Precious Little That’s New

Hi, everyone.
Over the past few days, I’ve gained some new followers (Welcome!) and it’s made me realize how little I’ve posted recently about…anything. Believe me, it’s not because I don’t care. Some of my lapse is caused by busyness. Some of it’s caused by (Thank God) a general lack of stuff happening in the personal Alzheimer’s arena. So I took a break, but I don’t want you to think I’ve vanished because some of you have said this blog is a bit like a touchstone for you. So, for what it’s worth….
On the Mom Front, we seem to have plateaued for the moment. Her short-term memory continues to decline in increments that probably only hubby and I notice. She is sometimes extremely confused over time, place, and all that. At other times, she’s so much nearer to her old self that it’s frankly astonishing. She’s beginning to lose hold of the faces she doesn’t see regularly, or hear from, and I suppose that’s understandable, but it still makes me angry (and sad for her) because there’s family out there who don’t make any effort at all to stay in touch. I have some cousins who do, bless them, with cards and phone calls. Mom’s younger brother calls regularly (and we call him), although the chances that they’ll see each other are slim since neither travels well now. But it’s not for nothing that she occasionally laments that no one wants her. I sometimes think people hear the word “Alzheimer’s” and think the person’s entire mental catalog has been washed from their brain. That may happen in time, but right now she remembers a lot more than they give her credit for. She’s AWARE of who she hears from and who she doesn’t. She KNOWS who’s ignoring her. And it hurts. But it’s a hurt I cannot alleviate. I’ve encouraged people to stay in touch. I’ve tried to coerce them into phoning. I’ve explained that it’s literally 5-10 minutes out of their week (month, year). Doing this full-time, 24/7, I fail to understand why they can’t spare her 5-10 minutes out of their evening television time, but there you go. Apparently, I’m being unreasonable.
I’m also whining, which was not my intent.
So, anyway, Mom is keeping on. Some days are more of a challenge than others, but that’s more about my mind-set than hers. Some days I just seem to have more in the way of mental resources to deal with her illness. I’m able to stay focused, stay sane. Other days, it’s more difficult. I’m irritable and have to fight to not respond harshly to the constantly repeated questions or even (yes) her continued presence in my home. Mid-winter is a demon. We all get a bit of cabin fever by February, but having someone like Mom cooped up with you can sometimes make you want to claw the walls, especially when the weather is so foul that you can’t get out for even a short walk. I “think” I’m learning coping mechanisms (and none of them involve alcohol or hallucinogenic drugs). I have a great husband who’s wonderful with her. I have some terrific friends who engage her in lively conversation. I have a couple of cousins and a friend who routinely send her cards to brighten her day (and sometimes – like yesterday – even send me one. Thanks, Ellen!) In many ways, things are good.
I just re-read that sentence, almost a little shocked that it came out of my fingers. But it’s true. It’s true of most of our lives. Things could always be much, much worse than they are. It’s good to remind ourselves of that from time to time.
But I long for Spring.
Some big news around here is that this year looks to be shaping up as the year of the babies in our family. I will become a grandmother again (via my Coast Guard adoptees), plus my niece Eliza and her husband Kevin are expecting their second, and my great-nephew Lucas and his wife Caitlin are expecting their first. Yes, my mother (if she lives that long) will get to be a great-great-grandmother and I deeply hope they’ll bring the baby down for a photo shoot with all five generations. That’s one for the record books. So, I’m excited. I wasn’t lucky enough to have children of my own (a loss I’ll probably always feel), but I’ve been very fortunate in having special young people come into my life and remain as family. I’ve written about my Coasties before (and our friend Jake, who left the CG for the Army), so I won’t go into it in detail here except to once again state how much I love and respect them all and how blessed I am to have them in my life.
On the writing front, one of my short stories has been short-listed for an anthology. That means I’ve made the first round of cuts and must now wait for the close of submissions, at which time I’ll go up against all the other stories chosen. Not everyone will make the second cut, but I am hopeful. It’s a good story. I’m proud of it. If it gets picked, you’ll hear the YIPPEE!, believe me.
Also, I’m planning to attend the Unicorn Writers’ Conference this year. In addition to some great workshops, I’m taking part in a query-writing workshop (hate those buggers; they’re difficult) and have a 1:1 with an agent set up to pitch a novel. Keep your fingers crossed.
It’s been important to me to carve out more time for my writing. That was sadly lacking over the past few years, what with helping to take care of both my parents, traveling 3.5 hours to their house every few days, getting through Dad’s death, and bringing Mom down here. Only so much time and brain power, you know? But writing is what I do, it’s what I am, and to deny that was killing me slowly. So I’m back and I’m writing and I’m loving/hating it and it drives me mad, but I sleep well at the end of a good writing day, so that’s something. And at least I haven’t turned my back on it. To do that…yeah, it would kill me.
And that’s all the news that’s fit to print, I guess. I hope you’re all well. I hope you’re all kind to yourselves and to each other. I hope your demons don’t rise in the night to plague you too much, and I hope you’re able to battle those bastards back into submission. The important thing to remember (and something I need to remind myself from time to time) is that we’re not alone. It may feel like it, but we…are…not…alone in this fight. If nothing else, we have each other, right here, right now. And that’s worth something.

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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4 Responses to Precious Little That’s New

  1. This winter must have been especially difficult for you, but hopefully Spring will allow both you and your Mom to get out more. Wonderful news about all the babies! They are such a joy in our lives! And congratulations on your success so far with the short stories!

    • Thanks and thanks and thanks, Sue! Yes, winter has definitely been a challenge, but at least we’re not in Michigan (where a friend reports a total snowfall of 7′ or more) or Wisconsin (where my new brother reports windchills of -70). Mom sits by the fire and watches the birds and squirrels that come to our feeders. She’s antsy for warmer weather, but manages to keep a pretty good outlook most days.
      Yes, I’m excited about all the babies, I just wish the expectant parents lived closer. I hate being a long-distance auntie/grandparent.

  2. Marie McC says:

    I’m one of the new readers. Your experiences w/caring for your loved one may be in my future. I admire your humor and although I don’t know you, I am delighted that you are writing outside this blog. You are an excellent writer. Stay strong and Thanks!

    • Marie, thank you so much for your kind words! Welcome to the blog. I’m happy you’ve joined us. When I started down the road to caring for my folks (and now just my mom) I had no idea what to expect and, worse, no one with similar experiences to talk to. My experiences with an Alzheimer’s support group prompted me to change the direction of my blog and I’m glad I did because it’s put me in touch with a lot of great people (yourself included) going through the same sort of thing. It’s vitally important to remember you’re not alone in this, because there are days when you can feel so isolated.
      Thanks especially for the kind words about my writing. It means a lot.
      I’ll do my best to stay strong and you do the same. But remember, strength also lies in us all pulling together.

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