Friday, October 30, 2015

How Lucky I Am.

I was cleaning out the refrigerator this morning wondering how it could possibly get so dirty so quickly.  Feels like I just cleaned it out the other day. 

In truth, it was probably six months ago, but, y’know, time goes fast.  Especially when you’re doing things you looove – like scrubbing the interior of the fridge.

Yeah, I’m fibbing.  I’d have to be insane to actually enjoy cleaning out the fridge. 

Oh, that’s not nice.  I suppose there is someone out there who enjoys performing those sorts of tasks.  The only enjoyment I get out of it is when it’s done.  Well, that – and when I open the fridge later and am pleasantly surprised by how clean and orderly it is.

But, anyway, I was thinking as I was donning those lovely yellow rubber gloves and dunking my hands in the hot, soapy water, that I’m actually lucky. 

I’m lucky that I can still get the dirt out of both the lowest drawers and the highest shelves in the fridge.  I’m lucky that I have the strength to scrub the parts that need scrubbing. I’m lucky to have the dexterity to pull the glass shelves out and carefully clean them without breaking the glass.

And, even though my vision is far from 20/20, I am lucky to still be able to see every speck of dirt and mysterious splotch of gunk that is in that fridge – and I have the ability to clean it.

Hunh.  Who knew there were reasons to feel lucky about cleaning a fridge?

I suppose I feel luckier to be able to do these sorts of mundane tasks when I realize how many people out there are unable to perform them. 

Like a friend on Facebook who is wheelchair-bound. She recently posted that she dropped a bag of chips onto the floor – and was unable to pick them up.  I loved that she kept her sense of humor and said it was probably a hint that she shouldn’t be eating the chips! 

But it made me realize that if I drop something on the floor and make a mess, instead of being annoyed, I should feel fortunate that I am still able to crawl around on the floor to clean it up.

Guess I’d better make a note and remind myself of that the next time I knock over that mega-sized bag of basmati rice, as I did recently. Instead of the, um, choice words I actually used, I should instead have been muttering, “I’m lucky…I’m lucky…I’m soooo lucky!”

I think we all tend to take our health and abilities for granted and only realize how fortunate we were when those things are gone. 

Take, for example, my parents who recently spent nearly a week with us here in Columbus. We celebrated my mother’s 90th birthday, although she doesn’t remember she’s 90.  Or perhaps she just conveniently forgot that little fact on purpose. Who knows? It’s hard to tell with Mom who has been dealing with Alzheimer’s for the past several years. 

One moment, she will seem like her old self and will carry on an intelligent conversation, and the next moment, she is whispering under her breath about how confused and scared she is.  Each and every time she does the latter, my heart breaks a little more for her.

I try to give her a reassuring hug and casually repeat whatever fact she can’t remember and is stressing over, whether it’s where she left her purse or how old her granddaughter is. But I try to fit it into the conversation so she doesn’t know I’ve heard her.

Mom still tries to pretend she’s that strong, sharp, eagle-eyed woman who never missed a thing.  I’m not sure she realizes how much she has changed or how noticeable it is to the rest of us. 

But no matter what, I try to keep in mind that she is the woman who has loved me my entire life. Who took care of me when I was a baby and didn’t know how to dress or walk or speak.  And when I was confused or frustrated over a simple task like tying my shoes, she was the person who clarified and explained and instructed. She never made me feel stupid for not knowing something.  And she encouraged me every step of the way.  So if I can do those things for her now and still allow her to maintain her dignity, then I am honored to do so.

And then there is my dad.  His macular degeneration has progressed to the point that we wonder how much he actually sees.  He does a great job of pretending around us because, I suspect, he doesn’t want us to intervene and mandate that he and Mom move to an Assisted Living facility. 

He’s much more comfortable in the house they’ve lived in for nearly 50 years. He knows without looking where the silverware and glasses are stored. He knows exactly where in the fridge the milk resides. And he doesn’t have to figure out which remote operates the television and which button mutes the commercials. On the other hand, our complicated system with three different remotes confuses him.

But, to be fair, they confuse me, too. So it’s not necessarily about age or diminishing vision.

Yet, Dad cannot see the dirt in the refrigerator shelves or the mysterious splotch of gunk at the bottom of the vegetable drawer – so my sister and I surreptitiously clean it when he’s not around. 

Or I off-handedly mention that I’m doing laundry and will wash his sweater that has stains from food that fell off his fork at dinner the night before. When he does laundry, he cannot see the spots requiring pre-treatment, so their clothes come out of the dryer still stained. And to see my once-dignified, capable, and always-in-control parents wearing stained clothing makes me so sad.

So, yes, I’m lucky that I can still scrub a tub or clean the floor or wash the inside of the fridge.  I’m lucky that I can do laundry and our clothes are clean and (relatively) free of permanent stains. And I’m lucky that I still know how old my niece is or where I left my purse – even if I sometimes have those brief lapses when I forget where I left my keys.

Ah, but doesn't it look clean and organized?!
Aging happens to the best of us, despite every attempt we make at staying young. So today, especially, I’m reminding myself that I am lucky.  I may not wake up full of energy and completely pain-free (and unwrinkled) as I did in my younger years, but I woke up capable of accomplishing most of the things on my to-do list.  

Well, except perhaps the one thing on my list. Replacing the burned out light bulb in the 15 foot ceiling in the living room might just be beyond my capabilities today. But, hey, I never claimed to be Superwoman!

And instead of sighing as I haul yet another load of clothes from the dryer to the bedroom to fold and hang and put away, I am taking a moment to look at the canvas print in my laundry room that reads: “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

Hmmm.  Truer words…

So however you spend your day, take time to appreciate and enjoy it. For these ARE the big things. 

And, yes, even the cleaning out the fridge thing. 

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