A House, A Mouse, And Antics of a Grandchild


This video of a cute little live “Ratatouille” rat.  It brings back memories of what was supposed to be a funny joke and a memorable family story. Well, it was memorable, but not because it was funny.

There we were, a close knit family–the patriarch, the matriarch, their three children, and all nine of their grandchildren.  It was a typical Sunday, which in the 1980’s meant the parents hosted family time and dinner for the children and their grandchildren.  Our son, Jeff, was about 12 or so. Jeff  as usual had found an animal.  This time, it was a field mouse and he brought it into Mammaw’s house to share his find with the rest of the family.

As a joke, Jeff placed the mouse on the end table next to the chair where she always sat. And, when she sat down, Jeff said something like “Hey, mammaw, don’t be a-f-r-a-i-d–and don’t look to your r-i-g-h-t, but there’s a m-o-u-s-e–.” Mammaw instantaneously reacted with fear and panic as soon as she saw Jeff muttering the word “afraid,”  which triggered a seizure and in no time she was laid out on the floor, passed out, and recovering while her body was still tremoring.  And, it wasn’t until then, that the family advised Jeff that mammaw was deathly afraid of mice and that any startling situation might lead to a seizure.

Despite all the things that mammaw can no longer remember, I think she still remembers this incident.  And, in fact, she has never forgiven Jeff for one of her most embarrassing moments in her life.  She still believes his actions were mean and intentional vs. just another funny antic from her preteen grandson.

If only Jeff had placed this poor defenseless mouse near someone else’s seat.  Then, we probably would have partaken of a scene similar to the one in the video, above.

She’s Still Mom–Even With Alzheimer’s


In December 2010 after a fall on the sidewalk and a hit to her head and face, doctors ordered a CT (computerized tomography), scan of mom’s brain. This CT scan was the first confirmation that mom had mild Alzheimer’s disease.

alzheimers-awareness-brain-scan

This was also about the time that mom had driven herself to church (just three miles away and only a couple of turns) and got lost trying to drive home.  And, about the time when mom and I had our first ever argument–and it was over next to nothing.

In fact, we have since learned that Alzheimer’s begins with changes in the brain that are happening while people are still cognitively normal, decades before any signs of memory or thinking problems. A person diagnosed with any one of the 10 types of Alzheimer’s and dementia goes through 7 stages that affect the quality of their lives and the lives of their loved ones. People with Alzheimer’s live four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on their other health factors.

So here we are, entering our seventh year after mom’s diagnosis.  But the real reason I sat down to write this post was to give thanks for the good day that mom and I spent together yesterday.  It began as a typical Thursday.  Helping her select clothes and get dressed, combing her hair, and giving her time to apply makeup and, of course, waiting on her repeated visits to the bathroom before leaving and switching her home oxygen to her portable oxygen and then helping her walk to the car.  And, of course, observing the “goodbye kiss” ritual that she and dad never fail to forego before leaving home without the other.

Bob had taken mom to and from her 10 a.m. hair appointment as he always does and we had eaten lunch together as a family as we usually do.  Next, it was off to mom’s hematologist  appointment to check the status of her iron (she suffers from iron deficiency anemia, too, and has been receiving treatment for this for about 15 years).  On our 20-minute ride to her appointment, mom and I typically chat about the beautiful or sometimes rainy days.  She teared up over seeing a deer that had been hit and killed by a car and was laying just off the side of the road.  Once inside the reception area she became very socialable and we enjoyed a philosophical conversation with another patient while they waited their turns to see the doctor.

Several nurses came and went while we were inside the examination room.  Nurse Chris escorted us into the room and weighed and measured mom.  They struck up a lively conversation and we all had a few laughs over just little things that came up; e.g., how mom has gone from 5’2″ to just 5′ and 1/2.”  We sang a few lyrics from the song “5’2″ eyes of blue, could she love, could she woo,” has anybody seen my gal?”

Mom also played a guessing game with Nurse Janice about their ages and similar life events when they each had attended elementary school.  (Neither of us would have guessed that Janice was the age she revealed.) When asked, mom also told Nurse Chris that she didn’t know if I thought of her as my best friend, but I was hers and that she could always count on me–a very special moment. I reassured her that she was my best friend, too.  And, as a mother always does, she added that, in fact, she has three grown children and she loves and is proud of them all.

Also in keeping with her norm (pun intended–short for Norma), when we’re leaving the examining area, mom always says goodbye to all of the nurses.  They told her how cute she is and to take good care of her “feisty” self.  She told them that she would and added:  “My husband and I go dancing every Saturday night at the Knights of Columbus.  We just love to dance.  And as long as we both can still breathe, we’re going to keep on dancing.”

Although they used to attend regular dances at the Knights of Columbus, they haven’t been able to dance in years.  But, on their granddaughter’s wedding day they put down their canes and walkers to dance this dance on February 21, 2016.

On our return trip home mom was looking at all her wrinkles and the bruises on her arms and hands (she bruises easily from her blood thinning medicines).  She said if she didn’t know better she would think that she had punched my father–and then she giggled and went on to say:  “You know,” your dad and I have been together since we were young teenagers and met when we started our part-time summer jobs at ages 14 and 15.”  “We have lived a very long life together, have had many great times and some difficult times but sometimes he can be just so irritable and cranky–we even used to call him “Cranky Frankie,” but, “I love that man!”

Yes, I am thankful for all the years that the Lord has allowed me to spend with my parents–the great times and the difficult times, and pray that when their time comes to an end here on earth that He will take them swiftly to end their daily suffering by being debilitated by Alzheimer’s.

I leave you with the following for those readers who have been fortunate enough not to have Alzheimer’s affect their lives or the lives of their loved ones.

Some Facts about Alzheimer’s

And, together they danced…


The Month for Lovers Continues…

Caitlyn and Anthony 02-21-2016My niece, Caitlyn Boling (daughter of my brother John Arthur and his wife Joyce), and her new husband Anthony Rubio, honored my parents’ (Frank and Norma Boling) 70 years of marriage together (2/5/1946) at their wedding this past Sunday, February 21, with an Anniversary Dance especially for them.

As some of you may know,  dad is 87 and suffers from advanced diabetic neuropathy–nerve damage caused by diabetes and arterial disease. The neuropathy affects his arms, hands, legs, feet and blood vessels (poor circulation).  His sensory neuropathy causes numbness and pain in his lower extremities and feet and his motor neuropathy includes overall muscle weakness and loss of balance.  Needless to say, he balances himself and walks with the aid of a cane.

Mom, age 88, suffers from advanced alzheimer’s, general body weakness, loss of balance, and chronic pleural effusion (water in the lungs) which requires her to wear oxygen 24/7.

Amazing Transformation

With all this being said, when DJ Mike called our family patriarch and matriarch to the floor, Bob helped up dad from his chair and took his cane.  I removed mom’s oxygen and walker and steadied her as she made her way out to the dance floor at Peace Lutheran Church – Waldorf, MD.   As we at Chesapeake Church – Hungtingtown, MD,  learned from a wise young man who passed all too soon this past week, “It’s together, or not at all.”  And, in fact, together they danced!

When you watch the video, notice how both of them amazingly animate, share their love as  fresh as the day they first met, and enjoy dancing together as they so often did for so many years.  And what you can’t see in this video is the family and friends observing them in awe and their goose bumps and tear-filled eyes.  It was definitely one of the best moments, among the many great ones, for all at the reception.  And the unfortunate fact is, mom didn’t remember the wedding ceremony just moments after watching her granddaughter take her vows.  But, she smiled and critiqued the video when I showed it to her just a couple of days later–and the conversation and her connection lasted several minutes.

“Thinking Out Loud”
When your legs don’t work like they used to before
And I can’t sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks?

And, darling, I will be loving you ’til we’re 70
And, baby, my heart could still fall as hard at 23
And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Well, me—I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am

So, honey, now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are

When my hair’s all but gone and my memory fades
And the crowds don’t remember my name
When my hands don’t play the strings the same way (mmm…)
I know you will still love me the same

‘Cause, honey, your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen
And, baby, your smile’s forever in my mind and memory
I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe it’s all part of a plan
Well, I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes
Hoping that you’ll understand

That, baby, now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
Thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are (oh, oh)

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, lo-ud

So, baby, now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Oh, darling, place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
But maybe we found love right where we are
Oh, baby, we found love right where we are
And we found love right where we are

 

Thank you Caitlyn and Anthony for giving us this moment and great memory to be shared always.

 

 

 

Let him have his memories…


The picture below is just one of several taken at our home in Capitol Heights, Maryland.  It was a New Year’s Eve Party  hosted by my parents Frank and Norma Boling on Thursday, December 31, 1953. (And, in less than a week, I would turn 7 years old.)

Among their guests were close knit family and friends–all passed between 8 to 35 years ago now.  They were: Barbara (1933-1984) and Tommy Waring (1923-1981), Delores  (1930-2008) and Luther Stambaugh (1923-2000), Tootie (1923-1991)  and Brad Dixon (1929-1981), Harold “Buster” Morgan (1928-1991), and others I couldn’t identify, and, of course my parents Frank, now 87 and Norma 88.

The ending of the year 1953

America is in its Post World War II boom.  Note the homemade decorations of crepe and construction paper.  Dad with the help from his father, Jesse Boling (1902-1978), and his uncle Richard T. “Dick” Boling (1915-1982) finished off the rec room in a house that was built by my grandfathers and uncles in 1948.

Let’s go back–back to those days:  the average cost of new house was $9,550; average wages per year $4,000;  a gallon of gas cost 20 cents; a new car $1,650; a Kodak Brownie Flash Six $13; women’s shoes were about $3.50 and dresses about $5. A teacher’s average salary was $4,254 (above average wage per year scale), and a pound of round steak was 90 cents. The first color television sets appear selling for $1,175–about the cost of a large flat screen HDTV today; and, transistor radios start to appear for sale from Texas Instruments. And, on those TV’s, we were watching The Lone Ranger, Adventures of Rin Tin Tin and Dragnet–nothing too objectionable there!

 

Oh, I can easily explain that…

But wait–let’s take a look at the wall to Tommy Waring’s back, behind the bar in that picture below.  Note the free store calendar with the large picture of the nude pin up vs. the small calendar sheet (curled up).

I confronted dad about this picture just today and he said glibly, “Oh, I can easily explain that…”  And, I raised my right eyebrow to give him a look of “are you sure about this, because I’m not so sure you can.”  He quickly retaliated my look and said, “That was all your uncle Dick’s doing.” (My Great Uncle Dick, who I remember as seldom being sober.)  “I told him when he was sawing (to cut in the bathroom plumbing on the other side of that wall) that he was going to cut in too deep. And, once again, sure enough I was right!”  So, I said; “You had a carpenter, a plumber, and yourself handy, and the only way the three of you knew to fix your error was to cover the big hole with a pinup girl?”  Dad quickly snapped back; “But that’s just not ANY pinup girl–that’s Betty Grable, the #1 pin up girl of World War II!”

 

OMG! Don't look at the Calendar on the Wall...

OMG! Don’t look at the Calendar on the Wall…

Now, I was familiar with Betty Grable’s fame.  I even knew that she had insured her  “most beautiful legs in Hollywood” for a mere 1 million dollars!  But, I thought she only did bathing suit shots that focused on her glamorous legs.  So, I went once again to the web and searched Betty Grable, pin up pictures, pin up calendars, and could find not a one of a nude Betty Grable.  But Betty Grable was more than a 1940’s pin up girl.  She was an American dancer, singer, and actress.

Yet, there I was–talking with an old man–my father–about some of his favorite memories.  It was there and then that I decided not to bring up Betty’s calendar again–at least, not to dispute his memory of Betty posing in the nude in his former rec room!  Even I have learned to let a man have his memories…