Both of my grandfathers died of Alzheimer's disease. I know. This could possibly mean that 40 years from now I'll be making the same new friends repeatedly. However, there are worse things, and I refuse to worry about it because at that point in my life it will be more a of a bother to people with sound minds than it will be to me. I won't even know.
I bring this up because at one point, when my paternal grandfather was becoming more and more difficult for my grandmother to care for, my father was very upset because Grandpa always seemed hungry and Grandma cooked tiny meals and wouldn't provide snacks for my grandfather. There were some judgmental words said, and some hard feelings, and Grandma ended up in angry tears.
I wish I had known then what I know now. I wish my father had the knowledge then that he has gained as he cares for my mother who is slowly losing her mind. There are some things I have learned as I have cared for Tabitha through her crisis moments, with the added complication of my physical health problems, which have given me insight to the life my grandmother led at that time.
Two months ago getting up in the morning was difficult. Choosing what to wear was an effort. Going to work seemed impossible. Add to that the stress of grocery shopping, planning and preparing meals, and my days became disastrous. I was filled with nonstop panic, depressed, and my energy seemed nonexistant. Had I not had convenience foods, a husband, and willing teens to help me with mealtimes, I'm not sure those would have happened at all.
I think of my sweet grandmother. She was in her late 70s, her physical health was not good, and she was living with a spouse who would continue to deteriorate daily. At the time of the skimpy meals, grandpa had to be locked in the house because if he was able to escape, he would try to drive the farm equipment. A wall of the garage had already needed replacement due to his belief in his driving skills. Grandpa had also forgotten how to find the bathroom inside the house, so when he needed to void, he found a corner of whatever room he was in, dropped his drawers, and soiled the carpet. Poor Grandma spent her days wondering what she would have to clean up next, hiding any implement with which my grandfather might cause harm to himself or his surroundings, and weeping with depression as she recognized the ultimate outcome of the situation was the death of her husband who was also her best friend.
I think of the exhaustion I felt when I tried to make meals for my family over the past year. I remember wishing occasionally that the food would just magically appear and I wouldn't have to think about it. I remember it marking the pinnacle of my frustration and stress. I cannot imagine how Grandma felt as she tried to babysit an adult with a toddler mind, while struggling to put together meals. And she was nowhere near my age. She was very, very tired.
I wish I had known. I wish, when my father had told me of his anger and surprise, when he wondered if my grandmother was trying to starve Grandpa to death, when he thought maybe something was wrong with her mind, as well, that I could have told him that emotional exhaustion is invisible but so much more difficult to deal with than physical exhaustion. I wish I had been able to describe how it makes one feel ill, immobile, and desperate--how it is permeated with irrational thoughts and intense sadness. I wish I had lived close enough to help my grandmother through an incredibly difficult time.
Today things are different for me--better. Tabitha is doing well and getting needed help. And while I don't know if we'll ever recover from the financial disaster of hospital visits denied by our insurance company and loss of my job as my performance slipped lower due to Tabitha's increased needs and my waning physical health, still, things are better. I feel better. Dinner is no longer a horrible chore. It has become, once again, bonding time as I prepare a meal with Darrin and Adam (and DJ, when he visits).
I'm not sure things ever got better for my grandma. Even after Grandpa was placed in a care center where he passed away after a month, Grandma lived nearly eight more years in sadness and depression. She missed Grandpa. She had a hip replacement which did not heal correctly and lived in chronic pain. She no longer wished to live. I think, sometimes, she felt that way because no one understood. We didn't understand the emotional pain she had been through and we had no way to attend to her invisible needs.
Today is a beautiful day. We're having abundant sunshine with a cool breeze and the day will be comfortably warm. The flowers which mysteriously appeared in my garden continue to bloom abundantly. Fuzzy bees and white butterflies enjoy the flowers even more than I do. Pale golden leaves announce that autumn is just around the corner and the sky is a thousand shades of blue.
My hope on this very lovely day, is that I can bring happiness to someone who might not feel well--emotionally or physically. I want to remember that no matter how a situation might appear, I don't see the invisible parts causing pain or distress. I want to remember that there are many things I don't understand and instead of judgment, I hope the people I encounter today find only love from me. I think my grandma would like that.