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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Pieces of Life

Old model A rusting away - Marc Andrew

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
*

Photo: Marc Andrew

Black Holes

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This is an abridged version of my poem, Black Holes in the Brain, showing the effects of Alzhiemer’s disease on a person. During the stressful transition from independent living to confined living the confusion for my father-in-law was greatly increased. I posted his Wandering/Wonderings earlier this week.

Bjorn from d’Verse~Poets Pub asked us to consider the use of punctuation in poetry. It helps shoe line breaks and increases flow for the reader. This one is full of punctuation. It was written four years ago after working through this difficult transition.

Black Holes In My 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 grandfather was just like this.
He would apologize for his memory all the time.
I hope I never get that way.”

“By the way, where is Mother?

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Photo: Dwight L. Roth

Join us at d’verse :  https://dversepoets.com

Note: This evening, after this had posted, we got word that he had died.

 

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/

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

Dad Turned 90 Today

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Dad is Ninety

Dad turned ninety today

Although he didn’t remember

Living in a world of memory loss

The short term completely gone

Living only in the moment

One experience at a time

Forgetting the past he presses on

To reach the finish line

Waiting now with serenity of heart

But not the same of mind

Barely getting up out of his chair

He rolls with his walker here and there

Unstable security allows him to move

A forgetful memory keeps him out of the groove

Proclaiming to us that he’s still in good health

Not realizing the creeping stealth of his situation

He says he is thankful he lasted this long

Hoping to see us on our next vacation

He still recognizes our faces

But names slip through the cracks

And when it’s time to go he’s sad we have to run

He forgets we were there each time we go

And exclaims each time we come in

His face brightens up as he says hello

Surprised over and over to see us again

But while we are there it’s a special time

To see everyone brings him joy

He has not lost his humor or wit

Still catches a funny joke we tell

And has a good chuckle at it

Some things in his brain are still working

He loves to have some fun

He enjoyed his party and all his friends

Until they had to run

About most things he asks

It must be quite confusing

To see us there and then we’re gone

The memory just won’t last

Living to a ripe old age sounds good

The goal of many I am sure

But for me it’s a journey I hope not to take

Let me go while I still remember

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Photo: Dwight L. Roth

Black Holes in My Brain

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One of the most difficult things one can encounter is losing control of your life. This poem is an account of the anxieties and feeling of loss that occurred when my father-in-law realized he could no longer remember what was happening in his life. His wife was diagnosed with brain cancer and he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. We were waiting for a facility to open where he could receive the care he needed.  During that interim period he experienced great anxiety which is depicted in the sometimes word for word dialogue poem below.

Black Holes In My 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?”