Warning: array_slice() expects parameter 1 to be array, boolean given in /home/uvatha/public_html/kayhoflander/wp-content/plugins/my-twitter-widget/widget.php on line 164

Warning: key() expects parameter 1 to be array, null given in /home/uvatha/public_html/kayhoflander/wp-content/plugins/my-twitter-widget/widget.php on line 164

Tag Archive: Emily Dickinson

May 01

All sad hearts need a little madness in the spring – (From my archived columns, first published in The Examiner, May 22, 2008)

flowersinyourhairA little madness in the spring is wholesome even for the King,”
– Emily Dickinson.

The merry month of May with its proms, weddings, graduations, and reunions is the perfect time to wear our finery and spruce ourselves up a bit after a sunless and dreary winter.

It is also the perfect time to “dress up” if one’s life happens to be going very badly.

In a funk because the ATM ate your debit card, the cell phone is lost once again, or because the expected economic stimulus check has not arrived yet?

Perhaps you are simply sick of the weather or you want the school year to end and hurry up about it.

Of course, there is no point at all mentioning how high gas prices drive our good spirits and normally cheerful moods completely downhill.

In the face of such despair, what are we sadsacks to do?

My solution–dress up, and I mean really, really dress up, and go somewhere fancy.

My friend Gladice did, and believe me she has more reasons than most of us to “get her dobber down.”

But she did not do that, and therein lies her story.

In the early spring months, Gladice endured a string of sad and grievous life events, one after another. Her father died unexpectedly and in mere weeks her husband died. Both deaths were sudden and both men in her life were vitally important to her wellbeing.  Both were relatively young men thus adding to her disbelief.

Despite dealing with the onslaught of grief and despite trying to raise two sons without her husband’s income, Gladice hung in there. She never lost her smile, and that is the first thing friends and acquaintenances noticed about her—a glowing countenance and composure.

Soon help and donations flowed to her family.

Yet, she needed more to alleviate the sadness, something cash and gift cards could not fix.

She needed to put flowers in her hair, dress up, and go out on the town.

One day friend Janice announced to Gladice, “Let’s get dressed up and go out. It is time.” And so off they went to an exclusive restaurant and ordered filet mignon.

Gladice decided to wear make-up and dress up fancy, something she does not like to do as a rule.  However, this time was different.

It was spring after all.

Janice knew Gladice deserved a good time, an elegant dress, a new hairdo, an evening out. Surely it would make her feel better.

Whether or not we have as many reasons as Gladice for sadness, we can follow her lead as how to get out of it.

As Edwin Way Teale observed, “All things seem possible in May,” and I would add, especially if you dress up and put flowers in your hair.

Jan 19

Alzheimer’s, a season of ‘lasts’

“Old age comes on suddenly, and not gradually as is thought.” – Emily Dickinson

Most stories about Alzheimer’s catch my eye, but none more than one I read this past week, a USA Today story about a family’s ongoing blog about Alzheimer’s.

I am interested in this because my mother, 94, was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s more than 12 years ago. We have been in the throes of this dreaded disease ever since, so naturally I am interested in everything Alzheimer’s. And I must admit, I worry about getting it myself.

The story mentioned above is named simply Bob’s Blog, a personal journal kept in association with USA Today. It is about Bob Blackwell, 69, a retired and once brilliant and highly talented CIA analyst who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s five years ago.

At first, he started writing about his battle with the illness, but soon thereafter, his wife Carol took over blogging about their personal journey.

She tells poignant, sometimes humorous and always loving tales about their daily lives. Recently, Carol has been writing the blog they keep for USA Today about “the season of lasts — listing things Bob has done for the last time. He has been a lifelong fan of University of Georgia football, for instance, but following the games last fall was too challenging.”

And on and on the list of “lasts” continues.

Carol writes: “Here we are, and there’s no cure and no promise of a cure…I know it’s too late for a cure for Bob, the disease has moved into many parts of his brain, but I’m praying for my children and grandchildren. We have to find a cure.”

If you are close to someone who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s, I imagine that you drink in every word as well on the subject of finding a cure for future generations and for ourselves.

Unfortunately, the very definition of Alzheimer’s is indeed foreboding.

Health reporter Janice Lloyd describes Alzheimer’s as “a form of dementia that causes progressive loss of intellectual and social skills, the only disease among the top killers for which there is no prevention, cure or treatment that will slow its progression”.

We hear constantly in the news these days that disease is thought to run in families and the growth of Alzheimers, the projected number of people over the age of 65 in the U.S., is now in the millions.

WebMD further explains: “Dementia is considered a late-life disease because it tends to develop mostly in elderly people. About 5 to 8 percent of all people over the age of 65 have some form of dementia, and this number doubles every five years above that age. It is estimated that as many as half of people in their 80s suffer from dementia.”

I find better news in the fact that new efforts are being made to raise public awareness, provide more funding for research and speed up the timeline to find a cure.

And even better news in the fact that once in awhile our loved ones with Alzheimer’s emerge ever so briefly from the fog and come back, sometimes long enough for us to catch a glimmer of the person we used to know.

For example, the other day I could not get my mother to open her eyes. It was lunchtime at the special care Alzheimer’s unit where she resides.

I tried to entice her to smell and taste her food and to take a sip of coffee, which incidentally she has adored her entire life.

It was the coffee I gave her that I believe brought her back to life. Right away, she opened her eyes and smiled. Then she squealed, “Oooooo, coffee. That’s good.” She then turned to a neighbor at the dining table and said, “Have you met my mother”, pointing to me. Looking at me she said, “Kay Jean (the name she has always called me) have you met my mother?”

And that is how it goes most days, but this particular day she recognized the smell and taste of coffee and said “ooooo, that’s good”, and for ever so briefly, she was back.

Dec 02

Hoping for decorations to reappear on I-70 cedar trees

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”–Linus Van Pelt from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, 1965

It is the week after Thanksgiving and that is when I begin to watch for the magically decorated cedar trees to appear along I-70 in eastern Jackson County.

You know the trees.

Those little cedars that sit alone on highway embankments and beg for attention. They remind me of Charlie Brown’s forlorn little tree from the classic television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

In recent years, whoever faithfully decorated those trees in the 80s and 90s stopped.

I wrote about this before as have others, all wondering why. Was it a sad widower who decorated those trees out of love for his late wife?

Were there several people who randomly decorated the trees just for the pleasure of surprising others and spreading Christmas joy?

For whatever reason, I wish they would do it again.

Perhaps there are highway department reasons barring decorating trees along the interstate highways or simply the fact that it is not an easy task to do.

One must walk down precipitous banks while carrying the adornments, circle the garland around the tree, all in the dark of night without being seen by car headlights.

Otherwise if not at night, where would be the magic?

On the same subject, I recently noticed a similar AP story by Wayne Parry who wrote about a roadside Secret Santa in New Jersey:

“An annual Christmas mystery is playing itself out again along a busy New Jersey highway”. A secret Santa is once again surreptitiously hanging ornaments from a large pine by the side of the Garden State Parkway in the dead of night.”

The highway department there says they are not responsible. In fact, no one has claimed responsibility. As the story goes, for the fourth year in a row, ornaments appear gradually and eventually grow to about a dozen by Christmas.

The mystery is enthralling to watch.

But I digress; back to our own Charlie Brown cedars along I-70 in western Missouri and a story that bears repeating.

Thousands of motorists along Interstate 70 watched each December for the first sighting of the decorated cedars; thousands wondered who was responsible.

The sweet and simple decorations brought joy to hurried souls traveling the busy highway. For the briefest moment, surprised motorists believed in the magic of things that cannot be seen and in the wonder of it all.

At the very least, they made us smile.

I miss them terribly and if it weren’t for my arthritic knees I might be climbing those highway banks myself in the dark of night.

I must leave that to the more athletic among us.

Some of those trees, however, are close to the outer road and technically doable.

I wonder.

“Before the ice is in the pools, before the skaters go, or any cheek at nightfall is tarnished by the snow. Before the fields have finished, before the Christmas tree, wonder upon wonder will arrive to me.”—Emily Dickinson

Older posts «