My mom's personality is changing so much. She gets so frustrated which is understandable. Alzheimers is a son-of-a-bitch. She told me the other night that she was going to sue me when 'this was all over'...Lord have mercy. She is getting really paranoid and really impatient and just thinks every one and their cat is out to get her. The other night she walked over here with my grandmother's old mink coat and said that 'those women were trying to steal it...' She wanted me to hide it in the basement. That same night she came back with a jar of pennies and nickles and dimes and said that she'd 'split it with me...' That there were 'A few thousand in there that we could use for a trip...' I could see the companion care worker standing on her steps watching where she went. Sheri was kind enough to give her her space and let her walk over here. I was sound asleep when she rang the door bell and I almost went through the ceiling. It makes me sad. All of it. The changes and the challenges and the weird things that get put on repeat in her head. She is constantly on the move. She never stops. She folds and walks and putters and moves objects and sits up and looks through the trees for imaginary people. It's exhausting. If I didn't have help I would sink so far down I'd never come up again. The hardest part is that she is often mad at me. She looks at me with such hatred that it takes my breath away. And then it passes, and I see her bubble to the surface of herself again and I wonder how my life got to this place. If you'd told me two years ago that I'd be here, I wouldn't have believed it. And yet, so much laughter, so much insane gladness and joy. It's such a contrast from one minute to the next and it teaches me constantly. It makes me stronger and more humble and more empathic and caring and kind. It makes me stand taller than I ever thought I could and I am so grateful for the pain of this crazy wonderful life. It's all going to be ok. It's just life being life and you've gotta embrace it all with your heart pounding away on your sleeve and a smile on your face. ...and don't forget to cry, cause that'll get you through anything. My mom says it's God's lubricant to get you through the tight spots. now that's a good one.
Father's day has always been a bit of a quandary for me. It's been a bit conflicting. I find myself on this father's day somewhat filled with guilt and sadly enough, indifference. I know most people today will be spattering the internet with glowing 'I love you dad' banners and reminiscing about days gone by when their fathers took them to baseball games and fishing trips and to dances on the beach and whipping up BBQ'd dinners on sunlit decks and all those wonderful things that dads do. That was never my experience. My dad was an alcoholic for much of my formative years. I only remember him yelling, screaming at us actually. He was the worst kind of drunk, the kind that had to be right and had to have everyone around him bow down to his every whim or suffer the consequences. He liked to intimidate everybody around him. Thank God, he was hardly ever home, because when he was around he was indeed a force to be reckoned with. He was angry, he was brooding- he was always looking for a fight when he drank. My older brother (who has been in jail for 23 years), got the worst of it for sure. My dad picked on him constantly and nobody has really understood why to this day. Dad has never talked about it. He has tried to bury his past as far away from himself as possible. Some of us would call that deniaI... I didn't realize that we weren't really an 'normal' family until I was about 13. Mom would caution us not to bring other kids home from school with us, 'just in case your dad shows up...' How my mother hung in there, still defies my sense of good reason. "I did it for you kids", she'll say now and then. "I don't regret it." It's funny how the difficult, terrible things in life can force you to go in certain directions. Had I not been wanting to avoid his frequent wrath, I doubt very much I would have sequestered myself in the basement learning how to play guitar. I wouldn't have. My dad never came down into the basement and so that's how I would avoid him. The rest as they say... Music became my refuge, my safety zone, my utopian world where nothing bad ever happened and I could control the outcome of every situation. Don't get me wrong, my dad taught me countless invaluable lessons. He didn't take any crap from anybody and believe me, that rubs off on you when you're a kid. I remember how people reacted to my dad when he wanted to get his way. Whether it was demanding another cup of coffee in a diner, or wanting his money returned on a pair of pants that didn't fit. I to this day, don't tolerate any nonsense in my business life. I expect people to fair and ethical and decent. Period. If they're anything but that, they won't be working with me. Seeing my dad now, in the care center, a mere shadow of his former self, is very hard. The man I used to be afraid of is really nothing more than a meek and mild helpless child. I was thinking about how much resentment I have been carrying around and how much I don't want to be carrying it. I want to let it all go. Maybe today I'll start. I dragged it with me because I thought I needed to to somehow protect myself. Silly what our hearts and minds do to us over time. Even though he had his own struggles and his own demons, he provided for us always. Even though he battled depression and addiction and failure, he managed to teach us the important things like working hard, and not giving up, and being your own person. He always showed up to help the neighbors build fences or move furniture or dig post holes or round up a lost cow or pour concrete drive-ways. He never stopped working and he never stopped being hard on himself. I didn't always like my dad, but deep down I have always loved him. It's hard being a person. When I look at him as I walk out the door to take mom home after a visit, that resonates like never before.
I lit a fire when I got up at 5:38 this morning. My thoughts were caught up in some kind of abstract maze so I simply lifted myself out of my twisted up sheets and made a decaf, which doesn't seem to be helpful really. Decaf being what it is... I thought I would sit down and write to you before Christmas swept in and placed me smack dab in the midst of roasted turkeys and shortbread and eggnog and cheese balls and pumpkin pie and a whole lot of other things that will be hard to resist. I can't say I am looking forward to any of it, not with my whole heart anyways. There are people missing this year, some of them literally and some of them with their memories escaping like birds from a cage. I don't know which is harder to tell you the truth. There is a lot of goodness in loss. There is much to be learned and much more still-to be grateful for. I have learned more about myself this past year, than all the other ones combined. I've learned that I am stronger than I thought- weaker than I thought. More patient, more tolerant, more understanding, more frustrated, more filled with joy, more sad, more scared, more hopeful, more of everything. I have learned that the width of my life is endless and that anything can and will happen. I have learned not to plan anything. I have learned that a happy life is not deserved, it is elusive and magic and worth fighting for. No one deserves Alzheimers, but many will spend their golden years stumbling around in a fog of not knowing who or where they are. I have learned that my mother is a warrior. She marches through her days knowing that something isn't right, but she remains endlessly brave. She gets pissed off and rightly so-she is fighting for her sanity. Everyday she tells me how much she loves her life. Everyday she tells me how lucky she is. Sometimes I bawl my head off. And it's okay, I know that now. It's Christmas time and I for one am going to cherish my friendships a little bit more, hug my family a little bit longer, hold my heart up in the air a little bit higher and count every single chaotic, confusing, bliss filled day. Life is a wonder. All the pain, all the fear, all the joy and triumph existing side by side. I wish such good things for all of you. NO matter what, it's all going to be okay. I know that sounds like a cliche, but it's true. What a ride this is. What a damn glorious ride.