Creosote and Calico?

Sensory pleasures are individual and based in our history and heritage.  It is sensory pleasures that enrich our offices, homes, sick rooms.  As we encounter illness, it is often the sensory pleasures that define “comfort”.  In the continuing exploration of the power of the senses, C is for comfort.

 For me personally, sensory comforts come in the taste and smell of corned beef and cabbage; the smells of coffee and creosote; the beauty of cruising and calico. 

Quite an eclectic list, right?  Taking it one comfort at a time: 

Corned beef and cabbage plays a key role in my adult life while married into the Fitzpatrick clan.  Though a McCarty all my life, Irish heritage was not a point of pride in my childhood but was very much one for my in-laws.  Every March 17th was a high holiday not only as the national day for Irish recognition but as the birthday of our patriarch, Thomas M. Fitzpatrick, III.  The Fitzpatrick clan would gather to share the tangy taste of corned beef and cabbage, the lilt of Irish music and the rare camaraderie of 50+ “close” relatives.  The sensory pleasure of corned beef and cabbage engenders memories of Tom, a gentle man whose experience with Alzheimer’s was life-changing.  His Irish eyes were shining when his family was gathered.

Sharing corned beef and cabbage with two of my adult children recently was a tribute to the spirit of family and heritage.  That my son has cooked it for me several times, each with a lot of love and attention to taste and consistency warms my heart. 

Which leads me to children.  Yes,  my children are all in their thirties, but the memories they have given me are the best I have.   In the words of a favorite poet, Kahlil Gibran, “They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.”  How beautifully stated, and how grand life is.

The whiff of baby powder, the sound of a crying newborn, the delightful innocence of a four year old’s enthusiastic “speech” are each pleasurable for me and many individuals.  I still find myself unconsciously rocking back and forth when a child cries in a setting calling for quiet. 

However there are some folks who were not able to have children, who did not want children, or who have lost children.  My sensory pleasure is not necessarily theirs.  As caregivers it is important to know the individual’s history.

Coffee and Creosote?  My primary sense is smell . . . both of these smell good to me. This is why:

Coffee is a delight to smell but not to taste in my world.  I awake happy with the smell of coffee.  I drink tea.   Sensory pleasures that may appear universal are individual.  Coffee was a morning smell for the first seventeen years of my life.  It does engender a sense of home.  But only its smell, not its taste. 

Creosote is all about the smell too.  As a child, we went to the beach for a vacation every summer. In our walks to the beach from our rental, the hot sun would bring the smell of creosote out of the boardwalk pylons.  The smell is connected with a positive life experience.  Consequently I always think of the beach when I smell creosote, a distillate of tar that preserves wood from water.

C is for cruising and calico.  I am living aboard our sailboat, Horizon, cruising the Caribbean.  The color blue will always hold a special place in my environment.  As will sunset oranges, gentle breezes and warmth.  I shiver at 68 degrees.  I find the ground very still when I visit my children. Nonetheless I have a Pinterest board or two with home touches that do not fit on a sailboat because I do still have a huge fondness for chickens and calico. They are roots that run deeper than the Caribbean  and hopefully will play a role in my future. 

When and if you or I have no language, when and if our minds cannot logically determine friend or foe, it is the sensory cues that will make our life worth living and our death a pleasant passage.

Why not feather your nest? Record your sensory preferences in Feathering Your Nest, a Blueprint for Comfort  available through Amazon or Old Line Publishing.

What sensory pleasures have gotten you through this day? 

Which ones might lighten your loved one’s day?

Author: Cate
Passionate about dementia care and quality of life throughout the last days of life----sums up Cate McCarty, Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach. With close to forty years of long-term care experience in nursing and recreation, a Master's in Thanatology and a PhD in Aging Studies, Dr. Cate seizes every opportunity to translate research into quality of life for individuals with dementia and all of us who have the honor to "rub elbows" with them.

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