Fortune cookie wisdom #49

Good beginning is half done.

I suppose the wisdom of this fortune cookie could be taken in several different ways. For me, when I think of this, I think that my life is half over. As a middle aged person, this makes perfect sense. Of course, if my life is half over as of today my life would end at 95. I think I would be lucky to live that long as right now off the top of my head I can’t think of any family member that did.

I know it sounds morbid, but as I age sometimes I wonder how long I will live. I keep telling myself I have plenty of time left so I don’t waste time worrying about it. With a family history of dementia, I also tell myself that I probably won’t even know I’m dying which in a strange way is comforting. On some days I feel tired of living, but on the flip side the thought of dying is utterly horrifying to me. I like to be told what to expect but no one living knows, or even understands the dimension of time on a continuum. When did time start? Not even the smartest person can tell us that for sure.

What happens after we die? Again, I have my own beliefs, but no one living really knows. Wow, I wasn’t planning on getting all philosophical on this fortune cookie. But that’s what I like about the fortune cookie posts, I really never know where it will lead me.

On a side note, I am all out of fortune cookies…so I guess it might be awhile before I do a post on fortune cookies again. To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure where I am going to go from here. Is there anything you would like to hear more about?

Gratitude week 97

  1. Woohoo! It’s no shave November. LOL
  2. My husband is on week 2 of the detox diet and doing good.
  3. I’m grateful that Angel and Alex got gym memberships and work out several times a week. I’m happy that two of our kids have picked up on some of the healthy habits my husband and I have.
  4. The last couple of days the weather has been seasonally warm and sunny.
  5. I have appointments tomorrow with both the dentist and the doctor for a physical. YUCK! So the following day I made an appointment to get a massage. Yippee! It’s been ages.
  6. I started rereading the first edition of my book. It’s been almost two years since I wrote it and this will be my first read through since then. I’m grateful to have started the process again.
  7. I got a major project crossed off the list in the garage apartment. We finally got an oven hooked up after 6 months. My mom donated her oven which was great except that it was hooked up specially for propane and not natural gas. We needed someone to hook up the oven to the gas line. But the hard part was finding someone that could convert the oven back from propane to natural gas. I had 3 service guys out that couldn’t do it. We had to wait for parts. Some of the parts were incorrect. The guy from the appliance store that finally was able to fix it was out for the summer due to open heart surgery. He even had to come out a couple of times but he was finally able to get the oven converted this week.
  8. Angel and I met with the florist this past week for wedding planning. He was an old friend of ours from the community theater and gave us a discount. It was great to visit again. Crossed that off the list.
  9. I was able to cross off DJ from the list as well. Believe it or not but back in the day I used to drive my minivan out to the school once a month for the PTO meetings. I helped plan the school family dance and went through this DJ. We also used him when we planned my husband’s and friend Jen’s 40th birthday party. He said he would give us the same rate that he gave us over 10 years ago which is way under market price. Win, win, win.
  10. We have all the major stuff planned now for the wedding. They have the wedding chapel, the reception hall, cake, DJ, flowers, my daughter’s wedding dress, and photographer. My daughter asked me to be their wedding planner because I am a super anal organized detailed person. Since Angel lives at home we are able to talk about it and bounce ideas off of each other. Unfortunately this may have caused her future MIL to feel left out who is more of a fly by the seat of her pants kind of person. Thankfully we are all aware of the situation and maybe it can be fixed now before it is a problem.
  11. Yesterday Angel and Dan had their engagement pictures done. It was a horrible day for Angel however. Once in a while she provides care for an elderly lady with dementia. Angel was out walking with this woman yesterday when the woman fell and broke her leg. It was a very traumatic experience for them both. Thankfully since it was a beautiful day outside, there were several people nearby who offered help instead of walking away or recording the event. The whole experience was very upsetting for my daughter who was crying the morning of the day she had her engagement pictures done. The family of the elderly lady was very kind as well. I can’t imagine how horrible she must feel. I felt a little of that guilt when I tripped over my dog and thought we might have to put him down. It’s an awful feeling. Thankfully everyone was supportive.
  12. While I have enjoyed the time this week by doing some creative writing, I haven’t been really talking much about what is going on. This week was a lot more chill than the last couple of weeks. However I did find out that Arabella did not get the job she interviewed for earlier in the week. She also reached out to me today for the first time since I last did the gratitude list. Unfortunately it did not go well and I got another fuck you from her. Her insurance is not going to cover the cost of psychological testing and she blames me for it. She said she took me off of her HIPA form so I can’t talk to her doctors anymore. A couple of days ago I called the county to ask what kind of mental health programs they offer, but since I am not her guardian and she is over 18 there is nothing I can do. At this point I feel like I’ve done everything I could possibly think of doing for her. I do feel a sense of peace and gratitude that I’ve done everything I could humanly do for her. She may need a guardian some day but I don’t think she will ever let that person be me. I feel very conflicted with the holidays approaching. I’m not sure what is going to happen, but I feel like I am able to handle things better.
  13. I’m grateful my mom is going to spend a couple of days with her sisters next week. My mom hasn’t been doing too well lately. She has been having insomnia again and is very anxious she is going to have a nervous breakdown. I just can’t handle this right now.
  14. I’m grateful for everyone who has been supportive during this difficult time. Thank you to my followers for the prayers, well wishes, kind comments, and offers of support and hugs. I really wish I could thank you in person but that would blow the whole anonymous thing. I want to especially thank my husband who has been a rock for me even though he is going through his own hell with this. I know he reads my posts and is even okay when I vent about him. Thanks! Thanks to my daughter Angel who has been more like a best friend since we are so much alike. Thanks to my best friend Cindy who is always texting and calling to make sure I’m okay. She won’t let me slip away. Thanks to my son Alex who doesn’t fully know everything I’m going through but cares anyway. Thanks to my dog and my cat who still cuddle up to me when I manage to push everyone else away. Thanks for the good people out there who don’t get recognized but step up to help someone in need. You are the people that keep this world going and make it beautiful place to live in.
  15. I finished the What’s Normal book. Yeah, I’m pretty much screwed.
  16. Angel and I have been reading books together. We just finished One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and watched the movie. Seems like I could relate to that book better than the what’s normal book. LOL.
  17. Although I didn’t look at the stats, this must be my longest gratitude list yet. Wow, I must be a super positive person after all. I am making good on yesterday’s fortune of pushing away the negative today.

Grace uncommon, part 15

We did everything that we could, but there came a time when we could no longer care for Aunt Grace.

For several months, we were able to provide around the clock care for Aunt Grace. Then one weekend we couldn’t find a caregiver. My dad and I weren’t able to take care of Grace that weekend. It might have been a wedding in the family, I don’t remember. It was another obligation that required a weekend away. The other two caregivers were not available either. My parents had no choice but to have Grace stay the weekend in a nursing home for respite care.

It was a Monday morning when my dad and I waited outside of her house for her return. The van driver got lost on Grace’s return ride home. He couldn’t find her home address on the map for anything. One of the difficulties of living in a very small town before good navigation.

We weren’t quite prepared for the condition that she was returning in. We almost told the driver to take her back when he left. They returned her in a wheelchair unable to walk. She could no longer hold her head up. Her head was tilted to one side. She could no longer speak right. Her words came out in a slurred moan. She couldn’t chew food. She choked on water. 

My parents took Grace back to the doctor. He said that she was starting to have small strokes. We could no longer provide the care that she needed at home. We did the best that we could.

 

Grace uncommon, part 13

It was the scariest night I spent at Aunt Grace’s.

Aunt Grace lived in the same big farmhouse her whole life. However, the family business replaced the farm that should have been next door. My great-grandparents built the house in the early 1900’s. At one time, the unincorporated town that she lived in was bustling and alive with businesses, families, and even a train that ran through the town.

The town grew old right around the time Aunt Grace did. A lot of the major businesses pulled out of town leaving behind vacant buildings. Big old houses, the old grocery store, the dance hall in the bar, and even the old bank that Grace worked at were turned into cheap apartments. Weeds grew along the creek that trickled through town instead of flowers and freshly mowed grass like before. The family business shut down and the windows were boarded.

Aunt Grace’s house was always cold and drafty in the winter. Her house was even cool in the summer. She didn’t have A/C. She didn’t really need it. I remember it being a hot summer night that eventful evening. We slept with all the windows open. The kids and I stayed with Grace during the week without Paul because he had to work the next day. Even though my dad didn’t seem to mind staying up all night with Grace during the week, he sometimes needed a break.

That night after I put the kids and Grace to bed, I settled myself in on the couch outside of Grace’s bedroom. I awoke to shouting in the middle of the night. I looked out the window to see four men violently fighting outside under the street light. Punches were thrown. Men were dancing around in a bloody ballet. Does someone have a knife? What am I going to do? Will I witness a murder tonight? I have to call the police. But how am I going to dial Grace’s old rotary phone in the dark?

I am very afraid. If they hurt each other, what could they do to us? What if Grace wakes up screaming like she usually does? What if the children wake up crying? I feel vulnerable. I can’t protect anyone. I can’t get to the phone. I’m afraid to draw attention to the house. Don’t turn on the lights. All the windows are open with only a screen keeping them out. I am afraid they will see me watching in horror. I am afraid they will hear my ragged breaths.

I watched for those minutes that seemed like hours. The men stagger away into the darkness no longer under the street light. Do they linger in the backyard? Do they mean any harm? The adrenaline pumps through my veins preventing sleep. I can’t believe what I just saw.

Aunt Grace slept most of the night.

Grace uncommon, part 12

I remember it being a very difficult weekend. It probably would have been in the top ten worst weekends of my adult life. But who wants to keep track of such things.

I don’t think that I could adequately describe how it feels to take care of a loved one that is suffering and dying from dementia. It was different from being a caregiver for my autistic brother, Matt. Sure, they both had good days and bad days. With Grace it was a gradual decline. Most days I didn’t recognize her anymore than she recognized me. I grieved for her while she will still living because she was already gone.

I was exhausted to the point of where I thought I could no longer hold on to the loose strings of my sanity. I hadn’t slept. Dealing with sleep deprivation was never a strong suit of mine. My patience was running thin. I was worn down.

It was one of those weekends that Aunt Grace was up every hour during the night. I “slept” on the couch right outside of her bedroom. Just when I was almost back to sleep, she would be up again. The kids would be up in a few hours and I hadn’t slept yet. I was having a hard time.

As I was walking with Grace to the bathroom, she looked right at me and asked me my name. I replied, “My name is Alissa.” Aunt Grace looked at me and responded, “I once knew a girl by the name of Alissa. She was a very kind and caring girl. I think that if you met her, you would really like her.” She was talking about me without knowing who I was.

I think at that very moment, God was looking down upon me with mercy. He gave me a glimmer of light to help guide me down a dark road. It was such a meaningful blessing to me that it motivated me to finish the race strong. It was exactly what I needed to get through.

I will never forget that moment.

Grace uncommon, part 11

And then one day it happened. Grace did what she always told us not to do.

Aunt Grace told everyone not to get old.

My parents took Grace to the doctor for a check up. She failed the dementia test. Soon after that, she was no longer able to take care of herself. My dad, despite all of his shortcomings as a father, was great with his elders. He became Grace’s primary caregiver. He stayed with Grace every night, except on weekends. My autistic brother Matt still lived at home and my mom worked full-time. At the time, I was staying home with my three kids that were between the ages of 4 and 9. I became the day time and weekend caregiver. One other caregiver worked day time hours and another did weekends. 

Aunt Grace needed 24 hour care. The evenings were especially grueling since Grace would wake up at the minimum of three times a night to go to the bathroom. Some nights she was up every hour all night. She would scream until someone came and got her up. Over time, we tried sleeping pills at night. She would still wake up agitated and try to get up but be very uncoordinated. Sleeping pills were not a good option. 

So the weekends I spent there, I was up all night with Grace getting at best a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Then my kids would wake up early. I was so exhausted. I had to be within two rooms away from Grace at all times because she would try to get up from her bed or rocking chair by herself and fall without assistance.

It was difficult to do with the kids because although Aunt Grace could not see well she had great hearing. If the kids made any noise at all, she would call them over so that she could flail her arms at them. She would yell at them and try to hit them. I often told the kids to leave her alone and set up a play room for them at the opposite end of the house. I find it sad that they remember her as a crabby old lady, not knowing the wonderful person she was before the dementia took over her person.

We spent a lot of time together. While we sat with Grace I helped my oldest daughter with her multiplication facts. Aunt Grace was a math wiz. She always jumped in with the answers before Angel could. But she didn’t remember our names. She didn’t know who we were. I spent a lot of time scrapbooking nearby. It was a time in my life where I was forced to sit in silence and reflect a lot.

By the time I became Aunt Grace’s caregiver, I had a lot of experience. Not only did I have 3 kids of my own, I  provided care for my autistic brother. I worked my way through college as a caregiver for an older gentleman with paranoid schizophrenia and an elderly woman with dementia. So it really didn’t bother me that I also had to bathe Aunt Grace. After awhile when she could no longer stand in the shower, I helped give her sponge baths. She was pretty angry with me for bathing her since she was always cold. Even on the warmest summer days, she needed her electric blanket turned on high. 

Our goal was to keep her at home as long as we could. It wasn’t easy because she was no longer the Grace that we remembered. In retrospect, even though it seemed like a long time while we were going through it, it really didn’t last that long. Plus it felt good to know that we did everything that we could to be there for her in her darkest hours even if she might not have realized it. 

Grace uncommon, part 3

I remember when she first started to slip.

I took the kids over to visit Aunt Grace. They made a picture frame for her out of popsicle sticks. They glued candy hearts on the frame and put a cute picture inside.

The next time that we went to visit, the picture of the kids was gone. Grace pulled all of the candy off of the frame and ate them. She had one of the popsicle sticks soaking in water to get the candy remnants off.

That was the beginning of the end.