Friday, December 31, 2010


Well, that was certainly a full, amazing  bittersweet year! 

Nearly a full year has passed since I first introduced this blog.  I began by telling a little about myself and my situation as caregiver.  I proposed my mission and suggested what you might expect to find in upcoming posts.  You met my mother and father and their sisters and brothers.  I offered insights into family, friendships, caregiving, amusements, electronics, diversion and recipes.  I shared some laughs and some tears and some good old-fashioned common sense.

I created this blog as a writing exercise.  I had reached that proverbial "writer's block" on some projects I was working on and thought this would be a way to keep nimble and work through the block.  I also knew I had caregiving information that was worth sharing;  hard learned information from my years of real-life experience taking care of my bed-bound mother facing the ravages of Alzheimer's disease as well has having taken care of her sister who had succumbed to cancer a few years earlier.

I have been overwhelmed by the response I have gotten since my first post.  The readership has constantly grown with dedicated fans from around the world.  Letters I have received have touched my heart in ways I never expected.  There are so many of you who are in caregiving situations, each with a personal story to share. You have been so generous with your compliments and gratitude.  I am truly humbled.  I am also grateful for the feedback you give me.

I have received notes from long-lost friends and family as well as strangers and new friends.  I have been sent wonderful anecdotes from my mother's former students.  I have gotten thank you notes from other caregivers.  I have gotten requests for topics and especially requests for recipes.  My "Foodie Friday" blogs quickly became a huge success.  My "Mini Golf Monday" blog just as quickly drew hate mail!  Who could have known that people had such visceral feelings about mini golf?  I have even gotten a couple of date proposals!

I have postponed re-visiting some of my more popular posts because they were going to be too difficult to share until some time had passed.

Last February I introduced you to my father's last surviving brother, Uncle Eddie and his wife Lena in a blog titled "THE HOUSE THAT TIME FORGOT".  This was a very popular story and one that was especially dear to me.  It was an account of my visit with my aunt and uncle and reunion with my cousin and her husband.  What a great visit we had.  At the end of the blog I wrote:

"We left as we had arrived, in a flurry of hugs and kisses and tears.  There were more tears as we were leaving than arriving.  There is no doubt that we were all having the same thoughts and wondering how many more of these wonderful visits there will be.  We promised not to let another two years pass and certainly not to let another twenty in between visits with my cousin."

which turned out to be more insightful that I had hoped.  That wonderful visit turned out to be our last visit with Uncle Eddie.  This summer he left us to join his three siblings: Mike, Joe and Pat.  The last of a generation is now gone.  The sturdy brick house still stands but it is just a little more sad.  My aunt now lives there alone with her memories and ghosts.  

In "DIARY OF A MAD CAREGIVER" I introduced you to my mother's "Munchkin Sisters".  I was on a rant about coming home to find my kitchen covered in strawberry juice and the ease with which they were always able to deny culpability.   In "TRANSITIONS, DECISIONS AND BUREAUCRACY" I told of the struggle to get the elder sister into a nursing facility because of her declining ability to care for herself.

I was able to place Theresa into a facility where she immediately made herself at home.  In the tradition of the Clemente women, she is amazing.  Her attitude is great.  She adjusted to her new life immediately.  Her demeanor is positive and healthy.  In fact, on the approaching of her 93rd birthday this summer, my sister informed her that we were going to have a little party for her at the home.  In classic Theresa style, she said to Patricia: "you don't have to make a fuss.  We'll have a big party when I turn 100.  That's the important one"!  You can't help loving this tiny dynamo.  

The youngest sister, the one I referred to as "Baby Jane", has been failing quickly.  She has always been the problem relative and that's not getting any easier.  She can barely take care of herself and her home.  Her memory is failing.  She has always been difficult but now even more so.  Getting care for her is going to be the challenge for the new year.  Unlike the graceful sister Theresa, Baby Jane refuses help and/or change.  She refuses to admit her decline.  She, also, has no children but she has not taken the legal steps to give authority to anyone.  I don't know how this is going to play out but I know it's going to be a struggle.

My mother Adelaide continues to defy her doctors.  Just before Christmas we had another round with one of the "Scaregivers".  My sister and I had been hit hard with a cold that was going around.  Despite our hand-washing and face covering, eventually mom also got sick.  This cold was an especially strong strain even for those of us blessed with good health. 

It walloped dear Addie.  I spent a few nights at her side making sure she was comfortable and safely positioned to help her breathing.  I put her on oxygen to make her breathe more easily and made sure she was getting her nutrition and fluids.  One of her doctors came for a scheduled visit.  He walked into her room, heard her cough and saw her coloring and proclaimed to me and my sister that he "wouldn't be surprised if she didn't make it through the night".  He proceeded to declare that she had pneumonia and her coloring was a sure sign that she wasn't going to make it.  He called in a prescription for antibiotics and said to keep her on the oxygen and make her as comfortable as possible.  I did notice that he was hedging his proclamation by ordering 3 refills on the medication.  Even the hardiest of the naysayers knows the determination of Adelaide.

That was 12 days ago.  It was a difficult 12 days but Adelaide never gave up the fight.  Once again she persevered  and thrived.  She is happy and comfortable and has no plans to go anywhere yet.  She is bathed in love and blessed with an awesome  temperament.  Her smile and laughs are infectious.  Even in the throes of Alzheimer's she continues to be a role model.

As we age, holidays and the passing from one year into the new one  become more precious, more steeped in nostalgia.  I like to consider the holidays as being colored a little more blue than they used to be.  The future is less uncertain than it was.  

It is nearly 70 blog entries since I that first introduction. My "writer's block" is long broken.  My life is full and rewarding and  I am a grateful man. I am constantly learning, making new friends and bonding with dear old friends.  Thank you for reading my ramblings.  Please continue to share your thoughts with me. I will continue to share with you in the new year.  

To my fellow caregivers: be strong, take care of yourselves and look for the joy.

1 comment:

  1. Christopher you are an AMAZING man, I admire your patience,dedication,sense of humor, MD skills and your touch of OCD ! everything you do you do well and precisely and always with love.written with love from T