Monday, January 04, 2010

You Can't Go Home Again (well, you can, but it ain't the same)

I'm in North Carolina. Although I seldom write about my family, I have on occasion broken this rule to write about my parents. This is an update I wrote the second morning I was here. The photo of the tidal creek was taken on New Year's Day, near my parents home.
She mostly sits. She needs help getting up and down. Once up, she walks slowly and on a stroll from one room to the next, she‘ll stop and get lost looking at something. She has to be helped to the bathroom and reminded to eat and drink. Her peek-squeak dog dropped his bone in her lap yesterday. She picked it up, looked at it and then held it for hours. When I talk to her, she looks at me as if she’s trying to figure me out. She sleeps a lot, even sitting up, and she often hums to herself, mostly hymns. She doesn’t say much; if asked if she wants something, her normal answer is ‘no.“ Yet, if you fix her a drink or prepare her food, she’ll say “Thank You.” Sometimes she laughs at herself and her limitations, but not nearly as often as before. It’s as if she no longer knows how much she doesn’t know. On occasion, she’ll start to ask me a question. For a brief moment, she sounds like her old self: “I thought you were… Will you please… What are you… Can you get…” I immediately jump to attention, but before she finishes the sentence, she forgets her question or request. When I ask her what it was, she gives me a blank stare and seems to retreat into the recesses of her mind. The unfinished questions remind me that there are words still needing to be said, but how? She’s my Mom. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2005.

I spent much of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day here with a shovel in my hand. When friends stopped by and asked what I was doing, I told them I was trying to discover where my father had buried the family’s gold. In truth, I dug a trench and placed a conduit and ran a ten gauge line to the shed by my dad’s boathouse (160 feet), so he could move a small freezer there for ice and bait. Digging in this sand is easy, but it's not always sand. There are plenty of roots. Then my father had problems with the down flow well on his water-to-air heat pump (the well that the water flows back into the ground). There were lots of digging to discover the problem (a hose clamped had failed). I’ve still not found the gold. It’s been good to spend time with Dad. On January 2nd, I drove upstate to spend time with my Grandma and to see my younger brother and my sister. I got back this evening and after dinner, came down to a nearby coffee shop for internet access. We don’t talk much about Mom; there’s not much to be said. When we do talk, we get melancholy.


  1. I'm sorry Sage, I know it's hard. Several in my family have struggled with Alzheimer's. Last time I was in AL I took time to visit my Great Aunt. I spent much of my childhood living with her and treasure every memory. On previous visits she was very confused when she saw my children because they look so much like me, and she didn't seem to know me. This past time I was alone. There were several times that I felt she knew who I was. A look. Something she said, or asked. It really does make you jump and take advantage of the moment.

  2. I remember reading stories about your mom in the past and wondering how she was doing. Thanks for the update. It sounds like she has some good moments but as you say, not as much as she used to and I'm so sorry to hear that. I'm glad you were able to spend time with her and your dad, and got to see more of your family. Hang in there, my friend. :)

  3. Sage, I'm so sorry. I know it is very hard on you and your dad to see her decline like that. But it is good that you can spend some time with them. I'm sorry we couldn't connect - maybe next time.

  4. That's very hard. To see someone you have known well disappear inside of themselves. My sympathies.

  5. Brother you will think your way into the needed thoughts that will give you peace with the current events at home. You after all are the ONLY sage eh?

    Be Wise.

  6. Kontan, thanks and sorry to hear about your aunt

    Ily, thanks for your concern

    Kenju, sorry that I wasn't in Raleigh this trip

    Charles, thanks for the kind words

    Walking Guy, LOL, my sarcasm comes back to haunt me

  7. Funny that I just wrote down the title of your blog while reading a book on family. It is so true that you can never go back home because home is no longer how you remembered it.

    Thanks for sharing your mother's story. Some day in the future she will get her memories back and then we can all rejoice.

  8. This sucks. Who knew that watching someone fade away physically would be a better option than watching them go this way.

    Just an FYI..a lot of people look at you, trying to figure you out, when you talk especially when you come back here from the south and your accent is stronger. :-)

  9. When i see my mom needing help even to walk, I can't help remembering when i was a kid and she was an energetic and courageous young woman, I feel sad.

    I understand so well your melancholy.

  10. I'm so sorry Sage. Ed's right. It might take years even after her death but I promise one day you'll laugh at all the good times

    I know you were really looking for the family gold ")

  11. Thanks for sharing your experience, it must be so hard. I'm glad you got to visit everyone, and help your Dad.

  12. This was so sad, Sage. Made me think of my Grandma.

  13. Ed, our memories often do a lot of cleaning up of things!

    Murf, I think both are hard... But it is difficult to see her looking normal and not being able to carry on a conversation

    Leni, I know what you are feeling...

    Pia, problem is, I never found it!

    Beau, thanks.

    Silley, DIdn't realize it was a haiku: 7, 3, 6?

    TC, thanks, I remember your grandma stories.

  14. That is heartbreaking for me to read, my friend. I can't imagine how it must be on you and your dad.

  15. Sage
    Thanks for sharing; may I say, and I know you've probably told tons of others the same thing ... 'your presence by her side is probably one of the best all-season gifts she could have, as it probably was for your dad too.

    Maybe we can never be the same going back home, because we're changing ... every week I try to get back home [its only two hours, and one state away] but every time
    something is different - can't put my finger on it yet?

  16. No comment, other than to say, your friends, especially those of us who have endured "The Long Goodbye," are with you, in spirit at least.

  17. My mom's in the same state of mind. She used to come up with outrageous confabulations like she was engaged to John Mellencamp. Now she sits or roams the house when get her for a visit. It's really hard to see her like that. She knows somethings wrong because I can hear her singing opera in the bathroom (she likes the echoes) and the words let me know she knows. "What the H*** is WRONG with me?"

    VERY hard. My sincere sympathies.

  18. Sage this is, well so heartfelt, is that the right wording? beautiful? real? I'm so sorry about your mother. I can't and don't want to even imagine what that would be like but the part about the digging, all of it was just a really nice post that should make us all appreciate what we have as well as treasured memories.