On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 18, 2019:

our father's childrenI’m home with all bones intact but with a heart that has more marks than I can count. Let me back up a step or two in case you didn’t read my last column. I went to Royal Family Kids Camp last week, a very special place where kids in foster care can spend five days and four nights just being kids and having fun in a safe environment. In 2013 I served as a counselor and came home with a broken ankle and a broken heart. This time I was the camp scribe. I wasn’t as actively involved in the organized games and other strenuous activities – and David was home praying that he would get his wife back in one piece – so I came home physically undamaged. But as I watched and listened with the eyes and ears of a writer, I saw and heard the struggles, heartaches, and triumphs of more children and counselors than before when I was focused on the two campers that were my responsibility. There are more stories than I can write, but here are a few.

“Jane” was so afraid of the water that she brought her own life jacket and continuously Pink wristbandquestioned her counselor about the lifeguard’s ability to save her if she got into trouble. All campers are required to pass a swim test in order to venture into the deeper end of the pool or to go over to the pond. She wanted to take the test, but she was afraid, so she practiced long and hard. By Wednesday, she was ready to try. Everyone in the pool area had seen her struggle, and they all stopped to watch. When she passed, the cheers and applause were deafening. The wrist band she earned became her pink badge of courage, and she showed it to anyone who would look the rest of the week. Read the rest of this entry »

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 11, 2019:

RFKCIt’s been a long time since I went to summer camp, but maybe not as long as you think. David and I were counselors at Royal Family Kids Camp in 2013. As you might guess from the name, this camp is a very special camp for some very special kids.

All the children who attend RFKC are in the foster care system, most have been abused in our father's childrensome way, and all of them are at risk. I saw a lot of statistics in my pre-camp training, and although I don’t remember all of them, two stick out in my mind – 50% of girls in foster care will be pregnant by age 19, and 74% of people in prison have been in the foster system at some point in their lives. Our Father’s Children, the parent organization of RFKC, sponsors camps all over the country with the goal of providing a safe, fun place where they can create life-changing moments for these campers. Read the rest of this entry »

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 4, 2019:

Kitty 061515Kitty came to live with us four years ago this month. If you’ve followed my column for any length of time, you know that her assimilation into our family has not always been smooth. However, through the months and years, we’ve worked out routines that work for all of us. Some of them have even become rituals.

Kitty makes no secret of the fact that David is her favorite, but since I’m the first one up after a long, lonely night, she’s usually glad to see me. When I come into the kitchen, she stands by her feeding station and looks at me pitifully. While I scoop kibble into her bowl, she runs around the island counter clockwise, stops in front of her bowl, and looks up again. This time she has a more demanding look, asking without words why I’m not petting her. Read the rest of this entry »

Published in the Rains County Leader on Tuesday, May 28, 2019:

Rocker in the makingWhen I left you last week, David and I were both tired and sore from a week of climbing and crawling around on a ladder and porch railings to paint and to mount sheets of foam insulation on the ceiling of our new front porch. This week we had several days to rest and recuperate.

Monday we drove to Fort Worth to attend our grandson’s jazz band concert. An amazing performance was presented by all the students, especially by Mattias who I still can’t believe is in high school. We spent the night to avoid getting home well past the witching hour. It also allowed us to visit over breakfast and lunch before heading for home.

The schedule for the rest of the week was full, but by Saturday we were out of excuses. Well, I had one excuse – an online book event that required a bit of promo work. While I was on the computer, David put on his work clothes and headed outside. It wasn’t more than five minutes when I heard him calling me. Read the rest of this entry »

Published in the Rains County Leader on Tuesday, May 21, 2019:

Porch Front View 011019Last week I wrote about drying my wings. The weather this week was beautiful, and the good weather gave us a chance to do some long overdue work on our new front porch. So now my “wings” are dry, but they are very weary.

Sometime in the early 1950s, when I was around five years old, my parents bought their first home in Snyder, Texas. It was a cute little five-room cottage with a carport, asbestos shingles (who knew they were dangerous!), and a neat front porch surrounded by a white railing. I was quite a tomboy, and that railing was the perfect configuration for climbing, jumping, and performing daring circus-like stunts with my brother. Our favorite involved him standing on the ground and me jumping off the rail onto his shoulders. From there, he would grab my hands and I would flip backward and hopefully land on my feet. I was young, agile, and foolishly fearless, and I don’t remember any negative after effects from my antics. However, after more years than I care to discuss, my recent front porch antics left me weary and sore with a few bruises and several broken nails. Read the rest of this entry »

Published in the Rains County Leader on Tuesday, May 14, 2019:

snakebirdFlorida requires that, when developers put in new subdivisions, they leave a certain percentage of the land in its natural state. We were blessed to have a retention pond right behind our house and a screened-in porch – better known as a lanai by the natives – where we could sit and watch the wildlife. Some of the wildlife, like the alligators, was a little too wild, but the large variety of birds was fascinating.

One in particular caught my eye. It was a rather large black bird with a long neck. It would dive under the water and stay for a long time. Then it would surface and stretch its neck straight up so it could swallow whatever tasty bit of marine life it had snagged before disappearing into the water again. When its tummy was full, it would climb out of the water and sit on a log or rock where it would spread its wings and sit for a spell before flying away.

No one in our household of transplanted Texans could shed any light on this bird and its unusual habits, so I went to the Internet. I found a wildlife site that had a place for questions, and I described our visitor. I received a prompt reply that I was watching an Anhinga or Snakebird. The reason it spread its wings after a swim was that, unlike other aquatic birds, it didn’t have any oil on its feathers. It had to spread out in the sunshine so it could dry off enough to fly.

I have felt somewhat like a Snakebird lately, especially Wednesday of last week. It has been so wet this spring that everyone I know is checking their feet for webbing, and companies that make mildew removers are making a fortune. Read the rest of this entry »

A Long and Winding Road by Linda Brendle         56161812_524092914662317_2745872214099230720_n

Buy A Long and Winding Road:      Ebook     Paperback

Buy Mom’s Long Goodbye:     Ebook     Paperback

A Long and Winding Road

Alzheimer’s is a family disease, and this is a love story – not a boy meets girls love story, but a family love story. It is the story of the love between a daughter and her parents and her willingness to take them into her home when they could no longer care for themselves; the story of a mother and a father who loved their daughter but no longer remembered exactly where they were or why; the story of a husband who loved his wife so much that he stood beside her as they fought to survive the ravages of the brain-wasting disease that was stealing her loved ones away a piece at a time. It’s also the story of a seven-week trip for four across sixteen U.S. states in a forty-foot motor home – a trip that involved stopped up toilets, wet jeans, laughter, and headaches that were far from the easygoing retirement the Brendles had imagined for themselves.

Linda Brendle takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotional and spiritual challenges that many families are facing right now. Co-dependency, mental breakdowns, and finding love after divorce are just a few of the issues weaved into this journey of caregiving.

 A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos is the story of the chaos that happens when four people, two of whom have Alzheimer’s, spend fifty-three days in a 400-square-foot box on wheels.

 

   

Mom’s Long Goodbye

Mom’s good-bye began with a red photo album and ended fifteen years later in a hospital bed in the Alzheimer’s wing of Southridge Village. This is her story and mine.

My first memoir told of the chaos that happens when four people, two of whom have Alzheimer’s, spend fifty-three days in a forty-foot motor home. It also told of the years and the life experiences that brought these four people together. After finishing it, many readers asked what happened next. Mom’s Long Good-Bye is the rest of the story.

Based on blog posts written as the events happened, this memoir takes the reader through grieving a continuous loss, some of the initial changes Alzheimer’s causes, the transition from caregiving to assisted living, Dad’s death, Mom’s last year, and the grief and closure of her final good-bye.

This book is for the millions who have experienced the heartache of witnessing the physical and mental deterioration of a loved family member or a dear friend. Mom’s Long Good-Bye strips away the façade of being the perfect caregiver and gives the reader a look at the denial, the anger, and the fear that come as a loved one loses herself a piece at a time to an insidious disease. By sharing her own struggles, the author assures other caregivers that they are not alone, that perfection is not required, and that comfort is real.

 

Blessings,

Linda

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