Today is my mom’s 82nd birthday. It is the first one in my lifetime I don’t get to spend with her. And it hurts. Deeply. And yes, I am trying to write this as tears are streaming down my face.
I am an emotional person. Sometimes I hate it. Sometimes it’s as if everyone around me is so strong and has no emotions. Or, they don’t show their emotions like I do. I am transparent. I cry. ALL. THE. TIME. I honestly can’t help it. I try to be strong. I try to brave, but all of this…everything that has happened in the last couple of month…hurts. Bad. To put it bluntly, I feel as if my parents have died yet they are still here. It is an eerie feeling and one that is hard to explain.
The photo above is such a great representation of who my parents were – a happy, loving couple who were so unbelievably devoted to each other. They were the picture of true love. And now, even though they are both alive, their existence as a couple is gone. They are no longer Red and Lee. He is Red. And she is Lee. Truly, it feels like they were forced to divorce. To separate without any say in the matter. Again, I am blunt…it sucks. Big time.
People who know me know I am as raw and real as it gets. I put it all out there. I don’t hide much of anything and I don’t plan to hide what is going on with my parents. Besides crying, there are other ways I deal with my emotions – running and writing. It feels good to get my emotions and my feelings written down with words. It is soothing sometimes. It is my therapy. And running, well, what can I say about running. It is one of the best stress relievers for me. Because of everything that has, and is happening, I haven’t been able to run hardly at all. And some of my runs have been horrible, while some have been great. But that is the JOY of running. Truly.
This was actually after a great run and it was the first time I have worn shorts this year. I was little excited about that and a little relieved from my stress for about six miles. I tuned everything out and just focused on my run. I had to escape reality for just a little bit. And it felt good.
Back to my parents. My role models. My idols. Two people whom I love with all my heart and soul. Yes, I may have complained about them from time to time because that is what normal children do. I know my son complains about me. And maybe I complained too much. Maybe, at times, they did feel like a burden. I can’t lie. It always seemed like they needed me when I was “busy” with my life. They needed me, it seemed, at what I thought and felt were the most inopportune times. And yes, I would get annoyed. But, I was ALWAYS there for them. And I always will be. Any maybe, just maybe, I won’t get as annoyed anymore.
I know we shouldn’t have regrets in life, but looking back over the past couple of years, I maybe regret that I wasn’t there for them more or that I let it annoy me as much as I did when they needed me. Because right now, I would give anything if my “normal” mom called me and wanted me to do something for her – buy her chapstick, get my dad some apple juice, fix their computer, fix their TV, whatever. Right now, it would make my day. But that life, as I know it, is gone and done. It is over. Again, I feel like I have lost my parents. It hurts.
Those smiles could light up a room. They were and ARE loved by so many people. They have touched so many lives. Mine included.
So, what is REALLY going on with my mom and dad. Well, dad has Alzheimer’s and was diagnosed with that about a year ago and mom has Dementia. Wait, what? Aren’t they the same thing? No. They are not.
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks, according to alz.org, the Alzheimer’s Organization.
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example and Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, according to the same website.
Check out this link for more information about Alzheimer’s. Click HERE.
Check out this link for more information about Dementia. Click HERE.
After my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I researched it a lot and I also watched the story on Glen Campbell, the country-western singer I grew up listening to. You know, he was the Rhinestone Cowboy! Click HERE for a link to the Facebook page for the movie, I”ll Be Me, which is the story of his Alzheimer’s journey. It was touching and heart-wrenching and of course I bawled my eyes out, but it was so worth watching.
With my mom, everything happened so quickly. Or so we thought. Looking back, there may have been signs and symptoms, but we didn’t see them because we were focused on my dad. We thought my mom had it all together, when in reality, she probably didn’t.
Dad’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was easy – or easier – to accept because of who he was and still is, for the most part. Yes, he repeats the same stories over and over and over and over. Yes, he forgets things, people, places, events, etc. But he seems “normal.” He is still himself. He is still MY dad. Loving. Funny. Shy. Quiet. Meek. Mild. Yes, he has bouts of anger, but they maybe last 10 minutes. If that. And yes, there have been words that have spewed out of his mouth that I never thought I would ever hear from him. BUT, he is repeating what was said to him. I get that. I understand what is happening with my dad. I truly do. I accept it.
But with my mom, I don’t. I am struggling real hard with what is going on. I can’t wrap my head around it. It isn’t real. I joke about it what is happening. I laugh sometimes. But deep down, it is disturbing and I can’t accept what is happening. I feel as if someone has switched her with someone else. She is not herself. She is not still MY mom. And truly, it hurts. And I just want my mom back. I want the mom I used to know. I want the mom that annoys the piss out of me. I want the mom that is loving, funny, kind, gentle, friendly and so much more. I want the mom that sings, that write songs, that makes people – makes me – happy. Sadly, I know that mom is gone and that is the hard part. She disappeared so quickly.
I want these two people back. The couple who have been married for 48 years.
And I want these two people back. Who loved their family so very much.
And, I even want these two people back. The funny, goofy ones who always made others laugh and feel so very loved.
I feel so very bad for them, for both of them. My dad is confused and doesn’t know really know what is happening. He keeps repeating that mom is in a hospital three miles south of here and she’ll be back in three days. He doesn’t understand that he will probably never get to be with his wife again, the woman he catered to, the woman he devoted his life to, the woman he loved with every ounce of his being. But I guess I have to be honest, as much as that is devastating to know, it is a blessing because it would break his heart. It would destroy him to know the real truth.
He is all settled into his new home at Edgewood Vista, a home he lives with by himself. He appears to be adjusting just fine; better than I or my siblings expected. Each day I visit, he has a smile on his face and seems to be happy. And that makes my heart happy. All we want for him is to be comfortable and to be happy. And he is. I guess.
As for my mom. Well, there is so much that could be said, so many details that would make you maybe understand a little more, but she wouldn’t want everyone to know what is really happening. Like I said earlier, she is not my mom. She is someone different. She is someone who cusses and swears like a sailor (I will spare you the words, phrases and sentences that have came out of her mouth). She lives in another world. She has escaped reality. She does things and says things that are hurtful and mean. She does things and says things that are beyond bizarre. My mom is gone. Plain and simple. And I fear we won’t get her back. Not back to who she once was. As much as I and my family have joked that she is off in la-la land, it is the truth. And yes, the truth, even though it may appear funny, hurts like hell. It stabs you in your heart with a pain that won’t go away.
At this point, like I said, they have labeled her as having Dementia. We don’t know which type as of it, as there are numerous types. She is on meds including anti-psychotic and anti-depression. We feel she is being cared for, looked out for and taken care of properly. She is where she needs to be for now. We are not sure how long she will be in the senior care mental health unit of the Mille Lacs Health Care system in Onamia, but it may be awhile. We thought she was maybe ready to come home to a nursing home, but apparently not. We will know more this week.
For now, please keep my mom and dad in your thoughts and prayers. And please wish my mom a very happy birthday today. She deserves it.