HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU HEARD IT? YOU CAN’T CHANGE ANYONE BUT YOURSELF.
I did not really absorb it – jut heard it, nodded, – of course – and gave it lip service.
At 78 I might be getting it. Not through my own will. Living with your husband who has Alzheimer’s proves the saying to be so true.
It is deceptive because the patient seems rational. And you fall into the trap of just talking the way you once did, reasoning, pleading, getting manipulative. And some late night, during too much thinking, falling for thought riddles, you get a glimmer. A glimpse of what underlies all of this thinking and trying to “fix” things through talk or writing more notes.
The mind, pernicious monkey mind, takes charge at night. Count your breaths, press acupuncture points for sleep, make lists, try this, try that and try not to think all the while recognizing the monkey mind. The big joke about consciousness is this: try not to think. I circle around, how to cope better, how to find things that interest Bill, and how to find some time for me stuff.
He can’t change or learn because of Alzheimer’s – obvious right? You would think so but I keep thinking we can have a conversation and that some it will stick. I have thought of myself as not a pessimist or an optimist but a pragmatist. I want the facts, best and worst case outcomes and then time to make a decision and I am okay. The worrying, the late night stuff goes away once I see what I need to decide. Then, except for working this idea or plan, I am able to stop chewing away at it.
But – and this was a large revelation to me because it is reality right now. And I have avoided its scope of my 24 hour reality.
I cannot fix this.
This is nearly 3 weeks later and it seems as though a lot has happened but the days seem the same. Except Bill was ill with a cold and then seemed to be so out of reach. He slept after Thanksgiving dinner right after falling backwards while trying to get up from a lawn chair. Our dog, Judy was in his lap: I had just snapped a photo of them. When we got him home he wanted to sleep. He ate a little and kept sleeping through the evening. He may have had a mini-stroke. This has happened before – of course, we fear a major stroke which is why we watch and check signs throughout the night.
He woke the next morning with no symptoms. I had seen this before following similar incidents. And what of all this: the days are much the same but I am tense. I thought today – I remind myself of an over anxious mother, always afraid the child will fall, get sick, not get invited to the party. Just one fear after another. I wasn’t like this as a mother of an active child but I am a helicopter care giver, for sure.
And the point of this is I am focused now on how to deal with Alzheimer’s, not on elections or outcomes. There wait the demons that rob peace – political news, the anger, the fear that I won’t let get me. For me, for you, as far as I know, all we can do is right here, right now. Veer off and strange demons pop into your thoughts. The world is big, the suffering is great and here in America, we feel safe.
We aren’t safe, no one is safe from life. I have a long history of following politics, working in politics an avid interest in the dirtiness of it all, the money, the privilege, the whole sorry mess. I quit all that before the election and have learned to detach. It is a bad movie out there in some ways and I live in a movie of my own which requires all of my attention. I no longer have room for anger, outrage, regret. I seek a day without incident, a peaceful evening and sleep.
I feel free since I retired from the news and things I cannot fix. It is an illusion, I know, and it feels good. I am confined to the house or having someone be here so that I can go out and many wouldn’t see that as free. More on that later.
A thought “ just because they can’t remember the answer does not mean they can’t keep asking the question”.