If your heart has ever been broken you never forget it. The combination of physical and mental pain can be extraordinary to the human condition. Sometimes the very foundation of your soul can be rocked to the ground. With time and age you learn to cope as challenges in life present themselves. This is welcome because life has a way of laying out unexpected challenges.
Given the precipitous decline in her physical condition, I was no longer able to transport her outside my home. The simple joys and stimulation of going for rides, dining out, and attending the kids events were no longer possible. Being home bound further contributes to the decline of the mental state as well. I cared for her as long as I could. Her physical needs and our ability to meet them were exhausted. While we were a good family to begin with, but this ten year experience taught us newer depths of patience, perseverance, and love. How to put the needs of someone else almost always before your own. I had learned this many years ago having children. I thought I was good at this. But we all had to learn how to subordinate our selfish interests. The kids were unbelievable in their ability to cope and adapt. And yet, this journey would have to come to an end. We all needed to heal and recuperate in our own way.
Though it is ostensibly winter, this fateful Saturday was a beautiful warm afternoon that felt more like spring. Under the precept of going out for lunch, we gently loaded her into the van. This took some time because she lacked the muscle strength to lift herself into the seat. All buckled in, I backed the van down the driveway. The thought that she would never come back to the house was pounding inside my head. My eyes filled with tears and the cliched lump in my throat felt like my breathing was restricted. Being outside revived her spirits and she seemed very happy to see the blue sky and the trees. Especially of the different varieties that always stay green and blooming regardless of the time of year. I was maintaining my emotions until she spoke about my sister who has passed. She didn’t notice the tears rolling down my face or that I could barely speak.
This long and winding road would not have a happy ending. We were not going to lunch. We were taking Mom to an Alzheimer’s facility. I took this same drive years before with Dad and it was just as painful. This isn’t like introducing an elder into an assisted living environment. It is simply implausible to tell such a patient who has virtually no short term memory what lies before them. To do so, would create awful anxiety which they cannot manage. I helped Mom out of the van and we walked to the front doors of the facility were we were met by the Director. With great skill from having to do this every week with new patients, the staff takes Mom through the doors and up to the special unit that provides the care required. And just like with Dad, I had to stay outside to avoid the dramatic separation. It is gut-wrenching and mind numbing.
The reality is that at this point, the patients typically do not recognize you as a son or daughter. Rather, they just know that somehow they belong to that person. And in a child-like way, they walk through the door and quickly lose the association. The family is encouraged not to visit sometimes for a week to allow the patients to adapt to their new caregivers and try and work through the drastic change. The emotions and memories, flood your mind as you drive away. And while, after some time, you can always come for a visit, that life has tangibly ceased as you have known it. It has been like having to view a fatal car crash one frame at a time. Knowing the conclusion without any ability to slow, or speed up the events.
Since that day, I have a some time to decompress. Having managed with this over many years with little or no help, there is a great sense of relief for me and the family. Everyone is in better spirits. Now that I can leave the house, there will be some tee times reserved at Pebble Beach very soon. And as the weather clears across the pond, there is an old course due north of Edinburgh that I want to meet up with and engage…