It was the beginning of my summer, June 14th, 2011 — the last day of teaching my 4th grade class, and the first day of the first summer to shed my empty-nested heart and embrace a new season of Life with my husband. I raced home with a school girl anticipation and excitement I hadn’t felt in quite a while. Bursting through the door, hoping to see matched enthusiasm, I was instead greeted by a look on Chris’ face that told me somehow, somewhere tragedy had struck. As it turned out, 1,237 miles away, my father-in-law (84) had been found wandering, lost, in a hospital parking lot — disheveled, disoriented, distraught…alone.
Hospital attendants were called. Dad didn’t know where he was. He didn’t know how he had gotten there. He didn’t know he had just admitted his wife of two years for a severe break to her arm. He didn’t even know she was his wife. It was quickly determined that the dementia he was exhibiting, (exasperated by trauma), would need indefinite 24/7 care. In gathering him back to the hospital (to get his wife’s consent to admit him until such care could be arranged), they discovered that her depth of dementia was worse than his … A new season of our lives had begun with a vengeance.
July 5th, 2011, one month and a lifetime later, my husband brought Dad home to live with us.
July 5th, 2011. We began caring for a man who is, sadly, a lengthening shadow of the man he once was.
On July 5th, 2011. We began redefining Life.
My husband Chris and I have been thrust into a world we knew nothing about: caretaking, Alzheimer’s, aging parents, unfamiliar isolation. We have walked this new life cautiously, carefully, and honestly? by the seat of our pants. I don’t know anything more about this insidious disease, or losing someone in plain view, than any one of you out there. What I do know I’ve googled and witnessed in only this ONE elderly man’s life. Plus, I am ‘just’ the daughter-in-law; I can’t speak from the perspective of watching a lifetime of memories being strangled to just a few by this insipid white plaque. I can only speak as one who has loved this man and known him for 30 years, longer than my own father. I can only share Life from my plain (Jane) view.
So, what do I hope for in this blog?
* I hope, from the perspective of this new, much smaller and different world, I will be able to adequately put into words some of the circus of emotions that so often get tangled in heartache, anger, laughter — and yes, even gratefulness.
* I hope that what I have to share through ‘in-the-moment’ poems, stories, questions, jumbled thoughts and prayers, might resonate somewhere in your lives, and we can share that understanding nod that says “I understand” … at least a little.
* I hope this can be one small corner where anyone who’s shared the heartache and hard work of caring for a loved one (young or old, sick or well) can find a refuge, or perhaps a community willing to help each other live Life. Really (still) live Life — even here in the trenches.