So, I guess I'll just start at the beginning.
A few weeks before Christmas I was feeling really bad for my dad. Taking care of my mom, who's Alzheimer's disease is markedly advancing, is a tough never-ending job. It just wrings you out. This topic of what exactly is so hard is too vast for me to express adequately even in a face-to-face conversation with someone, not to mention in just a few sentences in a blog. I will not attempt it. Let's just leave it at this: when a loved one is suffering from a terminal illness it is heart breaking. Add to that the fact that it is a sometimes decades-long process. Add to that the fact that it is your loved one's mind being affected and thus much about them changes and deteriorates into someone you don't really recognize. Add to that your own emotional tangles and hangups and hidden hurts that you run into through the process and....there you have it. Alzheimer's. Sheesh I'm depressing myself even talking about it. It's just the pits.
So I felt like my dad really needed a break. At the very same time, I was feeling like getting out of town right after Christmas might help with the post-holiday blues that seem to overtake me every year. At the very same time, I was thinking of how much I miss my brother Adam and his family and how much I love the North West. So many thoughts converging! How wonderful - let's take mom with us on a trip to see her son and grandkids! She'll love it, dad will get a rest, and we'll get to get away.
From now on, I will always think of this collision of fabulous ideas more as the Perfect Storm (or possibly the Bermuda Triangle) rather than some type of serendipitous timing.
You see, we had travelled with my mother to St. George the previous February and though it was a little challenging, it did work. We were able to give my dad a break and help mom enjoy seeing grandkids. She did spend a lot of time trying to do Sheri's dishes and occasionally getting into the wrong person's bed in the middle of the night when she got lost, but these were not insurmountable obstacles. We could totally do this.
Except we couldn't.
We didn't really realize how much had changed for my mom in a year and how unable she was to orient herself to reality without her anchor, my dad, there at her side to guide her. We made several discoveries about her abilities, or should I say INabilities, that basically added up to me feeling like I broke my mom. The poor woman. She was mostly okay during the day, though of course needed constant supervision, redirection, support and direction. I even entered the exciting world of helping my parent bathe and making sure she was eating and drinking. It was when she got tired in the evenings that things got bad and total confusion overpowered her. She woke up 20 times a night looking for my dad. She forgot my name in the night time. It got to the point of extreme paranoia, fear and misunderstanding of anything going on. Nothing we said could comfort her or change her thinking. Everything from believing that dad wasn't there because he was off having an affair, to being frightened of me, calling me creepy, and feeling certain that I was taking her by force to an insane asylum. THAT was a lovely feeling, I'll tell ya. (Still having PTSD just so you know.) (Not kidding.)
We learned a lot. Mostly that my mom can not be comfortably separated from my dad and that she is farther along this road than we thought. I will say that it was extremely tender to see how much she loves and depends on my dad. When she got a chance to speak with him on the phone, his was the only voice she would listen to, and gaining reassurance from him filled her with joy and happiness. It was quite a thing to see. I have never felt such relief as I did at 2:00 in the morning upon our arrival home (we cut the trip short and booked it home as fast as our minivan could carry us) to see my father in our driveway, waiting to welcome his wife into his arms, take her away from her scary kids and reassure her of her safety and belovedness.
And now that I have gotten out of my system the yuck aspect of our trip to Seattle, I would like to talk about the wonderful parts.
I deeply love my siblings. I am so grateful for them and for my darling sisters-in-law. I wish I lived closer to both of my brothers. I admire their fathering and what they are doing with their lives. My cup is filled to brimming when I watch my kids with their cousins. That was definitely the highlight of this trip; sitting back and letting the kids just play their hearts out. Artwork, go carts, walks on the beach, a ton of hot chocolate at the local bakery, ice cream, dress ups, baths...oh yeah. The BEST was when Bundle and her counterpart Rosey made a sheepish appearance in the kitchen, Bundle with her hair absolutely PLASTERED with hair gel. Rosey proudly announced that she had given her cousin a makeover. When they saw our faces, Bundle leaned over to Rosey and whispered, "I TOLD you we were going to get in trouble!" That had us laughing our way right up to the bathtub where we made an attempt to de-gel Bundle. Her hair stayed pretty crispy for the rest of the trip despite our efforts.
Anyway, despite the challenges of the trip, I truly was so happy to see my family and to enjoy a part of the country I love so much.
These pictures are pretty out-of-order but I'm not up to trying to switch them around. Let's just get this entry posted and off my plate!
|Troy found a car with its own little moss-garden on the windshield|
|Our drive up there was so foggy and frozen - this is about the only view we had for most of the drive!|
|The happy crew on our drive|
|The ride on the ferry is always a highlight.|
|Oh my gosh, this baby is such a sweet kid. I miss him!!|
|Whit was so sweet about letting the littles help her bake a cake|
|Troy and I got to sneak away one evening for our 16th anniversary. We ate tasty Indian food and saw Philomena - a great movie that was kind of hard to watch.|
|My girls' curls LOVE Bainbridge Island|
|On New Year's Eve we stayed up and let the kids watch The Sound of Music for the first time|
|Attempting to remove the gel|
|The girls were outside so much we almost never saw them - they LOVED these go-carts!|