And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan …Joshua 4:21-24 From a wonder, old school sermon LINK
We all know the proverb “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” I am not sure how the stony-hearted person who thought this one up, but it attempts to speak of us not letting things said to us hurt us. This is indeed a unique challenge when it comes to caregiving. I suspect that by a majority here larger than how badly Reagan beat Mondale, we have all been verbally pelted a time or two by the disease wearing our loved one like a glove. This isn’t the point of this article, but please let me tell you again 2 things you already know:
- It is the disease talking
- Words hurt because the disease sure the heck looks like our loved one. 🙁
All we can do is redirect, change the subject, find a new connection point to distract, and let it go. I wish I had the magic words here, but their are none. I welcome your thoughts.
We aren’t the first ones to think about this interesting proverb, though. Literarydevices.net tells us this:
The proverb “sticks and stones may break my bones” is said to have its initial traces in 1844, in Alexander William Kinglake’s book where it is used as “golden sticks and stones.” Later, it was cited in The Christian Recorder of March published in 1862, where it was stated as; “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.” It also appeared in 1872, in Mrs. George Cupples’s piece, Tappy’s Chicks: and Other Links Between Nature and Human Nature, where it is stated as; “Sticks and stones may break my bones / But names will never harm me.”
This trivia also has nothing to do with today’s main topic, but I now need desperately to find Tappy’s Chicks: and Other Links Between Nature and Human Nature. Love the title. 😉 (Update: Well, I’ll be a monkey’s unclue… here it is. 🙂 https://www.amazon.com/Tappys-Chicks-Other-Between-Nature/dp/131866070X No clue if it is worth the $, but the fact that it still exists and is readily available is quite cool)
Back to the task at hand…sticks and stones.
While my point in today’s discussion may miss the more important discussion cited above, I feel like we have beaten that dead horse quite enough. This is what I want to talk about:
Mom and dad taught us a lot in our childhood about seeking out the seeming throwaways and the minutia in life, especially in nature. One way mom and dad, and to a lesser extent my stepdad later on decades later, taught us this lesson is by collecting rocks and driftwood and always displaying them. Every time we would go camping, go to the river or the lake, or go on a hike, we came home with some treasures. There are lessons to be learned to be sure in this area. This was in full display, yet again, when my bride and I went hiking in our anniversary trip last weekend. Here are the pictures:
If your browser will let you, click on these pictures and blow them waaaaay up. There are miracles in each, IF YOU LOOK CLOSELY ENOUGH. That is the whole rub…we spend our whole lives looking at everything from a Macro view. We are big picture lookers. When I look at my room at work, I see clutter, pictures (many of my brain), security monitors, computers, and other stored items. However, I seldom, if ever, drop the macro goggles and look closer. A closer look at my room shows a lot of hard work in trying to help people in various ways. I don’t know if it is that we default because of some fight or flight response to the negative, or what, but we miss the trees for the forest more often than now. The rocks we collected growing up, and the pictures I listed here, when you look closely, tell stories. They have beauty from the pain of erosion, or being banged around, and from pressure.
The same stuff can be said about the driftwood and/or sticks. It has a purpose, mind you. According to Ontarioparks.com, “Driftwood provides stability to the sandy beach environment. With winds and waves, beaches are constantly shifting and experiencing natural disturbance. Like the edges you build around a garden, driftwood helps hold the sand in place and allows plants to take root.” All sorts of creatures use what we call driftwood in various ways as well. In short (LOL), driftwood has a life well lived. In the end, it is often stunning in appearance. Here are some stock pix of driftwood (I am too far away this week from being able to get you pictures of our personal stash:
Pain was required for this “beauty”. Is it beautiful to everyone? Not likely. But when you stop comparing it with the trees of fall and think of it for the wondrous story it represents, it takes on a new look. Same with the rocks. It still has utility. It does things. It is beautiful. It should be celebrated and noticed.
Friends, I know I am preaching to the choir here a bit, but never lose sight of the beauty of your loved one with dementia. They are worn…but they have stories to tell, whether in voice or in the little things. Stop comparing them with the past. Stop comparing a (from a distance) ugly rock with a crystal vase and instead see the whole picture through a closer look. Every day we get with our loved ones is a blessing. We can find the beauty and the joy that is right under our nose if we look hard enough and with the right goggles. 🙂
I hate this disease. I am not saying here that we compare things that look “right”…the fall tree or the vase…with the things that look “wrong”…the driftwood or the mundane rock. What I am saying is we need to rethink what is pretty to include the full story. There is far more beauty in what we miss than we notice. Thank you Mom and Dad for teaching me that.
Update: Mom was good yesterday. She has a new roommate who is a very sweet lady. Mom’s lungs were a little rattly yesterday, but all-in-all she is doing fine. I look forward to someday walking the riverfront in heaven with her and, again, looking at the small things. Until then, thinking on sticks and stones kind of breaks my heart.
Extra thoughts: My kids get this better than I do. My daughter Lindsey loves diffing even deeper at the small things. She like the microscopic level of looking too. 🙂
Next week I will share about the guinea pigging trip I do. It is very interesting stuff. 🙂
Mom has a favorite rock that she got before I was born. It is round and has a crater in the upper side corner (well, it is round…think Star Wars Death Star except higher up). Dirt was in there and mom planted a little bundle of either hens and chicks or a cactus that has lived there for longer than I have been alive. IT is amazing and I will try to post a picture of that soon. 🙂
Oh…I forgot one favorite!!! Mom used to glue Googly eyes on rocks or make crafts out of things like driftwood too. They were her playground. 🙂 Lots of precious memories in that world too…