Changes in Lattitudes, Changes in Attitudes …

I know it’s been quite a long while since my last blog post but I had a lot of things going on in 2019. Please excuse my absence but know, my posts will now be more frequent.

As Jimmy Buffett sings, “It’s those changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
nothing remains quite the same.”

When you stay in one place too long (or maybe I should say, when “I” stay in a place for too long,” it’s time for a change.
I spent the first 30 years of my life in New Orleans, LA. It was a great place to grow up. Mardi Gras, Saints, food, friends, phenomenal music, food, family, fun, food . . . (did I mention FOOD?) I mention food because it was a huge part of my life . . . 285lbs of huge and probably the cause of my Type2 Diabetes and Heart Disease, but I digress.

When 1990 rolled around, after a divorce, it was time for a change. I had met someone and she moved from New Orleans to Pensacola, FL (her home) and asked me to join her there . . . so I did. Sadly, that relationship ended 7 years later but I had grown to love Pensacola so, I stayed. I made new friends, found my niche in Public Relations and Marketing and was very happy.

Through a few more relationships, a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes, 3 heart attacks, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, a brief move to Knoxville, TN, questionable decisions, neck surgery, back surgery and a triple bypass in July of 2019, the third 30 years was approaching. I had no idea what waited in store for me. Then, Maureen entered my life, at least that’s when I “THOUGHT” she entered my life.

I say Maureen entered my life in 2019, but unbeknownst to me, I actually met her in 2014 (I was married at the time) . . . again in 2015 (still married) … again in 2016 (still married) … again in 2017 (yup, still married), skipped 2018 (divorced) and then in 2019, well, y’all know how that story ended and is still being written! ūüôā

From what Maureen says, it was all up to me.
I say, “I don’t remember meeting her until 2019″.
She says, (“WOW, guess you weren’t impressed”)
I say, “I have Alzheimer’s.
She says, “Your subscription for using the Dementia Card has expired and can no longer be used” and she wasn’t kidding.
I say, “WHATEVER” and roll my eyes!

What I’m trying to get at is I moved to Largo, FL in December of 2019 to start my life with my LIFE PARTNER. It’s ironic that in 1990 and 2019 (almost the 30-year mark) I made yet another move. What I can say is being a stone’s throw away from Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and an hour and 14 minutes away from the “Happiest Place in the World”, I have finally found my forever home and my forever person.

When I told some friends and family that I was moving 700 miles away, let’s just say I was “cautioned and reminded” about my past moves by those same friends and family. I was once quoted as saying, “if I ever say, ‘HEY, I’ve got a great idea. I’m going to pack all my stuff, drive hundreds of miles to a new place, to a city I have never been to, and start my life over again . . .” just reach over and slap the CRAP out of me and say, you stupid, stupid man, haven’t you learned anything?'”

Well, no one did that and I’m thankful for I am sure it was not going to be an easy slap. I also know they all meant well and I hold no negative feelings towards any of them. They were doing it all out of love and I appreciated their support . . . and still do.

So, here I am, starting over, AGAIN, and as you may have heard others say, “BUT THIS TIME IT’S DIFFERENT!”  this time, it really is different.

We are approximately the same age (“I won’t say who’s older by 7 months but it’s not me), we both love music, movies, family, we work out at the gym (she more than me but I’m improving), we love one another but we also like each other. We started out as friends and that friendship, as well as our love, strengthens daily. Has it all been a bed of roses? NO, but I have learned that sometimes, the hard/difficult things in life are so much more rewarding when they are conquered than the easy things.

For all the folks who were worried about me making this move, look at it from Maureen’s perspective. She was questioned also by the people who loved and cared about her.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
“You know he has Alzheimer’s, right?”
“Do you know anything about being a 24/7 Care-Partner?

Funny thing is, I also wondered if she knew what she was getting into. I told her:
“life with me can change by the day, the hour and the minute.”
“I forget stuff you may have told me yesterday, or an hour ago, or a minute ago!”
“I have Alzheimer’s anger which may or may not be directed towards you. I may not even know why I am angry.”

Her response to me solidified my decision to move.
She replied, “I love you. You are going to have to put up with me as well. I’ve been living on my own for 13 years! We’re just going to have to get used to it. Failure is NOT an option. Plus, now that all your stuff is unpacked, I ain’t helping you pack it up again unless we are both moving to a new place!
I just love it when she gets all sweet on me!

Just this morning, I came up with an analogy of who we could be compared to.
Maureen is like a Cheetah.
(The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world, reaching speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. They can accelerate from 0 to 68 miles per hour in just three seconds.) As soon as morning comes, she is up, moving at lightning speed, moving in circles around me as I try to figure out what day it is.

As far as me, I’m more like a Sloth.Image result for sloth I move at an extremely slow speed for it takes some time for my brain to kick in, some days longer than usual. I just like to take my time, taking in the beauty of the day, taking photos and sometimes, just sitting and listening to music, letting the memories float in and out depending on the song I am listening to.

Maureen had to get used to that.

We also realized, upon watching the new (and old) episodes of “Mad About You” with Paul Riser and Helen Hunt, that our interactions are very similar to theirs. We laugh at them and then realize we are seeing ourselves in their characters and laugh even harder.

That is one thing we do a lot of . . . we laugh A LOT!

And so, the story of our lives continues to be written, one page, one chapter at a time, full of love, laughter, tears, and smiles. We still learn a little something new about each other every day and can’t wait for what awaits us tomorrow.

Now that 2020 has rolled around and we are both turning 60 this year, we realize the time we have remaining is NOT going to be spent just talking about the things we want to do. We are going to get out and DO the things we want and have dreamed about doing.
Yes, there will be pictures and stories to share on facebook and Instagram (thebrianleblanc)

Until Next Time,
PEACE!

B

 

Let’s Change the Narrative!

Each day, I scour the news sources looking for the next “big thing” in the Dementia and Alzheimer’s World. Some days there are very interesting stories full of hope and promise and then there are days when the headlines lead you to believe the next “big thing” has been found, only to find the words, “hopefully” or “in the future” or “in the next 10 years” in the body of the article . . . you see where I’m going.

The thing I continuously see are people like me who are Living with Alzheimer’s and people who are Living with Other Dementia-Related Illnesses being referred to as Patients and/or Sufferers.

I’m not sure about you but I am NOT a PATIENT of any newspaper, magazine, documentary, news channel or TV host.
I also don’t SUFFER from my Alzheimer’s. I struggle.

Part of what I do when I’m advocating is to remind everyone that, although I have a disease that will, one day, contribute to my death, I also remind them that I am NOT anyone’s patient except for my Doctor. “XXX” is my Doctor and I am his/her patient. That’s it. No one else has the right to claim me as a patient. I find that to be highly insulting and it gets on my very last nerve.

When I, and others, are referred to as “SUFFERERS”, it also strikes a nerve. I will speak only for myself on this for I ‘m not sure if others feel like they are suffering. I don’t feel that way. Suffering means, “the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship.”  I can understand the hardship part from a financial point of view and on the days when I am in my fog, but I still don’t consider myself suffering.

If I offend anyone by saying this, I don’t mean to. I’m simply stating how I feel. There may be some folks out there who feel as if they are suffering. The only thing I can say to that is, each of us are individuals, and life is going to affect us in individual ways.

The focus right now on those of us Living with Alzheimer’s or other Dementia’s is “SEE ME, NOT MY DISEASE” or “PERSON CENTERED FOCUS.”
Person Centred Approach is about ensuring someone with a disability is at the center of decisions which relate to their life. What it boils down to is, who knows us better than US? Instead of making decisions for us or about us, why not include us in the conversation. Ask US what we think. Discuss options with us . Just treat us for who we are and that is human beings.

I know in the later stages, I will be unable to communicate my wishes as to what I would like or dislike. With that said, I already have an Advanced Healthcare Directive and Appointment of Agent as well as a Durable Power of Attorney. It was important to me to make sure I was making the decisions for my life. I did not want to put that responsibility on anyone else. As a side note, as long as I can still eat, there will be peanut butter, chocolate and of course there will be music.

My advice to anyone and everyone is to have these documents prepared. My advice is free and you, as an individual, can do with it what you like.

I’ve said many times, “This is NOT how I expected to spend my retirement but, it is what it is.” I try to be productive every day, BUT . . .
Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not.
Sometimes I write, sometimes I watch Netflix.
Sometimes I just sit, look at photographs and listen to music.
Sometimes I go to Starbucks.
Sometimes I just sit and think.
Sometimes I just sit and cry,  but not for long.

I’ll admit, it’s a hard life, but I know there are others who have it worse so I don’t dwell in the darkness for long. I have loved ones who I can call day or night. I have friends, a lot fewer than what I once had (that’s a blog post for another day) that I can lean on when needed, and lastly, I have myself.

In my Alzheimer’s mind, I’m still me. I can still drive, I can still work, I can still fix technological things, I can still balance a checkbook. OK, I can’t physically do ANY of these things anymore, but that’s OK. I know what my limits are . . . most of the time.

At the end of the day when I lay my head on my pillow, I know I’m still me. I’m not everyone’s patient, I’m not suffering and I’m not the me I used to be but that’s OK. You see, I don’t worry about the things I wasn’t able to do today for when I wake up tomorrow morning, I won’t remember. I’ll just re-invent myself all over again, until the next day, and that’s OK with me.

Until next time,
PEACE!
B

a-charlie-brown-christmasIf you’re a Baby Boomer like myself, you will probably recognize the photos from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” For me, it brings back memories of happy, simpler times. That’s where Charlie Brown lived … in the simple times. Nothing really stopped him from doing the things he wanted to do no matter what others thought. He saw the beauty in things others didn’t. He was hopeful and did things in his own time. He was trusting … sometimes, too trusting.

Charlie Brown was just a simple guy who always saw the good in people, never judging, never holding a grudge. He’s described as,¬†‚ÄúGood ol’¬†Charlie Brown‚ÄĚ is the lovable loser in the zig-zag t-shirt‚ÄĒthe kid who never gives up (even though he almost never wins). He manages the world’s worst baseball team‚Ķyet shows up for every game. He can’t muster the courage to talk to the Little Red-Haired girl‚Ķyet keeps hoping.¬†Even though he gets grief from his friends, his kite-eating tree, even his own dog, Charlie Brown remains the stalwart hero.”
CB Football
He is forever hopeful that Lucy won’t move the football. I think most of us wishes it will happen one day, so we cheer him on that he will, get to kick the ball at least once . . . but not this time. Lucy does what she ALWAYS does. She moves the ball away and Charlie Brown lands flat on his back.

We weren’t really surprised were we?
Charlie Brown was! As I said before, he always sees the good in people and he trusts they will not do anything to cause him harm. He trusts Lucy time after time. Why? Because that’s who he is.

(Just so you know, this post is not about Charlie Brown, but, you’ll understand in a little bit.)

Image result for charlie brown christmas tree

Lastly, there’s the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree that, in his mind, was the perfect tree. Of course, no one else but Charlie Brown saw the beauty of the simple little tree, and, as usual, they all laughed and made fun of the tree as well as him,¬†“The Blockhead”,¬†and hurt his feelings . . . AGAIN!

Maybe it was the Christmas Season that got to them, for this time, they saw just how much they had hurt Charlie Brown. 

Image result for charlie brown christmas treeWhen they saw the saddened little boy walk away as if he didn’t have a friend in the world, Linus anchored the little tree with his blanket and all Charlie Brown’s friends took the lights and decorations off Snoopy’s house and placed them on the tree. They brought Charlie Brown back to show him what they had done and he smiled so big. As with every Charlie Brown cartoon, he was accepted, everyone was smiling and singing and for a brief moment, everything was right with the world.

Now as a I said earlier, this is not about Charlie Brown and his friends. This is actually about reality in “Dementia World.”

Those of us who are living with a Dementia-Related illness sometimes feel like Charlie Brown. We have those days when we feel forgotten, dismissed, or if we don’t really matter. We sometimes come across people who we believe are our friends but turn out to be a “so-called friend”¬†who pretend to have our best interest at heart, when all they are interested in is furthering themselves by using us to get there.

The feelings of abandonment and distrust we experience are not just about our friends but also about some¬† members of our family who no longer talk to us for whatever reason. We try our hardest to remember what we may have done to put this distance between us for we are certain¬†(like Charlie Brown) it must’ve been something we did. When we come to the realization that it wasn’t us, it doesn’t feel any better.

When we are having a good day, we feel there is nothing we can’t do, so we take advantage of those days. We use our clarity to do something our minds would not allow us to do the day before, that is, if we remember the day before. Sometimes we do remember and we rejoice for the small victories. Sometimes we don’t and it’s OK because we know we’re not going to remember everything so we carry on the best we can.

Then there are the really tough days, the days when we go to kick the ball, and the ball is snatched away. On those days, we may literally fall on our backs, on our butts, hurting ourselves figuratively and mentally.  

If you’re thinking my point here is to make you feel sorry for me or for the millions of others who, like me, are living with Alzheimer’s or other Dementia- Related Illnesses you would be incorrect. Like Charlie Brown, we don’t give up . . . we CAN’T give up. Giving up is not an option. Giving up is an end and I can’t speak for everyone but I can speak for myself, I still have too much to do and I’M NOT READY TO GIVE UP!

What we do want are your friendships. We want your love. We want your understanding. This Disease is not something we asked for, this is not something we brought on ourselves, this is something that just happened to us and we are trying to make the best of the situation. 

Since this ’tis the Season, I ask you that if you know someone who is Living with a Dementia-Related Illness or any type of illness for that matter, please:

  • don’t assume we¬†are receiving phone calls, letters, e-mails, Christmas Cards, etc. for you would probably be mistaken.
  • don’t assume we are being visited by friends and /or family for we may not be
  • don’t assume a gift card or other monetary gifts would not be appreciated
  • don’t assume anything about anyone, for you don’t know the whole story
  • the one thing you CAN assume is, “WE ARE STILL LIVING . . . WE ARE NOT GIVING UP . . . WE STILL MATTER . . . WE ARE STILL HERE!

I would like to take this opportunity to wish YOU, yes YOU, a Very Merry Christmas!

Until Next Time . . . 
PEACE (on Earth and good will towards men)

B

The Journey is Not Always as it Seems!

Being today is the last Friday in June, also the last Friday of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, I knew I wanted to write about something but I didn’t know what that “something” was going to be. A trip to the grocery store today gave me my inspiration.

For those of you who may not know, I now live alone in an apartment. Although I still have a drivers license, I don’t have a vehicle for I can’t afford one (insurance, gas, maintenance, etc) so I found an apartment complex that is within walking distance to everything I need.

When I got up this morning, my intention was to head to Winn Dixie for I needed a few things, however, my brain had other plans and the fog rolled in. (For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you may want to see one of my earlier blog posts¬†Fog, It’s Not Just a Weather Condition.)¬†

When in a “Foggy State” not only is my brain not operating at full capacity but my balance is a bit off. The last thing I wanted to happen is to fall either while walking to or from the grocery, so, I remained inside.

I busied myself with other things, completely forgetting I needed to go to the grocery. Opening the refrigerator to fix lunch, I suddenly realized, I was supposed to go to the grocery. Forgetting things like this used to make me angry but now, they make me laugh at myself. It took me several years to realize it was no one’s fault other than my own when I forget things. Then after a couple of additional years, it wasn’t my fault, it was Alzheimer’s’ fault!¬†(I’ve always been a slow learner).

I started getting ready, making sure I had my wallet, my phone, and my backpack and off I went. The walk is only about a 1/2 mile each way so I get my exercise in while getting my errands done. Another thing I’ve learned it’s easier to use a backpack to carry my groceries than it is to carry the plastic bags that can easily burst or rip.¬†(I learned that the hard way.)

With my shopping done, I packed my backpack but couldn’t fit everything so I had to carry 2 grocery bags. I made my way across the parking lot and was about to make my way to the sidewalk when I car came up behind me.

From what I could see, there were 3 teenagers in the car. There may have been 1 other but I don’t really know or care. The driver and the kid seated directly behind him started shouting obscenities at me. I didn’t understand what I had done. It wasn’t like I crossed in front of them for they had come up behind me. I just couldn’t understand what was happening.

Then I heard the words, “you homeless f***er!” “Get a job you piece of s**t!” “Go beg somewhere else you blah, blah, blah!” They just kept on screaming, cursing, yelling and laughing at me. I then realized I was approaching an area where there are people usually using that spot, holding signs asking for food and or money. Many of them have backpacks and an assortment of bags with them. I guess they thought I was making my way to that spot to ask for food and/or money.

I didn’t know how to feel. I was being verbally assaulted because I was mistaken for someone who, they thought, was below them, someone who didn’t fit their description of an upstanding member of society, someone who, in their words, “you f***ing BUM!”

I started walking again and they continued cursing and yelling but the traffic started to drown them out. They made their way out of the parking lot and made a point to slow down as they passed me on the street to continue shouting at me. I just ignored them and made my way home.

Once I got home, I unpacked my bags and backpack and then I got angry. I wasn’t angry at those little punks who probably thought they got to me and made me feel bad. I was angry at something else.¬†I was angry at my Alzheimer’s.

If I didn’t have Alzheimer’s Disease, I’d still be working, making A LOT more money than my monthly Social Security Disability.
I’d still be driving, able to get where I needed/wanted to go, rain or shine.
I’d probably still have my network of friends to interact with.

Thinking of these things, I was getting angrier and angrier . . . really pissed off!
Then a notification went off on my phone. It was from someone on Facebook. I didn’t know this person but they were thanking me for opening up about my Alzheimer’s Life. They had read a few of my blog posts as well as my Facebook posts and they thanked me for helping them better understand their Mother, who is currently living with Alzheimer’s.

As fast as the anger came upon me, calmness replaced it. The words, my own words, the words I now say at the end of my presentation came flowing into my brain with such clarity . . . (I still had to get a copy of my presentation to make sure I had the exact verbiage)

“Regardless of whether you have an illness, regardless of your gender, regardless of your race, the way you are perceived by others, although it may be hard to take at times, it’s not something you need to concern yourself with. Look at it as a learning experience you can use later in life and a teaching experience you can use today.

For those who use words or actions against you, it’s because they don’t understand. You know who you are. You know your abilities.

Everything you’ve been through in your life . . . every success, every failure, prepares you for what lies ahead.

It’s why I’m not embarrassed to stand before you or anyone for that matter and say, “I HAVE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE!” I don’t do it as a way of looking for pity and sympathy, I do it as a way of saying, “HEY! Look at me. I’m only 57 years old, I look somewhat normal but I have this disease.”

It starts a conversation. It’s my way of advocating, spreading the word, making aware, or whatever you want to call it.¬† It is now my life mission!”

Everything in life happens for a reason. We may not understand the why’s but accepting things makes it more manageable.

Until next time,
PEACE!
B