Thursday, June 12, 2008

6/12/08 Endings and Beginnings

The ending: Gabriel's last day of kindergarten was today!! The classroom was open for 20 minutes before the end, so parents could come and see the room and hang out. I was late, and I felt SO bad that Gabriel was waiting outside his classroom for me, looking around anxiously. But I did get some time there, and he showed me where he sat, and his cubby. My tough little cookie.

Gabriel and his teacher, and outside his classroom.

Gabriel and his best friend, Parth.

Gabriel and Parth talk a lot apparently -- Parth's father knew all about our move and remodel!! Parth is a really nice kid, talkative in an engaging way that reminds me a lot of Julian.

I took the day off work for Gabriel's last day of school, but also for another reason. It's always a dilemma for bloggers whether or not to write about the tough stuff, but out of respect I haven't written about what's going on with my Dad. But now there's no chance he'll read about it in my blog. Most of you know about it anyway.

The beginning: My sister and brother, bless their hearts, moved our father in to a very nice private facility in Pittsfield, MA today. We'd hoped to move him to traditional assisted living, but he didn't qualify, and so he went into the secure dementia facility. He's mid-stage Alzheimer's (never officially diagnosed but all signs point there), and while he's better off than most of the patients in the dementia facility, he's not nearly self-sufficient enough anymore for traditional assisted living.

We've been helping him live at home, alone in upstate rural NY for a year now after he lost his driver's license (another traumatic event for him and us), but the isolation has really taken its toll. Now my father is surrounded by very, very caring and nice people who are experts in handling dementia patients, and he'll have everything he needs. Except his mind.

The history of Alzheimer's on my Dad's side is strong and frightening. His mother died of it in her early 60s, as well as a grandmother and an aunt. In 2000, my sister and brother and I talked amongst ourselves with great concern about my father's increasing memory struggles. He was only 68, and probably could have been diagnosed, if he were willing, before then. This history, and my own occasional blankouts (which way do you turn a key? though that's probably more migraine-related) don't bode well for me.

But I'm sure as heck not going to make my demise as difficult on my children as my Dad did on me and my sister and brother. Think it's noble to tell your kids to just let you die or take out out to a field and shoot you before ever putting you in a nursing home? It's not. It's incredibly selfish and causes no end of stress and guilt for your children, who absolutely are not going to shoot you and absolutely are going to have to move you at some point. Alas, but I can't hold Dad accountable for any of the old sh*t that goes on in families anymore.

Fortunately, today he went willingly because he's very excited about the "brain fitness program." He really, really wants to get his memory back, and his focus on that since he's learned about "the program" has given him new spark. He believes he's there for the program, and when he gets better, he'll move back home. It's tricky at his level of understanding; there's no point in arguing with him that no, this is permanent, you're moving. And he's right -- if he gets his memory back, he will move home. He's physically very able. He's only 75. He'll likely ask at some point when he's going home, but the staff there are experts at dealing with dementia patints and know how to handle it.

A child-free friend once said to me, "You're not really a grownup until you have
kids, right?" and I found myself answering, "No, you're not really a grownup
until you're taking care of your parents." Kids make you a kid, babies make you...well, jello, but aging parents -- that's the real grownup stuff.

My house is in a-shambles (both of them). The city wants to charge us a fee for having more bedrooms than they have in their records. We still don't have our building permits. My father is starting the best new step possible in his life, but there is no good path from here for him. A few days without a migraine is rare.

And people think raising three kids is stressful?

Kids keep everything rooted, normal, moving along. They make me stop and trim fingernails, try on new summer shorts, sign up for day camps, read stories, talk about Legos, play tickle-chase with a guffawing toddler. They make me be a mom, a person that they need and love no matter what else is going on in my life. They're filled with joy and hope and optimism and want nothing more than to play and be happy. They can be annoying -- very annoying -- but not truly stressful.

I think I'll go give my new first-grader a hug and then go get the rest of them now.


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