Pack your bags

Jim loading up the car, August 2010

Jim loading up the car, August 2010

Our daughter, Frances, plays travel softball.  I love the fact that she loves to play sports and I enjoy watching her immensely.

This past weekend she had a tournament over an hour away.  So we had to stay in a hotel.   This brings more packing and planning into the mix.

Frances got all of her stuff together and I looked through her suitcase and her bag with her uniform in it and we were all set.  Until we were at the hotel that night and unpacked the van and couldn’t find her suitcase that held her uniform for the next day, her pajamas, her brush and her change of clothes.

“Frances, where is your bag?”

“I told Dad to put it in the van”

“Where was it?”

“In the hallway”

“Why didn’t YOU put the bag in the van?”

“I can’t carry it down the stairs.”

“Yes you can.  You KNOW he might not remember to do what you ask him to.  You cannot tell him to do something and then forget about it and assume it is done.  This is the second time you have had this happen. When are you going to learn?”

How do you straddle that fine line of making the kids understand Jim isn’t the same Dad they have known and make sure they still respect him? So THEY must step up and take responsibility for more and more.   At the same time I must tread lightly so as not to upset Jim or his psyche and his morale. Or for that matter, I must learn to let this shit go because I know my blood pressure must sky rocket during these moments. Jim is a man that takes a lot of pride in his accomplishments and it seems he has to work harder and harder to keep them coming.  Don’t 8 and 12 year olds need to learn to keep up with their own stuff? Don’t they need to know how to pack their bags AND make sure the bags get into the back of the van? Wait!  Where was I when all of this was taking place?  Isn’t it my fault that her bag wasn’t in the van?  Oh, yes.  I was filling up water bottles, turning down the thermostat, making sure the cats had food and water, packing my own bag, making sure all of our toothbrushes were packed, making sure I had the address of the park where the games would be played, making sure we had coats and hats and damn!  I forgot to empty the trash before we left. That would have been something Jim would have been all over in the not too distant past. Our roles are changing and no one is filling me in as we go along on my new duties.

I know I have to teach the kids responsibility.  I have to give them room to grow and to learn to take care of themselves.  At what point is it too early to do this?  Is it fair to have them grow up so quickly they miss out on the carefree childhood we all strive for?   Does a carefree childhood really exist anywhere other than in our minds and movies? Will they become bitter adults that resent not having a childhood that wasn’t filled with thoughts of death and Alzheimer’s Disease and taking care of Dad?

On the way back from the tournament we stopped to eat at one of our favorite places. This was something to be excited about since there isn’t one located close to us. Everyone is happy, I can relax for a few minutes and take a break from driving. The kids will be content and get along for at least an hour.

We all order. We go wash hands, get napkins and wait at our table for them to bring us our yummy food. The forgotten luggage is a distant memory.

They bring us our food.  But they have a huge bowl of  Chicken Noodle Soup . The waitress gives everyone their entrées and is holding up the soup asking who had the soup? No one.  I look at Jim.  He has no food in front of him and has a look on his face that I am starting to recognize as I have no clue what is going on right at this very moment. I do know that in all the years I have known him, Jim has never ordered Chicken Noodle Soup for a meal.

“Jim, did you order Chicken Noodle Soup?”

“I don’t think so.”

“What did you order?”

“I don’t know.”

I give that waitress a lot of credit.  She did not seem fazed one bit by a perfectly healthy looking man telling her he couldn’t remember what he had ordered 5 minutes before.  She simply asked him what he had ordered.  When he told her he didn’t remember, she asked him what he wanted, went to the kitchen and a few minutes later brought it to him with no problem.

Thank you.  Thank you for being a kind waitress when I was sitting there trying to figure out what to do.  I didn’t want to embarrass Jim and explain he has Alzheimer’s Disease.  I didn’t want to make it a big deal in front of the kids. But inside, I wanted to make it a big deal.  Just like the piece of luggage.  Just like the broken dishes.  Just like the misplaced glasses.  Just like the jar of honey in the refrigerator.  But I don’t snap.  I don’t say anything else.  Whew. I am growing. I have to.  I don’t have a choice and it is better not to fight it.

Each time Jim does something “new” in his decline with the disease, it is like a slap in the face. Sharp, quick and out of no where.

Oh, so you thought you could relax for a few minutes, eh?  You thought life was going along smoothly and that you can handle this, eh?  Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!  You stupid, stupid fool.  Watch this and try to figure out NOW what you are going to do…..

Yes, I have read the info. out there.  I know it is going to get worse. That one day, I will wish for Jim to be where he is NOW.  But I don’t care about what is coming.  I care about how he is today and how it affects the kids. Sometimes ignorance is bliss and sometimes it doesn’t matter.  Sometimes you can only focus on what is right in front of your face and deal with each part of your life as it comes hurling at you, even if you know that you won’t be quick enough to move out of the way.


posted by Karen in Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease,Uncategorized,Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease and have Comment (1)

One Response to “Pack your bags”

  1. Cathy Buffington says:

    Karen – it’s hard not to snap & lose patience at the best of times without the difficulties you face. Just writing to say I wish I could offer more than just moral support. –Cathy

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