Sunday, August 15, 2010

Reflections on a long day

Today's day trip to Harrisonburg was fun, but exhausting, both physically and emotionally. I really wanted to go to the Virginia Quilt Museum , but I'll have to save that for another day. Instead, the kids and I went to the Harrisonburg Children's Museum, which had free admission since it was National Children's Day, or some such thing. It was small and modest, but perfect for my age kids.

Trying on the football gear (it's funny, the football gear was right next to the pretend ambulance - coincidence? I think not.)

Rock wall climbing

In the cutest pretend barn you ever saw, collecting eggs from stuffed chicken puppets while wearing cowboy boots and cowboy hats

After we painted our own faces (note, we kept our facepaint on for the remainder of the day, which got us some stares and giggles at the gas station, the retirement home, the restaurant, the highway - I hope I made someone's day with my silliness)

When the museum kicked us out at closing time, we walked up the street for some homemade ice cream. Yum!

Then it was off to visit our old neighbors who moved away two years ago to live in a retirement community. First, they moved into a home, but as dementia became more cumbersome for both of them, they moved into assisted living. This was our first visit to them since they moved to assisted living about 3 months ago.

I'm so glad I went to visit, but I've had a ball of tears sitting in my throat since we first walked in the door. My first thought was that their lives have shrunk so much. He worked for the State Department, and they lived all around the globe in their younger years. When they were my neighbors, they were retired and caring for their beautiful home that they had built themselves on their 8 acres of heaven. Now, they are living in two meager rooms that, combined, are smaller than my dining room. I had brought them a dessert ready to pop in the oven to bake, a Peach Crisp made from peaches that my co-worker picked from her own tree and brought in to me, angel that she is. However, they don't have a kitchen or any way to cook or keep it, so I discretely brought it back out to the car with me when we left. This for a woman who greeted me with fresh baked cookies on the day we moved in, and who never once let me come over without offering coffee or tea and a treat.

My second thought was that losing your memory has to be the cruelest thing there is. Jason asked them how many children they had, and it took some time for them to remember. When we went out to eat (to a buffet, of all places, what a terrible idea for a party of two active kids, two senile adults and one bewildered and beleaguered woman trying to keep track of everyone), every time they got up, they sat back down at a different table and I kept having to go find them and bring them back to our table. The husband never spoke our names the whole time we were with him - I'm pretty sure he had no idea who we were, but was happy for the company nonetheless. I can't count the number of times I heard one or the other of them say "I don't remember".

My final thought was that I need to enjoy and appreciate my loved ones every day that we have together. I wish I had visited them more when we were neighbors (of course, maybe THEY wouldn't have wanted me over there any more than I already was), I wish I had asked more questions and absorbed more of their wisdom while it was still readily available for them to share. I wish they were still the same friends that I knew and loved, whom I could look up to and rely on. It is selfish of me, I know, but I'm not ready to be the responsible, older and wiser generation - I still want to leave that to others so I can go to them when my young, inexperienced, naive self needs help. I claim to embrace change, but in this sense, I do not.
Are you depressed yet? Let me lighten the mood, first with a photo of the wall in the women's restroom at the museum - I love the whimsical paint job as well as the sentiment expressed.
And I've seen this building every time I've gone to Harrisonburg, and every time I have gone out of my way to drive by it multiple times - I think it is so neat. So this time, much to the amusement of my children, I stopped and took a photo.
Wouldn't you just love to go inside? I sure would. Of course, I'm happy enough just to gaze upon the outside - the detailing on the porch, above the windows, that neat windowed room(?) at the top. One of my favorite pasttimes is walking or driving past homes and trying to imagine the lives that are lived there. I wonder if anyone ever does that when they drive past my house (of course, since I live on a dead end dirt road with only 2 families up beyond us, we don't get a lot of traffic past our house). But if they did, I would want to assure them that the lives lived here are full to bursting, full of color and noise and chaos and peace and happiness and awe and irreverence and laughter and love.


Angela said...

Your comments about the older couple brought a tear to my eye - reminded me of my grandma. Good for you for visiting them, even if they may not remember it today. I am sure they enjoyed the time and attention

Becky said...

Whoa......a roller coaster post, for sure!! So much for me to think upon!
Love the museum pictures. You and the fellas do such neat things! I hear ya about not wanting to be the "adult". I have had to be in this position several times and it is yucky every time. I love the house!!! The windowed room on the top was known as the "widows walk". It is said that wives of seamen would walk it looking for ships at sea...and sometimes their spouse would not return. Beautiful home!

Barb H said...

Erin, life is continually full of change--in our children, in ourselves and in our elders. Such is human nature. Life is a circle and you went full circle on your day to Harrisburg. Embrace it, shed your tears, and enjoy the laughter as well. When it's your time to be the responsible, wiser person, you will be ready for it, I know, and those you will be caring for will be fortunate for having you there.

Quilting in My Pyjamas said...

Glad you had so much fun at the Museum. I hope you didnt forget to wash your moustache off the next day. Too funny that you walked round all day with that getup on. I once wore a macaroni necklace to an executive meeting because I promised Miss P I wouldnt take it off all day.

I often wish I had been able to talk more to my grandmother before she passed away about her childhood and family, but she wasnt the talkative kind. In the end you've had this wonderful relationship with your former neighbours and as sad as it is - often when we age life changes significantly.

quiltfool said...

I can see why people stared. You guys have so much fun! Can Sydney and I come stay with you next summer? Heck, can I come stay with you next summer? It's terribly sad to watch the faculties of a friend fade. But, I'm glad you went to see them and hope you will again. They may not remember which table to sit at, but on occasion, they remember something terribly important to share. Lane

Stephanie said...

Looks like so much fun! Got to get the fun in before school starts! Steph