to leave me alone. I heard nothing more from them. I thought they would let me know whether or not they actually spoke with him but I heard nothing. Late in the afternoon the following day, I pulled out the phone number and called. They patched one of the officers through to me and she verified that he had answered the door, they gave him the warning and they left.

Since his habit was to avoid answering the door, I had doubted he would. He also knew everyone in the county since he’d grown up and farmed the area and farmed for many other farmers in the area too. They may have known him or known someone who did. It seemed ineffectual. There was no closure. Still, I was not going to call him or confront him at his door. He would not have opened the door had I tried.

On my big wonderful day off, first thing I went outside and filled the bird feeders. As I was just getting ready to sit down to my breakfast, I spied an unfortunately familiar head passing through my yard and the owner of said head began rummaging in a bin where I keep extra bags, string, etc., that may be needed in the yard. Then he went out to the front and took down the feeder I had just filled – for what purpose I have no idea but this incensed me.

Flying to the front double glass doors, I began rapping so hard it’s a wonder my knuckles were not bleeding. He looked over but continued playing with the feeder so I opened the door and told him I had just filled the feeders and asked what was he doing? He began sputtering something but I slammed the door. That unnerved him and by now I was beyond angry. He was intruding on my precious, peaceful morning! Who did he think he was coming over and changing things in my yard?

He must have seen me through the glass doors pacing with a great deal of energy – something I used to do to try and calm myself when things became wild when my Mom was still here. She could become quite physical and refuse to take her meds and all levels of hell would break loose. I’d move away from her at times to calm down so I would not be too strong with her.

He knocked on the side door. When I opened it, he stepped forward to come in but I stepped forward with so much energy he was almost blown back down the steps. He backed up fast and began sputtering about needing a bag to put his broken bag of seed in – I wasn’t really listening because he’d already overstepped. I was still fuming about the night before and now this?

As he left, because he was definitely not coming in, I told him again that he was NOT going to the barn – it was MY day to be alone with my horses. That was all I saw of him for the two hours or so it took for me to have breakfast and get my things together.

However, an awareness began to dawn inside of me. The emotions that were being dredged up were so much like those I’d experienced years earlier when my dad was on a drunken binge. The energy he’d bring during the ensuing days which signaled to us that he was close to falling off the wagon, as they say, was eerily similar. I found myself incessantly looking over my shoulder, pacing in the same manner, constantly looking out the window and checking up the road to see if he was coming.

Colitis symptoms, something that had been in check for twenty-five years or more, were beginning to show up. I felt as though I might be having a nervous break-down and all brought to a head because this neighbor would not give me space. He was insinuating himself in every moment of my life that he could possibly squeeze himself into.

His truck was not parked at his house when I was ready to leave and I hoped he was working someone’s field for them. As I was pulling out of the gas station on my way out, I spotted his truck, loaded with hay. My heart constricted and my energy surged hot into my face. He better be taking that to someone else I knew he took hay to from time to time. He better not show up at the barn with that hay.

He didn’t notice me at first and I did not acknowledge him. As I moved off, out of the corner of my eye I saw his truck slow as he finally recognized my truck. He drove slowly as if waiting for me to notice. I continued to drive off and only checked my rear-view mirror to verify he’d not turned around to follow me. He had continued on his way.

There is a feed store close to my barn. I’d planned to stop in a get a bag of sweet feed for the horses; they like it as a treat and I use it to make them special cookies. I was regaining my calm and feeling elated that within a few minutes I’d be at the barn with my kids. The bag safely stowed in the truck’s bed, I was finally pulling in at the barn. The coast was clear as I parked in the front parking lot; there was no sign of his truck, thank God! The barn kitties greeted me, dancing along beside me as I carried my heavy bags into the big barn. As we made our way, I ensured them I’d brought them treats too.

As I came through the door to cross to where my horses are stabled, it was as if someone slammed a brick into my head. His truck was almost directly in front of where I was going. He’d backed in to my hay pile which was pushed all over. He didn’t see me. He was off-loading that damn hay in a big jumbled mess.

I made my way past the front of his truck and flew down the barn aisle. With enough force to crack the cement floor I threw my things down in front of my boy’s door. I went over to the tack room to retrieve some things I wanted – I would scrub their water buckets first. The horses were outside at the moment. As I came back from the tack room he finally caught sight of me and said hello as if nothing had happened and he was supposed to be there.

To say I “lost it” would be an understatement. I screamed at him that he wasn’t supposed to be there! I whirled back into the barn and began scrubbing buckets. He came in after me, still acting as if it he didn’t understand and said, “I won’t get in your way.” How dare he! I’d told him a dozen times, at least, that this was a day without him but he completely disregarded and disrespected my wishes.

It’s a wonder I could speak, I sputtered that this was MY day and that he’d promised to stay away. The presence of his truck in the barn would freak out my horse. I was screaming like a lunatic, I can’t remember all I said but at a point I began crying from the pent up anger and emotional distress.

It was a good thing I was near the sink and not close to the pitch fork or he may have been impaled. My arms were waving wildly as I screamed and screamed at him. My head throbbed and as the tears took over I put my head down and scrubbed the bucket as if I would scrub a hole right through it.

He began hopping around with assurances that he’d get it done really fast and get his truck out of there. I ignored him and continued to scrub my buckets. He did get out pretty fast and did not come back into the aisle. If he parked in the front area and came back I think I would have found the pitch fork.

At a point after he pulled his truck out of the barn, I walked out to the parking lot to verify he was really gone. It took me a very long while before I was calm enough to fetch my kids from the fields. Horses are amazing, healing creatures. They are magical beings. Just being near them dissipates upset, emotional or otherwise and after being with them a while, I felt so much better – I refused to allow my brain to think about Farmer Bob.

In all my life, I have never been so angry. I had no idea how that felt. Not only was the proverbial wall hit but I could not peel myself off of it. This old man who had health issues of his own, some of which he brought on himself by years of mindless eating and living, was someone who had helped me [in his way] through an emotional and difficult time with my Mom. Yes, he’d “brain-washed” me in a sense into believing I was not able to care for her alone but to be fair, my Mom was a strong and courageous woman who fought her situation with all her strength and courage. She was formidable. Looking back, I still cannot imagine being there 24/7 without relief.

When Mom passed, I’d come to look at him as a strange old uncle who I expected I would invite over a few times a week for dinner and look out for him if he was ill.

Being completely suffocated and having my life obliterated due to his all-consuming need to control me was not out of the question. The levels of awareness were becoming clearer. Perhaps I should have been more cognizant of his inappropriate sharing of various bits of information about his personal business, for example, sexual partners. Who cares and why do I need to know that? I didn’t! These inappropriate ramblings were attributed to a lonely old man who couldn’t stop talking. However, when it had finally dawned on me that he had ulterior motives and I confronted him, he insisted I was wrong. He even had the audacity to affect shock and dismay.

He obviously was forgetting the time when he had been in the hospital for a procedure. They over-medicated him and he called me up crying on the phone that he’d ruined my reputation. And, why had he left his car in front of my house? What were the looks from neighbors and his friends? He’d been planting his lies and insinuations knowing people would believe what he intended them to believe. Something I cannot even bring myself to write down it is so vile, so abhorrent to my sensibilities.

Around this same time a man who lives very close by who has a passion for helping animals, as I do, stopped and asked for my assistance. He told me he’d been trapping feral and semi-feral kitties and having them neutered. He would try to tame them enough to make them adoptable. He’d had a lot of success. He also adopted several as had I. He asked for my help in trapping a particular feral kitty who hung around my house a lot. He also borrowed a couple of my carriers to transport kitties to adoption meetings.

When Cat-Man would stop, Farmer Bob would become really angry and more weird than usual. He was jealous of anyone I spoke with but most of all any man. Looking back, I believe he was trying to alienate me from all outside people: my sister, brother, Cat-Man – anyone I might befriend. They all threatened his time. He wanted complete control. These observations along with the information I learned from his son’s now ex-fiancé, was an ugly awareness.

He is a sad case and I felt sorry for him but my time and my life is a precious commodity. That is surely something I learned during the years caring for my Mom. So much of my life was put on hold while I cared for her – willingly, with all my heart. And, I would not change that decision if I could. But that period taught me a lot.

Each and every moment must be respected, revered, cherished and fully experienced. What each of us has is this moment, right now. There was no way was going to squander my precious moments to fill them up with all the tumultuous anxiety he brought; causing me to feel the way I did when my Dad was drinking and we were jumping out of windows trying to escape his angry tirades. No, I was not going to live with that again!

After my day with my horses, I cannot remember when he showed up again. It was probably the next day. What I do remember is that I would break into tears every time I saw him and would tell him that I didn’t want to hurt him but that I was not able to talk to him then, I was too angry. I would call him when I was ready.

Typically, he would wait a day or two and show up again; something that continued to fuel and fan the angry fire burning inside of me. Perhaps I should repeat my sister’s description again here: “Not the sharpest tool in the shed!” Based on results, absolutely not; I told him to go away many times. I completely avoided him and refused to speak with him. I’d never “hit the wall” before and I hope it never happens again. What I do know is that my patience, which used to be rather extensive, has shrunk. I’m hoping this is a temporary condition.

He began leaving things in my yard. His plan backfired and yielded the opposite of what he sought….these attempts only fueled my ire. This continued for a few months.

Just before Mother’s Day he did something that really incensed me: he left a flat of red geraniums in my yard minus three plants. Their significance eluded me but I knew he brought plants to a few different cemeteries on occasion. I felt like throwing the lot of them into his yard but did not want to make a big neighborhood display. He was not going to lure me into that trap.

On Mother’s Day my sister and I met at the location where the family had released my Mom’s remains. It was an emotional day; this was the first Mother’s Day after her passing. The base of a huge, beautiful old tree on the premises was the spot we selected. It also served as a glorious “marker.”

We climbed the hill, following the path to the tree and we found three geraniums planted there. This was a nature preserve which prohibited outside plantings; they specialized in those plants natural to the area which would not include geraniums. And, P.S. geraniums were never my Mom’s flower. They were her favorite color, red, but that is all. He disregarded my feelings why wouldn’t he disregard the preserve’s rules? I’ve a notion he made sure he was there before us so we’d find them and think of him. There was no low to which he wasn’t willing to stoop.

It was a personal assault. He had intruded on an intimate and emotional event my sister and I came to share. He was either incredibly stupid and callous or his ego is just that out of control but whatever the cause he made sure we had to take notice and this was all for his own expected gain. What he didn’t expect was that each time he’d play one of his little games to gain, he really lost. His attempts to manipulate me caused me to feel more anger and to pull further away. If he’d left me alone, as I had asked, I believe I would have worked through and dealt with my feelings which would have allowed me to articulate to him how I felt – not that he would have listened.

This period taught me a grave lesson about boundaries. He had boundaries for himself but he never respected anyone else’s boundaries. Compounding this, I had not set firm boundaries that were clear enough – again, not that he would have respected them.

As much as I revere all living things, I could not leave with those geraniums planted there like that; I pulled them out and laid them to the side so they would go back to the earth. I felt bad for the plants because it wasn’t their fault but he was not going to control this.

The cigarette butts I mentioned earlier were still being noticed during these estranged months. He was nothing but thorough. He kept up the pressure to make sure I knew he was around.

By now I’d not directly spoken with him but a few times to tell him to go away. I repeatedly told him I would call him when I wanted to talk with him. One day close to the final day, I came home and noticed an odd object on my deck. When I really looked, it was a piece of the hub from my truck. Glancing over at the truck, the back wheel was off and the truck was jacked up. I got out of my car and began screaming all sorts of things including many expletives I shall not write here. F-bombs exploded left and right!

It’s a wonder the car window didn’t shatter or the side door which is also glass. I had not noticed a flat tire, but I wouldn’t put it past him to have given me one so that he would have an excuse. The next day the truck was back together and there was no evidence of him around.

Shortly after this his final act was set into motion. He just couldn’t bear to wait. He needed to be the fulcrum, the one in control at all times. Waiting was out of the question. His lack of patience was ultimately his undoing.

When my Mom passed, he was emotional; in fact he went around the neighborhood and would literally cry on the shoulder of anyone who would listen to him. He had friends of mine more concerned over his loss than mine – something I found preposterous. In short order, I came to understand his main sense of loss was that he would no longer have an excuse to spend the day at my house, being waited on and fed three wholesome squares a day.

One day he began crying and blurted out this sentiment. Unfortunately I was feeling most vulnerable and still sorry for the old farmer, so assured him he was part of the family. What a dope – me, not him – well him too, yes but….. He began to show up early in the morning and want to stick with me all day. I was job searching and trying to sort through my grief but there he was almost every second. It was cloyingly suffocating.

If I suggested he do something other than what I was doing [somewhere away from me] he’d always come up with plans to meld our goals but the problem with that, besides being totally strangled by the pocket-person who would not give me space to breathe, was that I was so completely exhausted by the time he’d leave I would often abandon my goal and tell myself I’d take care of it the next day.

About this time, I was having a conversation with my brother who reminded me of the “Celestine Prophecy” books. I’d read the first two years earlier but thought it might behoove me to pull them out and re-read them. OMG!

This was the beginning of enlightenment. Some of James Redfield descriptions hit me square between the eyes – I finally understood what Farmer Bob was doing. As time has passed, it has settled with me that he probably does not know how his actions affect others. He doesn’t know that he is one of those individuals who suck the energy out of those around him.   He only knows that being around some people cause him to feel exhilarated – we are the energy givers and he is an energy taker.

Farmer Bob was oblivious to all the normal ways of my attempts to communicate to him that he was suffocating me and that he needed to back off. Instead of backing off, he began a secondary offensive: he began placing cigarette butts in my yard, some tossed onto my deck. Looking back, I believe one of his objectives was to move into my house – he tried his best to give people the feeling that he already had. He wanted me to feel afraid to be alone. Yes, a sick individual!

At first the butts were different brands. He didn’t count on my lifting them up carefully and placing them in a plastic bag. I figured fingerprints and/or DNA might be useful. He would rush to “handle” them before I could and act as though he didn’t understand when I would tell him to stop. Ultimately, he placed only one brand around. Is it possible that there were kids hiding out in my jungle yard and doing this? Perhaps, but in light of everything else, I have no doubt that he was behind it.  He did all he could to unnerve me over these findings; conjuring scary, shadowy figures lurking about.

More butts were found at the back of my house, near a window that looks through to my bedroom. That was the creepiest. However, after our final altercation took place, butts were found only once more and then they ceased. This was the final evidence convincing me he was the culprit. A friend, who owns the barn where my horses live, asked if I felt he might be behind it. This was interjected when I began relating some of the goings on and before I said anything about how I thought it could be him.

She suggested I might check our farrier’s cigarette butts in the smoke-out containers for comparison. Farmer Bob had taken to ingratiating himself to the folks at my barn. He’d often go there when I wasn’t around – something that really angered me. But, he was helping them and I felt guilty interfering since they could use the help. So I choked down my feelings.

He worked at weaseling himself into every corner of a person’s life. He must have felt that this would make him indispensable. But he went too far and the bridge he tried to build became too heavy under the weight of his many games and it collapsed.

The beginning of the end came on the President’s Day Holiday weekend. My sister was coming for a visit and we, as was our custom, had settled on a menu we would prepare together for dinner. Uncharacteristically, he made himself scarce. Although the family had noticed that when we were all together, he would become very frustrated at not being able to command full attention and would often leave. This day he didn’t show up while she was with me.

She left around 8:30pm and not five minutes later, he was at the door. He’d been watching. Based on his manner I deduced he had expected us to call and “coax” him to come over. He was sputtering all sorts of victim/martyr crap about how hungry he was and that he hadn’t had anything to eat all day. Now, I strike me as a lot of things, being his mother is not among them.

This was two years ago — still during the time when I was still very emotional and struggling with my Mom’s passing – I wasn’t thinking clearly and I’ve admitted to being a naïve sap. However, his antics had me close to the proverbial “wall.” He was strangling me and I felt as if I might explode. I don’t recall what I said but I shoved my leftovers, which I was expecting to enjoy later in the week, into his hands and almost pushed him out of the door I was so upset. I spent a long time pacing and hollering at myself for not having a more clear presence of mind. Why had I given him MY food? He is a grown up person – he should go and take care of himself.

[He does his shopping at the Dollar Store, the Wa-Wa or the 7-11 and grabs anything people who feel sorry for him give him.] He lumbers around playing that poor old farmer routine and people do literally leave him food on his doorstep. He remarked about food left there. I’m made him many a care-package which were in addition to the actual meals he ate at my house.

The days leading up to this weekend were filled with much of the same kinds of little windows affording me glimpses of the reality that is Farmer Bob. But his showing up so late and acting so crazy, really was the topper and it frames my emotional attitude toward him at that point. It was inevitable that what occurred the next day was eminently unavoidable – if not that day then one day very soon it was bound to happen.

The next day was the holiday. I’d been working as a temp for a corporation since January so there was some monetary relief. I had been able to keep him from being at my door first thing every morning – I was getting ready for work and leaving. I had to be extremely firm to insist he not bounce over every night I arrived back from work.

He was not happy and, in fact, he was disgruntled at not having his home unavailable to him whenever he felt like being there. Disgruntled – that is a very good word to describe his general manner and behavior. Once he finally understood he was not to come bounding over when I arrived home from work, he took to making sure he was where I’d have to see him as I drove in.

With the weekday unavailable to him, he began working to absorb all the time I had on the weekend so there was a power struggle going on between us. He refused to understand that he simply could not spend all the time he wanted with me in my life – he needed to have other people and pursuits in his life. He continued to focus his energy on taking over my life.

This holiday was a precious day to me since I was working outside my home now. It was an opportunity for me to spend a whole day with my horses. I’d been looking forward to it for a while and had informed Farmer Bob several times that I was going to the barn on the holiday but that I would be going alone. He had a way of always making me feel guilty for wanting to do so since he had so many helpful things he could be accomplishing for the nice folks who owned the barn. He went so far as to tell me that he was the reason I was allowed to stay with my two horses when they scaled down their operation.

Monday morning came and despite the upset from the previous evening, I got up feeling great. There was a residual upset with myself for stupidly giving in to his victim/martyr tirade the night before – but, overall I was really happy and looking forward to my day with my horses. Cue the music….

Again, at this juncture, I should have listened to all the sirens now going on inside myself urging me to make him go away. By this time, he’d instilled me with enough doubt in my ability to face all the challenges a person suffering with Alzheimer’s can bring. It is significant. There is virtually not a second when the individual should be left unattended. As things advanced, stronger drugs caused her to sleep more of the day but by then I had simply resigned myself to his presence. In my mind he became the bumbling, irritating, crude old uncle who was part of our extended family.

Although his behavior of incessant, conniving lies and need to control was manifesting in a larger way, I wasn’t seeing his big-picture. My focus was on my Mom. His energy bothered me but I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong exactly.

His daughters lived states away although his estranged son lived across the street from him. Odd; until I became friendly with the son’s fiancé and began to observe the son – so much like the father in all his verbose lying, overbearing and stalk-ish behaviors. This was over the course of several months, the dissolution of the engagement and her filling me in on their family background: things she’d learned from her fiancés mother about the dynamic of their life with the old man masquerading as the innocent, benevolent, dumb old farmer.

It seems he had been abusive: physically, emotionally and psychologically. It just got more and more interesting. No wonder the daughters didn’t want to have anything to do with him – only the youngest seemed to even speak with him on the phone. The others completely ignored him. The son was estranged until his fiancé worked to make the bridge but soon it was evident they were too much alike to be able to get along for long.

By the time all of this came to light, Mom was in full-bloom Alzheimer’s hell. Each night, I’d tuck her in, kiss her and encourage her to get good rest so we could have a good day the next day. I so yearned for just one perfect day. One day that was quiet, without agitation, without the delusional fits. Sometimes we’d get somewhat close but other days the difficulty began with good morning.

My justification and in trying to be fair, he could, a lot of the time, calm her if I couldn’t. Probably it was more due to a “different” person than his winning personality. When she’d become hyper over needing to go home, he would take her for a drive. I’d give him a water bottle and the pill vile and they’d drive around. Sometimes he’d buy her a muffin and a hot chocolate at the Wa-Wa and get her to take her pill. Then they’d drive around the area some more until the pill began to take affect and they’d come back. At that point, she was “coming home” and I’d make a big deal about being so happy she’d come home and how happy I was to see her. I would assist her to get ready for bed if it was deep in the evening and get her tucked in.

Many nights I ended up having to tell him to go on home. When we were in Hospice, the nurse made it clear that whenever Mom rested, I should also rest. But Farmer Bob used up more of my energy than Mom ever did. His compulsive need to have all attention focused on him was draining. He was a non-stop talker who really didn’t listen to anything anyone else had to say. If someone did speak, he would employ childish tricks like balancing his glass on end or pulling the hairs on his arm all with a view to bringing the attention back to him.

Another flaming flag should have been when I felt like stooping to his level and become as rude to him as he was to me. His behavior greatly annoyed and angered me but, again, it was attributed to “the poor old man who doesn’t know better…”

No, he was the fox and I was the hen. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. Since his boyhood, he’d trapped to earn money. This was one of the contentious story lines he liked to pursue, one which I WOULD adamantly holler at him to halt. He’d bring it up to cause me discomfort if he’d not had enough attention. He also brought it up in a secondary way speaking to someone else so I couldn’t interfere with his gory details – he thought. He learned I would not stand for such talk in my house. He brought it up on purpose as knew how abhorrent the subject matter is to me; my Mom and I were/are vegetarian but closer to vegan.

He applied his trapper skills to cast a web of doubt over me. He set his traps and instilled sufficient insecurity in my confidence and in my ability. He undermined my faith in my ability until I doubted that I was capable of taking care of Mom alone. His goal was to be needed, to ensure his place in my family….his family ran away from him so he was trying to instill himself in a new one.

His plan included not only being part of a new family but making all neighbors and peripheral friends or acquaintances of his believe he had embodied a much more intimate place in our lives than just a nice neighbor who came over to lend a hand.

There was a short period when, although he lived two doors away – he would leave his car parked in our driveway overnight. I found this odd and a bit creepy. He always insisted that he drive his car, he’d pull in to make it easier for Mom to get out and come inside and then when he’d go home, he’d just neglect to take his car with him. He wanted everyone to believe he was spending the night – that is creepy. At the time, since I tend to think the best of people, I dismissed it. Was I ever stupid, naïve or both!

Mom would look out and see this unknown car and become worried: whose car was this and why was it there? He finally ceased this little game. But he had so many and he just replaced that one with another. He was famous for telling his lies or if someone made an assumption, he’d allow them to think it was true if it fit his picture of what he wanted people to think.

Since childhood I’ve always enjoyed the stories of my older Aunts and Uncles. At first his stories were the quaint ramblings of an old farmer who told picturesque stories of life on the farm when he was growing up. He was about 10 years younger than my Mom but he was sufficiently old enough to have endured the hardships of the 1930’s and the aftermath of WWII. As I came to learn, his stories were stories, much of them perhaps made up but some loosely based on facts.

The trouble with a story teller, i.e. liar, is that they forget what they tell to whom and they forget which version they told. He would get caught up in his embellishments. The rusty fox would sometimes not cover his tracks as a good trapper must. Piecing together his boyhood stories plus the information his son’s fiancé shared by way of his ex-wife, ultimately I came to paint quite a picture of him in my mind’s eye.

He had shared that when he was sixteen; he had been in a fight and almost killed the other kid. His father had to pay a lawyer a lot of money to keep him from going to jail. In the next breath and almost boastfully, he stated that no one wanted to get in a fight with him because he’d do anything to win. This information would come back to haunt me many times. This is his core. He will literally do anything in order to have his way. It doesn’t matter if he destroys others in the process – or destroys the very thing he was seeks to gain. He compulsively cannot stop himself from working toward his imagined win – not unlike a serial killer.

Trying to make us think he was a sought after friend, he’d share of how much he’d done for this person or that one. When I would suggest he go visit them – one lived in Maine – he always came up with excuses. Now I understand, he had no friends currently because he burned those bridges, they would either expel him or shut him out once his overbearing personality overshadowed a normal friendship — the relationship was finished. He’d drift on, looking for a new, fresh person to work on; his only criteria being his quarry of choice had to be vulnerable.

Recently Simple Reminders posted a quote by Bryant McGill on Face Book. It made a lot of sense to me so I shared it:

 “Mean people are really just sad people. They hurt others because they are hurting. Every person is born beautiful, and much of the ugliness in others was put inside of them by other hurting people.”

When I shared it, my comment was: “This is true AND, I no longer feel that I need to help, fix or be anything other than courteous as I travel MY path…..past them…..people who have become toxic need to stop trying to blame their trouble on those around them….we are all feeling our way along our paths…..”

On any given day there are a lot of thoughts and ideas that float past on FB but this one seemed to latch on in the back of my mind, prompting much additional consideration as to how this truth fits my whole life. By day’s end I was still ruminating about how it was only recently that I have had the clarity of thought to “see” how someone else’s choices were imposing on my life and realize that I needed to set boundaries to keep them from taking advantage of my good will.

Being brought up to be kind and thoughtful did not include feeling it is okay to tell someone to go the hell home even if they repeatedly drop by unannounced at dinner time and don’t seem to want to leave. Or, to simply tell these “drop-ins” that they have come at an inconvenient time as I close the door in their face. Like the Cowardly Lion in Oz, I need Courage! This is a work in progress.

Understanding that I have the right to personal boundaries – was a foreign concept. Growing up it seemed my only option was to yield; others’ needs were a higher priority than mine and I worked to please others to make peace – my job was to mediate, placate and do whatever it took to ensure there were no altercations. At least, I came to feel this was my job in the family unit. This naturally overlapped into my adulthood and to all people in general. It’s easy to be taken advantage of when one works to keep the peace; often making myself a welcome mat.

Maturity and experience — and being put upon too many times, have caused this worm to turn! As I began reflecting on the above quote, I realized that since childhood broken and fragile people were my regular companions. Sometimes it was because I felt sorry for them or sometimes they naturally gravitated to the receptive soul who didn’t have her boundaries posted. Some of them became real friends while others were individuals I never felt comfortable with and was relieved when their path led them away from mine, generally “takers.”

Rather recently, there was an individual who not only had no boundaries of his own but was also a person, who is extremely emotionally damaged, blames all his troubles on everyone around him and expects that if he does a kind deed he is entitled to pay back. His need to “win” whatever outcome he has come to believe is rightfully his, knows no restraint. He will do anything, including illegal, immoral, underhanded – anything to achieve his desired result. He does not seem to consider others’ feelings in his personal quest, even when they are directly related to what he is trying to achieve.

Oh, did I mention that lies were an intricate part of his deceptive persona? He wove, and probably still does, elaborate untruths that must have, in his mind, somehow become real to justify his actions. He brazenly spun these webs to whomever he could. Brazenly, a few times his tales were overheard by me as he told family members yarns about me….when confronted he began to cry crocodile tears and blubbered that he’d never do it again. Each time he was confronted with his lies this same scenario ensued.

All the inner sirens and flags were madly screaming that this was a person not to be trusted, and who should have been told to go home and never come back. Instead, my naïve, trusting, nurturing nature; one that keeps trying to make things right, tries to help and uplift, gullibly forgave and moved forward.

Each time his deceit was exposed, my unsettled feelings grew more dissonant and the forgiving was more difficult. Trust was replaced with apprehensive watchfulness. The band aid phrase used to smooth over the infraction was: he is a pitiful old man whose children live far away, he’s all alone and going through a lot of medical troubles – be more patient, be more indulgent, be more……” Unbelievably, I always expected myself to yield, to change to make everything okay instead of standing up for me! About now, I am working through anger at myself for betraying me. Yes, until one knows what one doesn’t know, one cannot know…..but now I do!

It would seem he’d been working that angle most of his life. He referred to himself as, “an old dumb farmer.” He promoted this sentiment. He did his little “soft shoe” routine reciting silly little stories he’d memorized from some doctors’ office magazine to try to ingratiate himself. He was constantly acting the class clown but never listening or being attentive to others. It became apparent that he craved and had to be the center of attention. He would become not just annoyed or angry – he could become enraged and would act out in negative ways to the point of becoming petulant and hostile if he was unable to command all the attention – the reaction one might expect from an adolescent, not from a grown-up man of seventy-something years.

Perhaps I’m putting the cart before the horse here. Let me back up; start a bit earlier in the chronology.

Turning back the clock to about the time Mom was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The company for which I’d worked for a little over 17 years was shutting down, I felt that reinventing myself and starting a home-based business was the best way to ensure that I could best support Mom. Oh-so-naïve! But, I’ve discussed this previously and only cite this information as reference for the time-line. This rant is about the neighbor from two doors up who insinuated himself into our lives.

We had no idea who he was but, as a result of my unwitting good-will action, he introduced himself with a vengeance.

On nice days, I walked the quarter mile to check the mail. On two separate occasions, I noticed an old green pickup with its lights on. It was parked about two doors up but at the time, there was no point of reference. I stopped on my way by, went up to the house and knocked. With no answer, I went back to the truck and found the door unlocked so turned the lights off and went on my way. The second time, I did the same but found the door locked so shrugged and went home.

Later I concluded that he had been watching, peering out from inside his house but didn’t answer because that’s just what he did, I came to learn. He rarely answered his door. He watched.

He must have noted where I went and began watching Mom and me. Sometime later, tomatoes and other vegetables began showing up on our doorstep. Of course, he wanted to ensure that he would be credited with his gifts so he came along fairly soon to make sure we knew of his largess. He never mentioned anything about his truck’s lights.

Being polite neighbors, we listened dutifully to his jibber-jabber and appropriately nodded and smiled and said thank you for the vegetables, not knowing why he was bringing them to us. We chalked it up to a friendly neighbor who had too many vegetables and didn’t think about him anymore. Except that he continued to show up and would do so late in the afternoon, most often just as I’d finally succumbed to my long day and was trying to catch a tiny nap lying on the front room floor.

This would have been the appropriate time to pull a page out of his playbook and nip these visits in the bud: I should have ignored his knocking and he would have drifted off to find another “dupe.” It must have been my motherly instincts feeling sorry for this pitiful old man that caused me to allow myself to be taken in by his shtick. Mom indulged him to a point but would roll her eyes at me as if to say, “get rid of him.” I’d say, “Be nice.” Boy, was I ever wrong and boy-oh-boy should I have been the one listening to her.

He began staying longer and longer because he knew we’d be having dinner. Several times we delayed dinner and were not happy to eat so late in trying to avoid his staying. Eventually, Mom became more forgetful and his presence provided a distraction for her; he might keep her talking – more likely he talked at her – but this little distraction often allowed me uninterrupted time to make dinner more easily as Mom was “entertained.”

She was, as I have come to feel, sometimes irritated by his presence – not always, but there were certainly times when he was the reason she would become agitated and he was so obtuse that even my direct instructions for him to change his behavior when I detected he was the source of her agitation would go unheeded. He was not the sharpest tool in the shed, as my sister might describe him.

When we are immersed in day-to-day care-giving we lose perspective. That person you love and are caring for is still the same person. When you look at them, their appearance is the same or similar. In lucid moments they respond the same as always. You continue to share the same knowing glances and communicate in the same unique, expressive style you are accustomed to.

So it’s easy to forget that they are no longer all of who they were a few years ago. On some level we remain in denial and “pretend not to know” that this is a new, altered reality. We very much want our loved one to be whole and wholly with us once more. We almost make ourselves believe in those fleeting, blissful moments as we desperately cling to our preferred world view that nothing has changed.

What made it even easier for me to forget, was that Mom would respond in her characteristic expressive manner as a cover for her not knowing what was really going on, not knowing who the people around her were or where she was. She’d play along pretending she understood. This was a ploy she’d used for years to cover her hearing issues so it was routine.

Over the years, on so many occasions, I’d watch her interact with someone and reading her face, I understood that she was struggling. It didn’t often register on the person speaking with her. She would flash that great smile and she would nod, but she had no idea who the person was or what they were saying. Other times, she was fronting a sweet exterior as she plotted her escape from these terrible strangers [aka, blood-thirsty killers] so she could find her way home.

But that was about them. All that did not apply to me, her daughter! Obviously, I am not part of the forgotten! These days there is a lot of time for thinking. In retrospect, because I took our relationship, i.e. bond, so much for granted, expecting she just knew “me,” I think I occasionally and inadvertently may have triggered her fear response.

Off and on throughout the day, without thinking about how she might be processing her surroundings, I was liable to amble over to her in between drying the dishes or whatever task to plant a kiss on her cheek. Usually she would smile but sometimes her response was telling: she had no idea who I was in that moment. Oddly this did not deter my continuing to show her affection without monitoring her state of being. Shame on me, I think now, but at the time that concept flew right past me.

Now and then she would relate a story to me about her daughter – me. She’d never been particularly effusive during our growing up and into our adult years; I had no concrete proof of what she thought of me: was she proud of me, did I embarrass her, did she like my sensibilities? However, we mostly lived together very congenially so I accepted that as my validation. We got along, our individual emotional makeup seemed in harmony, we liked the same things and we had the same thoughts about maintaining a vegetarian diet. But, she never really told me directly how she felt about me besides the usual birthday cards with the standard, “I love you, Mom” written inside. For her, I guess, this was sufficient: she was always ready to help if I asked so what more is there?

During those last years, there were a few times she’d make a stray comment to me or someone else revealing what she felt about me. Those words would melt my heart. How could I not know that? On the flip side, how many things had I not told her about how much she meant to me? How her being my Mom profoundly impacted me in every decision, every moment of my life!!

As many times as I told her I loved her, held her hand, put my arm around her and all the other little ways people show each other they love them, I wish I’d done it more. There are never too many times a person can hear or feel our love.

There are never too many times a person can hear or feel our love.

Today, I am much more prone to telling those I love that I do. During my life up to now, my God, the years seem like a handful of moments. The news is inundated with stories of accidents and mishaps — I refuse to leave this world without making sure those I love know it.

If I could have kept in mind that she really did not remember the way I needed her to, maybe I would have been able to be more “in the moment” with her. It’s a struggle we all face. I can get myself lost in the yesterdays and stressed over things that probably will never take place in the future and while I’m doing that I’m also losing what I have right here, right now.

Being present; fully absorbing this very moment is where my focus must be, or, at least, strive to be. Each time I find myself wandering, I redirect my thoughts to NOW. And each time I find myself beginning to hyperventilate over some imagined atrocity that may befall me tomorrow, I quietly say to myself, “That will not happen…everything is fine right now, enjoy this moment.”

Had I a better handle on remaining present while Mom was here, I might have noticed the nuances when she was feeling uncomfortable when I kissed her cheek. Or, I might have seen that perhaps she needed me to stop cleaning and just “be” with her more. Now I think, how clean is clean enough…and is all that cleaning necessary? I’m not saying live in a pigsty, but surely there is middle ground? Some of the time I spent doing routine tasks, exhausting myself, could have been spent quietly sitting and comforting, holding, being…demonstrating my love in a more tangible manner.

I can’t change what I did, but I can change what I do from now on. Reminding myself that the dust bunnies will be there tomorrow but my old kitty, who is on chemo, needs a hug right now.

Sometimes we engage in busy work to avoid what feels uncomfortable: “My Mom doesn’t know who I am.” Sometimes it’s so we don’t completely burn out. Find your balance. We all need time to be. Caregivers MUST have time to care for themselves so they do not implode.

It is a stressful situation; constantly watching someone you love deal with the challenges of Alzheimer’s, dementia and other circumstances. Strong, capable, brilliant human beings barely communicating if at all need the validation of those they love. It is not easy to witness but that isn’t a reason to give up. Because at this point in their lives it is definitely not about you – it’s about assisting fragile beings finish their time here with dignity.

They may require a considerable amount of care but that doesn’t mean they no longer have lessons to teach us. If we exist in the moment with them, keep an open mind and heart, we will learn and grow.

The take-away here is to remember that even if your loved one doesn’t remember in the same way they used to or seemingly at all, on some deep level they know and they do feel your love. Relax into the moment with them; they need your comforting reassurance that they are not alone. This is the best we can do for those we love: surround them in our unconditional love.

It was my Memere’s ritual to take a walk after supper. During those wonderful summer months my sister and I happily spent with our grandparents in NH, which, looking back, were really only a few weeks, I’d accompany Memere. We didn’t walk very far; just a few houses up the street to Mrs. Blazon’s house. Invariably we’d find her industriously working on one of her lovely braided rugs. She had a mound of them in a back room but she continued to keep herself busy. Friends kept her stocked with fabrics so she rarely had downtime. She seemed to thrive on keeping busy.

When I showed an interest in her work, she proudly showed me the volumes of rugs on hand. She donated some of them and freely gave away many more to those around her. She gave me one and then, later, Memere gave me one or two additional rugs that Mrs. Blazon had put her time, energy and love into. They were all the same oblong size, about two feet by three feet.

Almost 50 years have passed and I still cherish those coveted little rugs. They were put away for many years due to bad kitties but more recently I’ve been focused on pulling them out and finding “safe” spots for them.

My Mom told me that she’d made a large one when she was first married. However, when she sewed it together, it buckled. My dear Uncle Jimmy took it all apart and sewed it up again. Again, it buckled. They determined that the braiding should have been tighter. This is not a rug I remember ever seeing so I’m guessing it was discarded at that point or passed on to someone else who finished and enjoyed it.

Off and on over the years since watching Mrs. Blazon working on her rugs, I contemplated trying it. Maybe because my Mom had done so or maybe it is part of my heritage: this is an art form passed down from my ancestors, after all. What I know is I have been more than just interested in making one for a very long time.

That little girl – me, rocking in one of Mrs. Blazon’s chairs, watching her gnarled fingers working the fabrics while she, my Memere and another neighbor, Miss Ferguson, chatted in French must have instilled the “bug.” It was during those evenings that Mrs. Blazon discussed the use of woolen fabrics; although plenty of her rugs had mixed textiles. Today, cotton and blends are readily available.

The old saying, “The apple don’t fall too far from the tree.” surely describes me. My grandparents and parents lived and grew through the depression. They knew what it was to make due with whatever was at hand and how to stretch that little bit for as long as they could. If an item has any life left in it and it can be used or re-purposed [even if I’m not crazy about the item] I am hard pressed to throw it away.

In the world in which we live, we have a prevalent brain set that makes it okay to discard all manner of items regardless of its continued usefulness. If we no longer care to have it, out it goes. The landfills are choking but we keep sending recyclable materials and items. So much of what we throw out, which doesn’t fit the conventional recycle stations’ aluminum or paper standard, ends up in the landfill because we are uneducated, disinterested or too lazy to go out of our way to find those specialty recycle centers where we may bring these items.

My self-imposed recycle purgatory has me precariously close to being labeled a hoarder, I fear. I can’t bring myself to place perfectly good recyclables into bins headed for landfills so, instead, I fill boxes for some perfect day when I can plan a big road trip to visit recycle havens set up to protect the future of this planet. It makes me wonder why these specialty recyclers aren’t more prevalent given the amount of obsolescence built into products we have to replace much sooner than we used to or should.

So, in the interim, I find re-purposing an object a creative challenge and one we all might participate in if we hope to keep this poor planet for future generations. While my boxes fill up with old computer parts, phones, and etc. there are other materials I’ve not found an outlet for: old tee-shirts, for instance.

At some unknown point in my life, suddenly tee-shirts, like coffee mugs became the only thing anyone could think of to give as gifts. Adding to this, there was a span of time where local pet stores sold shirts to raise money to care for homeless animals.

Oh, don’t even start me on that subject of irresponsibility – talk about people with throw-away mentalities! “We’ll get another cat or dog when we get to the next town; we’ll leave this one here.” Who does that??? Right, coming off the soap box now…

These tee shirts, even ones that I have loved most dearly, eventually become too worn or stained. When wearing them to the barn might prove embarrassing, it’s time to find an alternate solution. Obviously at this point their condition renders them unworthy for donation to any cause. I have kept them squirreled up because I can’t bear to send them to the landfill. My “rag” drawer is bursting with more rags than I will probably ever have the time to utilize.

So, the conundrum! On-line help is fantastic! There are brilliant people out there who have figured out genius ways to cut up old tee-shirts to make “yarn.” At first I was skeptical but now, after cutting up a few old gems, I am convinced.

My kitties enjoy sitting on window sills where I lay half of a bathroom carpet for their comfort. Unfortunately, many washings have worn them out. Light bulb moment! Why not use old tee shirt yarn to knit, crochet or braid new mats? Finally, this long-standing yearning to try a new craft has become viable. Materials and need are knocking on the proverbial door!

My first attempt, knitting, turned out a decent mat using my largest needles. The mat is striped with history and the colors of the various shirts. At the moment, I am simply experimenting with the mechanics and trying to determine what is easiest for my hands and most attractive as a final product. At some point dying the material or the final mats so they fit my eclectic house decor, such as it is, will enter the picture. But for now I will concern myself only with the “how” of my creations.

It’s amazing how many tee-shirts are required to make one mat. So far it’s slow going but it keeps my hands busy while I watch my coveted NCIS marathons!

Knitting the heavy shirt material was not easy on my hands – no matter how hard I worked at keeping it loose, I struggled. Still, the mat I created has been used by at least one of my kitties so that is encouraging. Currently, I am crocheting a mat….it is early yet but it seems easier on my arthritic hands so that’s a good thing.

A friend works for a plumbing company who gives their employees tee shirts with their logo on them. However when the shirts are too worn, the employees are instructed to throw them out and not give them to charity. When I first heard this I was astonished but after mulling this a while I realized that in this day and age, someone could possibly use one of the shirts to gain unlawful entry to an unsuspecting victim’s home by masquerading as that company’s employee. What a sad commentary on our society; businesses are afraid to donate lightly worn shirts to people who would love to wear them because some idiot might use it to hurt others. Very sad!

But, when I mentioned to this friend my braided rug quest, she bagged up a bunch and gave them to me….along with the strict warning that they may not be dumped in a “give-away” bin. That is pretty much where I am with those at the moment. They take more time since their construction has side seams and the material is heavier. These are definitely earmarked for traditional braiding but their coloration is fine as is.

It always amazes me that our lives manifest what we need when we need it. A good fifty years have passed since those walks up to Mrs. Blazon’s house after supper. She had no idea how her hobby would impact a young girl just tagging along with her Memere on those muggy summer evenings.

When we share the things we are passionate about, it’s like throwing a stone into a still lake….the ripples fade but they make an impact. We may never know how much one seemingly random act on our part affects another, but each time we interact with another being, they come away with something good or something bad.

Share your passions, share your love – the world needs more of that.

Amanda tells her son, Tom, in “The Glass Menagerie,” to “go to the moon, you selfish dreamer.” Regardless of what his character says, Tennessee Williams may not disagree that dreaming isn’t selfish, it can be life preserving. If one lives solely in their future, i.e. dreams, without providing a solid NOW, they also may not be selfish but they probably could use some help.

With my Mom’s passing, even though my time is sucked up by a host of activities, many tasks allow time for the inundation of thoughts which flow freely through my fertile brain. Life is significantly changed since her leaving so I feel, quite often, that I am floundering; struggling to restart my life, create something new.

My life had undergone a major chasm with the closing of the company for which I’d worked 17 years and then the subsequent business I’d put my heart into needed to be relinquished as Mom could not be left unattended. Hiring someone to watch over her while I was working was not possible. Red Horse Photography, where I mainly photographed horse shows, was just becoming established. Too often there was the strong possibility that I worked all day with no sales.

All of that is past history. It’s staggering to contemplate the immensity of possibilities in front of me just now, something most people take for granted. The “pro” is that I have the opportunity to reinvent myself once more. The “con” is I’m tired and starting over is hard. However, I’ve lived most of my life compromising, making concessions and yielding to others’ preferences. This time, I need to feel that I am creating results that matter on a higher level.

Keenly aware of how Eckert Tolle might categorize my self-rantings – my “talking to the moon,” as it were, I endeavor to follow his precept by constantly reminding myself to monitor these voices or conversations I am having with myself. Awareness is the first step, yes? These debates or ramblings seem to assist me in organizing my thoughts and feelings. I’ve yielded so much in my life I’ve forgotten what it is that I want; ergo, the ensuing debates.

It is helpful for me to write out these ramblings. Perhaps it’s a form of exorcism. Writing about the experiences with Mom’s fight with Alzheimer’s – and it was a fight – has helped me, is helping me. There are still many events and moments that she and I shared that float through my psyche which I will, most likely, find the need to write about at some point.

Using this blog to also explore life after AD, [Is that achievable?] may seem at the outset unwise; misrepresented content for this blog. But truly, Alzheimer’s touches more than the person who is afflicted, it lasts longer than that person’s physical time on this planet. Not a day goes by when I do not think about Mom, who she was, what she wanted, what she went through, how she touched the lives around her and, most specifically, how she touched my life, helped to forge my life, my values, my thoughts and my heart’s sensibilities.

Watching Mom be swallowed by that hideous disease was more debilitating for me than I’d realized. My attention had been so riveted on how AD was ravaging her; I hadn’t been cognitive of its comprehensive toll. There are no winners – only survivors.

There are many ways of treating and living with this disease. Some people have the forethought to plan for this possibility. We had not. We dealt with each new twist and turn as it thrust itself into our faces – we were totally unprepared and flying by the seat of our pants. Stubborn may not be the most attractive attribute but it can take you through a lot of difficulty. My will to keep going peppered with struggling with intermittent moments of doubt were always resolved with my stubbornness to not back down, to not let go and to not place Mom into a facility where I knew she could not survive for very long. That was the best choice for us; perhaps not the best choice for all.

My mantra was, “I can do this today.” Quieting any other future possibilities and remaining in the moment with her, was an enormous help. It made it possible not only to get through the day but to find little snippets of joy along the way. Those snippets were often unexpected nuggets I would have missed if things had been different.

Yet, two years later, I’m still trying to sort out what happened after what feels like a bomb-blast that took out my bunker. Caring for someone with AD causes the caregiver to be disconnected from the world as s/he once knew it. Seclusion is like a shroud pervasively distancing the caregiver and the “victim” from society. The tantrums and outbursts are not socially acceptable so we guard ourselves from being caught in public where we might be vulnerable to judgmental and shocked onlookers. That stigma does not disappear overnight; perhaps it never will. The scar is not visible; it is mental, it is emotional.

My conclusion, after so much thought, is that sharing the aftermath may be as valuable as the actual events. Writing on this blog makes me feel as though I am talking to the moon, not expecting to hear anything back but always grateful for any moonlight that may glimmer my way.

Posting eclectic “moon ramblings” whether they seem terribly connected to my Mom and AD or not may just provide me with the assistance I need to work through my maze. I am what I am, in great part, due to all she was and did for me. Each of us are a sum total of our past and a Mother’s guidance surely ranks at the very top of the most influential list.

If anyone is listening, it’s just me Moon…..thanks for always shining your lovely shimmering light my way.

Hold On

We are approaching the third Christmas since my Mom’s passing. This year I have been making a real effort to keep past holiday depressive feelings in the past and rekindle the enthusiasm I used to feel at this time of year — an emotional cleansing of sorts.

Just as we periodically remove old rarely worn but maybe nostalgic clothes from our closets; doesn’t it seem appropriate to do the same with our old feelings? By placing a magnifier on old taboos, we may learn how to dissipate old root triggers that do not serve us but continue to hold us emotionally hostage well after the events have been buried. Relic beliefs and emotional skeletons keep us bound to past habits that can only make us miserable.

Maybe it’s time to break away from the chains and begin new rituals; ones that feed our soul, ignite our passion and bring us peace.

My Mom was a self-professed Bah-Humbugger! When we were children, my Dad would go all-out with decorations. Naturally there was always a big tree. Once we landed in the house that is now my home, he planted a pine in the front yard which he would rig with a speaker so he could pipe Christmas music outside. He’d decorate the front glass doors and side windows to look like old fashioned paned windows with falling snow, collecting in drifts. There was always a bright star in one corner of the big glass doors with “radiating” beams stretching across the double doors.

After Christmas there was an enormous cleanup, as I recall, in which he did not participate. No he was probably on his holiday drunken binge or just coming off of it. He’d be fine while his parents were in town but as soon as their taillights were headed back North, he’d begin getting antsy to relieve that pent up emotional volcano he kept bottled up as best he could – with periodic eruptions often coinciding with holidays.

No wonder Mom came to feel that the Holidays were a nightmare – they were. The beginning of her sinking into her emotional slump would begin in September – the time we used to go back to school; it wasn’t all about the dwindling daylight; it was harder to deal with Dad’s explosive benders when school was also on the agenda.

After my Dad passed, Mom continued to hold on to the old feelings; nothing I did or proposed made the slightest dent in persuading her to adopt a different attitude. After a while, I gave up and became more like her – not really enjoying the holidays and thinking it was because so many people I love have crossed over and I felt so alone.

Since Mom’s passing I’ve been assessing my own mortality; how much time might I have to do the multitude of things I still yearn/burn to do? Thinking back on events in my life, so many seem to have taken place earlier this year but 20-30 or more years have already gone by like a small gust of wind. Poof, so quickly the days go by!

Whatever amount of time ahead of me, I want it to count for something. It’s not about being remembered after I am gone. No, what I need is to feel engaged in my world. When I die I want to feel that the world was left better for my being here. Marking time until I die is not living. I want to really live each moment: touch it, smell it, hear it…..savor it!

So this Christmas season, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I’ve been exploring ways to reestablish what I used to love about the holidays without being haunted by memories of long-gone events. Those circumstances no longer exist. Since I am reinventing my life, why not include new rituals, practices that keep me grounded in positive energy.

The one constant in my life was always my Mom; she was with me through every event, every trial, and every change. Now, I am – day to day – completely alone. Days go by and I do not speak with anyone about anything that matters. Even at work, easily a day goes by without much or any interchange with anyone in the vast cube-farm. So I talk to the cats who mostly listen – usually not so well, but they receive their mandatory ear full.

Listening to the music has been difficult but this year, in the main, I’ve been pushing myself to listen; there are a handful of songs I won’t chance listening to yet. Music invades ones soul. It carries with it a power to conjure a lifetime in a moment.

Along with my new-found determination to create a healthier emotional climate, I’m even considering putting up decorations…a big step when all the homemade ornaments I made years ago have been packed away for a very long time. We’ll see how it goes; for now, I’m happy to make some cookies and put a few things out to remind myself that just because it has been a certain way, it doesn’t ALWAYS need to be that way.

This is the first time in my life when I have complete say over what and how my life can be. There is no one with whom I must negotiate or compromise. It’s whatever I say it will be. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. The only thing I am truly certain of is that I do not want to hold myself hostage to the past and just “make it through” the holidays. My soul yearns to passionately embrace the joy and peace this season brings, setting the scene for a new year filled with possibilities.

Perhaps this explains the cardinal that has visited me several times. At first I thought he was looking for his mate. He’d sit in the lilac bush and fly into the screen, skimming along the length of the window. He’d then go to a different window and sit on the window air conditioner and peck at that window. Did he want to come inside? Kitties present – not a good idea Mr. Cardinal. He expanded to accosting other windows as well to the delight of the all the kitties.

Around and around the house I wandered looking for his mate whom I feared was deceased and then I looked on line to find out about this behavior. Evidently cardinals, along with a few other birds, are very territorial. He saw his beautiful image in the window and thought it was a rival. I put up some pieces of holographic film while I waited for the special decals I ordered to arrive. My makeshift attempt did nothing to thwart his attacks.

After sharing this rather disturbing event with my sister, she sent me the most fabulous information….it appears to have come from FB and I’d like to give credit to, “Laughing with a mouthful of Coffee” for their image:

When a Cardinal appears

My Mom’s favorite color was red – she wore red much of the time! She was a determined woman and the energy he used to peck at the window, thinking back, was just as determined. It was more as if he was telling me: “Wake up!”

There have been many incidents since she passed when I felt her nearby even before I was introduced to the notion the cardinal represented her visiting.

Her powder and perfume still sit in the bathroom at the end of the hallway just outside my bedroom. They are closed but, on occasion when I pass the bathroom, I smell her perfume. I have ducked my head in thinking I might see her and to check to be sure one of the cats has not disturbed anything. It is always the same; the items are just as she left them.

Then my sister sent me some additional and fascinating information about Cardinals as totems. Everything in the article practically word for word outlined all the things I’ve been “processing” and feeling over the past many months. The Universe definitely wants me to “get” this and move on already. It could just be that at such a late stage, seemingly, in my life, I am finally beginning to emerge. How mysteriously our lives unfold and how grateful I am that I am aware of these happenings.

My role has always been the observer but it seems that now I am taking on a more active role – fittingly as this is my life after all. Ironically, I am constantly most emphatically supportive of those around me, urging them to follow their heart, their passion. It’s not for lack of wanting to do the same for myself; I’ve been struggling with finding a new set of objectives. After life in the caregiving trenches, it’s a slow go to finding me again.

Whether you are now engaged in full-bloom caretaker mode or have moved beyond it, as I have, take a few moments to focus on what brings you the most joy. Begin with one moment, if that’s all you can manage. Focus on how your joy may expand your life. Practice this as often as you can and you have begun the journey to finding a more fulfilling life. The first step is assessing and being truly grateful for all you have, all you are and all that brought you to this perfect moment. Whether we are happy with this moment or not, it is perfect – it is the exact thing we need right now – otherwise, it would not be happening!

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