The past week has been an emotional roller coaster for me. I've laughed a lot more than I've cried, but the tears have come readily, too. Billy is adjusting very well to his new place, and he is usually calm and happy. He is always happy to see me, and he makes me feel so special every time I walk through the door of the place. He announces frequently that I am his wife, as though any of the workers haven't heard. He's also okay when I need to leave; he just needs to know when I'm coming back.
He makes me laugh often - unintentionally - but he laughs with me. Everyday he tells me he's been really busy. He's told Shelley and me of many adventures he's had during the day....one day they were chasing and catching armadillos, and he asked me if I knew that their legs are only so big (holding up his thumb and forefinger to show me how long the average armadillo leg is). One day, he told me about the swimming meet they had, and how he had participated and did pretty well. Last week, we were visiting in the dining area of the unit, and Nelda, one of the residents came over to him and took his hand. She likes to hug him and kiss him on the cheek. She's probably between 75 and 80, and Billy held her hand, looked at me, and said, "This is my wife," indicating that Nelda is his wife. I said, "Oh, I thought I was your wife." Without missing a beat, he said, "I have two." Tonight we were walking from the main dining room to the unit and took a shortcut through the courtyard. One of the CNAs was taking a smoke break, and Billy looked at her and said, "Can I have a joint, too?" Last night, a new man was at the table with us, and he didn't speak at all. He already sits with Bobby who says nothing after his initial greeting, and Billy felt the need to fill the sound space with comments. Most of what he said made no sense, but at one point, he looked at the new guy and said, "When I walked in here tonight this little dog came up and whizzed on my leg." I never know what he will say, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't know either.
I'm amazed at how quickly he's losing skills. I notice it when he's eating. He gets confused on which utensil to use...a fork for soup, a spoon for a roll. He insists on using utensils when eating a sandwich. Tonight he was using a spoon to drink his Dr. Pepper. I took him to dinner on Friday night with Shelley and Andrew, and he starting eating the butter out of the container with his fork. The good news, though...he can feed himself. His hands tremble like a much older man, and I'm not certain if it's caused by the disease or his medication. He continues to have some anxiety during the day, and it's to the point that he has to have additional medication for that. The amount of time that he is anxious is greatly decreased from what it was, though. So far, he does well in church and acts appropriately. Karen, my friend whose husband is in assisted living and on hospice, told me she knew it was time to stop taking her husband to church when he started taking off his shirt during the service.
Another friend of mine named Karen also, is a friend through shared experience. She lives on Long Island, and we met through Wellsphere and stay in touch via email, blogging, and Facebook. Her husband was 36 when he was diagnosed with Young Onset AD, and he passed last Tuesday. He is now among those who have become whole and healthy again in Heaven. I'm so sad for Karen and her children who miss Mike's earthly presence but who also know he now lives in a happier state. That knowledge makes it easier to bear, but it doesn't diminish the pain. So many are suffering from this disease, and it's not just people in their 60s, 70s, or 80s which, by the way, doesn't make it easier. NO AGE should suffer through this disease, and no child should see her parent become a child.
I am always uplifted during praise but emotional also. I love our worship service on Saturday evening, and so many songs have deep meaning to me after the losses our family has experienced the last five years. I miss my grandmother who was so wise, my mother-in-law who was strong and vibrant before Alzheimer's struck, my brother who lost his battle with colon cancer much too young, our son who lost his life through addiction to alcohol and drugs, and I miss each part of Billy that has disappeared. I cannot hold back the tears when we sing "Hold Me Now" by Hillsong...
And sometimes, when the tears start, they don't stop for a while. I'm better now about allowing myself that time to grieve. A little of it is healthy, but I don't allow myself to stay there for long. God has entrusted me to be Billy's wife and caregiver. I am honored to do that, and I have to stay strong to do it.
During the stress of major life events, I tend to compartmentalize my challenges. One of the challenges our family has faced the last several months is my mom's cancer. I wrote about it for a while, and I shared that my dad struggles with dementia. It became too difficult for me to write about, so I didn't. I do want to share that mom has completed six of eight chemo treatments, and her last scan showed that the tumors in her abdomen are shrinking. I will go with my parents to the oncologist this Wednesday morning to get the results of the scan my mom had today. Please pray with me for those tumors to be gone. Chemo has taken a toll on my mom and dad, but Mom has certainly been a trouper through it all. What a blessing it would be if she were free from those tumors and no more chemo or surgery would be needed. God is bigger than cancer, and He can do it. My dad will go to the neurologist again this week, and I pray for intervention there as well. So many prayer warriors read this blog, and I ask you to pray for my parents.
All is well for me. Spring Break is on the horizon, and my sister and I will be taking a trip together. I know Billy will be fine without me, but I will miss seeing him those few days, even though I need a break. Someone asked me today if I get lonely. I honestly don't have time to be lonely. I get home around 7 or 7:30, and the evening goes too quickly. God is always good, and I am at peace.
Peace and love to all.