“…May your days be merry and bright….and may all your Christmas’ be…..”
They sat in their living room watching a DVD of Thomas Kinkade Christmas. It was beautiful depictions of a wonderous time when snow made it a Winter Wonderland and horses were pulling sleighs. People were bundled in their 19th century garb and they were ice skating on picture perfect ponds.
My husband’s father had a camera snapping pictures of the TV screen. I didn’t understand why until “mom” said that it was the poor man’s way of getting a Thomas Kinkade picture….I don’t know if he seriously thought that he could take a picture and have it enlarged for a picture to hang on the wall or if he was being funny. I think that he was serious in his endeavor and I thought, “How bizarre!!”. But, in light of the circumstances, it isn’t.
Both of my husband’s parents have dementia. Mom’s diagnosis is Alzhiemer’s and Dad’s is organic brain atrophy. No matter what the diagnosis, it is dementia and they live in a fog every day. They move in and out of the shadows of time and of their mind. No one knows where they are most of the time. They repeat themselves in actions. Mom repeats the same sentence 2 or three times and if it is a question, you answer the question the same way two or three times. Sometimes, I think it is a different form of “Groundhog Day”. It is the repeating of repeating that repeats over and over again. It is hard on a sane person’s sanity because you know reality, but they are oblivious, so you are always struggling to right something that is always upside down. There is no way to describe what my husband’s brother lives with on a daily basis.
Most times, Brother spends his time trying to discover what has been done during the day and undoing it the next day. That is the “norm”. The disease is sneaky in that it hides behind a “normal” facade. By the time you realize that something is wrong, all of the poor judgements fall on top of them and it is a mountain that began as a molehill. Or, at least that is the way it happened in this family.
By the time that we realized that there was something terribly wrong, Mom and Dad had mounted a credit card debt that is over $23,000 with 33 percent interest, fraudulent financing on the mortgage and 23 new life insurance policies on Mom that were taken out over a 6 month period of time. It became very clear that something was wrong when their checking account was in the red to the tune of $1200 because all of the life insurances were set up on automatic withdrawal. By the time that Mom and Dad spent the money by going to the grocery store (going to the grocery happened at a rate of 3 times daily and they purchased the same things so there are mulitple bottles of steak sauce, boxes of cereal, gallons of ice cream, and still no food in the house) and eating every meal out because Mom forgot how to cook. The account was drained and the overdraft fees amounted to hundreds of dollars. Dad also forgot to pay the property taxes and file for tax exemptions so the house payment raised $200. The liteny of financial messes was like trying to unravel a plate of spagetti, no one knew where it began and where it ended.
That was two years ago. Now, Brother has closed out all of the new life insurance policies, consolidated most all of the banking accounts and he has Power Of Attorney so he can file taxes and talk to the credit card sharks, but it does little to try to save them financially. They are most likely going to have to file bankruptcy. How sad to live a lifetime and to have everything gone. But the time has come that Brother cannot live with them because he still has children at home and the children are being sacrificed on the alter of dementia. It has to stop and it has to stop now.
Mom had a “break” or an “episode” the week of Christmas where she forgot how to eat with a fork or spoon. She woke up in the middle of the night in a state of hysteria. She did not recognize her son, Brother, and she was calling for her mother. (Her mother had been dead for over 30 years) She lost control of her bowel and bladder. They called an ambulance and admitted her into the local hospital.
It seems that a Physician’s Assistant had prescribed synthetic morphine patches to help with back pain. The patches seemed to “run out” and Dad would put new ones on early. Brother said that he had taken her off of the patches. This threw her into withdrawal which pre empted this break. If she didn’t come out of this, she was going to have to go to a nursing facility.
When Brother explained this to Dad, he just stared into space. He adopted this “deer in the headlights look” and did not acknowledge that he understood what Brother had said. We learned later that when Mom said that she wanted to go home for Christmas, Dad told her that she was going to a nursing home. It became clear that Dad understands, he wasn’t in agreement with what was said at the time.
It seemed a “miracle” when a few hours later, Mom came back from wherever she was and was oriented to day and time. (This was remarkable because she wasn’t lucid on a normal basis) It was clear that Brother had to bring her home.
My husband has mourned his parents being gone for the past few years. It would have been easier if they had passed away instead of seeing them behave in a way that made him feel as if he never existed. There were days that they understood that he had cancer and it was progressing and then there were days they seemed to think that it was Brother who had cancer. (Brother has cancer of the prostate. It is Husband who has the terminal stage of cancer) I think that it is worse to have them here and yet they are not here. In their minds, they have only room for each other and no one else exists. It is hard to loose your parents to the shadows.
We made the two hour drive. Not because we wanted to but because we believed that this was the last Christmas. It may be the last one with my husband on this earth. It definately was the last Christmas with the parents in their home and not in some sort of facility. It was a strange Christmas.
The trip was hard on my husband. Being around the parents was hard. Three days was more than enough time for everyone’s nerves. It definately is all that Brother can deal with. He has taken all that he can and he cannot take anymore. It was a Christmas that we will remember as a sad and pitiful shadow of what Christmas once was in this family.
If there is a next Christmas with all of the family still intact on this earth, who will know that it is any different than the last when those that you love live in the Shadows. They are lost to us and we are lost to them. It isn’t at all like the movie “Notebook”. It is one more sorrow as we face the uncertain future.
What will 2008 bring but more Shadows? It seems rather thick in its darkenss sometimes, but scripture says that as long as it is called Today that there is hope for salvation. As long as it is called Today there is hope for life and that is what we are holding onto for next year, Today.