Thursday, February 21, 2013

my cat and my dad

My rescue cat, Romeo, was doing something today.  I don't even remember what it was--begging for food probably because he's on a diet.  But for some reason I thought about my dad and tried to remember what my dad had to say about Romeo. 
Then I realized, he never met this cat.
And that made me feel really, really sad.
I got Romeo almost 2 years ago shortly after his 9th birthday.  He had had, as well as I can tell, 5 homes in the last year (before that, 1 home).  He was afraid of everything, with severe PTSD to the point where he had to be sedated for six months or have a fear-induced heart attack.  He's got some poor litterbox habits (hence the "shaming" picture).  But now that he's figured out we are keeping him even if he has litterbox issues, he is really sweet and loving and adorable and I am totally his "person" and he follows me around and constantly rubs his head on me so the other cats know I am his. 
I think my dad would have liked him.
But realizing that, although Romeo is 11 years old and dad's been gone only 5 years, they never met, made me think of everything else my dad will never see and never know.
That made me alternately sad and angry.  I don't MISS my dad much anymore, but when I do, it always knocks me for a loop.  And I have to wonder if I'm angry because he died or if I'm angry at how he died.  Would I have felt such anger, started this blog, if my dad had cancer, or died of a heart attack (what probably would have happened without the Alzheimer's, since he had at least 1 heart attack that we know of while he had dementia.  I don't think so.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Alzheimer's Aunt falls down

The view from my font window; beyond the fence
is a sidewalk and on the other side of the tree is the street.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that we in New England just got walloped with a huge snowstorm.  My town got 38 inches of snow in one day and at one point supposedly snow was falling at 6 inches per hour.  Lotta snow.
If you want to watch it in action, there is an awesome video (less than a minute) in time-lapse. 
So you can imagine what it was like to shovel out of this insane mess, even with a snowblower.
After 3 days, I finally got my car out.  I called my cousin and said "I'm venturing out, does your mom need anything?"  The reply was "well she's not shoveled out so she wouldn't be able to get anything you brought."  Okay.
 I called my own mom who said she was going to walk to Wal-mart to buy dog food.  I told her no, that I would buy it and bring it.  But her street wasn't plowed yet (cul-de-sac) and neither was the street leading to it.  I convinced her that the dog could survive on just dry food for a few days and set off on my own adventures.
Of course who do I see wandering down the street on foot, clutching a bag of dog food?  MY MOM!  I get her into my SUV and get her as close to home as I could (not very, unfortunately) and promised to take her to the store for real the next day if the street's still unplowed.
The next day I am waiting for her to call me about going to the store together and my cousin calls wanting Alzheimer's Aunt dug out and driven around.  Of course everyone has a million reasons why they can't do it and I have to.  I was pretty angry; I said "I've got my own mom to deal with, her street isn't plowed and neither is the street that's attached to."  So then I had BOTH of them in the car.  And later my mom complained how bad Alzheimer's Aunt STUNK.  She REEKED.   It's her breath, like death, like a dead animal under the porch in the summer, combined with an unwashed body and dirty clothing.
My mom was actually coming over my house after shopping to help me dig out my husband's car, so he could finally go to work rather than keep working from home.  So that's my mom, who does stuff.  In contrast, this is Alzheimer's Aunt once she's in the car:
"I tried to go outside and I fell down."
I just clamped my mouth shut.  When there's almost 4 feet of snow, it doesn't make you fall down.  It holds you up.
"I couldn't get up, I laid in the snow for 15 minutes."
I just don't believe her. I don't believe she even went outside.
"No one came and shoveled my sidewalk."
Finally I spoke.  "Who did you think would come when every road in the state was closed?"
"I thought my neighbors would do it."
"Did you ask them for help?"
"Then why did you think they would shovel for you?"
"They would see that I didn't shovel."
Well, for all they knew, you weren't even HOME.  And I bet if she had gone outside and made the slightest effort and others were outside shoveling, someone might have come over and asked if she needed help.  Sitting in the house, no doubt with the stuck-out lip face, pouting, isn't how you get your walk shoveled.
I announce, rather loudly and passive-aggressively, that I need gas for my car.
The silence is deafening.
So I have to shovel you out and drive you around but you can't pitch in for gas money?!
The next day, I was talking to my cousin about her.  I learned that Alzheimer's Aunt has spent approximately $6,000 in the last few months that can't be accounted for.  Part of it may be her house taxes, but even if she paid the whole year, that wouldn't be that much money.  I said, "Do you have power of attorney?  It's simple.  Invoke it.  Take her checkbook, take all her credit cards.  Call QVC and cancel her account.  Have new credit cards issued so any cards she has saved online (like at Amazon) won't work.  Go to the bank and say that she cannot take money out of her accounts anymore or get any loans.  Give her $200 cash for groceries and nothing else."  Then my cousin said that Alzheimer's Aunt has been going to her bank and opening $5,000 lines of credit like they are free money.  She has a mortgage on the house (she's lived in it for over 40 years) too, we don't know for how much or what she spent that money on.  But no one wants to invoke the PoA and "deal with all that" so they will let her spend herself into the ground. 
I suggested (I know I'm not supposed to suggest) that it's time she move into senior housing. "No, it would cost more."  I did the math and I think it would be significantly less.  The mortgage payment is about what rent would be.  She would no longer have to pay house taxes, water/sewer, oil, gas, or electric.  How would it cost more? Oh, but she can't live in a simple 1 bedroom senior apartment because she's got a 3 bedroom house hoarded to the brim with stuff she won't give up.
Is she going to the doctor anytime soon?  Getting tests?  Anyone care what's really wrong with her expect me, the person she cares about the least? 
It's all very sad.
Also, in an aside, 1 year ago today my grandma had her (final) stroke and we pulled the plug.  I will write about her later.

Monday, February 04, 2013

alternate universes, or the "maybe" game

For some reason I started thinking about alternate universes today.  Forgive my lack of scientific words, but there is a theory (not science fiction or fantasy, but a real actual scientific idea) called a Multiverse, that posits that everything that ever could have happened, did happen, just in some other world that lies parallel to ours.  That makes me wonder if that place (those places) are the afterlife we dream of and hope for.  In some of those worlds:
  • My dad is still alive and clear-minded and we visit Aunt Bert every Friday because she is also alive and clear-minded at 94 years old.  
  • My grandpa didn't die of cancer 25 years ago.
  • My grandma didn't have a stroke a year ago.  
  • I am thin.  
  • I am a paleontologist with a dinosaur named after me and I have held the claw of a raptor and the tooth of a t-rex.
  • I have run my fingers through a tiger's fur.  
  • I have written best-selling novels and I hobnob with famous writers.  
  • I am working with elephants so I can clone a mammoth.  
That is something that can sustain me.  Every once in a while, I get a hint of cross-over, I feel like just there, so close I can touch her, Another Bert has done something amazing, and I get an echo.   Maybe on days that I feel sad for no reason, something bad has happened to one of my Others.  My pet lived, but hers died.  She has lost something that I got to keep.  And I have lost so much, and perhaps they kept it.  (They can all keep the weight I've lost, that's for sure.)
I am reading Terry Pratchett's newest book, Dodger.  To think this came out of the mind of someone who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 5 years ago is amazing.  I know he has some help writing now, but his voice is still strongly there.  And maybe, for this world, the trade-off was my dad died and Sir Terry got to live.  Maybe in another world, my dad lived and they lost Terry Pratchett. 
We should know all this, shouldn't we? We are living in the future, aren't we?  The original Cyberpunk game was set in 2013 (then moved to 2020 and now it's being reborn in 2077).  1984, 2001, they were all supposed to be amazing futures.   Cell phones are amazing, the internet is incredible, but where are the flying cars? Why don't we live on the moon?  Why don't I have a port in my head to connect my computer?  Why don't we have awesome cyborgs and laser weapons?
Why can't we see into those other universes?  Just to KNOW, not to communicate.  Even if he's dead now of a heart attack, to know that somewhere my father didn't suffer and die as a virtual vegetable.  That my garden is beautiful because my grandpa lived long enough to help me with it.  That maybe everyone I know who is boring and ordinary, like me, is extraordinary somewhere else, even if it's only on one world out of a million.
Maybe there are other worlds where dementia and cancer don't exist or have been cured.  (I imagine they are even more grossly overpopulated than this world, though.)  Where there are no Alzheimer's blogs or awards for them because they aren't needed.
And maybe in all of them, my dad is dead.  I don't know if I'll ever know.  But I like to think that it's possible he's still there, somewhere, even if it's just at the Elsewhere Bar.
(image source)