Sunday Morning

It has been an eventful decade. First a diagnosis of idiopathic neurapathy.. Then three strokes, one right after another.  Subsequently I developed Idiopathic periferalneuropathy, A struggle  finding the effective medication to quell the neuropathic burn in my hands and legs.I am presently on Methadone. I have never used heroine, it is cheap and appeared to offer the best suppression of pain  even though it carried with it the taint of it being used to treat junkies. I have done a lot of partying but never have had a taste for narcotics. It just a little embarrassing filling prescriptions with methadone on the list.

 About 5 years ago My good wifes father cals in an IOU. She had promised to keep him out of nursing homes as much as possible. We are a of a sort that once a commitment is mades it is kept at all costs. Deb’s dad shows up with dementia and we, committed to take care of him as long as could, rented a big beautiful house in the mountains west of Colorado springs, and for two years we suffered under the rage of a man, ,. There was few  good moments, for two years as my wife daughter, her husband and myself had as Ivan declined. . When death came and mercifully took him, the wreckage in human terms was four people suffering from PTSD to one degree or another. At about this time my health began to fail and I left the mountain retreat on oxygen.

And about that time one of my other daughters came up with stage three cancer in her breast and, more frightening, in her lymph nodes. We moved her up from Kansas and have spent the last year with the entire family living in a large house nearer the Springs. Amber my daughter, showed such strength and poise ,through out  I still stand in awe of her calm strong demeanor. I am proud of her

. My daughters brought their children of course and the population of the house grew to fourteen. It was crowded.  A moment of serenity was hard to find and the screeching was skull spitting But yesterday over half the children left for and overnighter with relatives in Greely. I thanked God for a little peace and quite.

At the moment my small world of living on the end of a cannula got smaller. Having had all my top  teeth pulled to fit some false teeth I woke up dopey and set my face on fire, (oxygen + flame) I have been bedridden for about a month going crazy.

One of the children who didn’t go visiting  stayed with me. Deb was working an overnight shift. So I woke up with a tabby cat curled in the bed sheets and a Macy next to me pushing my legs off the bed. Macy will do anything for me as so will the other children. I am treated with respect that I never expected at this point in my life.I spent a few quiet moments lokking at Marci and the little tabby car, curled together in slumber.

I now things will be getting better. As long try, very consciously, to go the extra mile in loving each other. Loving each other seems to be the only real answer. 

Sure the place gets noisy and messy with the kids. But when I need something or wish to say something the kids are right there, saving my soul just a little bit more with their brand of love. I am blessed. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Above all, I would like to praise Deb. Her efforts to keep the house running, making everybody happy while taking care of a woman with cancer and a man with COPD. She is a remarkable woman. I would probably be dead if not for her. Debra Mixon taught me a lot about love in the past few years. For that I thank her.

 

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Ivan RIP

Below is a photo of Ivan Bracken holding his great-grandson, Jacob, in his lap.  It was a good moment In our struggle against the nightmare of brain dysfunction.  Ivan died of dementia a few days ago. He was my wife’s father. This is a battle that we could have placed on the shoulders of others but Debra,( his daughter my wife) promised to care for him and keep him out of the nursing home for as long as she could. Before it was over, before death freed him, (and this whole family) his symptoms were so severe that we could find no long-term care that would take him. She kept her promise.

We are just beginning the journey back to the world. We emerge shell shocked and lost, with no idea what to do next. Brain dysfunction is difficult. Brain damage with the victim still walking, is more difficult. Brain damage with the victim agitated and angry is a twenty-four hour a day seven days a week struggle with no moment of complete rest and no refuge.  We are just now realizing the depth of the damage we have suffered in keeping her promise.  I took Deb out to brunch a couple of days after Ivan passed on and we were both amazed that we could just leave the house without either taking poor Pa-pa with us, or at minimum, arranging for my youngest daughter and son-in-law to watch after him. Back before his struggle with brain disease he was often a difficult man, he had his faults, as we all do, but was basically  a decent man. It was heartbreaking to see him deteriorate.

Deb at difficult moments,  when she felt like she was inflicting him on the family that helped care for him and keep him in the home. Sometimes  her strong heart would give way a little, and she would say, “He was never like this before!”  Even Ivan, (if he could) would agree.  He would rather take a bullet rather than endure the slow pain wracked transformation from Dr. Jekyll  to Mr. Hyde.

Now it is we who are the walking wounded, wondering what we do with our lives now that we have emerged from our exile into the hell of caring for a difficult dementia victim. We are the walking wounded, not knowing what to do next or how to feel.

There is no way to convey the hell wreaked upon both Ivan and those who cared for him in the past couple of years. We just have to let the dead take care of their own, and go on living for the living.     Below is a picture of the family, on the far left is Deb and on the far right (the ragged looking big guy) is me.. Between us is the family. And in the middle of it all sits Ivan.  May he find in death the peace the disease robbed him of in his final years. Did we do all we could? Could we have done it differently? We could question ourselves forever.  But I believe these doubts should be buried with the man. We are vetrans of our war with dementia an we should walk on.There are grandchildren to raise and a lives to be lived.

I am grateful   for  the effort in caring for Ivan by my youngest daughter Alexandra and son-in law Anthony. They helped define the deeper meanings of family.  But I must close by saying I have been enriched by having been a part of Debs daily fight to provide the care and dignity she felt he deserved.  But for their help we could not have done it.. She is a hero of the brightest magnitude. I am privaledged to share my life with a woman of such character and through the tears, such courage.   She has nothing to regret. She kept her word. I am so proud of her.

THE SNAKE PIT

 

I am sorry about the dirth of posting of late. I am sure you have been holding your breath awaiting the next profound revelation (humor). But there is no joy in Mudville lately. For the past cople of years Deb and I have taking care of her father, who has dementia and is presently on hospice care in our home. He is however of a special variety of disorder. His violence, resistance to co-operation and  sexual improprieties (his granddaughters cannot be left in the same room, and visiting of any kind has become sparse. His mania and  round the clock assaults have sucked my life and the lives of my family into a maelstrom of insanity. Dementia like his is so hard to manage that there are few long term facilities that will take him.

 They call it care-taker burn out. I call it depression. There is no way to describe the despicable nature of the beastie without getting melodramatic and still not impart the tremendous stress involved. Suffice it to say we live with two barricades in my home,  locked doors and  alarms.  The geezer has always been an selfish asshole. His demented condition has escalated his mean nature into attitudes and behavior that would have called for an exorcist in any other age. The dysthymia and major depressive bouts make formerly enjoyable activities seem a chore. Well this is my restart on my site. Sorry about the delay.

 

LEAVING LIFE…..DUTY BOUND

 

 

20140808_103301_1[1]A picture of Deb (my wife) and your intrepid journalist (her husband) a couple of years ago. I specify husband and wife because this little posting is about commitment, family, and love. But  remember that when you marry someone you also marry their family. About twenty years ago my father,  Albert M., dropped dead at the age of 62. Ivan, (age 75) my wife’s father, is still kickin’, and when he began showing signs of dementia, Deb made good on the promise to keep him from nursing homes as long as possible. He is now living with us.

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Ivan, (before the onset of periods of dementia)  in his prime. Hunting, fishing, bar hopping, making the beast with two backs with anything with a heartbeat, and  ignoring his children.

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This is Ivan holding court in the remnants of our lives after the onset of dementia. (Not quite as charming and sweet as the “before”  picture).

Debs Promise: “I will try to keep you out of nursing homes as long as possible.”

The Consequences: Thus far, two years of increasing episodes of dementia characterized by agitation, meaningless and constant wandering,as well as oppositional/defiant  behavior, sexually inappropriate  harassment of females, (including his granddaughters) and a virtual rogues gallery of hostile beliefs. Example: Ivan became angry at our raising of “old glory” on our flagpole (it looks beautiful at 7500 feet , cradled  in the mountains of Ute Pass, West out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. I surmise that as a lifetime democrat he was embarrassed at such an gauche demonstration of patriotism.

The monetary commitment is staggering, the stress is palpable. Frustration over his deteriorating skills and physical abilities make for hypersensitive bullying with “King Baby” demands and tantrums.

Right now transitions are happening. Adjustments in meds are being attempted to regulate mood extremes and boundaries are being established. A spirit of therapeutic detachment is supplanting anger and resentments as it becomes obvious much of our misery is borrowed from Ivan. It is a daily discipline maintain our boundaries, keep sane and keep loving each other. 

It is wise to remember that sometimes we need love most when we are most unlovable and  even when we can’t feel love we can still behave in a  loving manner.  The tasks are daunting and it is easy to lose yourself in the mission. Upon  meeting a new neighbor a few days ago I found out that she took care of her mother for a decade as she declined through dementia to her eventual passing. This most gentle lady said “Yeah, I left my life for ten years, while I took care of my mother.” Deb and I, on the other hand, want to have a life and still take care of our commitment to her father. So hello again fellow pilgrims, I am still here and and again still “in my life”.

There is no simple, easy answer to life. If I am lucky I will make it to age 62. That was my fathers age at his passing. No male relative has made it further in the last two generations. True it is that I discovered a few health problems that were unchecked in my father and two  brothers (all dropped dead from cardio/pulmonary failure) before the age of sixty. Ivan’s contribution to my medical profile is a peptic ulcer I have acquired in recent months. He may out-live me. But at least for now we will stand by “the promise” and keep him in the home.

I have always proselytized our societies lack of character and ever-increasing fear of long term commitment. Next wedding you attend, don’t bother tossing a coin; You will have less that a fifty-fifty chance of the marriage lasting, a 75% chance of infidelity  on the male side in the first decade and a 50% chance of infidelity the female side.  Now it is put up or shut up time. My little Mighty-Mite and I will go as long as we can. And if Beelzebub’s meaner older brother does kick the bucket, or simply can no longer be adequately cared for at home, we will be able to sleep nights. We will have honored our commitment and remained good to our word.

IVAN (KING BABY) TAKING A WELL DESERVED SNOOZE

Right now, installed in the gorgeous cradle of the “high country”, we soldier on, gently caring for a man who  once spanked a month old infant for crying too much.