How Did ELSA Become DEEV?

Sigh…  Have received numerous confused inquiries about just who is this Elsa person in Mom’s e-mails?

I am Elsa, Elsa is me.   Elsa Beth Murphy, nee Lockhart.

Backstory – for 20+ years, it was increasing confusing to be in a small town with four, (later FIVE) Elsas, all within 10 years of me.  Growing up, there were just two Elsas – the others lived in Pittsburgh (along with our mutual namesake) & moved here as adults.  The one who lived here was 5+  years younger than I, which was no big deal until our 40s, when age differences tend to go POUF!  What threw a spanner in the works for me was that four of the five – yes, including our regal namesake! – were active in Bryn Athyn Community Theater (B-Act) & I knew that whenever our name was shouted out, they typically did NOT mean me.

It got to be rather spirit squashing.

Praise be, a solution presented itself that worked out perfectly.  I am crazy about doing creativity workshops for all ages.  The children who attended, especially the regulars, were stumped about what to call me.  Mrs. Murphy seemed too formal;  Aunt Elsa just fell flat & plain old Elsa was even worse.  Then Kayla & Nikiah came up with the brilliant idea of calling me Aunt Diva, which all agreed was a grand idea.  Realizing I had the solution to my larger name problem at hand, I discussed it with John, who thought it a bonza idea, tweaked the original suggestion & have been DEEV ever since.  When I first did it, could tell when people had looked up our phone # in the BA phone directory, because they’d say, “You really are serious about this name change, aren’t you?“, having just found us listed under Murphy, John & Deev.

But it can be confusing when people reading Mom’s e-mails see “Elsa” and wonder “WHO?”  ME!

 

Serendipity

In addition to rediscovering a flock of my mother’s e-mail participation in a lively 2000-01 online discussion about issues in our church (beyond a blessing to reconnect with her wisdom), just came across e-mails written after her fall in Alexandria, VA & continuing to & through most of her stay at St. Mary’s/Langhorne, less than thirty minutes from our Philly suburb home.

It is no mere coincidence that they showed up – after over a decade of being “lost” – just before I head out to the International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics, next week in San Francisco.  Serendipity!

Mom – with an assist from Anne Davis Hyatt & Marie Nice Murphy – is why I am a playfulness coach.  In the midst of her hospitalizations, when things were so wretched my mother broke down into tears, she could look forward to reconnecting  online with an ever-growing circle of friends & family.  She couldn’t go out with me on one of her beloved outs & abouts, but she could indulge in lively banter & a dashing bit of word play.

One e-mail in particular stands out for me as a terrific example of why having an online circle of friends made such a difference to Mom, kept her lively when she felt like death warmed over,  entertained her even when she was flat on her back with a disgusting tube up her nose.  She was talking about a visit she’d had from our pastor, which lead her into talking about his children (particularly his older daughter who as a 3rd grader swiped Mom’s heart), from Tom to his parents – GE & Marcelite – who lived in Pasadena & were friends of my parents & my older sister, which got her into remembering Harold & Jean Cranch & from them to their daughter Margie & then to her daughters Galadriel & Tirah, then onto memories of my three oldest siblings visiting my uncle’s ranch outside Sacramento.

Mom was flat on her back but over the brief time it took to throw together her posting, she’d had all the fun of being back in our little hometown, Pasadena, Princeton (we always took Marcelite to Princeton when she visited Tom & Nina), Uncle Paul’s ranch, PLUS the precious memories of each friend who came to mind.

If thought brings presence, Mom’s hospital room was packed!

I’ve seen the impact of play & personal connection on Mom, on “Aunt” Benita, perhaps most spectacularly on our dear friend, Anne.  Play doesn’t have to cost a cent, offers incredible across-the-board health benefits.  That message HAS to get out there, has to be ballyhooed & championed & spread around the globe.  Especially in the USA, where our appreciation of the power of play across the age spectrum is abysmal compared to MANY other countries.

My work is cut out for me, but am blessed the Universe clued me in that what I wrote as a sweet sentiment in my very first official All Ages, All Stages blog is 100% true – of all the people, past present future, partnered with me in my spreading the gospel of the power of play in reducing the more negative by-products of aging upward, first & foremost is my mother, Katharine Reynolds Lockhart,  MOP**.

** Master of Play

Mom’s Style of PR

My style of PR was doing public relations & marketing for Prudential HealthCare.  Mom’s was quite different – it was PR as in Puerto Rico!

In her late sixties & into her seventies, Mom would go to Bermuda with the wondrous Consuelo (Connie) Rosenquist, who was many years older than Mom.  Mom served as Connie’s strong right arm, making it possible for that remarkable older woman to continue her trips to her beloved island, where she had many friends, who soon too a shine to my mother, too.  The two ladies always had an unforgettable stay & rolled back home mellower than they’d left!

Mom also took bops down to Puerto Rico – her PR – with Gay Pendleton, one of her BFFs. Those two always had a fine time together, whether it was putting their heads together for one of their many Republican Women of PA gigs, shopping for fabric in NYC’s Garment District, or kicking up their heels in San Juan!

The following is  something Mom wrote while hospitalized for an undiagnosed but serious condition, which included partial paralysis, stomach pain, bloating & swollen extremities.   It shows a woman who LIVED every moment of her life, whatever her circumstance or condition, who understood the power of play & made it possible for others to get healthy doses of it, even when she was laid up in the hospital, being endlessly ferried from unit to unit, room to room.

This posting shows Mom is at her most HER, living full throttle.  She dictated the e-mail in her hospital room as I  transcribed to internet for her ever-growing circle of online friends & pleasant acquaintances. Mom writes at the end of expectations “my recuperation should be a full – but leisurely – success,”  but she would bid us her final adieu less than a month later, on 09/14/01.

She was 91.

8/16/01

It interests me what a good looking group of doctors I have seen over the past two and a half weeks.  Even Dr. Cochran’s associate – a female – was what they call easy on the eyes;  she reminded Elsa of Candy Zeigler and she reminded me of Beth Jewell. 

My rehabilitation physician is Dr. Bernal.  Dr. Bernal has classic good looks – tall, dark and handsome.  He is very easy to talk to.  He hails from Puerto Rico.  

Talking to him made me think about visiting Gay and Willard at their winter quarters in Palmas Del Mar.  After Willard’s retirement, they would spend the winter in Puerto Rico (Gay was prone to pneumonia in the cold, moist Pennsylvania winter).  I went down to keep Gay company while Willard came up for the Council of the Clergy meetings.  We would get in a bit of a visit, the three of us, before he headed up to the meetings in Bryn Athyn.  I remember the three of us talking over cocktails, out on the patio, overlooking the ocean.  It felt like I was in a postcard.

Once Willard was gone, Gay and I would cut loose a bit.  I remember one time that we went to a wonderful little French restaurant – the owners and staff really and truly were French – for supper.  We had a marvelous time.  In fact, we had such a good time, Gay invited them all to her place for lunch the next day.  What fun that was, entertaining these very entertaining young people.  Gay was in her element and I was no slouch myself.  It was great fun. 

When Willard got back from the meetings and we told him about our merry adventure, he just looked at Gay, then at me, then back at Gay and said, “I knew as soon as I left you two were going to go wild.”  We did and I only wish we could do it all over again.

I will leave it to Elsa to give you my medical updates, which I understand she posts on KRL’s Family Circus.  Needless to say, with such a dashing doctor who brings up such enjoyable memories, my recuperation should be a full – but leisurely – success. 

Vios con dios – Grammie

FYI  – I am Elsa, Elsa is me.  Deev & Elsa – one & the same!

Meet Mom

As I grow older, it gets clearer to me that  our goal is to be as quietly radical as the Lord was while on this earth.  We need to put our new wine in those new bottles.  We need to expect extraordinary things from ourselves and from our institutions.

 Oh my goodness, sometimes I am unrecognizable, even to my self.     >>KRL<<

This is from an online posting  my mother sent  to a large circle of friends who explored the role of women in our church.  (She dictated, I transcribed to the internet.)  Mom was 90 when she wrote those words.  Over the previous few years, she had stretched herself in ways that she’d left behind when Dad died, 27 years before.  In their partnership, she’d found & developed a strong sense of worth & personal identity, alas tied to Dad.  When he died, at 63, so did her confidence in herself.

Never say never, because she began regaining it half way between her 87th & 88th birthdays.  Through her own courage, grit & determined actions, Mom dug down deep inside herself, found that woman her Pete loved & nurtured, brought her out into the world for all of us to admire & applaud.

 

 

YES! quote du jour

 

For all that has been – thanks.  For all that will be, YES!

I discovered Dag Hammarskjold as a fairly solitary 8th grader in a small school.  My 7th grade teacher fretted because of my love of MacBeth, which she considered WAY too depressing for someone so young – she didn’t get that the mayhem & murders (although the tears always started on reading MacDuff say, “What, all my pretty chickens and their dam At one fell swoop?“) swept past me, that I lost myself in the play of words & interplay of personalities.

Everyone else was a character to me – MacDuff, whose humanity I sensed & whose pain I felt, was real.  It was natural that I’d be drawn to the great Swede, appreciating even back then, several years after his tragic death, the complexity of Hammarskjold’s character, the contradictions he made work for his humanitarian ends.

From what I’ve read & what I learned from my mother, also an admirer, Hammarskjold was a very private man pursuing a very public purpose.  He was proud of his Swedish heritage, yet acted as a citizen of the world rather than any one country, witnessed by his service as the second Secretary General of the United Nations.  His family were nobles since 1610, yet he was every inch a man of the people.  He had had the gift of connecting with others, yet let few people into his full confidence.  He was a master diplomat & statesman, yet his focus was always on the outcome, never manueverings & machinations.  He held out the hand of caring support, yet was careful to step when people needed to learn from their struggles.  He was a man of peace, but died violently, many suspected due to forces who did not want him interfering in Rhodesian (now Zambia.

As an 8th grader, I fell in love with his posthumously published book, Markings (Vägmärken).  I came across it again about ten years ago, in the library of a client who insisted that I take it.  Reading through it – selections from his dairy, starting in 1925, when he was twenty, ending a month before his death.   The source material was discovered in his New York apartment, along with a letter to one of his UN colleagues & a fellow Swede, saying they were the only “true” portrait of him, giving permission for them to be gathered into a book, “if you find them worth publishing”

When I share favorite quotes, which I hope to do regularly,  most will NOT come with a long backstory, but I doubt I would be doing the work I am, doing my best to make the lives of all ages as expansive as possible, without Dag Hammarskjold.  His life is an inspiration, his writing is in my soul.

That Your Days May Be Long

Guess it was about five years ago that I first got a hankering to write a book on something that comes as naturally to me as breathing – making the 5th Commandment an integral part of my adult life.   But it didn’t occur to me until John & I worked with Anne Davis Hyatt, after she lost her O Best Beloved, Kent.  She’d make blue days stormy grey by fretting over being a burden on her children, on taking up their time when “they have their own lives to live.”  For weeks, I was stumped on how to turn her downward spiral back up.  Then it happened.

Anne was a devout Christian, knew her Bible – the Ten Commandments were etched on her heart.  We were out on a ramble when she started in on being a sorry imposition on her children.  I heard myself reply, “So, you don’t care if your children have remarkable lives?”  That got her attention!   She swung around to look at me as she indignantly spouted, “I want the BEST for my family!

I had my opening – the rest flowed out, all improv, a spontaneous AH HA coming on the spur of the moment.

“Well, the 5th Commandment teaches us that when children honor – care about & for – their parents, they  are gifted with “long days,” which I think means contented, happy, feeling prosperous.  By giving them the opportunity to be there for you, you give them the opportunity for having special lives.

It was clear that Anne was trying to come up with something to refute my statement.  She couldn’t.  That was the commandment.  It clearly states that children who honor their parents are bestowed blessings for their “right spirit” connection.  She was stumped.  “I never thought of it that way. ”

I’d like to say that Anne never again beat herself up for being a drag on her family, but I can note that she bowed to my reasoning whenever it came up & in time did stop saying it.  Not because I countered with something she already believed, but because it was true. For me, it wasn’t that something she believed had a deeper meaning than she’d realized, but that, until that moment with Anne, meandering along the back country roads she loved, neither had I!

Honor v. Obey  ~ The 5th Commandment,  the bedrock of Judeo-Christian faiths & reflected in many other faiths & cultures around the globe, teaches us to “Honor your father & your mother, that your days may be long upon the land with the Lord your God gives you.”  Sadly,  it’s too often paired with Paul’s millenia-later edict to the Ephesians, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right”  –  “obey” conveys a significantly sterner message than “honor”;  the first is rooted in a compelled will, the second flows from the heart.

My life was significantly blessed from my earliest awareness with a respect for Mom & Dad – as my parents, but also as people.  Maybe it was because of knowing so much at such a young age about their histories – Mom was a great storyteller & often shared tales about her childhood sibs parents & what she’d learned about Dad’s.

Backstory  ~  Maybe it was because the two of them experienced such multi-layered personal tragedies in their teens, after idyllic childhoods, that my protective emotions toward my parents were stirred early in life.  As a child, I saw them as my parents – protectors, teachers, task masters.  In my teens, I saw them as a devoted couple who loved each other, their children, our church, community, schools, nation.   In my late teens & early twenties, I started to get an inkling that they had very different expectations for me than they had for my eight years older sister – I noticed it, but it didn’t fully register.  That didn’t happen until after my father was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor & died – at 63 – when I was barely into my twenties.  That was when I first fully experienced honoring my father by being there for my mother.  Not that I had any choice in the beginning of her long widowhood – was in my junior year of college, living at home & close enough to walk to classes.

Between the time Dad died & Mom was reunited with her O Best Beloved, 28 years later, the longest Mom & I lived apart were the months between when I married John (I was 37) & when she, on the advice of John’s accountant, moved in with us.  (“If you get along with your mother-in-law so well, why are you helping pay her rent instead of her helping pay your mortgage?“)  Just a shade over nine months after our wedding, Mom moved into the room between my writing studio & John’s art studio, the very room she was in as she slipped from this life forward, thirteen years later.

John – an only – had a similar relationship with his parents.  His father also died in his early sixties, in his sleep from a massive heart attack.  He was his feisty fabulous independent mother’s strong right arm from the day his Dad died to his mother’s death – also in her home, also of a massive heart attack – at 87 years.  We were blessed that the two moms, who had six weeks were they were the same age, clicked & that what Mom M needed from us never clashed with my mother’s needs.  Mom felt purpose-less living on her own, while Mom M loved her relatively independent life on Akron Street.  John & I had the good sense to KNOW that we were blessed by our mothers’ complementary natures that complemented rather than clashed.

Good old-fashioned common sense – it didn’t hit me until now, but maybe that is what our experience with honoring our parents came down to.  Both of us were born with a strong helping of it.  Both us saw the need our mothers had of us, saw our ability to provide genuinely caring support, could see its win-win possibilities.  Maybe being there for our parents comes down to being in tune with what needed doing & capable of getting past the gunk that might get in our way of getting it done.

Hopes, Expectations ~  To be honest, the promise of a long life doesn’t ring my chimes as much as having one that’s full, balanced, blessed with meaning & purpose.  Thanks to being there for my mother, I have that because through working with her, dealing with her, surviving her, I learned the essential qualities of honesty, altruism & detachment.

My mother & I had very different expectations of family.  Due to her experiences from her late teens through to her forties with her own  mother, Mom saw herself as the THE person responsible for keeping things on an even keel.  Since she always saw us as being two peas in a pod, so she handed her expectations of herself down to me, especially after Dad died so young.

Mom was devastated by my father’s death.  For weeks, she sat in the living room, in the big lounge chair she’d bought for him, rarely speaking, rarely moving.  When she finally worked her way out of that incapacitating grief, started to come back to us, she seemed to divide their relationship between my sister & myself.  (I lived at home because I was still in college, Mim did because she would camp out there over periods of her life up to when Mom moved into with John & me.)  Mim drew out the emotionally-connected, caring energies that had been a reciprocal part of my parents’ relationship, while she gave me the protective role Dad had always devoted to her.  And thus it stayed for 24 years, until she was 87, when she opened herself up to change in how she saw herself, her children, the family.  All of this is my long way of saying that while Mom lived with me for 28 years, none of them were easy, on either of us.  And yet we made it work. In the end, by her death at 91, both of us were different, better people for having been in the mother-daughter relationship we’d sometimes wondered if we’d survive.

 It Ain’t Easy  ~  Honoring our parents isn’t easy.  Yet it’s what we’re called to do, through our faith, through once-the-norm cultural expectations.   The commandment doesn’t say, “If you get  along with your parents,” “If your parents treat you decently,” “If everything was great & they were more your best buddies than parents.”  Nor does it mean,  I believe, putting yourself & those you love at risk.  It doesn’t mean always agreeing, never getting upset, that there’s always harmony.  I camethisclose to a nervous breakdown, while she was often left her looking & feeling like a deer caught in the headlights.  There was serious friction between us to the last days of her remarkable life.

Full Disclosure  ~  In the interest of full disclosure, we did not accomplish this feat on our own.  Mom, whose love of reading grew even stronger as her energies dwindled, discovered Stephen Covey, Nathaniel Brandon, Marianne Williamson, John Bradshaw & many others in her late eighties.  We listened together & discussed their audio tapes, read their books.

Perhaps the greatest thing we did was read – separately – Ram Dass‘ well-thumbed,  Still Here,  with his beautiful observation that in situations involving the dependency of one & the needed support of others, that the roles of server & served dissolve into simply mutual service when if how the partnered care is approached with a right spirit on both sides.  We practically leapt with joy, sharing that passage, which so completely captured what both of us had experienced for three years.  And it harks back to the promise of the 5th Commandment, because is there any better life than one marked with true service, with meaning & purpose?

Mazel Tov!  ~  My thanks to Anne, for sparking my awareness of the forever relevance power importance of the 5th Commandment – if she hadn’t been feeling so low about herself & set me pondering how to jostle her out of it, maybe the full impact of a commandment I’ve heard all my life but had never given much thought wouldn’t have hit me.  Now, to get my head together, my writing processes honed & at the ready,  and onward to writing That Your Days May Be Long, nurturing a 5th commandment meme & mindset for the modern world.

May there be a blessing!

Gypsy!

 

It takes the heart & soul of a gypsy to live the sort of life the Universe staked out for John & myself.  Praise be, he’s an artist, so a semblance of that unanchored existence was already part of our dynamic.

If we provided high-end maintenance support, folks would be clamoring for services.  Alas, neither of us are experienced helping older people navigate daily tasks, provide other forms of in-home care.  We rarely interacted with elderly people.  Although our mothers lived to ripe old ages & both saw their bodies decay, their minds & spirits were sharp & their engagement with life keen to the last.  They were old, never elderly.

People often quip, “We want to have you work with us when we get old!” – but wouldn’t think to have us scoot Great-Aunt Molly on a drive or take dear Dad out for a minor league ball game.  At least one woman in our little hometown says she’d NEVER hire us to squire her around because we have too much fun, should do it for free.

Our client list is always fluid & not just because a client has departed us for Higher Realms.  Over the space of four weeks, we lost two sustaining clients.  In one case, the family didn’t consider it worth the out-of-pocket expense.  In the other, the older friend’s family stepped up to the plate – an optimum outcome, just not for us.

One thing we discovered since starting older2elder (just being older doesn’t make someone an elder) is that if people value what we provide, they think we undercharge.  If they don’t, they’d balk at anything.

Luckily, 25+ years in corporate America stands me in good stead in developing work that matters, that people value & give value.  I am not frustrated that some folks think I flagrantly over charge.  It’s of “soft” value, can’t be quantified.  My corporate bosses could grasp a dire problem, but typically balked at doing something that would prevent it in the first place.  Adult children aren’t all that different. 

The same sort of thing that 25+ years ago made insurers balk at paying for at-home care, so people were kept in the hospital significantly longer than need be in order for it to be covered.  Now, covering it is standard practice.   Some day, Medicare will recognize the value of social support as well as maintenance care, but not at this moment.  And youngers tend to balk at anything not covered.  Don’t mean to guilt them, but the same child who sees the need for a sponge bath doesn’t see the value of being socially engaged, if it means out-of-pocket expense.  A pity.

One younger I know, well off if not well-to-do, balked at getting a hospital bed for his mother because it wasn’t covered, purchased a walker with a flimsy shelf rather than spending the extra bucks for one with a seat.  Family members – like insurance companies – too often focus on costs rather than on outcomes.  Hopefully the son will realize, as the insurance company ultimately did, that dear old Mom being able to get up & walk with a good stride & sound sense of balance means less chance of debilitating falls, that a decent walker with sturdy seat will increase her choices of where to go – both will boost her confidence * reduce future care, costs.

We are a couple of gypsies, following the life purpose that courses through our veins.  If that means breaking out a begging bowl to get to events like the International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics World Congress, we’ll tap into our inner monk & stand by the online highway.  (And offer up thanks it’s in the USA instead of Korea, France or Brazil!) 

We go to conferences, read books, surf the internet, seek out thought leaders because the ripple made over the past years is swelling into a wave that will sweep across the world to our shores, transforming eldercare into a full spectrum of valued services, from in-home care to a wide range of socializing that provides oldsters elders ancients with the options, choices, freedom we all crave.

Options, choice, freedom defines the care John & I provide.  Can’t do much better than that.  At least not if you’re just a couple of gypsies!