Youth is wasted on the young.
Why do we not recognize then, that life is short and those around you...teaching you, are packed with the knowledge of a lifetime and that knowledge will one day...be gone.
Why do people get Alzheimer's?
While I was out yesterday shopping for pottery I saw I had a message on Facebook from my husband's cousin. He told us his dad's condition had worsened and he was moved to a nursing home just outside of our area on Monday and was placed in the secured Alzheimer's unit there.
This uncle is my husband's mother's brother. And he is only eight years older than my husband. We last saw and spoke with him for a short length of time when we were at the funeral of my husband's other uncle. You could see he was a bit different, but we didn't know at the time he was suffering from anything. He said hello to us both and said he forgot our first names. Then he said, " Her picture is still in my truck. It's a shame what happened to her." He knew we were Angie's parents, and he remembered her.
As far as forgetting our names I expect that happens with age so I didn't give it another thought. His behavior, well, I thought he was merely joyful....as I watched him scamper about the breakfast afterward talking with everyone from table to table.
His wife told us what was happening and kept apologizing for his endless chatter. I found it odd
He was sitting at our table reminiscing with my husband over the cars they had years ago and both seemed to be loving the trip down memory lane. I sat and watched them both knowing how much that talk meant to him.
So when my husband asked if we could go to the nursing home to see him, of course, I said yes. But I would be lying if I said I wasn't apprehensive.
I am not a fan of nursing homes. My grandmother (my mom's mom) ended up in one after a stroke and she was there for a VERY long time. She lived until her late 90's.
At first, it is the change from home to a new surrounding because the quality of daily medical care needed supersedes what can be provided at home. You don't want to accept it...but you do. And you go. Occasionally. You see her in the hall, in her wheelchair with others around her and she is smiling and interacting, and you smile and pray it never happens to you.
When my mother passed, we couldn't tell her. The doctors feared she would have another heart attack. We would just make up an excuse why she hadn't seen her lately...and nana would be content, until the next time you visited and she would ask for her again.
As the calendar pages turn, the weight of the loss of family surrounding you daily and the ravages of
And when the call comes that your grandmother is gone your both saddened and grateful. As horrible as that sounds.
Now Alzheimer's is something we hear about, read about...but have no real idea about until you see it face to face to understand. And then, it is overwhelming.
The unit Uncle Steve is in (and I do thank the Good Lord there is a place he can be in) is secured with a passcode to get in to and to get out of.
The minute the door light turns green and you push open the heavy steel door, the smell of urine hits you so hard in the face you do take a step back. In front of you, there is a counter where the staff (God love them) work from and women and men in varying stages of dress and condition are rolling around in their wheelchairs. Some speaking in what I can only say is gibberish and others staring off.
We asked which direction his room was and we were told it's a square-shaped floor that in either direction we take we will find him. When we told her what the room number was, she said, "Yes Steve was just here, he is now in his room."
I tried to keep tunnel vision as I walked down the long hall, not wanting to cry at what I could see, and smell and feel...and I am not trying to be dramatic in writing that...but it was for me. I felt uncomfortable knowing where I was, and not knowing what I was going to see next.
I will say I was grateful his Aunt was there in the room sitting next to Steve. He had just finished eating in his room... a pale, lifeless small space ... shared with another man....with a huge window to the world he will never be a part of again. He was sipping a small pink box of white milk and said hello to us...and told us he was drinking his beer.
I laughed and told him I needed one.
He asked me for a hug and kissed my cheek, and told my husband he could give his aunt a hug too.
Aunt Pat told him who we were and he started mumbling a bit and then he started crying. He grabbed the white washcloth off of the dusty nightstand and dried his tears with it. She turned away and dried hers and I stood
I will not cry in front of this man....I GET TO LEAVE.
We talked with her as to what had been happening and she explained the difficult decision she and the family had to make. Hearing how at night, (at home) he would put on his cap, and coat and would ask when his wife was coming to get him. He would insist on sleeping with his coat, hat and shoes on, to be ready when she got there. She told us of other more dangerous things he did and she was worried he was going to hurt himself or burn the house down. His illness had progressed quickly the past three months.
Everything she shared with us, he would interact by mumbling...incoherently. He would suddenly jump up and go to the hall and yell for another patient and come back
Aunt Pat said the pants he was wearing were not his. And....we all laughed. Even Uncle Steve. She doesn't know where his clothes got to but she knows he and the others each roam around the patient rooms and take things. She found a pair of new white sneakers two sizes too big on his window sill, and can't figure out where his shoes got to. Or his hat.
Oh, and he likes taking white washcloths it would seem.
She asked him if he was tired and ready for a nap and he said clearly, " No I don't have time for a nap I have things to do." Then began muttering again and pacing to look out his room door.
The man who was one of the hardest working men I know, devoted to his family always....here. Like this.
I don't understand.
It was time to go and he wanted another kiss and a hug and I gave it to him, and Aunt Pat. I walked back down that hallway and let my husband push the code in for the door. I was quiet as we made our way to the front doors of the nursing home and held it open for someone pushing in a wheelchair. I asked hubby if we could stop at my aunt's house a few blocks away.
I walked up to her sidewalk...tapped on the back door and upon hearing her say come in, I slipped off my boots, coat and ran to her and couldn't stop hugging her or crying. She told me she figured she would see me that it would be too much. She grabbed me a ginger ale from the fridge and told me to sit and for a bit over an hour she talked with both of us, trying to calm us down. Hubby was quiet, looking down at the floor while I was trying to explain what had me so upset. And it was everything...but the worst for me was the mumbling....as it reminded me of my mother the day she passed. Rallying the day before, we were hopeful (unknowing that is what happens before the end) her face so frustrated trying to communicate with us...with confused mumbles.
We don't always realize the potential pitfalls of life.
We don't cherish the smallest of gifts, such as communication.
We think we are immortal.
But There are things worse than death.
I know I was blessed for a time to have grandparents that shared life stories with me.... and Oh How I Wish they were still here now when I know the TRUE value of those stories and could appreciate them more.
Youth is wasted on the young....but thankfully my daily life lessons remind me that I am never too old to learn...or recognize their importance.