Finally, you went home this week!
At long last, all the loopholes, leaps and hurdles, are complete. “You’re going home”, we told you after you surprisingly saw us. After your fall in March, followed by hip surgery to repair your broken hip, and release from the hospital a few days later, you were at the rehab/nursing facility for what should’ve been one month. However, your stay turned into two months due to the government’s rules and regulations. During this time as your body strengthened, your mind failed you more with each passing day.
You were so incredibly happy to be leaving the rehab center. Yet, you seemed sad to leave the caretakers who had become your friends, a shoulder to lean on when you needed. The emotion on your face was that of happiness, confusion, sadness and fright all in one. There is no doubt in my mind the past few months have been terribly confusing for you. There wasn’t anything anyone could say that would help you understand.
All your caretakers came into your room to say their good-byes as Chuck and I packed up your belongings. Oddly, for as unhappy as you were to be there, it appeared you had formed a bond with each of them.
As usual, you were fussing and making sure Chuck and I didn’t forget one single thing. You were apologizing for not helping us pack. That’s you. Always doing something. Always worrying about everything. I’d take a glance back at you while packing to see you keeping a close eye on us.
You had to let go of all the people who took care of you for the past two months. This guy, picked you up off the ground so many times after you’d fall. That was typical you – being your stubborn self and think you could just get up and about whenever and however you could without assistance.
There were lots of hugs and smiles before leaving rehab. The love and care you received while you were there was wonderful. Each caretaker tried their best to console you, help you, talk to you, teach you to walk again and get your body stronger. Sadly, you don’t remember that or them, already. They are gone from your memory. It hasn’t been a week yet. In a way, I envy your ability to forget time, to forget the awfulness life sometimes brings us, and to forget that you forget. Perhaps that is the one and only salvation of it all. You don’t remember what’s happening. Or, do you?
Sometimes when I look into your eyes, I see you still in there begging to come out: Begging for this awful disease to let go of your failing mind. My heart is broken for the suffering you must be feeling during those rare times when you realize you’re not yourself anymore. There are too many blanks to fill in for you to understand the most common things.
This photo is one for the books. This young lady took such good care of you. She would call me asking me for ideas on how to help you. You’re very lucky, momma. She is a dear, God-loving woman who overlooked the negativity in your multiple episodes which you can’t remember due to Alzheimer’s, and dried your tears, dodged a few flying objects, and prayed with you. I was grateful you wanted to hug her and tell her good-bye before leaving, as she was your main source of constant caring and love when we couldn’t be there. You remembered her! That was a wonderful and emotional feeling for me to witness.
The last good-bye was probably the most bittersweet. Your physical therapist was instrumental in teaching you to walk again and help strengthen your body overall. She loved working with you everyday. She told me, “Your mom has such a desire to do things on her own and the strength to survive more than I’ve seen from someone in a long time.” Didn’t surprise me. Smiling, flashes of you wearing yourself out cleaning, cooking, and caring for the family went racing through my mind as if they happened yesterday. I’m grateful for the examples you set for me. Hard work ethics are hard to come by in today’s world. Thank you for teaching me that and so much more.
You wheeled yourself out the door and up to the car, ready to get the heck out of there and go home. Only, we had to continue explaining to you where home was, that you couldn’t drive, and why home wasn’t in Illinois. In fact, it was comical to see you dressed like it was winter as you went outside in the 90 degree, tropical humidity. “Phew, it’s hot today,” you told us. “Yes it is momma. It’s summertime in Florida,” I informed you. That was a mistake.
In your mind, you were in Illinois and going back home where you could drive your car. In fact, you wanted to make a stop by the cemetery to visit dad and the rest of our family who had long been gone. “I’m sorry, momma. We can’t do that today. Perhaps another day”, was all I could tell you to satisfy you. During the 30 minute drive, you kept repeating, “I don’t remember. I don’t remember home being here.” You wondered how you got here and why you were here. In fact, you wondered how Chuck and I got to Illinois to pick you up. “We live here mom, in Florida,” I replied for the millionth time, but kept that little fact to myself. Things were just not registering. Chuck and I looked at one another and we knew what was going to happen when we got to Grand Villa, your home. Because of this change, you would have to endure another couple of weeks of total disorientation until you settled in.
The timing couldn’t have been better. Your dear friend whom you ate every meal with prior to you breaking your hip and being absent for two months was at the door when we arrived. The immediate connection of emotions hit you both instantly. The hands. I kept focusing on both of your hands. The grip of your hands depict so many emotions. I could tell, you were happy to be back home. You missed it. You missed the friends you had made there but couldn’t remember until that moment.
Always the hands. I’ve learned you express so much with your hands now. You want someone to hold onto, someone to hold onto you. Your desire and struggle to remember ‘the now’ is heartbreaking. There are so many people you don’t remember already, so many places you don’t remember, so many empty spaces in your mind.
More of your friends came to welcome you back. Each one, you had to hold onto, to touch, to feel. It was almost as if you were transmitting your thoughts and feelings you couldn’t say through your hands. You appeared happy to be home.
Then came time to take you to your room behind that locked door behind you. Thankfully, you didn’t remember what your room was like before you broke your hip. We couldn’t tell you that you lived in an apartment there by yourself, walking about, smiling, sometimes dancing, always exercising, and sometimes going on excursions. We couldn’t tell you that you were now in the locked down memory care unit with no privacy, a roommate whom you didn’t know, that you were a danger to yourself and others, and that you would spend the rest of your days there. This awfulness we had to keep to ourselves. I wanted to choke. Why does this have to happen? As we live our lives the best we can throughout life’s struggles and grow old, why does the suffering get worse? You don’t deserve this. No one deserves this awful disease called Alzheimer’s.
Our arrival was perfectly timed. Chuck, Gunner and I had already spent a weekend moving your furniture and items from your apartment to your new room in memory care. Before we could focus too much on the room, which is quite nice I must say, it was time for lunch. You weren’t hungry. Understandable. A lot had happened all at once. Too much for you to comprehend and process that your appetite wasn’t normal. However, when provided with the chicken and dumplings and fresh vegetables, you ate. While eating you kept saying, “I’m not hungry. I don’t want to eat.” But you kept eating so long as we kept talking to you. Chuck on one side of you, me on the other. There were three other ladies at our table who basically were non-verbal. Probably just as well. Your mood was going downhill quickly as I believe you were somehow beginning to understand what was happening. We were going to have to leave you soon. Then came the dessert! A chocolate brownie with chocolate icing! Your eyes lit up. The nurse was quick to hold off giving it to you until you ate more of your lunch. Grumbling all the while, you finally ate enough to satisfy her. The brownie was yours. That, you ate.
Your sweet tooth has exaggerated more than I’ve ever seen for you. There comes a time in life when you should be able to eat what you want, when you want. Now is that time. Go ahead momma, eat all that brownie! Have two if you can. You won’t remember you already ate the first one anyway. (There was a time not so long ago when you would chastise yourself for the indulgence.) Life’s pleasures are few and far between for you anymore. So enjoy what you can, when you can.
This is how I want you to remember yourself: Beautiful, strong, young, ambitious, loving, caring and always doing something. I miss you. I’ve missed you for most of my life. It’s not your fault. This much I’ve come to know and understand. For too long, there were feelings of being unloved, unwanted and more. Those days are gone for me. I understand now. And I’m forever sorry you suffered all your life with no diagnosis, yet alone the proper care for your illnesses.
I wish there was a way to help you remember all the people who love you and care for your well-being. In the meantime, Ace, therapy dog extraordinaire, will help soothe your mind and provide you the comfort you deserve. He seems to be the only one able to reach into your mind and tell you, “Everything’s going to be alright.”