It’s amazing what a difference a little 10lb, 8 month-old puppy can make.
It’s only been a few days but Bella seems to know her purpose. She can already detect my anxiousness, coming to lay across my lap or laying right beside me with her head in my lap, looking up at me with look on her face as if she is saying . . . “I’m right here so you can relax!” What a gift!
We’re working on the commands Deb the Trainer has already taught Bella and we are reinforcing those commands every day. We are also going to continue training with Deb via ZOOM so we can complete Bella’s training.
Bella knows she is here for a purpose and that purpose is mainly to keep my anxiousness at a minimum, to fetch my medicines when needed and replace it them when done. We will start working on that probably later this week. We don’t wan to overwhelm her or frustrate us.
It’s important that an animal has the right temperament and personality in order to fill the role of a Service Animal. It seems that Bella was destined to be our dog from the get-go. From our first interaction she was drawn to us and us to her.
Since COVID19 is not showing any signs of going away and restricting us from mingling with the public in public places, I know she will be a comfort to both of us as we navigate this Pandemic. Not being able to come and go as we please does put a strain on things and that also brings on anxiousness and frustration. I’m sure Bella has her work cut out for her.
You will hear my say, “Our Dog” and not just “My Dog”. Knowing she is a Service Dog, she has become a part of our little family. She has already made a big difference in the lives of Maureen and I and we look forward to her for years to come.
A few months ago, I went to renew my drivers license. The renewal date wasn’t until September but Maureen was renewing hers so I figured I would renew mine while we were there.
As we were sitting there answering questions the clerk was asking, she asked me the following question … “Do you have any type of mental illness that may prevent you from driving a vehicle safely?” I knew I had to answer the question honestly, even though I did not want to for I knew what the consequences would be.
I told the clerk, “well, I have Alzheimer’s Disease and I’m not really sure if my reaction time would be like it was.”
She apologized and told me that she could not renew my drivers license without having me tested to see if I could pass the driving test. I knew if I got behind the wheel of a car, my reaction time was not going to be enough to pass the driving test. She said she would leave it open in case I wanted to get tested but she would have to flag my license.
Maureen and I had several discussions, weighing the pros and cons of getting tested. What ended up being the straw that broke the camels back was this. Maureen told me she had noticed the my Executive Functions (making decisions, diminished by my Vascular Dementia) had gone down hill. She gave me examples of conversations we had, some I remembered but the majority of the conversations I didn’t remember.
With my inability to make snap decisions, we came to the conclusion that renewing my license was not going to happen. I understood that, but it was a sad, sad time.
Yesterday, July 21st, I went back to get an ID. Once the process was over, I was no longer a licensed driver. It hit me hard once we got back into the car. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I lost it. I had a drivers license since I was 17 or 18 years old. Now turning 60 years old in a little over a month and a half, I no longer have a drivers license.
It was so very hard to take although I knew what I was going in there for. I went in as a licensed driver and came out with a Florida ID. It still hit me very very hard. I felt like my Dementia once again took something away from me that I treasured, something that was mine.
I remembered a story my brother Wayne told us. He took my Dad’s car keys away for he was no longer able to drive safely. My Dad forgot a lot of things due to his Vascular Dementia but one day he and Wayne were having a conversation and my Dad was just staring at Wayne. He then said, “I know you! You’re the SOB that took my car keys!” or something along those lines.
It’s funny (not Ha Ha funny) how memories will come back to me at the strangest times. It’s usually not the big memories, but the smaller, memories.
I hate what Alzheimer’s has already taken from me. I have always said from the beginning that I was not going to allow Alzheimer’s to define who I am. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that so far. Today was a big test. Over the past 6 years, I don’t know if it was Alzheimer’s or Vascular Dementia that took away some things that I treasured and things I had taken for granted for so many years.
Now, those things (friendships, memories, dreams) are gone. I haven’t driven a car or any other type of vehicle since I’ve been here in Largo. I knew that I should not be behind the wheel of a car but I still had my that little piece of plastic that said I still had the ability or I should say, the right, to drive a vehicle.
That is no more and I need to let it go.
Maureen said “the ability to drive is not the measure of a man. The true measure of a man is his care and concern about his fellow man. And you have shown yourself to be a giant by considering the safety of others in this decision. THANK You!”
She then said, “you know what is such a comfort to me? having you in the car with me. You’re my second set of eyes, my second set of ears. You keep me safe!”
Friends! We’ve all had them throughout our lives. We’ve had good friends, school friends, college friends, business friends and BEST FRIENDS!
The Best Friends are the ones that, if you’re lucky, last a lifetime. Sure, life gets in the way and may prohibit you from speaking to one another on a daily basis, but the communication is still there whenever you can make time. You catch up, find out what the other is doing, laugh, reminisce, and try to make a date and time you can talk again. Sometimes it works, and sometimes life and priorities get in the way. Somewhere down the road you’ll catch up and pick up right where you left off.
What happens when “LIFE” gets in the way and includes illness, maybe not to you but to a spouse, a child, a parent or grandparent. What happens to those friendships?
I can speak only of my friendships and I can honestly say, it has been been a mix of being happy, sad, lonely and surprising. I could easily blame it on many things like moving to Florida 30+ years ago, losing touch with folks who have moved and not know where they went or what they’re doing now, and I’m certainly not going to blame it on my Alzheimer’s. That would go against everything I speak about. By using that as an excuse it would make me a liar and I could no longer say “I don’t allow Alzheimer’s to define me.!”
To be honest, I don’t blame it on anything other than time and life! Those are two things that are in perpetual motion, that is until life comes to an end.
I must say, since my diagnosis in 2014, I have made some pretty remarkable friendships. Some are more of acquaintances, some are near, some are far, some are somewhere in the middle and some are re-acquaintances from decades ago. (Thank You Facebbook and other Social Media).
One such friendship I hold near and dear to my heart is with Sandy Halperin. Because of Alexander “Sandy” Halperin, I became an Dementia Advocate, a member of Dementia Action Alliance, a member of the Early Stage Advisory Group of the National Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, IL, which opened up countless opportunities to speak at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, The National Institute of Health (NIH), and many other conferences, symposiums, and Educational Presentations.
On September 20, 2016, Sandy “literally” passed the Advocacy baton to me. He knew he was not able to do as much advocacy as he had been doing throughout the years so he passed the baton to me, with 1 requirement . . . When it comes time that I am not able to continue my advocacy, I am to choose a recipient to pass the baton to. My name will be inscribed on the baton as Sandy did when he passed it to me. Fortunately it will not be ANY TIME SOON for I still have A LOT TO SAY!!!
Sandy has given permissions to Maureen and I and a few other folks to post information on his LinkedIn page. He has 30,000 followers on his page and he did not want the page to be empty of current news, stories and Research. So, we utilize his page to continue spreading the word and we are so thankful for him giving us the opportunity to speak to 30,000 of his closest friends.
Sandy’s friendship is more than just a friendship. We are two people from different backgrounds but it was Alzheimer’s Disease that bonded us. It was Alzheimer’s Disease that taught us ways to live with the Disease as well as we possibly can. It was Alzheimer’s Disease that gave us a platform to speak from. It is Alzheimer’s that will keep our friendship going.
We both know that it will be Alzheimer’s that will cause other medical issues to take us away, but we don’t worry about that. We still have a lot to say and a lot to write.
Neither Sandy nor I want sympathy from anyone. We often talk about what we don’t want rather than what we do want. What we do want is for everyone to know we lived a full life. A life of passion, a life of hope, a life of love and a life of friendship!
Thanksgiving. A day where we pause for a moment to give thanks. Give thanks for what? We give thanks for everything big and small, important and insignificant. We give thanks for life!
What that life is, is totally up to you!
If you determine your quality of life, based upon whether you’re rich, poor, healthy, ill or somewhere in between, your rating scale is off. Money cannot and does not buy happiness, it buys material things. If material things make you happy, and you surround yourself with these things, then fine. However, a materialistic world often blurs the realism of life. Just remember, we were all born into this world the same way and we all go out of this world the same way . . . penniless.
This reminds me of the poem, “The Dash” by Linda Ellis. (here’s a link to them poem:The Dash)
The dash is the little, bitty mark in between the date we were born and the date we die. Although not nearly as big or prominent as the dates on either side, it is the most important.
Two stanzas of Ms. Ellis’ poem stand out for me:
For that dash represents all the time that they spent alive on earth. And now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars…the house…the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So, on this Thanksgiving, I give thanks for my life, my dash.
Is it perfect? NO, but nothing ever is.
Is it hard? YES, but nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.
No matter the imperfections or the hardships, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. I consider myself the luckiest and most loved man in the world, and for that, I am THANKFUL!