The Twilight Years Are Here

The Twilight Years Are Here

Monday, November 5, 2012

Grief: Adrift on a Sea That Has No Direction

Grief must be the most insular of all emotions. Adrift on a sea that has no direction. Each time we grieve, for each person we lose in our lives, it is entirely different. It depends on the relationship we had one with another. Losing a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, a lover, a spouse, a child, a pet, etc. each creates vastly different emotions. I expected to feel the pain born of losing a parent even though I was only Dad’s daughter-in-law. I got it full force.

I knew it was coming long before anyone else did. He and I talked long and often about his desire to go to Heaven. We read the Bible and prayed over it together. He reaffirmed his faith in the Father, the son and the Holy Ghost. In our own ways, we prepared one another for what was coming… that Dad was going… soon. Over the last couple of weeks of his life, I silently grieved as I watched him slipping further away.

I never could have imagined that I would feel two entirely different types of grief. It was impossible for me to prepare myself for the overwhelming sense that I have lost a child. No one ever mentioned that I might feel this way. When you are the caregiver of someone who suffers from the latter stages of Alzheimer’s, you are caring for a child in so many ways. This child is entirely dependent on you for everything. You are solely responsible for cleaning, changing, dressing, feeding, teaching, protecting and loving them.

When you suddenly lose that child that’s inside the parent, there is a void that is staggering. How different your life becomes. How different my life became. For the first time in 3 years, I can leave the house without making sitting arrangements. I can go to the grocery store and not buy the staples that were such a part of his daily diet. (I can’t bring myself to go down the ice cream aisle for fear of dissolving into tears at the sight of his favorite tubs of vanilla.) I no longer have to go to the pharmacy here (seriously, I use to go at least 4 times a week).

I can’t begin to tell you how much I miss hearing him say, “I want my mommy.” I even miss the times he acted out because at least he was here to do it. On the morning of him being gone a week, I awoke in tears. I was saddened by the thought that it was the longest I had been apart from him in 3 years. I was blown away by the thought that each day would irrevocably take us further apart.

Before I had time to adjust to these changes, God moved me hastily forward. Dad died on Tuesday. The following Thursday, Mama passed out and fell. She busted her knees (both knees with chronic problems) because she went straight down on both knees as she lost consciousness. The impact was hard enough to cause compression fractures in 3 vertebrae and she broke 3 toes. I was there that night. I couldn’t have dreamed I would stay a week and a half. I couldn’t have guessed at the number of questions that would be answered while I was home.

Life is already changing at lightning pace. Mama needs more help than she would ever admit. We have a lot of loose ends with our home, jobs, school, etc. We have finally come to the conclusion that we are going to approach life from a rather unorthodox angle. I am going to be home in Florida from Saturday night until Tuesday morning. It will allow me to work my regular Sunday and Monday nights at Peggy’s and take care of the many things that are requiring attention at home. It will enable me to have time with Richard, Jeremy, Jordyn, Melissa, the kids, etc. Then I will be in Gulfport from Tuesday afternoon until Saturday afternoon with Mama. It will give me a chance to have the best of both worlds.

I am home now. For the first time in 3 years, I am in our own home. As much as I miss Dad, I do NOT miss the daily reminders that this was his home and we were just guests here! It’s odd to realize I don’t know if I’ll ever be a fulltime resident here again or not.

For a long time, people have asked me what I was going to do when Dad died. I never had an answer because I didn’t know what life would have to offer me. Now I do know. At least for now, I will be dealing with cancer as well as the aftermath of dealing with dementia.