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Mom’s Alzheimer’s

When mom started doing strange things, we sort of laughed at her, as she herself did along with us. She was living with my brother in his house at this time. However, things didn’t stay funny, they got worse, and things had to change. It was up to my sister and me to do something.

Let’s go back to when we started noticing things that we all thought were funny. We would find her keys in the refrigerator, an item that she misplaced we found in the back of a closet. That day she may have driven 3 or 4 blocks out of her way and didn’t know why. She forgot to pay bills so Lynn and I started doing her shopping

Then things got worse. She was going to a friend’s house that was close to mine. The nursery at the corner called me and said that my mother drove in a ditch in front of the nursery. Being concerned, I told them I would be right over to get her. They told me the forklift got her out and she seemed dazed. I asked to speak to her and they told me that she’s not there, she was gone. NO…NO…NO I thought to myself why did you let her leave I wanted to say but didn’t. Instead, I got in my car and went looking for her myself. When I couldn’t see her on any road, I went home and started calling her on the phone. It took her three hours to get home. We only lived 30 minutes to her house.

The second incident put her in far more danger than the first one. She went to NH to visit her sister and spread dad’s ashes at his former college. I got a call at midnight from my aunt Margie in NH. She further told me that when she had called and didn’t know where for sure Margie told her to ask someone and then mom said that she was in some town on the shoreline which was 200 miles out of the way. Mom said that she was going to stay at the B&B she was at and would drive to her house in the morning. Mom got there the next day after noon. She had been a long way from Alstead.

Definitely, we knew that something was wrong and it was time to find out what. Lynn found an expert in geriatrics who was teaching classes in Alzheimer’s and Dementia at the University of Colorado which is where mom went for all her doctors. He asked if we could hang around for part of his lecture so he could show an example of an Alzheimer’s patient. My sister and I agreed. When he introduced her, he mentioned a couple of symptoms. Did he have to point out that she looked a little lost and scared?

Then my brother had us all over for a picnic. He asked my mom to go get the broom for him. She got to the top of the stairs and began to get that lost look on her face. Meanwhile, I went upstairs to get something for my brother and my mother was standing in the middle of the small hallway at the entrance muttering that she was afraid to ask Ronny what she was supposed to get. I yelled down at him to find out what mom was supposed to get. Ronny said impatiently that he already told her 3 times a broom and I pointed to where it was. In the meantime, I had gone and got what Ronny wanted. So here, our mother was handing Ronny a bag for trash. Ronny told me that she was deliberately trying to make him crazy. I tried to tell him it was the Alzheimer’s and she couldn’t help her forgetfulness and wasn’t trying to make him crazy.  He said that Lynn and I had to move her out of his house and that he couldn’t take anymore of her pretending. Again, I tried to explain that she can’t help that she forgets. It’s not a game or trying to make you nuts, but if you really want her out, we will move her.

Lynn and I started looking for a place for her to live and I (for lack of anyone wanting the job) got to be her POA. Lynn found one right away which was a new place. It was a one-bedroom senior’s only apartment building. The manager told us straight up that this was not assisted living and there’s not always someone there so she has to get things done and if she gets a lot worse, she will need assisted living arrangements. Therefore, the long road begins. In 1999, Bill and I decided to move to Missouri. Somewhere quiet and settle down there. You know, someplace with a couple of acres. We had bought a 4plex in Joplin and the first floor was empty. Until we sold our house in CO, we had nowhere to go, so we stayed on the first floor of our 4plex.

We had been out here for 6 months and Lynn called and said that she wanted mom to come out here. Lynn insisted that she didn’t want to take care of her anymore. Therefore, I went back to Denver got mom and brought her out here. The first place I looked was perfect for her. The staff was wonderful, the administrator involved with the patients, and the food just like mom cooked. The décor was classy.

Each and every day I went to see mom and spent four to five hours with her. We’d read, put puzzles together, and talked. I got to know mom as an adult instead of a mother. Getting to know her as an adult was a privilege that showed me why people loved her so much.

Then in 2008, I fell and broke my shoulder, had to put mom in the nursing home, and Bill had already been diagnosed with dementia and so begins the long journey …

Difficult Apology

There’s a program here that gives a prompt. That is to help writers get their thoughts running again. Now, you may use these single words for that purpose,  just for practice, or you may do them  for fun.

I wrote a daily prompt a while ago that was on the word apology. I began by saying that an apology that consists of a short statement such as “Oh, sorry ’bout that” is an unacceptable apology. When an offense is committed against a person it becomes a personal offense. A personal offense deserves a personal apology. Sometimes an offender doesn’t realize that they have offended or hurt someone.

After 20 years, my personal offense against my family has become a painful realization of just how deeply that one act hurt them. I never dreamed that my actions would hurt anyone but myself. Seeing that it does, apologies are long over due. After I wrote and posted my apologies online, thoughts of my own attempt ran through my mind again. Slow motion flashbacks kept me awake night after night. This was a very sensitive subject to me and to my family. Once believing that my children, my stepson(s), our granddaughter, and my parents would not suffer any pangs from that act, but now I knew that it did. I removed the post. Unfortunately, I hastily destroyed it and wish I hadn’t.

A comment on one of my posts was a cry for help so, I had to write this post. I have to do this for my family because it has taken me more than 20 years to realize the unimaginable agony I caused the ones closest to me. Unexpectedly, I found myself needing to apologize to a number of people. That one comment made me imagine what happens to each family member when someone commits suicide. Jess, there was a day you revealed to me you remember the day of musical chairs. Then you asked where that was. I had to tell you that it was at the hospital for people who needed help.

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This act would have hurt you in a way different from all the others. If you had known that when it happened, you would have realized by the time you were in grade school that your grandma would have been there in your life to watch you grow up. Had I succeeded, you would have realized this was my fault that I wasn’t there.

Your years of growing up were some of the happiest years of grandma and grandpa’s lives. The visits, the overnights, the talks, and the vacations we took together, we always tried to do things that your parents didn’t do with you. I would have missed all those things.

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When someone commits suicide they don’t really want to die, they want to stop the pain. I remember wanting to die way back when I was a child, but I didn’t know why or how to do it.

He never saw any of the promises the recruiters made. He was in Afghanistan but a couple of months and they sent him home. He was in Bethesda Hospital for a while and as soon as he got out, he waited for a train on the deck and threw himself onto the tracks in front of the train.

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To everyone that felt the sting of my actions, I truly believed at that time, I was only hurting myself. I truly believed that it would affect no one but me. Anyone who thinks that way needs help right now. I knew I was in trouble and headed for more, but I didn’t know how to stop it. Owing everyone in the family an apology, I am going to try to do that now.

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My husband and I had a long talk along with my apology to him. This was the most difficult person I have ever had to apology to. When I realized how deeply my husband loved me, how much he depended on me to care for the family and all that had to be carried out. If he had me no longer, and had to take care of all the affairs, and how much this would have devastated Bill. I could see it then. He would not have been able to bear this happening to him. He had already lost so much in his life; this would have deadened his emotions to the point of physical and emotional paralysis.

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JR, although you are grown now, you were young at that time. If I am correct, I believe you were 13. Words will never be enough and there are not enough words to apologize to you. I know that this did hurt you in ways I don’t know how, still to this day. You saw what was happening to me and I sincerely apologize for the unhappiness and uncertainty I caused in your life at that time. It was more difficult for you than any of the kids. You were at the age that you needed a mother figure in your life, and I let you down. In the younger years of yours and Jason’s lives we did have many good memories, but I am aware of the bad ones too. There were too many and I feel badly about those days too. Sometimes I still cry about those days, and I cry even more over the selfish act of suicide. We’ve never talked about it, so I don’t know exactly how you felt, how much you knew, or what damage I did to you.

Jason is not here for me to apologize to. It’s too bad that he was hurting so badly that he needed to make the pain go away the only way he knew how. (His girls were loved so much by him and they loved him too. He might have been able to put the brakes on and she would not be so wild.) I know that this hurt him at that time in ways I don’t know either. My attempt affected him somehow but I won’t know until the resurrection. He was a difficult child to get to know what he was thinking. It may not seem like it, but at times I felt as if he were my own too. He tried to reach out for help, but I was not able to cope with him at that time. Many times you saw me help him when he needed it no matter what. I know that your father didn’t know what to do to help either of you. He’s a good man and loves both of you. I do look forward to seeing him again. We both did the best we could at that time.

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Now I turn to my own 2 daughters. Tammie, I know you were and still are very upset with me and there isn’t anything I can do about that. You only stayed with us a couple of months. When your father changed the lock on the door without your knowledge and you didn’t want to come back to us, I just figured that you didn’t love me, so I let you go. I didn’t order the police to put you on a plane back to us.

I don’t know how my actions affected you, if it did at all. You are further away from me than words. All I can do is apologize. I truly am sorry for my act of selfishness.

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Lauralee, You were around when this happened and I’m so sorry that it hurt you; some day I would like to sit down and talk about that. I hate now what I did years ago. Our relationship has always been rocky at best. I know we laughed about that before, but it isn’t really funny. I am sorry that I don’t recognize how this affected you since we are not very close. I would like to talk to you about it someday soon. My deep apologies for not being there. Thank you for the amount of time that you let Jess visit us and spend so much time with us while she was growing up. I feel bad that we didn’t have time to have lunch when I was in Denver. I’m sure Jess told you I got pretty sick in Laramie. I won’t be back to CO again. The altitude I can no longer tolerate. The doctor said that once you leave, you can’t go back if you have lung issues.

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This is for my parents who were thankfully busy with their own lives. My dad was sick and my mother was trying to take care of him and work at the same time. Now they are both gone, so I cannot apologize to either.

Now the Final Phase

Phase

So another phase of my life ends. We had to sell our beautiful four bedroom home on five acres. One reason was the medical bills that stacked up and the good credit we had at the time. Alzheimer’s had resided with my mother for 12 years by now. Dementia had been diagnosed. No more trips, no more dropping everything and going somewhere. Yes, the carefree phase of our lives had shut the door quickly.

We had entered a new phase. It was one of high medical debt, and maxed out credit cards. There was no end in sight to this new phase either, especially after I fell and broke my shoulder. Five surgeries if the first year alone. My mother had to be moved to a nursing center and I still needed to be with my mom often. She still needed me. I had to be sure that she was taken care of properly. I had to take her laundry home and wash it because her clothes disappeared when they went to the laundry there. Dementia in the first stage was waiting at home for me.

It does sound like I’m whining, but I’m really not. My mom died a few years ago. The dementia is in the late fourth stage, but I don’t mind. Our bills are under control and we now live in a one bedroom apartment. I wouldn’t say that life is good, but for me it is. I still have my husband home with me. I rejoice each day that we are able to communicate and be understood by each other. That is a joy in my life.

In the early years of our marriage, he had to care for me. He did it so lovingly, and never complained. He was there for each medical emergency, and each surgery. Now it is my privilege to care for him. I hope that I can do that with the same love and gentleness that he has done for me all these years. So now begins the final phase of our lives and I will still thank our heavenly father for His Kingdom. The Kingdom we pray for, the Kingdom that will rule over the entire earth. (Rev 21:4) Tells of no more death or tears.