Let me start by saying I wrote this several years ago for a college course. I have always liked it. It reminds me of the things I enjoyed from my childhood and especially time with my mom. If you have read A Story of My Mother’s ALS Battle then you will know what followed shortly after I wrote this.
I feel very fortunate to have grown up in an area where I can enjoy the different seasons. Each one means different things to me. It might be going for picnics, watching snowflakes fall, finding the perfect pumpkin, or watching a daffodil about to bloom. By the time one season is drawing to a close I am already anticipating the next one.
Out of all the seasons my favorite is autumn. Just the word autumn has a special feel to it. There are so many things to do in autumn and I have enjoyed it since I was a kid. The cooler weather is refreshing after the dry heat of summer. Then the first frost comes and the leaves begin to turn into beautiful rustic colors. It is then that I love to go for long country drives to enjoy the foliage. This was been a tradition for my parents and I for as far back as I can remember. For me the color changes is like a beautiful closing to a year. When I was a kid I used to think the best part is when the leaves began to trickle to the ground and my parents would rake them into piles. It was like the piles were inviting me to jump in so that’s exactly what my dog and I did. We had many hours of great fun just playing in the leaves. My parents were always left with a mess, but I never remember them complaining about it. Another thing I remember were the wooly worms and my mother teaching me not to be afraid of them. She taught me how to gently pick them up, stroke their fur, enjoy the feel of them crawling in my hands and admire their array of colors.
And with autumn brings homecoming parades. From the time I was a little kid my parents would take me to the parades. I loved them and always wanted to be in them. This wish came true when I began playing in band and eventually became a flag girl for the band. I felt proud twirling my flag and watching children’s faces as they watched in amazement and I knew that some of those children were having the same thoughts I once had. Along with parades comes the beginning of craft festivals, hayrides, bonfires and my birthday and Halloween. Since I loved Halloween so much and my birthday was so close to it my mother decorated with the Halloween theme. My grandma decorated cakes and she always made special ones with ghosts, witches and pumpkins on them for my birthday parties. At first my parties consisted of games and treats and then came slumber parties, which were always exciting and sometimes scary. As I grew older we began going to haunted houses for my birthdays. I still enjoy going to them and I will probably never out grow them. On Halloween I always enjoyed dressing up and going trick-or-treating. Over the years my mother made lots of different costumes and would take a friend and I out trick-or-treating. When I got too old for that I enjoyed decorating the house, playing ghoulish music and giving out treats to the trick-or-treaters.
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Now, as I sit alone on a porch swing made for two, my mother sits across from me in her wheelchair. I wonder what will this autumn bring? It will be so much different from all of our others. Will the new antibiotics start helping or will she have to try others? What if none of them work? But they have to. She has to get better. I hope we can still enjoy some of the traditions we have like driving around the country looking at foliage and decorating for autumn and Halloween.
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As autumn draws to a close I feel the excitement of winter and best of all Christmas nearing. Getting everything ready for Christmas is the best part to me. Mom and I go to all the craft shows looking for gifts and new decorations to replace some of the old. Even though we may add new items to our Christmas collection most of the old must stay. It’s tradition and Christmas wouldn’t be the same without them. I love the gift buying part of Christmas. Trying to find just the right gift for each person on my list.
When I was younger, my parents and I always had an artificial tree. We thought it looked beautiful at the time, but upon looking at pictures of it years later, it looked pretty sad. It’s funny how things can look so beautiful at the time and then really outdated just a few years later. When I was a little older I talked my parents into buying a real tree. Not just going to the store and buying a pre-cut one, but actually going to a tree farm, looking for the perfect tree for hours and then cutting it down yourself. The first one we got was just like a scene out of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” It looked perfect outside amidst all the other trees, but in our living room it was a different story. It was enormous. It took a long time to decorate that tree and we didn’t even have enough ornaments to cover it. After decorating, mom and dad went to bed while I stayed up watching a Christmas special on TV. I heard a noise behind. I ignored it for a while until it got louder and I got scared. I turned just in time to see our beloved tree falling on me. Luckily, I caught it in and hollered for help. That wasn’t the last of our tree troubles. We another one fall a few years after that one. After most of our new ornaments lie broken on the floor along with a huge puddle of water and tree sap everywhere, we opted to go back to artificial trees.
Even my old dog Skeeter would get into the Christmas mood. As soon as her stocking was hung she was in high spirits. You see, Santa would make several little visits to our house in the weeks before Christmas and Skeeter had to check her stocking every morning.
Music was another tradition that my mom and I dutifully followed. It is a part of Christmas we couldn’t do without. We would always have Christmas music on while doing anything around the house. While we made candies, decorated the Christmas tree, wrapped presents or drove around looking at Christmas lights. When I say Christmas music I mean the original artists like Johnny Mathis, Mitch Miller, Lynn Anderson, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby and so on. We did not like the new arrangements or the new artists singing Christmas songs. It’s just wasn’t the same.
For my mom and I, our favorite thing to do at Christmas time is to sit under the tree at night. We like to turn off all the lights except for the Christmas ones. Then we turn on our favorite music and sit under the tree sipping hot cocoa and eating popcorn and candy. Sometimes we look at old pictures, sometimes we talk or read Christmas stories and sometimes we just sit there enjoying the magical glow of the Christmas tree. Nothing can beat those times together under the tree.
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Christmas will be the hardest for my mom and I to get through. Hopefully by then the medicine will be helping, but it can take six months to a year to start working. If she is not any better we won’t be able to make candy together, wrap presents together or decorate the tree. Those are our traditions and it won’t be the same without her helping. Sure she can watch me do the stuff, but I will miss her help. Our together time. Everything will be different. Think how she must feel, knowing that she used to be able to do all of these things just a year ago.
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As the ice and snow begins to melt and the temperature rises I begin to get spring fever. The stores start coming out with spring decorations and clothes that I just have to buy. I can hardly wait to start wearing shorts and sandals again. And as the weather warms up spring gets into full bloom. My mom and I love to watch each day as the grass grows greener and the tiny leaves on the trees change. We enjoy just sitting on the porch smelling the flowers, fresh cut grass or a spring rain coming.
We love the crap apple and magnolia trees in full bloom. Each day we watch our honeysuckle vine wind a little further up our front porch trellis, but the flower we can’t wait to see bloom is our evening primrose. It doesn’t bloom until dusk. You can watch as the beautiful yellow blooms spin open. Sometimes we have over a hundred blooms in a night. Then the sphinx moths come and get nectar from them. They look a lot like hummingbirds. By the next morning the blooms are wilted and new ones are ready to start the process again.
Another pleasure spring brings is mushrooms. My dad and I love to hunt for them. It’s almost as much fun as crappie fishing and turkey hunting, which we enjoy doing together.
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This past spring is when we realized my mom’s limitations and how fast her health was deteriorating. She was diagnosed with ALS in March. She has the fast progressive type, but what is different is that her legs were affected first unlike most ALS patients who lose the ability to swallow and talk first. This spring was very hard for my mom and I, since we love getting out and watching the world bloom and she wasn’t able to get out of the house very much. So she missed the crab apple trees blooming and the evening primrose and its delights. We were both wondering if she would be able to see another spring. It was terribly emotional and depressing season.
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Then before you know it the weather turns hotter and summer sets in. Although it is my least favorite season I still enjoy many things about summer. I love to see the first lightening bug. My mom spent her summer evenings catching them when she was a child and she taught me how much fun it was too.
We look forward to having family barbeques with corn on the cob, fresh homegrown tomatoes and watermelon. Then for dessert we make smores. I believe food just tastes better when it’s eaten outside in the summer.
My favorite day of summer is the 4th of July. I enjoy picking out fireworks and planning what to fix for our family gathering. We always have quite a celebration and a constant stream of fireworks. It’s like a New Year’s celebration in July. I don’t think I will ever out grow it.
Going to the lake for picnicking and swimming is another summer delight for me. Being able to float on a raft with gently waves rolling in is so refreshing and relaxing. Another piece of my summer enjoyment is something my mom enjoyed as well, going to the drive-in. They were a special part of my mom’s summer days as they are for me. There are not too many around anymore, which is a shame. It’s like a lost tradition.
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The summer just passed and my mom and I missed out on things we love once again. We could no longer go on picnics or to the lake since she’s worse than in the spring. Her legs no longer work at all, but still have feeling. She also lost some of her upper body strength. All of this is upsetting to her. She’s trapped in a body that can feel everything, but she can’t make it do what she wants. Many believe that ALS patients are paralyzed with no feeling, but that is a misconception. She was able to move short distances on her own, but since she no longer can stand I had to start picking her up by myself and moving her from her bed, to a wheelchair, to her lift chair, etc. Imagine this – just three months ago she was at least able to take a few steps with cane or walker and now she can’t even stand up. It’s heartbreaking and the cruelest thing that could happen to someone in my opinion.
We have found a new hope though. A few ALS patients have been misdiagnosed. They actually have Lyme Disease and it is treatable unlike ALS. Lyme can mimic many diseases such as ALS. As summer passes us by we are hoping to see an improvement by the next season.
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And now as the weather cools we have come full circle. Some people get a thrill from the excitement of city living, but mine is from taking in and enjoying the smaller things in like. Sure I like shopping and things, but I also like being able to sit in a porch swing reading a book and watching the trees change, the flowers bloom and the grass turn green.
The main thing I want to stress is take the time to enjoy like and the small things. Life may end for anyone of us tomorrow, or the next day or the next. I am learning to watch the beauties of like even more since my mother was diagnosed with ALS. Hopefully, with the use of alternative medicines she will beat the disease like a few others have. Everyone need to take in the riches of each season because each day brings changes.