Diana June

A soldier’s wedding
Barely and almost nineteen
Christmas Eve married

So much time apart
Military standard time
God and Country first

She had our baby
He was our only miracle
He amazes me

First came Germany
Then came a year in Vietnam
I could not give more

We made a new life
Success moved us to Texas
It was not enough

After sixteen years
Something was not right with me
Then we fell apart

Her anger still lives
Remarriage not withstanding
We both love our son

I still remember
All she sacrificed for us
She deserves applause

This is her birthday
Her cake holds many candles
I still wish her well

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Dementia Comes Home

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A friend for 30 years (I will use the name” Jason”) goes ballistic; Jason verbally attacks me, ranting and raving with scary yelling and gestures.  The trigger:  I have no opinions about the significance of the day after Halloween (All Saints’ Day).  The next day Jason calls like nothing happened; I remind him, he swears he does not remember; we have a normal, friendly talk, so,  I write the outburst off as several  “senior moments.”

The next week a group of mutual friends and I are at a weekly lunch meeting.  We are chatting about faux pas and embarrassing mistakes we have made.  One friend (let’s call him “Chad”) tells a humorous story about when he sent an email to his boss that was a passionate message to his wife.  We laugh and tease him, like guy friends always do.

Suddenly, Jason raises his voice and wags a finger at this “stupid screw-up.”  He rails and berates Chad until Chad gets up and walks out of the restaurant.  Then Jason follows Chad into the parking lot and beats on his window, still yelling.  Five minutes later, he comes back, smiles at everyone, and asks me if I can stay after lunch to talk about an idea he has for a photography business.  He was clear and pleasant the whole time; he was the friend I know again.

Jason’s problem becomes traumatically real to me.  Alzheimer’s, or bipolar, schizophrenia, mad cow disease, I am at a complete loss.  Does he have a brain tumor?  Has he taken some mood-altering drugs?  Is he still going to be the friend I have known all these years?  Is he some kind of hybrid being, who “identifies” differently some days, or hours?  Has old age stolen his mind?  I am confused, sad, and worried.  What should I do?

My nature is to research problems before I act.  I discover that his condition is probably medical.  Advancing age is fraught with declines, distortions, amplifications of who we are.  What people dread most, is not death; it is the loss of independence and identity.

My research yielded interesting, enlightening, conflicting, and vague ideas.  The mysteries of Alzheimer’s and Grumpy Old Man syndrome are beyond us now.  I am going to make the best suggestions I can to give Jason a chance to live independently, to retain his self-respect, and to let his friends know when he needs them.

Phase 1.  Find out what he can about what is happening to him.  Whatever it takes to know what he is dealing with.  Doctors, tests, interviews, and the lot of modern medicine.  Most likely, they will be semi-inconclusive.  Mood shifts, forgetting, risk taking, those are the symptoms.  Jason will have to choose a path, a theory, a diagnosis he can pursue.  He cannot do everything, but he can do some things.

Phase 2.  Implement the universal common denominators of healthy lifestyle.  All bids for health share wellness and mindfulness as crucial, non-pharmaceutical elements (although medication might be needed for some things).

  • Complete examination
  • Enough good:
    • Sleep
    • Hydration
    • Exercise
    • Nutrition
  • Stable daily routines
  • Thinking/learning/puzzles
  • Stress management/mindfulness
  • Social/spiritual support

Phase 3.  Comply with doctors’ orders.  Try everything long enough to be a fair trial.

  • Take all prescribed medications when and how the prescriptions direct.
  • Show up for appointments and tests
  • Give regular feedback on efficacy of treatments

Phase 4.  Accept your mortality.

  • We all exit this world, unexpectedly. Be gracious until then
  • We all get to choose our friends, revere who we love, and forgive our families
  • Acknowledge your family, friends, doctors
  • Add to that acknowledgement list
  • Do not hold back because you feel vulnerable or embarrassed

I do not think we can guess who will be our Jason, or to whom we will be a Jason.  Maybe these thoughts could help.

 

Transconfusion – “Identity“ Detached from Reality

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I wonder if anyone is clear about what these various “my body is this form, but I feel like another form” discussions yield?  In our society, a body with a penis is male, and a body with a vagina is female.  That is a physical, sexual distinction.  This distinction is important to procreation, on a purely biological basis.  Females have the capacity to bring a fertilized egg, to embryo, through gestation, to live birth of a new person.  Males do not.  This is bisexual reproduction, without dispute.  Early humans could not alter this law of nature.  The fact that our world now has 7 billion people, is testament to  this:  vive la différence(I know that physiology can be unclear in up to 1.7 percent of the world’s population, according to the UN, but let’s let the outliers lie out there.)

Then we have society.  Sex is physical, gender is cultural, based on the expected roles and behaviors of men and women.  Most of these expectations have evolved from physical traits and expanded family traditions.  To act like a man was to think, speak, and act in ways that the alpha male did. Little boys worked at being like their father or big brother.   Likewise, to act like a woman was to conform to the ways of other women, take cues from their mother and other female models.

Yet, humans have gone through amazing, changing models for men and women.  Three centuries ago men wore fancy silk and satin clothes, high heels, wigs, and makeup.  They moved and spoke in ways modern Americans would associate with women.  We have also seen the division of labor of the past shift mightily.  The roles and responsibilities of men and women are more alike than ever.

We inherited our intricate social structure and laws from humans who managed to survive and procreate.  In any culture, to deviate from those complex behaviors was to jar the stability of, and threaten the survival of a family/community.  Failure to conform to the spoken and unspoken rules of society was an invitation to punishment.

Homosexuality did not bear the fruit of children, which was a threat to the future of the community.  Religions proclaim that it is a duty to God for people be fruitful, and forbid non-fruitful behaviors.  Some religions even promoted polygamy to increase the number of children added to their flock.  Being “non-fruitful” by having sex without the possibility of children was a sin.  Such sins were often punishable by shaming, shunning, physical punishment, death, or exile.  No one questioned the wisdom of the “scriptures.”

When societies expanded and advanced to the point that extinction was not as great a fear, people felt safer to allow themselves to be “non-fruitful.”  Homosexuality was tolerated along with other “sins,” and “debauchery.”

Only recently, has America made homosexuality legal and sanctioned homosexual marriages.

But here is where I get confused:  what exactly is “transgender?”  At first, I thought it meant a homosexual who took action to physically gain the attributes of the opposite sex.  Sounds painful and expensive to me; and not all men make pretty women.

But now I hear that transgender can mean that a person “identifies” as another sex without the physical transformation.  I was surprised that Bruce/Kaitlin Jenner “identifies” as a woman, has gained breasts, grown long hair, bought a wardrobe of women’s clothing, but retains male genitalia. You think, maybe, he “identifies” as both male and female?

I am also hearing about people who call themselves transgender who do nothing physical, just “identify.”  Boys who “identify” as girls, but are still physically boys, want to go to the girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms.  Homosexuals have always used the bathrooms of their physical sex.  What is different with transgenders who are physically boys or girls?  For me, as long as the difference in preference or identity is not represented by your body, I say, your body determines which school or public facilities to use.

 

 

 

Is it Important to Know the Sources of Truth? – Henry David Thoreau, Yes and Know

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Maybe it has always been this way, but why does it seem so vital to associate an insightful aphorism with a famous person?

“Truth strikes us from behind, and in the dark, as well as from before and in broad day-light.”

Who wrote this? Henry David Thoreau.  Beautiful in its truth and simplicity.  But what if some insignificant playwright put these words on Thoreau’s lips in his play?  Would it be less insightful?

There is a plague of mis-quotations, mis-attributions, and quotation mills, (e.g. brainyquotes.com) who do nothing to verify what people add to their sites.  I see these un-researched and inaccurate quotes used by people of incredible ability because the Internet makes it easy to be wrong and believe you are right.

When I first started seeing these “quotes.” and discovered how few were accurate, I spent months trying to raise the alarm about quotes attributed to Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and other notable historic figures.  Even after blazing the trail to truth, people shrugged and continued their reliance on provably unreliable websites.

One personal experience, before the current craze, happened to me in Colorado, while I was on a month-long “Chautauqua” through the Rocky Mountains.  A friendly lady gave me a bookmarker with a quotation from Henry David Thoreau.  “Many men fish all their lives without ever realizing that it is not the fish they are after.”  Very touching and insightful, but a misquote by a writer, Michael Baughman, who wrote it in his book A River Seen Right (Lyons Press, 1995) p. 156.

He apparently paraphrased something Thoreau wrote in his journal, January 26, 1853:

“It is remarkable that many men will go with eagerness to Walden Pond in the winter to fish for pickerel and yet not seem to care for the landscape. Of course, it cannot be merely for the pickerel they may catch; there is some adventure in it; but any love of nature which they may feel is certainly very slight and indefinite. They call it going a-fishing, and so indeed it is, though perchance, their natures know better. Now I go a-fishing and a-hunting every day, but omit the fish and the game, which are the least important part. I have learned to do without them. They were indispensable only as long as I was a boy. I am encouraged when I see a dozen villagers drawn to Walden Pond to spend a day in fishing through the ice, and suspect that I have more fellows than I knew, but I am disappointed and surprised to find that they lay so much stress on the fish which they catch or fail to catch, and on nothing else, as if there were nothing else to be caught.”

I wonder, if today, this aphorism captures our current, self-absorbed culture?  Maybe today, the “fishing” is taking “selfies” and exposing every aspect of people’s experience and perspective on the Internet.  They get noticed but not notorious, or famous, or even infamous.  They become suicidal when virtual phantoms express disdain and scorn.

Everybody seems to be fishing for something, but what do they really want and why?

What they may really want is proof, and acknowledgment that they exist and have a value, and a meaning.  Why do they want it?  Maybe the disintegration of family, neighborhood, community leaves a void they cannot fill.  Maybe this secular dissociation leaves people feeling empty, afraid, and alone.

Could it be that what they really want is what families and churches used to provide:  love and belonging?