All posts by cathysikorski

About cathysikorski

A caregiving author and lawyer trying to keep it all together

One Man’s Trash…is a Girl’s Night Out!

When you spend a good part of your time or life as a caregiver you find forgetting to be a common occurrence. I have classic tales about my Nana forgetting where she put her shoes, her wallet and most disturbingly…her teeth.

My mother-in-law would hide her “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” button in ‘safe’ places. Every time we went to the assisted living facility we would be ready for a game of hide-n-seek with the magic button, a button she would never push anyway.

My brother-in-law would forget where he put bills, checks and insurance papers all the time. He was actually happy when I agreed to clean up all his paperwork and just take over.

Eventually, with all this stress, the caregiver starts to be the one to forget. We all experience this as we get older. I’ll admit, it makes me panic a little. When you are too close to forgetfulness you start to think it’s a bad omen if it becomes a part of your day.

Since my caregiving has dwindled quite a bit in the last few years, I take bad memory very personally, like my brain is betraying me. I know it happens to all of us, and it is definitely a symptom of stress. But I have always known it’s a source of hilarity. And today was no exception.

As you may recall we have a very long driveway. So we put our trash cans and recycling in my SUV and drive it to the end of the driveway. A few months ago our new trash hauler required us to start using a large container for trash.

My husband’s pet peeve is that large, unsightly container defiling our cul-de-sac. So several yards before we get to the end of the driveway we pick up the large trash container,  which is tucked in the woods, and wheel it down to the end of the driveway. Then we take the trash out of my car and put it in the container.

As the SUV is my car, my husband said,

“Hey, I loaded the trash in your car. Drive me down to the bin on your way to your dinner with your girlfriends.”

“Okay,” I said.

The real culprit

I stop the SUV where the bin is tucked away. My husband gets out. And I drive away.

Down the driveway, past the mailbox, through the cul-de-sac, down the steep hill to the end of the street.

My car makes a few weird noises. Now, I’m mad because I just got new tires. And my car stinks. What’s that all about?

I turn the corner, go around the bend, there’s that noise again. I look in the rearview mirror

A fun place to take your trash!

and see the trash. I was taking the trash with me on a ‘girls night out.’

I found a driveway, turned around, went back up my street to the cul-de-sac, and I see my husband slowly walking back towards the house shaking his head in disbelief.

I’m laughing so hard, it’s silent. I can’t speak. He just looks at me.

“I was waving my hands and yelling, ” he said so plaintively. “I called your cell phone and you didn’t answer. I couldn’t believe in a nano second you forgot that you had the trash in the car and just drove away.”

He’s officially worried.

“You Just have to Laugh….”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

 

 

 

Too Cool for Snow…..

Did you know that it’s illegal to drive with ice and snow on your car in Pennsylvania? A small fine for not clearing your windows, but if you are found to have caused injury, or death because you didn’t clean the snow off your car, that’s a bit steeper, what with fines and jail and all.

We keep our cars in the garage, so that’s one chore we’ve gratefully averted in snowstorms. But we also have an old Taurus that we bought for the kids in high school, and that car sits in the driveway. Yesterday, after 10 inches of snow and spending hours clearing our long, long driveway, my husband was ready to take the old Taurus down to the cul-de-sac and brush it off.  We live at the end of a small street. The cul-de-sac doesn’t have any houses on it. It’s just a turnaround at the top of our hill that is attached to our driveway.

The only purpose the cul-de-sac serves in a storm is a place for the township to gather all the snow at the end of the road, and to dump the Taurus’ top hat of accumulation, so we don’t have to clean the driveway again after Mother Nature did a spring binge and purge all over the Northeast.

Just as my husband rounds the bend and slowly gets to the end of our driveway, our local policeman pulls up in his cruiser and ends up face-to-face with the snow covered Taurus. It’s like a polar game of ‘chicken.’ Luckily, my husband knows the rules. He stops at the tippy end of the driveway, gets out of the Taurus, grabs the snow brush and very lackadaisically begins to brush bits of snow off the car.

Our gendarme sits there for a bit. C’mon we know what he’s thinking: “this guy was gonna’ take that car on the road without cleaning it off.” My husband just whistles a little tune, stops to light a mini cigar, like he does this little thing every day before his journey down the road. He keeps on scraping here, brushing there and finally the police car blinks. The cop pulls away and my husband gives him that ‘guy nod’ asserting “yeah, we’re cool.”

Giving enough time to be out of sight, my husband pulls the Taurus closer to the mail box and dumps the 10 inches of snow from the roof. He thinks he sees the police car sitting a bit down the street, no doubt waiting for the Taurus. But hubby just circles the cul-de-sac and drives back to the house.

I have no idea why my frozen spouse comes in through the garage with the grin of the Cheshire cat and arms raised like Rocky.

Then as we gather around the fireplace, with our hot coffee……. he tells me that he might need a lawyer.

“You Just have to Laugh….”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

Go to the funeral.

Not for laughs today, but I’ll be back tomorrow with smiles!

Today I went to a funeral. A really sad funeral. This beautiful man was kind, generous, an asset to his community, a treasure to his family and friends and a piece of the world that should have been here for a long time. He was felled by ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. It was unbearably fast and cruel. He was 59 years old.

So many people were there. I waited in line for over an hour to pay my respects. That’s how many people went to the funeral. But I’m certain there are those who did not come because they ‘don’t go to funerals.’ I know there are thousands of reasons for staying away from a funeral, but there are a million reasons to go to the funeral.

When you go to the funeral, you get and give hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. Hugs have been scientifically proven to make your life better. You get hugs from people you don’t know and people you do know. It doesn’t matter. It’s hugs. And these are good hugs. People want to connect. People want to share their sorrow, grief or even their discomfort. The sharing is the best part. Because it’s that kind of hug, it’s serious and comforting.

When you go to the funeral, you see people you haven’t seen for a long time. It might be cousins, aunts, uncles, old high school friends, kids from the neighborhood, their moms and dads, long lost acquaintances, all will be there. And you will be glad to see them. Connecting to your past feels good. You remember the shared times and it reminds you that you’ve been alive for a long time. You’ve touched a lot of lives and you’ve been touched by many others. It reinforces your connection to humanity. You’ve been human for a while and you might have forgotten that—just look how many people you have met and mingled with since you were a toddler.

You might not be ‘of a mind’ with these people but even that’s reaffirming. You made choices. You made a life for yourself and everyone you’ve ever met has had a hand in that. At the funeral, you get to remember that you are a part of it all, and you owe a debt of gratitude to your life and everyone in it.

“Paying your respects,” should not be taken lightly. As someone who has been to many funerals, both as part of the family and as just a member of the community, let me assure you showing up is important. When you show up, you are saying, “I’m sorry this hurts right now” or “I know the long haul was unspeakable for you, may you find comfort in days to come,” or “wow, your loved one lived a long and wonderful life, let me help you celebrate.” By foregoing this opportunity you forego a piece of yourself. You will want that when it’s your turn. You have an internal connection that gives you the grace to connect with all the kind people who have come to your loved one’s funeral.

And you will have a turn. Unless you’re a hermit, it is doubtful that you will get out unscathed. You will have to go to a funeral sooner or later, and probably not just your own. If you skip your Grandma’s funeral because you’re too sad, or your uncle’s funeral because he wasn’t your favorite person, or you’re best friend’s funeral because you are too emotional, or your mom’s or dad’s funeral because they were imperfect, or you loved them so very much you “don’t want to remember them that way,” you not only fail to pay your respects to your loved one and the community that was so important to them, you fail to connect to your own humanity. By taking your own vulnerability and sharing in everyone else’s vulnerability, you increase the goodness. You make us all better. You make you better. You are kind, you are good, you are compassionate.

This one little thing, going to the funeral, has such deep implications for humanity. Just ask John Donne… in 1624 he didn’t say go to the funeral, but he might as well have…..

No [one] is an island, entire of itself; every [one] is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: [anyone’s]’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in [humankind], and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” Adapted from John Donne

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

 

You sure you don’t want to go to Happy Acres?

I noticed when I was looking for assisted living quarters for my mother-in-law, that none of the residents seemed to share a cup of tea or a television show in their own apartments. The lovely place we chose had a large living room with a small kitchen area and space for a kitchen table as well as a separate bedroom.  I could never figure out why the only place the residents would socially engage was in the huge common area, the dining room or during bingo and ice cream Wednesday.

I would tell my Mom, “You can ask your friends from your lunch table to come over and watch Wheel-of-Fortune! I could get some snacks so you have something to serve.”

“Something to Serve” was very important. You would never be at the older generation’s house as company and not be offered a piece of cake, some pretzels or cookies to go with your coffee or iced tea. So I thought maybe that was the problem. These gals were feeling unhospitable.

“No, that’s okay,” she would tell me. “Besides, I have snacks right here.” Lo and behold, in those little tiny drawers in her sofa end tables were peanut-butter crackers, Goldfish, Rice Krispie treats and little bags of nuts she had brought upstairs from the dining hall. She was not a cleptomaniac, sort of. The snacks were for the taking, but she had more treats in there than Jesus made loaves and fishes. See? “something to serve!” So bad hostessing wasn’t the problem.

Space wasn’t the problem, friends weren’t the problem, even privacy or cleanliness wasn’t the problem. My mother-in-law was as neat as a pin. And if you were a slob, you could always throw everything in the bedroom and close the door. That was one of the reasons we chose this place. Not because Mom needed to hide her mess, but because that separate bedroom with it’s closed door felt like home and not a dorm room.

AHA! Then it struck me. These ladies of “The Greatest Generation” had never lived in a dorm.

Remember when we went to college? You were in and out of everyone’s room a hundred times a day. Parties were milling around from room to room. My dorm rooms were suites with two rooms sharing a bathroom between. I lived with four girls who all liked each other, so we moved all our beds into one room and our desks into the other room.  We created our own separate ‘living room’ for parties!

But my mother-in-law, my mom, anyone I know in their 80’s and 90’s never lived at college. Most of them went from their parent’s house to their own new home after marriage. Sure, they had neighbors, but visiting was a more formal affair. You always had to have “something to serve.”

Since they never lived the dormitory life, which they are living now, they don’t know the rules. I think they don’t know they can knock on each other’s door and say “Hey, you want to come over?” They somehow think that the common area and dining hall is where their social interaction must take place. But that really cuts down on gossip, which I’m pretty sure is a staple of dorm living. And what with hearing loss and forgetfulness, gossip can get loud and repetitive, which can be so embarrassing.

Did you see the babe who moved in to 309?

I don’t think I can change the status quo for these guys, but I’m feeling confident that the Second Greatest Generation is going to be all over that dorm living in the next 20 years.And since we know how to get kegs in our rooms, hide the good drugs, and snacks are already

Hey, lady where do you want these?

provided, well…… Oh!…… and we’re definitely pumping up the MUSAK to some ‘Stones, the Dead, and surely, The Boss! Hey…I might be looking forward to reacquainting myself with dorm life!

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

 

What are you saying, Eleanor?

I’m trying to take my daughter’s advice. Six months ago when I went to France she told me to heed Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice: “Do something you are afraid to do every day.”

On that trip, I went to a topless beach (and remained “topfull”, but wore a bikini for the first time ever) and spoke terrible French to any passerby who was kind enough to indulge me.

I can do it!
I can do it!

Recently, I went indoor skydiving at iFLY and drove a snowmobile for the first time ever on a glacier in Iceland.

Yep! Did that too!
Yep! Did that too!

Those things still sound scary to me, so I get what Eleanor means. I had a rush of pride when I accomplished those things. But my day-to-day list of scary things, can be tame.

  1. Calling people for money
  2. Going door-to-door for anything
  3. Trying on bathing suits
  4. Driving into the “Big City” to a place I’ve never been (just made my hubby take me last Tuesday!)
  5. Getting a whole new hairstyle
  6. Eating bugs…on purpose
  7. Riding a motorcycle (nope never did it…may have to do with a terrible accident from law school)
  8. Riding a bike in traffic
  9. Using power tools
  10. Posting harsh political points of view on the Interwebs
  11. Snapchat

On the one hand, based on this list, I could do something scary every single day. On the other hand, I’ve done all those things except the motorcycle (I did do a moped on an island once and cried the entire time I was driving,  does that count?) but they still scare me.

I’m not quite sure what Eleanor is trying to tell me. Perhaps I need to contact her through a medium, like Theresa Caputo. But that’s too scary.

Oh, and Eleanor never said that, so I’m off the hook.

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

Senior Moments….Can They Make Hollywood Better?

I recently went on a rant about how the film ‘La La Land’ was, in my opinion, an over-inflated hoax perpetrated on the lovers of Hollywood musicals. Okay, that’s a bit harsh, I know. I guess all this pent-up frustration about the mess the world is in today had to blow itself up somewhere. And in my efforts to try and try and try to figure out how we all got here, why we are so divided, and is there truly no common ground for progress or peace or even just peace of mind, I just needed to put all that vexation somewhere….so La La Land got it between the eyes. I don’t retract anything I said. I believe that the movie was a mediocre musical in light of the masterpieces from the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. And I stand by my opinion that it is insulting to all the talented actors out there to use subpar talent in a movie about talent.

BUT…all that being said, I just want you to know, my 88 year-old mother’s response at the end of the film, which she so badly wanted to see, was: “Well, they’re no Fred and Ginger, are they?” Then, in an effort to be nice, because my Mom subscribes to the rule,”if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all…’, she said: “Well, I haven’t seen Magic Numbers yet, so I guess I’ll have to reserve judgment.”

Hmm. Magic Numbers.

For just a minute there, I had no idea what Mom was talking about. But, I did know that this was a double-edged sword. By falling for this seemingly innocent and non-committal statement, and thus engaging her I would have to admit to two things;

  1. I would have to find out what Magic Numbers meant or was, and
  2. I would have to take her to see Magic Numbers so that her judgment would no longer be reserved.

After all these years as a caregiver, and a daughter for that matter, I’m onto these people. But it doesn’t matter. I fall for it anyway. And even if I didn’t, someone else is usually there to pick up the slack and take the set-up like Abbot to Costello.

“Mom, Magic Numbers? What is that?” says my husband.

“Oh, wait, do you mean ‘Hidden Figures’?” I say.

“Yeah, whatever it is. We need to see that,” my Mom replies.

I turn to my husband and tell him we need to go see Magic Numbers. We all laugh, including my Mom. But not to be outdone, Mom turns to the complete strangers next to her and says in her best Rodney Dangerfield, “I get no respect.”

So last night we went to see Magic Numbers. You know what? My Mom was right on two fronts: It was ever so much better than La La Land, so her reserved judgment was confirmed. But more importantly, it should’ve been called “Magic Numbers.” Much better title. I wonder if I can get my Mom a job in Hollywood?

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

Mid-life…a Toddlin’ Town……

As we get more mature, we seem to have some issues that we didn’t have before. And yet, I’m beginning to remember that even toddlers had those same issues.

My youngest daughter was the queen of misunderstandings, or she couldn’t hear. The first day she came home from kindergarten, she was happy and enthusiastic.

“Mommy! Mommy!” she cried so elated, “I want to be a cupcake! I want to be a cupcake!”

“A cupcake, sweetie?” Of course, I jump right into mommy-mode: “Oh, honey, do you mean we need to make cupcakes for school? Okay, we can do that.”

“NO, Mommy,  no, no, no. I want to BE a cupcake!”

“I don’t know what you mean, honey. ”

“Mom,” her older sister chimes in with the voice of a condescending eight-year old to her elderly mother who is already so uncool, “she wants to be a Brownie.”

Ooops.

A bit before that, she came into the kitchen one dark, cold winter night from helping Dad take out the trash claiming, “Mommy, Mommy, I just saw O’Brien!”

Could this be O"Brien?
Could this be O”Brien?

I looked at her quizzically. “Who is O’Brien and what is he doing in our driveway at night?”

“No, Mommy, I saw O’Brien!” I have no idea what this child is talking about. We have no neighbors named O’Brien. We don’t really even have neighbors, certainly none close enough to be in our driveway at night for no known reason.

My husband comes in just at the tail end of her accusatory tone indicating that I’m not the smartest Mommy like she thought I was.

“Cathy, I showed her the constellation, Orion.” Oh.

So when my husband says to me while we’re watching Jeopardy, “What’s for dinner?” and I say: “How do I know who the winner is, it’s not over yet!”

Or I’m conversing with my daughter on the phone as she walks through the streets of New York City and she’s telling me about her date:

“And then he got a swan and we shared it.”

“A swan? Why would you share a swan? What does that even mean? Do you keep the swan on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? Where is it now in your bathtub?”

“MOM…a flan…. F-L-A-N…flan!”

 

It is nice, isn't it?
It is nice, isn’t it?

Oh, that’s nice.

I think, well this isn’t age, it’s just a misunderstanding. Anyone, even a toddler could make that mistake.

Oh and I laughed so hard, I peed a little, which a toddler would do too. So…I’m feeling younger every day, as I walk past the Pampers aisle to inspect the Lisa Rinna Always Sexy Underpants.

“You Just have to Laugh….”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

Happy Birthday to me!

I turned 60 this week, let’s reflect on that:

  1. The good news is I was here to see it, the bad news is I am NOT READY to be 60!!!
  2. I noticed I don’t hear so well. I’m sure my family noticed this a long time ago. But now the TV sounds like it did when my Nana lived with me. The neighbors at the end of the block know when I’m watching Hallmark movies instead of working.60-card60-card-2
  3. I debate every day whether to wear that sample of ‘smooth-lining,  Always full-panty protection’ if I’m going somewhere where there is no bathroom for hours (think Women’s March).
  4. I battle between drinking coffee and wine every day. Then I whine between drinking water and herbal damn tea.
  5. I have so many great ideas by breakfast, and forget all of them by lunch.
  6. I still want to wear stilettos but my feet, back and ankles want me to wear serviceable shoes. ” But look at my feet!” I tell them, “they’re soooo cute!”
  7. No one listens to me…not even my feet.
  8. Tweezers are my new best friend.
  9. I hate Windows 10 and I want to kill it.
  10. In my birthday pics next to my Mom, who is still here to celebrate 60 with me, I see how much I look like her…….and realize how much I act like her.mom-and-me-and-60
  11. A “grateful check” can be anything from my amazing husband, great friends and wonderful family to I-remembered-to-buy-toilet-paper!
  12. My brother now tells me that telling people they can have their dreams is stupid…but none of my dreams include physical activity, so I’m still good!

 

One Good Reason to Love 60!
One Good Reason to Love 60!

And as I wrote that last one…………….the FedEx guy came to my door and delivered this, from that same brother!  Oh and yeah, that is me at iFly indoor skydiving….so, I guess I might be ready for 60!

You Just have to Laugh…..

© 2017 Cathy Sikorski