Thursday, September 23, 2010

The pain of Pepaw's descent into Alzheimer's — part 1

A note to my dear friend, Molly, an Alzheimer's caregiver who passed away unexpectedly in January. I always shared moments like this with her. It's a habit that's hard to break …

Dear Molly,

You know it's been a while since I've written about Pepaw. Well, from your front row seat in heaven, you know I've taken on more than I expected with caring for my dad-in-law and his Alzheimer's. How I wish you were here to talk to me, though I know you are listening.

Remember, I'm still human.

But dammit, that's just not enough for ME! Some days I am so selfish that I want you right here on the other end of the phone or offering me ice water when the sun or internal turmoil and pain set me ablaze. But I quickly acknowledge I'd never want you to go through all that earthly pain again.

I'm human.

I've discovered a new intense love for and relationship with those individuals who have stepped forward to help. I've learned to stand alongside those who need help adjusting to Pepaw's painful journey, his hell on earth. I've also developed an unexpected and uncomfortable hardness toward and indescribable disappointment in those who have let me and Pepaw down. Some days I wonder how those people can even live with themselves.

I'm human.

It's been barely five months since we brought Pepaw to Illinois from Florida, yet some days it feels like five years … other times, 500. It's been a tragedy to watch his rapid decline, which has presented unique and painful physical, emotional and financial challenges. I guess I've been unable to write about my dad-in-law recently because I'm still absorbing it all, trying to make sense of a damn disease that makes no sense. It is so infuriating and heartbreaking! Some days I give up reaching for tissues, opting to not waste them and instead saturate my T-shirt sleeves.

I'm only human.

During mid-to-late July, I learned to live with my phone, not knowing what Pepaw would do next at his assisted living facility. I'd get a call about his smoking or his proclamations that this residence was hell, that there was no place more evil than it. I'd learn of how he had a direct line to God, who promised Pepaw that He would destroy this nasty, nasty place. Unfortunately, some of the other residents who heard his tirades became justifiably frightened at his ravings.

And so it continues … tomorrow.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

For sale: an old man's truck and his dreams

For sale: 2006 GMC Canyon truck, one owner, under 30,000 miles, air, white, basic model …

What else should I add to the description as we search for a buyer for my dad-in-law's beloved truck? In Florida, Pepaw steered it to a relative's where he arrived uninvited day after day and fell asleep in the living room …

Once he scared a passenger, one of his daughters, so much that she scribbled all her emergency contact information in case of an accident …

Oh, and he never forgot the route to the store where he shoplifted over-the-counter sleeping pills so he could take five or six a night. A night. Yep, we found a lot of those little blue tablets in his kitchen cabinet in April when we moved him and his truck here to Illinois …

He thinks he drove the truck loaded with his basic possessions here, but his oldest son, my husband, was at the wheel every mile cross-country as I followed them in our van also filled with his belongings.

This is the truck Pepaw has accused us of stealing. This is the vehicle that he was sure was our one-way ticket to prison and his one-way ticket to freedom in Tennessee where he would be welcomed by his daddy, aunts and uncles, and siblings, and work at his daddy's service station …

What else should I include? Unfortunately, he did smoke in it, but we've gotten rid of most of the stench. However, overall he took pretty good care of it.

Pepaw loves that truck and wants nothing more in the world but to drive it to the bowling alley or to the lake for fishing … or wherever his dreams may take him. That's all this 84-year-old man craves … and to get away from all these evil people who are ruining his life and putting him through hell.

Just one more thing to add to the want ad:

Must sell to help pay cost of owner's Alzheimer's care.