First we say goodbye to the year just past. Here is a slideshow of highlights:
The pictures show a full, amazing, beautiful year. What you can't see is the cloud that shadowed me all year ... my Mom's diagnosis with Alzheimers. She has lived alone for over 20 years, and I was so nervous leaving her alone as we traveled our summer tour. If you follow closely, you'll see we didn't leave her for any longer than we had to. She traveled with us in the RV for the first few weeks from Florida to Kentucky, then I flew her home before our first big rally in Louisville - in July. I had caregivers visit her and I called her every day as we made our circuit of Rallies from Kentucky, to Oregon, to Indiana. Immediately after our last rally, we rushed back to Florida to gather Mom, and Jim's Dad, and take a family cruise to Alaska the end of September. Mom and I made some beautiful memories this year, well, for me anyway :-) I'm afraid, even with pictures, Mom doesn't remember visiting Mammoth Caves, or Lake Tahoe, or Alaska.
I made it my job this season to move her into an Assisted Living facility. We had checked out several last year, and chosen Willow Wood - it's in our same neighborhood, and I have a friend who works there and loves it.
This was one of the few challenges in my life that I didn’t think I could handle. I mean, how do you tell your mother, who has always told you what to do, that she needs to move out of the place she loves? When you can’t handle it … you get help. I had so much help this year! Jim, who held me together every time I fell apart and, along with Devon, did all the heavy lifting for the move; Jo Ellen who was instrumental in transforming the new apartment into a thing of beauty; Mary May who started me on the path of understanding Alzheimers; Melinda in Nevada, and Debbie D in the Florida keys, who opened their homes to Mom and me; the caregivers – especially Debbie C. who has become a surrogate sister; Mom’s brother, John, and USA Dive club members, who visited Mom so often while I was on the road; North Broward Medical Center Memory Care unit and their support groups; the folks on the forum at Alz.org; and all the many people who have shared their stories with me. I am not alone. I’ve spent hours on the phone with old friends and new friends alike who have already gone thru this same experience. Thank you to everyone!
So, it seemed so appropriate to spend New Year’s Eve with Mom at Willow Wood. The activity director there, Adam, puts on a show. He sings and he dances. He gives away prizes. He sets the clock to 11 when it’s really 8, and after an hour we count down to midnight. At the stroke of 9pm, we shout Happy New Year!
It’s still sad to see her such a shell of her former self, but I am thrilled that she is in a nice place, with entertainment, good food, and watchful eyes. She still doesn’t think she belongs there, but she forgets about that! She is healthy and able to enjoy the moment, walks in the woods or on the beach are still joyful events for her. As long as knowledge of past or future is not required, she is quite happy. The ultimate ‘be in the now’ Taoist! And I can sleep nights again.