Blooming in a storm

Sometimes it’s easier to do nothing.

Sometimes you realize you must.

In a four year period my father died from Alzheimer’s, my mother was diagnosed with dementia, and also my husband Richard.

Life wasn’t pretty back then.

And my coping skills were more than spent.

Since Alzheimer’s and dementia are ultimately fatal diseases, Mom and Richard also soon joined Dad in the after life.

It’s been three years now since Richard, the last of the three, passed away.

I wanted to stay far, far away from the battles of anger, frustration, and pain I often felt while caregiving.

Yet after watching a recent PBS special that spoke of the “tsunami” of Alzheimer’s, I was drawn back into the war.

With the numbers of those afflicted woth Alzheimer’s increasing dramatically, it’s no wonder the show refered to the disease as both a “human tragedy and an economic one as well” for our country.

Last week I was asked to facilitate an Alzheimer’s support group for caregivers.

I admit I stalled some in making my decision and went for a long walk around the lake to mull it over.

Was I emotionally ready? Did I have the right skill set? Did I have the time?

Then I thought again of all those caregivers. Warriors who are battling the biggest storm of their life, or at least of their loved ones.

As I finished my trek, I stood and looked at the beautiful vista unfolding before me.

Maybe I could help some caregivers find a patch of blue sky and even bloom just a little on the darkest days.

I went home and immediately sent a note of acceptance for this great opportunity to serve.

How could I not?

Commited to Love

“You could divorce your husband,” the young man on the other side of the desk told me sporting a somewhat pained expression.

I sensed it wasn’t his favorite option.

Mine either.

I’d made an appointment to gain advice on how to survive an approaching tsunami of expenses involved with caring for my husband’s early onset dementia.

That conversation with the professional is like many other heart wrenching memories of caring for a middle aged 200 pound man whose memory was fading fast.

Fortunately I find the toughest recollections have now faded a bit as well, stopping by for brief interludes on holidays like Valentine’s Day along with the very good ones.

I said hello to a little photograph in the red frame this morning of my late husband and me.

It was taken the night before our wedding at my parents’ home.

They’ve also since passed on from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

But I smiled as I held it.

It was a great celebration filled with love.

And today I will celebrate only my good memories.

In addition, I will honor the new ones I am making this Valentine’s Day.

I’ll be coloring bright red and pink paper hearts shortly with some little ones.

Then spreading sweet cheer later on with some very special seniors.

And finally, I will rest well this night with my loving four legged furry friends at my feet.

It seems anyway I look at it, love is still a wonderful commitment.

Everybody needs a muse

My knobby fingers have quit moving.

And it isn’t the arthritis.

No longer are they keying in the words I want to share.

I’m been pulling together prior posts on Alzheimer’s and dementia with other writings I’ve done on memory loss. I hope to publish a book to help other caregivers.

But I’ve hit a roadblock.

So this morning I decided to go for a long walk to find some inspiration.

And then I found it.

Right there in the bright eyes of a cat staring at me from a bookstore window.

He was perched next to an old noiseless Remington typewriter. It reminded me of my aging and silent computer keyboard back home.

The feline suddenly jumped up as if to show me something.

In the reflection of the dirty shop window, he helped me recognize some current distractions in my house:

-Auto claim paperwork needing follow up from a recent car accident.
-Unread books on my living room coffee table.
-A crazy world spinning faster and faster on my TV and in my news feed.

I thanked the cat. I can ignore all three at least for the moment.

Then the feline led me over to a stack of the store’s newest and boldest book titles. Three impressive titles in particular caught my eye. I believe the cat knew that they might.

“ILLUSIVE”-Is it really an illusive goal to finish a draft of my book I wondered? The cat looked at me and shook his head. It just takes dedication and hard work he seemed to say.

“THE DETOUR”-I’ve been taking a long route to write and re-write my way around the toughest passages. I looked up at the cat again. He seemed to be nodding as if to tell me he understood. Maybe the boy’s dealt with some rough passages in his own nine lives.

“THE FALLOUT”-There have been moments I’ve wanted to give up on my project. The cat tapped at the window as I pondered this title for a while. If the whole point of writing my book draft is to potentially help other caregivers, who am I serving if I quit?

“No one,” I mumbled out loud.

I’m sure I saw the cat nod in agreement as I turned to rush back home to my computer keyboard.

Gentle souls

Today my Facebook news feed gifted me a joking reference to two elderly women and senility.

Maybe call it holiday humor.

But I call it cruel.

I admit I’m overly sensitive after a decade of care taking for my late parents and husband afflicted with Alzheimer’s and dementias.

But there’s nothing funny about a grandma asking her grandkids on Christmas Eve, “So who are you?”

Or discovering one morning your spouse can no longer speak full sentences.

But I may have been bothered most by the post’s unkind reference to aging women.

Feeling a bit old myself this morning, I couldn’t help but think don’t mature women deserve better?

What ever happened to respect and dignity, anyway?

I spent yesterday visiting two gentle souls in different locations, each nearly ninety years young.

Both of these women are bright, full of life and ever so wise.

And they’re also gorgeous.

The women reminded me of another elegant lady I knew who passed away earlier this year at 96. An accomplished author, she kept researching and writing well into her 90s, publishing her last book at 92.

All three women have taught me much. And yesterday the two I visited with shared some invaluable lessons.

First, just because you’re older, you’re still vibrant and very much alive. You can offer wisdom and perspective the young never can.

Second, should memory become impaired in one’s final years, gifts of love and warmth will still shine through.

I’m thinking these gifts will be more than enough to top off my stocking come Christmas morning.

Month of Gratitude: Day 14

I found a picture tonight of one very special day.

It was taken last November.

My daughter had bundled up her two little guys so they could join me in visiting my husband Richard in his care facility.

I admit I was a bit leary of the visit with the young boys.

I’d wondered how Richard would react in his late stage dementia with the visitors.

And what about the other residents?

I was also concerned about my grandkids.

Would they be a little afraid of my husband?

And how would they respond to Richard’s housemates?

But taking my first step through the doorway, I found I had nothing to worry about.

The two boys immediately went to work putting on a floor show.

Showing off peek-a-boo skills behind long drapes and then crawling under lunchroom tables, they soon had much of the room smiling.

They even managed to share plenty of laughs and welcomed winks with the ladies.

And as to my husband, only tenderness and compassion was shown by the young gentlemen.

My grandsons brought so many gifts of warmth and light with their visit that morning.

And though Richard did pass a month later, I’m grateful to have the memories of this day to carry with me.

I do hope the boys will hold on to some of them as well.

But if not, they’ll always be one special photo reflecting the joy.

And one special grandfather, who loved them in his own way.

“It’s all good”

I’m sure I’ll annoy some with my daily gratitude posts this November.

And just in case you’re wondering, ‘perky’ is not exactly my middle name.

Yet even in the busiest of work days, I’m still the one most likely to blurt out “it’s all good!”

So I see nothing wrong with starting each morning with a mantra, along with some good, strong coffee.

The month of November’s always been my favorite.

Though not any more.

Long standing traditions have faded with the recent passings of family members.

Yet there’s nothing at all wrong with creating new ones.

Like picking the gorgeous month of October as my new favorite.

While still honoring the true spirit of November with a daily gratitude post.

Because one thing I’ve learned is with the right attitude, it truly is still ‘all good’.

Refections in a garden

I heard a message on my answering machine today that got me thinking.

It was left by a friend of my mother’s.

They’d worked closely together for a number of years.

She’d called to check up on me, mentioning that I’ve had a lot to handle with the loss of my brother, dad, and mom.

The woman doesn’t know yet about the loss of my husband the day after Christmas.

Though she’d known he’d been ill as I’d spoken with her about it at my mom’s funeral.

I’ve also been thinking about my sister’s discovery of Mom’s old journal this week.

In it Mom wrote how difficult it had been to lose her own mother and son within 6 months of each other.

I believe that was much tougher than anything I’ve yet to experience.

I wish Mom had kept with her writing as I would have liked to have known much more about her thoughts in those days.

And I believe the writing process would have been cathartic for her, as it has been for me.

But I do recall she’d often share with me that the secret of getting older is coping well with loss.

And cope she did.

My mom was a survivor.

I plan on calling her old friend back tonight.

And I’ll be telling her I’m just fine.

Though I’m still lacking some skill in sharing with others the story of yet another loss.

But maybe it’s because I’ve discovered it’s tougher for the receiver hearing the news, than for me now to cope with it.

Apparently Mom taught me well.