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.
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.
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.