Apr 13, 2015

On Dandelions and Legacies........

*UNDERCOVER NOTE FROM AUTHOR: So, I've been blogging every day.  I'm not going to mention it, because I did not plan that, I do not know where it is coming from, and basically have no idea what is going on with that this.  Since I've been waiting to see what I was supposed to do next, been willing to do it, and really haven't cared what it is, I'm just going with whatever happens.  It's been a very good period for me, probably much like people who go away to "rest" after a nervous breakdown.  Odd, I know, but there it is.
I have no idea how long it may continue or where it might go, but who ever really does?  Let's just not mention it further and see what comes next.  ;)*

I started this blog in January of 2011.  There is something that I certainly have never brought up except to lament the fact that I don't do it, but you are supposed to do this every day.  Blog, that is.  I don't really care if anybody does it every day, but when they just stop??  And you're wondering if they died or some kind of horrible hospital stay in their life and so were unable to let you know that...well, they are still alive????  You try to remember how old their kids were the last time you saw them, and when that was???  Then you wonder if you are what would be considered a "stalker"???  That's very upsetting.  But hey, it's their blog.  They can do, or not do, what they want.  They would tell me to get my own and I would say, Hello!!  I did!!  Anyway, if you are still coming here and know me from your blog that you have abandoned, I miss you and hope you are doing well.

In 4 years this is my 225th post.  That's just how I roll.  I'm all right with it, and very unconcerned about how other people feel about that.  But I do so appreciate the friends I've made through this little blog and the loved ones who care enough to keep up with it.  You know who you are.  It has been a very strange and exciting journey, these years, and has helped me in many ways.  I hope it has helped you too, if only by giving bad examples and citing mistakes made.  And to the few nutzoids that I've corresponded with and also this blog to thank for?  I wish you peace.  I really do, and that is all.

It's been 3 years since I wrote This Post on The Secret of Life, Abigail was 4, and she picked every single dandelion out of my front yard one day.  She was into filling up a little bucket I had, and it didn't hurt her back to bend over, and she picked every single one.  That was a lot.  She had "very many" dandelions in her bucket.  The next day she got up and was bamboozled to discover that they had grown back!!  We considered it a miracle!  I will never forget her face that day.

That experience had the affect on me of never looking at a dandelion the same way again.  I hope it had the same affect on you too.  Why?  Because within the dandelion lies the core of the secret of life.

It's the most common thing in the world; ignored by many, despised by most, appreciated by very few.  Most people don't even give them a thought, unless it's to plan to kill them, and yet Dandelions will be blooming and seeding still, on the day they bury each one of us.  As children we believe that wishes made on seeded dandelion heads would come true if we blew on them and the seeds flew away.  At some point most of us quit believing.

The Dandelion has long been the eternal thorn in the side of anyone who likes "landscaping".  The Dandelion has roots that run very deep, and are edible, as are the many copious flowers that it produces.  Even if you pick every bloom out of your yard, the next day the Dandelion just sends up more.  These blooms, even if picked, will seed themselves and send out hundreds, nay, thousands, nay(!) MILLIONS (!!) of seeds.  Many will be lost to the wind, never finding land to sink roots into, but more will sink in and start again.  The Dandelion understands the odds.  The Dandelion does not shrink in fear or weep for lost seeds that never find fruition.  That's just life.  The Dandelion just keeps it's own counsel and does what it was born to do, despite what the world will do to itself.  The Dandelion will not only survive, it will thrive.

It reminds me of some people I know, and age has no bearing on that.  It's more of a spirit thing.  People either have it or they don't.  Most of us are born with it, but sometimes it gets worn down and some never recover from that mortal blow.  Other times, people discover their own strength at the strangest times and just run with it.  Life, after all, is not really that hard, if you are willing to just show up and keep going.  We trap ourselves, often, by not being willing to forget bad things that happened to us.  A lot of good things probably happened to us after that, but we choose not to think about those things.  Why?  I don't know either, I am really asking.  I do know that it's a choice, whether you realize it or not.  Take back your power, and smile.  Life goes on, and you might as well enjoy it because it will end sooner or later.  I hope you choose to keep going and enjoy the ride.  No, I don't know where we are going either.  But we are going, so smile.

Recently I have been obsessed with the work of Fantasy Wire in the UK.  I don't know what made them pick Dandelions, but check out their work if you love Fairies, sculpture or Dandelions.  I think you will be amazed.  I was.  This one is a weather vane, a big one, and it's called 1 O'clock Wish.

This blog post started to sink it's roots in around that time, and I have been mulling it over ever since.

I lost my job last year.  I am now 50 years old. I have a trip to Germany planned for 3 weeks this summer, so I'm only looking for part-time work right now.  I am not too enthusiastic about going back to a desk.  At all.  I can do anything I want with the last few years before retirement.  It kind of blows my mind that I consider 12 years a "last few", but I do.  I can say that without a qualm and someday, if you live long enough, you will be able to, too.  Yes, it's weird, but not scary.   

The state of nursing homes in our land is rather abysmal and I hope I never end up in one.  I would, simply put, rather die.  I am a nurturer, I can't seem to help it.  I am pretty sure that is why I was born.  With all the cold reality setting in around me, it occurred to me that elder care would be a thing I would love, could support myself doing, and would be cheaper done at home than the often shoddy and terrifying experiences of people in nursing homes.  I could tell you these stories, but it's sad and I am sure you have your own.  To give credit where it is due, I know many very good nursing homes also.  But not I will leave it at that.  

I looked at the pictures of Fantasy Wire's work and contemplated the seeds that Dandelions produce.  How those plants thrive under almost any conditions and never worry about whether they will survive any kind of apocalypse.  They just bloom where they are planted and live their life, kind of like old people.  Also like old people, they leave seeds that fly all over their world, some that won't root for a long time, but will eventually.  Some will take root in ways that the person who sent the seed out would never have imagined.  Often, actually.  Some words they dropped into a child's ear and never thought of again will one day come back to that child as an answer to an unasked question.  Resolve will bloom in that child's soul and they will simply think "the answer was inside me all along".  They may never remember exactly why but that doesn't matter.  The seed took root and will bloom.

In my own life I have had moments where something a grandparent or my own mother said or did that I forgot about for years until it just came to me.  It came when I needed to remember it.   Seeds that flew by on the wind years ago, finally rooted and blooming and carrying on.  Dandelions speak to me because I am one, in a way.  We all are.  It's my turn now to bloom and send my own seeds on their way.  All throughout our lives we are blooming and seeding ourselves, many times unknowingly.  Don't worry.  I believe it is all part of a plan, and I know God is in control.

Will Abigail ever remember that day?  I am sure I explained how Dandelions send out seeds.  I know we dug up a root.  They are impressive, she may remember that now.  I know we have made many wishes on the seeded tops and joyfully blown seeds all over creation in our world many times.  I told Abigail that those wishes were real, and that the seeds would carry them.  I never stopped believing that was true, and I hope she never does either.   Some day, perhaps she will be making comparisons to Dandelions and the seeds that I planted with her.  I've done that with children all my life, and my own Charli girl is getting old enough to listen to my stories, too.  We scatter our legacies like the world scatters Dandelion's seeds.  

When we get old, we have boxes of pictures, journals, keepsakes and memorabilia that may only mean something to us.  If anyone else actually knew what it was, it would mean something to them also.  Maybe it would mean a lot.  

I am sure that my grandparent's told me who was in all those old pictures at some point; but I forgot.  What if I could spend my days with a person going through their old pictures?  Documenting their stories?  I did that as a child with my own grandmother, I did it with my mother before her death, I've been doing it ever since.  I could also sweep, make lunch, throw something in the crock pot for supper, and still do that.

My thoughts continued.  I have always taken care of babies, and still love to.  They are my first, and possibly my last, love.  However, I cannot run after those babies anymore.  Getting down on the floor is fine, but getting back up takes longer than it used to and frankly, I prefer not to do it.  But elder care.........that is going to be a good job to have, at the age I am now.  I can listen to, and document, people's stories all day long.  I love their stories.  It doesn't matter how small they are or how much they think no one else would be interested.  I know for a fact that after they are gone, after the seeds have all flown and their children and grandchildren are feeling so alone, they are going to want to know.  Even if they didn't before, which I certainly hope they did, but you know how kids are.  I know you know because we were all kids at one point and I think we all did the same thing.  Kids do not pay attention and later they are so sorry.  But that's life.  And I could make that easier on them.

That napkin that looks like trash to them and would go right into the trash bag may be the one their grandmother saved from the first night she met  their grandfather.  That was the night that sparked a thousand more, and eventually the people who are sorting through this box of memories.    It gets better; that wedding ring charm that they can't find the bracelet to go with; she pawned it to buy seeds so her husband could feed their babies in the summer of '32.  She never told him.  She didn't want to hurt his feelings because it was the only piece of jewelry he could ever afford to buy her.  She worried about not telling him, but then he never seemed to notice, and she never knew for sure whether he figured it out or not.

I totally just made that up but I swear to you on all that is holy, there are stories just exactly like this among one of your relative's souvenirs.  Maybe the stories are even better.

This was feeling like a really good idea.  Who doesn't need someone to come in and stay with their sick child because where they work has a point system and the child isn't sick enough to go to the Dr. but is too sick to go to school?  What if there was an older woman you could call to come sit with your child?  To tell Dandelion stories and give them frozen treats and make a bed for them on the couch where they can heal?  You can go to work, think about that while you need to, and know that you will be coming home to a clean and orderly house, and just join the flow of your own ordinary life without having to make up for lost time.  Supper will be ready when you are, and then you can snuggle with your sick little one, all without missing a beat or any one "job" suffering over any other.  I feel for you.  I lived that life for what turns out to be too long, but I remember exactly how horrible it was.  I would have given anything for a woman like me.  A grandma.  Notice how all the grandma's work now?  Thanks, "liberation"!  *waves tiredly*

Who hasn't had a sick loved one at home who needed them, but they had to go to work?  It's awful.  Your mind is not with you at work.  It's imagining your poor parent has fallen and just laying there waiting for help.  Your poor loved one is lonely, confused, perhaps they have that demon Alzheimer's, and you have a family to help, but you cannot possibly cover every minute of every day and night, even with your family helping.  These things will happen to you eventually, if you know the odds.  They have happened to me, and I know exactly what it is like and how hard it is.

Perhaps you just "get things slide" for too long, and your house is a mess and you have to host a family dinner next week and you need some help doing a deep clean.  I'm your man.  I know how it is, kid, I raised 4 kids myself and 2 dogs and I could tell you bagless vacuum cleaner stories that would make you feel like Mary freaking Poppins.  Everybody has dirt.  You are not special in this regard.  Now get out of the way so I can mop.  

Growing up, whenever we had a death in the family, which was kind of often, we had a ritual that seems a bit strange to me now.  I never questioned it growing up, but now I'm wondering if we were considered strange, or if everybody did it.  It's one of the things I still don't know and maybe never will.  When we had a death in our family, we called a lady who lived in town that we had known all our lives, and she helped us clean the house of the deceased.  We did not hire her to clean it for us.  We all cleaned it together.  It was, perhaps oddly, the way we coped.  Someone would die, we would call a lady named Mary, and instead of taking to our beds and crying, we would clean the house and ready it for people to drop by.  Then we would go home exhausted, take to our beds, and cry.  But first things first.  Strange or normal?  Your call.  I just thanked God for Mary.  Still do.  Whether she treasured ordinary life all along or got fed up with corporate crap and turned her back on it; also a  mystery.  See how it doesn't matter but works out in the end?

Perhaps you need someone to sit with your wife.  "What would you do?", you might ask.  Well, what is her ordinary life like?  This is what I will do.  What does your wife like to spend her days doing?  Does she love her flowers? Her garden?  Does she crochet?  I do not, but I've been feeling terrible about never learning.  Does she love to cook?  So do I.  Maybe we will spend days talking about her babies.  I can take down all the information for them that will be lost with her.  When they got their teeth, when they walked, what illnesses they went through, funny things they said when they were little.  All these will be lost to the wind when she is gone.  There are some things that only a mother remembers.  Sad but very true.  I can keep that from happening.  Eventually, someone will want to know that, and you can take that to the bank.

I have experience with Alzheimer's and know that some days it's enough to let them paint.  The walls.  Of their house.  Black and pink, perhaps.  But it soothes them, they are their walls, after all, no one gets hurt or upset, and it's just paint.  There may come a day when you let a person do something like this because they are so precious to you that you literally do not care what the walls look like.  On that day, the fact that your wife or mother is in her own house, occupied and happy, and will be there when you return, will mean everything to you.  Even if she is not exactly like she used to be.  Even if there is crazy paint all over the walls; she will be there,  she will be as all right as it is possible for her to be, and you will have one more day of memories with her.  It will mean everything to you.  I've lived that.  It's worth more than anything, then.

I have experience with end-of-life care, more than I would actually like, but again; life.  I know how important it is to certain person's dignity that they cross the river from home.  I respect that.  Nobody crosses that river alone, either.  Don't worry.  

How did maintaining an ordinary life come to take extraordinary measures?  This is what I asked myself.  How did cherishing ordinary life work it's way out of our culture?  Are these things even still considered "ordinary life" today?  Well, any reader of this blog will know the answer to that.  That, however, is not the point.  The point is that we need to bring these things back.  We need to focus on what is really important, and we need to do that before we are old and in need of a companion to help us maintain our ordinary, glorious, lives.

So I decided to see what happened if I offered this service.  I ordered business cards and everything.  I used a Dandelion on them.  There were so many reasons I couldn't even begin to fit them on a card; hence this post.  Plus, I ordered them for practically nothing from Vista Print and the dandelion theme was already there.  I took it as a God wink.

This is the front, I apologize for the clarity but it was the best I could do.

I chose Extraordinary Measures as a name.  It's a little tongue in cheek, as am I, but I love the irony of ordinary life taking extraordinary measures these days.  I think I'm finally the perfect age to do some good.  I have been training since childhood.  I probably should have a doctorate.  In my world, I do.  I actually am the modern day version of Mary freaking Poppins, minus the snazzy outfit and sadly, ability to fly.  So far.  Never in a million years would I have predicted it; but there it is.

And the back:

I love living in the country.  I am not too interested in going back to an office and sitting there until I die, or just wish that I had, while out there life is happening and I am missing it.  I am surrounded by cows and good people who are getting on in years.  I am positive they have wonderful stories to tell and I think I can both support myself and my new community in a valuable and "old fashioned" way that they will appreciate.  I seems a little crazy but it feels right.  I will do it privately in order to circumvent all those crazy no-common-sense- rules that govt. entities purporting to offer this same service use to choke any kind of logic or purpose out of their own creations.  We will have none of that.  If you have lived to be in your 80's and want salt on your green beans, have some salt.  You have lived your entire life, raised a family, taken care of your debts and hoed your own row.  And you would like to sit outside and have a beer?  Cheers.  To me, it's largely a matter of respect, but honor and dignity are in there, too.

People will still have control over their own lives.  For those that do it their way, I am here.  I think it might be my purpose.  Finally!  Finally a reason and a course to follow!  How long did I wander around wondering why I was going through all this?  Long.  I put in hard work and I feel like I'm finally seeing the "why".  

It just feels right and I've reached the age where if it doesn't work out, well, I just know something else will.  Those seeds are going to root somewhere, and you can bet on that.