How was your day?
I moved into a neighborhood where everyone waves to each other. What a strange and bold act of kindness, I thought at first. After all, they have no idea who I am, and I don’t know them. This was new to me, as I came from a “keep to yourself” type of neighborhood. They can wave if they want, I decided, but I’m not going for that kind of friendliness. I only like to wave to people I know. Period.
Well, my attitude lasted about a week, and then I was raising my hand at everyone who drove down the street. Dog walks got longer and longer, as waves became greetings, became conversations and invitations. I slowly gained friendship with many, but it was a deeper feeling. My heart was at rest here. News was never gossip, because people truly cared for one another. This lake community felt like home to me, and many of the people would soon become family.
It has been said that the lake has magical powers; to calm and soothe the soul. Maybe that’s just what water does; taking your mind off the mundane. My whole being is relaxed as quickly as a dog shakes himself after getting out of the water. I just have to stare at the sun playing atop the lake, and I’m taken out of myself. No worries. People here bond so easily because of the shared love of this simple setting. We gather for cookouts and birthday parties with a quick phone call – no planning, no stress. Every day begins and ends as it is supposed to. It’s all about the here and now.
Over the years, our little community has shared family stories, left-over food, drinks and lazy weekend afternoons, while floating on our pontoon boats. We anchor in the middle of the lake, and wait for others to tie-up to share the sun; to share our stories. Sunset conversations string along as the sunlight weakens and the air cools. Drinks are poured and refilled, as we learn that someone’s granddaughter is going to visit, or someone is going on a trip. Someone has put their dog down. We connect through all that is said and unsaid, for sometimes the silence gives us a chance to absorb the emotion. Anchors are reluctantly drawn with the waning light, as bladders fill and stomachs grumble.
I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. These shore-loving natives have shown me the right way to live; with openness and trust. This lake is a true home, a resting place for my heart. I will wave at people until my arm falls off, I’ve decided. I am now one of THEM – a foolish waver, who will welcome new lake people to this sanctuary. And, maybe I’ll look crazy and they won’t want to wave back. That’s Ok, there’s time. Because, I know, eventually, we’ll tie-up in the middle of the lake and share a sunset. It’ll happen.
Lil’s bedroom gave no indication that the former sun room was makeshift in any way. The area rug next to her high loft bed and homemade quilts absorbed the rays of light through the blinds. There was little physical mention that the family once gathered here, except for some neatly stacked games and stuffed animals stored along a few walls. It was comfortably furnished, providing Lil with precious dignity and the privacy they wanted to gift her in this tiny house.
I peeked into Lil’s room, silently observing her morning routine. She hiked up her nightgown to her upper thighs, as she sat on the edge of her bed. Holding each sock in front of her, she looked at it for a moment and dressed each foot, one at a time. Then carefully unlacing her sneakers, she repeated the sock routine with each shoe. She slowly tightened and tied them, tucking the extra laces in the side, above the arches. Every part of this ritual was new to her. She stood up and looked at the pants on the rocking chair with a quizzical expression. I thought this was a good time to greet her, and see what I could do to help.
She was diagnosed a few years ago, while she was still actively swimming and in the midst of her husband’s illness. She loved her cats and she loved her family but soon everything would slip away. She cared for her husband as best as she could, but would forget to turn things off, and would often drive to unknown locations. Her daughter once received a call from a gas station manager telling her that her mother was there and confused. He said that he understood because his mother was ill too. It didn’t attack Lil all at once. No, that would be merciful. It just creeped into all their lives, as the family looked for answers to this dreadful disease.
“Hi Lil” I said as I entered the room. She said hi, without any emotion, not knowing who I was. I had met her several times, but didn’t expect any recognition or greeting. My job was to just take care of her for this sliver of time. I suggested we take her shoes off, and get her pants on. I knelt down and undid her laces, as she watched with confusion. She was cooperative, but guarded, so I tried not to create stress for her. I told her who I was, as she gave me a blank stare.
My eyes were burning, as we made our way to the kitchen. I knew there were cats in the house, but I would only be there for a little while. Her breakfast sat on the center island, made by her daughter, Brenda, before she left. I ushered Lil to the table, where there family photos were stacked. I could tell that Brenda had put these here for her to look at. She just sat with her head down, looking like a child who had been punished.
“I have some breakfast for you here”, I said.
She didn’t reply, so I brought the french toast over to her hoping that she would eat.
“Would you like some coffee”, I inquired.
She looked at me with suspicion and slowly said, “What is coffee”?
What is coffee!!!! It was at that moment that I realized that her life had been stripped of not only memory, but the knowledge of basic enjoyment, like a hot cup of coffee. How could someone not know what coffee was I wondered? Then I thought, how can I have a basic conversation with her? I can’t ask her what she likes to do, or how her day was going. She had no idea. This was something I hadn’t really thought through.
So, in a desperate attempt to communicate, I decided to sing. I started to sing a silly song to try to engage her. Lil perked up and told me that when she was a little girl she sang in the church choir. Her enthusiastic description of her memories came flooding back, almost like she was waiting all week to tell me. As we continued to sing, I started to dance, which amused her. Lil got up and started to side step and move her arms. I could tell she was enjoying herself. I had finally gotten through to her. I reached a part of her that was happy and somewhat familiar.
Brenda returned home as we were in mid-chorus, so she joined in. We had a lot of laughs all while my eyes began to itch and swell (damn cats). It was time for me to leave, so I finished my coffee and gathered my things. Brenda thanked me, but I didn’t feel like I deserved it. The pleasure was all mine.
As I drove off, I realized what an incredible gift I had received that day. I had to strip my thinking down to the very basics, like singing a song or tying a shoe. It was like caring for a toddler, but slightly bitter sweet. I had to be gentle and understanding of who Lil is, while knowing who she was. It was a blessing to be asked to care for her.
Lil has been gone for a few years now, but I hope to remember that day, while I drink a nice hot cup of coffee.
Thank you Brenda.
Thanks for reading my blog. DilettanteLife.com
Foodie Saturday Field Trip (FSF): Wegmans
Jamie and I decided to reduce our cabin fever by taking
a ride to Wegmans in Northboro
yesterday. It was a foodie Disneyland!
It had everything the heart desires,
where dishes come true. We loved
the amazing selection of seafood
and meats. And, don’t get me
started on cheese, which my son
once said, is,”like heroin for
women”. I may need to go to rehab.
I had eaten a couple of Eggo waffles before take-off and was
somewhat satisfied. I’ve learned the hard way,
not to go shopping on an
empty stomach. But, this
wasn’t shopping, it was
a food fantasy. If I
hadn’t eaten, it would
have been pure gluttony.
This crossed my mind at
the checkout, as I
realized if I was hungry,
the bill could have the
potential to challenge
the national debt.
Our first ride was at the sushi
counter. The color of the
sashimi was so bright, it was
like twinkling lights, without
the twinkle. The only time I’ve
seen sushi that fresh was when
a store most likely bathed it
in sulfa. This was the real
deal. There was a silent
stand-off between getting the
tuna or salmon, which ended
We were ready to tear ourselves away from the sushi station when
a little girl, maybe 9 yrs old, said to her mother, “look Mommy, a
squid.” I turned and gave Jamie a gourmet-smirk, and
cued eye rolling. There in the case sat a fresh octopus, clearly
marked in black magic marker lettering (on a piece of wood
for authentic presentation) OCTOPUS. Don’t get me wrong,
I love children. I especially love children that can read. But my
youngest son wasn’t much older than her when I brought an
octopus home for dinner. He was like a little Shackleton, braving the
tentacles and figuring out how to not only cook it, but survive the
experience. He cooked it, ate it and loved it. I chickened out.
The dog ate the head.
The alluring light emitted from the
hundreds of cases was almost too
much to handle. It was like the
opposite of a magnetic force field.
We spent some time examining the
different kinds of pate. Jamie is
going to make a Beef Wellington,
and a pate lined crust is critical.
Each pate looked like the other,
but I felt the need to look like I
was discriminating. They didn’t have
what he was looking for, and we
both found ourselves looking at the section below pate, to the
caviar. He asked me if I wanted caviar, and again, I felt an air
of snobbiness come over me. “Not really” I said. I thought
that if you were going to buy caviar, shouldn’t it come from
Moscow, Paris or New York? The packages looked fancy enough,
but I pictured myself in a cashmere cape, strolling into a little
shop in Paris taking samples, and politely ordering a generous
quantity for a dinner party with a few of my classy French friends.
We slowly backed away from the pate, and let the crowd lull us
to our next target.
There is so much to write about the experience, but I encourage anyone
who is feeling frozen and hold-up in their house to go and check it out.
You don’t have to be on a pate mission, or looking for anything you
can’t pronounce. Just have fun, pick up dinner, and most importantly
DO NOT GO ON AN EMPTY STOMACH.