Thursday, October 9, 2014
No Time To Wait
Perhaps you have noticed I haven't had any good stories to share about my mother lately.
I'm sure this seemed a bit strange, considering that my typical Facebook post revolved around her antics. The outfits she would take from my room and show up in the following day, the number of framed photos that have disappeared from my various displays, the placemats she has colored, the fact that if you hide all of the bags in your house so she can't pack up all her belongings everyday, she is crafty enough to tie up her pant legs and make her own bag out of them.
best mom photo...EVER!!
Well, for the past month she has been living with my youngest sister. Yes, this newly haloed saint has not only been raising and homeschooling her six kids, tending to her farm, and keeping a smile on her husbands face...but she has also been caring for our mother. (Who has Alzheimer's...for anyone who may be late to the party.)
The one thing you learn, when caring for a person with dementia or Alzheimer's, is that you never know what to expect. And everyday is going to be different.
One day will be flowers and rainbows. The next may be quite the opposite. It truly is a bastard of a disease. Imagine a woman who is prone to depression, who has a big fat case of seasonal depressive disorder. Now imagine it is the end of February, and it has been dark and 20 below zero since the beginning of December. Now let's throw in the beginnings of menopause, and hot flashes. And let's say she and her husband had a "whoops" baby three years ago...and he has just decided that this would be a good time for him to take a four month sabbatical to Madrid, while she stays home with the toddler. Who has special needs.
Okay. Now picture that moodiness (we will use that term...but let's be honest...anger, rage, hopelessness, etc.)....and just interject it into your day randomly...for no particular reason. Welcome to one of the many facets of Alzheimer's.
So, as I experienced in my six months of caregiving, you never know when the honeymoon is going to end.
Today, my sis left me a message, informing me that mom had decided she hated her....and was this normal? Sadly, yes, it's normal. But seriously...is there anything worse than spending every waking hour taking care of someone (and I do mean taking CARE of...this is as involved as having a 18 month old child in your care) who spends the day being mean to you? Yes, there is nothing quite like the love you feel while you bath, or prepare meals or tuck in your loved one, while they glare at you with hatred in their eyes. It makes everything worth while.
So, we arranged a "mama trade-off"...and she is hanging here for a couple days. Perhaps a change in scenery is just what the Dr. ordered. (Let's hope so!)
Not a happy grandma face....though Lexie seems oblivious!
Welcome to this disease.
And even worse, they don't have the ability to put their feelings into words anymore. So, if they are truly feeling upset about something (and not just deciding that you aren't paying enough attention to them, so they are resorting to temper tantrums....and yes, these are FUN!) they get even more frustrated as you try to help them explain what it is they are feeling.
It reminds me of when my kids were babies and would cry unconsolably. All I wished is that they were able to tell me what hurt, so I could make it better. Now I am watching my mom go through this. She still has her words, and can communicate...but only to a point. And often, that communication reveals itself in her broodiness, in watching her holding back tears, but not being able to tell me why. In seeing her anger with her situation...but not being able to do a darn thing about it.
Luckily, 95% of the time, she is happy, and smiling, and seems content. Especially when she is out being social, or snuggling with her furry friends.
The boys love their grandma!!
This has been an interesting journey. Both my sister and I struggled in our relationship with our mom growing up. Me being the oldest, she being the youngest. We both had a lot of issues that never were resolved. When we lost our dad, things changed, but those issues still never were resolved. I think both of us were really hoping for a chance to heal. To be able to repair and understand the hurt we still carried with us from our youth. We made small efforts to do that, but the timing never seemed to be right.
Now, we are both in a place where we know who we are as people. We have established ourselves as adults. As wives and mothers. This is the time we had hoped we could reach out to our mom and have our questions answered, and our hurt erased.
But it is never to be. I don't think she even realizes we are her daughters. She often asks me if my parents are dead. In a way, yes, they are.
We will never have the relationship we longed to have with our mother. We will never know how she really felt about us, because she can't tell us now. Our kids will never know what it is like to have both sets of grandparents. None of them ever met our dad...and I don't know if any of them will actually remember much about my mom..."before."
I know that so many people have much more tragic stories than we do. I think the way we lost our dad has definitely changed all three of us girls, and I can only imagine what it did to my mom. That is a post for another day.
I grieve for myself, for my kids, for my sisters. I think it has taken a toll on each of us in different ways. I know how all of these things changed the course of my life. But the person I hurt the most for is Emily. Being the youngest, she missed out on the most. She was only 16 when we lost our dad. Now, to be only 34, and watching our mother slip away. To put forth so much effort to care for her, and to be met with resistance and anger...when everything she is doing for mom is with patience and love.
My darling sisters...who obviously have no idea I am taking their picture.
The one thing that all of this craziness has done is to bring us closer together as sisters. I haven't mentioned Kris in the post yet...but it goes without saying that she has always been the rock. She has been the peacemaker and the one who has always taken care of mom. Maybe this is the way things were supposed to be...so Emily and I would have a chance to rebuild our relationships with our mom....even if it is in such an unconventional way. Even if mom has no idea that is what we are doing. Maybe, someday, when we look back on all of this, we will smile and know that we did the very best we could. We went above and beyond what we ever envisioned ourselves doing. We didn't take the easy road...we tried to do what was best, not what was simple.
I hope, in some small way, mom can feel the love and care that we are trying to provide to her. Even if she thinks we are just some strange women who keep hounding her to take her pills, and wonders why our kids are so loud and annoying...I hope somewhere deep inside, there is a little part of her that knows she has three girls who, through it all, love her, and just want her to feel happy and safe.
My advice? Never miss an opportunity to live your life. My family is living proof that one minute things can be fantastic, and the next, your world can collapse...and you will never see it coming.
Don't be afraid to love. You can always find something to give. You will never know the answer unless you ask...or reach the goal unless you try.
What are you waiting for?
Lots of love for your Thursday. xo