Living in the past….

Living in the past: that’s almost as bad as ‘dwelling on the past’. Both are, figuratively speaking, possible and each are just as likely to bring as much pain as gain! Perhaps, like me, you occasionally indulge in both and know  how depressingly destructive that can be; life’s like that: yesterday, today and tomorrow – but the one to pay heed to is today and to use that as the springboard to plan for tomorrow!

Today is the important, possibly the most important day of my life. What I am as a person today is the product of all my yesterdays and all the people who helped to shape and fill them, at work and at play. Remembering past times is still possible for me but for folk affected by Alzheimer’s the past is most often lost or distorted. If, like me, you can remember your ‘yesterdays’ that’s a blessing to be valued and cherished. The flip side is that some memories will be sad or hurtful; the trick is to not let those aspects become dominant and destroy our wellbeing or, worse, disturb those around us.

One of the ways I cope with my present lifestyle is to avoid living in the past with its hurts, worries and wrongs so that it alone doesn’t define me. Of course I can still indulge or even revel in some recollections and they often help me to be positive and to live in the moment. My trick is to ‘turn the page’.

Long ago when I worked in corporate dispute settlement I learned to accept the inevitability of ‘differences’ in relationships and to seek for answers that provided a safe and secure journey ahead for all the parties. I learned that words spoken ‘in transit’ were not always meant to be ‘inked-in’ but used to fashion a solution for the future. Then, as now, we are shaped by past encounters but not entirely formed by any one of them in isolation.

So, most of us move on to each day; we look for a new opportunity to be of help to someone, to be happy for what we have, for what we have become and, hopefully, what we might become. It is good to be able to remember; but it’s not good when we live in the past. Let’s seize today, to live and hope and pray….and always plan….for tomorrow!

Postscript: I wrote most of the above notes before I left home to take a holiday break and will upload it from Fremantle in West Australia!

Health & Wellbeing

The word “wellbeing” wasn’t in use when my son’s “Concise Oxford Dictionary” was published! It’s commonly used these days and it is aptly descriptive and understood and neatly encapsulates the wholeness of our mind and body.

Recently I visited a friend in a Rehabilitation centre and unexpectedly discovered another friend there, both recovering from falls. As I was leaving, yet another surprise as I spotted a neighbour there, rehabilitating from a serious heart problem. Finding three people I knew esconced there, two as a result of falls, was a stark reminder of our fragility as we enter our eldermost years.

Perhaps we (me, anyway) don’t always recognise or admit the increased brittleness of our bones as we age – until it’s forced upon us with examples like that! Especially since then, I can see the necessity for my walking stick, my ‘friend at hand’, on my daily walks. Now, after seeing my friends with plaster casts and having to suffer the stress of lengthy and exhausting recovery exercises, it has amply reinforced the need for my trusty stick! Bone and muscle take a very long time to repair and recover when we have a few years under our belt….

That word ‘vulnerable’ describes us and all our resources, bodily and otherwise, as we age. In a flash, ready or not, our lives can change. Our hearts can ‘break’, too, not just our limbs – moving safely is only one aspect of our vulnerability. Recently we were reminded that our personal details, even our financial resources, could be at risk on the internet. And then there’s inflation which tends to erode and steal our capital savings anyway. Yes, we’re vulnerable in lots of ways.

I am always aware of how many people and families are affected by Alzheimer’s and how it robs us: it takes away those precious remembrances which otherwise could enrich our later years. Those vast storehouses of memories that most of us can recall at will, are valuable beyond words. And when that option fails, as it did with my wife, who has now passed away, I console myself with the thought that now, today, is the day that counts –  tomorrow can wait till I’m ready!

I know that unless I take firm, positive, creative steps – including writing these epistles to myself – I will fall, metaphorically, into a state of mind where nothing seems quite right anymore. When that happens, and sometimes it does, it saps my energy and my worth, and it’s only by the grace of God that I find the way out and up again. That way also includes walking, listening to music, reading a book, watching an interesting TV show, visiting someone, writing these notes and oh, yes, making a cuppa tea, whilst plottting for my next adventure. I did start writing about wellbeing, didn’t I?

P.S. Sweet sherry in tiny doses is also good.

Connections

Now there’s a word with a multitude of meanings, connection! But in the personal sense it simply means not being alone. Sometimes it doesn’t much matter whether we are connected to a person or a device. But I reckon, to be meaningful, it is a relationship with another human being – in the flesh, so to speak.

Of course, there is value in being a part of a worldwide web, but that’s not an option, anyway, for thousands of older folks who for many reasons, were never able to quite come to terms with this ‘modern technology’. And it is difficult to enter that world from scratch! It also means you need, at least, a Smartphone – “but the characters are SO small”; or a Tablet – not the kind you take three times a day with water, but a device – like an iPad. Or maybe you need a Notebook – not the ones used for notes – but the fold-up thing often called a Laptop. See, we’ve only just started and I’ve confused you!

Being connected is most important when it refers to the personal link we have with another human being, and that link is clearly lacking for lots of us oldies, especially when we are not even slightly computer literate.

Recently I attended a gathering where a small group of mixed gender older people were encouraged to explore and identify what is involved with “Social Connection and Participation”. Now there’s a can of worms! (Actually, that was only one part of the day-long consultation; I’ll talk about the other topics at another time). The social needs of older folk like me clearly extends way outside an internet connection; it’s as varied as the stars in the sky! So, I was interested to hear how each person in the group valued their available range of connections, and to discover that most participants were keen to “belong”. Of course, the most-wanted connection was to belong to a family. When that was not possible, for a myriad of reasons, the lack was felt profoundly, and the resultant isolation felt even more acutely when the person was immobilised.

The absence of family or a buddy is more than a disconnection. In discussion we all agreed how some friends and family sometimes don’t quite have that perspective. Many elders outlive their partners and erstwhile friends and that’s why it’s vital to encourage them to belong to community groups for fellowship, friendship, and some fun. That need is often met by club memberships or attendance at local council activities and libraries, all of which are a rich source of support.

The lack of transport, especially personalised, is a barrier to connection and participation, indeed a deterrent. Our gathering also identified the importance of encouraging our less-mobile friends to extend their interests and past hobbies, and that socially based groups can fill many needs, both online and in person. We all need to recognise what could/must be done to achieve those ‘unwired’ connections for our friends and neighbours.

Renewal

Renewal is a word that presupposes something has lapsed and needs a restart. It’s a word that becomes a yearning, for us when we become tired or jaded. Renovation is a similar word that describes our aspiration for a new beginning after the isolation of COVID and all the other changes we’ve endured over recent years. Whether you prefer renewal or renovation doesn’t matter; both words will resonate equally as a worthy objective as we emerge into a rapidly changing world.

Recently I was able to make an interstate trip to visit the second addition of a Great-grandchild to our family. A fine young man in the making, a cousin to my first Great-granddaughter. It was a real treat, a joyful and happy encounter with the newest part my loving family. And then it was such a thud to come home to a cold, empty house. Seeing the vibrancy and the joie de vivre of my children and grandchildren and their young progeny has heightened the lack of that quality in me! It was a pleasantly busy time as the family ensured there was something to keep me on the go each day. Reminiscing now about the joy of that visit is wonderful and serves to remind me that we need to make our memories, not just imagine them.

Daydreaming is pleasant but doesn’t usually achieve or promote any physical activity, such solitary mental gymnastics can easily lead to lethargy; a state of mind and body that’s neither good for me nor those with whom I have contact. Often, we need something else to jolt us out of feeling introspective and miserable, particularly after all the isolation periods of the last couple of years. Certainly, I seem to have lost my youthful spark, my mojo, as they say these days. Don’t want to get up in the morning, can’t be bothered doing anything much at all…. every little chore is a challenge. As my readers will be aware, my prayers to a caring God continue to sustain and strengthen me, so parts of my psyche are well nourished. However, and despite my daily dedicated walking regime, there remains the need for some other mental, physical, and social rejuvenation, so I’ve been thinking on how to achieve that.

Clearly, I need to spice up my life a little, while I can. I console myself with the belief that to enliven myself is not selfish. I have convinced myself to make a justifiable attempt, while I am well enough, to be a person with a better and hopefully happier disposition. Now, having just had that tiny taste of travel again, I am hungering for a more comprehensive personal overhaul, a sort of remake. What’s more, I have determined to do something about it

Now, having convinced myself of the need to invigorate my surly self, I have begun to plan a longer break. Yes, I know that might be a bit risky in these coronavirus days, but I will press on and look for a possible ‘escape’, a time away from where I live. Dorothy, my late beloved wife, was not only a wonderful cook and soulmate but also an excellent home finance manager. The result of our combined frugality now enables me to afford a diversion from the grief of her loss, and the means to escape the solitude of the last few years. I’m on the hunt for a holiday! I may well discover most of our Australian vacation venues are overbooked for this year, but – nothing ventured, nothing gained. Or maybe next year….

I realise that many of my readers are fully occupied in caring for their loved one and cannot easily take that kind of timeout for a holiday, almost at any time. And I also know that it would probably then be a solo break accompanied with some feelings of guilt; I remember that, too, only too well. Separation can be hurtful for you both, but the fact that you still have each other and can be together is the consolation. You are using the time you have, now, to reinforce your love and to share whatever you can. But do take a break, just a few days might suffice – some space is critical for you both! That’s not being selfish, it’s helping your partner, too, because when you are in good spirits and more placid, only then you can be a blessing to them and others who share your life-space.

Maybe you, too, could consider reinventing or rehabilitating yourself to become more valued to those who love you. Don’t let yourself relapse – take a break of some kind, do your best to renovate and renew!

Real Estate?

As a child I could never quite see why those two words had to be together! Separately, they had a recognisable meaning, I knew what ‘real’ meant and later, understood what an estate was, but wondered why those words were constantly joined together.

Pairing the right words to make sense is much the same as joining two people for the same purpose! Finding the right partner makes sense for even more good reasons. Alone we could easily become lost on our journey but it’s far less likely when we are together with the right person. Indeed, it is truly amazing what can be achieved together; that’s how I think of my marriage to Dorothy. It’s fine to talk about the power of one but, let’s face it, most of us need to be ‘paired’ to walk the road of life without too many wobbles. What a difference when a load (or a joy) is shared!

Thinking about the word ‘real’ lead me to consider relationships and how we need to face reality in our lives. It is so easy to drift into a way of life that becomes self-centred with little or no regard to others, even a partner, and sometimes we need a jolt to face reality. Like real estate we are all different. Even two identical houses will not be the same, each one furnished, heated and cooled differently and used for different activities. Like us, they will also need different maintenance.

As Dorothy’s Alzheimer’s intensified and became more complex I struggled with the reality of it. For a long time, I refused to accept it was anything other than just getting older and, like me, becoming more forgetful. Our children could see it from afar. I was so close it was not apparent in the same way. And the consequences meant a heavy toll on my ability to cope. Over time, perhaps like you, my reader, I ultimately recognised that our lives had become more complex and finally accepted that we both needed help.

Thus began my journey with Dorothy as a different person to the girl I’d married sixty years ago. In the beginnings of those last years there were, nevertheless, many happy times and we were able, albeit fleetingly, to re-live some of the many wonderful experiences we’d shared earlier. We could communicate with each other, even in those last days, sometimes with a giggle, a smile – even a hearty laugh or a hand-squeeze, or simply by sitting together. But progressively those joyful moments became more rare and there were times when she didn’t even recognise me.

I treasure, and always will, the precious memories of earlier years when we were able to share a total awareness of each other. Those days were the ‘real state’ of happiness for many of us who can still remember!

Focus

To do any job, to drive a car, cook a meal, to help someone, in fact to do everything we need a degree of concentration – and focus. When that focus is centred only on our loved one it can become constant and intense, virtually an obsession that ‘blinds’ us to other aspects, to the bigger picture.

In earlier times when I was caring for Dorothy at home, I developed a kind of alertness that could be called a ‘single or narrow focus’. I was switched-on and alert all the time, twenty-four hours a day. For ages, I didn’t realise that I was virtually excluding everything else from my mind and my life. As a result, I could never then quite see beyond the immediate scenario; captive to a restricted lifestyle. I was constantly tired, even lethargic, and certainly less able to be a stimulating companion. It was hard, sometimes challenging work, but a labour of love.

Other people, our friends, our family and medical staff, each with their own unique perspective are more able to focus on us and see our total lifestyle. They see the bigger picture easier than we can manage – they have a ‘wide-angle view’, one that as carers, we can fail to see or understand. Only when we consciously step back, take time out and get some help, can we properly and safely assess the whole of our circumstances.

It took me quite a while, too long, to realise that Alzheimer’s had crept into our lives and we needed to seek help; then later, as a carer, to see the need to periodically take a break – to become refreshed and better able to cope. It is so important for carers to stop and smell the flowers; to pause from routine, to step outside the circumstances of the day, even of the moment.

Caring means so much more than kindness or concern, it encompasses a vast range of actions and emotions. It’s true we all care for something or some person, and care requires a commitment. It’s more than just work or love, and we apply ourselves to it in various and complex ways; it’s what defines us. But it always requires the carer to be ‘fit for purpose’. Simply put, that means we’re no good for anything if we don’t care about ourselves. So, I’m writing this for you, my reader, to remind you of that fact!

It is often said that ‘variety is the spice of life’ and I think we’d all agree. And it’s especially true for those who have the care of someone at home (and for the staff at care homes). Being in the same place and repeatedly doing the same regular routines can take its toll. There is certainly a place for familiar routines but, over time, the constancy and repetitious sameness can become depressing and debilitating. It can affect a whole family, indeed a wider circle of friends, not only of the person being cared for but, importantly and especially, the carer and their family and their circle. Constantly and consistency are not good bedfellows over time!

That’s why all of us, carers or not, need to re-charge our wellbeing batteries sometimes. A particularly vital role for all carers is to recognise and know when to re-energise. Then how to arrange a regular substitute carer – for an hour or two, or for a week or more. It is absolutely critical to plan and arrange that ‘me-time’. At least try to set aside some personal time each day or each week, no matter what your circumstances. Don’t give up caring for yourself! Have you noticed how tired you’ve become lately? If that’s so, then you simply must make an effort to get help. The time-out, for you and/or for your loved one, is respite time and without it you simply can’t effectively care for both of you, even with love. Families are often not able to provide that kind of help, so you might need to look for a respite carer yourself. Check out some of the available resources right here on this website (see above: ‘Links to useful sites’). All of us, including those who work in care homes, need to look after ourselves, mentally, physically, and socially, and ensure our diet is wholesome, too! Maybe you need help with meals, cooking, shopping, cleaning, and other things, and those links might help to get you started.

I well remember my ‘battery-charging’ event when I was able to place Dorothy at a nearby local facility for a whole week (MannaCare). She had her own bedroom, was involved in carefully managed joint activities every day, and was fed well-prepared meals. I visited her there during the week and had a meal with her. Good for her, good for me. It was also (although not planned at the time) an excellent chance to see how she coped in that environment. Later, I arranged for a whole-day session each week so I could have some regular me-time. Ultimately, as Dorothy’s Alzheimer’s progressed, I had to place her in full-time residential care at BlueCross Box Hill, where she was able to have excellent round-the-clock care and I could visit at any time (in those pre-COVID times!).

So, while you still have your partner at home, please make time to be a better carer/parent/friend – don’t become a worn-out drudge who’s no fun at all to be with! Keep your eye on the whole of your lifestyle. Like these new-fangled phones with whizzbang cameras, we need a ‘wide-angle focus’ to see the whole picture and get the exposure just right!

Giving you the drum…

“Tight as a drum” is an old saying, easily recognised by my readers as meaning ‘all tensed up’. Drummers will tell you the golden rule: ’Over-tightening will only stress and damage the instrument’. I have learned that the same rule also applies to us!

Recently I attended a small group session on-line when we were encouraged to recognise and avoid the consequence of ‘over-stress’. It’s quite normal that we feel stress in every aspect of our lives, and that’s OK. Some stress can sharpen our minds and, like a violin string, produce a beautifully correct outcome! It’s the ‘over’ part that’s the problem! Constant over-worrying, sadness, depression, or just being miserable is not only detrimental to our health it is also socially disastrous. Who wants to be in the company of someone full of misery about themselves? At times we all need to find a way out of that abyss when we can only see and feel worthlessness and insecurity; but it’s not easy, is it? That’s why I was heartened to think ‘outside the square’- or that bottomless pit! Because it’s true, isn’t it, that when we are feeling down it feeds on itself, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, and we become trapped there: the sadder I feel, the sadder I get.

The session suggested what should be obvious: that we learn to stop and take time out. To find a way to still our mind by simply concentrating on something outside of ourselves, to focus on an object or a space; to concentrate and visualise – anything. Try it! It does require a mental effort and a mindful step. I took that first step when I joined a small group of like-minded people and accepted some professional guidance. The result is that I now have a simple technique that helps me regain and restore a degree of normality, or at least sociability, when otherwise I might feel like crawling under a rock!

The method is like a self-administered tonic. No drugs, no pills. The key word is ‘stop’. Stop and clear your mind; stop every internal and external thought and current influence and simply focus on some ‘thing’ or object close by, or outside through the window. Sounds easy, eh? Stop frowning, clear your mind, and try it! So easy, and it works! Now you know my closely guarded non-secret, you can do it! Just stop. Sit comfortably and relax. It’s like taking your mind on a holiday, away from imagined pressing realities and necessities. The world kept spinning didn’t it?

With a settled mind and optionally with your eyes closed it becomes possible to ‘visualise’ – and that’s the key word. What you visualise in your mind’s eye can be anything – your choice. In my case, with eyes open I focussed on the gently waving tips of a nearby gum tree. Another participant explained later they thought about (with closed eyes!) the seashore, the smooth sand, and gentle breakers. Our facilitator used that scenario to then verbally take us down deep into the ocean, to a place where the surface turbulence was stilled, where it was peaceful and quiet. After we’d totally relaxed, and with a clear mind, we could take control of our upward journey again, back to reality. Refreshed and calm, not frowning and tensed. Maybe that won’t last…but we can go back, any time…..…..

That mental exercise demonstrated how we are totally capable of being in control; that our muddled minds can be gentler, relaxed, and competent, not mentally compromised, and certainly not stressed. We simply need to be self-aware. Aware of the destructiveness of tension and stress, which only feeds on itself.

So, from this point on I will try to not be a ‘frenzied friend’ who is no fun to be with. I’ll try to remember that a drum is a necessary part of a band and works best, like us all, when it’s not over-tight! I also learned at that session to value the ‘sounds of silence’……..

Winter Joy

I know a lady called Joy. She is, by nature, sweet and a pleasure to be with, most of the time. But, like the rest of us, I also know that she has her ‘down’ time, too. I’m reminded of that old rhyme by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, about the little girl who “When she was good, she was very good indeed, but when she was bad she was horrid”. Being horrid or even just being out of sorts is not confined to girls – us blokes have the same range of emotions! The feeling of joy can be fleeting, and, in winter months, it seems to fleet more often. The absence of joy in a person could show in many ways: as unhappiness, or grumpiness or, at its worst, depression.

I’m certainly not a psychologist, but some forms of depression don’t need much diagnosis. The effects may, or may not, be apparent to the sufferer, but certainly their friends will often perceive a difference in their behaviour. Most of us don’t have ‘clinical’ depression, thank goodness. Somehow we often get an inkling of a friend’s feelings when they are down or melancholy, or simply sad. And our friends and family will often be aware of the difference in their normal interactions with us and will begin to worry if our condition continues for more than a few days. Fortunately, for most of us, being ‘down’ is a short-term malfunction of our social life and we identify it and can usually take our own remedial action!

I know when I’m down…. Can’t be bothered doing anything – cooking, cleaning, shopping, even reading, it all seems so pointless. My personal immediate response to feeling down is to sleep. At it’s worst, that means not wanting to get up in the morning. And that usually follows a restless night when I have spent the wee hours reliving all the things that are not right in my life – in the past, now, and all the fears of the future. Usually, at my lowest, I remember God and I pray. And invariably that process includes identifying and summarising all sorts of thoughts and committing them to my Lord. Somehow that ultimately leads me to still waters, and I sleep. That’s not to say I always wake refreshed! The process can take days, but I have faith that it will work, and it does, and it continues to help me see beyond the winter of my mind.

Of course, there are other times when I feel worthless, weary, and unwanted. I sometimes deal with that by walking. Yes, I walk it off! There will come a time when I can’t walk, and then I will need to devise another strategy. Meanwhile, I walk the streets and parks in the area around where I live, sometimes with a chilled and constantly churning mind. Then I seek solace in stopping to smell the roses, to admire or despair at the state of suburban gardens, and delight in finding a low brick wall to sit on for a rest. I’m lucky that there aren’t many days when I can’t find a gap in Melbourne’s notoriously changeable weather that allows me to shuffle out for ramble.

It’s a bit hilly around here and that’s not a bad thing, ‘cos it forces me to breathe deeper and walk even slower when my heart beats faster. Those hills (that feel like mountains) also help to bring me back to reality when I ‘fence-sit’ to recover my wind and my wits, and consider whether to turn back or press on! The ‘recovery-stops’ help to ground my thoughts and rest my body. It’s then that I notice things up close: the kempt and unkempt front yards, the flowers, the grass, the traffic. The stillness and the movement seem to mirror my emotions and I thank God I am still able to experience the wonder and complexity of life wherever I am, indoors or outdoors.

Walking outdoors in winter, I am rugged up snugly in a warm jacket, a hat, and a scarf. Now wearing a facemask most of the time I am almost unrecognisable to the odd passer-by who, more often than not, doesn’t even respond to my hello. Never mind, I’m upright, on my feet and mobile with walking stick and, as I ramble on, it’s an enjoyable time to reminisce and re-live some of those past happy times . Behind my facemask, a passer-by won’t see what I’m smiling about when I see a bush we often sold in our little plant nursery (we ran one for ten years after my early retirement).

And when I get back from my walk, I seem to have forgotten all those depressing thoughts I took with me when I closed the door and set off. If it’s too wet, I’ll stay home and do a crossword or read a newspaper or a book.

So, there’s nothing quite like a walk with my Maker to straighten my back, lengthen my stride and sharpen my good memories …. and if Winter has come, can Spring be far behind?

Alleviate the suffering

Firstly, let me say that I understand not everyone survives COVID, and my sympathies are with those families who know that only too well. Most people, fortunately including me, survive it, here in metropolitan Melbourne, and this is a simple story of how I am getting through it.

My personal experience of it started, as for most folk, with just minor ‘cold’ symptoms which just got worse. Of course, they always feel worse when you can’t grizzle and moan about how crook you are to someone! Living alone does have a few disadvantages, and that’s one of them. I had been given a free pack of tests by my pharmacist – and have been able to see a happy, negative display line on the little pad on numerous previous occasions. But, feeling unsociable and slightly miserable, I thought I’d better test again; this time was to re-assure myself it was merely man-flu, a ‘cold in the head’.

I watched, spellbound, as the first all-clear marker emerged, then goggle-eyed as the second line materialised. I closed my eyes for a couple of seconds, willing the image to change. I repositioned my spectacles and looked again. Then, from my elevated health-righteous position, I came down to bare earth with a thud! There they were: the two significant, perfectly positioned red tram tracks across that little plastic pad! Panic! Repeat test! Same result!

What do I do now? What’s next? Where did it come from? Do I need help? Who? What?…. The questions were swirling in my mind. I couldn’t think clearly. Finally, my strained sanity started to subside (and of course, that explained why I’d had such a dreadful toss and turn, sleepless night….). It took a little while until I was able prioritise a sequence of responses: Firstly, who should I notify? Think… Doctor. I rang the office of my GP, left a message for her, and asked the receptionist “…what next?”. Easy, nothing else to do! That didn’t sound right, to me, even in my befuddled condition. Surely I needed to be added to the statistics? I did a little internet searching and, quickly and easily, discovered of course I DID need to report it. So accomplished that quite easily and instantly became another statistic! As I completed that task, I couldn’t help thinking about how deadly this infection could be…

Then my doctor rang ME! I think perhaps that is only the second time ever, and she was helpful and supportive. Nothing to worry about. Hmm, alright for some… but, here, it’s me…. I’m dying…. Is it possible that my use-by date could be nigh (I’ve already passed the ‘best before’). Fortunately, I can now say my doctor was right, and upon a calmer and more logical self-analysis, I didn’t really feel that bad! But that was the beginning and, as it turned out, the way it’s going to stay till next week, and sleepless nights had just begun. I think the worst is over, and I’m at ‘night no. 5’.

I had a lovely shower today, changed out of PJs into real clothes and made up the bed with fresh linen. The washing machine has been busy, too! Crosswords, some good Netflix, an interesting book, some writing, organising and preparing, and eating meals, and coping with the odd phone call – all of that is keeping me busy. I have no desire to go anywhere at present, especially as I can see out through the window that It’s raining …..

And that reminds me, yet again, of all those Australians, north of where I live, who are still suffering from the horrible destructive and ongoing devastation to their lives because of too much of that wet stuff. Indeed, some of us have much to be thankful for. With that in mind, I will dig into my savings and donate some funds to help alleviate the burden of those who are really suffering because of those floods; and I encourage you, my readers, to do the same if you can! Click here: Qld and NSW Floods Appeal | Australian Red Cross

Who’s celebrating?

These days, I sometimes forget Other People’s Birthdays (OPB). I do, somewhere, have list of family and friends whose special days I would like to jointly celebrate with a card or phone call or in some way send my loving greetings. I really don’t ‘do’ Facebook or any of that modern new ‘e-stuff’. I’ll admit that email is my preferred communicator, and I only begrudgingly (and hardly cope with) mobile phone stuff. And I’m not quite organised enough to deal with all the seemingly hundreds of birthdays and anniversaries and appointments and due dates and, and,…. Perhaps it’s because there are six or seven special places where I might have stored those OPB list/s that I don’t find any of them until after the event. And it’s not the same, is it, to phone or send a card a week or a month later, saying “Sorry, I forgot your birthday, but I really do still love you”? No, I’m guessing you’d agree, it’s better to let it slide, and move on….

That’s one of the reasons I am writing this piece. It’s especially for Axxx, one of my seven beautiful granddaughters. I can’t remember the other reasons, but one is that I simply couldn’t send her a card in time. And anyway, I forgot, and I can’t get to a post office in time and, even if I could, I can’t – because of COVID (I’ll write more about that later!)

Look, I know birthdays are always special, but the rest of you, my mob and my friends, shouldn’t expect this sort of Special Birthday Greeting posted on ‘the Web’- it’s definitely not going to happen! My OPB list it would keep me just too busy and I’d never get ANYTHING done! Get real, time is so precious when you are retired. Remember that Axxx! But I do want you to know, my gorgeous-almost-favourite (dare not upset the other lot) granddaughter, I love you. And I know this birthday marks your significant decade as a “Lifetime Achievement” and it’s also your first since your marriage to Jxxxxx. What a year it’s been! I do hope you will be able celebrate tomorrow, Thursday – seize it and share it (well, wear a mask when possible!). You can also use this day as a chance to pause and review your life journey, to savour the joyful times, learn from the other times; and to go forth, with your loving Jxxxxx by your side, onwards into your renewed year.

My personal birthday present for you, Axxx, is that you will be refreshed and ready to enjoy the challenges, opportunities, and achievements over the next dozen decades; and always remember that it’s the shared moments that are the best and most memorable.

Each birthday is as good a time as any, I think, for all of us all to reflect on our journey in life. The year since your last birthday may have passed like the blink of an eye, or it may have seemed like a hundred years, it’s different for each of us and at each stage of life – time is funny like that. But everything that ever happened in our life has made and shaped us – and hopefully improved us. This day is also a wonderful time to remember and savour the joyful times past, to plan ahead, and resolve to accept the things that can’t be changed. Then we can start our own ‘personal new year’ with a heart full of blessings from God to enrich and equip us to do only good things in the years ahead. It’s certainly an appropriate time to make a ‘new birthday resolution’ or to simply look for a way to renew (or refresh or re-charge or revise) an old ‘forgotten’ one!

For me personally, birthdays help me to recall happy memories – the best gifts of all – and the sweetest. Cherish them, Axxx, as I do. And one day, like me, you’ll have a great granddaughter, or more, to add to your OPB list/s……. Who knows?