Why am I here now? Family History!

Somehow, all of the happenings in my family right now are stirring up many questions for me about my family background. The death of my father in 2020, the dementia of my Mom now and the birth of the first member of the next generation of our family has me wondering how all of this came about.

Why am I here? What and who participated in the creation of our family and why?

Top: Photo of my parents’ wedding in 1951 in Kansas City, Kansas

Luckily, my Mom spent a few years searching for the answers to these exact questions back in the early 2000s and produced a detailed family history called: Generations: Our Grandmothers for all of us to learn from. So this week I decided to sit down and read it cover to cover. It also included many family photos I had never seen before. What a gold mine of genetics and social history from a family whose roots go back to farming in eastern Kansas in the 1800s and railroad development in the Kansas City Kansas area.

Top: Great-Grandma McGrew on her wedding day in 1907

What struck me first was how large families were back then, and how “romances” developed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In the case of all of my great grandparents, they met because so many lived in boarding houses where family members mixed. In the case of my Great-Grandma McGrew, she was sent to live with a different farm family to help out, because her own family had too many mouths to feed. She ended up marrying the only son in her adopted family. The McGrews greatly valued education, so even though the closest high school was ten miles away, they made certain that their only daughter, my grandmother, finished high school. She taught elementary school for two years and then ventured out to the big city to expand her horizons in business school. She then secured a job as a secretary in Kansas City where she soon met my grandfather.

My Mom describes our Carter background this way: “If there is a unifying “track” to the story of the Carter family, it would be the Santa Fe Railroad and its development over time as the history of railroads was unfolding in the West.” My Grandpa Carter, his father, and most of his brothers worked on the railroad their whole life, but Grandpa was determined that his two sons would not. He also believed strongly in education as the primary path to a better life, and my Dad and uncle’s lives certainly proved that point. My dad and Uncle Bob were the first Carters to not only finish high school, but also finish college and graduate school. My dad swore by the advantages of a good education and it worked out great for him and his kids.

Developing your mind and allowing it to go wherever it wishes, opens up so many doors and windows on life! It also allows for so much freedom in determining where we go next. I cannot even imagine how different I would have been without my love of learning…

My experience with post-concussion syndrome

In case a few of you are concerned about my condition since my last concussion in April, I was finally able to see a great neurologist this past week in Denver. Why Denver? Because no one down here would even see me! One in Pueblo refused and would not say why, plus they took a month to say so! Health care? What health care?

So five months later a great MD at Blue Sky Neurology in Denver did a thorough assessment of my condition and concluded I was in very good shape considering my history of a serious traumatic brain injury (2008) and a number of concussions since. He said something I already know too well, head injuries often lead to more head injuries, especially if you take into account my difficulties maintaining my oxygen levels.

It’s official. I now have Post-Concussion Syndrome.

Here’s a summary of what that is according to the Mayo Clinic:

Persistent post-concussive symptoms, also called post-concussion syndrome, occurs when concussion symptoms last beyond the expected recovery period after the initial injury. The usual recovery period is weeks to months. These symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, and problems with concentration and memory.

Concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that usually happens after a blow to the head. It can also occur with violent shaking and movement of the head or body. You don’t have to lose consciousness to get a concussion or experience persistent post-concussive symptoms. In fact, the risk of developing persistent post-concussive symptoms doesn’t appear to be associated with the severity of the initial injury.

In most people, symptoms occur within the first seven to 10 days and go away within three months. Sometimes, they can persist for a year or more.

The goal of treatment after concussion is to effectively manage your symptoms.

Persistent post-concussive symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of concentration and memory
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Blurry vision
  • Noise and light sensitivity
  • Rarely, decreases in taste and smell

Luckily I only have about half of these. Mostly it just feels like I’m slightly drunk a lot of the time with occasional falling down-type whirlies. Ironic though, I almost never drank alcohol before this and I never do now. I found it interesting to know that I also have whiplash in my neck from falling down so violently. It seems some physical therapy is in order. Unfortunately, I now find myself unable to keep quiet when I’m angry. No filter here πŸ™‚ so I sometimes must apologize later for losing my temper. I’ve always been a pretty direct and honest person, now that’s a bit out of control… oops!

But I am surviving nicely with no more plans to fall on my head… Hope you are all doing better than me!

Watching Mom lose everything…

This past week was one of the saddest of my entire life. I felt so bad for my Mom as she watched her most valued lifetime possessions walk out of her door. She then moved from a patio home to a small apartment in assisted living. Unmitigated pain. Moving from a patio home to assisted living meant flunking at life, at least that’s how my Mom felt about it. Failure at age 88. Her dementia has gotten to be too much and so comes the final punishment for living so long.

There was nothing we could say to ease her pain. It was just so sad.

At one point she said to me, “You will never understand how this feels.” And she’s right. Each person’s pain is their own. Only she remembers when she got each piece of furniture and how much it meant to her and my father. Their home was like a museum of their world travels and their many friendships gained along the way. That is now gone as her memories fade.

Sometimes I wonder, why we live if it all ends in death? That is when it strikes me that we are no different than any other animal or plant. We do not choose to be born or choose our death, it just is. The cycle of life and death continues for all living beings.

All I can come up with is to do my best to love my life every day, come rain or shine…

Useful lessons in love from old movies… Check out “Lydia” from 1941!

I have become a real fan of Turner Classic Movies since my most recent brain injury the end of April. Actually even with my first traumatic brain injury back in 2008, I found watching movies to be most soothing and helpful in helping me re-learn language. After that first bike accident I could barely put a sentence together immediately afterwards. Apparently I hurt the part of my brain that does language.

This week I watched a great 1941 movie called “Lydia” starring Merle Oberon. I found it rather ahead of its time in terms of sexual liberation. I have learned that in old movies when two lovers share a passionate kiss, that should be read as a sexual encounter in today’s language. Anyway, Lydia, an elderly woman who never married (a spinster in 1940s speak), is suddenly confronted with the four men she has loved in her life as a sort of review of the important transitions she went through. This in itself reminded me of a reoccurring dream I had for years before I met Mike. In my dream I’m standing in front of a room of past lovers. So what do I do? I stand up and shoot myself in the head…

MERLE OBERON & ALAN MARSHAL in ‘LYDIA’

But Lydia is quite gracious to the three past lovers she is suddenly confronted with. These three men have always loved and cared for her, but she could never truly love them because she was deeply and tragically in love with another man whom she only knew for an intense few days when she was young. This sailor named Richard, deserted her soon after they met, but kept sending passionate letters promising love in their future. After most of her past life and loves have been explained, Richard, the man she had pined for forever comes by. After a great line about them all being “old and crusty” the man Lydia loved so passionately forever looks at her and does not even recognize her! OUCH!

What a great summary of intense youthful passion! Hormones can be such a major part of early love. They most certainly color our memories of what may later seem like the best times in our lives. But then the times when love first blooms is always excitingly poignant and unforgettable. The discovery that another person who you find quite attractive actually “loves” you is better than most drugs, and yet it is best to consider that you were on a certain type of drug when it happened. You were young and so insecure and just hoping someone would come along and make your life better. You were projecting all of your greatest wants and needs on to this one person who is probably at least as messed up as you are. Later, when you realize your life is not any better, and perhaps worse with this person….oops!

There are a number of great lines in “Lydia.” One is when she describes her lustful sailor man as: “bad and wicked, and as marvelous as they come, and I am so idiotically happy I can’t think!” Pretty tough to think when you are hopelessly in love and the hormones are raging! Another great piece of advice: “Don’t give your love to a phantom!”

I could relate well to this 80-year-old movie. That’s a miracle in itself! I have had my share of ill-fated love affairs. A few asked me to marry them, but I never did, not until much later in my life. I say, try not to be too hard on yourself for the silliness of your many past bad choices…

Open your heart to those you love. Sometimes it will turn out great. Other times, not so much...

It’s high time for some optimism from an 88 and 92 year old perspective!

I’m afraid some of you misunderstood my last post about academ-idiots. It was IN NO WAY a criticism of intelligence. Intelligence is as exciting and stimulating to me as anything these days. I am afraid too many of us sit and feel helpless when we watch the news. Between Afghanistan and COVID it is easy to slip into a daze of depression. The other day I thought, “Even if I had all the power in the world I could not ‘fix” Afghanistan…” However I do believe that if all healthcare professionals refused to treat those who chose not to follow the science and get vaccinated, we could make a big dent in our nationwide COVID problem.

I spent the past few days with my 88 year old mother. She is a constant reminder to me of how much progress we have made in terms of women’s education and liberation. When she was fresh out of high school, the best life she could imagine for herself was to marry a decent and determined man who might take her to good places in her future. In return she gave birth to and raised three children, cleaned his house, made every meal for us and did a million other things to make my Dad a success in his field of botany. She did finally get a college degree the year my sister graduated from high school, and taught elementary school for two decades after that. SHE LOVES KIDS! Now, as my Mom looks back over her life, she can say she did an amazing job of the only real job open to her 70 years ago. My Dad was also more optimistic about our future than my brother and I when he died at age 91. It seems with the proper perspective of nearly a century, optimism may arrive.

If you need a kick in the butt to feel positive about our future, I can highly recommend an interview I saw today with Marty Cooper, the inventor of the cellphone. He is now 92 and living the good life. This interview is really a history of cellphone development and BTW, cellphones were first developed by someone who was trained in electronics by the Navy, like my husband Mike. Sometimes having the perspective of 92 years can help the rest of us feel good about the future!

Marty’s most important message to everyone is “KEEP LEARNING! BE CURIOUS [about EVERYTHING!]”

I know now that keeping my brain working is a full-time job for me, and nothing inspires me as much as this six minute interview with Marty Cooper on CBS Sunday Morning today. Click here! It is absolutely worth your while!

What we think about when we’re old and graying, my review of the 2019 film “After the Wedding”

I grow more enamored with Julianne Moore every time I see another one of her films, but this one blew me away. This film dealt with a few of my most crucial issues at present, and did so in such profoundly moving and sensitive ways. If I had to summarize in one sentence, I would say “After the Wedding” is about the terrible decisions we must make when we are too young to make them, and their long-term consequences… It is about the issues we try to come to terms with decades later as we face our own end.

Watching this film reminded me of how I so often wonder why certain parts of my past, certain people, certain moments, certain memories, haunt me, demanding so much of my psychic energy decades later, while most simply fade away. How did I deal with that person, that anger, that fear, that abandonment and why? It seems most of us can obscure painful memories only so long, as we continue to learn and grow and increase our capacity for compassion.

As Julianne says at one point near the end of this film, “discomfort brings growth.”

Yes, I’m quite familiar with the anti-discomfort argument. Why suffer at this late date when nothing can be done about it? I do my share of spacing it all out and celebrating the absurdity of life, but I also enjoy films like this that are so raw and intense they ask you to step up to the plate and feel your past and perhaps give yourself a much-needed break.

I pride myself on searching out and confronting the truth at every turn. I believe that is what makes us a tiny bit better than the other animals. Nothing can be changed about the past, but our own understanding of what it means to us is what makes us human. I also enjoyed the song at the end: “I knew you for a moment” by Abby Quinn

β€œThe first forty years of life give us the text; the next thirty supply the commentary on it.” — Arthur Schopenhauer