Friday, January 30, 2015

Land Of Lincoln, Literally

I'm not sure how, being me, that I have not seen this before.  But one night riding home on the L, I was looking at a map of Illinois in an advertisement and it jumped out at me.

Illinois has long claimed itself to be the "Land of Lincoln" - so much so that the phrase is written on our license plates for decades.  Illinois prides itself on being Abraham Lincoln's home, despite the fact that he was born in Kentucky and his family didn't even move into Illinois until Lincoln was 21.  Even so, there are countless businesses, schools, foundations, festivals, barbershop choruses, and even an honor flight using the Land of Lincoln moniker.  And based on what I noticed, they have every right to do so.

Here is a basic outline map of Illinois:

And here is my rendering of what I saw in the map - again for the first time - during my commute home:

( mic drop )

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"That's My Wife!"

I visited with my family over Christmas and spent time with Dad.  He was able to be with the family almost all of Christmas Day.  My brother had signed Dad out of the nursing home for the day.  At times, he seemed to be engaged in what was happening around him.  Occasionally, I would catch him crying, which is the only real emotion he seems to have these days.  His tears are more like a welling-up of emotion and crying is his only way to release.  It's uncertain if the tears are of sadness or joy because Dad can't articulate how he feels.  Still, it was wonderful to have him with us.

It's interesting to see how Dad interacts with each person.  He appears to be intrigued by his great-grandson, Brennan.  Dad's eyes follow Brennan around a room until something else catches his attention.  When my sister, Kim, walked into the room and said hello to Dad, he mostly just looked at her and looked away, much in the same way a precocious house cat will look at you, blink, then look away.  However, when her son, John, walked into the room, Dad was quick to say, "Well, there's John-Boy", a nickname Dad has always called his namesake.  Kim lovingly shrugged it off.

Dad will call some of us by our names, but not all of us.  We've passed the point of asking Dad who people are.  When someone would come into Dad's room, Mom would quickly ask, "Who is this?" or "Do you know who this is?"  In the beginning, Dad would take a few seconds, look at my mother like she was insane, and then say our names.  Over time, Dad's response would become slower until it got to the point where Mom would ask "Who is this?" and Dad would either look at her as though he was annoyed or just completely ignore the question.  Dad got to the point where he was frustrated with all the questions Mom was asking him about who people are or who was in a photograph.  Trying to salvage his memory, Mom created a photobook of old and current photos, but Dad eventually pushed it away and no longer wanted to see it.  He either can't remember the names and faces, or perhaps doesn't want to try anymore.  It frustrates both he and Mom at the same time and for probably the same reasons.  Mom just wants to ensure Dad is not giving up.

While traveling for the holidays, I awoke from a dream that seemed so real, it took me a few minutes to realize where I was and what was happening.  In the dream, I was in a large room, like the waiting room in a train terminal like Union Station.  I was there to pick up Dad for some reason.  I found Dad in his wheelchair and we began to leave the station when a guy's tee shirt across the room caught my attention.  I ran across the terminal and grabbed the guy and told him he needed to come with me.  We walked back to where Dad was sitting and I looked at Dad and said, "Dad, look at his shirt.  Who is this?"  And Dad pointed at the color image on the yellow shirt, tears in his eyes, and very loudly said, "that's my wife!"  The image on the shirt was Mom's high school graduation photo.

"My wife" is how Dad refers to Mom now.  He doesn't speak her name anymore.  He always used to call her "Lo", short for Lois Ann.  But these days, when he doesn't see her, he may ask, "where's my wife?".  Or when prompted by therapists who the woman is sitting across the room, his response is "that's my wife", just like in my dream.

Mom may never hear Dad speak her name again.  Yet another thing Alzheimer's has taken from her.  It just keeps taking.  And taking.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Awake No More

Last week, Starbuck's made a change that has rocked my world.  Without consulting me, they changed their tea vendor.  Every store in the chain, all 21,160 of them, will now offer teas by Teavana instead of Tazo.  This changes everything for me.  Because just about every work morning in my career for the past 10+ years, I've stopped off at my local Starbuck's to purchase a Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon Sandwich and a Venti Awake tea.  Being the creature of habit that I am, not to mention being brand loyal to a fault, not being able to do this any more completely upsets my morning routine.

This change in tea vendors is coming on the heels of another change Starbuck's made recently.  Sometime last year, they also changed their Turkey Bacon Sandwich.  This was upsetting not only to me, but to many other loyal customers.  The new version, in my opinion, is not nearly as good.  I tried to adapt to it, but just couldn't.  This change bothered me, but at least I still had my favorite beverage.  Until now.

Tazo's Awake tea is an English Breakfast blend.  Teavana also offers an English Breakfast blend.  They most likely taste similar, but that's not the point.  I have a history with Awake tea.  It's been a source of comfort and familiarity for me.  No matter where I was in the world, I could count on Starbuck's to make me feel at ease.  The taste would always be the same; there'd be no guesswork and no surprises.  And I think that's actually the point - it was something I didn't have to think about.  I could trust my own decision.

I have lovely memories and emotions walking around either alone or with friends while holding those 20 fl. oz of malty deliciousness;  chilly autumn days walking though DC, brisk walks to work in Chicago, endlessly job-searching in Miami, walking around Times Square, Pike Place Fish Market, Copley Square, Old City, Bourbon Street, Hollywood Boulevard, Chinatown . . . the list goes on and on.  And close friends will recall that time when an ignorant motorist had the unmitigated gall to blow a horn at me while I was in the crosswalk.  Yes, Awake has even defended me.

This Christmas, my in-laws bought me a box of Awake tea.  And I know I can order it online - it's not like I can never taste it again.  It's just that I've been doing this action for so long that I now need to change my routine.  Ordering a Venti Awake simply has a more melodic rhythm to it than ordering a Venti English Breakfast.

Starbuck's, you have disappointed me yet again - twice in the same year!  It's okay, though.  I'll be fine.  And so will my money as I seek out another breakfast vendor for my morning commute.