I watched 60 Minutes on Sunday Evening. It was a very good show. But part of it was difficult to watch.
It was the story about dementia. My Mom had dementia.
On 60 Minutes, Dr. Jon LaPook conducted the interview. It was with a couple named Mike and Carol Daly. They have been married for 53 years. And Carol has Alzheimer’s, the main type of dementia.
LaPook has interviewed them every year over the past ten years, and we were allowed to see the gradual & downward slide of Carol. We watched all the different stages she went through. At this point in her life, she is mostly a vegetable. Her husband finally gave way to putting her in a nursing home, even though, at the beginning of her illness, he swore he never would.
This past year, before making the decision, he was contemplating suicide. Caring for his life-long partner had become too much. There was no happy outcome to this story, No upswing, or good moral lesson. It was about death, and dying, and loss, from this tragic disease.
In the beginning of the interviews, you had to love Carol. She was funny and feisty. She was quick-witted and reflective. By the end, she had lost mostly all her motor skills, and her ability to communicate. She couldn’t even lift her head.
My Mom had dementia for a lot of years. When it first showed up, she was slightly forgetful. Then she started to repeat stories, one right after the next. After that, she began forgetting really big things. Or misplacing decades. Forgetting she had lots of kids, and at one time, a husband.
Through it all, she maintained her ability to communicate, and there were times when she seemed very happy. I used to visit her most every day. She was in a nursing home, here, in Eaton. She loved Diet Coke and potato chips. They seemed to make her the happiest. So that is what I gave her, to the admonishments of some. But those were our happy snacks, and visits, as we watched Drew Carey get the Right Price on the TV.
My Dad died in 2013. Shortly after that, Mom fell gravely ill and was in hospice. While I was there one day, I got a very clear “message” that she was not going to die. Not then. It was not her time. It was put very plainly to me that she would live until 2016. I can’t explain it other than that. I told Mary and my siblings. I think most of them were doubtful. Some of them replied, “That’s a long way off.”
Mom lived at Greenbriar nursing home for three years after Dad died. As I mentioned, I visited with her frequently. When I started out, I was there a couple of times a day. By the end, I would take a day “off” from seeing her, from time to time. Then. In September of 2016, Mary and I decided to take a trip to Europe. We would be gone for 12 or 15 days I think. One of my brothers and his wife went with us.
While we were in Germany, my Mom passed away. In 2016.
I can’t even begin to tell you what that felt like. Apparently, though, I am still deeply affected, because I find myself crying very hard as I write this.
I know that I love her, and I miss her, and I am forever grateful for all the time we had. But it seems so distant now.
And. I know.
Like five million other American families, who are currently dealing with dementia.
And that is how it goes sometimes. That is just how it goes.
“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
― Robert Frost
“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche