Date Night for Seniors…with an Unexpected Twist

January in Wisconsin was unusually cold, courtesy of the Polar Vortex. One Friday, when temps had dipped well below zero, my hubby and I were contemplating whether or not we’d cancel our weekly date night. Since we had a caregiver for mom lined up (who was willing to brave the horrible weather), we decided to go ahead with it, but not travel too far from home. Our evening out would include dinner out at a nearby restaurant that we enjoy, then we would do a little grocery shopping (yes, we’re old enough that we sometimes grocery shop on our date nights).

Me and my guy – photo courtesy of our dear friend Don Yantis

After all that senior excitement, we decided to go home and relax while watching a few episodes of one of our favorite whodunit detective shows. Momma hadn’t been feeling well and was not in the best of spirits all day. Expecting to find her in bed and not feeling very social, I smiled when we walked in the door and saw her seated at the kitchen table working a puzzle with her amazing caregiver. Wayne went upstairs to queue up our show so we could hunker down for the evening watching another episode of Psych.

Momma really enjoys her weekly time with Kathryn, always lighting up when she sees her. Kathryn has a special way about her and easily keeps mom engaged with puzzles, coloring, or looking through picture books together. Honestly, I think Kathryn is better at keeping Momma happily engaged than I am.

On this particular night, Momma was engaged, but seemed just a bit frustrated with placing the puzzle pieces. After putting the last grocery item away, I walked past the kitchen table to head upstairs for movie time and noticed mom was starting to slump forward in her chair (Kathryn had noticed too). The color in Momma’s face drained, her hands and arms were tremoring, eyes were fixed, pupils dilated, and she was making sounds, but I could not detect any words. I recognized it as an episode of vasovagal syncope (VVS) much like the one mom had experienced about a month ago.

Briefly, VVS is a fainting episode which happens when the blood pressure takes a nose-dive, usually during periods of agitation, stress or anxiety. Momma had not had a good day and was physically worn out by stomach pain from persnickety bowels and back and forth trips to the bathroom. Shortly before this episode, she had mentioned not feeling well and that she had to go to the bathroom again. Next thing we knew, she was slumped in a classic VVS faint. Episodes of this nature are generally not serious and last a minute or less. I knelt next to her, supporting her with a little sideways hug so she wouldn’t slump to the floor. Unless you see it coming early and can get the individual lying down and feet elevated above the heart, there’s really not a whole lot you can do to circumvent an episode of VVS once it has begun. I decided to pray out loud for mom and had no sooner said ‘Amen’ when she began to stir in recovery.

The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur, but I remember being thankful that Kathryn was there. In addition to the symptoms I already mentioned, Momma loses control of her bladder and bowel during these episodes. Kathryn was so very helpful in getting Momma cleaned up and ready for bed. Once mom was comfy in her bed, Kathryn sat with mom in her bedroom and shooed me off to join Wayne for what was left of our movie night.

I sensed that life as we knew it was taking yet another detour, the path ahead uncertain, and most likely containing many twists and turns. How grateful I am to have the calm assurance that Someone is traveling with us, leading each and every step of the way.

Being the hands and feet of Jesus

As my dear mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s grows increasingly difficult to manage, it is becoming harder for me to leave the house for any length of time. While my hubby is very capable and always willing to help in many ways, sometimes the help mom now needs is very personal in nature. For this reason (and many more), it’s such a blessing to have a daughter who lives nearby who often helps her grandma when I need to be away. I recently had to take my brother to the doctor and the timing of the appointment didn’t work out for Beth’s schedule. Thankfully, my friend Rita was more than willing to help.

Rita – the hands and feet of Jesus

It would be my heart’s desire that caregivers everywhere had someone like Rita in their lives. Someone with the ability to read between the lines. A friend who puts their own life on hold in order to be a blessing. Seriously, if I post something on Facebook or my blog about being tired, I can almost guarantee that shortly thereafter I will hear the “ding” of an incoming text and it will be Rita offering to help look after Mom.

Just last week Momma was having a very hard evening. I had called hospice to let them know that she was having high levels of anxiety and breathing difficulties. Before I knew it, two hospice nurses were at the house helping me with her needs. Toward the end of their visit, I noticed a familiar look on Momma’s face and a slight slump in the way she was sitting. I told the nurses that it looked like Mom was going to faint. And faint she did – she slumped over hard and for a much longer period of time than her usual syncope episodes. Even though I’ve been through this several times now with mom, this one felt a bit different and, I must admit, this time was a little scary.

Unbeknownst to me, in the midst of the ordeal, my hubby Wayne put out a prayer request on our church’s Facebook group and several in our church family began lifting her name up in prayer.

We had a hard time getting Momma to recover from her faint and struggled to get her limp form into bed where we could better help her. I was so very glad to have two nurses there to witness the episode, help me care for her during the episode, and help get her cleaned up and ready for bed afterward.

Momma was now resting comfortably in her bed and the nurses were preparing to leave. I heard my phone ring. Rita called to see if I needed any help; specifically offering to come spend the night so I could get some much needed sleep. I smiled as I listened to her kind offer and quickly responded with my “Yes, please!”

As I said my goodbyes to the nurses and awaited Rita’s arrival, I offered up a prayer of thanksgiving to God for sending TWO hospice nurses tonight and for giving me a friend like Rita – a friend who is truly the hands and feet of Jesus in my life right now.

Rewind: The First Date

Here’s a Facebook rewind where I reminisce about my first date with my (now) hubby, Wayne. We now have a granddaughter who is almost the age I was when Wayne and I met. And she reads my blog! Yikes!


Early in their writing relationship, Wayne shared his list of hobbies. It makes Cindie laugh today because she’s never in 34 years of marriage seen him even attempt to body surf or snorkel, but there they were on his lengthy list. Try as she may, she couldn’t find much in common. Why she tried so hard, knowing full well he was “too old” and she was “too young” is hard to explain. I think it is best summed up that high school girls like to dream – and dream she did.

They planned to do three things together during his 30-day leave of absence from the Navy: ride together on the church bus to Camp Fairwood; a dinner at a restaurant (Wayne’s way of saying “thanks” to Cindie for writing); and a fishing trip (because, as you may recall, in trying to find something in common on the aforementioned “hobby list,” she had stretched the truth a tad to say she “loves fishing.”) Other than these three things, absolutely no plans to “date” were on the horizon.

But God is always full of surprises.

First surprise: on the very Sunday that Wayne and Cindie met in the hallway at church, God planted a Marine named Danny (cousin to her best friend, Cindy).

Danny and Cindy came to church together that Sunday evening. Cindy introduced Danny to Wayne and Cindie. Danny was on leave too, and, small world that it is, was stationed on the very same Hawaiian island as Wayne. Danny, outgoing and gregarious as they come, assuming Wayne and Cindie were a couple (not knowing they had really just ‘met’ one another) said, “Hey, why don’t we go out for a bite to eat together after the service?” Cindie had to ask her mom, of course. It seemed innocent enough, so mom said yes, and off her daughter went on her first unplanned un-date with Wayne.


The second surprise was an “un-date” that happened the very next day when Wayne accompanied Cindie and her dad on the trip up to their church camp, Camp Fairwood. It was Monday, August 6, 1973, and Cindie’s dad was driving a bus loaded with 30 or so junior-aged boys headed for a week of camp and he had invited Wayne along [in retrospect, Cindie wonders if this was her dad’s way of checking out this young man who was paying attention to his young daughter]. The stated intent was for Wayne (who drove fuel trucks in the Navy) to give Cindie’s dad (and his bad back) a break in driving on the trip home with the empty bus. Wayne and Cindie talked all the way up to Camp, with junior boys teasing them all the way . . . and Cindie’s dad keeping tabs via the bus’s extra-large rear-view mirror.


Then, as God would have it, surprise number three. A Pastor from another church asked if he could hitch a ride on Garfield’s bus – this would get him closer to home where his wife could pick him up. God’s surprise? Pastor Luke offered to drive, allowing Wayne and Cindie to chat non-stop for another 120 miles (although neither apparently wanted their photo taken, here is photographic evidence).

Cindie attended prayer meeting on Wednesday night – and so did Wayne.  Cindie’s friend Cindy (I know, it’s confusing) was there with her cousin Danny too. They decided once again to “grab a bite to eat” after the service together.

During their table talk at Jolly Roger’s, Danny suggested they all go to the Wisconsin State Fair together on Friday night. Cindie swallowed hard knowing she’d have to ask her parents about that one too. She knew this one was going to sound more like a REAL date. Surprise number 4: since it was a double-date, her parents said ‘yes’…with reservations and restrictions, of course.

The fair was wonderful. The foursome enjoyed all the usual fair fun and food, then decided to take in a concert by Sha Na Na. Arriving late for the concert, they took a place seated on the ground near the stage. A song or two later, Danny decided for reasons unknown to lay his head in Cindie’s lap. She didn’t know quite what to think, or what to do. But Wayne did. He stood up and said to Danny and Cindy (mostly to Danny), “We are going to go take a look around at some of exhibits, we’ll catch up with you two later.”

 Before the evening was through, in the midst of a crowded state fair exhibition hall, Wayne and Cindie were separated. Wayne once again knew just what to do. He reached through the crowd, took her hand in his, and didn’t let go until the evening ended with a gentle goodnight kiss at her front door.

He let go of her hand that night, but never her heart.

Matt and Mommy’s ‘Weary Land’ Day

Matt was little – probably about 3 years old. I don’t remember what he did that morning that prompted a scolding from his tired mommy (tired from taking care of his baby sister). In the midst of that scolding, Matt looked up at me with his winsome green eyes and interrupted, “Mommy, can we listen to ‘Weary Land’?”


Unbeknownst to him, my precious little guy had just gently rebuked his mommy and diffused our tense moment with his special request. Knowing just the song he was asking for, I reached for the record album and said, “Oh, you mean Shelter in the Time of Storm?

He clapped his hands together as I turned on our phonograph, lifted the cover, gently placed the vinyl album on the turntable, then lined the needle up with song #2 on Side Two. I turned the volume up and we were soon marching around the toy box that served as a coffee table in our living room, singing:

The Lord’s our rock, in Him we hide
A shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide –
A shelter in the time of storm.

Chorus:
O Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land,
O Jesus is a Rock in a weary land –
A shelter in the time of storm.


The raging storm may round us beat –
A shelter in the time of storm;
Be Thou our helper ever near –
A shelter in the time of storm. (Repeat Chorus)

I thought about this moment in time yesterday when I read that ‘Uncle Charlie’ from Children’s Bible Hour had gone home to be with the Lord. Uncle Charlie and the Children’s Bible Hour ministry had a special place in our family. We loved listening to their radio program – a dramatized Bible story written for the younger listeners (and for the moms and dads too). As each of our kids became readers, they also enjoyed the Bible devotional found in CBH’s “Keys for Kids” publication. The church we attended hosted a Children’s Bible Hour choir concert on several occasions. We were sure to find a place in line for their sales tables after the concerts. Over the years, I think we bought nearly all of their records. One of my favorite albums was “Good Old Gospel Singing” – that’s the one that had Matt’s special ‘Weary Land’ request on it.

I gave that vinyl record another spin today in memory of Uncle Charlie. As I sang along to the familiar tunes, I thanked God for Charlie VanderMeer’s legacy of faith. I wondered how many lives had been touched by his faithfulness in his ministry for Christ. I wondered how many servants of Christ have been called to ministry and mentored by Uncle Charlie.

Only God knows.

Of this I am confident. Uncle Charlie is now in heaven and has surely heard from the lips of his Lord and Savior, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Rewind: “He Meets She”

Seventeen letters from her and eighteen letters from him later, and it was time for “he” and “she” to finally meet one another in person. The letters between them had been filled with bits and pieces of thoughts shared and information that helped them “get to know” one another. Each letter revealed just a little bit more about the person holding the pen.

About a month before he came home on leave, he sat down to write. The mood struck him to write another poem. The poem took her by surprise – for it was on the theme of love. To this point, none of their letters had even hinted that they might at some point date, let alone fall in love. Yet, she read with interest what he had to write and wondered if it was a measure of what was in his heart:

“Love” – what is it?
A word that’s used so frequently,
By many quite confused
They think they use it properly,
And yet “love” is oft abused.

How can I spell the meaning that,
In just a couple words,
Relates exactly what love means,
And not destroy the word?
Relates exactly what love means,


It seems the dictionary lacks,
Enough vocabulary,
To even start this giant task
Or end it properly.

Is friendship love or vice versa?
A miracle in thought?
Or is it even greater still
To think of things Christ taught?

On earth we’ll never really know,
The sparkling magnitude,
Or what it really means or does.
It seems I’m more confused.

Where does “love” come from, or “love” go?
From heart to heart perhaps?
Does anyone pretend to know?
There are no “Atlas” maps.

I think love is being loved
A little brings a lot.
And God planned and started it,
Or else we’d be without.

Was he falling in love with someone he hadn’t yet met? Was he thinking about the possibilities? Was he already thinking about taking their relationship to the next level? Was she?

Sunday, August 5, 1973 finally dawned. Today was the day… and I don’t think she heard a single word of what was being taught in Sunday School that morning. Nervously fidgeting in class, she kept thinking about what would happen next.  In less than one hour she would meet in person the guy she had been writing for the past 7 months. There would now be a face and a voice to the name scrawled at the end of the letters she had read in earnest. She was excited, nervous, eager, scared and a jumble of other feelings all at once.

To help him pick her out in the crowd, she told him she would be wearing a pink dress. It was her favorite dress, the one she had worn to the church “senior banquet.”

In their last letters to one another before he came home on leave, they made plans to meet at church between Sunday School and the morning worship service. Now, with her best friend next to her for moral support, she timidly walked down that long second floor hallway scanning the crowd looking for him. Her heart skipped a beat as her shy eyes caught a glimpse of him standing there at the far end of the hall – tall, handsomely tanned, and dressed in his Navy whites.  He was looking for her too!

Intense nervousness set in. Even though she had agreed to meet him in that hallway just outside the church library, she still felt apprehensive and awkward. What should she say? Should she shake his hand, or give him a hug? Should she say, “Hi, I’m Cindie, and you must be Wayne” or just simply say “Hi Wayne”?

Nonchalant! That’s what she decided she would be. She would just turn her head and engage herself in deep conversation with her friend (nervous, nonsensical babble, actually) and just walk slowly past him and wait for him to make the first move.

It worked.

He thought she was a bit of a scatter-brain walking past him like that, but he stopped her and soon the introduction was history.  Little did they know, as God would have it, this was the introduction to their future.

Coming soon: “The First Date”

Rewind: “God’s Providence and the Envelope”

I promised I would tell how “she” started writing him in the first place. 

You’ll remember that her church made it their mission to ensure that every serviceman and woman who went out to serve their country from this church would receive at least one piece of mail each month from someone in their church family. Several pre-addressed, stamped envelopes were distributed to the teachers in the various adult Sunday School classes. The high school class also participated in this letter-writing endeavor. 

Garfield Baptist Church in Wauwatosa, WI (now Spring Creek Church in Pewaukee)

Each month her Sunday School Superintendent (Mrs. Grace Barron, her youth pastor’s wife) would hold up two of these pre-addressed envelopes seeking volunteers to write a letter. “She” was accustomed to volunteering to write a random recipient each month, but, as was mentioned in an earlier account, had selfishly decided that she was no longer going to volunteer. 

Pastor Bob & Grace Barron

Her reason? Simple. Because they didn’t write back! 

Pretty selfish, wasn’t it? If she wasn’t selfish, at least she was a bit naive. It never dawned on her that it sometimes takes months for mail to reach someone serving in the armed forces. It also never dawned on her that some of the recipients might be in a foxhole dodging the enemies attack somewhere in Viet Nam. 

On this day in early January, while sitting in class waiting for the Sunday School pre-session to begin, she saw the familiar air-mail envelopes sticking out of Mrs. Barron’s Bible. To further strengthen her resolve, she whispered to her best friend Cindy that she was not planning to volunteer this month. 

Mrs. Barron held up the two envelopes and, with her characteristic deeply dimpled smile, asked who would like to write one of our servicemen this month. The reluctant writer avoided looking at Mrs. Barron, but could somehow still feel the teacher’s eyes imploring her to write. But, no one would volunteer. 

“She” felt bad, but still stubbornly refused to volunteer, sitting on her fingertips, so as to remind herself not to volunteer. Mrs. Barron sounded disappointed and made her request one more time, this time looking straight at her usual volunteer. The reluctant writer didn’t budge in her resolve – though something inside of her really wanted to. 

So, without a single volunteer, Mrs. Barron opened the class in prayer. The now guilt-ridden reluctant volunteer bowed her head in prayer too, a little bit ashamed of herself. 

Then a really unbelievable thing happened. As Mrs. Barron raised her voice in prayer invoking God’s blessing on the students and their class time in God’s Word, the reluctant volunteer felt the Bible that was sitting in her lap move. She looked down and underneath her hand, the cover of her Bible was being raised and one of those envelopes was being slipped into the flyleaf of her Bible. Mrs. Barron never paused or missed a beat in her prayer as she cunningly executed the drop. The disinclined letter writer looked up at the praying pastor’s wife and made eye-contact. Mrs. Barron’s eyes were saying, “Please?” The hesitant writer nodded in reluctant affirmation…she would do it. Still praying, Mrs. Barron’s eyes smiled a “thank you.”

After the “Amen,” the involuntary volunteer looked at the name written on the envelope. She had no clue who this Wayne L. Winquist was…but Cindie Boyles would soon find out.

Next up: “He Meets She”

Rewind: “Her Crazy Little Letters”

He looked forward to receiving her weekly letters so much and one day sat down to put his thoughts about their letter-writing friendship to pen and paper.

Your first note came five months ago
And although it was quite brief
It had a lot of meaning
Like the Spring’s first light green leaf.
It wasn’t very polished
And you seemed a trifle shy
But I must say that didn’t matter
You were a new friend saying “hi.”

After one year on this island
(A paradise to some)
I had lost a lot of interest
And my world was too hum-drum
Still your “crazy” little letter
Though I cannot explain
Gave me words I never had before
And made my days less tame.

Your cheerful, lovely person
Has traveled all these miles
In little paper envelopes
And brought me many smiles.
Your thoughtfulness and kindness
And spiritual uplift
Removed a lot of darkness
And slowed an aimless drift.

Each letter that I open
Contains some new surprise
– when the paper changes color
– when your thoughts across them fly
Though my poem to you is heartfelt
It never can proclaim
The friendship I extend to you
Even though it should be plain…

She loved the poem and read it over and over again. The last line in the poem puzzled her though. It seemed an awkward way to end. What did he really mean? Was there more to their friendship than she knew? Was this the beginning of something more?

He was right – as awkward as the last line felt, the relationship that was just beginning would turn out to be anything but plain.