“A” Is For Adjustment

“A” is for Adjustment

My favorite baby photo of my “big brother” Ralph.

Early on in my parents’ visit last week, I used the old standby “A is for apple” to help us remember where we parked at a particular location. But as events played out over the past seven days, I’ve realized that at this point in time, “A” is for adjustment.

Let’s just say our time together did not unfold quite as intended, since none of us wanted or expected my dad’s four-day hospitalization to be part of the activities. Thankfully, he’s alright now.

“A” is for Adjustment.

My mother had a painful arthritis flare-up in her finger, which impacted her ability to enjoy her time in Florida. Although she looks at least ten years younger than her actual age, she takes naps now — something she never did before.

“A” is for Adjustment.

It’s not easy to acknowledge the effects of aging on your parents, especially when you’ve been accustomed to a mother and father who are full of life, optimistic, smart, fun-loving and interested in a variety of things ranging from professional sports and college basketball to politics and cultural events. As I make my adjustment to this new phase of their life, I focus on gratitude for having been their child and for still having them here with me on Earth.

“A” is for Adjustment.

Ralph in elementary school.

But as difficult as it has been to make that shift, what’s happening with my brother Ralph is the hardest to take. Born with A Little Down Syndrome, he has already overcome tremendous obstacles, with the help of my parents, our extended family, friends, teachers, and mentors. He exceeded expectations and overcame one misguided doctor’s dire prediction by being a good student (an astute elementary school teacher asked my parents for permission to promote him to a slow learners class, where he thrived) and eventually finding employment at Mercy Catholic Medical Center for 23 years, where he consistently received excellent employee reviews from happy bosses.

Most importantly, his outgoing, gregarious personality and loving nature affected everyone who knew him. How could anyone not be enriched by spending time with Ralph — someone who loved unconditionally, embraced life fully, and found joy in the simplest activities. While we were growing up, he was my go-to playmate who never turned me away and always made me laugh, no matter what we decided to do. Our most famous collaboration as kids was our imitation of Danny Zuko and Sandy Olson from the movie Grease, as they danced and their way through the fun-house in the final scene (in our case, the two long steps leading into our rec room served as our version of “The Shake Shack.”) It’s a miracle no one broke the vinyl (remember those?) soundtrack to the movie to end the insanity of our endless, repetitive demonstrations.

Shockingly, no one did. As a matter of fact, many years later at Ralph’s 40th birthday party, family members and friends begged us for a re-enactment, which we happily obliged. Back then, I was so grateful that he’d hit the 4-0 milestone, I didn’t care about making a fool of myself.

Ralph with nieces Sophia (left) and Julianna celebrating his 50th.

Fast forward another 10 years. We held another special celebration in honor of Ralph’s 50th birthday — an Oscar-themed party complete with life-size cut-outs and posters of his favorite actors like Clint Eastwood, and replicas of the Oscar statue. At the time, he was still passionate about movies, reading, dancing, and the WWE.

I miss those days. I miss my happy-go-lucky special brother who never needed coaxing to smile; or to put on music, sing, and dance; or to read a book.

None of us knew back then that Ralph would soon face his most formidable opponent yet; one much more powerful than Down Syndrome. One that had no mercy in its zeal to rob him of everything he’d worked so hard to accomplish, including a fully functioning mind that could comprehend John Grisham novels, and remember the names of soft drinks, and whether or not he’d taken a shower that morning, or if his clothes needed to go into the laundry.

A friend of mine had warned me about the link between Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s years before Ralph’s diagnosis. Like any good sister, I prayed that he would be spared such a fate. Surely, God would not ask him to endure something so awful after he’d already proven himself to be a worthy overcomer?

For reasons unknown to me, Ralph was not spared from this memory-stealing monster, for which he has been on medication for almost five years. Back then, the doctor warned that it would only delay the inevitable. I suppose some gratitude is appropriate because it did stop the progression much longer than I had anticipated.

Back in the day: Ralph and I engaging in one of our favorite childhood rituals.

Even so, his personality completely transformed over time. The outgoing, confident guy who loved to laugh, joke around, and talk incessantly was gradually replaced by a reticent, serious and somber shell of his former self who sat in silence during car rides, lashed out at good-natured teasing and lost interest in just about every hobby he’d previously engaged in with passion. No longer does Ralph beg to go the movies or express interest in books, music or wrestlers like John Cena (one of his former favorites.) In fact, if you ask him about a movie he’s just seen, he has difficulty expressing any sort of informed opinion about it.

These days, the only activities he still seems to enjoy are bowling, slot machines, and using his iPad.

“A” is for Adjustment.

Somewhere along the way, during one of my visits, I was working downstairs in my parents’ basement when Ralph approached me in tears. “I want my life back. I want my memory back,” he cried, putting his arms around me. While my heart was breaking, all I could do was hug him and assure him that I would be there for him, no matter what. Nothing — not even Alzheimer’s — could ever make me lose sight of who he really is. In my mind, I contemplated how I would handle the devastating time when he would no longer remember me or anyone else in the family. It seemed impossible to comprehend but I vowed to hold onto my memories of him and do the best I could to adjust.

Celebrating mom’s birthday, circa 1992.

Which brings me back to the present. I’d been handling some unforeseen events involving an unreasonable client whose hurtful words temporarily affected my confidence and caused me to question everything I was doing professionally. Then Ralph arrived with my parents and changed my perspective.

In a horrifying moment of confirmation, we realized the doctor was right about the medication when Ralph insisted he was home in Newtown Square and not in Melbourne — even though we were surrounded by palm trees, balmy breezes and sunshine. I reminded him about the plane ride he’d taken the day before, with no success. At some point he let it go, leaving me to wonder if it’s best to just agree with him in these situations, rather than attempt to bring him back to reality.

“A” is for Adjustment.

The Ralph I loved from my earliest memories of childhood is gone, though his pure heart and capacity for unconditional love remain. He began to take his leave about a year or so after marking his 50th birthday in grand style. I mourn him every day, even as I continue to love and support the man he has become — a brave soul who continues to fight a merciless opponent that will not be satisfied until it takes everything away from him. Everything, that is, except the love of his family and friends.

“A” is for Adjustment. 

At this point, it’s all I can do.

 

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The 30 Year Secret: A Journey of Self-Discovery

The 30 Year Secret: A Journey of Self-Discovery

Coming soon from Writestream Publishing and author Samantha Kincaid.

From the Foreword:

As the old saying goes, “Writing is therapy.”

I wrote this book for a multitude of reasons. First, the process of transforming my incredible true story into a fictional tale was therapeutic on a personal level. It helped me to put my actual life events and circumstances into perspective. Within these pages, through the characters of Theresa Chianti and Lucy Napoli, I tried to express my deep gratitude to my mother for giving me the greatest gift I could have ever received after an unplanned conception: a home filled with love, even if lacking in material comforts.

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, where my mother, brother and I lived in a studio apartment with a kitchen and bathroom. None of us had the luxury of a private bedroom; instead we slept on convertible couches, chairs, or cots depending on whomever happened to be visiting. Thanks to our apartment building’s unaddressed infestation, we could always count on the constant companionship of roaches. And while I remember our father as a loving man who always treated me like a princess, his financial irresponsibility meant that my mother worked two grueling waitress  jobs to keep food on the table and send us to Catholic school.

Between the ages of eight and ten, my brother and I were often separated for long periods of time. During the summers we’d live with relatives since my mother had to work. Even though he loved us, my father struggled with his own demons which prevented him from stepping up. Still, I never lacked for love.

Now imagine reaching the age of 30 and receiving news that shatters everything you believed to be true about your life. That’s exactly what happened to me one day when my oldest sister called to request my presence at her house immediately. I assumed she was going to tell me about another death in the family since we’d had more than our share of them at the time. When I arrived, I was struck by how pale she looked and knew that whatever she was about to share was not good. However, I was completely unprepared for what she disclosed.

As it turned out, no one had passed away. But figuratively, all of my beliefs about my birth, childhood and upbringing were destroyed.

A single tear fell from my eye. How could I not know? How was it possible I hadn’t figured it out on my own when the signs had all been there?

So many questions.

Theresa’s journey is my journey. Certain circumstances, places and people have been adapted for fiction but what you are about to read is based on my own life. Whatever you are dealing with, I hope you’ll find inspiration in the strength of maternal love which I know from my own experience transcends biology, legally binding contracts, and financial hardship.

With gratitude and love, I dedicate this book to my mother, a woman who lived for her children. She may not have been perfect but her love for us never failed to reflect the love of God and her devotion to the Catholic faith.

Stay tuned for details as we get closer to the release date.

Cover design by Kimberly McGath.

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Ash Wednesday Musings

Ash Wednesday Musings

Growing up Catholic and attending Catholic school, Ash Wednesday always felt like a somber day of remembering one’s bodily mortality, e.g. “Remember man that thou art dust, and unto dust you shall return,” and deciding which decadent treats (chocolate, soda, cake, etc.) you were willing to give up. For better or worse, the day became synonymous with dieting for many people, as the concept of self-denial centered around food and beverages. Some argued that you could have Sundays “off” while others insisted you must stick to it for the full 40 days.

Why the discrepancy?

According to Catholicism.About.com:

Lent, the period of prayer and fasting in preparation for Easter, is 40 days long, but there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, and Easter. So how are the 40 days of Lent calculated?

A Little History

The answer takes us back to the earliest days of the Church. Christ’s original disciples, who were Jewish, grew up with the idea that the Sabbath—the day of worship and of rest—was Saturday, the seventh day of the week since the account of creation in Genesis says that God rested on the seventh day.

Christ rose from the dead, however, on Sunday, the first day of the week, and the early Christians, starting with the apostles (those original disciples), saw Christ’s Resurrection as a new creation, and so they transferred the day of rest and worship from Saturday to Sunday.

Sunday: The Celebration of the Resurrection

Since all Sundays—and not simply Easter Sunday—were days to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, Christians were forbidden to fast and do other forms of penance on those days.

Therefore, when the Church expanded the period of fasting and prayer in preparation for Easter from a few days to 40 days (to mirror Christ’s fasting in the desert, before He began His public ministry), Sundays could not be included in the count.

Thus, in order for Lent to include 40 days on which fasting could occur, it had to be expanded to six full weeks (with six days of fasting in each week) plus four extra days—Ash Wednesday and the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday that follow it. Six times six is thirty-six, plus four equals forty. And that’s how we arrive at the 40 days of Lent!

While I’m supportive of anyone using this time to deprive themselves of sweets (and lose weight in the process), I also love this idea from Aleteia.com:

During Lent we want to de-emphasize ourselves and emphasize our dependence on God. Almsgiving (materially sharing with those in need) is one of the three “pillars” of Lent. (The other two pillars are prayer and fasting.) We can give in ways other than money. In giving up things around our house that we don’t need, we can detach from “stuff” while helping others.

Here’s the challenge: During the 40 days of Lent, find one thing each day you no longer need. For most of us, this should be really easy. It could be a kitchen item, a jacket, a bike, an unopened gift hanging around. Go through your closets, drawers, basement, even the garage.

Click here to read the full post.

For me, it’s also about releasing old beliefs and thought patterns while embracing the knowledge that we are all children of God. With that in mind, here are some suggestions. During Lent 2017, let’s fully let go of:

  • Self-Doubt
  • Worry
  • Fear
  • Laziness
  • Impatience
  • Jealousy
  • Selfishness
  • Distrust
  • Comparing Ourselves to Others

Instead, embrace our individuality as creations of God. Celebrate the unique gifts He has given to each of us. Vow to use them in service to your family, friends, neighbors, community, country, workplace and/or business. Stop the comparison/jealousy game and recognize that we are all here for our own purpose. It has been said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” I fully agree.

No matter how you honor the season of Lent, remember to express gratitude for all that you are and all that you have. Focus on your blessings, not your problems. By doing so, you just may find that God will guide you through every obstacle.

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Wednesday Wisdom: How to Manifest Abundance Into Your Life

Wednesday Wisdom: How to Manifest Abundance Into Your Life

Here’s yet another informative, inspiring video from You Are Creators.

 

1. Believe

2. Visualize

3. Be Grateful

4. Listen to Your Heart

5. Continue Your Actions – Never Give Up, Never Relent

Have a great Wednesday!

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