Thursday, November 20, 2008

Emerging from a Bad Spell

Going it alone. Not going well. Some of you manage life alone very successfully. You thrive. I wish I could. I recently read a letter written to my mother by her aunt mentioning my grandmother’s loneliness as a widow. Neither of them really understood. One of their mutual friends, a widow, had said, “I just need something alive in the house.” I find it is more than that. A pet qualifies as something alive; a pet you enjoy does make a difference. The radio and TV provide another human voice. I need something alive that can carry on an intelligent conversation, share things we both enjoy. I would appreciate someone who can walk all the way to the back of Home Depot without wearing out. I’m looking for someone who would enjoy a day in Yosemite or at Cherry Lake or exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Maybe even visit New Zealand and Scotland. Someone who can share the driving.

Maybe this most recent slump (which I am finally beginning to climb out of) has to do with the futility of care giving in my parents’ home. Very few people who have lived independently into their 90’s are willing to take direction from a child who has been only an occasional visitor in their home for 45 years. We haven’t “grown up” together. We haven’t shared an adult life or adult interests. They don’t know my interests, skills and competencies. I am just learning about their weaknesses. Our tastes are different. When did my parents start enjoying beets or split pea soup? When did they stop eating thick-crusted, hearty breads, or rocky road ice cream?

Then there’s the dignity issue. My father came to the lunch table today in obviously wet clothes. After lunch I stripped and re-made his bed and emptied his hamper, laid out a clean change of clothes for him, and told him I needed everything on his body for the washing machine before I could do the wash. He was insulted.
On what do you base your judgment?
Maybe I should just move.
Where will you go?

He called Mother into his bedroom where they could talk privately. I heard her say, “You are wearing them and you are still wet?” Then realization struck. He was wearing Depends. He does not understand that they only absorb a finite amount of fluid before leaking. He does not understand that it is not wasteful to change them several times a day. He did not want to hear that if he wears wet clothing all the time, his skin will break down and he will get sores – diaper rash with a vengeance.

Before he could even get them on his body, the fresh clothes were wet.

It’s hard to tell whether my dad’s willfulness is anger and vengeance, or if his dementia is cycling in again. Yesterday Mother told him his car is no longer insured and he cannot renew his driver’s license. Yesterday he was angry because both Mother and I told him to wipe up the bathroom floor after he peed on it. Today I think I am seeing dementia at work. Which means we are heading into another downhill slide.

Give thanks for the good times. Keep praying …

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