I’m sitting in a loose circle of chairs in a small classroom. This classroom is in one of the largest churches I’ve ever seen. It took me five minutes to find the front entrance and I had to ask someone for directions to the room. Around me sit a group of men and women, all of them older than me. They each take a turn introducing themselves and saying a little bit about why they are there. The circle gets to me and everyone turns. I take a deep breath.
“Hi. Um. My name is Erin, and my dad was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. We are placing him in a memory care facility next week and, well, I’m not doing well.” With this, my chin quivers and suddenly I am sobbing in this room of strangers, all of whom know exactly what I’m feeling. They’ve all been there in some form or another. I am not alone.
Alzheimer’s is one of those diseases that people primarily associate with the very old. It’s referred to as “Old-Timer’s” for a reason. Lately though, people are being diagnosed earlier and earlier. Most likely, it’s because science has come pretty far and the signs are clearer much earlier. It’s not dismissed as “Grandma’s just getting senile.” anymore. The problem (for me at least) is that with this earlier diagnoses, people (again, like me) are dealing with the fallout from the disease earlier in life than ever expected.
The disease is progressive and insidious. It steals away your past at the same time it’s stealing your future. It takes away your ability to walk, to talk, to chew. It takes your memories, your ability to remember to eat, your balance, and your ability to be rational. At the same time that I am losing my father in the present, I am losing any memories he has of my mother, of my childhood, of a large chunk of my life.
When I was in the group, one of the women said “I feel like I’m grieving for someone who’s still alive.” This shook me. I didn’t have words for how I felt until she described that. I’ve been going through the stages of grief, but continuously for six years. Each time the disease progresses, I start over again. I will grieve every time something changes until I grieve for the final time. I spend a lot of time in the denial stage. I’m excellent at denial. I’m working through anger right now. I won’t bother with bargaining.
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I’m sitting in the memory care facility where we will be leaving my dad, shortly. His room is moved in, his recliner and his TV are set up. His walls are covered in family pictures, plaques from his time in the Navy and University of Georgia Bulldogs swag. His clothes are in the closet.
We’ve met the director, the staff and taken the tour. We’ve had lunch in the dining room and seen their grounds and the way their security works. Right now, the residents and my family are gathered in one of the sitting areas listening to one of the staff members give a presentation on Naval Submarines and bi-planes because a lot of the residents are retired military. Because this is a fairly new facility, there is only a small amount of residents currently. This makes me feel better somehow, like the less residents, the more the staff will be involved with them.
I’m terrified to leave. I don’t know if he will understand what’s happening or why we’re leaving. I keep having flashbacks to when my dad dropped me off at boarding school as a freshman. I was scared, angry and felt abandoned, even though, deep down I knew that boarding school was the best place for me to be. I hope he understands that we’re not abandoning him. I hope he’s not scared when he goes to sleep tonight. I hope he knows we still love him.
Today’s guest post comes from Althea Egon: I am a crafty geek, toddler wrangler and artist who is prone to wild fits of kitchen singing. I have been a bicycle mechanic, a teacher and a cubicle slave. Identity crisis is my middle name… My friends say I’m restless. Huzzah!
Although my husband and I didn’t choose to bed share with S…we ended up doing so because of her needs/temperament. I must admit that I didn’t even know what bed sharing or cosleeping was prior to having my own child! I thought that, “Duh! Babies sleep in cribs!” But try as we might a crib was not in the cards for our first born.
There are some benefits of bed sharing and this article does a good job explaining that it is not unsafe or detrimental. Western culture made the shift away from bed sharing, a practice the rest of the world uses in the majority. There seems to be lot of hostility and misinformation directed towards parents who do bed share or cosleep in the USA.
Obviously my daughter will not sleep with me forever and yes it can be exhausting. However because I choose to breastfeed (still going strong at almost 20 months) bed sharing makes night parenting much easier on me. Studies have shown that breastfeeding bedsharing parents/child are awake no more than children who sleep in their own rooms.
It has been hard because when I mention that I am exhausted… And well meaning people tend to judge our decision to bed share (a decision that developed organically) as detrimental to me and my daughter. I don’t agree with this theory. I am tired because I am a parent. Continue reading
As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been quiet for awhile. We’ve had some major upheavals in our home that…I was not exactly expecting even though I was the one who had to make the call. Any of you who know me can surmise what this was, and for those who don’t, the details of what happened are not exactly relevant to the point of this post.
I’ve mentioned before how I don’t think parents, and moms especially, put themselves first, that they let their kid rule the roost and lose their identity as actual people and don’t exist outside of being “Junior’s Mom.” To be fair, it’s kind of our job to think of our kids before anything else. This was ultimately what led to me making the decision I didn’t want to make. I had to put my son in front of me. But now…now I need to parent through a lot of feelings. Like, shitty feelings. Depress-y feelings. Angry feelings. All them shits. And I need to do it in a way that my son won’t feel the effects forever and take it out on some poor lady in the future. I have to put myself first. So here is what I’m doing to maintain balance of Kiddo and me and our home. Continue reading
About a month ago I wandered into the local 99 cent store looking for nothing in particular, which is always a bad idea because 567 random things that I am only buying because, “they are soooo cheap” can quickly add up at 99 cents each! This time I scored 6 medium sized terracotta flower pots, a tomato Topsy Turvy, and some tomato seedlings. Since I have the black thumb of death I figured it would be fun for Ben and I to get crafty, paint the pots and maybe grow something in them. Well, we did! We painted the pots, and went to Lowe’s to pick out some flowers to plant but Ben thought that flowers weren’t cool enough and said we should grow some things that we could eventually eat. I know nothing about keeping common house plants alive and actually killed a cactus once so gardening is definitely not something that I would add to my resume. I gave in to my little negotiator and we left Lowe’s with a huge bag of potting soil (that I ripped an even huger hole in when I was trying to shove it into the trunk of my car), 2 cucumber seedlings, a watermelon seedling and more tomato plants, because my kid is a tomato junkie and will eat them until his guts explode. Continue reading
I have two, beautiful, funny, loving, freaking insane little boys. They are my whole world. My oldest is just like his father: really laid back, easily made to laugh, a daredevil, and tough as nails. My youngest is just like me: super cautious, very snuggly, sensitive, and can be very silly. I can’t put into words how much I LOVE them both with every part of everything that I am.
Living in a house full of boys is….well, it’s crazy. They are nonstop. I literally take them out and exercise them just like I do my dog. They are boys. They need to run. Often, they feel the need to run naked…we try to save that fun for inside the house. Today my youngest decided to pee a beautiful design onto the carpet in our playroom. He was very proud to show off his artwork and absolutely devastated to discover that I was not impressed. Both of my boys are totally obsessed with all things poop, pee, butt, etc and honestly it’s hard not to laugh at all of their antics. Yet underneath all of this boy weirdness there are these sweet little men who love to wrap their tiny arms around me and tell me that they love me, or exclaim “OH Mommy!! I love youw pwitty, pwitty, pwitty, pwitty dwess!” (Even though I’m just wearing a long t-shirt and sweatpants.) They like to brush my hair, snuggle on the couch, draw me pictures, play dress-up…I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
My first pregnancy was not easy to conceive and through that experience we learned just how precious and miraculous a baby really is. People were excited for us when they found out we were having a boy the first time around. The second time around was a totally different story. So many people, including family, were disappointed. Flat out bummed to hear our news. “Oh. We were hoping for a girl.” Really? So no congratulations on this healthy miracle we created? Thanks. Before I even gave birth people were asking me when I was going to try for that girl. The blatant disappointment from others was devastating and we learned a lot from it. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. But I will never forget how it made me feel. Continue reading
We’ve all read how our friend Lauren doesn’t want more children and how frustrating it can be when everyone around is asking/pestering her about it. I feel her pain, but for a totally different reason.
I have heard for years, “So when is baby number 3 coming?” “Are y’all going to have anymore babies?” “Your girls really need a little brother, you all should keep trying!” Usually I just nod or politely deflect the questions. Using a smile or general “we’ll see” to hide the pain. See unlike Lauren, I do WANT more kids. Continue reading
Within the first month of Ben’s elementary school career he was diagnosed with ADHD – combined type, which means not only does he have trouble focusing, he also has trouble sitting still or being quiet for long, or even short periods of time. Pretty much unless there is a video game controller, crayon, paintbrush or Lego in his hands he’s moving around, singing at the top of his lungs or laughing maniacally at nothing. Since the diagnosis, he has taken several different medications, different dosages and combinations of different medications with different dosages. I’m pretty sure any adult taking them would be disassembling and reassembling their vacuum cleaner just because. Basically, I went against everything I have ever said and drugged my child, bad mommy!
Cut to six months later and let me tell you…I am frustrated! More frustrated than October Road being cancelled and having no hope of ever finding out who that kids dad is! I am tired of the negative reports I get from his kindergarten teacher every day when I pick him up from school, just before she tells me he how much time he spent in the office that day. It really pisses me off that he is sent to the office on a daily and ends up missing out on valuable class time. And the teacher wonders why he is so far behind the other kids in his class. I am tired of the unanswered questions and not having the resources to figure out where to go and what to do next! I am not asking someone to hold my hand and skip through this wonderful world of IEP’s, 504 Plans, medication or support groups with me….just a little help.
As a lady, I find myself in the position of having my decisions publicly judged on a daily basis. From the old dude who tells me to “Smile!” because “It ain’t that bad!” to all sorts of legislators telling me what I can and cannot do with my own body, every day feels like a goddamn shitshow. But the one that’s really been the hair in my ass lately? People, some of whom I barely know, playing concern troll for my son’s lack of siblings. No, really. This is a thing that happens. I was just as surprised as you are! People really seem to care about the contents of my uterus, and seem to be surprised, offended, or a combination of the two when I tell them that I would prefer that it has no further occupants. Sigh.
Dudes. Duuuuuuuudes. Here is a secret about me that actually is not a secret at all if you talk to me for more than, say, 20 minutes. I don’t really like kids. Let’s back up because GOD KNOWS the shit flies like a swarm of killa bees when you make statements like that. I love my son. He’s mine, I made him. He is hands down the worst roommate I’ve ever had, but jeez, yeah, I love the shit out of that kid. And my friends’ kids? Sure! They’re okay too. Many of them are adorable, and some keep my own child occupied so we can sit on the porch with beer and Parliaments. But generally speaking? If given the choice of being around a bunch of kids and the opposite of that scenario? I will choose the latter. Some people are kid people, just like some people are dog people, others are cat people, and some are CENTAURS. (For the record, I am none of those things.) (Sorry if you thought I was a centaur.) Babies are cute, but I like to give them back to their rightful owner when they get fussy or poop up their backs. Kids are loud and mean and if I wanted loud and mean, I’d hang out with…well, me. I’d hang out with me.