Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Never Again

Ok I am a firm believer in not saying "never" because you just never know. But, I think I can say I will never move again until I move to a retirement facility (hopefully many years down the road). God forbid I should ever get married again -- sorry, lucky man, but you'll have to live at my place (though you won't have much closet space).

I moved over the weekend and have never been so exhausted in all my life. I guess I am not snapping back as quickly in my older years even with all the working out I do. It's like a rubber band sitting around for too long that loses its elasticity and snaps. I literally awoke the next morning and wondered if I was in the hospital or having a bad dream. Every muscle and bone in my body hurt to the nth degree. I barely made it out of bed. Once I did, I made my coffee then crawled back in for some much-needed slumber.

I made at least 10+ trips to the dumpster. And, about 15 more trips to my old house after the movers left. How does one accumulate so much stuff over the years? It's ridiculous.

Then there's my parents' stuff that has to be sifted through (I bought their house). My sister described it perfectly -- we feel like "intruders" deciding what stays and what goes. The movers filled about a quarter of their truck with donated items for Goodwill. It must be that Depression Era "don't throw anything away" concept that older people hold onto.

At any rate, it's now time to sift through the rubble and figure out what's next.

Mindy (Abby's sis) says:
Oh yes! I second all of this! I am not a thing person. I have the distinction of having moved at least 30 times in the last 10 years, and all of my stuff fits in a 10'x10' storage unit, with room to spare. I should be grateful that I didn't have to move all of that on top of what I had at my parents.

I think all of this, for myself and for Abby, is compounded by sheer exhaustion from the last year's events, coupled with the fact that we had just moved my father to the health center, then to the Memory Care unit 6 weeks later, then our Mother to her independent living apartment five days after that! And completely unpacked her on the same day as the move!

Is it any wonder neither of us can look a box in the face and we gag at the thought of ever moving again? Although I get to do this all over again in February or March....The fun continues as we go through 58 years' worth of accumulation!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Becoming a Middle-Aged Mom

I never got the mommy gene. I chose to focus on my career, so the child-rearing thing never happened for me.

Until now.

Suddenly, I have been thrust into becoming a single mom at the age of 47. My kids are my 78-year-old parents.

The role reversal has been a whirlwind and something I never expected. I always knew I'd take care of my parents when the time came, I just had no idea what it truly entailed. All the hours, the emotional drain and worst of all, the reversing of roles. Don't get me wrong. I am not complaining by any means. I am just floundering in a sea of Medicare paperwork, bills and not knowing how, exactly, to do this and do it right. My sister is in the same boat.

By day I run my company and do my job. And, I fax my power-of-attorney to endless numbers of people, talk to Medicare and AARP and sift through the mounds of papers and invoices required by it all. By night, I call my parents to be sure they are taking their meds, getting their flu shot, going to meals, checking their mail, etc. My sister and I talk numerous times daily and nightly to recount who said what to whom about what in order to keep everything straight.

I never thought I'd be helping people to the bathroom, doling out medicines, getting phone calls in the middle of the night when my dad misses my mom and hopes she is warm with enough blankets on her bed. Or, getting calls from the retirement facility to have a "parent-teacher conference" to discuss my parents' individual progress (or lack of it). Or, dealing with a mom who taught me to be the fiercely independent woman I am today - and now cannot pull herself together and adapt to living in a new environment separate from my dad.

It's a lot to take in. It's painful to watch. But, looking on the bright side, maybe what I am learning can help someone else who will walk in my shoes at some point.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cleaning House

As if I need anything else to add to my plate, I am moving. When we moved my parents out to the retirement home, I purchased their condo. My sister is going to move to my house, so we are playing musical chairs once again with packing, movers, stress and heated tempers.

I am a bit of a pack rat, but up until this past weekend I had no idea how much stuff I had stock piled over the years -- stuff I simply don't need. How does this happen? I guess from living in the same home for 12 + years and not being diligent about keeping up with the clutter.

I feel a bit like Imelda -- enough silly shoes to open a store (I still have old and out-of-style kicks from 30 years ago in college that I could never part with!). I have enough black suit skirts and jackets to outfit a small corporation of women. That's what happens when you work in banking for 15 years and dress like a Stepford.

And then there's the make-up. You know. It's always buy something you need, and it includes a "gift with purchase". What a deal...(Not!) Nine times out of ten these gifts contain one thing I might use and 4 things I won't -- ever. But, when staring at products whose labels boast "use this and look 10 years younger" I kept them for a rainy day. Now I have a closet full of hard and waxy lipsticks, cakey, cracked powder and dried-up "look-younger serum" that never got the chance to erase my facial lines and wrinkles.

Finally there's the cooking paraphernalia. I am never home, so I rarely get the chance to cook -- which I actually love to do (when it's my idea, of course). Over the years, my mom has given me pots, pans, baking dishes, cooking spoons and the like -- in hopes of making me a domestic queen. I guess it never rubbed off. There they sit. I am queen of only my microwave. I'll dust some of these off and pack them up for the move to their next dark cabinet. The rest will get a new home.

Needless to say, I made a trip to Goodwill today with lots of stuff. I hope my much-needed loss makes for someone else's gain.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Coming to Grips With Reality

For those of you who know me, you know it's been a very rough year for my parents. They are both approaching 80 and have had some fairly challenging healthcare ups and downs over the years. But, we've managed to navigate the waters. 2009 was a different story -- the straw that broke my back (not the camel's).

It never occurred to me that someone in my family would get Alzheimer's disease. I always thought of stroke or heart attack. This was a big surprise to discover. And, up until last month, I suspect I was in complete denial. Surely, it was something else. Maybe all the anesthesia from the 5 surgeries in January. Maybe this. Maybe that. Maybe not.

Then we started to notice odd things. Desk drawers with banded up unpaid bills (not right for a former banker). Asking us to repeat things many times (silly me -- I thought it was the hearing problem, not the memory). Lack of focus. Depression in someone who always loved life to its fullest. Telling me about the 40 books just read in the past week (speed reader!).

Did we all know and just deny these symptoms -- hoping "it was nothing"? Perhaps. Probably.

When we knew it was time for a move to the Alzheimer's unit at a retirement facility, it was tough to watch the "cognitive" testing the nurse conducted to determine how advanced the dementia was.

This took place in July. When asked what season it was: "It's Fall" was the answer. When asked what the weather was: "It's snowing today" was the answer.

When asked what city our home was in the response was "Ottowa, IL" (childhood hometown).When asked to draw a clock, my breath was sucked out of my body. I saw a scribbled attempt at a circle with child-like numerals drawn backwards in reverse order (Alzheimer's patients often have spatial difficulties).

Surely this was not my parent, I thought. But, it was. It was at that moment I knew for sure Alzheimer's was the cold reality.

Now I can say it out loud. Even to my parent. Every time we are together. "You have Alzheimer's disease." Phew! That was hard. I've finally come to grips.