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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What Does it Mean to Be Alone? September 15, 2015







I am blessed by many friends, many colleagues and family members  in New York, in California, in Florida, in North Carolina, in Oregon, in Denver Co. in Arizona and in Montana in the summertime. My husband who had Alzheimer's disease was not living at home with me for the past four years. But all of a sudden, life is so different for me. 

My husband's passing which was neither unexpected nor unanticipated has changed my perspective on life. I am for the first time, alone, really and truly alone. My son who has shared this burden and the joys which accompanied caring for my spouse with me, understands all too well, what this loss means to me. It means almost the same thing to him.

I returned for the first time since my husband died in July to Arizona last week and my son met me at the airport. My daughter and one grandson met us for dinner to welcome me back before I came back to our home, the home we built to be a safe haven for my husband where he could have his garage workshop and his garden and be able to wander freely and safely in our enclosed, gated community.

I never gave up believing that he would one day return to live here. Now that dream can be no more. I threw myself into holiday preparations. I cooked, I even baked a cake which is very unusual for me, to ward off the uncomfortable feelings of Ioss I find difficult to accept. I challenged myself at the gym. I actually published my second book. More on that later. When we read on the New Year holiday that this is the time of year that God decides who shall live and who shall die during the coming year, I remember asking last year, for a peaceful end to my husband's  suffering and debilitation. Gratefully, I thanked God this year for hearing our prayers.

And my dear son decided, I should not live totally alone. I needed another living creature, plants were not enough. He purchased a betta fish whose aquarium sits to my right, to keep me company as I write.



Thursday, September 3, 2015

Friend or Caregiver What are the Boundaries? September 3, 2015







I have always been a care provider, both personally in my childood family, as a parent of course and professionally as a therapist. I married a most independent man who relieved me of that responsibility at least toward him for many years. He taught me I no longer had to worry about pleasing other people. I could leave food on my plate in a restaurant and not need to take it home or finish it after I had already had my fill. I could state what I wanted directly and we would discuss it, rather than one of us always asking "What do you want to do?" We each had true freedom to be ourselves.

But when he began to develop signs of memory failure and he began to depend more on me, I slid into the old behavior gladly. I was happy to be able to care for the man I loved so much. By being in a relationship with him I had grown so much. I was able to relax my cynicism, trust his support and bask in the fruits of letting him do what he wanted, which included cooking, planning vacations and treating  me so well.

I denied the severity of his illness for a long time. I took charge of his wellness by providing vitamins, supplements, modifying our life style. I stretched his willingness to be helped to his limit.He was such a proud man, the best provider for me and for his children. Ultimately, he had no choice but to let me and others care for him. The balance in our marriage shifted.

Now he has left us and I am left with reevaluating my life choices. I see that I no longer want to slip into a caregiving role with anyone, not my adult children, not my grandchildren, not my friends who are growing more limited in their ability to join with me in what I want to do. I stand on the hilltop of my experiences with my children and grandchildren who walk the other way if I give a hint of a direction for them to take. From my experience with other caregivers, I see many things that could benefit those around me. I see who uses a cane, but would be more stable with a walker. I see whose memory is failing and could use perhaps a diagnosis or a change in life style. I see who is isolating and could use my help. Do I have to let them be free to do as they please? 

I have an idea who has made plans for the future and who has not. Where does my responsibility as a friend lie? And how
do I stop before advising, helping, providing, enabling, facilitating so they can join me in my activities and just care about finding new interests and new activities for myself?