Thursday, December 25, 2014

Licking the Wheelchair's Wheels

When my Mom first developed Alzheimer's, I wasn't very kind to her. I was angry, irritated, and embarrassed by her repetitive questions. It was hard even to look her in the face. I wasn't my best self at that time. Now of course, I'd give anything to be able to have a two-way conversation with my Mom.

Repetitive questions welcome.

Some of the anger in the early days came from the fact that I was brought up to value intelligence above all else. How do you feel about it when the person who taught you that value doesn't seem to embody it any more? Of course, nowadays I realize that there is a big difference between memory and intelligence, and that people living with Alzheimer's have to use every last neuron of their intelligence (processing power) to compensate for the deficits in their memory. Today, I feel fortunate that I haven't (yet) had to demonstrate the kind of bravery and focus that people in the early stages of Alzheimer's have to bring to every minute of their lives.

It was really hard for me to deal with my Mom changing. It was hard to accept her as she was becoming. Fortunately, her dog has never had that problem.

I realized that today when I saw the dog licking the wheel of my mom's wheelchair during Christmas Day dinner. Imagine that wheelchair's wheels. They have rolled all over the floor of the place where Mom lives. Those wheels have ground their way though countless crumbs, dropped cookies, and chunks of muffins. They have been well-lubricated with spilled juices and energy drinks.

Those wheels are a buffet.

So of course the dog was demonstrating her Buddha nature. She was living in the moment, tasting every morsel and dribble that ever left a trace on those wheels.

That's how we have to live for our loved ones with Alzheimer's. Try to deal with every moment as it emerges, and take what joy we can in each moment. Lick the Great Wheel. Give it a lick.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Reflections

If I'm being honest, I'd say I don't enjoy holidays very much. When I was a kid, they were usually times when my parents were fighting. As an only child, I didn't have siblings to hide or run away with at those moments. Even worse, one parent consistently pulled me into the fights on their side. Often the best part of the holidays was when we set out for my aunt's house. The fighting stopped, and usually didn't resume once we went home.

More than anything in this holiday season, which can be stressful even in healthy homes and relationships, I'd encourage people to avoid weaponizing their children. If you have a disagreement with your significant other, take a break - don't break things. Go for a walk and cool down. Or agree to discuss the issue latter, when the kids aren't around to hear your mutual grievances. Even better, talk about them after the holidays are over.

Go ahead and make memories. Just make sure you are making ones you want to last.