…”In every moment, thank God.”

I am learning almost every day. Which is a good thing. We need to keep learning or we start dying. And when you run into that brick wall called Alzheimer’s, we get to see what that really means. You cannot learn new things with any degree of clarity or competence. You can learn, yes. The results are spotty, at best.

That is a woman’s wallet. My mom used one of these for years. It is practically falling apart. She asked for a new wallet. Something easier and smaller to use.

This is the type of wallet she chose. We sat and moved all her things to the new one. She was pleased because it would fit into her new purse so much easier. She chose a brown one so it would not show the dirt.

I cannot fully express the drama this small change has made. It changes the entire tenor of what is coming next, or what it is we are moving towards. Maneuvering through the process of purchasing something was pretty awful. She cannot find anything in this little wallet. She actually kissed her old wallet when we got home. So I am thinking of getting rid of the new one.

One day, it was socks. Hers did not match her trousers. No one would see them, because she was wearing boots, as well. But she was miserable. I remembered my tan trouser socks and gave them to her. It changed everything. I hid all her pantyhose and knee-high hose. The confusion having a choice makes is beyond her. I have taken to laying out her clothing and she just puts it on. Normally it goes smoothly. When it came to putting on knee-high panty hose versus trouser socks, we had a little problem…so I removed the problem. I should have paid attention to myself. Ha-Ha.

I thought it would be fun. I had purchased a movie. Mom and I are home alone most nights this week, so I thought, “Let’s grab some grub and put on the movie.” We went to Qdoba Mexican Grill and Fast Food. (Mistake 3 or 4 that day, by me!). It had been such a great day until we left the house! LOL! There was disaster using her wallet to purchase new flannel pj’s, and now she had to choose what to eat, and then buy it. So much noise, too many people, and too much to look at and take in all at once. From what I have learned, this entire situation was going to be bad; I knew it the moment we walked inside. For an Alzheimer’s patient, their brain just does not take in all that stimuli at the same time. It is just too much to process. So, I chose matching Chicken Taco Salads for both of us. She asked for several things on hers that I did not want, and she screwed her nose up at some of my choices. But we got our salads. Then there was the whole wallet thing. Ugh. We got out the door after a few minutes of chaos.

We came outside to rain clouds and a sunset. All past issues were forgotten as she regaled me with stories of her grandfather, how he is still close to her, and how they described shapes in the clouds. She was happy. She loved looking at the clouds; it is one of her happy places. And that is the thing with Alzheimer’s disease…it truly goes moment to moment. Earlier she was upset and wanted to go back to CA because up here you wear too many clothes (she was having problems with the socks and finding her old wallet in her drawer), and now she was excited over her new flannel pj’s and wanted to cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie. Moment to moment.

As an Alzheimer’s caregiver, we all need to be cognizant of the purity of these moments. Pure confusion. Pure joy. Pure anger. Pure happiness. Alzheimer’s sufferers have no filters (usually). What you see is what you get. Is it pleasant? Many times it is far from pleasant. But in the moments of joy, it is unparalleled. The days are long and are made up of the moments we have. In order to find joy in this process of caregiving, we have to focus on that (perhaps only one) moment in the day where we have had success. And we thank God for them. Reluctantly, I even thanked God for the hard moments because I am learning from them. Truly I am. And because I am learning, there are fewer of the bad moments. We are having more of a connection, more often. More meaningful moments and connection – true communication. There are more moments to smile about. Don’t get me wrong. The bad moments are sometimes pretty awful. But I am learning to let those go. I learn from them and try not to provide triggers that create them. And I am learning to treasure those good moments, often gone within a heartbeat.

Yesterday, overall, was a success. There were some truly crappy moments when I had to, on the sly, explain and apologize for my mom’s rudeness and irritation. Everyone was so very kind. But did we have some amazing moments? We did. Laughing during her shower about our hair. Cracking up about all our wrinkles. Laughing at how cleansing products have changed over the years. A wonderful, loving hug and kisses as I tucked her into her flannel sheets and jammies and we wished each other pleasant dreams. Unparalleled.

I will continue to learn from her; learn to leap easily between Alzheimer’s World and Reality and back again, in a moment. It is becoming better and better. I am becoming a better caregiver. Mom is being mom. We got this. And God? He is in every moment. I can feel it.

 

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“…When you enter the land that the Lord has promised…”

back porchWell, we are here.  We arrived 1 week ago today.  The social media blackout that accompanied our move was not all that bad; I learned to live without the internet and my cell phone.  It has given me time to ponder and muse over the various experiences and people we met, as we made our way to Alaska; the Last Frontier.  We’ve taken a leap of faith coming here, going off to find ourselves and a life we hope for.  We missed being among family and it is so good to know my son and his family are about a mile away; we can actually walk to one another’s homes.  We’ve enjoyed meals, cups of coffee, pizza, and just being with each other since we arrived.  What a joy to have my grandson discover grandma’s pots and pans! What a racket he makes, but what joy it brings to me.  His smile and his laughter light up my life.  Grandchildren are truly a blessing in our older years; God is smiling on us!

Our journey here was an arduous one.  The AlCan Highway, or Alaskan Highway, is a treacherous drive and not for the unprepared or feint of heart!  (If you try it, use Milepost Magazine and do it during warm weather!!). We often drove for hours without seeing another vehicle or sign of life, other than the vast forests we were driving through, on roads covered in feet of snow and ice.  I think this old California girl did pretty good, driving 2400+ miles on some of the roughest roads she’s ever experienced!  My 14-year-old glanced up now and then from his X-Box to enjoy the scenery, but was totally oblivious to the dangers around us (which was actually a good thing).  We had Bison cross the highway in front of us and walk alongside us…what a sight! They are massively huge and their shoulders came well above the top of my windshield.  We saw Red Fox scatter across the roadway and into the treeline as they saw us approach; saw Bald Eagles fighting Ravens over a kill; and saw Moose, casually walking through a small town we happened upon.  It was humbling, to be sure.  This is a land where nature is still very much in charge.  We have not tamed the northern Canadian wilderness, nor most of Alaska.  It is un-nerving and exciting, all mixed together.  And it is exhausting!  This Grandma is pooped out!

When we happened upon the Canadian border crossing, so much of what we thought we knew and what we believed was radically challenged.  It was a 5+ hour ordeal (the whole process of crossing into Canada) that I would not wish upon anyone.  And from that experience I learned so very much.  We have mindsets we have developed through our experience of life and the world we live in; the mores and values of the country we are raised in.  We learn lessons that are given to us by our environment and our perspective is developed from our collective histories, as well as the input we receive at the knee of our parents.  I come from a family of immigrants. And I was taught to love America and the ideals espoused here.  I think many in other cultures, especially our Canadian neighbors, dislike Americans because they think that we think that Canada is just an extension of the USA.  They are ‘so much like us’ that we ASSUME our cultures are the same.  They are not.  The basic freedoms we take for granted are not extended to us when we cross an international border.  We have NO rights and are at the mercy of the Country we are visiting.  I learned that the hard way.  Aspects of being an American were totally wiped away at that border crossing.  I won’t go into detail because this is not the forum for that, but just know our freedom was challenged and my world was turned upside down.  It worked out, as we were finally allowed into Canada and through Canada to Alaska.  We met many wonderful Canadians along the way and they made the experience at the border lessen in its severity a little bit, but I cannot fully express to you the joy and relaxation I felt at driving over that line in Alaska!!  God Bless America.

A portion of that experience is, however, germane to my blog and I wanted to post about it.  As things were spiraling out of control at the immigration office in Canada, I sat with my head between my knees (partially because I thought I was going to pass out or throw up or both) and I prayed.  I pleaded with Our Lord; I asked for the intercession of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Our Lord, and patron of families.  I asked the Lord for His Presence in that place. I asked for the softening of the hearts of the people around us, and those dealing with us.  I prayed the Jesus Prayer over and over again, throwing in a few Hail Marys along the way.  The Lord’s Prayer was recited over and over again, becoming more and more real to me.  And I found myself so lost in prayer, the world around me disappeared. I was completely transported and I found God, sitting in a detaining area at the Canada border. He was with me and He pressed down His peace upon my fluttering heart, and I KNEW, totally KNEW, everything would be okay.  And I believe that the place I found within my heart is that place of the soul, the place where Our Lord dwells, and where my heart is at peace.  And He dwells there at ALL times and through ALL things.  I truly discovered the reality of that, sitting there, hoping I did not pass out or throw up.  I learned a lesson that my faith in God is the thing that flutters, but God does not.  I come close to Him at times, and at times I find myself not as close to Him.  It is all within ME…He is constant.  He is always there; my pains, my trials, my woes…those are all MINE.

Bible well read

I listened to a CD recording a dear friend of mine has been asking me to listen to for a couple of years now, this morning. My husband and I listened to it together.  We prayed and we wept together. It was a sublime moment in our marriage. This CD summed up this realization that I came to, that God is always present in our lives.  The theme of the talk on the CD was that God is testing us, but His tests are given to us after He has thoroughly prepared us  (“I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.”  Jer 29:11) and that His tests are open book (our thorough knowledge of the Bible) with our tutor (the Holy Spirit) whispering in our ears the answers.  His goal is for us to pass these tests and through the passing of them, we have our test-imony.  I love that.  We are tested each and every day, but only after He has thoroughly prepared us.  We were tested in our national beliefs and we came to appreciate what we have here in the USA.  We were tested in our faith and the peace that came from deep prayer was amazing.  We are being tested right now, because our pathway is so unclear and we have no idea what tomorrow will bring.  But God did promise us a “future filled with hope” and one that is filled with “peace and not disaster.”  All He asks of us is to be faithful to His word and His promises.  We are the ones dancing around the May Pole; He is standing upright and firm and is present in all days, in all ways, with His children.  Thanks be to God.

Didache