We had plans to go to dinner with our neighbors from Canada who were leaving the next morning. She called me on the way to her Moms Carehome after work and asked if I would please go over and give them her apologies, that she wouldn’t be able to make it.
She was driving her route when she got the first two calls and couldn’t return them. After work, she returned the third call. One of the aides picked up. “Your Mom is not doing well, she is crying and asking why no one has been to see her and asking where her husband is?” He has been gone for almost a year and she hasn’t asked about him in just about that many months.
Her Mom has been in the facility over a year and she has settled reasonably well. But now, this.
The panic, the caregiver’s stress, in a moment it all came flooding back. Of course it never really left. Her days continue to be divided by work, home and going to see her Mom to do those tasks that seem to fall through the cracks continually.
I needed to go there, I heard the desperation in her voice and I thought maybe seeing another familiar person would help jog her Mom back into the present. I had to try.
When I got there they were seated at the dining table. E. was relieved to see me and her Mom perked up and said, “There’s Lori, Curtis must have come with her.” I groaned inwardly, and E. scurried around helping her Mom and assisting others at the table. I sat by Bethany and Joyce as they were passing out Dixie cups of ice-cream and had one myself.
Finally we got her to go back to her room, where we found she had been squirreling away socks and two bottles of water in her purse, ready to hit the road. Then the round of questions started all over again.
Where is Curtis?……When are we going home?……How long have I been here?……..What happened to the car?….. How much does all this cost?…..What do I have to do at the house?
It was like she was reliving the events of the past year all over again, back to square one.
E. looked over at me helplessly when Joyce asked where Curtis was for the 10th time. I shrugged helplessly back and mouthed the words…..”I don’t know.”
It was a day later that I had a kind of small personal epiphany. Sometimes, honestly, I feel just as lost as she does. I think we all do. We like to think we have an element of control, but as I sat in that room I wanted to ask the same questions Joyce was asking.
What happened to the last year? Where am I? Why do I feel so ill-equipped at handling day-to-day living sometimes? What happened to the person I was 5, 10, 15 years ago?
Sometimes life just beats the tar out of you.
By the time we left, Elaine was wiped out. She felt like she had propelled her Mom safely back to shore, but it took everything she had.
If dealing with Alzheimer’s has taught me anything, it’s taught me empathy. In watching Joyce, I see a bit of my own desperation and the desperation of the human condition in general. In the mirror of her lostness, I see my own.
It has also taught me the necessity of living one day at a time and doing the best I can with what God has given me. There are days that are hard, when you feel a little bit crazy, but then the next day is better.
And as long as God is the One rowing me safely back to shore, I will be okay.