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New Normal

One thing this locked-down pandemic season has brought to Americans in all fifty states is an opportunity to rethink normal. We were forced to change. Decisions were made for us. Our options were limited.

We were ordered to stay at home. And at first, I think we were stunned. It was almost unbelievable. On a personal level, my own family had undergone some very stressful, life-changing circumstances during the weeks immediately leading into the pandemic. As a result, we were not as tuned in to the COVID-19 situation as we could have been. Without the influence of daily local and global news, our initial reaction was disbelief and that very quickly became our new reality.

Meals were suddenly prepared – well – at home! Socializing with friends was suddenly limited or banned in some areas. Activities were canceled. All activities. Spring sports didn’t happen. Schools were closed. Corporations suddenly had to figure out how to operate with employees working from home. Businesses had to navigate how to operate without storefronts. The restaurant had to go curbside. Banks closed their lobbies.

Everything changed.

Overnight.

These are my observations from our small-town rural community during these past nine weeks.

Evening and nighttime traffic stopped. No one was out driving around after five o’clock in the afternoon. Our streets were quiet. Then after about six o’clock, residents began using the sidewalks to do things like jog and walk their dogs! But after eight in the evening, there were no sounds in the neighborhoods.  Everyone was home with their doors and windows closed. It was quiet all over town.

Daytime walkers began to appear on the sidewalks. All ages and all backgrounds were out and about – on foot. I noticed an elderly man who started carrying a white trash bag on his daily walks and witnessed him stooping to pick up random litter and sticks in the gutters and along the sidewalks. Another walker waved robustly every time she passed.  Neighbor kids were chatty from the end of the driveway.  They would stop their bicycles and chit-chat a few minutes before turning around and going back to their end of the block.

Our local grocery store began to experience surges of customers! Their meager staff had to work overtime to keep shelves stocked and items available, even while still running the cash registers and carrying the groceries out to the patron’s cars. Our local pharmacy closed its door and allowed only one customer inside the store at a time. Our hardware store had to start stocking items they usually didn’t need in large quantities to keep up with demand. Our post office put up a plexiglass shield to help keep customers and workers safer. The local bank moved to a drive-through only status. The bar and the new local restaurant quickly adapted to curbside and take-out orders. And the Farm Service gas pumps began to have lines of cars waiting to fill their tanks as people adjusted to the shorter hours of the local convenience store.

And we all adjusted.

For the first time in a very long while, I began to see entire families walking together with their dogs in the evenings. Neighbors made a point to check on other neighbors – making sure the elderly and widowed had what they needed to survive. Individuals began wearing masks, yet they still stopped to talk to one another in the parking spaces uptown. Granted, they stood further back from the car window to create a six-foot space, but they still stopped to visit.

The baseball diamonds, softball fields, and soccer pitches were empty this spring. But parents went out to the mound, allowing their children to practice their swings. Parents were in their yards playing soccer with their kids. A mom was on the tennis court serving balls to her children on the other side of the net while she instructed them on forehand and backhand swings.

Weekends and evenings carry the aroma of backyard grills and smokers. Families are cooking and dining together. Even the dogs are getting more exercise than ever before!  Yards are mowed and manicured and flowers are in full bloom one month sooner than normal! More people planted vegetable gardens than I’ve noticed in the past.

Keeping the Mind Busy

In the world of Dementia, there is a fine line between keeping the mind busy and keeping the loved one occupied.  It would seem busy work might stimulate the senses over and over without a memory to keep track of passing time.

Seriously.

I’ve been told so many things about needing to keep activities on hand to keep my mom busy and/or occupied. We have adult coloring books from every genre. We have word find books, crossword puzzle books, and Sudoku.

They work for a while, depending on the day. I was looking for activities that might help on the days Mom was bored by the books. I stumbled upon Dementia-minded dominoes and color/shape matching cubes. They’re interesting, but haven’t held Mom’s attention for very long at a time as of yet.

My aunt was looking for things that might stimulate Mom’s memory when she stumbled upon their mother’s old number-slide game. Remember these?  This is one of the first handheld devices used to entertain little hands and it didn’t even need recharged!  It was about 4” square in size, and was “church-approved”. My grandmother carried it in her purse. My aunt remembers playing with it in church when she was a child! And I am sure all of my cousins remember it too! It was always a challenge to get the numbers in order from 1 – 15 and probably took a good deal of the sermon time to make it happen!

My aunt brought this little gadget to our house around Christmastime and Mom spent hours getting it in order. She’d mess with it until she got it all in numerical order, then proudly leave it on the table.  A day or two later I would mix up the numbers. Before bedtime, Mom would have it back in order. We did this off and on for a couple of weeks! It seemed to be very satisfying for Mom while she worked to get it exact! And all said, it took two-three hours to get it back in order each time, which worked well when I was wanting to get other things done around the house!

This Car Stop for Caribou

Do you remember those bumper stickers from the late ’70 and early ‘80s that read, “This car stops for garage sales”? Usually, they were displayed on the cars of little old ladies driving big LTD-style cars. And they weren’t joking! If there was a garage sale sign, that car was chasing it down!

I was reminded of that at Caribou Coffee not too long ago. My favorite Caribou is on Hickman Road, across from the Menards and at the end of a long strip mall. The drive-thru is awkward. You have to drive in behind the strip mall and go all the way to the far end, turn into the one-way, angled parking area and make your way back down to the entrance to find the actual drive-thru window!  It took me a couple of passes to actually figure it out, but now that I know the layout, I can zip right in, order my Mint Condition Mocha and be on my way in no time.

Not the case for the older model, burgundy, Chevy Malibu, however. I first noticed the Malibu as I started down the one way, angle parking strip. It was making a sharp turn from the main street into the parking area . . .backwards! Seriously.  It turned so sharp trying to get into the parking area that the car had one tire up on the curb.

The lady driving was trying to figure out how to get her car into the parking lot. And the passenger lady was pointing at the drive-thru sign at the coffee shop. Both of their windows were down and the discussion was very loud!

There are bushes along the edge of the angle parking lot.  Before the front tire of the Malibu dropped off the curb, the back tire scraped up against the bushes.  Now the Malibu is coming straight at me! Going the wrong way down the one-way strip!

There was only room for one car in that strip and absolutely nowhere for me to pull in. I decided my best option was to sit still and see what the Malibu was going to do.

Empty Nest

For those who know me at all, there is a very well-known fact that permeates my existence.  I am not very fond of birds.

Ok.  Understatement.  I am terrified of birds that are within close proximity of me.  Or ones that surprise me by flying out of a bush at me.  Or that look at me funny.  Any bird that does not announce itself in advance causes me great stress.

Once, when I was in 6th grade, my uncle stepped inside my Grandma’s kitchen to show off his pheasant.  Mind you, I was sitting on the sofa at the far west end of the old farmhouse.  My uncle was in the kitchen, at the far EAST end of the house.  There were two rooms between us.  But when he dropped the wing tips to show the side of those pheasant wings, I was OUT!  I mean OUT!  The next thing I remember (to this day) is waking up to my Grandpa gently patting my cheeks!  My whole family was peering down over me waiting for me to recover from fainting!

And if I were to be completely transparent, the bird doesn’t even have to be “whole” or alive to be terrifying.  A dead bird in the street causes as much anxiety as a single feather (especially BIG feathers).  My little brother used to be able to lock me in or out of my bedroom when we were kids simply by lining the threshold of my doorway with pheasant feathers.  I would hide in (or totally avoid) my bedroom door until someone, usually my mom, would remove the feathers so I could enter without hyperventilating.

On another occasion, in the 4th grade, all of my grandparents were gathered around our kitchen table in the mobile home to celebrate my brother’s birthday.  It was a little tight, but we were all seated around the table.  I was sitting between my grandmothers.  I will never forget!  Mom always let us choose our favorite meal for our birthdays.  Then she would go to town, making the best birthday dinner possible.  My brother had chosen fried chicken!  His favorite!

Chickens are my absolute WORST nightmare. 

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