When I moved back to the Bay Area in 2010, I naturally visited Mom & Dad more but I didn’t think too much about it. I went when I had time but I didn’t make time for it.
Until one day. The day was nothing special; we might have watched golf on TV. We didn’t talk about anything heavy or important. But as I was leaving, they were effusive in how nice it had been for them to have had me there. It hit me like a ton of bricks: they’re your parents! They worked hard and raised you and allowed you to become who you are. And they’re in their 80s and aren’t going to last forever. Many of my friends my age have lost one or both of their parents – I need to treasure them!
So I made vow to visit them more frequently, which I have largely done. If two weeks pass without my getting down to Santa Clara it’s unusual. I’ve helped them with some things but mostly I just hang out with them. In fact, a common pattern for a visit is arrive for lunch, eat lunch, sit around and talk, take a nap, eat dinner, go home. Pretty sweet for me!
This past week I went down for the specific reason of meeting the Kaiser nurse who had given Dad a memory test. She had done the same test on him 4 years ago and now wanted to meet with another family member (besides Mom). As it happened, Mom had a bad cold & couldn’t go to the meeting so it was just Dad & me with Elaine the nurse & Grace the social worker.
They delivered the news: Alzheimers. It felt like they said Cancer. As in a death sentence. However, they said the disease is slow moving and Dad could still be happy for a long time. We discussed a lot of things and they gave me a huge packet of stuff to take back. At home, Mom wanted to know the bottom line, which I had trouble saying, but when I finally did she didn’t seem surprised.
Nothing is changed, really. He’s not going to take any drugs; he’s not going to die in a month. We, the family, are all determined to do what we can to keep him engaged and active and in his own home.
My own insight was in being there for two days with Mom being sick, I learned how much she does to keep things running. I couldn’t just sit back and wait for dinner to appear! I had to acknowledge that although she is in generally good health she is only a year younger than Dad and shouldn’t have to bear so much burden.
This story will be continued . . . .