Dear Friends and family –
For those who know the format, yup, it’s another bah-humbug year. For those new to this annual letter, welcome. In this family, “making the letter” is a badge of honor (or humiliation). Since the inception of this annual letter of woe, it has been this way. For the kids, there is (most regretfully) a bit of a competition. Typically, Katie leads. Tommy hovers and the family joke is ‘good girl’ Kerri has only made appearances when she was hit by a bus (twice) or squashed a racoon. Kyle, still new the family and its tradition of celebrating disasters and misery, has not yet peeked…until now: In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, after losing everything they owned, Kyle reportedly looked at Kerri and asked, “Do you think we’ll make the first or last paragraph of the Christmas letter?”
As they watched the water swallow up their cars in the parking lot, Kerri and Kyle decided to conduct their own Cross-Fit Championship games in their upstairs so that when the helicopter hovered over the apartment complex to tell them to evacuate the following morning, their biggest complaint was how sore they were. With the bullhorn demanding that all residents evacuate and warned them of the alligator and snakes in the murky water, Kyle’s next thought was of the Christmas letter. Is that really what pops into your mind when you’ve lost everything and could possibly lose a leg to an alligator and/or contract Hepatitis C? Answer: Yes (apparently).
Robb and I went to San Antonio to celebrate our wedding anniversary. After 25 years of marriage, Robb and I are in perfect sync with each other. Example: We were on a wonderful trip but slammed by people there for a Bowl Game. But once the Bowl Game started Robb said, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Alex: Yes. Robb/Alex together: We could … (Alex): go to the Riverwalk and… (Robb): break into their hotel rooms and …(Alex) do some looki…what? (Robb): rob them … what?” A little later, looking off a balcony from the 27th floor, I spied a historic church. Beautiful! And I said, “And we could … Robb: spit off the balco—what?” Alex: What? We are like one person!
My 25-year lesson on how “real men” think continues: Real men do not get “excited” about something, nor do they “have fun.” When Robb leaves to go fishing and I yell, “Have fun.” He scowls. I’m not having fun, I’m trying to provide for the family. He went to Colorado with Pat and I hollered, “Have fun.” He reopens the door and yelled back, “We’re not having fun!” Robb and Tommy went to France, Robb learned the word “Frommage” for cheese and our lives are never going to be the same. Also, if you ever shop at Atwood’s Ranch & Home depot in Corsicana, there are rules in ‘how’ you shop, what you look at and you have to – invariably – pick up certain items, look at the price tag, look at the fella next to you and say, “You’re telling me you wouldn’t pay $30 for this?”
Katie, who works as a vet tech, adopted a dog who had been hit by a car, then attacked by other dogs. Though she later found a family for this poor fella, Katie was determined not to let her father know as he had been opposed to her initial adoption in the first place. As Katie has a long-standing policy to never admit to her father that she is wrong, she told me the pup was gone but I was not to tell Robb. Ever? What’s the end game here? Answer: Eternity. She said it was worth enduring lectures from her father every time he saw her. Wow- don’t ever say that Katie isn’t dedicated. For her birthday, she got to assist for a C-section on a Yorkie and Tommy became regional manager of a donut shop. Of course, this is the same donut shop where the owners allowed Katie (when she worked there) to declare herself CEO. Tommy grew tired of this position and typed up, ‘Technical Support” on his name tag. They don’t actually wear name tags at the donut shop – just Tommy. One day while holding a tray of hot donuts, Jane Huh (the actual owner of the donut shop and someone who really needs to claim this position around my children) nudged Tommy to move out of her way and her eyes fell on his name tag.
“You’re Human Resources now?!” He would later move on to become, “Donut Hole Technician”, “Greeter,” and finally, “Moral Support,” while employed there.
Kerri was the victim of an attempted mugging by a homeless person in Houston but used her violin case to beat him down, then stared down a shark! I got a shark diving trip and Michelle, Kerri, and Katie came, too. As the captain of the boat announced there were bull sharks in the water below us, Kerri (ever the inquisitive one) began a Google search: What is the most dangerous shark in the water? and Can a shark detect rapid heartbeat? Answer: Bull and Yes. While Kerri hypothesized the possibilities of fighting a shark without her violin case, Katie and I jumped in, and vegetarian Michelle noted the massive amount of chumming that was going on in the water and then elected to jump open-mouthed into the deep blue sea. [She later vomited in her mask]
The short of a very long and bizarre story is that Kerri obtained 20 clown noses following our shark dive. On the way home, TSA flagged Kerri and she was taken into a back room at the airport 1) causing us to miss our flight and be separated from each other and 2) foster the greatest stare-down of Kerri’s life as the TSA officer riffled through her suitcase and came up with a fistful of clown noses. They made eye contact. Kerri was a stone-cold clown face. I beat down a homeless man and stared down a bull shark. Come at me, Bro.
Katie thought it prudent to have an Easter picture taken with her 90-pound Doberman and a large Bunny-costumed man. Both Man-Bunny and Dobie are currently in rehab. Tommy got a job in which he is the only English-speaking person in this manual labor [he came into the house one day talking on the phone with a friend: “You think YOU had a hard day? This is only my second conversation in English today and my first one was when my mom said, ‘Don’t forget your lunch’!”]. He has since decided to return to college (but also continues to work as he loves his co-workers). His Spanish is muy bueno. Robb continues to argue with ‘Alexa,’ the intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon. She is NOT REAL, Robb! He also claims to be “master” of his domain but can’t make a sandwich. When I challenged him on this, he said I was “body shaming” him. I … what?! On a business trip in San Francisco, he said, “These new shoes make me walk with a whole new purpose and I’ve got my new pantaloons on, too. People respect me more, I think.” But to ensure there is no body-shaming, he glowers at everyone he sees.
#LifewithDementia has been hard. My father IS Jason Bourne and continues his quest to escape from memory care. Most recently, we learned that the Colonel used to actually teach ‘escape and evade’ tactics for the military at Quantico. So clever is he that he is frequently seen resting on the floor, which memory care staff have affectionally named “planking,” clearly devising a new plan. This past year has brought about many escape attempts, more fire alarm-pulling and changed protocol for the facility where he stays. Weekly, sometimes daily, postings on the Marc and Karen Powe Show prompted the writing and publication of the book, Operation Caregivers: #LifewithDementia and a few radio and television appearances are already booked. [On a rare serious note in this holiday letter format, since coming to Isle at Watercrest Memory Care, he’s not fallen once, but does continue to hide butter knives in his pants for later escape attempts. True, loving caregivers have changed our lives. How can you NOT write about that?]
Katie’s dancing has been temporarily stalled as well. She broke her foot doing “extreme skipping.” Are her skipping days over? Not by a long shot. She said now she just wants to “skip even harder.” Then she fell down the stairs on her “skipping” crutches and severely sprained the other ankle. I called Kerri. As I was writing this letter, I had to let Kerri know what was happening: “You should know, Kerri, that Katie is staging a comeback to figure prominently in the letter.”
Kerri [enraged] [because we’re all super competitive]: No way! That’s not fair! I deserve to win in the ‘horrible news’ department! Not only did I survive a hurricane, not only did I lose everything I owned but I got a hemorrhoid and I swear, Momma, if you mention the hemorrhoid it has to be explained that I got it from being cool and lifting lots of weights and training for the triathlon! (Kerri competed in an Olympic Triathlon and qualified for the Nationals in Cleveland, Ohio next year).
I called Katie and relayed that message.
Katie: Yeah. Well. When she has to army crawl to the bathroom because she can’t even walk, we can talk. Meantime, I win.
I relayed this to Michelle.
Michelle: Look. I don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder here but I’d like to add that while I was trying to pass two kidney stones and had a colon infection, I was trying to teach 150 teenagers how to construct a proper sentence without them looking at their cellphones. Winner!
Not to be outdone, Tommy sent me a text while I was out: “Hey, I should have gotten something in the mail. Let it in and don’t let the dogs near it. It is toxic. Also, after handling, please wash your hands and don’t touch your face for a while. Maybe place it somewhere where if there is an outbreak, it can be contained.”
Alex responds: Tommy! You freak! There are four packages outside and now I’m not opening this door!
Meantime, Robb’s exasperation with my love of the Hallmark Channel has festered into an obnoxious running commentary of each show, including when I’m not even home watching anything! While in Little Rock & Memphis for a book promo, I got a text: I can’t believe neither of them noticed they were falling in love with each other. But, they’d both been hurt in the past and weren’t looking for a relationship. She was still supposed to marry the rich businessman. It was the right thing do to, the sensible thing to do. He was perfect for her but when she got stranded in the small down and met the country boy …
While I ponder the next writing assignments, Katie has decided as a way to earn extra cash she needs to get a few mini-ponies and a carriage, and transport people in downtown San Marcos to their cars. While the idea came to her when she had one broken foot, one sprained ankle, I saw more problems than not with this plan. She said, “Loooooook. I don’t question all your shenanigans.” How did she even know about my idea for a Literary Pop-Up Shop and Recycling Center in which authors gather to share books and let free-roaming goats eat unwanted material? It’s freaking brilliant. Stay tuned! If you see a Kickstarter for Mini-Pony Carriage Service or Fun Fiction Pop-Up Shop – We Goat a Deal for YOU… please ignore Katie’s stupid mini-pony idea.
As we close for this year, we must reflect on how we’ve grown (or not). In 2016, prior to their wedding, Kerri got a spray tan in hopes of some color. Tommy called her ‘Donald Trump’ and when Kerri turned to her soon-to-be new husband for support, he said, “Well, you said you wanted to clear up your skin…” We all recoiled in terror. He immediately amended, “And it makes you look slimmer,” to which Kerri asked, “Are you saying I need to lose weight?” I raised a hand. Stop talking, Kyle. One year later, in attempt to tell Kerri that she looked pretty and her eyes looked “doe-eyed,” he said … “You look doughy.” Well, Kyle. You lost everything in a Harvey but you still have the gift of gab. You win. Welcome to the family, buddy. And to all our friends and family – remember, it could always be worse. Here’s to a great new year! -Love, the Allreds
you know where to find me .... right here!
Operation Caregivers: #LifewithDementia
Amazon Review: 5 STARS -- a "must-read for adulting":
"I've read numerous books by Alexandra Allred and loved them all. From mystery to muscles, fiction to nonfiction, Alex plays with words in a way that draws you in without realizing you've turned yet another page. Operation Caregivers is no different except, this time, Ms. Allred goes beyond an entertaining story to provide some harsh realities and how-to guidelines for getting older because navigating life's sometimes cruel sense of humor can be trying during the best of times, but when you throw Alzheimer's and dementia into the mix, things start feeling like a Twilight Zone episode pretty fast. In Operation Caregivers, Alex shows us how growing up and growing old is done with grace, love, and massive amounts of laughter."
ORDER ONLINE with AMAZON.COM:
Operation Caregivers: #LifewithDementia $19.99
When military intelligence officer, Col. Powe, is stricken with dementia, it quickly becomes a family affair. For more than a decade, it would turn out, Powe had been keeping a very non-classified secret from his family -- his wife had Alzheimer's. Daughters Michelle Powe and Alexandra Allred are forced to step in to do a job no child (grown or otherwise) ever wants to do. True to thier upbringing, however, Michelle and Alexandra approach each new task as a military strike or information-gathering mission.
Operation Caregivers: #LifewithDementia is a laugh-out-loud, heartbreaking story about two exceptional people who never had a chance against dementia and Alzheimer's. Told by youngest daughter, Alexandra, stories of Col. Powe's extraordinary exploits in the military and adventures from around the world, the reader is reminded again and again of the toll dementia can take on us all.
While the book reads more like a novel than a self-help book, the second half of the book is a compilation of what-to-do and what-not-to-do lists Allred discovered as she blundered through her role as Power of Attorney. Prepare to laugh, prepare to fall in love with the Powes, grab a box of tissues, and get your Living Will ready. #LifewithDementia is so much more than you thought it would be!