Family and Friends

Memorial Day

06.01.05 | 2 Comments

This weekend was one of those weekends that not particularly noteworthy, despite being busy. However, there were two exceptions. First, Sunday was Kim and mine’s sixth anniversary. Lack of a babysitter delayed our night out until this coming Friday.

Secondly, as part of our visit to my parents’ ranch this weekend I visited my grandfather’s nursing home. Actually, it was the main reason for driving the 120 mile trip to begin with. It’s the first time I’ve seen him since they moved him to a nursing home earlier this year. Three weeks ago he was up and about, holding conversations with Mom out on their porch. Of course, the alzheimers meant that he didn’t always know where he was or who he was talking to, but it was some sort of quality of life all the same. Now the stroke has left him immobile on his right side and unable to talk at all.

It is a creepy, sad, strange, heart-crushing thing to sit in a room and visit with someone you love who wants to talk but can’t. What can you do? What can you say? I held his good hand, and his grip was firm. All he could do was look at me, pouring as much expression as he could through his eyes. Sometimes it was a look of confusion. Now who was I again? At other times, as I talked of exploits when I was a little boy, the corner of his mouth would crinkle up and his eye would twinkle in memory. And at yet another time, tears rolled down his cheek. At the end of our visit, why did leaving him seem so cruel? Perhaps because in my heart of hearts, I know it was.

It’s a bitter a thing to contemplate how someone so full of life–a giant in his prime–is rewarded in his twilight years with pain, humiliation, paralyzation, dementia, and lost loved ones. It’s a tale as old as humanity, but even that knowledge does little to ease the personal tragedy of it all. I suppose it’s easy to praise God while basking in gifts of youth, but it is a different kind of test to have those gifts cruelly taken away and still find faith in His wisdom and love. A different kind of test altogether.

The best we can do is start practicing early and treat those who go before us with the same love and compassion with which we wish to be treated when our own time comes. Because inevitably, it will.

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Comment by Jerry
2005-06-01 15:44:34

Yeah it’s tough to go through that.

My stepfather had Alzheimer’s and he almost caught the house on fire. I returned from school and went into the kitchen and the pan had caught fire and whatever he had cooked was charred beyond recognition. I turned off the stove and covered the pan. If I had been much later the kitchen probably would caught fire. Old wooden frame house would have burned down in nothing flat.

It was tough whenever I went home and he would start asking me who I was. And then who he was? My mother had to take away his car keys. One day he took the dog for a drive and we lost him for half a day, until the police called.

It was even tougher when my Aunt started losing it. She watched me after school and drove me around to different activities when I was young. I only loved my mother more when I was growing up.

Her son placed her in nursing home. He lived in Colorado and she would not move there. My brother lived with her, but caring for her became too much for him. I hated visiting her because she was always trying to get me to take her home. No one ever told her that the house had been sold torn down and developed again. I couldn’t do it and it made it tough to visit and listen to her beg to go home.

My kids were little and she called my daughter the name of a child I don’t know the origins of. It was spooky. The last time I visited her she did not recognize me or my wife. An orderly tried to feed her and she just spit the food out. It was a sad sight.

I felt so discouraged and worthless that I never returned for two years. When I did go back I learned she had died and my cousin had never bothered to contact me or my brother in regards to the funeral. I knew she would be buried next to my uncle so I learned from the cemetary records that she died shortly after my last visit.

If I could suggest you to visit as often as you can then do. It diminishes guilt and regret. And even if you cannot create any new pleasant memories it allows the opportunity to reflect upon the past.

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Comment by Prest0
2005-06-01 16:41:34

Thanks. I genuinely do plan on visiting as much as I can. My mother has been avoiding going, and I can understand why. If it’s hard on me, it’s 100 times harder on her. Still, I see my own personal comfort as secondary. I know that even if he doesn’t always know who I am, my mere presence is comforting him. It’s just a heartbreaking thing.

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