Saturday, December 29, 2012

Moments I Don't Want to Forget #1

Sis and I went to visit Dad today. We are never sure from day to day if he is going to recognize us as his daughters, or merely as people that are familiar to him, so we always take it slow in the beginning. I put my hand on his shoulder and said, "Hi, Dad, it's Cindy and Susie. How are you today?" He looked me right in the eye and said, "Now that you're here, I'm A-Number 1."

It's the little things . . . always the little things . . . that keep you going.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Introspection: Finding Strength

As we get deeper into the progression of Dad's illness, and more and more of him slips away, I find myself judging people more harshly than I used to. I don't know if this is normal, part of some anger stage of grief, perhaps, but I find it disconcerting...and liberating.

Having grown up a hopeless people pleaser (the result of my upbringing, long story), I used to take a lot of crap from people. It was my nature to make excuses for those who disappointed me, or hurt me, or to blame myself for their bad behavior.  Through a lot of introspection and self-love over the years, though, I have managed to curb this tendency, and I have learned to stand up for myself when I need to. My mantra these last few years has been, "Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes." (Thank you, Brene Brown!)

Dad's Alzheimer's (and before that, Mom's vascular dementia) has certainly put me to the test. If I had known years ago the amount of "standing up" I'd have to do on behalf of my aging parents, I probably would have fainted on the spot.  But each time you do it, it gets easier. And when you are fighting on behalf of a loved one, you find strength you never knew you had.

I also find, though, that I have a low tolerance now for people who aren't genuine, who don't deliver, who "talk the talk" but definitely don't "walk the walk." I have learned to judge people by their actions, not their words, for words are often empty and spoken without much thought. Many people will say, "I wish there were something I could do." Very few will actually show up on the doorstep to do it.

I still let my guard down and get hurt, sometimes even by well-intentioned people.  But I've learned to shrug it off, mostly. It may take a few hours, or even a few days, lol, but I can work through it. Because there are more important things in life to spend my time on.

Like my father, who is dying from Alzheimer's.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Older I Get

Sis, Dad, me
This video breaks my heart.

When you're dealing with an Alzheimer's patient you never know when they are going to connect, when the brain will  function "normally", or when they are going to be on disconnect, with even everyday things causing them confusion.

We attended the Memory Care Christmas Party at Dad's residence Friday night. There was an entertainer there doing holiday music. For the most part, Dad ignored it. The hall was loud, the music was loud, and he was a bit out of sorts anyway. But when the entertainer started singing Silent Night, Sis and I looked over and there was Dad very quietly singing along. I only caught the last part of it on video, but it brought tears to my eyes. So sweet. But then, if you watch the video, you will see when the entertainer switches songs, Dad shuts down again. He looks as though he's trying to remember the words to the new song (Jingle Bells), but can't.

The night was a fun one, nonetheless, and there were times when Dad was in good form with his jokes. (I do thank God for his humor. It gets us through so much that could otherwise be devastating.) At one point, Dad leaned over to me and whispered, "The older I get, the more cynical I get." I stared at him in astonishment, as that was a lot more coherent than he'd been for most of the night. "That's true for a lot of people, Dad," I said, scrambling for some response to make. And then a moment later, he leaned in again. "You know what? The older I get...the older I get."

I kissed him.

That, dear Dad, is true for *all* of us. *grin*