Upfront Article Disclaimer:Â Multiple links are provided, so that folks can "learn something new," create another healthy wrinkle in their brains, and stimulate thought (and comments!)Â Learning new things are vitamins for a healthy brain.Â So are puzzles, but I'm not smart enough to build those for you.Â (Hint:Â Buy a puzzle book.)
What is the miracle of the brain?Â That blob of ugly, throbbing glob of grey matter that allows us to insert the round pegs of logic into the square holes of life?Â To me, and I have studied this, it rather looks like the small intestine, cramped into a too-small glass jar.Â This jellyfish organÂ allows us to balance the fray, fun, and form of family.Â Â ItÂ lets us perform during all the wheeling, whacked-out hours of work and projects; and the demands of overtime-downtime-maintenance time; this miracle has us forging the firm-fired links of friendships.Â Â Â What a gift toÂ enable us to learn guitar, piano, cello, painting, woodworkingâ€”with all their thousand tools and rules.
We donâ€™t often slow down enough and ponder that we are electrically wired.Â We depend on a set of basic premises to see us through.Â We rely on our own personal sets of routine skills--Rote personal habits, long ago learned, and practiced a hundred thousand times over decades of days.Â Â
We learned, as children, that certain things â€œgo togetherâ€ and to define which thing is different.Â Which thing doesnâ€™t belong?Â We learn to complete tasks in a logical order, step-by-step, or leap-by-leap (depending on the child we were.)Â Â
We learned that things are not always what they seem to be, at first glance.Â Vanilla sure smellsÂ like it would taste great.Â Remember when Gran let you actually taste straight vanilla?Â Cocoa the same way; we expected it to taste chocolate-sweet, and we figured out that â€œBitterâ€ was out there, but you could transform it into sweet with a little work.Â
We learned cost/benefit behavior modifications through trial and error.Â (Some behaviors seemed to take longer than others for my own kids to learnâ€¦how about yours?)Â Hot stoves, frostbite, campfires, parallel parkingâ€¦the list is endless.Â It you tried to list all the things â€œyou knowâ€ you wouldnâ€™t have time to learn anything new.Â
As adults, we learn differently than we did as childrenâ€”those sponges of learning, language, motor-skillsâ€”both gross and fine, and about love, relationships, danger, fairness and fighting.Â Â A lot of corporations are using this model as pertains to their â€œcorporate delivered training.Â Â I know, because Iâ€™m a tech trainer, and theyâ€™ve shown this to meâ€”from a lot of different sources.Â Iâ€™m here to tell you, theyâ€™re right.Â These rules and guidelines should be incorporated into every single high school and college classroom.Â It is a pity that theyâ€™re not required learning for all teachers.
Although perhaps driven by Maslowâ€™s ladder, we humans build all these life skills through repetition, discovering how â€œthingsâ€ work best, what processes we use most effectively:Â What incremental steps within bigger steps we take to achieve a larger goal.Â We summarize these steps, lumping them all together into â€œclusters of stepsâ€ and we give them labels:Â cooking, doing laundry, cleaning, creating.Â Â Â Â
Example, Iâ€™m hungry.Â (Sensation)
Okay, eat something, stupid.Â (Self-directive)
Eat what?Â (Self-inquiry)
Go look in the fridge.Â (Now, it gets confusing.)
Get up, walk to the fridge, reach out, grasp the handle, open the door, peer inside.
Review the parts and pieces of food.Â What looks good?Â Salad greens, broccoli, catsup, milk, eggs, jelly, sour cream, lunchmeat, Vitawater, mayo, homemade soup, 10 kinds of salad dressing, tomatoes, orange juice, jelly, 4 kinds of cheeseâ€¦.(a-hem!Â â€¦.how old is that yogurt?) butter, creamer, and stacks of red, yellow, green and orange veggies on the bottom shelf.Â Â Â Simple right?Â We do this every single day.Â
One morning last year, I woke up to fear.Â This is not a normal thing for me.Â I am not a nervous or fear-filled or fear-motivated person.Â I see myself rather as a bleeding heart in a really hard shell.Â I was caught off guard, staggered, and for a couple momentsâ€”experienced the shell-shocked, crippling fear of â€œlosingâ€ My Senior.Â
As all of you who know me may remember, dad cared for mom in their home for 10 years.Â Mom had Alzheimerâ€™s Diseaseâ€”and it was a heinous decade for him.Â And for me.Â We watched as her illness took her down, further down, and eventually led to a vegetative state.Â Still, he cared for her.Â Seventeen lifts every single day:Â From bed to chair to stool to shower chair to wheelchair, and again to bed.Â Lifting her up, shifting her to the chairâ€”careful!Â Her bones are really fragile---for 3 meals (and diaper changes per dayâ€”sometimes more.Â Food processor meals so she wouldnâ€™t choke, because Momma eventually â€œforgotâ€ how to chew and how to swallow.Â Â I would go out to their place for the weekendsâ€”heading out Saturday morning and staying till Sunday night.Â Iâ€™d take over momâ€™s care for two days so he could rest his back a couple of days, go grocery shopping, or just get out and wander the aisles of the hardware store.Â Â
All this results in this:Â I have developed this real â€œhang-upâ€ around the brain, cognitive thought processes and the ability to live an independent, self-managing, and worthwhile kind of life-- with the stress on quality of life.Â I can walk around in strange cities, unafraid.Â I can teach teens how to drive on the highway unafraid.Â Dive off bridges, walk down alleys, wade into an â€œunfairâ€ bar fight, deal with cops, lawyers, pushers, social injustice, and Medicare coverage novelsâ€”and I â€œAinâ€™t Skeered.â€Â Â When I forget a phone number, or a friendâ€™s name?Â I experience a 5-second, paralyzing, cold rush of terror.
When Pop was diagnosed with Leukemia 8 months after momâ€™s death, I packed up or pitched all my stuff, rented out my house to a good friend who was in foreclosure, and moved the 1 hour drive away to stay with pop.Â He â€œbeats backâ€ the leukemia after 6 months on one of the new wonder drugs, and develops heart issues, a colostomy that wouldnâ€™t heal, COPD, and serious vision problems.Â We spent the last 2 years in and out of the hospital, missed hosting most family events:Â Thanksgiving, Xmas, Easter, etc.Â Thatâ€™s okay.Â
We learned that â€œgetting olderâ€ isnâ€™t for sissies.Â Sometimes you have to goalie-kick illness and/or weakness square in the pants, and determinedly pull yourself back up, and push yourself to do things you never thought youâ€™d have to do.Â Lessons, although they might be damned painful, are always good, if they teach you something worthwhileâ€”something worth knowing.Â
So, for about 3 days, The Senior had a headache, mimicking the symptoms of a sinus headache.Â That night, he has weird dreams, and canâ€™t explain them to me in the morning.Â His wording is skewed, his sentence structure is garbled.Â He canâ€™t think of the words to describe his dream.Â Then, later that morning, after breakfast, he gets up to do his morning chores.Â Â
I find him standing with a hanger in one hand, and a shirt heâ€™d just removed from the dryer in the otherâ€”and Â he looks at me, face bleach-white, scared to deathâ€”explains he doesnâ€™t know what to do with the hanger.Â His hands are shaking.Â Â Â He doesnâ€™t know what to do with the shirt.Â I could see it in his eyes, his faceâ€”as frozen in shock as my own.Â Â Fear of the Cranial-Death Knell.Â The Beginning of the Endâ€”of diapers, of wandering off into the woods, or getting â€œlostâ€ in his own house.Â Fear of the dependency, the low-quality life he had just endured as a decade long sentence.Â
I ask him to sit down, and I call the doctor.Â I keep him from taking his morning medicines until the doctor calls us back.Â He gets up to make a peanut butter sandwich to have with his coffee.Â (Gross, right?)Â He gets out the peanut butter jar, opens it, gets out the breadâ€¦.and doesnâ€™t know what to do next.Â Heâ€™s standing at the kitchen counter, and couldnâ€™t remember that the next step in the process is to open the silverware drawer, get out a knife.Â He is flattened.Â Explains to me, again, that he doesnâ€™t know what heâ€™s supposed to do next.Â I can tell he is struggling, fighting, concentrating, WORKING to remember.Â Â The frozen strain on his faceâ€”the gut-wrenching visual of Superman facing kryptonite.
Gave him his tea at the kitchen table, finished making his fold-over pb sandwich, and we wait together for the doctor to call us back.Â
Hereâ€™s the Doctor, when he called:Â Typical questionsâ€”did he fall? Â Experience a high fever?Â Hit his head?Â etcâ€¦etcâ€¦etcâ€¦Â No.Â None of the above.Â Just the 3 day headache.Â Â Weâ€™re instructed to meet the doctor at the ER, at the doctorâ€™s requestâ€”heâ€™ll clear us in right away.Â Â Do NOT take the morning meds, but bring them with us to the ER.
I drive there for us (one of the few times dad lets me take the wheelâ€¦) and they start running tests.Â His blood is too thin.Â (He was on Warfarin for his heart.)Â He took Tylenol for the headache, instead of aspirin (that was good.)Â They give him the special MRI, complete CBC (blood diagnostics) heart functions being monitored.Â He has a subdural hematoma. Â
This Superman/ Clark Kent guy, just like my mom (who was Wonder Woman to us) was being beat down and abandoned by his own brain.Â Â My heartfelt thanks to the awesome doctors, nurses, techs and aids at St. Johnâ€™s Mercy Hospital in St. Louis.Â They â€œdried upâ€ the hemorrhage in a couple days, monitoring him closely.Â They modified his meds, and sent us home.Â It took him a couple days, even weeks, to â€œget overâ€ the scare.Â Â As Iâ€™m typing this, he is on the tractor, plowing the driveway.Â We just ripped up the carpet in the living room, and repainted last week.Â Â Â
The Leukemia medicineâ€”Gleevacâ€”caused macular degeneration, and his lack of vision frustrates him.Â He uses a magnification / lighting tools to read, (yes, he has a kindle that increases his font size, and he STILL uses a magnification light to read it.Â Â But thatâ€™s okay.Â He can still read, enjoy, and make sense of the books.Â He'll be 80 this coming May, and he can still work with wood, tile, and glass (with magnification.)Â His eyes arenâ€™t doing so well, but the brain behind them works like a champ.Â
And thatâ€™s really what matters, isnâ€™t it.Â He gets to remain who he really is for a while longer.Â What more could we ask of life?Â Nothing.Â We are content.Â Heâ€™s back to being Superman.Â I am back to being thankful.Â