My Grandma has Alzheimer’s Disease, and it has gradually progressed over the last few years (and this has sped up quite a bit recently). She’s quite happy most of the time, or at least when things are simple and she can stay in her house (or go to church). She wears the same thing pretty much everyday. She baby talks sometimes. She repeats herself, and she forgets how to do things like bake cookies and run the washing machine. She still knows us, but she doesn’t recognize many other people.
My grandparents are close to 90 years old. They live in their home (probably not for much longer) and Grandpa still drives (probably not for much longer). My Mom spends many hours with them each week, visiting with them and taking Grandpa to his doctors appointments (I tried taking turns with this when I lived there, but I never held up my end of it…and she never pushed me to). She didn’t tell me I could write about this, but I bet she’ll forgive me!
My Mom is one of those people who everyone likes. When I meet people who know her and they realize she’s my Mom, they always smile and say emphatically, “I LOVE Susan!”
She never complains about visiting her parents, even when they don’t do what the doctors tell them to do or when they don’t treat her the way she should be treated. She constantly looks for the good parts–we used to call her Pollyanna before my sister died (she lost her sparkle for a bit then). When I was a kid and my sister and I used to fight, Mom wouldn’t yell at us, she’d just cry. Then of course we felt terrible and stopped (temporarily). Mom is uncoordinated and kind of wussy, although less so nowadays. She can’t sing, and the way she drives makes me twitch (slowly). But, all I ever think when I talk to my Mom is how lucky I am that she’s My Person. There’s just nobody like her.
Instead of looking at the negatives in the situation in which my grandparents are losing their independence (and fighting it), or dwelling on the fact that she’s already lost the opportunity to ever have a real conversation with her mother again, she focuses on the good parts.
She’s had an opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship with her Dad (and she’s taught him how to do more in the kitchen than put bread in the toaster and set the table). She notices things like that her Mom gives better hugs than she used to, and she says that if Grandma wants to eat mandarin oranges and cake for every meal maybe we should just let her. We laugh about how Grandma has lost her filter (and she never really held back much before).
My favorite part recently is this story from my Mom.
Background Info: Mom always sits on the flowery love seat in The Prids’ (our nickname for them) living room for hours at a time. She reminds her Dad which medications he is supposed to take when (and which ones he’s not supposed to mix). They talk about weather. And Me. They have the same conversations over and over. It’s about 86 degrees in the house in the winter. So she’s sweating too. She calls her Dad out on things when he’s being stubborn, forgetful or pushy, and she’s reminded of how great it is that they have evolved to a place of more openness in their relationship (and she’s gotten gutsy too). Grandma sits on the sidelines, and chirps in once in a while (we call it chicken and rice talk—it’s nothing of substance, just her observations of the moment).
On this one particular day, they talk about someone who was sick, and then died.
Grandma chimes in:
“That’s Bad! …. Or Good.”
My Mom tells me this story later, and how Grandma’s statement struck her in the moment. Don’t we always try and label things as good or bad in a moment when they’re happening? Mom and I discuss that maybe nothing is bad–maybe it all just happens. We contemplated this for a long time when it first came up, and now we quote it with a laugh on most days when we’re thinking about choices and events (which I’m doing a lot of right now).
I recently read a book by Stephen Cope (which I then bullied my Mom into reading so we could talk about it together), and one of the things that resonated with me was how we really don’t need to know what’s going to happen in the big picture of our lives (because we really can’t know anyway). We don’t have to have it all planned out—we just read each moment and take cues and do what feels the best right now based on our values. When we miss opportunities, we don’t need to dwell on it and feel lack… we just need to move on and take the next step that feels right. It might feel “bad” …But is it, really? Maybe it’s just different than the faulty vision we had manufactured.
Like I said before, I don’t want to make resolutions in January, but I do like to set goals. I’m working on my goal list, and I’m using this approach—only taking into account as far as I can see and what feels the best. I want to remember the list of things that are most important (which actually only includes people). I want to stay true to who and what make me feel happiest and best, but also realize that I can actually be happy at any time with any people. I know I’ll do yoga and drink green juice as much as I can because it makes me feel so good. I’ll visit my Mom and Dad and Matthew, and I’ll keep working on helping people learn to make their lives happier through good positive lifestyle choices.
I didn’t pass the test I took a couple weeks ago (I needed an 84), for the job I didn’t actually really want (but thought I should want it for the pay and benefits), and the first time I failed I felt a surge of motivation to tackle it again. The second time, I’m just over it and ok with it–I failed a test and didn’t get a job that I was recruited for.
That’s Bad…. Or Good.
Actually, it’s kind of funny too 🙂
What are your themes for approaching 2013?