Sunday, June 23, 2013

Janet

When Dad first moved into Memory Care about three years ago, it took us a while to get to know the other residents: some were very outgoing, but others were slow to give their trust.

Janet was one of the latter group. If Janet didn't like you, you knew it. Immediately. When Sis and I would arrive at Memory Care to visit with Dad, most days Janet would either ignore us, or tell us firmly, "I don't like you. Go away." Sometimes she would even push us along to make sure we got the message.

But, oh, if Janet liked you, she would smile on you, and I swear it's the smile of an angel.

Janet rarely has visitors, which is enough to tear at my heart. Between that, and wanting that lovely lady to smile at me, I made it my personal crusade to get Janet to like me.

There were many days when one look from Janet could crush my perky persistence, more than one day when she would shake her head and walk away from my attempts to engage her.

But slowly, oh, so slowly, I began to make headway. She began to tolerate having me around, and stopped telling me to go away. But still, the smiles were slow to come.

Because of Dad's sweet tooth, Sis and I always arrive at Memory Care with snacks. I began to share them with Janet and learned the secret to her heart: food. Nothing would bring Janet around faster than a cookie or a piece of cake.

We established a peace of sorts, and I dare say she started to like me, just a little.

Then one day, we arrived at Memory Care to find a very different Janet. She was in a wheelchair because she was unable to walk, she wasn't talking, would barely eat. She stared endlessly. I suspect  it was a stroke or something similar, but don't know for sure. (There are Hippa laws that prevent staff from revealing medical information outside of family.)

It's been heartbreaking to see her like that.

But something changed on Friday. When we arrived, we heard that Janet had gotten out of her wheelchair earlier in the day to walk a little. She was eating better, too.

Later, as Sis and I sat in the dining room with Dad, I looked up to see Janet framed in the doorway, in her wheelchair, looking at me. I watched as she slowly wheeled herself closer and closer. She moved in as close as she could get to my chair. I waited, holding my breath, expecting to hear, "I don't like you. Go away."

But instead, she took my hand. And she held it tight. And she went to sleep.

It's amazing how simple gestures, from the heart, can make you feel on top of the world. She brought tears to my eyes.

Go out and hug somebody today. Or take their hand. Or blow them a kiss.

Life is so fragile, so short. Don't waste any of it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Goodbye, Barbie

On May 28th, I wrote a tribute on The Daily Goodbyes to my friend Barbara Taylor Vaughn and said that she'd be leaving us soon. Well, yesterday, two weeks after that post, she was laid to rest. The outpouring of affection for this woman on Facebook, where many of us met her, is incredible. Barbara was a woman who inspired others to be better, to open our hearts to each other, and to serve each other. She was a powerful proponent of volunteer work, cared passionately about the elderly and lonely, and hated Alzheimer's with all the power she had in that tiny little body of hers.

I will miss Barbara, but I am so grateful to have had her in my life. She will forever be a reminder to me of how I want to treat others, and how I want to live my life.

Rest in peace, my friend. You are missed.

P.S. This is a piece of art I was working on during the last days of Barbara's life. It was inspired by her and her daughter, Missy, both of whom love sunflowers. Barbara used to sing "You are My Sunshine" to Missy. I finished the piece today, and it is dedicated to the both of them. It's called The Sunshine Angel.


(Reposted on my art blog.)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ten Requests of a Person with Alzheimer's Disease




(Nobody seems to know who wrote this, but I would love to give them credit.
If you know, please contact me with the information.)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Some things you're just not ready for...

Some days Dad knows who we are, some days he doesn't.

I was caught up short yesterday when Sis and I were visiting Dad. We suspected that he didn't realize who we were, but he pretends: somewhere inside him he knows he *should* know us, so he acts as if he does.

Well, evidently he thought I was my Mom during this visit because he made a totally inappropriate remark to me, something a husband would say to a wife, not a father to a daughter.

I have to admit, my first reaction was shock. And then there was the "ick" factor (this is my father, after all). And finally, there was complete sadness as the realization set in that he really, truly did not know who I was.

You can educate yourself: read all the literature you can get your hands on, watch all the videos you can find on YouTube, talk to as many experts as you can. You can tell yourself over and over that you know what's coming with this disease and that you are prepared. And it will *still* find a way to stop you in your tracks, suck the breath out of your soul, and make you sad in ways you never thought possible.

There will probably be more inappropriate remarks in the future. And there will come a day when my father doesn't know us at all.

We know it's inevitable. We know it's coming.

And we still won't be ready for it.