HELEN HUDSON HERE: BABY BOOMER SANDWICH ON WRY

     I never made it to Woodstock.  I was too young, didn’t drive and lived in the Arizona desert.   I listened to the music though, with a volume guaranteed to blow out eardrums for miles.  Couldn’t get enough of the music.  Dragged the needle back, over and over, to replay my favorite songs.   Wore lovebeads, went braless and flashed the peace sign to total strangers.  Pretended I WAS Janis Joplin in the shower with the door closed.  And while my generation did sing its share of romance & heartbreak songs, the REAL message of that era was:  FREEDOM. 

     At Woodstock, Tim Hardin sang, “A Simple Song of Freedom.”  Joan Baez, AND Joe Cocker sang “I Shall Be Released.”  The Who cranked out, “I’m Free.”  Crosby, Stills & Nash even asked us to, “Find The Cost of Freedom.”  My all time fave was Richie Havens,” singing “Freedom” with a passion and abandon that shook up my insides.  But who would ever have guessed that those barefoot, pot smoking, long-haired, free love children would find themselves so unfree 40 years later? 

     Our generation is not only finding their own kids still at home but now are facing the prospect of Mom or Dad also moving into that spare room over the garage.  Why?  You might blame the economy for the 20 something’s moving back.  You might shake your fist at science for making sure we live longer but the truth is we really didn’t prepare for the prospect of aging.  Nursing homes have long waiting lists & the price tag is steep. 

     Every 70 seconds someone will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  No, it wasn’t the drugs.  It’s our high tech, lazyboy lifestyle and it’s catching up with us.  What to do?  Move pops into that spare room.  You’ll save a ton of ‘bread.’  The kids are ‘free’ to keep their music blasting.  He might be a bit hard of hearing but music is good for the soul.  Feel free to put some black light posters up in his room.  Visual stimulation is healthy for the aging brain.  Take him everywhere you go & listen to his stories, no matter how often he repeats them.  Nothing makes an old heart happier. 

Then, if you’re real lucky, YOUR kids will put up with YOU when you start telling those Woodstock stories over and over and over again.  I finally found the cost of freedom the day we moved Granny in with us and it was worth every, single penny.  (From “Kissing Tomatoes,” http://www.helen-hudson.com)  P. S. Just read that 20% of us should EXPECT to get Alzheimer’s.

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CATS MAY HAVE NINE LIVES—WE DON’T

     Before we had our cat, Skitter, I thought that people who doted on their pets were complete idiots.   ‘It’s not like they can talk to you or do anything productive,’ I used to say.  But when my oldest turned six and that tiny ball of fluff arrived, I did an about-face.  I became downright besotted.  Even though I was the one who fed her, changed the litter and made the vet appointments, she was worth it.  The kids loved her and even Dad came around the day she plunked in his lap and began to purr. 

     After awhile I was certain that she understood me.  ‘We’ had conversations understood only by us.  I did all the talking but I was sure she listened.  Her ears even cocked towards the sound of my voice.  And get this:  I brushed her with my own hairbrush!  For 9 years, she followed us coast to coast, grew bigger, navigated puberty w/ my oldest and shred a few pieces of furniture in the process.   

     One afternoon I found her licking the dinner bell.  Odd.  The next day she wouldn’t eat & hid herself deep in the closet.  Once the vet diagnosed feline leukemia, the only hope was a blood transfusion.  He said she’d be in pain and likely wouldn’t hold on, so I let her go.  It was hard and haunted me for months.  

     Now my neighbor has a dog.  He loves strutting behind that highly groomed pooch.  Treats him like he’s the Crown Prince of Something.  Picks up his poop in a plastic bag as if he were gathering rare gems.  Calls him, “Buddy.”  Talks to him with such affection and kindness that the day he first spoke to me I was taken aback.  He’s not a very nice guy.  In fact, in 3 years, we’ve only spoken twice.  During our  last conversation, talk drifted to aging parents.  “My mother got that dementia thing,” he told me.  “Put her in a home and that was that.  Don’t know what all the fuss is about.  You can put ’em anywhere.  Doesn’t matter.  They don’t know where they are anyway.”  Wonder what he’ll do when Buddy gets old and loses his swagger.   (http://www. helen-hudson.com

THE “A” WORD

     When I was a teenager, you had your mouth washed out with soap if you used the “A” word.  Now I hear it almost daily, coming out of the mouths of baby boomers, but it stands for something else:  Alzheimer’s.  Statistics now say half a million people will be diagnosed with it this year alone.  As little as six months ago that ‘statistic’ was considerably lower.  What’s happening to us?  We’re losing our marbles at an alarming rate. 

     Somewhere along the road of “peace” and “free love” we got complacent.  We ‘did our thing’ and ‘found ourselves’ and now many of us, despite the transcendental meditation induced stupor of all things Beatle are losing those same ‘selves.’  The bell-bottom generation is bottoming out.  Some of their kids are already reserving spots in nursing homes and they’re not ‘gone’ yet.   So, when The Wall Street Journal (March 30) tells you things aren’t looking so good, you pay attention. 

     But I’ve been paying attention since 1982 when my grandmother moved in with my newlywed husband and me.  Granny, my best friend and Smith college graduate, was as loony as a tune the afternoon she walked through our front door carrying Alzheimer’s along with her suitcase.  She kissed tomatoes in the market, talked to the TV set when it wasn’t on and covered our house with Kleenex to protect us from evil spirits. 

     Within weeks of feeding her regular, healthy meals, insisting she exercise daily and getting her involved in the world again, she was beating us both at Scrabble.  It works.  Okay, so it took science & a slew of researchers the last 30 years to figure it out–but it works.  So before your kids start reading you nursing home brochures, do yourself a favor:  Flip off the TV.  Shut down the computer.  Push those last 3 doughnuts down the garbage disposal.  Walk out the door and start singing, “Here Comes The Sun.”  (Yeah, they’ve discovered music is good for us, too).   http://www.helen-hudson.com    

ALZHEIMER’S AND “KISSING TOMATOES”

     Spoke last week at the American Counseling Association’s national convention in Pittsburgh.  My topic was, “There’s No Place Like Home:  Caring for the Alzheimer’s Patient At Home.”  Having cared for my grandmother for 13 years in our home, this is an issue both personal and philosophical. 

     In 20 years, the US is predicted to have 11 million people diagnosed w/ the disease.  Add that number to the families & caretakers that will be involved & you have some idea what lies ahead of us.  If we don’t figure out how to care for our elders in their final years with both dignity & compassion, as other cultures have done for centuries, America will be sadder for it.  So will we.  We are all going to die.  If we are fortunate, we will all live to old age. 

     Our LAST chapter should be just as important as our FIRST one.  Indeed, by then one hopes we will have added something real and of value to the world at large.  Our babies, while precious and sacrosanct, have yet to offer us anything.  That will come with time.  Our elders have given us EVERYTHING and yet we abandon them in their last chapter.  It is their loss.  If they have Alzheimer’s, they will likely not even know it.  But we know it and ultimately it is OUR loss.  (http:// www.helen-hudson.com.  Read the first chapter of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” my memoir of those 13 years with Granny).