This is really off topic today and it has been bothering me for a couple of years and the events of last month just serve to bring the matter to a head. Both of my parents died from the complications and devastating mental impact of Alzheimer’s.
My father actually died in one of our favorite restaurants, enjoying possibly the last pleasure left to him, a plate of linguini covered with various shellfish, especially mussels a favorite that he had whenever we went to this little Italian restaurant in Garden Grove. The paramedics arrived and revived him. He was not the same afterwards and the next few weeks were awful for all of us.
My mother was not ready to let him go and since she was the in better mental condition made all the decisions regarding his care. The doctors in their wisdom in an attempt to keep him alive implanted an n automatic pacemaker/defibrillator. My father at this point was just confused and had no idea why this thing in his chest kept hurting him. I do believe that using a defibrillator can be a painful process but if you are in the end stages of Alzheimer’s there is no way that you can understand what is happening.
After a couple of additional trips to the ER my father was finally placed in a rehabilitation facility. This was complete bullshit; the place he wound up in was a really horrible facility where terminal patients are warehoused until they die. I was unprepared to do anything while my father begged the doctors to stop; they took every step to keep him alive including forced feeding through a tube threaded into his stomach. His last couples of weeks were full of fear and pain and completely required by current law and custom.
My mother on the other hand decided that she did not want this type of treatment and opted for hospice last summer. It was one of her last really lucid times and I feel a better choice than the alternative. She was more or less there when I went to see her but she had been in decline for the last few years.
She was living in a small assisted living home. The woman that ran the place was very nice and seemed to really care for her charges. My mother’s transition from living on her own to being cared for was difficult for her. In the beginning she wanted to go home, or she thought that she was home and kept asking who these people in her home were. Her mental condition kept worsening and my sister took the responsibility to at least try to get her out all the way up to pushing her around in a wheelchair. Ultimately my mom’s condition no longer allowed even that. My mother on the other hand had all kinds of fantasies. When I was in California she would tell me about shopping trips and other excursions despite not leaving the house for months. My sister called this armchair traveling and it seemed to keep her happy.
Last month I was in California working and went to see my mother. She had stopped eating a few days earlier and was having trouble talking. She seemed to recognize me, she often called me by my brothers’ name or oddly enough her brother. At least she didn’t think I was some stranger.
The last thing she said to me was I love you and goodbye. On Wednesday I got the call from my sister, it was only a matter of time now. I took off and went to be with my sister. My mother was lying in bed and her eyes were open but she was unresponsive. She was at the last stages of life and could no longer even close her eyes. She may have even been asleep for all I knew. Every so often it seemed like she would stop breathing then she would start up again.
This went on for 48 hours although to me it seemed a lot longer to me. Her family that was in California visited her but I have no idea if she was aware of our presence. We just sat around and talked just like nothing was wrong. The hospice worker talked with us and told us that this was not unusual and some patients spend their last days in pain and ultimately need to be drugged. I was aware that syringes and morphine was available and if she had lingered for many more days a syringe full of morphine would have ended it. I am glad that it did not come to that but who knows.
Now you might wonder why this bothers me so much. I have always been and probably still suffer from a high opinion of myself. The phrase “Way too smart for my own good” should probably be etched in my own grave maker. In the summer of 2010 I was working in California, trying to keep some of my clients in business and happy. One morning I woke up and was unable to speak. My mental processes were confused and I could not articulate of remember common words associated in my business. I could not even turn my computer off.
I put on my game face and tried to fake my way through the jobs that I had scheduled, although to their credit I am still working for those clients that I tried to work for those few days and that weekend. Since I was having so much difficulty I had to resort to every trick I knew just to try to get by. I did not fool anyone. I suppose that I was lucky, it could have been much worse. I only got lost on the Southern California freeway system turning a 30 minute commute into a four hour tour. It was the SS Minnow all over again.
Eventually things improved. I would say that it took several months to get most of my faculties more or less back to normal. I can not claim that I am completely over it and there have been some other problems. I have to face up to it I am just not as sharp as I once was. I did all the medical tests when I went back home but there was nothing, no evidence that anything had happened at all.
While I was still recovering I needed to have my car repaired. I knew exactly what was needed and took my car to this local shop in Prescott Valley. I really want to give people the benefit of the doubt but these guys took advantage of me and did more work than was necessary and I knew it. I was just unable to fight with them so I let them do it. Was there any harm in performing more work than was necessary, no but fixing something that is not broken is somewhat less than honest and I think the parts they used were of a lower quality.
I just wonder if this was just a small sample of what I had to look forward to, my future, I just don’t know. One thing for certain though I am going to do the things that I have been putting off for too many years. This year as soon as possible I plan to have a lot of fun, even if it kills me, but one thing for sure I plan to go out smiling. If you take anything away from all this I would say take a page from my parents legacy, if there are things that you want to do but have been waiting for just the right time, there is no time like the present and while other have put it more clearly than I can I insist that planning for tomorrow is rather pointless because tomorrow never comes, and I want to come frequently and for as long as I can. Any one else want to go to Hawaii? How about Europe? I may just have to settle for Paris, Las Vegas but I am going.
Sorry about the soapbox putting it away until next time.