Today at d’Verse, Mish asked us to choose an object, that means something special to us, and write a poem beginning with the line… “This is not a _________” Eight years ago we flew to Edmonton, AB to make care arrangements for both of my wife’s parents. Her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor and her father was suffering from Alzheimer’s. It was a traumatic time for all of us. When we finally returned home the end of January, I poured my emotions into this painting depicting their life in Alberta. To me, this is much more than a painting. It is a piece of family history!
“Helen, where are you! When are you coming home. I miss you, please…let me know when you return. I will be down in Bruce’s room watching Wheel of Fortune.”
Paul wrote these notes carefully and neatly on the back of the napkin he brought back from the dinning room. His mind smoky, his focus clouded, he thought to himself, “Reading what I have just written, I now believe she may be gone for good.” His mind soon clouded again as he leaned back in his recliner.
In the time since he moved into his new apartment, he had not seen his wife Helen. He could not imagine where she might be. She might come through the door at any time. Day after day he waited and wondered. He left notes for her, in case she returned, while he was out, but to no avail.
Today at d’verse, Lillian is guiding our Prosery. Prosery is where we take a given line from a poem and incorporate that line into a prose piece of only 144 words. Today she asked us to include the line: “Reading what I have just written, I now believe” taken from Louise Gluck’s Faithful and Virtuous Night and her poem Afterwards.
I decided to write my piece about the emotions and feelings of one with Alzheimer’s disease. Eight years ago my father-in-law had to be confined to a care facility in the weeks following Christmas. Although he seemed to adjust well to his new environment, not being with his wife was very traumatic for him. This is a glimpse of that time. Although we took him to see her, he did not remember after he was back at his residence.
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.
Age does disturbing things to some minds. Alzheimer’s disease leaves many feeling like their memories are only scattered pieces. Life no longer makes sense, as short-term memory disappears. Stress levels increase and shut down. Confinement can become necessary to protect the person from wandering off or putting themselves in harm’s way. Some still remember the distant past and days of childhood. Happy and traumatic events from the past get repeated over and over again. Questions to visitors are repeated over and over again as well. It is very sad to see a person deteriorate in this way.
Aging rusts the soul
Life scattered like lights and doors
Falling leaves hide rust
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.