A few years ago, Patti Reagan, daughter of President Ronald Reagan, wrote a book THE LONG GOODBYE, talking about losing her father to Alzheimer’s. It was a heart-breaking book, filled with the truth that a person with Alzheimer’s leaves his or her family long before they die. This week, we had to make the difficult decision of putting my mother-in-law into a rest home. We never expected the emotional difficulty that parallels Patti Reagan’s observations.
Before any child considers putting a parent into a home, there has to be big problems with her care. In our case, my husband’s mom was losing her memory and normal function. My father-in-law, already in his late eighties himself, couldn’t really care for her. But my in-laws had been married over sixty years and my father-in-law rebelled at the idea of their living apart. So no matter how obvious the choice, he was upset.
It took a while for us to realize he wasn’t upset with the fact that his wife had to go into a home, as much as he was rebelling against the unfairness of it all. His life would totally change. His wife wasn’t ever coming back. He would be alone.
His grief fed ours. When the decisions had been made and we all expected a sigh of relief, we got, instead, a wave of sadness. Grief so intense I almost can’t describe it. There would be no more Christmas Day lunches, or Thanksgivings, or Easters filled with sugar-free candy so her diabetes wouldn’t act up.
There will be no more impromptu barbecues. No more phone calls over stupid things that resulted in nice chats. No more…Anything. Except visits with a woman who usually won’t remember us.
It’s been said that getting old isn’t for sissies or that it sucks … but, really, that doesn’t even hit the tip of the iceberg. No matter how much you prepare yourself for the losses big and small, there is no escaping the sadness, the grief.
And that’s it. Though I typically end my posts with something profound, today the only thing I have for you is profound sadness. And maybe the hopeful sentiment that life goes on, and as humans we’re geared to go on.
But for today, I may get out my albums and remember some much, much better times.