Rockabye Puppy



I have a guide dog who thinks she is still a little puppy, but has the responsibility of keeping me safe. At the same time, I have a mother with dementia who thinks she still has responsibility for my care, but whose behavior is often reminiscent of that of a petulant toddler.

In one sector of my life, I am amused by the playful antics of a 60-pound puppy, which has 2 passions in life. One is to dive into her harness and get out the door for another adventure. The other is to retrieve a ball that I’ve tossed across the room or across the yard and dash back to me, drop it in my lap and pant excitedly until I throw it again, for the 50th time. It’s ironic to think that I trust this creature to guide me across busy streets, this creature, who thinks her second job is to bring that ball back to me as fast as she can.

In another sector of my life, I deal with a 98-year-old mother who worries if I don’t call her every day. She thinks I’ve fallen in a hole or something. Some days, she seems to have not noticed that I have forgotten to call her the day before. At those times, her imagination creates some important meeting that I had to attend or a trip overseas. Her pride in my achievements, whether real or imagined, is embarrassing and touching at the same time. When we have lunch together, she picks up my napkin and hands it to me, as if I am unable to find it myself, or perhaps it’s her old habit of reminding me to put it in my lap. Once a mother who teaches, always a mother who teaches I guess. Once a mother who cared for her visually impaired little girl, always a mother who wants to protect her blind daughter, even though she, herself, is now blind, extdremely hard of hearing, and mobility-impaired. She hasn’t noticed the role reversal. She is a resident of assisted living, and is well cared for, but like anyone living in a community situation, she needs an advocate and a connection with the outside world. Although my son visits her occasionally, and my daughter flies in twice a year to visit her and give me a break, I am the one who does her laundry, pays her bills, makes her doctors’ appointments, brings her home baked goodies, keeps her supplied with personal hygiene products, and tries to entertain her twice a week. I am the one who gets drawn into arguments about whether or not the aids are stealing her shoes and eating her food from her fridge. Arguing with a 2-year-old is never productive, but somehow, when you’re the mother of the 2-year-old, it isn’t as stressful and frustrating as when you’re the daughter of a 2-year-old. When you’re the mother, in the end, you can pick up the child from the floor, where she’s throwing a tantrum, and put her in the car or her high chair or wherever you need her to be. But when you’re dealing with your mother, you try to maintain her dignity and your respect for her as your parent. “Honor thy mother and thy father” gets a little challenging when your mother says things that don’t make any sense, and she gets snippy when you don’t understand.

After a visit with my mother, it’s comforting to be guided into my house by my Seeing Eye ® dog, and then let her curl up in my lap. Well “in” might not be the right word. This post is accompanied by a photo of Dora trying to sit on me in my living room chair. My life is full of ironic role reversals.

Bye Bye XP

You haven’t heard from me in a while, because I’ve been preoccupied with the tools of writing, rather than writing. This post is going to be a rant against Microsoft. My computer guru, Lee, told me about a year ago that I was going to have to give up my Windows XP lap top and learn to love Windows 7. Yeah, yeah, I thought. Lee just wants me to buy a new computer. I was very happy with my little XP lap top. I was comfortable with the commands, and I learned to live with its limitations. I would deal with it if it really happened. Then a few days before April 8, my computer shouted an alert message to me each time I booted it up. Windows XP would no longer be supported after midnight on April 8. It was on the 6:00 news, so it must be true, I thought. I didn’t understand exactly what that meant, but I was getting the message that if I didn’t switch to Windows 7, bad things would happen to my computer, and it wouldn’t be able to talk to other computers. Being completely addicted to email, and to this blog, I knew I was going to lose this battle. Off we went to the computer store, where I spent way too much money for something I didn’t want, didn’t like, and didn’t need. I mean, this computer is way more complicated to operate than my nice little net book was. Because I have to do everything with the keyboard, and not the mouse, I have to learn a new keyboard in addition to new commands. This is a jazzy little lap top, but I’m frustrated every time I turn it on, because it won’t do what I need it to do, like recognize my contacts. This is huge for me. I remember going through this kind of transition blues when I had to give up Word Perfect. Now I can’t imagine going back to that. Maybe someday, I’ll feel that way about Windows XP.

When I was at the computer store, I ran into a friend who was there for the same reason I was. It just seems wrong to force millions of people to go out and buy new computers. It’s like making everybody go buy brand new cars, because the old cars will no longer run, and you won’t be able to buy parts for them, and don’t even think about buying a used car. It’s just plain wrong. Of course, I could simply say I quit. I’m getting out of the whole communications craze. But I can’t stand to think that I might be missing something, so I’ll soldier on. It’s going to be difficult. If I were a veteran, a student, or a person seeking employment, or trying to stay employed, the state would pay for instruction for me. But I have to depend on the kindness of other blind computer users to get me through this crisis. The next challenge is to find that “somebody” to help me.

TiresomeTopics in the News

Did you see Joe Blundos column in yesterdays dispatch? In it, he gave us another one of his lists. He loves to make lists, and I love reading his column. Yesterday, he talked about things that hes tired of hearing about in the media, and he invited us to make our own lists. So I did. Heres my letter to Joe.

Joe, I loved your column yesterday. As usual, you were spot on with my own list of

tiresome things in the news. You suggested we make our own lists, so even though

you didn’t ask for mine, I’m sending it anyway. This makes me feel even better than

just making the list.

1. TV interviewers who ask people who are grieving the death of a loved one how they

feel. then we get to watch them sob in misery.

2. Gay marriage rights. While I think it’s their own business what they do at home,

I’m sick of them getting in my face about it.

3. Teenagers killing each other.

4. Children finding loaded guns and killing each other.

5. People who refuse to see that loaded guns in the city are dangerous and stupid.

6. People who keep rebuilding their homes on sites that historically get demolished

by nature.

7. People who keep wild animals and reptiles as pets and then set them free. What’s

wrong with a dog or a cat?

8. People poisoning dogs and hording cats.

9. Motorists killing bicyclists. I used to love to ride my bike on roads, but now

I’m afraid that each passing driver is paying more attention to his/her phone than

to what is on the road in front.

10. Commercials on the 6:00 news about things you don’t talk about at the dinner


11. Whining about having to have an I.D. to vote.

12. Car manufacturers that keep making and selling unsafe products and then recalling

them. Oops. sorry about your death.

Thanks for letting me vent.


New Granddaughter

My daughter Kara just had her third baby girl, and Im not there to help. I should be there. Its very strange and frustrating to have to get updates on the babys progress as a new little person in the first week of her life via email and text messages and the occasional phone call. I should be there. But I knew that it wouldnt work for me to come for this birth, because I would have just come home with my own little addition to my home, my new Seeing Eye ® dog, Dora. When you bring a new dog guide home, its essential to help the dog adjust by not traveling at first. Besides, if I had taken Dora with me to Karas, it would have been awkward at best, having to have Dora either tethered to me or tied down at all times, another restriction to keep in mind for the first few weeks in the dogs new home. Had I known that I would be feeling so remote, I would have put off getting the new dog until after the child was born, but then, Dora would have been placed with somebody else, and I think God meant her for me. It was just not ideal timing. On the other hand, what Karas family really needed while she was in the hospital was someone to drive the older girls to and from the hospital, to dance lessons, art classes, and writers group meetings. Enter Karas in-laws. Luckily, they planned their trip perfectly, so they arrived the day before the baby arrived, and theyve been busy with grandparenting duties, including chauffeuring the girls around. I wouldnt have been able to do that anyway.

When Karas first baby was born, I hopped on a plane, and arrived a day and a half after the birth. My plan was to stop at the hospital, congratulate my daughter and hold that baby. Then go to their home and prepare it for their homecoming. I was going to scrub the bathrooms and floors and change the sheets and make a nice dinner for their first night home. . But the doctor released her that very afternoon, while I was there, so off we went, all 4 of us, and we had to get meat out of the freezer to thaw, and throw a meal together. Fortunately, on my previous visits to their house, I had poked around their cupboards and kitchen drawers to learn where they kept things and to memorize the layout of their house. For the next few days, I made myself useful by helping with preparation of meals and cleanup and just doing what moms do for their daughters who have just had their first babies. I cant even tell you exactly what that was, but on the day I was to fly home, Kara and Scott came to me and asked if I would mind staying a couple more days. Mind! Are you kidding me? I was thrilled. Can you imagine actually wanting your mother-in-law to stay longer? As the new dad went off to work the next day, I finally had my chance to do what I thought needed to be done. But apparently, what Kara liked most was just having her mom there. You can have midwives and doctors, lactation specialists, and a loving and caring husband, but sometimes what a daughter needs is just her mom.