Funny. I never thought I’d be back on these pages. What’s done is done and what’s gone is gone, do-dah, do-dah. But things happen.

See, I thought Alzheimer’s was done with me–or me with it–once Mom died. There was fall-out, of course; grief being the main of it. I’m still dealing with that over a year later. I’m not crying daily, as I was back then, but it doesn’t take much to get me choked up. All I have to do is see a little old woman pushing a walker or sitting alone staring aimlessly, and I’m smack in the middle of it again. Friends have sent Alzheimer’s-related videos. They’ve recommended books. A few have suggested I see the movie “Still Alice.”

I’ll tell you, it ain’t gonna happen. Those feelings are still much, much too raw.

Don’t let anyone tell you that grief “ought” end by a certain time frame. Don’t let anyone tell you that you “should” be over it by now. Screw that. It’s over when it’s over and–honestly?–I don’t think it ever is, not entirely. It lessens, sure, but I don’t believe that grief ever leaves us completely. Its shape may change, and something of the emotional intensity, but disappear entirely? It’s a nice myth.

And now I’m dealing with it again, albeit at a distance. The persons involved are a couple I’ve become friends with over the past 19 months. Roger is nearly 80, his wife RoseMerrie a few years younger. She has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; Roger with (maybe) Lewy-Body Dementia…or perhaps some other kind. Doctors don’t seem certain. But it’s there.


I can’t express to you how dear these two individuals have become to me. Roger is the subject of my next book, working title “The Man Who Loved Elephants.” For 19 months, we’ve talked at least once a week for two hours and RoseMerrie, bless her, has listened in and commented. We’ve laughed together, cried together, swore together. We’re frankly astonished at the number of similarities between us. In many respects, my relationship with Roger is the one I wish I could have had with my poor, broken father. According to Roger’s sister-in-law, I’ve become “another daughter” to him and RoseMerrie.

And now this.

So I get to watch it all again. The 3000 miles between us makes little difference. It’s still razor sharp and glittering, fractured glass bright as knives.

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Paying It Forward

Just when I think this blog is over, something comes up that I feel I ought to include just in case.

Yesterday, I drove to the nursing home where Mom died and donated her shower chair, walker, and the wheelchair we bought to take her on walks on the Airline Trail. A lot of the patients who come to that facility don’t have insurance, and these items might be something they could use.

I was okay dragging it all up from the basement. I was okay putting it into the car. (That wheelchair was a bitch to get in and out.) I was okay unloading it at the nursing home, piling the chair and walker into the seat of the wheelchair and rolling everything up to the entrance. I was okay opening the front door.

But when I stepped inside, the walls came crashing down. She was everywhere. Not in a bad way, understand, but in a too-soon sort of way. I can’t really explain it except to say that I knew I’d be better off not to loiter, to drop things off and scoot. So I went to the PT Department, not even sparing a glance for the double doors which lead to the unit where my mother lived and died, and left them there. I stopped in briefly to visit with the Social Worker who’d been so helpful for all those months, but I couldn’t stay. Could, in fact, barely talk.

But I’m glad I went. Those things will help someone who comes next, maybe even someone who is suffering from the same debilitating disease as Mom. It seems like a good way to honor her memory.

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Riding the Wave

Hello, everyone. I thought I’d touch base,say hi, see how you’re all doing.

Yesterday was the three-month anniversary of Mom’s death. Grief is like the ocean, rising and falling, and the one grieving is like the beach, taking what comes. Massive rollers or easy ripples, it ends up being all the same.

Mostly, I’m doing okay. Last week was bad, for no reason I can discern. She was everywhere, in everything I did, everything I looked at. So many memories, some of painful, others indescribably sweet. Both kinds sweep the legs right out from under me.

Last month, I attended an Alzheimer’s support group meeting, just to let them know that Mom had passed, to talk about grief and all that comes with it. Another member had also lost her mother, so we commiserated. She is in a very difficult place, much worse than mine, and I wish her peace and healing. She said she wouldn’t be back, that it’s too soon. And, in truth, she may need a different sort of group now. I thought I might keep attending, both to process what’s occurred and to offer any helpful insight I might, but it’s too soon for me, too. I need a break. Part of my brain says I’m being selfish, but I’ve sense enough to tell that stupid inner voice to shut the hell up. I’ve earned some “me” time. Besides, there’s a new group member who is really caustic, very brittle, having an extremely difficult time dealing with her mother’s illness. She’s so raw that it’s almost physically painful for the rest of us to be in the room with her. I feel for her, but she needs more help than I can offer. I hope she gets it.

I’ve discovered–and this’ll undoubtedly sound strange–that I’m grateful for my grief. There was a time in my life when I thought I’d never mourn my mother at all. We went through a difficult period and I really believed that I wouldn’t care, that I would in fact feel relief when she passed. I cannot express how grateful I am that we found each other again, spoke of our hurts, made our apologies, and received forgiveness in return. The measure of peace I feel from that experience is not to be believed. I regained my love for my mother and that’s something I can hold to my heart for the rest of my days.

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Mom Has The Last Word

Bit of backstory – yesterday was my mom’s funeral. Afterward, we gathered at the home of my niece Michelle.  This morning, I rec’d this message from Nichole, who is married to my nephew Josh (Michelle’s brother). They have a not-quite-4-year-old named Ellery:

“Last night Ellery and I were sitting on the couch coloring and she looks at me and says, “Mom, I am going to draw great gramma another picture. I saw her at Aunt Chel’s today. Why did you tell me she went to Heaven?”

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And Just Like That …

… she’s gone.

Ginny Limbacher 1923-2015

Ginny Limbacher

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So It Begins

As of yesterday, Mom has begun her “transition” to death. Please keep her in your prayers.

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Too Tired To Come Up With A Title

Got talking with the other members of my support group. The general consensus is that caretaking is lonely business. Despite assurances from family, they often aren’t available. Some of their excuses are legitimate, but sometimes it’s obviously bullshit. Too often it feels to the caretaker like “I have better things to do.” Some hear “I don’t want to see him/her like this; I want to remember them as they were.” A personal favorite is “He/She doesn’t remember me anymore, so what’s the point?” <snort> This isn’t about YOU, dip-shit. It’s about THEM. And YOU ought to remember who THEY are because, honestly, there’s no telling what an Alzheimer’s patient knows inside the privacy of their head. They may very well know you, but not be able to say your name because their brain won’t let the right sounds come out on command.

My mother astonishes the staff at the nursing home with surprising regularity. Just at the moment when they believe that all memories are gone, she’ll rally and deliver. The other day they were bringing her out of lunch, three-quarters asleep in her chair, and someone said, “Ginny, Cory is here.” Without opening her eyes, my mother responded clearly, “The dog?” (This is the Hospice dog/owner team who visits her weekly.) No reason why her ravaged brain would deliver that up, but it did.

The past few visits have been particularly painful. What little conversation she’s been capable of  has been gibberish that clearly makes sense to her, but means nothing to me. She spends most of the time with her eyes closed and complains of being tired all the time. She has not known me for some while and, in fact, was quite astonished when I told her she was my mother. “You’re joking!” she said.

And yet.

Today, she was wide awake when I arrived. She still did not seem to know me and appeared disinclined for much of a visit. I took her into the lounge anyway, just for a few minutes. We talked a bit, I got her a pillow so she could rest her head back and sleep if she chose. Our little bits of conversation were mostly nonsensical. I wept.

When it came time to leave, I pushed her wheelchair back out near the nurses station. As I bent down to give her a kiss, she said, “I’m going home tonight.” Does she know how much I pray that is so? I replied, “Well, when you get there, tell everyone I said hello.” She said she would. I turned to leave and had taken two steps when she very clearly said, “I love you very much.” Needless to say, I turned right back around and gave her a long, long hug.  “I love you, too, Mom.”

I love you, too.

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