Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Staying positive in the face of searing sadness


If you take anything away from my blog, please don't let it be sadness or sympathy.  I am in need of neither.  I hope you can see hope and love of family.

I have done a lot of thinking over the past week  - reflecting on why I started this blog, what drives me to keep posting, and what message I want to share with those who visit these pages.

No-one chooses to be personally connected to Alzheimer's - it's just the luck of the draw.  And when my beloved mother drew the short end of the stick, so did we all.

All of this reflection has made me realize that when your loved one has AD the grieving process really is fluid - and without closure you can't really heal.

I intellectuallize and compartmentalize the tough stuff so that I can move on...after all, life goes on. But when I really take a moment to "feel", it's in such a moment that I am overwhelmed by searing sadness.

Sadness that my kids had to give up so much in the early years to allow me to deal with Mom's rapidly advancing illness.  Sadness that Mom never really knew how great all her grandkids turned out - or the successes that Davie and I are having in midlife.  Sadness that I can never really tell Mom how grateful I am for all she did for me, and gave to me.  Sadness that my Dad is spending his golden years without her by his side.  Sadness that, as Mom said, "it all ended too soon".

And yet I don't spend a lot of my time being sad.  That would be a waste.  I try to be positive and thankful - traits that my mother always showed in the good times and the bad.

I am thankful for my family, and the health of my loved ones.  I am thankful for Baycrest - the wonderful long term care facility where my mother lives.  I am thankful for the many good years we had together, and for the memories that bring me comfort in those moments of sadness.  I am thankful for my dreams - where my mother is well, and vibrant - because in those moments I hug her longer and breathe in her perfumed scent, luxuriating in every second because somewhere deep down I know it will end when I waken.  I am thankful for the chance to write about her, and my family, and our life - then and now, and that there are people who want to read her story.  You help me to keep her alive as she was.

And as apprehensive as I am to go on national TV tomorrow to watch a clip that will probably make me look like an emotional, bumbling sap, I am grateful.  Because, as my best friend Diane (who will be with me tomorrow) said, it's not about being intelligent or insightful, it's about opening your heart and sharing your story so that it helps others to feel a little less alone.  If I'm lucky, they will connect to my story, and see through the bumbling words and teary frowns to my heart - which is still healing from the ongoing loss of my mother to Alzheimer's.

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful evening, filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

It takes a family to raise a mom...

With Canada AM Producer Jessica
Yesterday was my mother's 72nd birthday.  There is another Influenza Outbreak in her pod, and she is restricted to her room.  We insisted that Dad not go and risk exposure, but I went (masked) to see her before I wrote the last of my deferred exams (which signalled the end of Semester 1 of my paralegal studies - hallelujah!).

As I sat with her I could see her struggling to open her eyes.  It seemed an almost impossible task.  I called Davie and Dad and we sang to her. I could have sworn I saw the corners of her mouth turn upward, hinting at a smile.  I kissed her and told her I loved her, and took a selfie of us - because everyone should have a photo to mark their birthday.  And I left.  I had a final exam to write and the clock was ticking.

I wrote the exam and was filled with a sense of accomplishment.  Bravo to Carlo and Sara and Rebecca - for they are the support team behind the scenes that enables me to go to school, and work, and keep it together.  They are my rocks.  It really does take a family to raise a mom - and I am blessed with a great one.

And now in the 2 days I have before Semester 2 begins, I have taken a trip down memory lane, back to a time when it took a complete family to try and raise our mother from sinking into the abyss of Alzheimers Disease.

I was contacted just over a week ago by a producer for Canada AM - a national morning show.  They are presenting a week-long series on Alzheimer's Disease and I was invited to share the story of our journey, along with other families and people touched by AD.

So, today, I went over to the Bell Media Studios thinking that I would have a pleasant interview and be on my way.  Everyone was very nice, although I must say it is a little disconcerting to stand in a darkened studio, look into a camera and answer questions.  But that wasn't what got me.   As I recounted our story, I could feel a lump rising in my throat, and my heart began to race.  It was as though 13 years had fallen to the wayside and I was reliving the moments of discovering something was wrong with my mother all over again.

Sounds melodramatic, I know, and as I had to stop and take a minute - yes, people really do that - I was yelling at myself in my head: "Naomi, this is old news!  Get it together!  Why is this story, of the bookkeeper quitting in a temper tantrum because your mother couldn't understand her instructions, why is this story making you cry?!"  I don't know that I can answer that for you now, except to say that the wounds of the long goodbye are raw, and they never quite heal over.  It's like a persistent cut, you think it's healed and then some slight movement and it's open and bleeding again.

I miss my mother, and when I go beyond the intellectual, and allow myself to feel the loss and sorrow that accompanies the long goodbye, I realize that I am still that girl who needs her mom, only now I can only enjoy the comfort of her embrace in my dreams and memories.

I don't know how the interview piece will turn out (I can only hope I don't appear like a blubbering, babbling fool), but I invite you all to tune into Bell Media/CTV's Canada AM every morning next week, when they will air the special on Alzheimer's.  The piece I participated in will be airing on Thursday January 22nd, 2015, during the Town Hall.

Until next time, which I hope will not be the end of Semester 2 (!!), I wish you all a wonderful week filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito.