I apologize for the long delay in posting. We’ve had a lot of changes in our house recently. Our two young adult boys had talked about moving out, but had no solid plans. And then suddenly they did, and within a couple weeks, they were gone (they only moved a couple miles away so I see them plenty but . . . you know). So, between kids fleeing the nest, getting ready for the new school year – two youngest in school and me driving school bus, and 17 year old daughter getting a job and suddenly deciding to start at the community college this fall instead of waiting till January . . . it’s been a little chaotic.
And then there is always doctor appointments, chiropractor appointments (my hips seem to like doing their own thing these days, which tends to make my back angry), and all the other little things that crop up on any given week. The two youngest and I have been working at a community garden all summer and are now, literally, reaping the fruits (or vegetables) of our labor. It’s great to have all the produce, but it’s one more thing that needs to be dealt with in a timely manner.
Keith has coped well with all the activity and changes, albeit being a step or two behind most of the time. I’ve noticed more memory issues, which leads to extra explanations, more reminders, and, of course, more questions. It’s wonderful to have him in good humor, but the drawback (there always seems to be a drawback) is that he tends to be more talkative and want to “help” with things.
You know how little kids always want to help, but sometimes their help is . . . well, not so helpful? Like when one of the boys, at 3 years old, liked to quietly make breakfast for himself before I got up in the morning. There would be an inch thick layer of peanut butter around the edge of the jar and toast crumbs everywhere. But he was so proud of himself! The instinctual response it to freak out about the extra mess, but of course, we all know the correct response is to praise him and then have him help clean up. At times like this, when my kids were little, I would call them, “Helpful Hannah,” or “Helpful Harry.” They want so badly to be helpful and independent, but it’s often hard for us parents to remember how important that is to them and maintain a good attitude.
So often, we see this with dementia too. So much has been taken away from our loved ones – jobs, driving, all the things that defined them – they often try to find ways to be helpful around the house, and, like our small children . . . aren’t always so helpful. Like, when . . .
. . . they want to cut the grass with the electric lawn mower, but end up running over the cord . . . twice.
. . . they want to help move furniture but have lost some of their coordination and balance skills and end up dropping things, bumping into walls, or even getting hurt.
. . . they decide to spray weed killer and end up killing a big, beautiful volunteer borage plant that came up in the side yard!! Folks, I wanted to cry. I almost did cry. I stood there looking at all the thistles and other weeds threatening to take over that side of the house, and then my poor, dried up, poisoned wreck of a borage plant and kept asking, “Why?? Why would he leave all those other weeds and go after this beautiful plant with it’s fuzzy leaves and little purple flowers??” I was so mad. I knew I shouldn’t be mad. He was trying to help. But I was still mad.
Sadly, I couldn’t quite keep it all in and said something to him. He gave me a confused and wounded look and, honestly, I’m not sure he even knew what I was talking about. Fortunately, things tend to blow over quickly these days. If I had said something a year ago, it would have led to a lot of shouting and colorful words, but now, nothing else was said afterwards. I’m hoping that the seeds dropped and survived and that it will come back next year. If it does, I will make it look more intentional and make it clear that I want it there and it is not a weed!
So, Helpful Harry struck again. Not the first time, not the last. It’s so hard to remember sometimes that our loved one is just trying to retain some purpose in their lives or are responding to cobwebby thoughts in the back of their mind that tell them, “You should do this,” but they have some of the steps in the wrong order or even completely mistaken. When everything else in our lives is going crazy, and our loved one’s failed attempts frequently make even more work for us, sometimes we “lose it.” And it’s ok. We have to be gentle with ourselves and remember that we are human with human limitations. We have a little cry, we forgive ourselves, and we start again. Life will go on and, someday – hopefully – we can find humor in these moments. I’m not quite there. I really liked that borage plant.
Thanks for reading. I hope you are staying healthy and safe.
Till next time . . . this is dementia.