Friday, January 18, 2008

Fairy Tales, Part I

I realized yesterday that taking care of Dad is a little like living in a children's book. Check out these similarities:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

While Dad is not what one might call a "dwarf" he has lost some of his stature over the years; shrinking from his fighting height of 5'8" to something less than that! When asked how tall he is (usually in a doctor's office with his shirt off, his pale wrinkly skin looking a bit like the Saggy Baggy Elephant of Golden Book fame), I've noticed that he stretches himself to his greatest height by throwing his shoulders back and holding his head up as if a senior officer had just yelled "Attention!" Not surprisingly for an older gent who still needs to feel tall in the saddle, Dad's answer is apt to include every quarter inch like a toddler who adds even half-years to his age.

In reality it doesn't matter how tall Dad is, added partial inches or not. I outgrew the other members of my clan, including Dad, years ago. It was as if I was destined to be the tall (singing?) girl in a family of dwarfs.

I don't think I'm telling an untruth if I say that Dad wears his dwarf moniker - Grumpy - with pride. What may have started out as a bad day, with a pain in his butt or back or heart, has turned into a somewhat chronic personality trait. I have noticed that he can turn on the charm if a pretty girl or daughter-less-seen comes around, but mostly his countenance is glum. Age is his excuse, and since I'm not 90 I don't have much of a comeback. However, when I look at other nonegenarians and see them smiling I have to wonder if Dad is grumpy because he's old or just because that's the way he chooses to be.

Luckily, Snow White had a few other characters in her enterage to offset the grumpiness. I do too. I have Jack. What would a fairy tale be without a Prince Charming?

I also have a circle of furry friends to help me fend off negative vibrations. Black Beauty, aka "Smiley," appears to have a humongous grin when Jack talks to her or she hears the always enticing words "wanna go for a walk?" My two kitties have a Disney-esque charm that tickles me in spite of their blantant desire to chow down on the birds whose colorful feathers add beauty to our cottage home. (Don't all fairy tales include birds and cottages?)

Rounding out the story-book menagerie is my pig of happiness puppet which reminds me that happiness is an inside job. Each of us gets to choose the emotion that is right for us. Some of are grumpy while others have a general "distaste for mumbling and grumbling." *

I had an epiphany of sorts last week. I discovered that I find ironing a rather serene experience. If I approach it as a form of meditation rather than a chore, the time I spend pressing out wrinkles in my shirts actually becomes a way of ironing out a few wrinkles in my life. By putting on a movie or cd, and zoning into a steamy kind of zen rythm, I fairly whisk through an otherwise tedious job. Taking my cue from the movie version of Snow White, I have learned that whistling while I work is not such a bad idea. I'm not much of a whistler, but it's the whistling attitude that I try to embrace.
Still working on the happy ending, I am,
Merry ME
* The Pig of Happiness, Edward Monkton, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 2007

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