Thursday, December 29, 2005

On Being Home at Christmas

As most of you know, I don’t tend to write about family or work here. I’m going to break my rule with this post. I don’t think any of my family reads my blog as I haven’t told them about it, but just in case, I’ll probably only leave this up for a few days.

Although I have little desire to live there, as one raised up in North Carolina, the Old North State will always be home and it was good to be there for Christmas this year. However, it would be quite a stress to say that our little trip south was completely idyllic or stress free. Sure, there were moments such as running around in the boat off Lookout, or in the backwaters of lower Cape Fear, walking on the beach, and attending the Candlelight Services on Christmas Eve. But there was also a lot of tension. For the past year, my brothers and sister and I have known that something was happening to Mom. Last summer, after a series of test, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. So this year, we all planned on being there on Christmas. We almost made it; one of my brothers who lives six hours away had to cancel at the last minute when a stomach virus ran through his children. But the rest of us were there and even his family got down a few days later. It was good to see everyone and it was good to be there on Christmas morning.

Some might think that evenings around my parent’s house are strange. The TV is seldom on. We read and talk and listen to music and occasionally work puzzles or play games. Mom has always had a habit of reading aloud stuff she finds interesting, although some of the stuff that she read this trip left me scratching my head. Not only was it not interesting, I’m not sure she knew what she was reading. She read odd tid-bits out of the newspaper, and on several occasions re-read the same tid-bit an hour or so later without realizing that she’d already read it. Then there was the evening she picked up and started to read the Consumer Reporter Buyer Guide that had come in the mail. Although none of us, to my knowledge, are in the market for a new car, she’s read about each one, saying this one gets a solid black dot for reliability and this one model gets only half a dot for safety and so forth. Then she’d ask about different cars. "Who makes Acura?" she asked several times. It was all very strange; no one really listened. The rest of us were busy putting together my daughter’s toys or reading our own books and just acknowledged that she had said something. We went to bed when she started in on washing machines.

The touching part of all drama was my father. He really loves my mother, a love that has grown stronger in fifty years of marriage. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for my mother and it shows. Sometimes he does too much, such as answering her questions and taking over for her in the kitchen. But mostly he doesn’t seem to be affected by her strange behavior that, in a heavy enough dose, would drive me up the wall. He’s still her knight in shining armor. I don’t know how he does it and when I compare myself to him, I feel inadequate and wish I could be more like him.

One last thing, on Tuesday, my dad and daughter and I went out with my brother and his son, to do some target shooting out off the lower part of the Cape Fear River. We spent a good hour up on shore and when we came back, the tide had come in quite a bit. My nephew and father and daughter had a good laugh when my brother and I both fell into deep water when we stepped into a hole. Later that night, my daughter told me she was sorry she laughed and assured me that she was ready to go out and get me if I didn’t get up. But we got up fine and nothing except our clothes got wet and we got back into the boat for a chilly ride back to the dock.


  1. I'm glad I came over today to catch this. Ahh... Very touching. My dad was starting to not be himself for about a year before he died in November from complications from a car accident. I wonder how it would have gone otherwise.

  2. Your father is fine and so are you.

    In many ways it can be more difficult for you at this stage; your father takes over in the kitchen etc but doesn't have the heavy caretaking specialities he probably will in the future.

    You're her son; she's your mom. She was the adult. It's very difficult Sage

    If you need to talk I'm a licensed social worker and one of my specialities was dementia

  3. Sage, thanks for the moving christmas story. I also dragged my family to my Moms house for Christmas. It had been probably about 18 years since we had shared the day together and everyone knew we would not have been there if Mom did not have bone marrow cancer. Watching those we love grow old too fast and wilt too quickly is very difficult but you and I, we were making memories for all involved and can look back and hopefully find no regrets. Be Blessed today Sage.
    PS I am the one in the vest- I guess you never saw me in Butler PA.

  4. Sage, I'm sorry to hear this. We have experienced a lot of dementia and Alzheimer's in our family, and it is disheartening to watch. One of the best things you can do is collect old photos that she can relate to and sit down with her to talk about them. I wish you well.

  5. Thank you for sharing this story. I'm sure it's not easy for you or your family. Best to you.

  6. Thank you all for your kind words. Colleen, you've been in my prayers with the lose of your father. Red Queen and Laurie, my throughts and prayers are with you and your families as you deal with similar issues. Pia, thanks for the offer and I might ask for an appointment one day at a virtual couch... well, maybe that's a psychologist.