December 31, 2012

The Secret to Happiness: Crow's Feet

I'm not sure who my grandmother thought I was but we used to sit together for great lengths of time. She had Alzheimer's and didn't know who I was the last several years of her life. It didn't bother me. I still loved coming home from school and sitting with her on the couch. She came to stay with us for a few months every year while my aunt, her usual caretaker, went to Europe. 

I begged Grandma to tell me stories and snuck my feet into her lap so she'd absent-mindedly tickle my toes. Sometimes she'd do it for an hour or more....until one of my siblings discovered us and wanted to get in on the action. We took turns having her rub our feet while asking her questions about her college days. Most of the time we hoped she'd say something funny. We were rarely disappointed and laughed all afternoon.

One afternoon, my brother's friend came to the door and Grandma "met" her. Grandma was legally blind and whenever she met someone she would gently explore their hair and face with her hands. On this particular occasion, Grandma suggested to my brother's friend that it was about time for her to visit the beauty salon. Her hair was in need of a good style. Her simple suggestion was made without malice. And that innocence kept us laughing all afternoon.

Another day, Grandma was at my parents' office when one of their friends dropped by on his way home from fishing. He still had on his waders and probably needed a shower. Grandma politely engaged him in conversation while my parents were busy with a customer. When they finished and were able to greet their friend, Grandma announced that a bum was here to see them. So candid. No filter. Much like my children. Ha ha ha.

My favorite part about grandma was how her face lit up when she laughed. Her crow's feet accentuated how good the story was. Smile lines are physical evidence that her life was good. Not just good but full of joy. Those lines take years to form. From that point forward, I decided that I wouldn't be afraid of getting wrinkles. Wrinkles are weary. Crow's feet are worth every laugh it takes to have them appear. 
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Earlier this month, we performed a puppet show and went caroling with Graeden's cub scout pack at a nursing home. The audience was a little droopy but a couple of the residents sang along with us. Afterward when we went around and shook hands and greeted the residents I found that I recognized one. I didn't realize he lived there.

His eyes shone and his smile was bright as he eagerly told me he had been a Scout Master for many years. "I know you!" I exclaimed as I called him by name. My brother earned his Eagle scout rank under this Scout Master's guidance. He named two of his children after my cousin and his wife. His wife was my 4th grade teacher. He wrote insurance policies for my father for decades. I know him and have for at least 30 years. But he didn't know me.

Seeing this former Scout Master in the nursing home really got to me. Not because he didn't know me. I'm okay with that. But my heart skips a beat thinking about how I could be just like him one day. Just like Grandma. Maybe it'll be in a few years when I get older. Maybe it'll be next week in a freak accident.

Your life's true colors shine in situations like these. When you don't know who you are anymore, are you happy? Do you smile? Has your life been good? This new year, I have a plan to improve my crow's feet in just 21 days. Tymon's going to do it with me and I invite you to participate, too. More details to come...

2 Riveting COMMENTS:

  1. I am curious to hear your plans for more crow's feet. :)

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  2. The "bum" at our office was Nevelle Nebeker who - this may have been a different time from Bridget's recollection - engaged mother in conversation for 5 or ten minutes. I don't think she was ever rude and probably didn't mean it in the way it sounded, but she announced at the end of their conversation, "You're boring."

    Having Alzheimers, she would often just wander off. Our real estate office was adjacent to our driving school within the same space. We looked and looked for her one day, and having not heard the ding dong of the bell going outside, we continued looking everywhere in the office complex. There was a driving class going on, and we avoided disrupting the class during our search. Finally, I popped into the class to ask Harry, the instructor, if he had seen my mother. And there she was, sitting in the front of the class learning how to drive.

    Another time I was alone with her in the office, and I heard the bell ding meaning someone had come in or gone out. I don't think I was more than a minute finishing up something, and I went out the front door and looked both ways. She wasn't anywhere to be found. I ran up and down the block, and not seeing her I ran back to my car which was parked in the alley and drove around and around the block taking in more blocks each time. Finally, I was going to have to call the police, and I pulled up in front of my office and saw her in the optometry shop next door talking to the eye doctor. I thanked him and walked her back to my office next door. In a few minutes, the doctor came in and said, "I guess that means the appointment next Tuesday isn't going to happen?" Mother had macular degeneration, and no amount of correction on her lenses was going to help her see better.

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