Where Have You Been?

My father-in-law. who had Alzheimer’s, was confined several years ago after his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor. This all took place within a month and a half. Initially we took him to visit her in her care facility across the city; but. he forgot he saw her by the time he got back to his residence.
It was very difficult for him that first year and after she passed away. When we went to visit we found notes written on his dinner napkins asking where she was and why she did not come back. It was heartbreaking to read his pleas for answers. Although we explained everything to him it was not long till he again asked the same questions. The note writing stopped after about a year. He seemed to be resigned that he was there by himself and only asked about her on occasion. He was there for five years and died in 2018.

In the winter of life the fog sets in
obscuring the obvious and familiar
Leaving one to memories past;
today’s events already forgotten.
A perspective very different
from yours and mine;
Time stands still …
like looking in a mirror to the past;
Closing the windows of the present.
Anxieties not understood
plague the mind and thoughts.
Looking for a spouse long gone;
Expecting to see her any moment;
Wondering where she is
and when she will return.
Distraught to the point of resignation
the fog becomes more intense.
Time slows down as the hour glass trickles
until finally // the top glass is empty.

This beautifully haunting song by Kathy Mattea helps bring the sadness of this disease into perspective.

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Losing Touch…

See the source image

This incident happened  several years ago when we were shopping at our Walmart. It is sad to see anyone loose touch with reality. But when you see someone in public who appears to be lost and disoriented, it is very sad.  I wrote this poem after seeing a man like this as we were checking out. It was a very emotional experience to see this.

Losing Touch …The Point of No Return

He was wondering across the checkout lanes
At the local Super Wal-Mart
With a look of concern on his face
As he looked across the carts
He was unaware of his condition.
His pants were soaked and soiled
His only concern was to find his wife…
And surely she would come through soon
As I watched him move from lane to lane
My heart went out to this man
Who seemed not to know the state he was in
But had only one plan
I asked him if I could be of help
He said he didn’t think so
She would be coming through very soon.
And he wandered on down the row
I went to find a manager
Who could help him find his wife
But when we returned he had vanished
He was nowhere in sight
I still think about the old man not much older than myself
And wonder if he found her
And what it must be like
Not to know who you are
I cried many tears as I recalled
The empty look, the lack of concern
Unaware of the condition he was in
And for the mind that had grown dim
I wonder if I too will reach
That point of no return
The place where my only concern will be
Just to find the one I love

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Photo from Edge Images: cbsnews .com

Wandering/Wondering

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The transition from living on your own to living in an Alzheimer’s  care facility is a real paradigm shift. My father in law struggled greatly with the confusion of loss and change. When his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to be placed in a care facility, it took longer for him to be placed. We took turns staying with him during that time. Not having his wife there with him and his onset of confusion created a lot of anxious moments for him. This is one example that occurred while I was sleeping in the living room.

Wandering/Wondering

“Oh, it’s you,” he said with a puzzled look

“I did not know you were here!”

This was the third time that night

“I just came out to make sure the door was locked.”

“When did you get here? ”

“We’ve been here for a week!”

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Photo: Dwight L. Roth

Mish asked us to write a Quadrille of only 44 words and use the word Puzzle as our prompt. Come join us at d’Verse~Poets Pub.

https://dversepoets.com

Lost

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What happens when things grow foggy and you no longer know who you are? A few years ago we were in Wal-Mart when I noticed a man who seemed lost and confused. Not only that, but he was obviously not in control of himself. He kept wandering back and forth through the lines. It was so very sad to see this man who was so out of touch with reality. This is my account of that incident.

Losing Touch …The Point of No Return

He was wondering across the checkout lanes
At the local Super Walmart
With a look of concern on his face
As he looked across the carts

He was unaware of his condition.
His pants were soaked and soiled
His only concern was to find his wife…
And surely she would come through soon

As I watched him move from lane to lane
My heart went out to this man
Who seemed not to know the state he was in
But had only one plan

I asked him if I could be of help
He said he didn’t think so
She would be coming through very soon.
And he wandered on down the row

I went to find a manager
Who could help him find his wife
But when we returned he had vanished
He was nowhere in sight

I still think about the old man not much older than myself
And wonder if he found her
And what it must be like
Not to know who you are

I cried many tears as I recalled
The empty look, the lack of concern
Unaware of the condition he was in
And for the mind that had grown dim

I wonder if I too will reach
That point of no return
The place where my only concern will be
Just to find the one I love

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Photo: Dwight L. Roth

Some Endings…

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Some endings seem to be more difficult than others…

Pulling on heartstrings trying to sew the broken

Crying tears of sorrow for a love turned cold

Graduation brings a mixed bag of joy and apprehension

Knowing challenges // struggles // and hard work lay in store

On the only path to their growth and success

Friend separation leaves empty space // but never in our heart

True friendship never ends// no matter how far they roam

Reunions always seem like it was only yesterday

 

But // losing a loved one is the most difficult of all endings

A child before parent // an unimaginable ending

A parent who passes early leaves a giant hole in one’s heart

Cruel dementia is very difficult to accept

Living on without memory is an ending none of us desire

Living till we die is what we all hope and pray for

Some endings are more difficult than others

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Photo: Dwight L. Roth

While commenting on Robert Okaji’s post “Forgotten” I wrote the statement in the opening line of this poem. I decided to use it as today’s prompt. Check out his post:

Forgotten

 

Dad

 

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Alzheimer’s is the thief that keeps on stealing, slowly robbing you of all things present and finally all things past. We just returned from a visit with my wife’s father, who has been confined in an Alzheimer’s unit 2500 miles away from us. Our visits are great while we are there. He keeps remembering less and less as he now turns 91. This poem shares some of my thoughts as I reflect on our time together.

Dad

Though your mind has grown dim

Your personality is much the same

A surprised smile when we arrive

Your desire for family information…

That will not stay long in your memory

 

Your warm smile and appreciation

Always there when we visit

Always there when the staff helps you

Always there when we say goodbye

 

While we are there your joy

Is new every morning

Pockets of the past are still filled

With memory coins slowly slipping out

Through that black hole in your brain

 

Our visits are joyful // you still get my jokes

You laughter is genuine and full

Though you still ask our names from time to time

You are present in the moment // a gift every time

 

In spite of all you have been through

You have adapted and applied Paul’s words,

“In whatever state I am in //

…there I will be content.”

You won’t remember any of this

When we’re gone

But you sure enjoyed our visit

While we were with you

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Photo: Dwight L. Roth

 

His granddaughter Jen is walking for Justice to help  young girls caught in Sex trafficking. See her story on her blog at:

https://walkingthewayforjustice.wordpress.com/2018/04/19/cafe-calvary/

 

 

 

 

 

Fading Shades of Gray

Mother and Dad

Fading Shades of Gray  (a Hai bun)

Watching my father-in-law’s mind fade from shades of gray to black evoked a lot of emotion.  It became noticeable to my wife and me when we visited her parents in 2009. Driving us across Edmonton to the Science Center, he got mixed up and forgot how to get there. Apparently this happened before, because Mother had written the directions for him on index cards. Later she told us that one day he came out to the parking deck, after volunteering at the hospital and could not find his car. She kept tabs on him until 2012 when she developed a brain tumor.

Giving up his keys and driving privileges it was very hard on him, but the hardest thing for him to understand was when they were in separate care facilities. He would ask about her over and over, and could not quite comprehend what was happening. After she died, he kept expecting her to return. He is now 90 and seems to have adjusted to his confinement, even telling friends who visit that they should try to get a room there as well. He tells them that they take good care of him there.

Winter brain cells fade

Short term mem’ry turns to black

“Helen, Where are you?”

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Photo: Dwight L. Roth

Bjorn, at d’Verse~Poetry Pub asked us to write a Hai bun using the word gray. I chose to write on the graying effects of Alzheimer’s on the brain.

Visit us at: https://dversepoets.com/

Backspacing

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Backspace is a wonderful key on the computer. It allows us to correct a typo and end up with a perfect document.  As I was typing my poems for this blog, I became aware of how many times I have to backspace. It just comes naturally, like typing with all my fingers. In life, backspacing is not such a good thing. For those of us who are easily distracted, and find remembering difficult, backspacing becomes part of our day.  Forgetting to follow through with a task, not seeing the obvious, or becoming distracted in the middle of a task, are just a few of the things that make backspacing necessary. ADD is not something new. It has been around since time began. Some may feel it is done intentionally, but in reality it is just the way our brain works.

Backspacing

Fated to live retracing steps taken

Backspacing becomes the norm

A brain one wire short of perfection

Requires backspacing to be the norm

In bygone days erasures quickly met metal

Pen and ink scratched out those shorts

Some keep asking //thinking I should learn

But for me, backspacing is the norm

Distractions, only a second past, causes forgetfulness

A mind with a missing memory chip

Seems repetition should solve the problem

But with me, backspacing is the norm

Reminders in multiples of ten are needed

Lamenting the need to repeat again and again

Brings no healing to a chipless brain

For me backspacing is the norm

Names go through my canals // beat the anvils

And pass right on through // unless

Piggy-backed on another file //stored there for awhile

It may seem like I don’t care // and sometimes I am not aware

Forgetfulness becomes my greatest flaw

When I am old // perhaps I’ll be excused

They’ll call it Alzheimer’s …and lock me away

Saying for him backspacing is the norm

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Photo: Dwight L. Roth

 

Holes in my Brain

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I wrote this in January 2013, after  very traumatic family series of events. My wife’s mother was diagnosed with a inoperable brain tumor in November. Her father had been showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease for a year or two previously. Losing his keys and driving privileges was a major blow to his self esteem. As a result the siblings had to arrange for care for their mother and face the realization that their father would need to be confined and cared for during the remainder of his life. It was a very emotional time for all of us. He did not fully understand the impact of what was taking place. The following is a summary of the emotional roller coaster he went through while we stayed with him waiting for him to be placed. I posted this earlier, but feel it is important to share this again to help others understand what caregivers go through.

As sad as this story is, he has since adjusted to his new living quarters and the routines. We recently made the 2500 mile trip to help him celebrate his 90th birthday with some family and friends. It as a great party that he enjoyed, but the next day he did not remember how old he was nor that he had a party. These are the joys and challenges of Alzheimer’s. Living in the moment is all we have!

Memory Goes Out Through Black Holes in the Brain

“I have come to discover that I now have black holes in my brain.

Spaces of emptiness that never get filled.

Like the holes in my pants pocket the memories slip out…”

 

“Oh, you are here? Well I didn’t realize! When did you get here?

You have been here a few weeks? Well I didn’t remember.

Tell me something I should know…

What shall we talk about…”

 

“Can I do something for you… do you need a light on?

Would you like to watch the News if I turn it on?

Do you want me to set the table for breakfast?

Can I help you in some way?

Would you like a piece of chocolate? Go ahead have one!”

 

“Is this Sunday? Are we going to church today?

Where is Mother & when is she coming home?

She won’t be coming back home? Oh my!

These are things I should remember.

When will we go to see here again? Can we go today?

We were there today?

Why can’t I remember? Were we just there today?!”

 

“I remember my grandmother was just like this.

She would apologize for her poor memory all the time.

I hope I never get that way.”

 

“By the way, where is Mother?

Do you know when she will be back?

She’s at the home!!? I didn’t know.

Somebody should have told me!”

“When will she be coming home?

You say she won’t be coming home!?

Oh my, I will have to learn to cook!

Perhaps you can show me how to cook…”

I will have to take care of myself.

“I just discovered I have no money in my wallet!

Can you take me by the bank tomorrow to cash a check?

I should pay you something for your expenses.

You are keeping the expenses on a tab?

Well, I should pay you.

You will take care of me? But you can’t keep coming to stay with me?

I should pay you something to help with the expenses.

You are using a debit card… from my account?

Well, I wonder why the bank didn’t notify me about this.”

 

“Tell me, Where is Mother?

Oh yes, she is at the home… up on 104th Avenue…

near Hollyrood close to the church.

Have I ever been there? I have… I don’t seem to remember.

Will she be coming home this evening?

She’s Living there… all the time? For how long!?

She won’t be coming home again? Is she sick? What is wrong with her?”

 

“Can you take me with you when you go to see her?

Can we go this evening to see her?

We were just there this afternoon? Why can’t I remember that?”

 

“Good night, I must check to see that the door is locked.

 

I just came back out to see if I had locked the door.

Well it looks like all the doors are locked.

 

Is anybody there…

 

Oh, I just came back out to check to see if the door was locked.”

 

“Good Morning… Where is Helen?”

 

Written in memory of Ruth’s father. who was in the stress of losing his wife to a brain tumor as well as losing his own independence to Alzheimer’s disease during the Christmas of 2012.

Photo: Dwight L. Roth