Fall Guy

English: A stereotypical caricature of a villa...

English: A stereotypical caricature of a villain (i.e. generic melodrama villain stock character, with handlebar moustache and black top-hat). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Couple months ago, I joined an Alzheimer’s support group.  I also took four two-hour classes offered by the Alzheimer’s Association.  We discussed the disease itself (comfortably different for every single person it strikes; can you hear my sarcasm?).  We talked about legal ramifications.  We discussed finding the help you need.  And we talked about communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s, how their thought processes can change, things that work, things that might work, things that’ll cause no end of unhappiness.

One of the things our instructor stressed was this:  Somewhere along the Alzheimer’s journey, you’ll likely take on the role of bad-guy.  YOU will always be wrong and THEY will always be right.

Logically, I understand it.  Emotionally, I’m having a tough time.  I have no difficulty admitting my mistakes or taking responsibility for my screwed-up actions, but I have a really hard time accepting blame for something I didn’t do.  This isn’t pride talking (at least I don’t think so).  I suspect it has something to do with my self-esteem, which has been raggedy at best for most of my life.  Whatever the reason, it sucks.

Something else that sucks is the inability to really, truly make a difference in this disease.  I know it’s a good thing that we’ve been able to keep Mom with family and not in one facility or another, but there’s precious little I can do when she’s wracked with pain except give her a pill.  There’s little I can do when she’s anxious except try to divert her (nearly impossible; the woman’s memory may be fading, but she’s got jaws like a snapping turtle when it comes to hanging on to a thought that’s snagged in her mind.)  There’s nothing I can do when she cries like a little girl, upset by her confusion, her brain’s inability to function the way she know it ought, her fear, or my father’s death.  There’s nothing I can say when she doesn’t believe the things I tell her.

And, man, she can be hard to please!  I don’t think she means to complain or be petulant,  but it’s hard to take all the same.  You cook a meal…and she won’t eat.  You bring her what she wants…and it’s too this, that, or the other.  Things “taste like sawdust” or I’ll hear “This is the worst tea I ever had,” when it’s the same thing she’s had every day for the past nine months.

I know, I know…I shouldn’t be whining.  None of this is her fault.  She can’t help being the way she is.  I ought to be able to let it slide off my shoulders, water off a duck, but some days are worse than others because, let’s face it, I’m tired.  And I’m grieving, too.  I never had a close relationship with her and now I’m her full-time caretaker.  (And believe me, it’s much easier to caretake someone to whom you have a positive emotional connection.)  There’s no opportunity now to have any sort of relationship with the woman I knew as my mother because she’s almost gone.  There’s no time to right old wrongs, no time to make peace.  It’s all one-sided.  I know all about accepting her where she is, letting her be, creating what relationship I can, but it’s all built on shifting sands, crudely constructed castles the sea knocks down daily, sometimes hourly.

“I wish I could just die,” she said to me yesterday.  I know, Mom.  I wish you could, too.  Some people will think I’m a monster for admitting that, but it’s true.  I want her pain to be gone and her sadness to end.  There is no quality of life here, really, just an endless repetition of hours with nothing to contrast one from another.  She is existing now, not living.  Some days, I wish she were an old dog.  I’d know what to do, then.


About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
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9 Responses to Fall Guy

  1. Lizzie says:

    That sandy shore we fall to dust upon a thousand times a day, battered by the mocking ocean’s clarity. Carry us out to sea once and for all.

  2. NanJan says:

    Some days life is just too damned cruel. Some days our culture is also too cruel, ending some lives far too early and forcing others to go on too long. It’s all right to feel the way you do. You’re in a situation I would not wish on anyone, least of all a friend, and you’re handling it with grace and strength. it’s all right to be sad, angry, impatient, frustrated — it’s not a failing, I wish i could come over and hug you right now, but I’ll have to send you zen hugs instead… (((((huggs)))))

  3. Although I never had to deal with the horrors of Alzheimers, there were times, when my mother was reaching the end of her life, that I felt the same way that you describe, especially when she would beg me sometimes “Please let me go.” I never knew what to say and felt guilty for wishing that I could.

    • Oh, Sue, I totally understand. I hope you know you did all you could. This is never an enviable position.

      • Shelly Belly Boomer says:

        Sue and Pup, I am reading these posts in relation to your blog. You are not alone-when Leslie was dying what point did we all get to? When my Dad was dying again, what point did it come to? When Grampa took that slow descent what did we all agree with him on? It isn’t easy at all. Raising 2 children with Cystic Fibrosis makes life seem…silly. We really do beat ourselves up on a daily basis don’t we? I still have to believe it is part of our growing process. Otherwise, what would be the frigging point? ❤

      • I can’t say that I see life as “silly,” but I think I know what you mean. (And since I’m only on the fringe in your journey of raising two kids with CF, what do I know anyway?) We DO beat ourselves up daily and it’s a ridiculous notion. Why on earth do we have this assumption that we MUST rise above all things and somehow be stellar and perfect constantly? Such nonsense. All we can do is the best we can. I know that and embrace it…and still somehow lose patience with myself. I put it down to tiredness…and we ALL know about that.

  4. Emily B says:

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