Category Archives: Family

Celebrating the Stages of Life

Next week my Grandmother, Lettie Fae Lowder – GG to her family – will turn 93, and as the saying goes, turning 93 beats the alternative despite all the challenges that come with each passing year. That saying doesn't begin to address the subleties of dealing with the changes that each stage of life brings, but my Aunt Debbie does a wonderful job of addressing those issues in a post on her blog about dealing with GG's increasing dementia and her move to a new wing at her retirement home that offers closer care:

The biggest difference for GG at this stage of  life is the power of imagination she substitutes for loss of vision and hearing, and what we usually refer to as “being in touch with reality.” I guess she’s getting bored with some of the stories we’ve all heard about a gazillion times, so she is gracious enough to create some new stories for our entertainment. If you’ve not yet heard of Pony Boy you really should spend a little time with GG. Pull up a rocker and ask a few questions and off you go to the barn and beyond…

She still remembers each of us, but many, many details are lost to her. The line between fact and fantasy is sometimes clear and sometimes thin….very thin. This is part of an aging process we are all experiencing. We’re just at a different place…for this moment. Mom’s life’s-work has changed from being a daughter to young wife and mother, to working woman, to grandmother…even great-great grandmother. It’s usually easier to see the meaning and purpose of our life during these earlier stages. And harder to understand the meaning and purpose of life in the latter stages.

One way I try to understand Mom’s purpose at this time is that of Preparation for Death…the process of dieing. And part of this process is leaving the care of this world and its inhabitants to others… after she takes her leave of us.  She asks constantly, “what are the children doing?”  She actually needs to know what we are doing so she can stop her doing.

Mom cannot see to read. She no longer has a telephone because her hearing and memory render a phone  fairly useless. When I heard she would now be living in a supervised (“locked”) environment, I panicked.  Her world had already seemed unjustly small. Now it seemed another door…a locked one…was closing.

I took a deep breath. The 2-hour drive from the farm gave me plenty of time to remember lots of times when Mom was young and strong and…well, greatly determined.  I walked into the lobby and where I would have turned left to go to her room, I walked straight to the locked doors and rang the door bell. A door opened.

Mom looked pretty content and believed she was living in Old Salem. (she loves Old Salem)  The staff is loving and fun. She always refers to me as the fun one…I want her to have lots of fun one’s. Because actually, I am not that much fun…she needs a lot more fun than I can conjure up! Her room is large and pretty and peaceful…and  near the staff”s laughter and loving oversight. I was scared to walk down that hall…into a new phase of life…but it wasn’t that hard. Mom is there….just not like she used to be. I am there…changed, for sure. And many others are willing to explore this time of life with us…thank you. We are all teachers and we are all learning. We all hope and we all know fear. We are not alone. Mom has a great capacity for the subtleties of life….don’t be afraid to speak of these things. And don’t be surprised if she is able to cut more quickly to the truth of the matter…thus unraveling our carefully formed beliefs about what is real.

What a beautiful way to look at GG's new adventure. I'm sure my Aunts, who have done a lot of heavy lifting with GG's care over the last few years, might have moments when it's hard to see things in such a light, but they've also done a great job of sharing the Adventures of GG and Pony Boy with the rest of us so I'm fairly confident they feel the same way. 

The wonders of family will never cease to amaze.

Justin’s 16

So the "baby" of our family is 16. He's also 6'2" and still growing. He's smart as a whip, funny in a subversive kind of way, and is so easy going and quiet that I often wonder if he's sleeping with his eyes open. Don't be fooled – this kid can consume a 400-page book in hours, and if he put his mind to it, could probably memorize the Declaration of Independence in one sitting. He's also capable of playing Xbox Live for 36 hours straight without even breaking a sweat, and he plays a mean trombone. In short he's a 21st century Renaissance man, and every day he awes me more and more.

Next year his siblings will both be at college and the household will be quite different with an "only child." While Justin's brother and sister can blow up a room with noise and energy the second they enter it, he glides in and out quietly, always observant and rarely calling attention to himself. When he does speak it pays to listen, because it's always interesting and insightful and it feels like you've found a rare jewel because he guards his words so jealously.  

It's been wonderful watching him grow from a boy to a young man these last couple of years, and I'm really looking forward to the next couple of years as he continues that journey. I think he's going to absolutely blow the doors off of life and I can't wait to see him do it.

Oh, and did I mention he's a kind of "Kid Whisperer"? Check him out with his young cousin's and our neighbors' boys – truly amazing.


Happy birthday J!

In Sickness and In Health

There is an excellent piece in the Washington Post that I found to be at turns heart warming and heart wrenching.  It's a story about love, the vows of marriage, and at the most basic level, love.  I don't want to provide any excerpts for you here because quite frankly the story is too well written as a whole to be sampled in pieces. I've shared it with a few people and have been fascinated by their varying reactions; people I trust and with whom I almost always agree have disagreed with me and each other on certain aspects of this story. Despite those disagreements I feel safe in stating that after reading it all of us found our own "issues" paled by comparison.

Here's the link to the story – I can't recommend it highly enough.

Happy New Year!

For Christmas this year our daughter put together a photo album called Meet the Lowders. This picture is of one page of the album that features photos of our family through the years. The bottom picture was taken at our son's graduation from West Forsyth HS in June.

Happy New Year from our family to yours!


Alternative Housing

Our son isn't the only one getting an education by heading off to college.  For instance Mom and Dad discovered last week that his school of choice has some communication issues.  As in the school was quick to let our son know that he'd been bumped off the housing list because they hadn't received a $200 deposit, but in the two months they'd had his registration and zero dollars they'd said nary a word about a deposit not being in hand.  That included two days spent on campus by our son and his mom for a mandatory orientation that ran a couple hundred bucks.  The result was that Mom and Dad ended up spending a Sunday looking at off campus apartments while their son was at work.  That led to the next lesson.

Off campus apartments are not what we had back in the dark ages of the 80s.  These apartments feature three or four private rooms (lockable) with private bathrooms attached to a common area that includes a living room, a full kitchen (granite counters and stainless steel appliances), and a laundry room. Free wi-fi comes with the cable and utilities that are all-inclusive.  The community's clubhouse has a game room (foosball, ping pong, pool), a computer lab, a fitness room (real weights and nicer cardio equipment than we have at our gym) and a pool.  In other words we're worried he won't come home.

BTW, the cost is comparable to the cost of the on-campus housing with the exception of the lowest end dorms. But since the lowest end dorms looking like something out of 60s-era Soviet Russia and smell like feet I'd say that's not a bad deal.

Teenage Labor Force

Our oldest, Michael, was interviewed for Richard Craver's story in the Winston-Salem Journal about the difficulty teens are having finding work.

Being an early weekend riser wasn't exactly what Michael Lowder had in mind when he began pursuing a part-time job for the summer before heading to UNC Charlotte this fall.

But after filling out dozens of online applications and getting only two responses, Lowder, 18, said he felt fortunate to be hired for the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekend shift for the breakfast buffet at Embassy Suites

Lowder's experience is all too familiar to working-age teens and adults trying to find temporary or permanent employment in the tight job market.

Like many adults with jobs, Lowder landed his position primarily because of networking, in his case a neighbor who is in management at Twin City Quarter.

When asked his advice for other teens, Lowder said don't be afraid to ask a neighbor or a friend's parent who runs a business if they need help.

"Honestly, I got lucky," Lowder said. "It seems, at least from the combined experiences of my friends, that small businesses are your best bet for employment."

I have to say I've been proud of Michael for dragging himself out of bed at 5:15 every Saturday and Sunday morning, and now that school's over, several days in between. It's not easy, but at least he has a job and that makes him one of the lucky ones.

Blah, Blah, Blah Defined

Want a definition of Blah, Blah, Blah?  It's the noise coming out of a Dad's mouth when he continues lecturing one of his kids even though he knows that kid has totally tuned him out.  You know what I mean.  The Dad starts off with expressions of exasperation and bewilderment over something the kid has failed to do, and because this is an ongoing issue he quickly moves into lecture mode which he knows is useless based on the glazed expression in the kid's eyes, but because he's ticked off he can't help himself and keeps yammering on until he ends up saying something like, "You have so much ability, but you only use 10% of it. You have to get it together, you have to decide it's time to apply yourself.  Your Mother and I can't do it for you, you have to make that decision for yourself…."

Another sure sign that Dad's entered BlahBlahBlahLand is that his wife, the Mother of the kid, is giving him the "You're an idiot" look over her shoulder as she walks out of the room because she can't stand the spectacle any longer.  Of course she's right, but at least Dad feels like he's done something.