Trust starts with truth and ends with truth…

I have been thinking about this post for a couple of days now. The subject is trust. Who do we trust in our lives? We can look at our world as concentric circles. As we look at the world-at-large, and the world stage, who do we trust? World leaders? The U.N.? Our President? Our elected officials? The worldwide media? What news source do you listen to? Because where and how, and from whom, you get your information colors that information, and it colors you. There is a quote from Winston Churchill that says, “History is written by the victors.” And that is pretty much true. This is our largest circle. The world. Certainly our faith and sense of self comes from an influence by the world on us, even if we eschew interacting with it most of the time – that act in itself is a reaction to the world around us, thus has an influence. And are we aware of what is going on in this circle? Because if we are not, we are “in for a world of hurt” when it all comes crashing down.

As we come closer, and enter the next smallest circle, we come to our country. So who do we trust? Again, our President, elected officials, government? I have been sorely disappointed in all of it. I made assumptions people had our best interests at heart. I made assumptions people would act in a way that put our country and its citizens first. And I trusted those in charge. Silly me. I still believed in character and ethics. That has been debunked. Thoroughly. Another quote, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton) sort of sums up large-circle (and really, all) politics. There is rampant corruption in our government. It is on the news daily, regardless which camp you identify yourself as part of. Who speaks truth? Who champions our country before their own interest? Who puts America first, regardless of special interests or lobbyists? Who cares about the citizens, each and every one of them? Who, on the national stage, can we trust? I loved watching the interview of Mark Zuckerberg, live, answering questions by equally shady politicians. What a circus that was! Please. The FBI/CIA/IRS and the host of other alphabet agencies? LOL. Nope. Don’t trust any of them. Do you trust Facebook? The abilities of electronic media to follow us and record our movements, purchases, phone calls, friendships…that is frightening and we all need to rethink technology’s roles in our lives (as I type this on a laptop and post it on the internet. Ironic!). People commonly say that if you use any sort of electronic anything, any thoughts of privacy are gone. You have to still be using solely pencil and paper to avoid electronic tracking of some sort. Who even writes checks any longer? ATM cards – debit cards – credit cards. I rarely even touch cash anymore. And those cards can track you while they are still in your wallet/purse, without even making a purchase (RFID chips/technology). And at the bank yesterday, I overheard a man asking how he could have overlooked $8,000 leaving his account. He was standing there, going over all his automatic, electronic deductions. Hard to trust even those you have given access to your bank accounts. Privacy…almost a thing of the past. And now with Siri, or whatever home-control device you have, even our homes are no longer private oases for us to relax inside, eschewing the world. You can tell your TV what you want to watch by saying a line from a movie, or describing into your remote control and it finds the movie/program for you. From voice recognition. My 4-year-old granddaughter tells her Echo device from Amazon to be quiet all the time, shutting down music being played or programs being watched. How scary is that??? And she knows what she is doing.

As we come ever closer to ourselves, we inhabit a finite space and time. As we move closer in from the borders of our country, we come to our State (which is how we divide the country, here in the USA). We happen to live in the “Last Frontier.” Even though Alaska is geographically the largest of the 50 states in this fragile union, we have one of the smallest populations. This state is not for everyone. Weather is certainly a factor (“I could never live in so much cold; so much darkness” is something I am always hearing) as is the fact that we are isolated from the rest of the “lower 48,” as we fondly refer to them. It costs me more to fly to Los Angeles than it does to Reykjavik, Iceland. ($1400 RT to LA versus $1080 RT to Reykjavik, as of this morning). We are isolated in our food sources. We are isolated in goods and materials. We are isolated, except when tourists arrive. LOL. Only 30% of our roads are even paved. It is a harder place to live than most. I have lived in California, and in Washington State, and neither one had the neighborliness of Alaska. And when it comes to politics, the politicians here shop at the same grocery stores, and live in my neighborhood. I can see a politician at Church, deeply in prayer, surrounded by their family. I have met and had coffee with many of them. How many state politicians do you know who, when meeting you, give you their personal cell numbers and ask you to please keep in touch? I was floored when that happened to me – more than once! And now that I do know many State-level politicians, it has made my State seem smaller. I can watch them on TV and text them at the same time. Surreal, in comparison to past experiences with politicians in smaller states with larger populations. And I have friends in local politics, as well. Here we have Boroughs; some states have Counties. We have friends at the Borough and city level in political positions. To me, it seems as if there is a true sense of trying to work to make our State, and our community, a better place. Are there corrupt politicians here? You bet there are. I am slowly learning who is trustworthy, and who is just positioning themselves for re-election and a firm hold on their power base. I pray for all of them.

And in these circles of our lives, quite often things inter-connect and cross-over, creating a patchwork life experience. Some of these people I know who are a part of my State legislature, or a part of my community, are also my friends…which for me, often equate to family and home, my smallest circle. That small and special circle is getting closer and closer to who I am. In my inner circle of family and home, I also have those whom I can trust and those I keep more at arm’s length. People are people, even if they happen to be related to you. (And sometimes it is wiser to keep them further from you…maybe into that circle that contains the country! LOL!) Those close to you influence who you are, and how you react to the stimulation in your life. We modify our lives based on reaction and influence. Sometimes I have walked away from relationships that had become very intense and very close, because it was not healthy for me. They were altering my world view and it was not good. My family is precious to me and I guard those relationships with the attitude of a mother bear – no one gets between me and mine! And if I can help it, no one hurts the people I love and hold dear.

And we arrive at the inner circle. In that circle I have my husband, kids, and grandkids. I also have my mom, because she lives with us. I count a very select few friends as part of this inner circle. Those I call when good happens, but also during those times in life that are painful, and I know they are there for me. (As I am for them). And of those people, family and close friends, can I trust them all? Sometimes I question choices and decisions loved ones make. Sometimes I wonder what influences are in their lives that make them choose what they do. Because if my friends and community can influence me and my perception of the world, it will most definitely affect my children. And they are married, so their wives are also a part of my family (as are their wives’ families). My husband is the primary person in my life, as are the spouses of my sons for their lives. I also claim my daughters-in-law as my own children, so they are part of my circle. My extended family is peopled with relatives I rarely see and to be honest, most of the time, it is fine with me. There are dear friends I miss much more than some of my relatives! LOL! If we are honest, we all have family members we do better with just occasionally visiting.

And finally I am at my innermost self. All these layers, all these circles, come down to me. In Orthodoxy, there is a place where God resides, and we call it the “nous.” It is where our common sense resides, where our intellect resides, but also where we encounter God in ourselves. It is where the Holy Spirit lives within us. I love that description of our innermost selves. And can I trust myself, with myself, to make the right decisions, select the right path, interact in an “orthodox” (as in “right thinking”) way? If I am healthy, yes I can. If I am unhealthy, either spiritually or physically, it changes absolutely everything. Because if our core, our innermost self, is sick in any way, it affects all those circles we have journeyed through to be here. Like ripples in a pond. And if we cannot trust ourselves, because we are not right with God, or our health and minds are not their best, how can we trust anyone else? What does this mean?

To me, this means I am responsible. I am responsible for me and how I affect each of these circles, because even I can create a ripple effect, one that has world-wide (if you follow my logic) effects. And if I operate from a sick perspective, because my faith is askew or non-existent, or my health has been affected, or my morals or character are not formed well, then the ripples I cause to go out from me, well, they are sick and ill-formed, too. In my family I can be calmer or at ease when I am off, or out of sync, because they know and love me regardless of my soul’s state, or the fact that I am ill. In caregiving, especially with Alzheimer’s, we love our family member regardless, and in spite of, this ugly disease. And we try to control the ripples they put out into the world, by helping them in their daily life, and the interactions they have. And we have to guard ourselves against their “warped” affects on us, so we don’t perpetuate the illness out into the world at large. Sounds weird, I know. But if you think about this, it is so true. So when we look at each of these circles in our lives, and we think about each person in each circle having their own set of circles, the ripples they are putting out and what affects that has on the rest of the world, we can envision total chaos…the crazy waves of everyone’s affects on everyone else. And we wonder why our world is in such chaos! Well, what does it mean, to you? To me? To us?

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15). It all comes down to being centered in what matters, and then reaching out. For me, if I am sick, I try not to go out into the world and spread it, like germs! LOL! And my sickness can be emotional and spiritual, as well as physical. Our world is messed up because people, in my opinion, are askew in their nous, their center, and they are making a mess of this world. I am not in the best shape. My spirituality is dented and banged up; I have a cold and am sick. I am in no position to cause ripples anywhere. (Which is why I am cocooning at home). And I acknowledge it and am working on it. But if we look at the news, even on mainstream TV, the majority of it revolves around moral issues – people sleeping around on their spouses; others cheating businesses or the government; people shooting people; stealing, robbing, killing. It is enough to make you want to bury your head under the covers and not get out of bed. And seriously, how are we going to get out of this? Most Protestants I know believe we are in the “end times.” They are patiently, and excitedly, waiting for Christ to come again and claim this world for Himself. I keep thinking we need to center ourselves, get right with God and get our bodies under control and in better overall health, and those positive ripples we put out from ourselves will move out, further and further, until we affect this crazy world. And it may even calm this storm. Whew. Enough pondering and musing for this sick mamma. I need a cup of tea. My head hurts. I hope you survived my “verbal vomiting” and perhaps, over-thinking, this entire idea of concentric circles. Here’s to better health and calmer circles….tea, where is my tea?

 

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“…roses in December…”

My mom’s doctor explained Alzheimer’s to me in a different way. She said it is like slowly “falling asleep.” She said you know how you sort of fall asleep and take a nap? And when you wake up you are groggy? That grogginess takes quite a while to shake off, and you slowly wake up. With Alzheimer’s, the grogginess remains. And each day the grogginess is more pronounced, until you eventually do not wake up. Rather sobering.

We had a terrible day yesterday with my mom. It is the worst day she and I have had, since this journey of her living with us began. In fact, it took me back to our kitchen in Huntington Park, California, on Grand Avenue, when I was 13 years old. In one instant, we were transported back to that exact moment. The problem was, yesterday, I think that is where my mom truly was. Huntington Park, kitchen, in 1970. Only I was in 2018, 61 years old and standing in my bathroom with an 88-year-old mom who was totally off in Alzheimer’s World, in Wasilla, Alaska. And that is pretty much what Alzheimer’s is all about. Not being in the same place, at the same time.

I got a reprieve from my oldest son. His wife and I went to a gardening class and he kept my mom with him and his kids. She loved it and was totally wonderful, and exhausted from the great-grandkids loving on her. So I went and got a haircut. (Funnily enough, no one has noticed, even though I cut off more than 2″…lol…another blog post!) But as I was getting my haircut, the stylist told me her mom was an Alzheimer’s nurse. She grew up around dementia and Alzheimer’s her entire life. And she was so aware, and so understanding. She said something that made me stop and think. She said, “We are who we are because of the journey we have taken and the memories we have made. When we lose our memories, it really affects who we are and how we behave.” Wow.

Mom rarely mentions her dead husband (Memory Eternal, Frank) or her stepchildren by marriage. She rarely remembers my childhood, my brother or father, or her life before 1953. When she meets people and they ask where she moved to Alaska from, her answer is “New Zealand,” even though she left NZ in 1953 and moved to California. She does not know much about her parents, either. She cannot recall her aunts, uncles, or cousins. Nor much of what towns she lived in. But she always talks about her maternal grandparents and the times at their house, and most especially her grandfather. She has started deeply sleeping, a lot of her days away, complete with snoring and body twitching. Sigh. When called upon, she is quite social. But she mostly sits and stares. She is not interested in dressing. She is not interested in showering – yesterday’s debacle was about cleansing. Her teeth. She was obsessed with brushing her teeth. It was amazing how obsessed she was at finding her toothpaste and brushing her teeth. Somehow I think she knew on some level that she had not dressed nor brushed her teeth in the past two days. LOL. But she still would not shower. It has now been 5 days since she has bathed. She insists she is just not doing it. (Another sigh). And in the moments when she wakes up, she is overly animated, trying to brush off the fact the past 1/2 hour was spent snoring. Her comments are so out of context. It is amazing. The brain and this disease operate together so interestingly. And her medications have become critical – and not up for debate. She has to take them. And take them when they are due – lesson learned. Again.

One of the things I have come to grips with, is that Alzheimer’s is a degenerative, neurological disease. It is degenerative. You do not come back from this. Once you step down into that next level, there is no regaining lost ground. That grogginess is stronger. And more pervasive. And I do believe she has journeyed down another stage into Alzheimer’s. It affects how your entire body functions. It is not just about memory loss – it affects all neurological functions. And that is how Alzheimer’s can kill you, whereas dementia will not. It is sobering. It causes you to re-think how you re-act to this disease when your loved one is fully enveloped by it. It is not taking the bait for those arguments, or allowing the disease to run your days. It is keeping sane and on pace with an insane disease. Also recognizing it for what it is – a degenerative disease. And it is ugly. And it is here. And it is working its way through my mom’s entire body. And there is nothing I can do about it, except to keep loving her, even more-so because of it.

“Come to me, all of you who are wearied and burdened…”

I’ve written, and saved, and edited, and written a few posts. But I just never get them to the point where I can post them. Life is moving so quickly. My Mom is progressing further into Alzheimer’s and it breaks my heart.

 

When we went to Easter Vigil, she had no memory of ever going to Church. She had no idea of the story of Christ and His sacrifice. The Church was packed and people had gone outside to process in with the lit Easter Candle. They had scrunched by us, excusing themselves as they went. Less than a minute later, Mom looks around and says, “Boy, there sure aren’t very many people here, are there?” Sigh. We did not last the entire Vigil. Mom was so confused; it was a parish we had never been to; some of their traditions stymied us; and it was 11:00pm and they obviously had a long way to go. It was a sad evening. Our youngest son was working as a fire fighter and was not home, and he had no idea where his “Fireman Boot” basket was, either. It was the first year we did not do Easter baskets and gifts for our kids. It was a weird Lent, and a rather depressing Easter.

Mom did not do well on Easter Sunday. She woke up at 6:30am, even though she did not get into bed until well after 11:30pm. One of the many things I have learned through this caregiving process is that schedules work. Mom needs to be in bed by the same time each night. If not, it takes days to recover. We went to our oldest son’s place for Easter and the great-grandkids wore Mom out. We came home in the early evening, and she fell asleep on the couch. When it was time for  bed, I tried to wake her. I called her name, I shook her shoulders – nothing. Finally I really shook her and she had a hard time opening her eyes. When they opened, one eye was looking left and the other was looking right, and her jaw was sort of stuck. I called her name and she shook her head from side to side, and opened and closed her eyes. When she looked again, she was herself. She got up and said, “Time to take my pills and go to bed.” It was as if nothing had happened. The next day, she slept off and on all day. She has been confused ever since. And even today, she has slept most of the day. One time, her eyelids were open and it was sort of scary. This week, in fact, she has been less herself than she ever has, since moving in with us.

The descent into the stages of Alzheimer’s is frightening to those around their loved one. If someone isn’t visited or spoken to by friends and family, they are forgotten. And that creates hurt feeling by those forgotten. But it is not the fault or intent of the person who is forgetting. Their neural synapsis are shutting down. Sometimes they will get a clear signal and know all sorts of fun things you had no idea they would recall. And then there are days with those same synapsis are getting no signals, at all. I have looked into my mom’s eyes and have seen the blank, white-walled mind where there is absolutely no thought taking place. I tried, in vain, to explain something to her when she was like that and realized she was not understanding anything I was saying. *sigh*

I think I am saddest in that we are finding it more and more difficult to communicate. I know soon, we will not communicate much at all, and she eventually will not know who I am. And it seems to be happening quickly.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Caring for someone who is slowly slipping away is so draining. But it is also is an opportunity to learn, and to grow into a better person. And Mom is sharpening my caregiving skills. The ability to not be angry when she will lash out irrationally; when she has no clue what day it was or even where she is; when she accuses me of the stupidest things…all these things are making me a better person. We all know those people, whose presence can bring us peace and calm and joy. Some day, I want that to be me. I want people to think that of me. A safe harbor for others, regardless of their journey. The Lord definitely is working on me. And some days I just want to escape. But caregivers are here for the long haul. We are determined to help our loved ones, regardless of the cost to ourselves.

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness,faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confessionin the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:11-12

“Fight the good fight” means many things to many people. I cannot flee from all of this, because it is my chosen allotment, but I can dig in and work for my Mom’s health and happiness as best I can, keeping our eternities in perspective. I think we all know our moments are limited on this earth, and our lives do not go on forever. Mom knows she is dying. And that it is happening sooner, rather than later. Today she said, “I am so tired of this. I hate my brain. I hate living like this. I am just tired and I am ready to go.” And I recall my great-grandfather saying the same thing, and dying soon thereafter. I know it is coming. Mom knows it is coming. We are just working on the between then and now part. Stay your post; “fight the good fight; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” Mom is heading there. We all are. Mom is just ahead of us.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

Mulling, musing, pondering, and provoking…

My blog posts have been colored by what is going on around me. Well, I am still musing, which was the point of this blog when I started it. I wanted to share nuggets of ideas I came across while I mused over all sorts of subjects. Working my way through issues. And it is interesting to see how I have grown and changed, as I have shared my thoughts. Most of what I reflect on is where I stand with God. And where I stand politically. What is on my mind as I go through my days. Of course, recently, I have experienced all the stuff one does when you take on a parent with a disability. Alzheimer’s is probably the worst disability I can think of, because it makes the mind run astray. And every moment is a crap shoot. And to be honest, it colors every aspect of your life. I can feel God, I can see God, but I am not next to God. Instead, I have my mom and all the issues surrounding her health and wellbeing, how she is each day, coloring every, single moment, and every, single aspect of my life. And that is the plight of caregiving. You subsume into the other person, quite often losing your own identity.

Today, on some boards I am on for Alzheimer’s and caregivers, some one posted in very large letters, “I QUIT.” So many of us rushed in, ensuring the poster was okay and not in danger of harming themselves. Suicide among caregivers is so very common. And once we were reassured she was okay, just venting, we all jumped in to give her encouragement. It is nice to be on boards where you can vent and chat and no one judges you. Today I saw a post where a woman said, “Thank you for letting me join this group. I know my sister is not in here, it is private, and I can find some time and space for me. And I can say what I need to say, when I need to say it.” Wow. For some of us, we are hot water kettles on the boil, almost ready to spit out that steaming water. And we find it hard to thank God in those moments; the moments when we need to just explode. And to an outsider, it makes no sense.

We all laugh at the platitudes given to caregivers. “You are such an amazing daughter/son” “You may not get a lot of thanks here, but you will in heaven” “You are such an angel” and on and on. Trust me. None of us are angels and none of us feel like good kids when we have just had shouting matches with our parents, who are having a bad day. We feel like crap. Like the worst kid, ever. And we desperately want someone else to do this. We really do. We want to run away and hide. Some days, we just want to stay in bed and rest. We want to sleep. And, when we are really candid, we want this entire Alzheimer’s journey to be over. And then the guilt sets in, because that means we want our parents to die. We don’t really. We want our parents back the way we knew them. And we want Alzheimer’s to go away.

Some days, I just want quiet solitude. My mom has this annoying habit of inserting herself into everything. She flips through our mail. She reads things left on countertops (I am better about putting things away these days). She inserts herself into conversations. Today she was so nonsensical. Her reactions were so off. She was laughing at things you should cry over. And then we had to repeat every 2 minutes. She looks in my room, and in my closet, ostensibly looking for me. If I am in my master bathroom too long, she calls after me and walks in, wondering where I am. (Usually I am hiding, sneaking in a game of Words with Friends). And she has this especially annoying habit of not wanting to go to bed until I go to bed. Tonight she was literally snoring on the couch. I watched her. She was not watching the program I wanted to see. And when she woke up and I told her she should go to bed, she said she wasn’t tired. I told her she had just woken up from a 10-minute nap, complete with snoring. She harrumphed and ignored me. Finally, I stood up and started my bedtime routine with preparing my vitamins and supplements (I know if I did not religiously take them, I could not do this much longer). She stands up and says she needs to take her pills and go to bed. But then she dilly-dallys, watching me, to be sure she isn’t missing anything. *sigh* I get it; I do. I am her anchor. But I just needed some downtime. Alone. In the night. Watching a show I wanted to see. She harrumphed and complained, but then went to bed, saying how tired she was. And then she grabbed me, hugged me, and said, “I love you. I don’t know what I would do without you. Thank you for taking care of me.” And the guilt came crashing down on my shoulders. Again.

So what I see tonight is that caregivers subsume all their needs and replace them with all the necessities of caregiving itself. And this leads to an emptiness. And extreme exhaustion, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Because when you allow something or someone else to replace your core self, you have nothing. You become empty, in the sense that not much of you is left. It is why most caregivers become chronically ill, chronically sleep deprived, chronically lonely. Because this is really an isolating illness. Family members do not understand. Friends lose interest. Jobs are compromised. Marriages are strained. Your own kids don’t get it – they just see your parent taking over all of their parent. We are the sandwiched generation, and we need help. A lot of it. Because Alzheimer’s is growing. Rapidly. The statistics for our future are alarming. There are going to be so many sandwiched families, and it is going to drastically affect our culture.

I don’t have any answers. I am mulling and musing, pondering, and provoking thought – I hope. And I am thankful for the assistance that is coming our way through some amazing organizations and through the generosity of grants. And I know there will be help and that makes my burn-out less horrific to bear, and easier to bounce back from. My kids are pretty much launched or in the process of launching. My grandkids are still young enough that it is not affecting them too much. I have friends who I know have got my back. Others have walked away or distanced themselves, and that is okay, too. One day, my mom will have completed her Alzheimer’s journey and I will deeply mourn her absence. But I will also, guiltily be relieved. It is no way to age. It is a burden on her, because in her lucid moments (which have become fewer and fewer) she knows what is going on and will slap her head and say she hates her mind and wants to die. And I don’t want that for my mom. I want her to have a beautiful quality of life. I am just not sure how we will make it happen, and so we take the days moment by moment. It is all we can do. I am pretty excited for the calvary to arrive, I have to admit. Respite care allows me to have a break, if we can get mom to accept someone in my place. We are praying it works out for a family member to be my respite provider, but there are others I am going to interview, too. And I am excitedly dreaming of coffee/lunch with friends, and just being free to do what I want to do. Get a haircut. Go to the shooting range with my girlfriends. Grocery shopping alone (how sad is that??? Ha-Ha). My own schedule. Even if it is just me and my hubby, out for dinner alone together. *sigh* And there goes the guilt. It’s a cycle-thing. We just go moment to moment and hang on.

Redirect, distract, diffuse…and it worked.

So yesterday (and today) was gloriously sunny. The winds came up late in the day and haven’t stopped, yet. It was loud, overnight, for me. But mom, she slept through it all. I woke at 5am and decided that I was not getting up. I woke at 8am, feeling guilty. Mom had been up for hours, wandering through the house, all quiet and dark. I got her some coffee and waffles, and she promptly started snoring on the couch. She cannot seem to stay awake. And her conversations are disjointed today. She is inappropriately laughing, and answering questions with answers that are nonsensical. She seems very confused. *sigh*

Yesterday was a rough, rough day for mom. She was approved for a grant, for respite care. So blessed, because it gives me a break. But she does not understand why I need someone to watch her, when I am away. She says she feels like a baby who needs a sitter. When I ask her where she lives, what day it is, if she has eaten today, or what year it is, she cannot answer me. She just looks at me blankly, and then says something flippant, to distract from the fact she cannot answer the question. *sigh* They were in our home to evaluate her needs, and to be sure we understood how the respite care program worked. And she sat there, on the couch, totally fuming. And she had to re-introduce herself twice to the lovely woman who had come to the house. Poor mom. She had no idea that the woman had been here for about an hour. After she left, mom was just so testy. She was causing us to bang heads, because she was lashing out, and had no idea why. So, I decided to distract my mom. We had to do some banking, and then I took her for a lovely drive up into the local mountains. It was so beautiful…the sun makes the snow glisten. We could not get all the way to where I wanted to be, so I could show her the views from the mountaintop, because we had an avalanche last week and the roads where closed. But we got close. And she was marveling at the views. So many beautiful scenes in front of us. Lovely farms and homes in idyllic settings. We are so blessed to live here.

Mom loves thrift shops. She used to volunteer at one that was run by her Church, many years ago. She was the one who sorted everything and she had first crack at the merchandise. And she found some amazing pieces. She knows a bargain when she sees one. And so, after our drive through the mountains, and because it was still early in the day, we went to her favorite thrift shop, called “Thrifter’s Rock.” And it did not disappoint. She found some great deals. She got a new purse, some jewelry, and lovely tops. She even bought a shirt for my husband (she just loves him). And she was overjoyed and smiling. The stress of the day was left behind.

Today, well, today is not good. A forgetting day. She is having a hard time communicating. And she keeps sleeping. I think it is fallout from the stress of being upset yesterday. She cannot verbalize why she is feeling what she is feeling. But, I learned I can distract and redirect and diffuse. I learned that those methods actually work. And you know what? We had fun and I made some memories with mom that I will keep. Bad day, yes. But it turned into a win-win. So blessed. A hard journey, yes, but there are little nuggets along the way. Now I need to wake her up and get her ready for today’s doctor’s appointment. LOL.

 

Almost “time to fly…”

I’ve been absent lately. There have been a lot of things going on around here. The weather has been fun…rain…snow….slush…sun….and repeat. Today was rain and snow together, until the snow beat out the rain. At times, we have been experiencing near to white-out conditions, and then it will just stop. As I write this, the sun is gloriously shining and the snow is dripping off the roof. We are nearing to Spring, but it has not sprung here, yet!! My youngest son has been busy working on his fire fighting career and training; my oldest son got a promotion and then both he and his kids have had the flu (God, in His mercy, allowed my daughter-in-law to avoid the newest strain of Flu B, so she could take care of all of them). And my middle son and his wife just announced they are expecting baby #4 in October, and they are off on a fun vacation for two weeks, driving hours upon hours with their three little ones. We are over-the-moon-excited for our new grand baby! They are one of life’s greatest treasures. And their growing family brings us such joy. Sunshine, snow, and family…busy days for this musing mom!

And I realized that very soon, I will have an empty nest. My youngest will soon be independent enough to have his own place. My mom’s health is steadily declining and I do not see many years more with her. And our dog and cat are also aging quickly. They both sleep most of the day away, right next to mom. As I looked around, I realized I needed to find something meaningful to occupy my mind, to give me purpose. How many of us who have opted to stay home to mother, have come to the end of our full-time mothering, and realized we had nothing to do, nothing that meant anything to the world around us? Raising kids is the single, most important task I have ever undertaken. It is the single best decision I ever made, to stay home and raise my kids. Every single one of them makes me proud of the adults they have become. Such good people. My heart swells with pride. And now that my baby is almost 20 years old, what next??

As I looked around at what I saw happening to my town, my borough (county), state, and country, I realized I still have a lot to offer. I can help out with what I feel is important. I can work with legislators at the State level. I can attend Town Hall meetings. I can meet people active in our borough and mayors of the towns around me. I can offer to help at events, with different groups, around my town. I can pay attention to legislation at all levels. Have you ever gone to a site like LegiScan LLC and looked over legislation pending in your state? The resources from that one site will blow your mind. You can see how all the legislators in your state have voted, who has financially supported them, who the lobbyists are on bills pending, the status of bills, how long they’ve been in committee, etc. It is a free treasure trove. Their mantra is “Bringing People to the Process.” And I don’t think many of us understand the legislative process in either the House or the Senate, at any level of government. It is certainly eye-opening. Oh, and it is for every state!!

And so I have something fun to do. I am volunteering with a political group and I am about to be trained to volunteer as a surgical assistant at our local shelter. I am out in my community, working with the movements of our government as much as I can. I am becoming more aware of what is happening. I am meeting others who want to make a difference. When I attend events and have amazing discussions, I am re-invigorated and get energized to do more. It is giving me purpose. I am narrowing down how I would like to focus my energies, sort of setting myself up for future projects. And I am excited that I live where I do; a place where I can affect change. I am living around more “like thinkers,” rather than being in the minority (for the most part), which is so different from the other two states in which we lived. We are part of that silent majority, that is slowly waking up – a sleeping giant, if you will. And it is an exciting time to be active in what goes on in my town, state, and country. Empty nest? Soon enough. For now, I am digging in and doing things to keep me busy!! And it keeps a smile on my face. We all need to embrace working to make our local towns, our states, and our country a place we can find pride in, and a safe place to leave to our children and grandchildren. If we stop being silent and allowing a small minority to change the fabric of our nation, we can get this country back to a place where we don’t have to live in fear or be afraid to speak out. Get out into your communities, get involved. Use your talents to make the world we live in a better place! We can do this!!!

 

“No more gas left in the tank…”

I am blessed with friends. I truly am. And they are wonderful to hang around with. When I took my mom in, I honestly did not see it would be 24/7 and hanging with friends would become something special. That I would have to find babysitters, for an 88-year-old-woman. That I would never, ever be alone (sometimes I get followed to the bathroom, or if I am out of sight for too long, she comes looking for me. And sometimes it is rather uncomfortable to be found. LOL). And sometimes I feel like some of my friendships are strained. Because not everyone wants to hang out with my mom all the time. Because I cannot generate things like, “Hey, let’s go to lunch!” on the spur of the moment because I don’t get free moments like that. Or to try to plan a lunch out ahead of time, with no reliable respite care. It is not fair to drag my mom to all the events with my friends. And as this disease progresses, I am going to get even less able to be spontaneous, or to get away for a few hours. I haven’t seen a dear friend in more than 2 months. And I am sure it is because I am just not available like I once was. I come with baggage – attachments – strings. And I know it is hard. I truly do.

One of the hard things is that even when things work out and I am able to get away, the return is stressful. When I am gone an hour, my mom thinks it was all day. When we go together and run errands, after we are home she is very cranky. She gets snippy and is so tired. And she does not recall a moment of our day out together. Today, we went to breakfast with my patient daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Our youngest son met us there. Then we went shopping. And on the way back, hubby met us so we could look at gardening supplies. We ended up finding a rug for our bedroom. It took much decision making and discussion in the store. When we got home, I showed my mom the new rug, all laid out in our room. She went on and on about what a lovely rug it was and what a surprise I got a new rug. She had no memory of the day we had spent together. Not even how she hung out with her great-granddaughter, who took her by the hand, and said, “C’mon, buddy…” as they walked through the shop.

And it makes me sad. Because we had a great time. She remembers none of it, and she is tired and cranky. And it makes each subsequent journey that much more difficult. And the deeper into this she goes, the more isolated my life becomes. I have read so many articles and blogs by other caregivers who lament the loss of their own lives. I really did not think it through, when I invited mom to come here. I really didn’t. I don’t think any of us who do this truly understands it, until we are in the trenches of it. Today mom lost her pajamas. I had put them under her pillow when we made her bed. She was walking around the house, in her shirt and undies, looking for them. After I went to investigate, she is pulling her summer jammies out of a drawer, saying, “Oh here they are!” And I told her those were her summer pj’s..and I looked and found her jammies on the floor in the back of her closet. Next to the Depends bag, which she fights me on every night. Anyway, when I pulled them out, she pounds her head and says, “The sooner I leave this life, the better. I am not good for anything. I hate my head. I feel so stupid.” And as she ranted away, pounding her head, I just sighed. I have tried comforting her when she gets like this, but she rebels and stiffens and doesn’t want it. So I have learned to leave her alone while she futzes around in her room, slamming drawers and closet doors.

The last thing I want mom to feel is that she needs to die. Ugh. And I get her frustration. Because if she knew the impact of her disease on the lives of everyone around her, she would totally hate it, as if she doesn’t hate Alzheimer’s already. But I know she would hate what it is doing to my life. I feel bad that I don’t reach out more, and try to get time with others, to enjoy being more social. Honestly, some days if I can make 3 meals she is satisfied with, take care of my husband and son, remember to feed the dog and the cat, and get myself to bed at a decent hour, I have no more gas left in the tank. I am done.

My dream is to stay at the hotel above. It is called the Alyeska Resort and it is in Girdwood, Alaska along the amazing Alyeska ski slopes. The views are just incredible – summer or winter. My dream is to go there – perhaps with my daughter-law – with no kids, no mom, no husbands, and just books and some wine. I would look out the window, maybe walk the trails, and hang out in the amazing lobby (picture below) and forget all about Alzheimer’s and stress and being lonely and sort of needy…and just breathe deeply, and dive into a good book that is in my ever-growing TBR pile. Someday. Someday. Not today or tomorrow, but someday. I hope my friends will wait for me. And still seek me out, even if I am hiding away in my house, because I cannot get away.