Saturday, September 05, 2009

it's hard

i love watching the show saving grace. i started watching it in season 2, and decided it was time to get season 1 on netflix so i could see how it all started.

i watched episode 7 tonight, called "yeehaw, geepaw." a large part of the story revolves around grace's grandfather, an arapahoe indian, who develops the early stages of alzheimer's. this one was bittersweet for me in so many ways.

in some ways, i think it's harder to lose a grandparent as an adult than as a child. you get a sense of who they are as adults, and not just as grandma or grandpa. you hear stories about your parents as they were little, and you see similarities to your own childhood. the last time i saw my grandma ruth, she told me that my mother had been left-handed, but the school she went to forced her to learn to write right-handed. it explained where sean got his left-handedness. we went out there when the girls were 14 & 13, and the boys were 7 & 5. steph was being a particular pain (she's so a city girl). and i actually got upset enough to cry. even though i outgrew my grandma years before (she was about 4'10" and 90# at that t ime), she held me and let me cry on her shoulder.

watching grace mourn the man her geepaw had been made me think so much of how hard it was to lose my grandma, and my dad.

and now, my father-in-law. he was diagnosed with the early stages of alzheimer's AND parkinson's last year (he finally admitted it was parkinson's this spring), and i watch him lose himself. he's definitely not the robust man he was when mark and i started dating 6 years ago. he shuffles when he walks, and tends to do everything left-handed, even though he's right handed, because that's the side that shakes. he has the pd mask, and often his eyes show little there. he still has his driver's license, but never drives any more (thank god). he still has good days (we were over there wednesday, and he was definitely having a good day, lots in his eyes, and the shaking was at a minimum), but mom tends to focus on the bad days, and how much work itis totake careof him.

mark keeps telling me that that is what i have to look forward to when he gets old. his family calls it 'the olson shake' because, of the 10 kids in dad's generation, half have some form of familial tremors (most of t hem aren't as advanced as dad, he's the 2nd oldest). both dad's parents had it, too (from what i understand, they were distant cousins, and didn't know it til after they'd been married for several years.) he doesn't do it often, but sometimes, i see a fine tremor when he's holding something. he thinks he'll have alzheimer's, too. his short-term memory is for shit, but he was a bad boy in his early days, (i'm not worriedabout saying it here, he'll tell anybody that asks), and it is bound to mess with you for life.

anyway, mark sees his dad failing. his parents signed their house over to him last year,with the t hought of avoiding any tangles if/when dad hasto go into the nursing home. except it has to be in effect for 5 years. idon't know ifdad's going to last that long.

i was spared that fate with my dad. he was in pretty good health for a 75 year old man when he had his stroke. he died 12 days later. my mom, now 81, is a real go-getter (funny thing is mark's dad is only 4 months younger than my mom, and you'd swear he was years older) despite some health issues she has (a heart-valve replacement in '86 has her on blood-thinners for the rest of herlife, and she also has congestive heart failure,which was diagnosed 2 yearsago). the doctors are all amazed at how perky and happy she is, and energetic, etc. she lives in an apartment half a floor up, and still goes into thebasement to do her laundry on mondays. i think she'll be bugging the s hit out of me for years to come.

but not dad. it's hard to watch. mom'snot doing so well, either. but she refuses any help with dad. i'm tempted to tell her a story from my childhood. my grandpa was 89 years old, and had spent a goodpart of my childhood bed-ridden (he'd broken his hip when i was 4,and never really recovered). my grandmother was 10 years younger than him (this ispaternal, the other grandmother was maternal that i spokeabout earlier). her doctor told her "ethel, you can't take care of him any more. you can put him in a nursing home, or you can plan your funeral. your choice."

while we're not tothat stage yet, mark and i both feel that maybe she needs alittle helpwith dad. if nothing else, a planned afternoon away, once a week, without worrying about how dad's doing at home while she's gone. a support group for caregivers. SOMETHING. i have a feeling tomorrow (a family get-together is planned) is going to be showdown time. sigh.

but, back to saving grace. geepaw fell off a horse, and got banged up. grace had let him ride ahead, and the horse reared and bucked geepaw off. she felt like it was her fault. i can understand. i thought i was done worrying about every bump & bruise, but now it's with my mom, and not my kids.

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