A few weeks ago, Huffington Post sent a shout out for photos of couples exercising together. So of course I obliged and sent in a picture of Vince and I before we ran the Shenandoah Apple Blossom 10K last May.
Next Saturday I fly from the cold state of Virginia to the freezing cold state of Minnesota. With one friend going to Puerto Rico this month and another on a Caribbean Cruise, I can’t help but wonder if I have it backwards by heading north. But this is what it’s come to — my airline ticket money is saved for home, and heading south while tempting, just wouldn’t feel right.
There isn’t a big To-Do list this time, my plan is to mostly chill and spend time with my family.
But if you read “Racing Alzheimer’s: Mom’s New Year Resolutions” recently, you know that there is a list — it’s just not my list. I hope to knock some things off mom’s list by doing what we can that doesn’t require warmer weather. I know require is a relative term, but this Minnesota girl has become a cold weather wuss since leaving over 20 years ago. I mean, there’s really no reason to be outside when it’s below 40 degrees.
A warm coat, chap-stick, and mom’s list — let’s do this.
Hopefully I’ll be able to smell spring in the air when I return.
We moved my mom into an Assisted Living Home on May 18th, 2012 without planning for it and with only two days notice. We barely had time to move her in and make her room feel like home before I flew out the next day. It sort of felt like I dropped my mom off at a daycare and then never picked her up. Even though I knew it was the right thing to do, it just felt wrong. One of the biggest events in my mom’s life was rushed, because I was rushed.
It’s been two months since mom’s been in her new home and I hear she’s doing great. But, I’m thrilled to be going back this week so I can see for myself. I also feel like this is a chance to take things slow and do some of the things I wanted to do in May.
Some things I’m looking forward to are:
Going for walks in the new neighborhood mom lives in.
Dining with mom and her new friends.
Washing dishes with mom.
Decorating her bedroom with old family photos and girlie stuff.
Maybe getting new bedding for her twin bed.
Taking mom to the beauty salon for a haircut.
Just being with my mom, and being fully present, with nothing but time on my hands.
My sister from Texas will also be there, and so with the Nelson family of five all together, we have a photo session scheduled at Lake Nokomis. We haven’t had a professional family photo taken in about 35 years, so this will be it — most likely the last shot of all of us together. You know the family pictures people take when someone has terminal cancer? That’s what this feels like. Except mom won’t look sick, she just won’t know what’s going on as she smiles innocently at the camera. I’ve given the photographer a heads up telling him, “my mom will think you’re an old friend, and she’ll be so happy to see you that she’ll probably hug you.” The photographer said that’s okay, his grandfather had Alzheimer’s and he’s very familiar with “going with the flow.” This disease touches us all.
This will be my first visit to see my parents in years when I haven’t had a major to-do list. I am so looking forward to just chilling and spending quality time with my family. Plus I have a date with Lake Harriet I need to attend to, (see Bucket List). There’s nothing like Minneapolis in July!
The 10K I ran in May was the last time I ran 6 miles . . . or 5 or 4 for that matter. Running 3 miles two or three days a week is about it, and even that has become difficult. Ugh! How can I lose 3 miles in one month?! The short answer? Stress. During my recent visit to Minneapolis that included moving my mom into her new Assisted Living home — I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t take care of myself and I didn’t run. I was a wreck and lost 5lbs in 10 days. I’m pretty sure those pounds were my newly acquired 10K muscles.
When I arrived back home in Virgina, I was sick for a week and felt like I’d been run over by a truck. And I’ve pretty much been under a rock ever since. Recovering. Keeping to myself in prime reclusive form. Avoiding people. Some might call this depression. But I like to think of my solitude as more of an adjustment period.
Adjusting is not new to me. As a mother, and even as a daughter of aging parents, the adjustments are aplenty. Putting my children on the kindergarten bus comes to mind, as well as watching my newly licensed children drive away for the first time. And of course there’s the adjustment period I’m currently in — letting go of my children as they learn to fly on their own, and letting go of my mom who is in her 7th year with Alzheimer’s.
The dictionary defines adjustment as “adaptation; harmony achieved by modification or change of a position.”
In the above definition, LETTING GO is my modification.
Letting go is saying YES TO WHAT IS. It’s saying yes to what is true right now. While we may not like what is true, if we are to live in harmony, we have no other choice than to let go and accept. The opposite of letting go is grasping, and with grasping comes wishing, wanting, clenching and suffering — not a harmonious place to be.
So I am working on letting go of my children and letting go of my mom. I am adjusting. I’m changing my position from being the center of my children’s lives to being silently by their side, readily available with a hug or advice, while they take the wheel and navigate the trajectory of their lives.
Letting go of my mom is different. I’m saying the real good bye as I let go of my mom. She is still with us, but because of Alzheimer’s, I’m saying good bye to the mom who sang in the church choir, hung clothes on the line and called my children by name. I’m saying good bye to the mom who sent birthday cards, visited me in Virginia and who called on the phone just to say hello. Since using the words “mom” and “daughter” are confusing, I’m saying good bye to them as well. I’ll be her friend. I’m changing my position from being a daughter she knew and loved to that of a being a really nice woman with a friendly smile who likes to hug. I’ll be her loving friend who calls her Ruth instead of mom . . . who will do anything for her.
Adjusting and letting go. Changing my position.
Soon, in a few years I would imagine, Alzheimer’s will complete it’s grip on my mom. Then I’ll be saying good bye to mom’s physical form. I’d like to think this won’t be too difficult as I’ll have said all my good byes by then. But I’m probably mistaken. And then I might be adjusting again.
All that we behold is full of blessings. ~ William Wordsworth
Yesterdays post about Alzheimer’s disease killing my mom was honest. It wasn’t meant to be anything other than that. I have experienced many emotions throughout the course of my mom’s disease. I’ve been sad, frustrated, joyful, embarrassed, protective, impatient, scared and yes angry. But I’ve also been grateful. And of all the emotional ups and downs this disease brings — gratefulness is my gift and comfort to myself.
My mother is still on this earth, she is in good hands, and I get to tell her everything in my heart over and over again.
Yes, I am grateful for Alzheimer’s disease.
Because of Alzheimer’s . . . .
My mom is free from the worries of the world and is generally happy.
I am closer with my parents because I am more involved in their lives.
I am also closer with my brother and sister who are my partners on this journey.
I have a pretty good idea of how and when my mother will die — it’s a gift in disguise.
I appreciate and treasure every moment I have with my mom, and those I love.
I know how and why to strive for fitness and health — including brain health.
I’m healthier than I’ve ever been.
I see the fragility of life, and I try not to take things for granted.
I’m trying to live with intention and mindfulness.
I have a good reason to run!
We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are
conscious of our treasures.~ Thornton Wilder
I’ve been talking a lot about my mom lately. That’s just where my head is at. But you should know that I’m not the only one concerned about my mom. I have an older sister and a younger brother who have been right here with me all the way.
We are a family of five.
My brother John lives in Minneapolis near my parents. He has the task of “being there” since my sister and I live far away. So my brother has been helping with things like mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. Groceries, laundry and even doing the floors have also been on his to-do list since my dad is on crutches. But the biggest help John has been is just knowing he’s nearby in case my parent’s need assistance on short notice. It’s a lot of pressure being the only one there — but my sister and I are so grateful for his presence and eagerness to help when needed.
My sister Marilyn lives in Texas but has been generous with her time and so helpful with her expertise in the medical field. While I manage my mom’s medications and medical issues, my sister manages my dad’s. The sharing of these two responsibilities has been invaluable as both parents have health issues. You know our mom has Alzheimer’s disease, but our dad was recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation. (There’s prostate issues too, but my dad is pretending they don’t exist). And with his recent ankle surgery, my dad’s a walking pharmacy. So my sister is on top of his medical and medication management. Thank God!
The three of us also helped clean out my parents house in 2011. I haven’t mentioned this before, but my mom became a bit of a hoarder in her later years and trust me when I say it took the three of us an entire week to clean out the house. That’s another story.
What I’m saying is I am not alone. I have my sister and brother.
The three of us pulling together and perhaps becoming closer has been a beautiful blessing during this difficult time. They have my love, admiration and respect. Always.