How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Alzheimer's Daughters

Mom and I went to Atlanta yesterday to see my dad at Emory Hospital. My daughter, Lara, who is six months pregnant, went also. It was the first time I had seen my dad in over two and half weeks. I was shocked by his appearance.

Emory is taking good care of him, and they have managed to reduce his extreme anxiety and paranoia, but it came at a cost. He is not eating, not sleeping well, and as a result of each of these, he is weak and in a wheelchair. We were told it might be two more weeks before he is released.

When he saw us walk into the day room he started crying. It was all I could do not to turn around and run away. My eyes didn't want to see. My heart didn't want to know. But I also needed to hug him and be near him.

A friend of mine, who lives in another town, is going through the same issues with her dad. He has been battling Alzheimer's for years. She, like me, is an only daughter. Her dad is at home, but hospice was called in this past week.  I emailed her late last night trying to make sense of what Alzheimer's and Parkinson's has done to my dad. I cried as I wrote and knew my friend would understand, like no one else can. She has had to sit back and watch as her "daddy" has slowly been taken away from her a piece at a time, over several long grueling years.

 I know of no other way to explain what was running thorough my head and heart last night than share the email I wrote to my friend. I took out several lines that might breach my friend's privacy, but I left everything else in as written- mostly...

Dear Friend,
My heart breaks for you.. simply breaks- because I know the depth of your sorrow, as only an Alzheimer's Daughter can. I wish I could hug you right now and we could sit on the floor and cry together..

Me, Mom, and Lara have been in Atlanta all day at Emory visiting dad. It is the first time that Lara has seen Dad since he was admitted two and a half weeks ago. It has hit her very hard, so I know what you're going through with your daughter... they both love their granddaddies so very much.. Those strong men who loved those little baby girls from the instant we placed them into their grandfather hands.

Dad has developed dystonia in his neck and cannot hold his head up any longer. He is down to about 150 pounds (from 188 in June), is so weak he can't stand or walk, is in a wheelchair, is unable to feed himself, and is experiencing random hallucinations. BUT he still knows who I am and tells me he loves me.  He even smiles at me once in a while in that devilish way he has always had.  I fed him ice cream today and that really made him happy.

Lara and I left Mom at Emory with Dad for about an hour and a half.  I was able to buy Dad new pajamas and a very soft lap blanket at  store close by. I feel so ineffectual. My Dad is going through a hell not of his making, and I buy pajamas and a lap blanket.

When I got back to Emory, Dad was in his room and Mom was feeding him. Afterwards, when it had cooled down outside some. we took dad into the hospital courtyard for about 15 minutes and actually had a wonderful time. I saw so many flashes of my "old" Dad- he even leaned over and gave Mom a big kiss... and then right when we were wheeling him back into the facility he had a seizure of some type. Thank goodness a male nurse was standing right there and was able to keep Dad from literally sliding out of the wheelchair.  I mean, Dad went rigid.. Totally rigid.

Oh, honey, I know what you mean about wanting your dad here but also wanting him to go. The tug of war in my heart is profound.  For Dad's sake, I don't want this hellish nightmare to go on any longer. For my sake, I want him here forever so I can touch his skin, hold him, and say the word “Dad" and have him glance my way. I don't even know how to feel anymore. I can't cry in front of Mom, and I don't want to upset Lara.. I am slowly drowning in a salt sea of tears on the inside.

Before we left Emory (Mom and Lara had stepped out, so it was just me and Daddy)  I climbed into the hospital bed with Dad and curled up beside him. I put my nose to his skin and inhaled. I was attempting to sear the smell of his skin into my memory.  I placed my head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat, I held him, I kissed him, he patted my hand softly, I told him "I love you", and he told me that he loved me... I don't know how to let him go.

I leave in a little over a week for Abu Dhabi..  I now know that Dad will not be released before I leave.  I guess I will come up the day before my flight departs and spend a few precious hours with him, and then walk away and not tell him goodbye. He wouldn't understand anyway..  I will step onto that plane knowing that I may never see him again.

How can I just leave? But what would it help if I stayed? God, sometimes I just don't know what in the hell to do. I NEED this job so badly. There are no teaching jobs for me here, and even if there were it would be nowhere near the money I will be able to make in the UAE. Plus, since I only have twelve years paid into my retirement, this job could help pad my nest egg a little   I am no spring chicken. Hell, I received an invitation to join AARP the other day. Fuck them. Is this what it comes down to? Putting the practical over the heart?? Choosing a job and an income over family?

My mother is an emotional wreck. Her entire world is going away and she is powerless to stop it. She has loved my Dad since she was fifteen years old. He is the only man who has even been intimate with her. The only man she has ever loved.  The man with whom she has had so many high highs and low lows. The man she followed all over the world while he carved out a military career. My heart is so heavy for her, and then I find myself being "bossy" and trying to tell her how to handle everything, but it's only because she seems so lost and confused by the turn of events.  It seems every time I open my mouth I say the wrong thing. She is holding on by a thread... and I don't know how to help her.  Even if I stayed and didn't go to Abu Dhabi, I wouldn't know how to help her.

I do know Mom and Dad's house is going to have to be modified before Dad comes home. A ramp needs to be installed at the back door, bathroom issues have to be worked out (the bathrooms are both down a long narrow hallway), sleeping arrangements are going to have to be decided (hospital bed or his own bed way in the back of the house). I know that Mom is going to need 24/7 assistance if she is to keep Dad at home. I know that this is the beginning of the end.

I am tired of crying too, dear friend. You are NOT alone. I promise.
Sisters in Tears,

So, that email was my way of trying to work it all out in my heart and my head. It helps to have my friend only an email or a phone call away, but does nothing to lessen the grief, the guilt, the tug of war going on inside of me.

Some of the newly hired Abu Dhabi 2012 teachers received their airplane e-tickets today. They are so excited, and I can't muster the same feelings, although I pretend to.. My anxiety over my leave date is based on my wanting to know how much more time I have left to help Mom, and what day I can go back to see Dad at Emory. 

I want to pull the covers up over my head and disappear from everything right now, and I still have so many small travel tasks to attend to before my flight leaves..

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