Come back Miss Cathy: Pt. V #CarefreeToCaregiver


I found myself back on the road, headed home.

I’d been parked the entire time I was having this internal debate just a few blocks from the restaurant downtown that was suppose to kick start my evening.

I was too embarrassed to walk the short distance to cancel in person so I called from the safety of my car.

As soon as I’d hung up I wondered if I’d have changed my mind and stayed if I’d gone inside the restaurant. Would I have sat down, ordered a drink, engaged my date in conversation and been able to be the person that I once was and longed to be again (at least for one night)?

The answer to that I will never know but my actions told me that it was time to stop looking back, longing for the life that I had and focus on how to create more balance in the life that I have now. Sometimes the greater challenge is accepting what is instead of expending energy trying to recreate what was.

I also made a promise to myself not to be angry with Miss Cathy.

Going back home was my decision and there was no reason to pout or act as if she’d done something wrong, she hadn’t, she was just being who she is, which is unpredictable and I was just going to have to accept that fact, too.

Once I was back at the condo I walked in, checked on her (as predicted she was back in bed wide awake and still agitated) so I sat with her for a moment so she could talk about what had happened.

In no time at all I could see that she was settling down and more relaxed because she was no longer alone.

I changed clothes (goodbye ‘carefree’ and hello ‘caregiver’) and in no time I was back into my nightly routine of washing dishes, straightening up the kitchen and setting the alarm, signaling that all was well and everyone (everyone meaning me) was in for the night as if just an hour before I hadn’t been out in the night.

As I often do, I walked through the apartment ‘fluffing and tucking’ stopping at the sliding glass doors that lead out onto the balcony.

I leaned my head against the cool glass and looked out over the complex, past the apartments across the parking lot, up to the sky, and it was then that I realized, agitated or not, confused or focused, in the past or present, manipulating me or being manipulated by her mind, Miss Cathy may be searching but she was always here….it was I who had to come back.

#Therapy Pt. l: Old Dog, New Day, New Way


One of the revelations that came out of the ‘alz-ervention’ a few weeks ago when the family sat down to talk to Miss Cathy was that she expressed an interest in therapy (I immediately went to the window to see if pigs were flying but it was just the blooms off the Cherry Blossoms).

To say I was surprised, shocked and elated (is true) but mostly I was happy that she was
ready to face some of her demons, many of which have nothing to do with Alzheimer’s but the Alz has definitely ‘heightened’ some of the parts of her personality that are….how shall I put this? …..strong (read: annoying as sh*t) but seem to me to be (deeply) rooted in some pain or past that hopefully she is ready to face.

I’m a big advocate of therapy, it’s helped me immeasurably at different times in my life but I also know that sitting across from a stranger, though a professional they may be, is not for everyone and especially someone Miss Cathy’s age (and generation).

And I know that the ‘Greatest Generation’ is not ‘great’ about ‘sharing their feelings’…especially when it involves the kind of navel gazing that my self absorbed generation (the last of the baby boomers-thus aptly named the ‘Me Generation”) is/was all to eager to explore.

We (me) grew up reading “Jonathan Livingston’s Seagull”, ”How to be Your own Best Friend” and “I’m OK, You’re OK”, while our parents still remember reading the WWll mantra “Loose lips, Sink ships” (and internalized that to inhibit introspection apparently).

But, it was because of their stoicism growing up during the depression and thriving after the war(s) that we were able to run around with feathers and flowers in our hair (be it an afro or parted in the middle and worn as long and straight as you could iron it), drink Coke (and later snort it) and ‘try to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony’.

So, giving the differences of how we learned to cope I applaud an older person, specifically my Miss Cathy for embracing self-reflection.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new ways to contemplate.

Sometimes all you can do is #laugh


“Can you come here for a minute?”

I heard the familiar refrain come from the direction of Miss Cathy’s bedroom the other morning as I got out of bed to greet a new day.

“I can’t even put my damn bra on!” She said with disgust.

Well, at least she’s not trying to put her tee shirt on as pants I thought to myself as I wiped the last of sleep from my eyes.

And sure enough, as I walked the few feet into her room my newly wakened eyes saw that her bra was not only on backwards…it was inside out as well.

It’s been about a month now since her step downward; it started with a loss of vision, compounded by confusion over the ability to see and use everyday objects. And now the simplest of tasks (things she’s been doing her entire life) have become complicated.

Watching her struggle with her under garment, as if someone had made an over the shoulder Rubik’s cube instead of a brassiere, looking nothing like the iconic Horst P. Horst photo of a woman caught in the act of snapping her brassiere, so famously paid tribute to in Madonna’s “Vogue” music video, Miss Cathy seemed as emotionally twisted as her bra straps.

She’d managed to put one strap up over her shoulder but the other was lost under a fold of skin in her armpit, somehow the back was in the front, the whole thing was inside out and the closures were pressed down on her breasts with the cups hanging off her back, looking about as useful as tits on a bull.

“How in the world?” I started to say, then I had to laugh and so did she.

“Damn!” she said between chuckles as I gently unhooked the closures, releasing her ample bosom, taking the garment off her to reconceive it for its intended purpose.

“All these damn titties!” She said looking down at herself and talking as if she were divulging a secret her body was not aware of.

“I hate these fuckers!”

“Well” I said giggling, helping her to put her brassiere on correctly.

Nothing like seeing an old lady topless, especially your mom, first thing in the morning to let you know what kinda day you’re in for.

“Put you boobs away.”

“I wish I could cut ‘em off! I hated them even when I was a girl and they first started growing. I know men are suppose to like’m.” She said, arranging herself into her bra.
“I wonder what they’d think if they had them instead of balls and they had to lug’m around all the time.”

I helped her snap shut the last closure in the back the helped her with put on her top tehn said, “I’m sure if they had tits and no balls they’d think they were women.”

….more laughter.

Home


“When I think of home I think of a place where there’s love all around me. I wish I was home, I wish I was back there”…but there is no there, there.

All Dorothy had to do was click her heels in the movie or on the Broadway stage and there she went, back over the rainbow safe and sound to a familiar place.

Great sentiment and a wonderful feeling I’m sure but I haven’t felt at home for some time now. I left my life to join Miss Cathy in hers in her home some time ago but it’s never felt like “home” to me.

I told an ex of mine once that “home” is wherever your mother is-not the address or the physical place. But now, as Alzheimer’s has started to claim even a fraction of my mother’s mind she’s less “mother” and more “patient”.

Alzheimer’s has turned what used to be a safe place into a battleground; full of land mines that have to be avoided less they blow up into harsh words and tension.

These days I find that it’s easier to isolate myself in my little bedroom to avoid conflict. So, I inhabit the different areas of the room or “zones” as I call them as I move through my day, always having an ear out for when the coast is clear to go to the kitchen or use the balcony.

I don’t think I’ve sat in the living room in months, and if I have it’s just for the few moments it takes to relay some information to Miss Cathy or to listen to a request of hers.

Things have gone downhill since my last post which is the reason I haven’t been writing. It’s gotten too real to relay. I found that (unlike before) it wasn’t therapeutic or helpful to write about what’s going on because it was too painful emotionally to relive it on paper (on online as the case may be).

So, I don’t feel like I have a home and with no home you have no foundation and with no foundation you have no support and without support you’re all alone and that is a lonely place to be, “especially in a crowd” as Marilyn Monroe says in Gentlemen prefer Blondes.

But, what I have learned even in the face of no home, no foundation and no support is that I have “me” and that’s a pretty good start. I think of me as being a brick, and my “will to continue” my mortar so with brick(s) and mortar I can start to construct my own foundation, my own support and ultimately my own home.

Or maybe…just maybe, because I’ve always had me- like Dorothy I was (am) home already.

Blame it on the a, aa, ak, uh alkaline


I finished my first week working as a cater/waiter last Thursday, which was good because I couldn’t have worked one day longer. If I thought it was hard to run a 10k (back in the old days, after a night of serious disco dancing and drinking) well, standing around holding trays full of drinks and being “in service” makes that seem like a cakewalk.

The job is not without it’s perks; I’m getting out of the house, (re) learning my way around Washington DC, I’m getting a behind the scenes look at what it takes to put on events (intimate and extravagant) and there’s the scrumptious food, floral arrangements and gift bags that we’re allowed to take home (depending on the event and the captain you’re working for).

I did meet an interesting woman at one of the jobs sites. Her name is Lois and we met after “service” as we were all taking a well-deserved break and making our dinner from the leftovers. Like I said already, I have not been working long but what I have noticed it that there is “a lot” of food left over after these events, sometimes even after the staff has eaten, there is a lot that is thrown out-the abundance and the waste is amazing. Anyway, I was loading my fourth cupcake into a take out container when I heard, “Somebody sure has a sweet tooth.”

Embarrassed, thinking that it was a captain (the person that is in charge of all of the cater/waiters) I turned to see Lois, who was in charge of the pantry. She’s not my boss but an important person in the “food” chain. There is a hierarchy to this industry that I’m still figuring out but one thing I know already is that it’s best to know your place in the queue and who can help whom.

So, I said (quite honestly) “No, it’s not for me, I like to take my dinner home and share it with my mom -she’s the one with the sweet tooth.”

I’ve only been a week but Miss Cathy and I already have a little routine established, she kinda stays up waiting for me after my shift (or her eyes pop open the minute she hears my key in the door and is calling out “Heyyy”) and I share whatever food I manage to bring home and stories of how I’m trying to do a job that I have very little experience at (remember I “padded” my resume to get the job saying that I had cater/waiter experience back in New York when in actuality I went on a few jobs when friends in the industry needed an extra hand. I so impressed my new boss that he thinks I’m a seasoned cater/waiter and is ready to put me in charge of people when in fact I’m just impersonating a cater/waiter and learning on the job as I mimic others but I’m determined to become who he think I already am).

Anyway, back to the “cupcakes”….we sat down to take our break before “tearing” down the event, she with her dinner and me with my take out container full of goodies from the dinner I just served to a baker’s dozen of the “Masters’ of the Universe” at the Capital One Corp offices. We started to talk and I told her that Miss Cathy has Alzheimer’s and to my surprise she said that her dad does too (although why I’m surprised “should” be the surprise since the alz.org stats say that someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 69 seconds).

I was shaken out of my “thought bubble” when Lois asked,” Does she drink soft drinks?” and proceeded to tell me that her father (and her whole family) only drink “AlkinWater” and that they never ingest sodas. She’s a firm believer that the chemicals in soda pop cause/exacerbate or contribute to Alzheimer’s; she then told me that I should google Alkaline and its effects on the brain.

I didn’t think that working a catering job would be the place where I’d find information about Alz but “hey” you drink where you find the water so I started taking “sips”. In the short time we sat together she went into great depth about Alkaline, which medications to avoid (I gathered she’s not big on western medicine) and a host of other topics. We had to get back to work but we exchanged phone numbers and Lois said she’d email some more info to me.

I started doing some research on my own and came across some interesting information, Not sure what I think about the whole holistic eating and living approach but it is food for thought.

Wiz-zed


I’m in Kansas City now and won’t be back in Greenbelt till the 21st. Without balloons or fanfare I gave Miss Cathy a hug and a kiss and took the train to New York last Thursday to hang out with Chad in the Emerald City and now we’re in the land of Oz.

I feel like I’ve escaped from the Wicked witch’s tower but that would infer that Miss Cathy is Glinda’s evil sister from the East. By the look on her face (utter joy) when I was standing at the door to leave I could see that she was a fellow escapee, too. She was looking forward to getting rid of my ass and as much (or more) as I was looking forward to leaving. How can you blame her really, I mean, the poor woman hasn’t been alone in over a year.

So, I guess that would make Alzheimer’s the Wicked witch that’s swooped down and turned our little world to black and white from color; dementia the evil tower, her paranoia and anger issues would be the flying monkeys (which scared the be-Jesus out of me when I was kid by the way) and lately her behavior threaten to send me under the bed once more.

If it’s true what Mr. Baum says that I’ve been home all along then why is that when I click my heels nothing happens? I’ve lived in the Emerald City (New York), the land of Oz (Kansas City) and even over the rainbow (on the left bank in Paris) so why oh why do I keep waking up in Greenbelt? Since becoming suburbanized I’ve traded in my designer shoes for Nikes but the result should be the same-when am I going to wake up in an overstuffed feather bed next to some little hairy beast surrounded by extended family and the hired help?

I left Miss Cathy with her lifeline alert necklace (more powerful than ruby slippers) so I feel like she has some protection. I called to check on her yesterday and she sounded as happy as the mayor of Munchkin land. She could have been sitting there playing with her own feces for all I knew but that’s a stretch in behavior (thank the lord for now) but I am cognizant of the fact that one can give “good phone”-meaning that a lot people that are ill can “sound” healthy and capable over the airwaves.

So, I’m conscious of that and I also know that she couldn’t deteriorate that quickly in just a few days so I’m listening for things other than the scatological. Is she present? Is she clear? Does she sound calm or confused?

Once I ascertained all of that I could confidently sit back and let her tell her latest story of what hillbilly relative did what to whom wash over me and feel confident that I could hang up the phone and start skipping back down the yellow brick road.

Shades of grey


I’m off to the estate-planning seminar on Wednesday to get a jump on long term financial decisions that will have to be made but I’m coming up on a grey area in this whole care giving business. I try to stay out of Miss Cathy’s personal affairs as much as possible but we live in close quarters and lets face it-once you’ve had to bathe someone and help them in the bathroom the boundaries get a little blurred.

I’m sitting in the car right now writing as I wait for her while she’s in the bank “taking care of some business”. What the “business” is I didn’t ask (thinking it’s none of mine) and she didn’t offer. The caregiver in me who is aware of her finances is wondering what she’s up too and if it’s responsible of me to not be in there with her while she does whatever it is she’s doing (a light shade of grey).

Tony has taken over paying her bills and I handle her day-to-day financial needs. Now that she’s feeling empowered by the Neurologists visit it seems (to me) that she’s flexing her independent “muscles” a bit (if only that included some exercise like going outside and walking like the doctor suggested, too). Anyway, it’s her money but now that Tony and I are involved it’s our business, too.

I don’t know what she’s doing in there right now but I do know that she’s a senior citizen on a fixed income who’s been “pretty” responsible about her finances but she has made some (how shall I put this?) questionable choices money-wise that may or may not have anything to do with her condition-again (we’re in that grey area).

All I know is that I’ve “chosen” to respect her privacy and hopefully she’ll tell me what’s she’s up too. I’ll know soon enough because I have access to her accounts, but that’s not the point really. I just hope I’m not going to have to find a financial mess that Tony and I will have to clean up.

I guess the best I can do is to look for patterns, see what her financial reasoning is on paper, judge how responsible her choices are moving forward and deal with it then and that’s pretty black and white.

A lifeline


Since the meeting with the neurologist things around here have been going pretty smoothly. Miss Cathy is still doing her “victory lap”; calling everybody she knows to tell him or her what the doctor said (or more accurately-what she “wanted” to hear him say).

Anyway, she called me into the living room recently to tell me that she had an idea about how to make “me” feel more comfortable about her staying home alone (what she doesn’t seem to realize is that I am “so fine” with recent events, I went through whatever upset and changes I was going through and now I’m moving on-next!).

She suggested that “she” should get a “medical alert necklace” (you know the one, you’ve seen the commercials on TV late at night, “Help! I’ve fallen and I cant get up!”) Well, I was surprised that she came up with the idea but after thinking about it I gotta say that I was impressed (even if “I” am the one that is going to have to look into getting it).

So, I added researching the “necklace” to the list of things to do. Tops on that list were contacting lawyers to get information about her estate planning. It’s not like there’s much of an “estate” but what little there is has to be carefully managed so that Tony and I can do the right thing by her and (hopefully) set up the future so that when she needs long term care everything is in place for her to take full advantage of Medicaid.

I got a list of lawyers from The Alzheimer’s Association and they also suggested I check out the NAELA (National Assoc of Elder Law Attorneys) website. Unfortunately, the list from the Alz Assoc needed to be updated. A lot of the lawyers that I called no longer practiced or the numbers were wrong and the NAELA website had some incorrect information, too. But, I persevered and came up with about half a dozen lawyers in the area to contact. And being the good little “do-bee” that I am I called my local contact at the Alz Assoc to tell him about updating the list (hey, it’s the least I can do with all the help they have given me).

It took about a week for the various lawyers to get back to me (for some reason four of the six all called on a Friday). They all seemed “capable” (over the phone) and took a fair amount of time to talk with me about what I wanted to accomplish. I knew that I needed something to try to distinguish one lawyer from another since I didn’t have personal experience or a recommendation from someone who had worked with any of them. The Alz Assoc takes great pains to say up front that they are not endorsing or recommending anybody, they are simply providing information.

I had my list of questions to ask and I found a way of “testing” how knowledgeable they were so that I could separate the competent from the cash seeking by asking all of them about the “look back” that Medicaid does for all applicants (something any lawyer worth his salt should know about if they handle any elder law cases).
The “look back” is the time frame by which Medicaid considers personal wealth in determining who gets “how much” money from the government agency that will be paid out for a persons’ long term care (the correct answer: under the current guidelines the “looks back” covers looking into the last five years worth of a person’s assets and holdings (and not three years that some lawyers are still quoting, by the way.

If Medicaid is satisfied that a person did not dispose of property or assets in order to qualify for benefits they will appropriate the necessary funds for care, if they feel someone has assets of any significant value (a relative term) they can determine that the person should shoulder most or part of the financial responsibility for care until their resources are exhausted or Medicaid can put a lien on the property to recoup monies paid out for care after the person dies and the property is sold).

They all agreed that it was wise to start the process sooner rather than later and told me that we are lucky to have Miss Cathy’s support and co-operation. A couple of the lawyers told me horror stories of how family members were trying to do the right thing by their loved one with Alzheimer’s but the person was unwilling to cooperate or too far gone in the disease to be able to help. Some (because of the disease) had become paranoid, combative and stubborn to the point of sabotaging plans by refusing to sign documents or not agreeing to what was in their best interest. So, more often than not they leave a mess for the loved ones to deal with (and sometimes a huge bill for care-remember, long term care can run up to thousands of dollars a day).

I did find two lawyers that I’m felt comfortable enough talking to over the phone to want to follow up with. One lawyer in particular impressed me because she was the only one to suggest that there may be other ways of planning for her long-term care other than (or in addition to) Medicaid. She told me that Miss Cathy could be eligible for a Veteran’s Administrating Pension Benefit that is given to widows of war veterans, the caveat is that the deceased only has to have been enlisted during a time of war-the soldier did not have to have seen combat. If she qualifies, it could mean a possible thousand dollars a month more toward her care so that’s definitely something worth investigating.

This same lawyer invited me to a monthly estate-planning workshop that she holds in her office, the next one is on April 5th and I plan to be there. It will give me a chance to not only gather some information but to check out the lawyer as well.

As for the medical alert necklace, I found two companies online that l felt comfortable calling based doff their websites. The first was “Lifeline”, the one that advertises on TV and the other was a competitor that seemed to offer the same product a t a lower price but I just didn’t get a good vibe from them so I was leaning toward the more expensive company that originated the product.

The good news is that their local rep called to give me a much better deal than was quoted to me originally (so be sure to have the Lifeline agent give you the contact telephone number for a rep in your area-there could be deals and specials that you can take advantage of to lower the cost of the service).
I signed Miss Cathy up, the equipment (which just plugs into a telephone landline power source to monitor activity in addition to the necklace) came on Saturday. I’m waiting for the fist of April to do the installation. I’m planning a trip to New York and Kansas City for two weeks starting on Aril 7th so Miss Cathy gets her freedom (she was sooo happy when I told her my plans).

She said that she changed her mind about the medical alert necklace after she found out how much it cost. Well, I said using her own words against her when she told me that, “Too bad, it was your idea and now I happen to think it’s a good one so we’re keeping it and you’re going to wear it.”

Whether or not she does remains to be seen-all I can do is all I can do and today I’m okay with that.

Family matters


We had “the talk” last Saturday, just Tony, Miss Cathy and me. Suemi decided to sit this one out, she was missed but she’s definitely a huge part of our “triangle of care”. It went surprisingly well and now I feel cautiously optimistic about the days ahead.

I was itching to get to the “real” talk as soon as we sat down in the living room but I was hard-pressed to think of a way to begin. Surprising I know, me, the guy that can talk to anybody about practically anything but not his time, I just sat there. I think part of the reason was that I was that I was just so keyed up after thinking about things for so long, and there’d been so much bad blood and tension lately that I didn’t know how to casually “kick“ off this discussion. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long because Tony jumped right in, started talking and like Jackie Gleason used to say, “…And away we go!”

We hadn’t “rehearsed” or even talked on the phone after Tony agreed with me that “the talk” was necessary so we each had no idea what the other was going to say. So, I sat there listening to him talk to her about his concerns and I was very impressed. He was firm but loving and his words seemed to be carefully considered and his tone was that of someone that knew what he was talking about so you felt reassured (even if he was talking to you about things that made you feel uncomfortable). I wondered if I come across that way or if I’m as cold and callus as I feel sometimes-I sure hope not. Lord knows I could learn a thing or two about “how to engage without antagonizing”, so I sat back and took a lesson. He talked about his feelings and his concern that she wasn’t fully accepting her condition. He also covered all of what needed to be said about some business and property matters as well as the issue of updating her will.

There was a little discussion back and forth (between Tony and I) as to who was going to do what (I volunteered to do most of the research and phone calling because, well, because that’s what I do). Anyway, Miss Cathy actually took a moment to tell us that she was having a problem accepting her diagnosis. She said that if she “felt” that she was sick she would know and she would “tell us” and then she’d accept help-ours or the doctors. But since she didn’t “feel” sick she couldn’t understand why we were treating her the way that we were. I told her that unfortunately a diagnosis like her’s didn’t work that way.

Then I started to launch into my laundry list of examples of her behavior that were clear signs of her illness, not to mention reminding her about all the doctors she’s seen and their findings. Interestingly, about half way through I stopped, told her I was sick of having to justify her illness to her “the same way” (remember the definition of insanity is “ doing the same thing over and over an expecting a different result”) so, I took a new approach.

I asked her, “Do you trust us to act in your best interest?”

She thought about it then she said simply, “Yes.”

“Good” I thought, that’s a start. With that vote of acceptance, it was time to get to some of the more unpleasant things that needed to be discussed. I talked about her anger and (hopefully for the last time) her being in denial about her condition and the problems that denial creates for all of us who are trying to help her.

I told her that I was surprised she hit me when I came to pick her up from Tony’s and I felt she owed me an apology. The look she gave me when I made my request was a mixture of “I have nothing to apologize for”, “I was totally within my rights” and “ I can’t believe that you’re questioning my actions”.

That’s what I ‘saw” anyway, and my interpretation of her expression was somewhat confirmed when she said that she was “pissed off” when I came pick her up and she thinks that as a parent she should get to do whatever she wants, that we are “her” children after all (Miss Cathy logic). I’m not quite sure but I think she was trying to tell us that she had a “right” as a “parent” to hit me?! Umm, I don’t think so.

I told her that she didn’t hit us growing up (other than the occasional “spanking” when we were very young and wouldn’t understand much else) so why on earth should it be acceptable now? Besides, hitting is not something I tolerate- not from anyone and that’s what I told her. And just because I’m not going to strike back, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stand for it either.

Tony jumped in after listening to her logic and reminded her that he’s a parent too and there are just some things you just don’t do-ever. He sat for a minute and pondered if he’d ever hit his kids and the answer was “no”, his children were now young adults and it would never cross his mind to touch either of them.

He also told her that he was angry with her for what she did “to his brother” and he could see that it was humiliating and hurtful to me, and that hurt him. I sat there and thought, “Wow, my big brother is standing up to “mom” for me.” I gotta tell you, that’s a funny feeling to have at fifty-two but it was endearing nonetheless.

She thought about it for a bit. We could see that she was seriously turning over all the information that was being presented to her. Finally she said that she could see where she was wrong, and that she would work on her temper, and then she turned, looked me full in the face and apologized to me.

I knew it took a lot for her to apologize and I knew it had to be incredibly difficult to listen to all we had to say, most of it negative and unpleasant bur she listened. One of the things that she said to us was that we didn’t understand because she was the “mother” and her role was to protect us. She’s said something similar to me (to us) before but this time I heard “something” different in what she was saying.

What I heard was that she was feeling that we were usurping her role as “parent” and if she didn’t have that “role” then who was she? How was she supposed to navigate through the life she has left if it’s not to be the one that “makes the decisions” and steers the course (for us).

I understand now that part of her resistance, rebelliousness and obstinacy was because she thought she had to fight for her role in the family, when in fact, her “role” is secure, it’s just how the players “act” that’s changed.

I told her she could relax, to take a good look at us-we’re both middle-aged men, that her “job” is done. I reminded her (as I have several times in the past) that this is all part of the circle of life and now it’s time for us to take care of her the way she took care of us. I said that no one was trying to take her place, she’d always be the matriarch of the family and that we bend over backwards to respect her and to make her feel loved, in fact, it was a testament to how she raised us that we’re doing what we’re doing now.

She said, “I see that now. I’m sorry for being rebellious but I think it comes from always being a parent and always being in control and not needing to be humble. But now, after this lengthy discussion I’ve decided that I’ll cooperate from now on. Conversation is a great thing, it helps you to think differently about a situation.”

“ I love you both very much and you two have always been first in my life, above everybody else. So, know that if I don’t act that way ,then ‘you know’ that I’m not in my “right” mind.”

“If you asked me to go to the moon, I’ll go. If you asked me to get on a space shuttle, I’ll get on it.”

All in all, I’d say that “the talk” went way better than I could have ever imagined. I looked out onto the balcony and could see that the afternoon was turning into early evening. It had been a “lengthy” discussion but well worth it. Just as I wondered to myself how we were going to wrap things up, Miss Cathy said, “ Okay, I’ll tell you like I tell Adele at the end of one of our looong conversations,“The End”.

Paradise lost (and found)


It’s been a little over a year since the diagnosis and about seven month since I moved in with Miss Cathy (but who’s counting right-well, obviously I am). So I guess it’s normal to be feeling a little malaise. It’s interesting that while I’m very clear that I know this is where I’m suppose to be I’m amazed that I’m still adjusting. It’s not like I thought this was going to be a cake walk, quite the contrary, I knew it was going to be hard-I just didn’t know “what” was going to be hard and “how” it was going to affect me.

I’ve been back almost a week now from a much needed vacation at the Paradise Pointe Island Resort in San Diego, CA. I have to say, I didn’t much miss being in the cold on the East coast or the chill that was in the air between Miss Cathy and me in the days leading up to our different destinations (she: down south-me: to the mid and west).

After spending a few days in Kansas City, Chad and I fly (between snowstorms) to the resort for five days of heaven. The trip was just what I needed it to be: long, quiet sunny days and starlit nights. I didn’t do much but walk on the beach, eat at one the island’s two restaurants (a lot), read, sleep and I did the requisite time in the jacuzzi.

I must admit I did very little (or no) thinking about life back here (at the laugh factory). It’s amazing how quickly I just shut it all off, I wonder if parents are able to do that if/when they can manage some time away from their children?

All’s quiet here at the apartment because Tony called to tell me that Miss Cathy decided to stay in North Carolina for an extra week. I swear to God when he told me that I felt like a death row inmate getting a reprieve from the Governor.

It’s also given me some time to sort out the confusion I was feeling before I left in search of paradise. In addition to worrying if I’m doing the right thing by Miss Cathy, selfishly what I think I’m having trouble dealing with is the thought that I’m looking at (and dealing with) my own future.

We all know that Alzheimer’s could be hereditary so I could be headed down the same road-except I don’t have any children to take the wheel and steer me in the right direction when I drive off into the dementia ditch. Oh my, listen to me, I can hear my grandmother saying, “Don’t worry about the mule going blind!” (Translation: the worst hasn’t happened so there’s no point worrying about it now).

As much trouble as Miss Cathy is having accepting her situation who’s to say I won’t be worse if (heaven forbid) I end up with Alzheimer’s. So, with that thought in mind, I’m trying to be more empathic and patient,“ There but for the grace of God go I”. A lot was left unresolved before the break but I’m back from my vacation, rested and ready for round two (this being the second time I’ve gone away for one of my quarterly “mental health breaks”).

Yesterday, I was out on long walk turning all this unresolved “stuff” over in my head when I got a call from a relative (who wishes to remain anonymous. “Anonymous” called to tell me that she’s been spending a lot of time with Miss Cathy and she thinks Tony and I are doing a wonderful job of caring for her (regardless of Miss Cathy’s apparent bitching to the contrary that we’re taking away her freedom and she’d be “fine” on her own). “Anonymous” also made a point of saying that we’re doing the right thing by NOT letting her stay by herself. She told me that from what she’s observed Miss Cathy is fine for the most part but she does have her “moments” (and you never can tell when that’ll be) when she gets confused or something just isn’t “quite right”.

“Anonymous” also said that she’s noticed that mom is very quick to temper and appears to be sitting on a lot of anger.

I gotta say, I was quite surprised by the call but since I don’t believe in coincidences I took it as a sign (and an unsolicited testimonial) that we (Tony, Suemi and I) are doing the right thing. I was almost convinced that maybe Miss Cathy had a point the last time we talked/argued (albeit a very loud one) that she could stay by herself sometime.

I was glad to get another perspective, it made me realize that it gets kinda cloudy here living in the “fish bowl”, sometimes you can’t see too clearly and the fish ahead of you looks like it’s making sense so you start to follow it-even if it looks like it’s trying to jump out of the bowl. So, armed with this new information and support I think I can hold onto the serenity I found at paradise Pointe. I just have to maintain some distance-and talk to some other fish.