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20770 NE Kaya Lane
Indianola, Wa. 98342
USA

360-689-2641

The Community Blog

The Dad

Several months after I moved to Wise Acres, David and I brought his 99 year old Dad to live with us.

Despite heart problems, near blindness, incontinence and a lot of confusion, Vince was still walking

around and playing the piano and he wanted to live with family. One of his daughters had been taking

loving care of him for years in an assisted living home but she was exhausted and burnt out; we decided

it was our turn, and stepped up.

Having Vince living with us in our home was one of the best and hardest and things I have ever done,

right up there with running a marathon and starting an organic farm. There were many sweet moments

and times.. sitting on the front porch together in rocking chairs soaking up the sun,; Vince playing piano

while I made dinner, including Christmas carols in August.. watching him play "Kings in the Corner"

with the kids before Community dinner; Vince riding his red scooter down to the garden with me to

get veggies for dinner which he carried back in his basket; his 99th birthday party attended by the

Community, neighbors and many of David's musician friends where people dressed up in 1920's and

1930's attire and Vince played piano with "a band” once again. Coming down at 3:00 am to ask Vince to

please not play piano until morning and finding him, fully dressed, sitting at the piano, eyes closed, with

a huge grin on his face. Tucking him into his LazyBoy chair every night with his James Bond movie and

squeezing each other’s hand with our nightly ritual of "See you in the morning for coffee, Mr. Dad." The

sweetness of seeing Cory, one of our younger community members, lovingly helping take care of Vince

to earn money for his trip to Europe. The way our dog Maggie made Vince smile every morning when

he would pet her, feed her morning treat and sneak her bits of bacon and omelet off his plate. Vince

smiling when we our little neighbor baby Oliver came over on Friday mornings.

There were many moments and incidents that were absolutely hilarious; we found that finding humor

in the situation helped us cope when nothing else did. I took to calling Vince "The Dad", partially since

I couldn't quite bring myself to call him "Dad", partially inspired by The Grampa on the Simpsons, and

partially due to the large amount of psychic space Vince and his frequent sighing and complaining

seemed to take up in the house and the need for some emotional distance in dealing with him. We also

took to calling him "The Snollygoster" or "The Snolly" for short, a word which means person out for their

own self interest, due to his habit of stealing quarters from us and hording them in a handkerchief in his

top drawer and his persistence in trying to get me to leave his son and run away with him to Florida. He

told the Hospice Chaplain long tales about traveling to China and Europe and working as a spy during

WW2 that seemed to be a mixture of James Bond movies and David’s travels.

There was the night I heard the familiar cries of "Help Help" and rushed downstairs to find him fully

dressed, sitting on his bed in the dark, yelling "I need more insecticides". During another early morning

incident he insisted that I had to take him to the emergency room immediately, that he was "next in line

to have a baby." We had coffee together instead.

There were exhausting, grueling moments, days, and weeks when I wasn't sure I was going to make it

and my only goal was to keep from going crazy and to maybe try to get in a little nap, which was usually

interrupted by Vince yelling up the stairs wanting to know what time it was.

There was the night I threw the TV controls across the room after he had complained for the one

millionth time that nobody had ever shown him how to put on his James Bond movie when we had

gone over it with him over and over and over. I stormed up the stairs in a menopausal snit, leaving

him to pound on the walls and piano in frustration until David finally went down to help him. When

I apologized the next morning The Dad smiled sweetly and said "It’s okay Dear; I know it wasn't really

you..."

There were the days when he had woke us up repeatedly in the night, playing piano, yelling up the stairs

for some emergency such as wanting to know the time or desperately needing different socks or maybe

a little snack. These "emergencies" were usually preceded by loud cries of "Help Help; "Please Dear

God Please Help Me" which he had figured out got me rushing down the stairs , adrenalin pumping,

anticipating a heart attack or worse. Exhausted, sleep deprived, dragging myself through the day trying

to accomplish small goals like finish Vince's endless loads of laundry or just get the garbage down to

the dumpster; these were usually the days when his brain would click into one of his seemingly endless,

dementia-inspired tirades on favorite subjects such as why we were so unreasonable as to not let

him travel by himself across the country on a plane in the middle of winter to visit his girlfriend, why

wouldn't I take him to the Dr. immediately to do something about his eyes, why was his family scattered

all across the county and he never got to see them, or where was all his money and he wanted all of the

records on all of it immediately; subjects that we had answered over and over again in great detail but

he never remembered the answers.

There were the times he would talk on the phone with his girl friend across the country about how

he was being held captive somewhere out in the woods with nothing to do by some woman and her

husband who he didn't know and had never met before. Sometimes I had the patience to explain it all

yet again. Usually I had to pour myself a strong drink first; which seemed to both help calm my poor

menapausally fried nerves and put me more in tune with the Dad. Sometimes, totally beyond the end

of my rope, I would snap "That’s ridiculous", take my drink and go upstairs to my sewing room leaving

him to fret and stew by himself.

Like all of us; Vince was a mixed bag. Despite his negativity and complaining he also had a sweet streak

and we loved him dearly…there were many times he would tell me how much he appreciated all I did

for him and that he felt he was “treated like a King.” I never knew what to expect with him…one minute

he wouldn’t be making any sense at all and the next minute he was sharp as a tack, making perceptive

comments and obviously right there.

After 8 months of “The Dad occupation” several family members and friends asked us why in the world

we were putting up with him; that he belonged in a nursing home. Why were we doing it indeed?

Frequently he didn't seem happy or grateful; he spent quite a bit of time complaining and plotting his

escape. He certainly didn't "earn it"...he had never been a model Dad and certainly wasn't there for his

kids in the ways they would have liked him to be.

 What we came to realize was that taking care of Vince at home in his last days so that he could live

with family, surrounded by Community, just simply felt like the right thing to do. It was a value, along

with growing our own organic food in the garden, sharing, consensus, and raising healthy confident

children with a strong sense of belonging, that we felt was important in the Community. Louisa set an

example when she took care of her father, Wyman, at home during his last 5 years. She inspired us and

made us feel that we could do it. The Rains are fortunate enough to have Nil's mother Ursula living with

them and we saw how "Oma's" presence as an elder enriched the Community as she brought her skills

and presence as a pediatrician and elder.

We believe in the importance of having all ages in the Community, from babies to elders. We believe

in allowing the children see old people lovingly cared for at home rather than abandoned in a nursing

home. We were touched to see Violet rubbing "The Dad's" shoulders before dinner and watching the

kids playing cards with him. We realized that all of us at Wise Acres, including ourselves, would be

growing old eventually and we wanted to nurture the model of having our elders cared for at home if

possible, surrounded by the loving arms of the Community.

The day before The Dad died was especially sweet. All day Monday he had been driving me nuts and

trying my patience, complaining that he never saw any family, nobody was "on his team" and he was

all alone, lost in the world. I was feeling at the end of my rope. He had gone to Community Dinner

Monday night with Cory in the red scooter David had gotten him for Fathers Day, and seemed to be

feeling fine. That night Vince began having some trouble breathing, we gave him extra morphine and he

slept sitting up in his recliner.

Tuesday morning we had our coffee together as we did every morning and he ate his breakfast; he was

quiet and subdued. He picked at his lunch and only ate half of his ice cream. That afternoon Vince

began to have increasingly labored breathing, we gave him more and more morphine, and I realized for

the first time that he was beginning his journey out of this world.

 An interesting energetic shift happened at this point ...Vince became increasingly happy and animated

which was unlike him and the energy in the house shifted into one of joy...a change I attributed at first

to the morphine but I later realized was also the door between the worlds beginning to open and its

light shining in. David and Judith Weinstock came over to see him when they heard he was starting

his journey and he seemed delighted to see them. David successfully convinced him that he was part

of our team , and that he didn’t have to worry about that anymore. When the Dad quizzed him about

“which organization” he worked for, David convincingly described two world-wide organizations he was

connected with (Peace Dojo and Non-Violent Communication). The Dad was then laughing and talking

about how he was so happy we were" all connected again" and "on the same team".

After they left Vince said” all he had to do now was to find his wife" to which I replied that I was sure

she was waiting for him at the next place he was going which made him really happy. His joy and delight

increased, along with a sense of giddiness as he told me his wife (who had died last year) was upstairs,

then that she was in the bathroom...it became more and more clear that at least one of his wives if not

both were here with us to help him in his transition.

The next morning when I went to wake Vince who was sleeping in his lazy boy, he wouldn't wake up

although he was still breathing in a very labored manner. The Hospice chaplain arrived, prayed with him

and told me we were probably very close to the end. We called Vince's daughter Gaile who lives close

by and who rushed to be there. Cory arrived, we called Vince's other children who were able to say

their last good-byes into his ear by phone.

David, Cory and I sat with Vince for the next several hours, holding his hand, singing, crying, and telling

him we loved him and that we were glad he had been with us. David played music for him, Cory rubbed

his head. We knew he could still hear us because he would squeeze our hands. We sent out an e-mail to

the Community; people responded that they would join us as soon as they could get there. Louisa came

by to sing to him and Ursula came to wish him well on his journey. Vince stayed with us long enough for

his daughter Gaile to get there to say good-bye, the Hospice nurse came to check him... Vince's death

was as peaceful and beautiful as one could hope...he just stopped breathing and slipped away to join his

wife, surrounded by a circle of love.

As timing would have it, the day Vince died we were scheduled to cook Community dinner. I sent out a

community e-mail requesting help....somewhat dizzy and overwhelmed with conflicting emotions, grief,

relief, and surprise that it had all been so quick I threw together a modified dinner...chopped kale for

salad that Ajay had picked....dressed Persephone Farm greens gifted to us by Rebecca...forgot to put

any salt in the soup...put too much in the salad dressing, decided to skip dessert, while David, Vince's

daughter Gaile and the nurse dealt with the funurel home, coroner and other legalities of death. David

and Judith Weinstock came over and provided loving support and council, Oma and Judith helped

me with dinner...finished the soup, brought homemade cheese, helped me set up. Neighbors arrived;

brought dessert, flowers...in death as well as life we were held and supported by the loving arms of the

Community.

 

The Heart of Community

David Weinstock

“Community is the inescapable context in which everything human has taken place. The all important web of meaning we spin around each other.” Christopher Ryan

As members of the U.S. consumer class and in this age of technology and communication, we experience a high degree of personal independence like no other time in history.  The price we pay is experienced in the decline of the kind of communities that feed our deep need for belonging and in the damage to the commons we all share.

Imagine for a moment that every interaction you have with another person creates a bond that connects you both.  After decades of daily and varied experiences, imagine how these bonds proliferate exponentially and intensify connection and understanding, much like what is found within healthy familial relationships. Now imagine that same quality of care and collaboration rippling outward exponentially to other households and the greater community.  In time, these bonds become so dense as to be empathic.

This web is made up of a collective wisdom that we all—young and old, get to tap into and appreciate how much we need one another.   Multi-generational community living is essential to our well being and it has become endangered.

 

Inter-Generational Living

Since 1990, my wife and I have raised our family within an intentional community that we started with 8 other families. An “intentional community” is where people come together with the intention and commitment to create Community.

Sharing resources, raising children together and nurturing the land made all the sense in the world and it still holds true. This path has been painfully difficult at times, and you will not find a greater advocate than me!

Reclaiming Community is similar to reclaiming a forest that has been clear-cut.  First we plant trees in rows that grow and eventually provide a canopy and compost for new growth to flourish below. Younger trees and undergrowth sprout up.  Diversity occurs and invites more. Animals, plants and organisms self-select.   Some thrive while others die off.  In time, a more robust, integrated, inter-dependent system evolves out of the original monoculture. Organisms develop more and more symbiotically as countless subtle connections form.

A mature ecosystem works as a collective whole.

In human relationships, Community provides the beauty found in the tapestry of life woven through seasons, generations, births, deaths, celebrations, struggles, traumas, meetings, playing, arguing, working together, taking steps, building structures, gardening, raising children, family conflicts, forgiveness, young ones becoming teens, teens growing older, marriage, divorce, sharing meals, caring for one another, becoming elders and so much more. Over the decades, like the symbiotic relationships of an aging forest, in my community, something organic and far bigger than it’s parts is developing.  Inter-dependence grows, Community is  felt, experienced and transmitted.

When in conflict and triggered we do not rise to our higher ideals, we fall to what we have practiced most in our lives, behaviors born out of the family and culture that nurtured us.

When we first started out, our romantic ideas of community soon gave way to conflict, painful breakdowns and the inevitable disillusionment that is a part of the learning cycle of community building. We were hoping for the family we always wanted but soon found ourselves in the middle of the family we always had…with the chance to face it as adults.

Along with our familial reckonings we had to address the patterns of our culture and histories that regularly reared up from within us.  We watched as hierarchical power structures, sexism, classism, adultism, agism, racism, ignorance and the fears that sponsored them played themselves out in our circle.

Experiential learning that comes through daily play, work and shared struggles provides the compost for  community to continually grow.  We are learning how our breakdowns in relationships produce cracks in our ideals and from those cracks, seeds take root and new possibilities take shape. By questioning age-old assumptions and deeply rooted beliefs, perhaps we can move to a broader perspective about what our new communities might become.  Nature, and our own nature show us the power of diversity.

How it makes us stronger. 

 

These struggles took us far beyond our comfort zones, clarifying, at the very least, what we did not know. The pain of our interactions provided ample motivation to find more inclusive, forgiving and responsible ways to be together.  As time went on we got glimpses of how a healthy community might navigate the complexity of multiple intimate relationships. Those glimpses galvanized our efforts.

As we shape community, it shapes us again and again.  It is a dynamic evolving process through which the world and ourselves can be effectively transformed.

We are learning to get back up more gracefully after our falls, to honor and add diversity to our mix and recognize that we are all in this together.  Shifting engrained power and control practices to consensus is a slow and deliberate practice.

Our original vision continues to become a reality in ways that we could have never known.  All ages offer their unique gifts to one another, mutually benefiting and illuminating.

We are learning how to conflict well and from that well we all drink deeply.

Young and old, we know that we each carry a part of the puzzle and together a collective wisdom is emerging.  Our sons and daughters and their children are building on this foundation.  They will certainly have their own struggles to work through, but their struggles will be different.   They have a solid sense of self and place. They are a beautiful testimonial to our values and efforts. The web of support that connects us is a tightly woven fabric.

I imagine a deep innate wisdom collectively within us coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.

Imagine for a moment that every interaction you have with another person creates a bond that connects you both.  After decades of daily and varied experiences, imagine how these bonds proliferate exponentially and intensify connection and understanding, much like what is found within healthy familial relationships. Now imagine that same quality of care and collaboration rippling outward exponentially to other households and the greater community.  In time, these bonds become so dense as to be empathic.

This web is made up of a collective wisdom that we all—young and old, get to tap into and appreciate how much we need one another.   Multi-generational community living is essential to our well being and it has become endangered.