Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Alzheimer's has knocked upon my door

I wished more than anything that I had been wrong, but I wasn't. I knew too much, but not nearly enough.

As my dad-in-law interacted with the geriatric team last week, my heart ached with every answer he uttered, and my brain quietly tallied his correct and incorrect responses. It took every reserve of energy within me to not jump up and shout, "You know this! C'mon, Pepaw! Get with the program! Prove me wrong!"

Please, please, prove me wrong …

Alzheimer's has knocked upon my door.

I had to let the diagnosis soak in, that Pepaw has Alzheimer's. I had to invite my husband Roger to lunch to tell him the results in person. I hated just saying, "Yes, it's Alzheimer's," over the phone. He knew the answer before he even scooted into the passenger seat of my car. Why else would I make that invitation on this particular day? We talked about it over lunch while it rained outside. Only once did he wipe his eyes and say, "Now, don't make me cry …"

Thankfully we smiled. It was all we could do. I think it was a smile of relief, that we had an answer, that we could prepare for the next question.

Of course, we'll likely never get THE answer to THE question: why?

Yes, Alzheimer's has knocked upon my door … my brain … my heart … my soul.

Everything I've witnessed and learned about Alzheimer's … everything I've written and presented to audiences about coping with this horrific disease … I have to believe it was God's way of preparing me for this day, this news, this journey.

I'm right here with you, Pepaw, ready to be your caregiver, a steady arm when you need it, a pair of eyes willing to look deep within yours when we speak … ready to be the girl you've always called Monty …

Ready to be your memory … no matter how hard Alzheimer's pounds upon our door.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

For Mother's Day, my husband gave me his dad

As Mother's Day 2010 dawns, I look over at my sleeping husband. He really outdid himself this year for my gift: he gave me his dad to help care for.

And I'm smiling because it's probably the best gift of love he's ever extended, other than bestowing the title of mother on me with our now 27-year-old son. Actually, having his dad live with us, because he could no longer live by himself 1,200 miles away, is a gift we've given each other. I'm not denying for a moment that it's been a huge adjustment in our lives to bring his dad here to Peoria.

Yet, without ceremony but with love, I've donned the title of "caregiver."

It's been about two weeks now that we've been responsible for meeting my dad-in-law's day-to-day needs. I've learned how to make coffee and endure an aroma I've never really cared for. I've learned how to finish the scrambled eggs just as the toast pops out of the toaster. I've learned how to time a meal just right based on when he says he's not hungry but 15 minutes later is.

I've learned how to find a new doctor and pull together enough of a health history so the friendly physician has a starting point. I've learned how to navigate medical insurance and question the medication he's been on. I've learned how to speak concisely and loudly as we await the arrival of the hearing aids that we thought we had packed.

I've learned my dad-in-law's strengths and weaknesses and how to work on each. I've learned the things I need to push and the things I need to allow him to do on his own schedule. I've learned more about him in two weeks than I have in the 31 years I've known him as the father of the man I love and married.

Part of me is relieved that we've now found a senior community for him to live just five minutes from us. He needs to socialize with people his own age to thrive, after he's lived alone 10 years since my mom-in-law passed away. We weighed the options carefully and knew we had to try this for HIS welfare.

Yet, a greater part of me is sad that the TV won't be blaring all the crime dramas several hours a day and he won't be shuffling out the door to smoke on the porch and thanking me with a warm smile when I check on him and he says, "I'm fine."

Oops, time to run! Got to get moving to make coffee and muffins for both my men.

Yes, for Mother's Day, my husband gave me a new and meaningful reason to get up every morning. I love you!