Category Archives: The Lovebirds

windows

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I dreamed that I was on the phone with a nurse, trying to complete the information necessary for Dad’s hospital stay.

I dreamed that my brother and I went to a group therapy session where Mom said that I was not actually born in January and that she had two other children that we did not know about.  We looked at each other while trying to decide if this was the truth or delusion.

I woke suddenly, my desperation and confusion as vivid as it was nearly a year ago, when it was real and daily for almost three weeks.

In the recovery community we are well aware of the emotional tides that an anniversary brings.  And while some brush it off as folklore, others of us invariably have a using dream around the time of our sobriety date.

When I was a young woman, a beau took me to his aunt’s beach house for a holiday.  The sea was rather rough on our first day out.

“If a big wave comes along,” he said, “just duck down and let it wash over you.  That way it won’t knock you down.”

That advice has been a metaphor for me throughout recovery, reminding me that humility and surrender are not evidence of weakness, but of courage.  They are also the biggest windows one can open to allow grace to enter one’s life.

So this morning I am letting the waves of grief wash over me.  I am giving myself time for my heart to slow down and my panic to subside, reminding myself that it’s over.  I got through it.  And I am OK.

I am remembering I have more than a dozen friends who’ve lost a parent, a sibling, a child, a grandparent, even an ex-spouse in the past three years.  From time to time they reach out to me, surprised by the intensity of their sadness.

This is for them.  I love you.  You will get through it.  And you are OK.

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lovebirds

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Last night my daughter called. There doesn’t seem to be a flat rock in the middle of our lives where we can just sit in the sun and be still for a while.

“It’s an icky place to be,” I said.

“It’s icky,” she replied.

I woke this morning with a familiar flutter in my chest, about two degrees of stress away from a panic attack. It sort of feels like too much caffeine, only I haven’t had any yet.

Last Sunday afternoon my brother called. Mom was afraid and had called the police. Dad was angry and combative.  About six hours later he was admitted to a hospital room.

On Monday Dad’s nurse called me to come get Mom. About five hours later she was admitted to a room around the corner from Dad.

They both have some form of dementia. It doesn’t matter which kind, they’re impaired. Their bodies have outlived their minds and that just doesn’t seem fair.

On Wednesday I went to their house to remove anything that burglars might want and to bag up what might need laundering. I filled the hatch of my car with boxes of files, anything that looked like an important document. I left the four leaf bags full of laundry on the living room floor. I put two leaf bags full of ruined bedding in the trash.

On Thursday I went back and removed boxes of photos, more documents, stacks of mail, folios of papers: my dad’s military records, my mom’s notebooks.

I went home and began looking for the money. A memory care facility for both of them is going to be expensive.

By Saturday afternoon I had it all sorted. I had discarded enough paper to fill the garbage cart: junk mail, magazines, empty envelopes. Mom’s carefully collected recipes are on the kitchen table. Boxes of cancelled checks and insurance policies and medical records litter the living room floor.

My parents never owned a computer. My dad has an Underwood typewriter that uses a ribbon. Among his stuff I found a box of typewriter erasers and brushes and several packs of carbon paper.

As I type this I am thinking that some of my readers will not know what these things are, and I can feel them Googling now.

st.francis

Grammy & Grampy are both patients in the hospital. Both have dementia. She doesn’t remember why they are there, and she keeps trying to take him home. Doc says they are trying to keep the #lovebirds together. ❤️

“Have they ever been apart?” my brother asked.

“In the ’60s Dad went on active duty for two weeks,” I replied.

I took my parents some clothing during visiting hours. They were sitting in the hall with another patient, in chairs lined against the wall across from the nurses’ station.

Mom now talks of nothing else but caring for Dad. His welfare is her only need.

She asked me to help her find a place for them to live. When she began to weep, I cradled her. She rested her head on my shoulder like a little girl and quieted. Her body felt like delicate glass that might shatter at any second.

Gently prodding Dad awake, she said, “Look who’s here.”

Dad slowly brought me into focus and smiled. He was too groggy to speak, but he winked at me. To this day it thrills me when he does that.

Mom rose from her chair to wipe his lips with a corner of his blanket. She smoothed his hair and kissed him on the mouth.

“We want to keep the lovebirds together,” their doctor said.

Yes. As long as we can. #lovebirds

aging parents

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My Dad has just become increasingly frail but continues to try to do things like put the trash bin on the curb and cut the grass.  He’s always been a hard worker and is happiest when he’s doing physical things.  He complains bitterly of being tired and when he does get up and try to do something it’s to be celebrated.  It’s just that he puts himself at risk so often.

The other thing is he has always been sort of reclusive and with each passing year leaves home less and less.  He is anxious when my mother leaves him.  And she is anxious when she leaves him as well.  She used to go out once a week and play cards and volunteer at the church but she has pretty much given up her social life to run around after him.

Decades ago my brother offered to build them a house near him where he lives, which is about 30-40 min from where they are now.  We’ve pleaded with them to move out of that house they live in now, that they bought in 1969.  It’s on a steep hill, so the driveway is as well. 

Both front and back steps are tiny little concrete pads with no handrails — the back is especially dangerous.  My Mom suffers from vertigo and recently fell coming down the attic stairs, knocking my Dad on the floor.  She sprained her ankle and he hit his head on the tile.

I think you get the picture.

Then there’s the mental illness part of this.  My mother is afraid of doctors and mistrusts all medication.  So she tinkers with both Dad’s and her own drugs.  She only takes a fourth of her antidepressant and she takes it like a tranquilizer.  She cannot comprehend that it’s not that, nor a narcotic, and that it needs to be taken just like her blood pressure medicine.

She has dismissed sitters, who would at least make sure they got their meds and would get her out of the house now and then.  She is unwilling to go up against Dad, who doesn’t want to move, to get them into at least a retirement community, OFF THAT DAMN HILL.

She calls us in turn, telling us all that no one else pays any attention to her (we all check in regularly) to say that she is very sick.  Yet when we manage to squeeze out 2-3 hours from our schedule to make the trip to visit, she either disappears into the kitchen or the bedroom or sits down and tells us every thing is fine.  This makes both of us crazy, and simply mystifies the rest of the family.

So my brother woke me up last week worried about Mom, and after investigation it was determined that she’s simply now picked him as her current rescuer.  She’s even called my ex from time to time.  It’s insane, and my brother and I have just had about enough.  So I took a day to talk to my peeps and even went to the church and ended up having a pastor pray with me.  But I think we have a rough plan in place, and have agreed to intervene with Mom and Dad AS A FAMILY, which is something new for us.

Mom has always been the gatekeeper of all the family relationships and she has always been threatened whenever any one of us appeared to have a relationship that didn’t include her.  She is very controlling while appearing sweet and guileless.  She’s a master manipulator. 

While she and Dad have very real issues that concern us all, she has sabotaged any attempts of aid, pits us against each other and has succeeded in alienating us all from each other until just the last few years.  It’s a real testament to her, though, because she’s always ensured that we meet at her house at least half a dozen times a year or more for family dinners, and over the years at least we remember who each other are.

And we love each other, all of us, through thick or thin, through the spats and the silent treatment.  We are family, and we all have that value in common – we stick together.