Wednesday, April 3, 2013

#AtoZChallenge Comfortghan

When you are a grown-up, you still want your mommy and daddy, even long after they are no longer with you. You can surround yourself with friends and family, but nothing takes the place of those who brought you into this world. 

Granted, not everyone is as close to their parents as I was. I am one of the lucky ones. That makes it even harder forme at times.

I recently joined a group that creates comfortghans for those in need. I cannot crochet, but was the point person for their first project. They created afghans for the families of the firefighters that were gunned down here on Christmas Eve. Others were being delivered to the families that lost their homes in the melee. Since then, they have been feverishly working on more and more afghans to send to families all around the country. I started thinking more and more about it, and how comforting those afghans really can be.

This is an afghan, folded up, that my mother's mother made at least 40 years ago. My parents always kept it, plus two other ones, in the cabinet part of an end table that she bought when she met my dad. (She was a customer at his family's furniture store.) This was one of the ones that was considered extra special, because of the intricacy of the flowers. Somehow, I ended up with it. 

I have two cats and a dog and don't trust any of them. So, I usually keep this afghan folded and put away. One night, right around what would have been my father's 70th birthday, I started to feel sad and missed them a lot. I was also really, really cold. All of my blankets and the space heaters weren't doing their job. So, I went to the cabinet and pulled out this afghan. I immediately fell asleep, as I felt the two of them with me that night. It was like I was a little kid again, wrapped up in it with them.

Do you have any afghans or something special from your loved one that gives you comfort?    

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

#AtoZChallenge Bye-bye

One of the worst things about visiting a loved one with Alzheimer's is definitely having to say goodbye. I always feel like I am dealing with a little kid. 

"Now wave bye-bye to the nice lady and let her leave!"

Ugh. She never wants me to leave. She isn't sure who I am, but she knows that I am someone important. Sometimes there is that glimmer of recognition and she wants to go on a mommy-daughter outing, like in the good old days.

This is me getting ready to say goodbye to her the last time I visited, which was unfortunately back in August 2012.

Before I left, I knew I wanted a new picture of me with my mother. Just in case. That isn't the mother I know and love, of course, but that is who she is now. That doesn't sound right when I say it, but I think you know what I mean.

Anyway, it took a lot of failed attempts to get this one picture. First, I had to ask permission to get a hug and to have my picture taken with me. Then the poor kid who was trying to take the picture seemed to have no idea what he was doing. Finally, she grabbed me before this shot and said, "You're the best sister ever!"


At least that demonstrated a bit of recognition, right?

And then I was trying to leave. My friend was waiting for me out in the waiting area. We still needed to visit my father's grave and then stop at the museum on our way out of town. He had to be back to work in the morning. 

So, I said goodbye. She said, "Let me get my purse and then we can go."

Here we go again. During one of my visits the previous year after my father had passed away, I had to sneak out of the back of the dining room to get away from her. I always think of my students' parents as they run out the door, with me holding their crying child. One of the nurses always has to distract Mom so that I can slip out. I hope she doesn't get too upset, but am sure she probably quickly forgets about it.

So, a nurse escorted her back down the hallway to her room. I made a mad dash out the door, found my friend, and collapsed into a puddle of tears.

I hope to get back this summer. Who knows how the bye-bye will go at that point?       

Monday, April 1, 2013

#AtoZChallenge: Accepting Alzheimer's

I feel like somewhat of a slacker. I don't post to this blog as often as I should. The A to Z Challenge helps to lubricate the wheels of thought every year, though. In fact, this blog was originally born because of the A to Z Challenge. Back in 2011, I had a long talk with my father, as we were dealing with my mother's rapid decline into the abyss of Alzheimer's. We decided that this would be a joint effort. We would share our stories of triumph and heartache as we traveled along this journey with Mom. Our goal was to reach out to others in similar situations, to stand together in solidarity, to laugh and cry together.

Alas, my father fell ill just before my spring break from teaching that year. I was going to come home and get him all set up to post whenever he wanted to do so. Ironically, he had fallen and hit his head while getting my mother situated in a nursing home because she had run away in the middle of the night. He ignored all of the symptoms of a concussion that turned into a brain bleed and eventually took him from us. He never had a chance to see much happen with this blog. I still find it difficult to do much with it without him.

All of that being said, I have to say that this year, I finally feel like I have accepted Mom's Alzheimer's. There isn't much else I can do about it. She has slipped away to a place that I will never know, nor understand. I can no longer talk to her on the phone. I tried that at Christmas. She didn't understand how to use the phone at first, let alone try to talk on it. She had no idea who I even was. All I can do is call regularly to check in on her, which I know I don't do nearly as often as I should.

I did mange to visit her last year. I hate having her be 400 miles away. It is much more difficult for me to travel there now. And she has no idea who I am. Somewhere, deep in the back of her mind, I am a familiar face that she cannot place. She feels comfortable with me. She always wants to try to leave with me. It's heartwrenching to witness. But it is what it is. I can't change it. I can't fix it. I can grieve for what we have both lost. I can be a shoulder for others.

Thanks for listening.