Friday, September 18, 2015

Everything Changes

My Mom passed away Saturday, August 1. She had Alzheimer's. I first noticed the forgetfulness and confusion three years ago. It's been a rough few years for everyone.

My sister and her daughter (who were visiting me in North Carolina) and I flew home. It turned out to be four days before she passed away. As difficult as it was, it was a gift to be there with her during this transitional time. I was struck by the most tender moments like my dad who stopped and talked to mom every time he passed by her bed. He told her he loved her over and over again. I have to believe that her dying was made easier on dad by her being at home and not in a hospital. Hospice made that possible and what a wonderful service they provide for terminally ill patients and their families.

Another touching moment was when my 10 year old niece was reading to my mom, "1001 Things It Means to be a Mom." Mom was a little restless that night and Sarah stopped reading and said, "What's that Grandma?" Then my niece turned to me and said, "Grandma says keep reading. It's awesome." It was more than I could take. I had to turn away.

Dad continues to have the at home caregivers 24/7. His situation hasn't changed. He's unable to see clearly so someone cooking for him and running around for and with him is what he needs. He won't go into a nursing home and I guess who can blame him. He naps a lot and seems to be in and out of the hospital more and more these days. I hope that's not a sign of what's to come.

Dad is 86 years old. And we all know our parent's will get old, but no one wants to see their decline. To me they'll always be the faithful, bickering, stubborn, generous folks who are firmed rooted on their land and refuse to change; living in their old farm house doing the simple things they loved to do. Day in and day out, always the same. Same store for groceries. Same bank for finance. Same church for masses. Bake the same pies. Cook the same foods.

Until your mom gets Alzheimer's. Or your dad is blind. Then pretty much everything changes.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

1979 Kmart Snackbar

I walked across the street over lunch and bought a slurpee. I'm sucking on the straw, pushing it down into the last spoonful of slurpee, pulling it up and pushing it down to create little craters in the sugary cherry fluff and then it hits me. I'm immediately transported back to the year 1979. I'm sitting on the cool, red, slightly curved snack bar bench at Kmart with my mom. We are waiting on my dad to buy his fishing gear. Mom is smoking and drinking a Pepsi. It's a little dark in the back of the store and I can smell the stale popcorn. The memory is so vivid.

Our senses really are pretty incredible.

Savor the details.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Cruel Curse

When I tell people my mom has Alzheimer's Disease they usually reply with, "My Dad did too. Or my Grandmother did too." Everyone seems to know someone who's lives has been turned upside down due to this disease. It is a cruel curse for so many families who are both blessed to have living parents and grandparents, yet cursed to see them sick.

My sister said to me quietly over the phone this weekend, "She's slipping away." I know this. We all know this. But to hear it spoken out loud seems to make it all that much more real. I wanted to whisper to her, "Shh…don't say that. She's just tired. She'll be better tomorrow."

The reality is tomorrow will bring new challenges for her. Challenges that won't be overcome. Problems that won't ever be resolved. It's truly heartbreaking.

We hired 24-hour in-home care for my parents back in December when I was home and Dad couldn't find his way out of their tiny bathroom. It is a bathroom he's had for 53 years. Something was wrong with him. He couldn't seem to walk well. He shuffled his feet taking tiny baby steps and was confused. Dad always loved to dance and since walking didn't seem to work, I placed put his hand on my hip, insisted that I lead and danced him to his chair in the living room. Ridiculous I know but it worked. After three days in the hospital, they still didn't have a good explanation. He had a mild case of the flu. His glucose level was a little high. That's it. No sign of stroke and mostly lot of shrugged shoulders and "he's old" talk.

This seems to be theme these days - no explanations and no solutions. One day at a time.