I love my neighborhood. I mean, I FREAKIN’ love my neighborhood. We have sidewalks, a tree lined Main Street that comes with a 4th of July parade, cottage style homes built circa 1918, Easter Egg Hunts in a Ravine, Halloween nights than include over 300 kids stopping by and good neighbors. Our kids walked to pre-school and elementary school, we can ride bikes to the library and a yummy cupcake store. The elementary school is located on a historic river that has beautiful sunsets, a fishing pier and a playground. I can walk to one of my favorite restaurants of all time, which comes in handy after a few drinks. We have a
neighborhood women’s group that meets once a month, a book club and garden club (ok, I don’t really participate in the book and garden clubs, but it’s nice knowing they are there). We have acquaintances and friends. Good friends. I have the type of friends that when I disappear for weeks on end or don’t show up for a party or two and don’t return calls, they will come knock on my door and want to know what is going on. They care. I know they do and they show me. I can walk or ride my bike to their homes and my kids can do the same. It isn’t uncommon to come home to a note, flower or some small gift left on my front porch. When I have one too many and I get sappy and sad and start to feel sorry for myself, they let me. And then they are still my friend the next day and tell me it is ok, I am allowed. I wouldn’t have been able to start this blog or continue with this blog without the support and help I have received from them. I am not sure I can really put into words the pulse, love and sustenance that comes from being part of this community. We have lived here ten years and although I sometimes complain about the small yard or small house, old windows, old bathroom and work that constantly needs to be done, I absolutely love my neighborhood. But the problem is…..
When someone has Alzheimer’s Disease, they no longer see things that have to be fixed or quite understand how to fix them. Remember when I said the neighborhood is circa 1918? With an almost 100 year old house come LOTS of little things that constantly need to be done. Some are simple. Some take more time and brain power and some take lots of money. Jim worked with electronics in the Air Force, so in the past, he was able to do those little things around the house. He was able to multi-task. Changing outlets, putting up ceiling fans, painting, putting up wood trim, caulking around the tub….all the things that home ownership requires were easy. Now I feel like the house is falling apart around us. I’m not allowed to get frustrated with Jim for not being able to do it anymore. I sure as Hell can’t do most of it myself and I don’t have the funds to pay someone every time a little something needs to be done. Coming home to chipped paint, old outlets, and weeds upon weeds is driving me crazy. Well, one of the things driving me crazy.
Jim has been out of work for over a year. I made the terrible mistake of realizing he has been out of work for over a year and hasn’t gotten one single project done around the house. NOT ONE. First of all, I need to stop thinking like this, it isn’t productive and it doesn’t do any good. Second of all, not one project in over a year.
Ok, I’ve made my point. So, while I am wondering how to remedy this, I am forced to recall something I heard at one of my first Alzheimer’s Support Groups: Don’t focus on what he can no longer do, focus on what he is still able to do. He still makes the kids’ lunches and walks our son to school. He still does dishes and helps with the laundry and vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms and mowing the grass and going grocery shopping (that will be a whole other story). He is still doing. Breathe Karen. He is still here. In the now, love his abilities now and put the things he used to be able to do in the memory bank. Realize that person is gone and the person you have in front of you now is doing the best he can for as long as he can.
Each day I must repeat these steps. As the man I have known for over 17 years slowly slips away from me, I am forced to change my ideas of the perfect life and what is acceptable and what isn’t. I have to let go of wanting my home to look like a Southern Living Magazine. Or at this point a home that doesn’t need a million things done to make it as nice as everyone else’s . There, I said it out loud. I still compare parts of my life to others and let’s face it; My life isn’t like ANYONE else’s that I know and won’t be for a very long time. I need to accept the love that fills my home and realize that is what is really important. Thankfully the neighbors and friends I just spoke of don’t keep tabs on the work that needs to be done or the fact I no longer invite them over for dinners or gatherings.
Besides, isn’t it every woman’s dream to have a spouse that does the dishes, bathrooms and vacuuming? Even if it takes him 3 times longer than it used to? Even if I catch him using the dish detergent to clean the bathtub? As a good friend pointed out, “It made the bathroom smell so much better than Lysol.” So there! I have friends that can keep me in the now and I have every woman’s dream man. And he is mine, all mine baby!