Monday, April 29, 2013

Lions and Tigers and Bears

Mom, with her granddaughter, Kaitlin
I've been thinking about my Mom a lot lately. She suffered from vascular dementia for the last eight years of her life, and, as a result of her particular brain damage, she suffered from aphasia. Mom not only had trouble speaking in a coherent manner (called expressive aphasia), she also had extreme difficulty understanding when someone was speaking to her (called receptive aphasia). It made for some very lonely and frightening times for her, I think.

But, about halfway into her eight year illness, when she still had some ability (albeit corrupted) to communicate, she and Dad were out shopping and she saw this cute little stuffed animal. She insisted that they buy it for me because, "Cindy collects bears." (And I did, at one time, and had a number of them throughout my home that she had recently seen.)

When she handed the gift to me, in a bag, she said, with a huge smile on her face, "We bought you a bear." I reached in, pulled out the small bundle of softness, and looked down on a very cute, very orange, very stuffed cat. A tiger, to be exact.

The "bear"
"Thanks, Mom," I said, touched by her obvious pride in giving me the gift. "It's a very cute bear."

I hugged her, and then noticed that she had filled out the little gift tag that came attached to the "bear."

"To Lion," it said. "From Harold and me."

It made me cry. First, because it was such a stark visual sign of her mental decline. But then I also cried because it was such a sweet show of love that the words themselves didn't matter. The emotion and intent were there, and I could feel them.

She was so proud of this gift
I still have the stuffed "bear-cat." It often sits on my desk as I work, making me smile.

And it also gives me hope as my sister and I travel Dad's Alzheimer's journey with him. Hope that, even though Dad is losing his memories, somewhere inside he still knows that he's loved, and that he loves us, too.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Chocolate

Dad has always been a sweets eater. (Something he passed on to his daughters, much to our dismay.) Chocolate, in any form, is at the top of the list.

Today, while helping him with his lunch, I asked him if he wanted a second chocolate cupcake for dessert. His response:

"Sure. That's better than a whole lot of booze."

My sentiments, exactly!

Musical Memories

My father was always a music lover, with tastes that ran from Edith Piaff to Leo Sayer. (Trust me, that's a *wide* gap. *grin*)  He also loved to sing, though he was...how shall I put this nicely...tone deaf. When my sister and I were growing up, Dad could often be found in the family room, with his ear phones on, singing at the top of his lungs to a Neil Diamond song. He had no idea how bad he sounded, lol. But trust me, Sis and I were reluctant to bring friends home when there was any chance Dad might be singing!

Today, at Dad's facility, there was a live musician playing at lunchtime for the Memory Care residents. For about the first half of the program, Dad kept asking us to turn down the music, and wondering if the neighbors were going to complain. After he settled into the program, though, he sang along -- softly, because he can't remember many of the words anymore.

You know what? I'd love to hear him sing loudly again.

Even off key. *wink*

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I Choose Love

Every time something like the Boston Marathon bombing happens, I struggle to understand how someone can hate enough to want innocent people (children, for God's sake) to die. The enormity of that hate is staggering. At times, it threatens to overwhelm me, as if the weight of a thousand boulders was sitting on my heart.

Then today, I learned that an old high school classmate of mine has just been diagnosed with metastatic renal cancer. A cousin and a family friend recently had surgeries for breast cancer.

And, of course, there is the ever present struggle of helping my father on his journey with Alzheimer's.

Wow, the Universe knows how to throw its punches, doesn't it. And sometimes it takes everything I have to get back up and keep going in the face of all the pain.

But, it's not what life throws at us that defines our existence; instead, it's how we react to those moments that makes us who we are. I choose to react with love. I choose to celebrate good. I choose to get back up, even if it takes me all day and all night and every ounce of strength that I have left.

I choose life and happiness, friends and family. Most of all, I choose hope. With these, I can handle anything that comes my way.

What do you choose today?


“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

**cross-posted at Angels, Art and Attitude