Monday, August 30, 2010

Notes To Caregivers

There are many people providing care to loved ones who do not have a complete understanding of the term Caregiver, and what the process entails before reaching that state that can be truly called Caregiver(ing).

The starting point is the most difficult, you have learned that the person you love has some sort of debilitating affliction which will lead to complete dependence right up to death and you are going to have to take care of him/her. Perhaps for the first time you will experience grief which is the emotional suffering felt after some kind of loss. You realize that slowly you are losing your loved one and the life you have known together. You are entering a new kind of existence, a deep hole from which the only escape is death. You will probably go through the five stages of grief before you can truly deal with your new life. They are:

 1. Denial

Of course it looks so nice and neat when it is listed but the stages can get mixed up a bit and experienced all at the same time but until you finally accept the situation as it is truly you can't move on to be a successful Caregiver. A successful Caregiver is truly a selfless role as it requires you to do everything for the benefit of the person who needs you. Easier said than done. If the illness or resultant incapacity is for a very long time one may slip back into one of the five stages listed above. The hardest thing for a Caregiver to come to grips with is that the ill person really can't change as the illness deepens and if there are any changes to be made the Caregiver must be the one to make them. A person with Parkinson's disease because of the medication such as L Dopa which affects the brain may not be able to resist the feelings of paranoia, may resist the taking of new medication or new approaches and the Caregiver may become angry feeling he/she is not acting rationally and is refusing to help themselves. The Caregiver must change, control the anger and be prepared to do whatever necessary to help the helpless since the Caregiver is the only one who has the ability to change, in this case controlling anger and providing compassion.

The giver of care must be aware that they have to take care of themselves, if they get sick then there is no-one who will be there for the one who needs help. At times this becomes very difficult. The Caregiver starts to feel as though they are losing their lives and then tries to seek some sort of escape, maybe even an extra marital affair seeking refuge in removing themselves from the situation even if for a few hours at a time.

Care giving is a difficult vocation and must be completely selfless which means that taking care of yourself  is for the benefit of the one who is ill not to provide you with an escape.

Care giving is an awesome trial and should be undertaken with love and compassion. Those who can afford help should not hold back the financial resources but can provide the love and compassion by being there for the one who is helpless. Giving care to ones who we love is the closest we can come to giving love to God himself and for those who do not believe, the highest power of nature is satisfied through this action.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Teachers Who Made A Difference To Me

There were many people who made a difference in my life but today I want to tell about four teachers who made a profound difference in my life and not by the subjects they taught but by caring.

I went to PS 120 for eight years. I had a teacher, Mrs. Goldman from 7A to 8B. I had to miss 7B in its entirety because of an operation which put both legs in casts and required rehab to learn how to walk again.
Mrs. Goldman would bring, to my house, the days work, including homework, which my mother made sure I'd do. She fought the administration to have me placed in 8A with the proviso if I couldn't meet the standards I'd have to repeat 7B. The first marking period I passed all the subjects but Arithmetic which Mrs. Gallagher, the Arithmetic teacher, gave me a 63 which could have been raised to a 65, a passing grade which Mrs. Gallagher refused to do. Mrs. Goldman fought my case with the Principal, Mr. Fried and they agreed to let me finish the second marking period, and with a little tutoring I passed. I graduated on time because Mrs. Goldman cared about her students.

By the time I met Mr. Grossfeld at Flushing High School I was in my Third Term and a bit of a wise ass. I remember him sitting in his chair, a raised one certain teachers had in those days, and he was looking over his new class. When he heard my name he asked if my brother was named Dominic and when I said yes his acerbic tongue lashed out and moaned that he was cursed. He teased and taunted me throughout the complete term. He knew I was in the Band and whenever we had an ASSEMBLY he'd point out my clunkers. He had a band in his youth and knew Dave Barbour and Peggy Lee and let me know that only hard work would give me my dream of being a musician.I can't remember what subject matter we covered, but I remember him driving home hard work led to achieving goals; good manners never hurt anyone and being a tough guy didn't mean you couldn't have soft feelings. He really cared about the students he was turning out into the world. It seemed to me he cared enough about me to push me hard and have a few laughs while doing it and for that I shall ever be grateful.

No matter how hard Mr. Grossfeld tried the best he could do was to get me to graduate high school. I had a miserable average and got a Commercial diploma which was no good for college and besides I was going to be a musician anyway. However, I fell in love and had to make a steady living and music wasn't a steady living, for me. I found myself in office work and my boss wanted me to take a few college courses. Whenever I met with college advisers they wouldn't let me matriculate because of my lousy high school records. I was taking courses such as Accounting and Contemporary Civilization at Queens College. Contemporary Civilization was a course that covered History, Economics and Philosophy. They couldn't cover all this in class so depending upon the teacher, you covered one of the subjects in detail and read about the other two subjects at home from the texts. One term I had a philosophy adjunct who taught full time at St Francis College in Brooklyn, Dr. Carpino. He could teach Socrates and work in Marlyn Monroe and make it all very clear. One evening at a break, he asked me if I was matriculated and I told him my sad tale about being blocked from going for a degree because of my past scholastic record. He told me a few things I didn't know about getting past the first level advisers. More important he told me that he thought I could do well at the college level and he thought I was bright enough not to be wasted intellectually. He said he made a promise to himself that if he had something good to say to a person he would say it as soon as he could because he never knew if he would get the chance to say it again. He cared, he was interested in the person not the system. Well I followed his advice and at night, some fifteen years, I got my AAS, BBA and MBA.I needed those degrees to be able to support my wife, seven children and a ton of pets. Thanks Dr. Carpino.
My last story is about a Math. teacher I had at St. John's University, whose name I can't remember. I had to take some sort of Business Calculus and Math was never one of my strong points. I did well all term, many dropped out and there was only about ten of us left to take the final, which we had to pass to get our Masters. I was running an "A" and felt more confident than I should have. When I got the test, I looked at it, and went blank. No matter how I tried I couldn't put it together. I did what I could and was the last to hand it in. When I gave it to my teacher I told him I blew it and just went blank. He told me something like I was one
of his best students and he couldn't believe it. I walked out of St. John's feeling failure for the first time in along time. When I received my postcard with my mark I couldn't believe it. He gave me an "A". He got to know me and cared about the person and when I got my MBA I graduated with honors, thanks to him.

When I taught at Westchester Community College for two years, Accounting and Introduction to Computers, I remembered all my concerned teachers. When I would test I would encourage those who got stuck on a problem to come up and talk to me about it since Accounting is a subject that can take only one error or misinterpretation to blow the whole test even if one knows the subject. I would gently lead them to discover the answer and most of them would finish the test with a grade of "A".  As to the ones that aren't cut out to be Accountants, I'd try to lead them to another major. ANYWAY, To all my teachers who made a difference because they cared about the person, not the system, THANK YOU!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do Ministers Know Who They are Speaking to?

Last Sat. night I was at a mass at a nursing home. There were only about fifty people present, about 30 in wheelchairs, residents and 20 a mixture of caregivers and others. The celebration was The Queenship of Mary. The visiting Priest gave a homily that lasted no more than seven minutes or so and was terrific. He let us know there was hope and life could be less traumatic if we trusted in God.  Everyone went away uplifted. The very next day I was at the Sunday Mass at the same place and there was a little less than 200 people present. maybe 45% residents and the rest caregivers and others. The place was loaded with wheelchairs and the people gathered were hurting. A nursing home is an end of life holding ground and, for those who are permanent residents, know it if they have not fallen into dementia. The celebration was the same. Mary's Queenship. The Priest chose his homily on the Gospel and the part that said to those who were looking for entry into the kings mansion, "I don't know where you are from..." and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The homily droned on for 20 minutes with this dreary message that had the moral that we had to change our priorities or we'd be left wailing in the darkness. He was talking to a group that had more than enough troubles. They were struck with various forms of illness that left them dependant upon others as they waited for death. Not only were they affected mentally, physically but financially, it is not cheap to reside in a nursing home even with Medicaid which requires a person to become poor before they can qualify. On top of it all the talker's point was made at around 10 minutes and the next 10 minutes only repeated his dreary message. This homily might of been pertinent at a men's retreat or revival but certainly not where the problems the congregation were facing was already over whelming. Bishop Sheen was a magical speaker who brought humor, love and morals in every talk or program he gave. I suggest he be used as a model when religious speakers are being taught. Know your audience. Be brief and to the point. Always leave them feeling the love, and not the wrath, of God. I pray this will eventually happen.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Memories Are All We have

Of course this latest thought of mine is so obvious that I almost shy from writing about it. BUT, I am not sure if the thought is as obvious as it sounds. All we really have in this dimension we live in, is memories. As we do anything, whatever it is, it passes so quickly that we don't even realize whatever it was we had is gone and what we have left is our remembrance of it. The very moment we act it is over before we know it making the present a flicker of an eye as it slips into the past. Remember your first kiss? No matter how delicious it was it was gone before you knew it and only the sweet remembrance, which by the way changes the longer the act slips into the past, is left. All this means is while we live in time the only real truth is in the past and how we remember it. As we learn the time slips into the past and only what we retain is real until we retain another truth. Now just think how it must be for those who have Dementia such as Alzheimer's, or those with brain damage from an accident, or stroke or lack of oxygen. Suddenly, you no longer exist. Whoever you were you are no more and you live in great confusion or fear since you have no reference point, no memories.

Another dimension is eternity. I can't fathom what that must be like, no passage of time, no changes, everything is just as it always was, is going to be? It is all laid out in front of us like one big reel of film which has the beginning, middle  but no end all laid out for us. Hopefully, if there is another dimension such as eternity, we can't have illnesses like Dementia because there is no passage of time and everything is complete and whole in eternity. Hopefully! Bob Hope used to recap his programs with a refrain of "Thanks For The Memories" from "The Big Band of 1938", his rendition and the original lyrics mean so much more in light of this discussion. Another song, Dean Martin's "Memories Are Made of This" also takes on a deeper meaning. We are who we are because of what we retain, remember, we lose our very being when  memories cease.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some Random Thoughts

Mother Theresa would have been 100 years old a few days ago, a remarkable women in life but have we forgotten her in this life? I know her order is doing well and she is being pushed for sainthood but little by little she seems to be slipping from our consciousness. We do seem to have a short attention span. But then again she wasn't glamorous like Marlyn Monroe; she wasn't flashy as Babe Ruth (how many home runs did she hit? after all what is really important?);she never molested any children as so many of our religious leaders seemed to do; she only spent her time trying to make the end of life experience a little dignified for those with very little dignity left to them by the cruelties of this world. She really wasn't so much fun, was she?

Mosque or no Mosque? Everybody seems to be getting in on this one, the politicians, the religious groups, the newspapers, all with personal agendas. And nobody is going to win this battle. It would seem to me if the charges that are being made against the people backing the mosque are true then not only should this mosque NOT be built but the backers should be jailed as enemies of the state. If the charges are not true then they have every right to worship on the ground they own. To me the desecration of the 9/11 site has already be done. It is almost a decade since that tragedy befell our nation and yet nothing is erected, nothing done until the finances were put in order. A grassy land site with memorials and at night two towers of light reaching towards the sky with the names of all who perished and helped and were physically sickened by the foul air that our politicians at the time said was OK to breathe,  were listed. People from all over this earth could visit, free of charge and sit on benches and reflect on man's inhumanity to his fellow man. But no, the people with vested financial AND political interests got involved and we have to build on such valuable economic land. THAT IS THE DESECRATION! Money above everything else, reelection above everything else, POWER NOT to the people but to the elite and damn the fallen.

Have you ever noticed that Poetry can elevate us?  I would like to close this blog with P'U PU Suan TZU,
selection from "Further Collection of Chinese Lyrics"

I live at the head of the Great River
You live at the Great River's tail.
Daily I think of you; though I don't see you
Both of us drink from the Great River.

When will these waters fail?
When will these longings end?
I have one wish; that your heart and my heart
Stay true to one's bond.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

How Times Have Changed

I grew up in a neighborhood that was all white but there was plenty of ethnic slurring going on. My Irish friends would call me a greasy Guinea a Wop and I'd respond with calling them a mick. We'd smack each other around then go and play ball with each other. We knew very little about the dark colored people who we referred to as Negro, or Brown but never Black. Back in the 1940's it could get you into a lot of trouble if you referred to a person as being Black. Even our super hero, Joe Louis was nicknamed The Brown Bomber, today he would have been called Black. One thing my friends and I were sure of was, we'd stay out of their neighborhood and didn't want them in ours, or there would be hell to pay on either side.

My first real contact with Blacks came when I was about five years old. My father was assigned to fix up some old furniture in a hotel in Asberry Park, NJ which was a real rich resort town back in the 1930's. It was the summer so my Mother who had relatives there arranged for us to go there and have a vacation. Next door to where we stayed was a black family and I played with a kid name Olive Oil, probably a nickname. I was too young to realize he was Black so we got along pretty good. The next time I had any real interaction with them was when I went to Flushing High School. Almost a full decade between Olive Oil and me interacting with the Brown colored people. One term I spent a lunch period with a guy named Eddie Gold who was Black and he lived in the Black portion of Northern Blvd. around Corona. We got along well and he was as interested in what we white folks did as much as I was interested in what his folks did. We shared information without rancour and even let each other in on what we thought was the worst thing about us. This term served me well when I went into the Army.

I was stationed in Georgia 1956 to 1958. President Truman had intergrated the Armed Forces a little before I got in but Georgia was far from intergrated. On the base I went everywhere with my Black friends but once off the base we couldn't hang out together. I remember leaving the base on a pass with them and telling them to come with me or I'd go with them. They told me it wasn't a good idea since they went to Negro bars and if I went with them it would only cause grave problems as would them coming with me in the white section. I was incensed and was willing to fight the whole Columbus police force. They convinced me to go my way and we'd meet on base after we did all the drinking we were going to do in our sections of the town.

As soon as I hit town I made sure the locals saw me drinking from their water fountains, yes they had seperate fountains and rest rooms. It was so bad that when I got married and brought my wife with me to live in Georgia we went to a Catholic Church one night for Bible study and the people there tried to say the mark of Cain was Black skin. There was an uproar caused by my wife and me and we never were invited back. I used to have fun introducing my wife and me to the local rednecks, not everybody was like this but there was a Klu Klux Klan meeting house a few miles down the road. I made sure they knew she was Puerto Rican, I, Italian and we were from New York City, could be the phrase "Damn Yankees" were uttered more than once as we left where ever we were.

Before I finish let me tell you this little story. My wife left for home to have our first child a couple of months before my discharge. While she was with me we lived off base, now I had to move back on base. A few of us who were short timers were transferred to the Main Post as our outfit was gryoing to Germany and we were too short, not in height, in time to serve, to go with them. The guys that came with me to the Main Post were Black and my friends. The new assignment was good and we made friends. I found a few Italian guys that seemed OK. When I moved back on base my new found friends became abusive with their kidding and disparageing remarks were made about my wife. Needless to say I challenged the ringleader who was Italian and my friend, to a fight and he accepted. We were to meet after duty in an isolated place. I was getting ready to go when about five of my Black friends said they were coming to back me up as they heard my adversary and his friends planning to gang jump me. I was sure I could handle him but not with his friends. So I showed up with my Black backers and sure enough my adversary was there with his backers, all Italian and white. When they saw me with my guys they dispersed. There was no disparaging remarks directed at my wife to be heard in the barracks again. Sometimes the good old days weren't all that good.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Yankees and Prayer

It was the bottom of the ninth of a game being played between the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees in Texas. The Yankees were leading 2 to 1, but the Rangers had the bases loaded with two outs facing Mariano Rivera was Texas third baseman, Michael Young and the count had reached 3 balls and two strikes, a single could win the game for Texas an out gives the game to the Yankees. The fans were praying feverishly on BOTH sides for a positive outcome. Meanwhile, up in heaven, one of the top angels rushed into the holy of hollies, the inner sanctum, with the news of the game to God and all the prayers that were being sent up by the fans of BOTH teams. There are no ties in Baseball, one had to win and the one that won went on; the one that lost went home, season is over. God turned to his angel and with a stern look that got sterner after he was told of the problem asked the angel why he couldn't handle this himself or at least turn it over to one of the unknown saints, and there were plenty available. The angel responded that the prayers were so earnest and the hearts of all were so into this that only the Almighty could be the person who could come up with a just response that would satisfy both sides that their prayers were being answered. The passage of time didn't concern them since they were in eternity and the angel was having Young foul off some pitchers and having some conferences and arguments until the angel could get the Almighty to make a decision. God listened to all the prayers and could discern the love and earnest feeling emanating from both sides. He also knew that both men, Young and Rivera were good men who needed His love and reassurance. He pondered this situation deeply but couldn't reach a solution. Then suddenly another angel burst in and said that the medical Missionaries from Afghanistan just arrived and that God said he wanted to welcome them personally. So God decided that the game's outcome would have to wait. He sent a terrible rainstorm. The game had to be stopped to be finished the next day. Then God ran out of His Office and embrace the newly arrived loved ones, and threw a big feast. He made sure to assure them that the story about 72 virgins was a hoax and they all had a big laugh.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Prayer What Is It?

The lifting of mind and heart to be in the presence of God could be a definition of prayer but I prefer to think of it as a dialogue. Of course the true atheist would not be able to have this dialogue since they do not believe there is a supreme being. The agnostic has questions as to a supreme being's existence so I guess they could have this dialogue. Many times the prayer dialogue is only offered when there is a crisis and consists of only petition. We are in trouble and we need help and everything seems out of control so we turn to something outside of ourselves because it is completely out of our hands. So we wait if we get our answer, the job we,ve been praying for or the person's health be it mental or physical. If everything turns out OK then we feel the dialogue was complete, we asked and He/She answered. If it doesn't turn out the way we wanted then we feel the dialogue was incomplete; we asked and He didn't respond.  Of course He always answers it is just we didn't like the response.

First of all the dialogue requires that we acknowledge His greatness and we adore Him. Secondly, we Thank him for everything. Thirdly, we ask him for forgiveness for all who we have wronged, then we hit him with the petitions but always in the theme of the "OUR FATHER", "Thy Will Be Done!". Then we be quiet and wait for Him to respond, and He always does it is just that we don't want to tune Him in rather we want what we want and usually right away.

Bill Mahre, in his latest HBO routine and his film "Religiosity", ridicules organized religion and in effect all believers by taking what we do and reducing it to trivialities on the level of grade school kids. In a way he is correct. Not only are a lot of atrocities, both now and in the past, attributable to Religion, but we who pray have reduced God to the old guy with a white beard who is more accountant than the all powerful supreme being who loves us and wants the best for us. Many of us treat him as our Santa Claus who gives us candy and toys if we are good and coal or worse  fire if we are bad. Through prayer we can find the true God and then we can adore Him easily, thank him graciously, try atoning for wrongdoings and ask Him for whatever is truly needed to bring us closer to Him and eventually die peacefully, and the dialogue is complete.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

BaseBall and Life

Life is full of good and bad things. Sometimes the bad outweigh the good. That is time we need diversions. Baseball for me is the greatest diversion. I turn on the Yankees and I no longer am worried about my finances, health or lack of social life. No matter what life is throwing at me for at least a few hours the only thing that matters is whether Jeter gets a hit or if Giradi makes the right move. A great play infuses me with delight and an error does the opposite, especially if committed by the Yanks. Immersion in the game, standings and performances of the players refreshes my mind, sort of cleanses it. Music can have the same effect and for some dancing. Whatever it takes, we need diversion, a break from the mundane. Some use sleep to relieve them of worries but this can be harmful if overused; can lead to depression. What we need is to actively use the brain in pleasurable experiences as a cleansing agent. When refreshed we can go back to the struggles of the day stronger and more prepared to conquer the challenges.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What Captures Our Imagination

The papers; The TV; The Radio! All of our attention is directed to A-Rod's 600th. home run, or poor little rich girl's pilfer of $100 worth of cosmetics, or Rick Ptino's trial about extortion that was about a sex act that lasted 15 seconds. We are thrilled, chilled and titillated and we love it. Yet the war is pushed to the middle pages like a footnote; the oil leak is brushed aside to a footnote and people are dieing all over the world from starvation and poverty. But it is important to know that A-Rod is the youngest player in major league baseball to ever hit 600 home runs. Now that's important! What the hell is wrong with us as a nation?
We can't ever keep our attention on the real important things and our leaders, be the in Private Business or Government, or the Fourth Estate, just love it because they can just keep doing what they always do, empowering themselves while we just LOVE to hear about the home runs and the sex stories while we are getting violated. I guess it is really our fault after all because we let it happen and we're not even kissed.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Transparency/Information for Dummies

We hear the word "Transparency" and figure it means we can follow everything clearly. Right? Well I have to inform the geniuses in Washington that what is clear to them isn't at all to us. Let me refer to the "Bail Out" or what the heck ever you call it. Apparently there are a few or more spending plans to help us out of the financial morass we were in starting with those under the Bush Administration. The trouble is most of us have lost the clarity of what is happening. Therefore I propose this, let the Newspapers publish at least once a week a table with the following information: The Name of the Program; The date of inception and if applicable the date ended; The name of the Corporation; The amount disbursed; The Date of disbursement:
Amount Paid Back (if any): Balance to be paid; What was done with the amount Paid back; When if ever will the Balance be paid. I read that Citi paid $20 Billion and the stock that we held was going to be sold by the government and it would give us a profit. Since I read that information I heard nothing more and I'd like to know if the USA has made a profit or not. Wouldn't you? AND What the hell did we do with all this money? If we could put the pressure on our representatives to publish this information it would provide great transparency. Wouldn't it? Please don't let someone tell you this information is posted on the Internet. We dummies probably wouldn't know how to access the sites that have the information and if we did we probably get lost in the various names of the programs. Let's really get "Transparency"!

Monday, August 2, 2010

What is going on here?

A little while ago the good old USA was going down the drain headed for the biggest financial crash since the Great Depression. President Hoover was in charge back then and did nothing causing us to wait over a decade and a World War before everything stabilized. This time, learning from the past President Obama took decisive action despite some strong opposition. Are we better off now than we were? Yes! Are we out of the woods? No! We've got some ways to go but we are getting there despite various crisis and opposition. You would think accolades would be falling on the head of Obama yet people are throwing bricks. Why? Some, not many, have a different philosophy. I guess they would vote Hoover back in if they could. But the Birthers, The Tea Partyers, not all but most, and the rest of that ilk, can't stand the fact that we have a black man leading our nation. Sad but true, Old Jim Crow is showing some life. Our President doesn't have to prove anything except that he is capable, knowlegable and basically a good man. He has to fight, has to get tough and not be afraid of the bigots. Let us hope he has the guts to beat back the mob.