Lemme begin by saying, who HASN’T found their remote control in their fridge at least once?!? (and I’m not including when you had a liiiiiiiitttle too much vodka one night).
Well, I have.
Okay, maybe not that exact scenario, but you’re a big fat liaaaaa if you haven’t done something similar when you were distracted, such as:
A. Threw something valuable in trash?
B. Totally forgot what you just went upstairs for?
C. Put your cell phone in the washing machine? (Thank you husband for the personal example lol)
Come on, everybody’s doin’ it! And it makes sense because, we’re ya know, “otherwise occupied” with 3 children screaming or a work problem on our minds and simply unable to focus on the task at hand.
Sometimes it can be a funny situation (like when I put my underwear on backwards one day and was wondering why things felt a bit “odd”—–yes that was a true story folks and if you tell anyone about it I’ll never forgive you). Regardless of how funny it is, most of us get frustrated a little to super frustrated when we do something silly.
Well, step inside Mr. Gray’s sneaks with me. Don’t be shy…
K, now that we’re all here. Mr. Gray can’t just laugh off Dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc., with a “Oh silly me!” No, dude. This is tough stuff. We all know the deal here…..these diseases and gray issues are for lack of a more proper phrase: “Pieces O’ Shit.” Not being able to remember the most basic things like what a “shoe” is called to the most important things like the names and faces of loved ones. Well, a round of drinks for everyone involved because THAT SUCKS. But I’m not here to tell you what you already know about dementia. I’m here to talk to you about what you CAN do for Mr. Gray — you can help him retain his dignity.
Don’t baby talk: Baby, sweety, honey—– save that for your lovaaa! Why should we talk to an 85 year old any differently than we would a 45 year old?
Choices: What do you want to wear today? The light blue sweater or the red floral shirt? By assuming, well you know….you make an ASS OUT OF YOU AND ME. This allows Mr. Gray to maintain autonomy and I mean, who doesn’t like choice?!
Don’t lie! Just because you can get away with it and “he/she won’t know the difference anyway”, doesn’t mean you should. NOW, that being said, there are certain lies that would benefit Mr. Gray’s well-being. You have to use your best judgement. But as much as possible, tell the truth.
Engage in normal discussion: Keep it simple and provide direction in the conversation when possible. It’s beautiful outside today! What do you think about those flowers outside? I bet they smell lovely… Even if one’s memory isn’t sharp, doesn’t mean conversations don’t have value.
These are just a FEW things you can do to make Mr. Gray’s life brighter when the good ole ‘noggin isn’t working quite as well as it used to. I’m in. You?
I’ll leave you with this heartfelt story I saw on tv when the Washington Capitals (Hockey for some of you non-fans) won the Stanley Cup recently. The interviewer asked one of the star players, the goalie T.J. Oshie, about his game play inspiration.
So yeah, this disease stinks and Mr. Gray sometimes has to live with this. Until we can fix it, let’s do what we can to not judge him for it and treat him like a whole person. And remember there’s one thing that always remains whole no matter what…
Forget male vs. female, Republican vs. Democrat, brunettes vs. blondes, Team T-Swift vs. Team Katy Perry, pro-Tom Brady vs. anti-Tom Brady……..the only distinction that truly matters is………
No greater truth has ever been spoken (or blogged).
So, which is it? Are you a big cheesin’ throw the curtains back, whistling in the morning (shoutout to my brother-in-law who actually does this), it’s Tony the Tiger GGGGGGGGGRRREEEAAT to be alive person? OR do you hit snooze 23.5 times (minimum) and envision a tidal wave breaking over the grinnin’ face of your “morning person” partner?
Which am I? Awwwwww, why thank you for asking! I’m flattered you care so much.
The honest answer is I’m kinda in the middle. WHAT?!?! I know, that’s totally cheating and goes against the entire premise of this argument. But, it’s true. Since I was a bright-eyed bushy-tailed child, I’ve always been smiley and ready to seize the day and never needed coffee or a battle with my alarm clock…buuuuuuuut lately that’s been shifting to:
So, as I’m trying to sort through my true morning identity, we’ll continue with the whole “Love of Gray” thang….
Let’s say 50% of people are admittedly like this:
The downside is, you might be labeled as a morning grump. The upside is, people get it and recognize that after a cup of morning Joe, you emerge into the “normal”, kind, civilized person that you are for the rest of the day.
Well, Mr. Gray (yeah I didn’t forget about him), however, doesn’t always get that pass in life. You guys have seen of or at least heard of the film “Grumpy Old Men.” Right? So you know the deal. I mean I can think of plenty of terms I’ve heard:
“Grumpy Old Man” (That’s a classic).
“Old Hag” (ouch!)
“Curmudgeon” (had to spellcheck that one)
“Cranky Old Lady”
The list goes on, but you get the stereotype. And there is some truth to it. Mr. Gray can be GRUMPS. But the question is, Why? and Why doesn’t he get a pass like our dear morning grumps? Well, let’s explore…
I’ve been reading this recent best seller called “A Man Called Ove.” You guessed it! It’s about a man called Ove— or for our purposes, Mr. Gray— who acts like, well, an “A-hole” to everyone. He’s the type who complains about everything, doesn’t cut anyone slack, and basically acts like he can’t stand anyone around him. We’ve all met a Mr. Gray like this, right? (Sometimes it’s even our not-so-fav great aunt ;o)). Well, what you find out as you read, is that he is grieving the loss of his wife, his career, is extremely lonely, and feels like he’s lost his purpose in life– so he focuses on nitpicking on everything around him. Throughout the book, you began to see and understand his humanity and the reason why he acts the way he does…and he slowly becomes love-able.
This issue in life is, we can’t see into the experience, the pain, and essentially the inner thoughts of those grumpy Grays— so it’s easy to just go- WHAT A NASTY OLD MAN (OR LADY). When in reality, they may be….BUUUUTT I argue people are so much more forgiving of “bad behavior” once they understand the why. Agreed? OK, so here’s the WHY for Mr. Gray:
1. Loneliness (may have NO family or friends left to love him)
2. Loss of independence, function, and purpose (no longer working, may be frail, and have no feeling of contributing to society)
3. Health issues (hard to act happy when you feel your body and mind are failing)
Add to that the fact that Mr. Gray is probably being forced to drink Ensure (I’ll leave my opinions on this joke-of-a-nutritious drink for another day) and rubbery chicken…… WHO WOULDN’T BE GRUMPY PANTS?!! Come on, I mean, my DVR keeps freezing and I’m like “don’t talk to meeeeeeeeee.”
So, while seniors can be a grumpy bunch, there’s usually a darn tootin’ good reason (far better than I just don’t like mornings if you ask me). I challenge you all to look beyond the scratchy surface and cut Mr. Gray some slack if he’s a bit sassypants! One day you might hope for the same…….
(For those of you who’ve seen Katt Williams’ comedy i.e. the dude above– I totally said that in his voice; for those of you who have no clue who he is- he’s friggin’ hilarious- go watch).
We’ve all heard this quote at some point or another- many of us from our history teachers when they were trying to get us to “care” about history class- one of the (dare I say)– “less interesting” topics for a teenager. Now I’m not knocking history, and even though I was a valedictorian with a “studyallthetimebecauseI’msupposedto” attitude, I still haaaaaaated history in high school. Yes, hate is a strong word, but I found it to be a total SNOOZEFEST.
No really, please elaborate on how the post Napoleonic War of 1812 when the U.S. took on Great Britain from preventing maritime tradefromthe…………………..zzzzzzzzzzzzz…………………Sorry, I had fallen asleep there for a second…
Ironically, I spend hours of my life blogging about the elderly which some might associate with watching paint dry, but I say “NAY! Mr. Gray is fascinating!!!
Before you history buffs get all in a tizzy, my opinion has changed. Yes, my dear friends, I now find myself sucked into riveting PBS series on Hitler’s bunkers and I LIKE IT. But I’m sure that’s many of us right? As we get older, we begin to recognize and appreciate the relevance of the who, what, and how that came before us.
You know who came before us? Oh you know it’s comin’….. THE ONE, THE ONLY, MR. GRAY.
Yes, folks, he’s the OG (original Gangster for you non-Millenials). He’s been there, done that. Probably a bunch of times, actually. His experience makes him wise. His stories make him interesting. And in some cases, his sacrifice makes him honorable. Here’s an amazing example of a high school kid who knows these truths and dedicates his life to taking action:
HOLY MOLY. This really is an incredible story—While other people his age are busy snapchatting animal faces, this young man, Rishi, travels the world and sleeps in his car just to hear stories of Mr. Gray. It really makes you think: most of us spend so much time talking and sharing ourselves with the world via Facebook, Instagram, etc. It’s like we’re all so obsessed with our own lives (everywhere we visit, political tirades, don’t I look pretty selfies, the cool beer we just ordered) that it’s like daaaamn, we basically spend our days bragging about ourselves and sharing complete nonsense. It’s truly a narcissistic waste of life nearly everyone is caught up in— myself included.
While we have our faces in our phones, this young man is doing something far more meaningful with his time.
He is obsessed with capturing the stories of others, stories that are far more rich, deep, and valuable to the heart of our lives and our future. These Mr. Gray WWII Vets are dying with invaluable insight, lessons, and information to share with the world. And not only is this young man saving it for the benefit of all of us, he is doing one of the greatest things for Mr. Gray: He is showing him he sees him and is listening.
This is the pledge I have taken– to SEE Mr. Gray —and you can take it too on my home page.
I can’t take anywhere near the credit of Rishi who has interviewed 850 WWII Vets so far (GO DUDE), but I did do something similar while getting my Master’s Degree in Gerontology (study of seniors). I was assigned to interview 3 elderly folks who were in different phases of their old age- 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. My grandpa (original Mr. Gray) was a perfect subject as he was about 95 at the time. I took a few hours and talked to him about his childhood, his time as a Marine in WWII, etc. It only took me a few hours to interview and a few more to document it, but man, THAT WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST MOST VALUABLE THINGS I EVER SPENT MY TIME DOING. Here are just 2 excerpts and the lessons they taught me:
Gray Lesson #1: You don’t have to have a lot to have fun in life. With a good attitude and some creativity, you can make life as fun as you want it to be.
Gray Lesson #2: Sometimes timing is a *excuse my French* b-i-t-c-h. But you get through it and your relationships become stronger for it.
Capturing my grandpa’s history was priceless– not only as a WWII vet who sacrificed so much for his country and for generations to come, not only as a memory capsule for me and my family, but beyond that— as a snapshot of the life of a man who has LIVED so much and LEARNED so much that is valuable to us all.
This is what we all must do, as Rishi realized, even just one person at a time. I encourage you to take the time (and sometimes it’s only an hour or so), to interview your own Mr. Gray (family member, friend, neighbor). Document their story. And share it with the world.
I’ll leave you with these presh photos & video of Leonard Rusnak on his 90th bday that I hope will give you all “the feels!”
The original Mr. Gray. The father. The grandfather. The great man who shared his story with me, and now I am doing my part by sharing a piece of him with the world as often as I can.
I’ll never forget watching an 80’s childhood movie and wondering what they meant by “putting Grandma out to pasture.” It confused me as a young girl, although there was a clear sadness about it all. Today, I see the analogy is perfect, because sadly, when someone becomes a Mr. Gray, we do “put him away” until he dies like a beef cow in a pasture. I don’t mean to sound depressing, but you can decide for yourself:
When you are out and about running errands, why is an encounter with Mr. Gray rare?
Why do we frustratedly pass Mr. Gray in the fast lane because he’s driving too slow?
Why is there a special, separated place where Mr. Gray lives, but everyone else avoids it like the plague?
Because society has perpetuated the belief that Mr. Gray is useless and a burden to the rest of us — kind of like a doll a child has outgrown and is just taking up space, and so it’s tucked away in the closet.
Does these mean our society is heartless? I don’t think so. But I do think it’s a bad pattern that has developed and remained largely unchanged over time.
Well, it’s time to do something about it! HOW?
By seeing Mr. Gray. Not looking, but seeing.
See his value and let him know his worth.
See that he can still contribute and let him take action.
See his wisdom. Then tell him how you’ll apply it.
See his story. Listen and respond.
See his face, say hello, and smile.
It seems so simple, but it’s not our norm. Let’s make a change for Mr. Gray, our future selves. Let’s not put Mr. Gray away, but bring him back to where he belongs — as one of us.
My husband: “WOAH. Look at what’s over there! There’s like a huuuuge thing with….
*I turn around to catch a glimpse*
My husband: *POKE IN THE BUTT* …”Gotcha!!”
Yeah, this is my daily life. I am as gullible as a 5 year old child who thinks the stranger actually has candy in his van. Too many stories to count, but here are some highlights:
1. Most def thought Santa Claus was real until I was basically almost old enough to be Mrs. Claus (well, not that bad, but 5th grade.)
2. When I was 10, my mom scared the POOP out of me by calling our house when I was home alone (she was at the neighbors) and saying in a monster-like deep voice: “HELLO LITTLE GIIIIRL”. I ran out of the house screaming. In my defense tho, that was totally messed up mom!!!!
3. When I was in college, Dad could not convince me there was a “Chunnel” i.e. a train that travels under water from England to France. I was like: “Nice try dad. Mixing the words ‘Channel’ with ‘Tunnel’—your Tom Foolery is not gonna work this time!” Turns out, there actually IS a Chunnel (I’ve ridden it), but I didn’t believe him because I would fall for all his other made up crap! DAMNIT. Foiled again.
4. 15 minutes ago, I though this was a real bird:
5. Just now, a guy stops me in the market in which I’m writing this – the same market I always write my blog posts (picture a grocery store mixed with Starbucks) and tells me computers aren’t allowed in here….I laughed at his joke, but let’s be honest, I believed him for a second.
I can’t make this stuff up people. It’s sad, but true….
Yep, das me. I fall so hard, so often, I can’t even get up. And I’m 36 and spry! Now, fast forward 40 years and I’m Mr. Gray. You could prolly sell me the dirt in my own backyard by telling me it’s organic.
No matter how discerning he is in his youth, Mr. Gray falls HARD. Alot. And often. We know this. But why are seniors so gullible? Well, I’m no doctor but I do know (as in I googled it) there’s a part of the brain that controls doubt and belief and it basically deteriorates with age. So, there ya go, Mr. Gray is a perfect target from mean folks on the prowl.
We’ve all heard of those scams where Mr. Gray gets a call that he’s won a free vacation and all he has to do is provide his credit card information to secure the trip. And an even shadier example.. just saw on the news that the scammers would call Mr. Gray and manipulatively pretend they are a friend calling on behalf of their grandchild to bail them out of jail. WHAT THEEEEE?! I mean, heck, I’d fall for that for darn sure. This fake scenario gets Mr. Gray in a frenzy and he just wants to be of help to his loved ones—- POOF! There goes $2,000 of retirement money.
Recently, the DOJ has done something about this horrible stuff and taken action to reduce it. Check out the article please (it’s a super quick read I pinky swear! And I said “please”). Just click below.
So- the highlights for me are $36.5 BILLION DOLLARS are scammed out of Mr. Gray’s corduroy pockets each year.
Not to bring in politics, but to quote President Trump: “SAD!”. It is hopeful, however, that the DOJ is starting to not only crack down on prosecuting these scumbags (gotta love those 1980’s insults), but initiating the education of seniors. That’s so huge. With a few simple tips – teaching Mr. Gray to not provide information over the phone and recognize “spam” can do a whole lotta good. Each of us can also help Mr. Gray and who doesn’t wanna do that! We all have our own Mr. Grays in our lives (parents, grandparents, siblings, neighbors, aunts, friends, etc.). Taking just 15 minutes to share with them some tips could prevent a whole lotta heartache.
SHAME ON YOU SCAMMERS. KARMA is a youknowwhat.
*HIGH FIVE* DOJ.
Let’s all edumacate Mr. Gray so Dr. Evil doesn’t get him!!
I used to have art skillzzzz. I mean, I’m not gonna brag, but I painted some epic still lifes with acrylic paints in 6th grade. My specialties were fruit bowls and flowers lol. Just feast your eyes on this exact replica:
Georgia O’Keefe 1928
Shelly Zemrose 1992
Okay, so maybe I’m not the next Michelangelo, but not too shabby for an 11 year old, right? While I started off STRONG, unfortunately, I peaked in middle school and it’s been all stick figures since. BUT, there’s a silver lining (2 guesses why I love that expression). I luckily remained quite “crafty”……..in more ways than one ;o)….. *shhhh don’t tell my husband* muahaha.
For example, I’m pretty good at stuff like making jewelry, decorative wreathes, posters, etc. It may not land me an art exhibit, but hey, it ties in swimmingly with my Grandma persona! p.s. LITERALLY as I’m writing this sentence at Starbucks, the senior ladies next to me just mentioned crocheting and discussed cleaning out their “yarn stashes” to make room for the new stuff. And I’m thinking, where’s my invite ladies?! So yeah, we elderly and wannabe elderly folks love our crafts. Don’t hate.
While I enjoy crafting (cuz I mean I can take those twigs off your tree and whip you up a vase that would rock your tablescape), I might enjoy buying crafts even more. Which is exactly why I attended/dragged my husband and mother to the local “Flower & Garden Festival.” It’s the perfect place to roll around a wagon and buy a new set of ferns; it’s also the perfect place to check out random goodies my husband doesn’t want me to buy and that I probably don’t actually need. Luckily for MEEEEE, and unluckily for HIM, I came upon the Promised Land/Stand:
Too cute to caption.
Where do I start?!??!?! THE NATURAL MATERIALS. THE RUSTIC FRAMES. THE CREATIVITY. THE PROCESS. THE ARTISTRY. THE MR. GRAY BEHIND THE FRAMES. It was almost too much for me to handle. And then, Mr. Gray tells me HOW he makes these masterpieces and I was like:
I LOVE YOU MAN
Every single piece of material in his artwork is from nature. Scenes of nature, using nature. MIND BLOWN. He scrapes moss and bark off trees. He uses pieces of honeycomb, flowers, whatever he can find and uses the natural colors and textures to create these gems. People were buying these things up like hotcakes and I got right in line/cut the line! Even though our house is mostly decorated, I HAD to find some way to incorporate his genius into our home. Then it dawned on me: future baby room decorrrr, hollaaa! (Never too early to plan ahead and hey, I’m connecting the generations). Anywho, I started out with 1 and ended up with 5 :oDDD
More is more.
Now for some close ups:
Those are birds made of corn husks ya’ll
Twigs and flowers and pebbles, oh my!
I don’t even know what those cows are made of, but I do know it’s au naturale!
As I was carefully selecting these gems, Mr. Gray would tell me the source of each piece of material, sometimes with a story about it; he was so passionate about his work and it really made the art that much more priceless. It was so intriguing to me that he took things in life that are often overlooked like bark, moss, cotton, poppyseeds, etc. and turned them into something of beauty and value.
I’m feeling (“Phil-ing”) an analogy coming in the air tonight:
Don’t many of us do that with elderly folks? They are just there in the background (where I argue, our society has put them) and we under-appreciate them and often, don’t even see them. However, with some attention, they totally come to life and contribute to a more beautiful society.
Because I too fall prey to the “background” stereotype of the elderly, Mr. Gray surprises me time and time again with his abilities. This was one of those moments. Beyond the unique creativity and talent, it was also clear that the process to make these artworks requires some level of physicality- to search through the woods of West Virginia for the materials and gather them. That puts my pilates classes to shame!
So, until we meet again Mr. Gray….
For today, you’ve out-crafted me in more ways than one. ;o)