A friend of mine recently asked me if I had ever read the book, “tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom. She said, “he allows himself 10 minutes a day to mourn the passing of the old him. After that, he lives in the moment for the day.”
I thought about this and although I do “live in the moment”, I don’t take the 10 minutes a day to mourn the passing of the old me. To be honest, I probably take a little too much time to mourn.
“Don’t cling to things because everything is impermanent.”
― Mitch Albom,
For instance, I thought to myself, “I would love to read this book, but I wouldn’t be able to remember what I’ve read.” Don’t get me wrong, I “CAN” still read, I just don’t retain anything I have read. Then I started thinking of all the books I’ve read over the years and how much I enjoyed reading. Then I got sad. Instead of taking 10 minutes to mourn, I took a little more . . . OK, A LOT MORE!!!
I not only mourned not being able to retain what I’ve read, I mourned not being able to work anymore. Working not only gave me a purpose but it also provided me with an income, an income that helped me provide for my family. Now, through Social Security Disability Insurance, I receive approximately 3% of the salary I used to receive. I’m thankful for receiving that but sometimes, I only look at the glass half-full.
“I give myself a good cry if I need it, but then I concentrate on all good things still in my life.”
― Mitch Albom,
I also mourn the loss of my driving privileges. Due to my brain hemorrhage that was discovered back in February of this year, as well as the temporary loss of my ability to speak, my Doctor strongly urged that I discontinue driving. I knew what “strongly urged” meant and I knew that would be the last day I would ever drive. I mourned a lot over that . . . and still do, however, it wouldn’t compare to the amount of time I would mourn if I hurt someone in my vehicle or in another vehicle.
“This is part of what a family is about, not just love. It’s knowing that your family will be there watching out for you. Nothing else will give you that. Not money. Not fame. Not work.”
― Mitch Albom,
I mourn the loss of friends. When I told Shannon that I wanted to “talk about my Alzheimer’s” she turned to me and said, “just remember, once you put it out there, you can’t take it back.” She was right!
My thought was, talking is my strong suit. By talking about it, it would hopefully help others have a better understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease and how individuals like me can still live a pretty good life. Also, by talking about it would keep me engaged, keep my brain working.
What I didn’t know was how many people would stop speaking to/with me because they didn’t think I would be able to carry on a conversation with them. Also, as I wrote about in a previous blog post, there are those who feel I’ve been faking this whole thing.
I wish I didn’t mourn that as much as I do.
However, looking now at the glass half-full, I have met some pretty phenomenal people in the Dementia World. These individuals are some of the bravest, funniest, most intelligent people I have come to know.
I have also discovered my true mission in life and that is being an International Dementia Advocate. It gives me purpose, drive and passion to a level I have never experienced.
“Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
― Mitch Albom,
I mourn a lot of other things, too many to go into here, however, I’ve realized by writing this blog post, and although I didn’t read “tuesdays with Morrie” I read some of the quotes from the book (some of which I’ve listed here) and I made myself a note and stuck it on my desk so I will see it every day. I may have to put one on the bathroom mirror, one by my recliner, make it my opening screen on my phone . . .
Whatever it takes to remind me to keep the mourning at a minimum.
“Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn’t. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted.”
― Mitch Albom,
I’ve never tried to paint a rosy picture of what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s. I wouldn’t be honest with myself or with you if I did that. Just know, I don’t do it for sympathy. I don’t want nor need anyone’s sympathy. All I want to do is to live the best life I can possibly live in the remaining years that I have, which I hope will be many.
Until then, I’m going to continue my Advocacy Journey, doing the best I can to share awareness and education as it relates to everything Alzheimer’s and other Dementia-Related Illnesses.
Oh yeah, and remember to mourn no more than 10 minutes a day!
Until next time . . .
October 28th, 2014 was on a Friday. I know this because I just looked it up on the calendar. It would be a day that changed my life, my family’s life, forever.
Shannon and I were sitting in my Neurologists’ office, awaiting the results from my MRI and Cognitive Testing. Once he was seated, he started explaining things, the way Dr’s do, but I remember stopping him and asking the question . . . “DO I HAVE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?”
He paused for a moment, and then answered, “YES.”
I don’t remember much after that. I know he explained the results of the MRI and my Cognitive Testing (which I found out later that I failed miserably) and he explained the results of the genetics and protein studies. The only thing I DO remember was Shannon, holding my hand while I cried uncontrollably, and telling me, “It’s going to be OK. We’ll get through this together” or something along those lines.
I thought of my Mother, who, at the time, was still alive but in the last stages of her Alzheimer’s battle. (she would pass away 3 months later)
I thought of my Father who passed away in 2010 with Vascular Dementia.
I thought of my Grandfather who passed away in 1985 with Alzheimer’s.
I thought of Shannon’s Grandmother who had passed away only 2 months earlier with Alzheimer’s.
I’ll tell you, being around Alzheimer’s and Dementia Related Illnesses is difficult in and of itself, but it does not compare to Living with the Disease. I equate it to the obnoxious relative that comes for a visit . . . and winds up staying . . . only to get more annoying as times goes on . . . and NEVER LEAVES!
I’ll tell you something else. The brain is strange and wonderful. Although Alzheimer’s has erased a lot of my short-term memory from my brain, it still allows me to remember certain things. I’ll explain.
Let’s go back to October 28, 2014. On the way home, Shannon and I were silent. I guess that was to be expected after the news we just received. I guess I was trying to wrap my head around what I was going to do from this point forward when I had my “Eureka Moment!”
I turned to Shannon and said, “I know what I have to do.”
She asked what I was thinking.
I said, “I have to talk about it.”
She replied with something that has stuck with me for the past 2 years . . .
“Once you put it out there, you can’t take it back!”
I have heard those words so many times in my head as well as during the many times I repeat them as part of my “Alzheimer’s: Up close and Personal” presentation. I can tell you those words have come back to haunt me for when I broke the news about having Alzheimer’s Disease, it did 2 things:
1) Being that I am not in my 70’s or 80’s and I can still do “some of the things” I have always done, some people doubt that I actually have Alzheimer’s Disease and have taken the time to tell me so.
2) I have lost a lot of friends and/or acquaintances because they don’t feel I am still the person I once was. Therefore I’m not able to converse, tell/understand jokes, etc . . .
I chalk it up to lack of Alzheimer’s knowledge and awareness in our society. That’s why when I told Shannon I wanted to talk about it, neither one of us expected I would be speaking to all types of audiences in numerous locations explaining what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s Disease.
This is not exactly the life I wanted to live, nor is it how I wanted to spend my retirement, however, we sometimes have to accept the cards we are dealt and make the most of it. It also makes it a bit easier to have 3 people, whom I love most in the world, right by my side. Shannon, Asheton and Bradley are right with me on my Alzheimer’s Journey. They help when I need them, they help when I don’t “THINK” I need them and they are there to laugh with me, to cry with me, to joke with me and to make me feel as normal as can be. They are the true example of family.
(I almost forgot to mention, Dallas, my furry friend, who has the intuition as to when I am having good and bad days and attempts to take care of me.)
So, I can look at October 28, 2014 as the day that I received the diagnosis of having a devasting, fatal disease and have a continuous, daily pity party
I can look at October 28th, 2014 as the day that put me on a positive path to help others understand this devastating, fatal disease and at the same time, keeping me “In The Moment.”
I think you know which choice I chose!
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,
I can still remember the days when the kids were small and how excited they were to start their first day of school, well, mostly Bradley . . . Asheton not so much. The morning would be busy with making sure lunches were packed, school supplies were in the backpacks, the-first-day-of-school-new-clothes were ironed (Shannon doesn’t let anyone walk out the door looking like, as she calls it, a raisin) and then we had to make sure we were ready for work. It was hectic. It was exciting. It was our life!
Thanks to the fact that Alzheimer’s has not yet taken my long-term memory, I can still recall these things.
Flash forward to today. It’s about 7:15am, Shannon is getting ready for work, Dallas and I are sitting in my recliner watching the news. I hear one alarm go off and then another. Doors start to open and close. I know Asheton and Bradley are now up and about and getting themselves ready for the start of a new school year. With Asheton in College and Bradley in his Sophomore year in High School, it’s a far cry from when they were small.
Shannon leaves for work, Asheton and Bradley are talking in the kitchen and instead of cereal and juice, it was coffee and anything in the refrigerator they could either eat standing up or in the car on their way to school. (Asheton now drives Bradley to and from school because my driving is limited to just around the immediate area.) They hug and kiss me goodbye, get in Asheton’s car and away they go.
I know working parents have looked forward to this “First Day of School” for they don’t have to worry about summer day-care; being concerned with who’s doing what to who and why; settling arguments over the phone and all that goes on at the house during summer break.
Then there are the stay-at-home parents that once the kids are out the door they may breathe a big sigh of relief; dance a jig; excitedly make a grocery list so they can go shopping ALONE; have the computer/laptop/iPad/Tablet to themselves; pleased to not hear, “MOM! / DAD! every 5 minutes.
I know I’m generalizing and this doesn’t pertain to everyone but you get the picture.
I included the sentence above because the above scenarios do not pertain to me.
I’ll tell you why.
I have found with Alzheimer’s, I don’t like being alone. I’m pretty sure I have not liked being alone all my life so I will say instead, Alzheimer’s has MAGNIFIED my desire to NOT be alone.
Having Dallas around has helped me cope with my loneliness a bit but, although Bradley and Asheton spend the majority of their time in their rooms, I’m comforted in knowing they are here. I’m not sure they are as comforted as I am for I sometimes tend to hover. I don’t mean to do this but from researching the topic, I have found that hovering is a side effect of Alzheimer’s. Our loved ones, especially our spouses, tend to be a sort of “security blanket.” I guess when Shannon is not around, I then turn towards Asheton and Bradley.
I tell them to tell me so I won’t do it but since my short-term memory short circuits, I continue to do it. They do tell me at times and they do it politely so as not to hurt my feelings. When I catch myself, I back off on my own. I get mad at myself for doing this because I know they all value their privacy. That makes it a bit difficult when you have 1 person who is dependent upon the other 3. The last thing I want to do is to be more of a burden on them than I already am. It’s a slippery slope this dependent thing.
So, this “First Day of School” thing has me feeling a bit anxious. I know they have told me their schedules and such but if I don’t write it down it becomes like dust in the wind. Well, I forgot to write things down. DUH!!!
Shannon, Asheton and Bradley are very good about keeping me informed of schedules and such so my anxiousness levels stay at a minimum. Since Asheton tends to write these things down for me, I will have her write some things down on my message board when she gets home. (of course I will have to make a note to remind myself to ask her to make a note. Geeeezzzz this gets to be exhausting.)
Anyways, when I am anxious or, experiencing some other emotion, Dallas sticks close to my side. I am more than thankful for his presence. The link below is a video I made about this subject.
The advantages of having a pet when you have Alzheimer’s
So, this “First Day of School” thing has changed a bit over the years. This is due the ages of these young adults who live with us and because of my Alzheimer’s. The thing that gets me through it all is my support system, the BRASH System. (BRadley, ASheton, Shannon) Yeah I know, I still have some of my creativity left.
As a side note, if you ever want to see how much of unnecessary knowledge I still have, come by and watch Jeopardy with me. For some reason, I’m really good! Lol
So, whether you’re a working parent, a stay-at-home parent, or anyone else who has the job of raising these wonderful human beings called children, I hope your, “First Day of School” thing was a good thing.
Until Next Time,
I Have Alzheimers, BUT It Doesn’t Have Me!
Dallas News reporter Jeffery Weiss published an article about the Movie, “Still Alice” and said,
“There’s a new movie out that’s getting good reviews. ‘Still Alice’ stars Julianne Moore, a fine actor who’s been nominated for an Oscar in the role. It’s the story of a brilliant, successful woman who develops dementia. No less than Jon Stewart says it captures the loss and descent brilliantly.”
He then goes on to list the reason why he won’t see the movie . . . all because of a book he read 40 years earlier, Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther. He writes, “It was also the most terrifying thing I’ve ever read. Part of the strength of the book, why it was chosen for teenagers, is how clearly Johnny is portrayed. He was pretty much everything I aspired to be, so of course I identified with him. Which made the suffering that much more real.
Too real. For several years, any time I got a headache a little part of me whispered “Your turn!”
I read that book also. Yes, it was a tragic story about a young boy who develops a brain tumor and then dies, but then again, there are many books (I hope he has never read a Nicholas Sparks novel) that deal with similar stories. Be it truth or fiction, you can’t just bury your head in the sand. It happens in real life and there’s nothing you can do about it except deal with it.
I equate burying your head in the sand as to turning your back on knowledge. Yes, there are things in life that we DON’T want to hear about or see. I didn’t want to see my Mother and Grandfather struggle with Alzheimer’s. I don’t like looking in the mirror seeing, “Early Onset Alzheimer’s” written across my forehead (it’s not really written on my forehead, but it may as well be) but it’s there. I wish I could be like Mr. Weiss and just say, “I’m not going to deal with this today because it may make me uncomfortable.” Unfortunately I can’t.
What I can do is deal with my EOAD, speak with and support those who are also suffering from this horrible disease, share my knowledge of the latest information I come across and Live in the Moment. Each day I make memories with my family. I try to remain as upbeat and positive as I can for those are the memories I want them to recall. I don’t want them to see the dark side. As hard as I try, it does come out in their presence but they NEVER, EVER turn their back on me.
As soon as “Still Alice” comes to a theater in my area, I will probably be the first in line to get a ticket. Yes, I want to see the extraordinary performance of Julianne Moore but I also want to see how the movie portrays Alice’s future. It just may help in my own future.
To Jeffrey Weiss from the Dallas News, “for those of us who have Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, we wish we had the option of not seeing the things we didn’t want to see, not feeling the things we feel and not being scared shitless about our future. Sooner or later, your head will have to come out of the sand so you can breathe. When you do, instead of trying to escape from all things you are afraid of, learn from them and then share that knowledge. You never know who you are going to help.”
Until next time . . . .