Monday, August 9, 2010

Here We Go Again

My mom recently lent me a book to read. I never ask her for suggested reading, and yet she never fails to show up at my house with my next book in hand. Mom and I have very different taste in reading. She loves nonfiction. She loves hearing about people going through horrible, awful things (perhaps that is why she also loves the Lifetime network) and then coming through the struggle with new found strength. I do not enjoy reading about all of the atrocities going on in the world. I have enough nightmares, I do not need more. I like novels. They are an escape for me. Still, when mom brings over a book I read it. Because she wants me to. And once in a while I'm actually thankful that I read it (Left To Tell).

Since dad passed away last year from Alzheimer's many of mom's friends have been passing on Alzheimer's related books for her to read. Because they happen to be novels mom thinks I would enjoy reading them too (Leisure Seeker). This past week she casually dropped off another one. Still Alice.

I am only halfway through and I resent this book. I don't like it. Sure it is smart, well written, researched, and heartfelt. But I don't like it. It has me gasping for breath. It feels like someone is stepping on my chest. This book makes me swallow every few minutes, trying to choke down the lump residing in my throat.

The woman in the book is Alice. She is 50 and has just been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. The book gives such a glimpse into how the person with Alzheimer's feels that all I want to do is cry. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking of the internal struggle my father was going through. And it makes me question every conversation I had with my dad in his last few years. Was I kind enough? Was I too kind? Was I condescending in my concern? Did I make his last few years easier or was I irritatingly cheerful/cautious/chastising/babying/supportive? What was dad thinking? What could I have done better?

And then there is the subject that I have been so careful to avoid. Alzheimer's can be genetic. In the book Alice's Alzheimer's is genetic and her daughter also has the gene. She will also have Alzheimer's. A whole other subject that I never let myself think about is brought to the forefront of my mind by this stinking book.

And now. Now Todd's dad has Alzheimer's as well. We've known this for a while. This is not new information. But this past weekend while Todd's mom was away Todd was staying with his father and he had absolutely no clue who Todd was. He also had no idea he was married or that he had any children. It was the first time he ever forgot Todd. Todd has always been his father's pride and joy. If he was in a stubborn Alzheimer's fit Todd was the only person he would listen too. Whatever Todd said, he believed. And this weekend he didn't know who he was. It was incredibly hard for Todd.

I remember when my dad forgot who I was. It didn't sting me. I expected it and I didn't take it personally. It just didn't hit me. Perhaps because even when dad didn't know who I was it still felt like he knew that he should know me. And I guess in my heart I knew that he really did know me. His mind just wasn't allowing him to see it. But this is new for Todd. And though he went through all of this with me, it is different when it is your own father.

So, here we go again. The stress. The heartbreak. The worry. It is happening all over again. And reading this book, making me think of the what ifs for my own chances of getting Alzheimer's, Todd's chances, I have the urge to chuck it out the window. I can do without those thoughts. And what good do they do anyway? We will do the best with whatever we're given. That's all we can do.

And yet I keep reading this dumb book. Hoping for some happy ending, but knowing it will just get worse. I know Alzheimer's too well to believe it will end any other way. But I keep reading anyway. Hopeful.


Dawn said...

I'm sorry that your family is now going through this pain once more. Stay hopeful. I have a history of Alzheimer's in my family to. It's scary to think about. There are people working towards a cure though. I pray they'll find one soon.

Mom24 said...

So unfair. I'm very sorry, for all of you. I hope you find something that redeems the book for you. You may need to have a little chat with your mom.

Scrappy said...

I'm so sorry. I will pray that your husband can find comfort during this, and that they will come closer to finding a cure.

Kelly said...

Alzheimer's is such a horrible disease. I'm sorry you are having to go through it all over again. I think I would have a hard time reading that book. I'm impressed that you are sticking with it though.

Linda said...

My mother died of Alzheimer's. I don't know if I'll get it or not, but as you say, we have to live the life God gave us. I don't think I'll read the Alice book.

Blessings to you today, and forever.

Linda said...

I like your new picture!

tweetey30 said...

my great grandmother died of old age, alheimezers and dementia. So I know what you are talking about. We saw her 3 months before she passed on and the only the person she new without getting us confused was my husband.. She knew him right away but called my my mother and argued with me when I tried telling her I was me and mom was at home. Its hard.

MamaB said...

My deepest sympathy to you and Todd. It has got to be so incredible hard to deal with. I think you are doing great and as long as you treated your Dad and Todd's Dad the same way you would want to be treated if and when you do develop Alzheimezers then that is all you can go for and make peace with.
Now, the book, the book I would toss into the fireplace be damned if you haven't finished reading it and make the promise that you won't let that book cloud how much you loved and cared for your father. My thoughts are with you!

Kat said...

MamaB- Heh heh heh. I would toss it in the fireplace but it is my mom's friend's book. ;)

Mom24- My mom and I have had MANY chats about what I do and do not want to read. BUT, my mom sees good in pretty much everyone and everything and she has such faith that she always sees happy endings. Still, I think I will tell her to pass on anything Alzheimer's related for a while. ;)

Thanks for your support and understanding, kind words and prayers everyone!

Jeni said...

It has been 53 years since my Grandfather died and almost 31 years since my Mom passed. I don't know if they each had Alzheimer's or "just" dementia as no specific tests were ever done and besides, when my Grandpa died, this ailment was commonly referred to as "hardening of the arteries." But regardless of the time that has passed, both losses are still something that brings sadness on me as I miss them both very much. But like you, I don't think I would ever be able to read a novel about this illness. It is such a terrible way to watch a loved one just disappear before one's eyes. I'm not sure which is worse to see -the wasting of a body from some disease or the wasting away of one's mind and capabilities then.
Stay strong, as you will need that and your faith to guide you through this -again -with Todd's father now. And I will keep you and him in my thoughts and prayers for all the strength and guidance you need to come through this ordeal. Peace.

Tonya said...

I know what you mean.

painted maypole said...

Oh, Kat. I'm so sorry. I'll keep you all in my prayers.

And chuck the book. Chuck it. Find a novel you love. Maybe a funny one this time around. ;) (I just finished Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver... not funny, but wonderful, like all of her books. If you think you'd like it, I'll mail to to you!)

Elaine A. said...

Oh hon, I'm so sorry. I know this heartbreak is all too familiar for you and I can only imagine how hard it is on you to watch your husband go through this after having been through it yourself.

I kinda think maybe you should put the book down for now. Maybe pick it back up later? Perhaps it's just too much right now...

Hugs and prayers from me sweetie!!

Kristen said...

OH Kat I am so sorry. So so sorry. It does seem way to soon to be going through all of this again.

I agree that maybe you should put the book down for awhile.

Hug your babies tight and your hubby. And the future is the future. Don't worry about it and leave it there. Take each day as they come. Hold on to each other, and enjoy all the moments you can. (Just like I am sure you have been doing).

So sorry your family has had to handle this twice. I say you go back to the Twilight Series.

Sending you lots of hugs friend!

Kat said...

Kristen- HAHA! YES! See what happens when I try to read anything other than the Twilight series? ;) hehe

Rebecca Ramsey said...

I'm so sorry. Life can be so cruel and unfair.
I don't know what it's like to have a parent go through it, but I watched my dad help my grandmother (his mother) through it, and it broke my heart. I know that Daddy worries about wrestling with the same thing later on. I keep praying they'll find a cure one of these days.

I'll be thinking and praying about Todd and his dad.
I'm sending you a hug.

Karen Deborah said...

Ouch. Lots of pain. A friend of mine at church lost his wife 2 years ago to kidney? cancer. His 34 year old daughter has cancer too, she is single with a 4 year old son. It may be that their cancer is genetic. Genetic diseases of all kinds are so sad.

I am sorry you are going through this again. The book even though you hate it may be helping you process your grief. It is also bringing you more insight from what you have already said. Second guessing doesn't do anything. Hindsight is always perfect. You and your husband are sharing a unique experience in some ways, that both of you have(had) fathers sick with the same horrible disease.

You will be able to comfort your husband and he comforted you. Sometimes in life that is the best we can hope for, some kindness and some comfort.
and I agree with you that what the mind the forgets the heart remembers.

Maybe next time Todd's Dad will know him again it's on and off as you know. Such a sad illness.

Hattie said...

What a sad thing to have to go through for you and Todd. Y'all and your family are in my prayers.

Lisa said...

That is a nasty ugly disease. I'm sorry it touched and is still touching your life.
I want to read that book...I think.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

She probably meant to be helpful, passing that along. But like you, there are certain topics I simply cannot read about--too close to home, too painful to re-encounter.
Alzheimer's is such a tough thing for everyone involved--such a cruel disease.

Together We Save said...

So sorry... you are in my prayers.

Stephanie said...

I'm so sorry you are having to relive this all over again. I will pray for you and your family. And I know what it's like to read a book you are hating but have to finish. No matter what, you'll finish it.

Dianna said...

I remember it with my Grandma. It was always harder when she was tired...we would call the home and ask if she had just woken up from a nap and then haul tail up to see her. Much better chance of her remembering us if she was well rested. Much better chance of my oldest not seeing her Mama cry.
When Grandma died, I felt bad that I wasn't more emotional...but we had just *lost* her so long before her death.

Oh Kat, it'so awful and heartbreaking. May you and your Hubby find peace through the tears and confusion.

{...and stop reading those dang books woman!}

imbeingheldhostage said...

You know Kat, I was once told that if you are not enjoying a book, get rid of it. I know you are hanging in there out of some kind of obligation (but to who?), but really, you did everything and more that any parent could hope for in an awful time. I am so sorry that your family is having to go through this again-- the unfairness of it it is stunning.
Since you've already read the Twilight series, move into those others I told you about-- nice escape.

Beck said...

Oh, Kat. I'm so sorry. It's so cruelly unfair.

I'm reading the 100 Cupboards series - they're kids books, but captivating. Maybe those would help.


lime said...

i am so very sorry. this is such a painfully sad process to go through. i'm glad at least you can fully empathize with todd. hugs to you both.

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson