Losing Yourself or Maybe Finding Who You Really Are
- By Brenda
- 03 Jan, 2017
Losing Yourself or Maybe Finding Who You Really Are . . .
I don’t often write about some of the more personal aspects of my life, but a lot has happened this week that I want to share . . . not just to drone on about family matters, but to share how it affects all involved and how blessings can be found even in the most difficult of times. My father-in-law has Alzheimer’s. Having lost my Daddy, less than 1 1/2 years ago, I am familiar with dealing with dementia. In regards to my father-in-law, it has been very simple. His wife, my husbands step-mom, has been a wonderful caretaker. So we simply see things such as forgetting and constantly repeating over and over. Or asking the same question again and again. Our “inconvenience” has been small at best . . . a ride here or there. His disposition has always been sweet and we just took the dementia in stride . . . not liking the changes we were seeing, but seeing that he was still happy and content.
This photo was taken on our property with our John Deere hay rake by my sister-in-law Marcie on Thanksgiving of 2015
This week, my in-laws went to my niece’s wedding in Oregon. While there, my mother-in-law took a bad fall and broke her shoulder. She is nearly 83. While breaking a shoulder in itself is a bad thing, especially at her age, being the single caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s and being put out of commission is devastating. She is dealing with some other complications as well that make it obvious it is time for a change. So while she stays in Oregon for a bit longer with Ron’s brother and sister-in-law to “recoop”, and his sister Marcie focus’s on finding the right “home” for them, Ron’s Dad is now home with us. Our dear friends Jeff and Dianne brought him home from Oregon for us.
If you have dealt with people with dementia, you know that familiarity and routine are very important to them. So we knew we needed to bring him back to his apartment. So after dinner at our house, Ron and I packed up our little suitcase and headed with his Dad to their Senior Apartment.
My husband Ron is a part time physical trainer at Physique, a fitness center here in Spokane. He does the early morning shift just two or three mornings a week. By early morning, I mean 4 am. So he leaves at 3:30. So last night we got a small introduction to his step Mom’s world and my admiration of her has skyrocketed. He is sweet . . . . exceptionally so, but very child like. We knew we needed to get some shut eye, which meant he needed to go to his bedroom, so the living room could become our “bedroom.” We politely nudged, Ron escorted him back . . . again and again he would bounce back, asking “Where is Nadine?” (his wife). We would gently tell him and try to get him back to bed. This morning, shortly after Ron had left, but before 4 am, he came out to the living room asking once again, “Where is Nadine?”
This photo was taken on New Years Eve just a few days ago, while he waited in the E.R. while Nadine was being treated.
It isn’t that he isn’t sweet. He is the essence of a total gentleman. He is just confused. Leaving him alone is not an option, as he has been known to wander. During the short time at our house, before taking him to his apartment, he wandered into our bedroom, opened the front door (the thought of him wandering off terrifies me!) and removed and looked at countless things on my shelves. One thing he kept picking up was an antique metal toy, called “Range Rider” of a cowboy with a lasso. This was his toy when he was a child and he passed it on to us several years ago. I have no idea if he remembered it was his toy or not, but it obviously struck a chord with him. Each time he picked it up and gently turned and fingered it, a broad smile filled his face.
As I watched this and even now, as he sits in his recliner, reading a retirement brochure with pictures of Betty White all over it, I am touched by the simpleness, shortness and poignancy of life. He smiles a lot, hums sweet hymns. He is filled with joy.
When my own Daddy was deep in the throws of the evil demon of dementia, still he was sweet. He would pat my face, he would make goofy faces at me. He would sing silly songs he made up. He was a favorite of the helpers that would come to care for him. My Dad was always a gentleman, whistling nonstop. In fact, I know of no better whistler than my Dad. He would whistle hymns all day long. If Dad wasn’t whistling you knew something was wrong. But it wasn’t often that he wasn’t whistling. He was a happy, kind and gentle soul. My Mom cared for my Dad until the end and it was very hard. Emotionally and physically, it took everything she had to care for him. Once again, we helped where we could and spent quite a bit of time over there, but it in no way replaces the primary caregiver.
But I look back at those last days, when Dad would smile and tease me, when he would light up because his little dog jumped up on his lap, when he would kiss my Mama. That is life. That is what matters. My life growing up wasn’t perfect. Ron’s life growing up wasn’t perfect. Our parents didn’t get everything right. We didn’t do everything right. Sometimes things got messy. Really, I have discovered, most, if not all, families are a bit dysfunctional.
But today I choose to celebrate the simplicity of humankind. Of someone who chooses to smile when life falls apart, of someone who might make us laugh at their forgetfulness, but chooses to laugh along with us and not be angry with the hand they were dealt.
Yesterday, my father-in-law asked me, in all seriousness, “Have you flown to the moon and back?” I laughed and then happily told him, “No, but I love you to the moon and back.” It was a sweet moment I will remember for always. He smiled big and once again reached for his beloved Range Rider. My eyes filled with tears that were a confusing mix of joy and sadness.
Life is hard right now. We have to make choices and decisions. We know it will get worse. We know eventually there will be loss and grief. I am heartbroken for the loss my husband will endure. But for now we celebrate. We celebrate smiles, we celebrate joy found in simple things and we realize sometimes in the hardest of times, is when the blessings show through the clearest.
May you choose to find and celebrate life’s simple blessings today!