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A small miracle needed in a big way

I’ve done a lot of grumbling lately. The weather has been lousy for four months. My work load has been heavy. My mom and I haven’t had the time we had last year to market our newest book, Wretched Fate. My dad can no longer drive which means many hours figuring out how to get my parents back and forth to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store. None of which compares to the real heartache: Mom and I, and the rest of my wonderful family are dealing with: Dad’s Alzheimer’s.????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

So when a tiny piece of sunshine breaks through, it feels like a miracle. But then, maybe it is.

For about a month and a half, my daddy cheerfully utters the same phrase whenever we get into the car: “You’ll let me know if you see any deer, won’t you?” As long as we are driving where there are trees, he says the phrase several times. There’s a reason he repeats the request: In the largely rural areas of Ohio and Michigan where we grew up and lived many years, we spent hours driving around and trying to spot deer. It was a family tradition that all of us remember from vacations or Sunday drives. And even though none but my oldest sister lives in a rural area, I think we all still search the tree lines when we’re driving in the country.

It’s a bit disconcerting, however, when you live in an urban area like Washington, D.C. and you’re just on your way from point A to point B and happen to be on a tree-lined street. But we always smile at Dad’s “joke,” and we nod and reassure him that we’ll be on the lookout.

Recently, Mom, Dad and I were on our way back from a doctor’s appointment that didn’t take as long as we all expected, so we decided to take a ride through a local park. It was the first pleasant, spring-like day in many weeks, and we were all in a good mood. I cranked up the music, and Dad responded almost immediately. He may not have remembered my name half an hour earlier, but give my Dad a melody, and he will sing along. He usually knows the melody, and he often knows most the words.

We took a winding road that led into the park, and on the way in, Mom and I heard “Let me know if you see any deer, won’t you?” All three of us chuckled. Then we rounded a bend and there before us, was a long stretch of land with seven deer munching happily on grass. I slowed way down, but they barely batted their beautiful eyes. They were young and didn’t know enough to be afraid (park season hasn’t started). Or maybe they just sensed that we were a car of people in awe.

The deer were so close to the road, we were afraid to roll down the window and make any noise that would scare them away. So we glided slowly by, as silently as we could, all of us appreciating the moment. Then we turned around and came back and appreciated their beauty again. They never stirred. Just lifted their heads and stared back as if to say, “Yea, we see you. But we are not about to move.”

In a municipal park that is packed later in spring and summer, to see seven deer out in the open is truly wondrous. It dispersed the drabness that can easily surround everyday life. And it gave my housebound daddy, who is dealing with a horrible disease that keeps him inside his apartment far too much, a few minutes of pure pleasure.

Genilee Swope Parente

 

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Doing Old Age the Right Way

??????????This week Genilee and I had a book signing at an assistant living facility—the Emeritus in Manassas, Virginia.  It was quite an eye-opening experience that really showed the difference a good activity director can make in the lives of the elderly residents.  When we got there, everything was already set up for us―table, chairs and about a dozen members ready for us.

??????????For the current signing, we gave our usual background speech about how we got started and a little about the book itself. We were delighted that, with that little bit of background and some enthusiasm from attendees, the director purchased a book for each member and proceeded to set up a book review event. The group decided to divide the reading of the 300-plus pages of Twist of Fate into four sections of 75 pages each—a session for each of four weeks going forward.  On the fourth week, Genilee and I are invited to come back and hear the group’s critique of our work and their opinion of the book in general – good or bad!  Then they may purchase our second book, Wretched Fate, and do the same with that book.

It was a wonderful plan not only for their club but also for Genilee and me.  We need people who have read our books to tell us not only what they like, but where the plot/character/sequences of events might falter so we can strengthen our books going forward.

The experience also was just an uplifting day for two authors who love to hear from readers, and we hope we inspired this particular group of readers as much as they inspired us. One of the reasons we believe there has been so much enthusiasm for us as speakers is that it’s good for older people to hear that life doesn’t have to stop because of advanced years or the reality that they can’t do the things they used to. Old age can be a time of pursuing a dream or a different ??????????hobby; and I firmly believe everyone needs hobbies.  The one thing none of us needs is to sit in front of the boob tube, living someone else’s life.

I’ve always had hobbies – and they changed as I grew older yet became just as important as the ones before them. For thirty years, I wrote a recipe column for our hometown weekly newspaper as I was raising my family.  After the kids were in school, I went back and took a few education classes and then served as a substitute teacher.  When I found the 75-mile trip to school got in the way of completing my education degree, I took a course in accounting and then found a job ??????????doing books, which I enjoyed.  From there, I went into knitting, oil painting, ceramic painting and then genealogy. Each venture lasted about three years – until I could no longer think of anyone to gift with my handiwork. After I retired, I perfected my Bridge game and taught that game to over 150 men and women. I have continued my bridge playing and tried to go back to knitting and ceramic painting, but my macular degeneration means my eyes are too bad for ??????????any close-up detail work. Yet, despite that sad fact, I could see well enough that I decided if I was ever going to write books―a desire I’ve always had―I had better get started. I was 82 by this time (I’m 86 now).

The lesson to other seniors is that, though I don’t do anything perfectly, I have kept the creative juices flowing, which I believe keeps the blood flowing and the mind active.  I may not be gifted enough to win awards for any of my ventures, including writing. Our books are not literary masterpieces. They are meant to entertain and to keep people reading. But what an inspiration it is to bring enjoyment to others! And hopefully, through visits like the one to Emeritus, Genilee and I are also spreading the word that life doesn’t have to stop at 80 … or even 90.

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 –F. Sharon Swope

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The computer ate my homework

Ironically, I am writing this for the second time. A few minutes ago, I lost my thoughts to this new computer system, which seems to be a regular occurrence with me these days. I really thought masharkybe I had conquered this computer, but it keeps letting me know who is in charge. At 85, I don’t seem to take to change too well, and I don’t really like being beaten by the computer. But I’m learning it’s part of today’s world. And it all sort of fits with the blog column I wrote because I was addressing the great changes in the world people my age have seen. Life at 85 can be a constant adventure.

For example, today my husband and I decided to venture out to find the local Dairy Queen.  If the two of us weren’t old and didn’t live in such a traffic-mess-of-a-city, I wouldn’t label this effort “adventure.” However, since my husband can no longer remember where he is going, and I am blind and can’t read road signs … you get the picture. We usually only go where I can give him instructions these days—go right at that corner, turn left here, keep on going straight.  But I’m afraid the places I am certain of in this area, which we’ve been residents of, for only half this decade, are few and far between. Also, I spent 74 years letting my husband drive while I basically daydreamed and didn’t pay attention; thus, we are now usually limited on where we can go. That’s why these outings are “adventures.”

Surprisingly, though, we had no trouble—we made only one wrong turn. However, the adventure this time occurred after we arrived. There we were standing in line to order a meal, and neither of us could read the menu on the board.  Bob insisted I tell him what he wanted to eat (something that happens a lot these days), and neither of us could understand the clerk who had a strong foreign accent.  We felt like idiots holding up the people waiting behind us.  Finally, we got that ordeal over, and I returned to our seat to wait while Bob got the order.

Suddenly, I felt like it was lunch hour for school and a lot of kids were skipping class.  The restaurant filled with a dozen young boys – all high school students, all almost six feet in height and none of them weighing more than 130 pounds! I never saw so many thin boys in my life.  They all looked like their pants were about to fall off.

Three high school girls came in next wearing short shorts on their also-slim bodies. They looked cute and quite nice but the fact they could go to school looking like that shocked me.  Now readers, I’m not so old I can remember when it was sinful for a girl to show her ankles, but I am of the generation when girls did not wear long pants in public.  Back in my youth teenage girls wore skirts (poodle skirts if you were cool) or dresses with sweaters and saddle shoes (which were, no matter what, NOT supposed to be clean).  When my daughters were teens, they wore short skirts or short dresses.  My own “modern” mother assured me those skirt lengths were all right, but to this day, I am not convinced. The short shorts those girls in the Dairy Queen were wearing were actually a lot better cover than the miniskirts of the late 1960s, early 1970s.

I know I sound old fashioned, but I don’t really think of myself that way. However, so much has changed in the last forty to fifty years.  In fact, so much has changed in the last ten!  I have enough trouble with my cell phone and have to go to my granddaughter for help with that.  And then you add the many new programs on the computer, the pop up ads I can barely see that the Internet produces, and you can understand how much I’m facing.

I do try hard, but days like today convince me that, despite the dictation program I use and the read-back program that helps, I am fighting a mighty hard battle. I am much more adept at losing copy than producing it.  Is there anyone else out there who feels the same?

Sharon Swope

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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