This morning it was back to the grind after a wonderful long weekend celebrating Memorial Day with friends and a little bit of family as well. It was my Grandmother’s 92nd birthday and we were able to attend her birthday celebration. It was so good seeing family that we don’t get to see very often.We ran a 5K run together as a family (Frances beat us all).
We also got to catch up with some friends we hadn’t seen in a while and we also got to hang out with some good friends that we cherish in our daily lives. So all in all, a good weekend.
I could tell when Jim first got up this morning that he was a little tired, a little off. I started getting ready for work and he went downstairs to start his daily routine of fixing the kids breakfast and while they are eating, fixing their lunches.
I came down shortly after and he disappeared upstairs. At this point, I am technically on the clock for work, so I am talking to them as I gather my work stuff. While I am asking them if they have everything for school, it comes to light that there are no lunches or water bottles made. It is time for Frances to be walking out the door to catch the bus and I am supposed to be getting ready for my daily phone call from the office.
Quickly, Brad, Frances and I gather in the kitchen and work as a team. I made the sandwiches, Frances got the water bottles and chips, Brad got the carrots. In less than 5 minutes we had the lunches made and packed up and we were now really ready to start the day. Nothing was said to Jim about not having them done. He came down stairs about the time we were finishing up and didn’t say anything. I couldn’t quite tell if he recognized what we were doing and that he typically is the one undertaking this morning task. All of this is bittersweet.
Bitter because he didn’t do them and didn’t seem to understand or realize that he didn’t. Sweet because I caught a glimpse of the team the kids and I will make; taking care of him and ourselves and our lives. They were great. Didn’t complain, just jumped into action and did their parts.
To a person reading this who hasn’t been affected by someone with Alzheimer’s, it might seem like a trivial task that we ended up having take on unexpectedly. No big deal. To us, the ones watching a loved one slowly, very slowly slip away, this was a slip. This was a daily task that Jim has done since January of 2012. Today was a day that will blend into others, eventually being forgotten, but for a moment, today was another turning point. He might remember tomorrow to do the lunches and he might not. I will have to make sure I am checking behind him. I don’t want to come barging in and take over his morning rituals. It is hard enough on him to not be able to do many of the tasks he did before. As a man, a very proud man, this is extremely hard for him.
One night he was emptying the dishwasher and he was in a rare mood of feeling sorry for himself. This happens about every 7 or 8 months for Jim. Very rare. As our conversation was progressing, he made a statement that really struck home, “ All I am good for now is laundry, dishes and housework.” What could I say? I reassured him that wasn’t true, he was still able to do many things I couldn’t and that he was still doing a lot that helps our family. I gave him the example that for many years that was my job around here and that he had always assured me how important it was. But deep down we both knew he was right. He is no longer part of the “working society”. He is no longer part of the daily commute, the water cooler chats, the lunches with colleagues, the business trips and deadlines,the contribution to society and all of the things that those of us who are working take for granted.
Jim is living in between; He remembers, knows and understands what is happening and who he was. He is not yet at the point he doesn’t remember his jobs and co-workers and being that person. But he also has a bit of a fog and aloofness that keeps him from being able to rejoin that culture again.
I hate it for him. I try to remind him often how much we love him and that we are ok. But, he knows. He knows that things are different and will always be different.
I wish I could just make all of this go away.