January

THE TWO FACES OF JANUS AND GROUNDHOG DAY — THE MOVIE

Janus

Even without the two faces of Janus, AD caregivers often see their tomorrows filled with the repetition of their yesterdays.

It’s January again and at times I want to ask, “Didn’t we just do January?” The answer coming back would be, “No.  That was last year and 11 months have transpired in between.”  I really know that, but there was something about that first day of 2012 which brings about thoughts of Janus the Roman God of New Beginnings after whom the month was named.  Being who he was it is said that he had two faces: one looking forward and the other looking back.  While Janus probably didn’t have my caregiving assignment, or if he did he never mentioned it, I see a disheartening sameness in my life while looking in either direction.

Being able to look back is a good thing, and in that respect we are much like the mystical god, but better because we who are mentally healthy can look back without needing a second face.  We have memory and can learn from history – especially our own.  We learn from making mistakes, taking wrong turns in the road, and what works and what doesn’t.  Furthermore, we can look ahead making daily plans, and plan for the future. My problem is constantly seeing more of the same thing coming in my tomorrows as filled my yesterdays.

Suppose that by looking back and ahead we see only repetition.  I guess that’s where I was as this New Year began; living in “Groundhog Day” – the movie – without the romance.  Bill Murray’s character Phil, an angry, arrogant, conceited jerk, had to keep repeating February 2, until his attitude changed, or until he got it right.  Andie Macdowell’s Rita, the love interest, eventually helped him through his maze of repetition producing a new, reformed and lovable Phil; a delightfully funny movie which Ken and I enjoyed together long before his Alzheimer’s was even suspected.

Remembering the movie, though, I found I was identifying with Phil’s frustration of constant repetition – without the laughs.  It’s true that I’m not tied to a stockade then released to perform certain duties, but it is the repetition of those twice-daily duties from which there is no escape: getting Ken up, cleaned and ready for breakfast each morning, and getting him cleaned and ready for bed in the evening.  (It is much more complicated and emotionally wrenching than it appears in my simple sentence, but long ago I promised myself to always be discreet in my writings about my husband.)

My caregivers, wonderful though they are, cannot do these chores alone.  I am their assistant, and I know I am blessed beyond measure to have them.  I also know that having Ken home is so much better for him, and me, than placing him in a care facility. Yet, the schedule inhibits my planning a totally free day.  No matter what I’m doing I must stop at designated times and with my cell phone in a pocket I’m always on call for undesignated times, which can put a damper on my project regardless if it’s at a crucial point or not, and help the caregivers.  That’s when I feel as if I’m living in “Groundhog Day” – the movie.

Admitting to me that I dread the routine I also recognize that the dread causes a buildup of resistance in planning my day.  Recognition is a first step.  While I understand that the day will be interrupted, it’s the accepting of the interruption that is difficult – and I ask myself – why?  After all, once involved in any project we can be interrupted in anything we do; altering our focus by a phone call, a visitor, a question, or a problem with the project itself.  Then I realized those interruptions are, not only easily accepted, but often welcomed as a mini-break because they were never built into the day’s plan as a constant, as is my husband’s clean-up time.

When Ken retired we became very spontaneous, often ditching less-important, flexible plans for some fun times spent together.  I suppose that loss of spontaneity is rather debilitating adding to the lack-luster feeling of sameness.  Actually, it can be rather hellish when time offers us no opportunity for change in our life; little variety,  few surprises, no rewards, no excitement and not much in the way of looking forward.

With that in mind, and as a caregiver who has been putting break time on hold during the past Holidays, I need to move headlong into the tomorrows and make positive plans for this coming year, and I’m the only one who can do it.  Not resolutions, just plans, even sketchy plans including projects and fun, but in the doing I’ll still need to schedule those time periods to accommodate my daily duties as assistant to Ben and Crizaldo which is a must, and learn to conquer my feelings of dread and resistance.  A recent email message offered a really great motivational shove: “Life has no remote.  Get up and change it yourself.”

It is essential for my own well-being to get out more with my movie group, my lunch group, and with Madalyn where we meet at Wendy’s for a baked potato with extra sour cream, butter and no salt because periodically we deserve a two-hour, carefree lunch.  I might even plan on painting the living room.

I know I don’t have all the answers to lighten up the tedious work of caregiving and the reality of losing my husband to this cruel disease.  What I do know is that I don’t want to live my life in the sameness of “Groundhog Day” – the movie – no matter how funny it was — because even never-ending funny without any hope for change can be hellish.

Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/forresto/4258770494/

Originally posted 2012-01-14 03:42:41.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY

It’s January 21, 2009 which is Ken’s and my wedding anniversary.  During the day he took turns being any one of his three personalities — as usual. Some time around 4:00 he seemed to be Ken so I asked if he would like to go for dinner and, perhaps, a movie to celebrate our anniversary.  He looked at me with a questioning smile then asked,  “When did that happen?”  “A long time ago,” I answered, but mention food and he is ready to go.

We went to a small, intimate restaurant owned by our daughter, Julie, which during these economic times is struggling to stay open.  We sat in what has become my favorite corner and ordered dinner — a small dinner.  He becomes agitated when he has to wait very long for anything.  Usually we have been going to some fast food places where he gets instant food.  Even before our meal arrived he became Mr. Hyde and wanted to hurry because he had to get home for his wife who should be home from work.  I rushed as much as I could, considering it was hot soup, telling him we would leave as soon as I finished my dinner.  He began pacing around the restaurant and I could see that he was becoming agitated.  Rather than have him bother the other customers, I decided it best to leave.   Asking for the check our server said it had been taken care of.  Leaving a tip on the table I picked up my coat and purse and peeked into the kitchen saying,  “Thanks for dinner, Julie.”   “Happy anniversary,” she sighed, and we left.

Son-in-law Tim caught us as we were driving out of the parking lot.  “I thought you were going to hang for a little while,” he said.  “No,” I replied.  “Ken has to get home to find his wife.  I came with my husband, but shortly after we arrived the evening turned into a real bummer of a blind date.”   Try a little humor, I thought, to cover the pain.  We said our good evenings and I drove home.  I cried all the way.  Ken didn’t notice.

Foolish woman, I thought to myself.  I knew better.  What did I expect?  Perhaps a miracle — a lucid evening — when he would remember who we were and our life together.  It didn’t happen.  Of course not.  After five years, his Alzheimer’s is well advanced.   On his blog, Dr. David, mentioned “a rotting mind.”   I have called it the same thing and it might as well be as there are hardly any reference points remaining; just a mass of tangles and plaque.   It’s almost as if my husband has died and I’m taking care of  what’s left.   However, I know  I am fortunate that I can still care for him at home.  I just won’t plan — or expect — any romantic evenings with my husband.  But every so often, when the sun is bright,  he will remember just a little and ask, “You know what?”  “What?” I answer.  “I love you.”  It’s not an evening out, nor will it fill the whole day, but for a moment I have my husband back.

Originally posted 2009-01-30 06:14:02.

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