"All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost."

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Picture pulling your car out of the garage in the morning, that's right...click on your seatbelt, adjust your mirrors, and set the radio to NPR. You're looking good and feeling refreshed with the knowledge that the day is new with no mistakes in it. You-are-ready-to-roll but, no. The unmistakable sound of grinding gears fills your ears and you suddenly sense you cannot shift out of reverse. That's it...take a deep breath and start the self-talk. This is hard, but I'm doing okay. Give us a smile and wave hello to the neighbor out watering his lawn, go on your way as if nothing is wrong, even though today, it's clear, you'll be driving to town backwards.

I am lately a hazard. My friends worry about me and leave warm, supportive messages on my voicemail. I don't make plans. I carry my cellphone around like oxygen and jump when it rings. My doctor says I need exercise. My cholesterol is high. I am addicted to the Food Network and shoot up Cupcake Wars and Ace of Cakes when I should be sleeping. I cry because there's dirt under my refrigerator. My husband surely wonders why he married me. My son keeps his distance. My brother thinks I'm ridiculous.

I am on a road trip. I don't like it because I'm awful tired of driving. My dad was forced to hand over his keys five years ago, so he's in the passenger seat. AD wants to ride shotgun and pouts in the backseat; he's a thief and so we hate him and give him the silent treatment. This particular journey has its own set of directions, the map is worthless, and there's only one exit. The overall view doesn't change - same old signs, worn out towns, major construction delays, ugly accidents, bad food, and ridiculous radio reception.

What's it called when you get lost in a state of grief, but no one has actually died? There must be a word which loosely defined means something is seriously backwards. People on the street see me driving in reverse and scratch their heads while thinking What is wrong with her? There are some who shout out directions and driving tips. Pull over. Get out of the car. You're going the wrong way.

My father is back in Hospice with ESC - End.Stage.Cardiac. Huh. It won't be Alzheimer's Disease that is the end afterall. 16 years ago, a pacemaker was installed in his heart and the battery needs charging. He won't be seeing a mechanic. There's just no way. He's hanging in there as all solidly built engines do, but you can tell he's petering out and riding on the fumes. He slows down by midday, way down, and his color goes gray. I park him carefully in his recliner and speak softly. He needs wax. The nurse says it's day to day, but could take months. Again, with the shitty itinerary.

Clearly the end is in sight, and dear God, I am grateful for it. I say goodbye to my father every day as if maybe it's his last, though I suspect it is not. There's a few more miles to go but, still, my eyes are peeled - looking for an oasis. We could both use a clean, well-lit place to stop. It's up the road apiece and we can't miss it; there's only one exit.


  1. Does it help to know that we are silent passengers in the car with you? We can't help you drive not do we share any of the costs that are robbing you blind and we're seeing the scenery through your eyes entirely. We don't seem to help with the trip at all but are grateful that you allow us to ride along, and we'll stick with you till journey's end.

  2. sigh. as i unload on you every single day, i temporarily forget everything you are going through. you are my rock. i love you. you are doing great.

  3. My mom has the early stages of Alzheimers.....She is doing ok, but cannot recognize my dad...her own husband of 52years. It's hard, but she is happy most of the times. We walk at night...she's happy, she is sad...Wondering where her husband is.. She asks me...do you remember your dad? He was a wonderful man. I had 4 children with him. I want to see him. I will die soon if I can't see him. We arrive home from our short walk and our small talk. She enters her home..she calls for her husband and she pretends to be happy. That's just it. she pretends. She will die of a broken heart soon. I try to keep her spirits alive and say to her..."Mom, I come to visit you almost everyday". I visit you and Dad.. This is dad. She responds...yes it is him, but I can't see him, but I like him... He is very much like your dad. It's sad. I love my mom very much and my dad.

  4. Even THESE memories are SO worth it, no matter how hard each day is. I'm so glad you are able to use writing as your outlet...you will appreciate seeing what you have written for many years to come. Remember that there may be only one exit, but once that exit is taken, YOU will still drive on...a bit sideways, and perhaps even MORE backwards for a bit, but eventually, that car will turn around. You might not even notice it as the turns are so slight. There will be days where you think you're driving forward and all of a sudden, the only explanation is black ice...again, know that it's temporary. YOU WILL DRIVE FORWARD AGAIN! Try to feel the blessings that surround you, and will support you, if you should stagger or even fall.

    On another note, the thing from this summer that I remember, shocking at first-but then found some truth in it was, "When I go, I hope I have Alzheimer's." I reacted QUITE shocked, but asked why. "I don't want to know when all those things are happening...I'll be better off not knowing." Something to think about.

    If you're interested, we've got a team for the Alzheimer's walk in Naperville in September. This will be our third year. I wanted our team name to be "We Can't Remember Our Team Name," but that didn't make the final cut! ; D We'd love to have you join us...

    Kisses and hugs and more...