I read this quote today:
“There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” Rosalynn Carter
This quote, hanging in a very plain frame on a non-descript, yellow piece of paper in the assisted living facility I was in today, brought me to a dead stop. I read it again. Then again. Then I took a picture of it with my ever present, though out of date, iphone. Then I made my mom, Hubs and goddaughter read it.
Did you get that? At one time, you will either be the caregiver, or the caregivee. Is that how you spell it? Care givee? Like employer, employee? Like someone I used to know but no longer resides at his brain’s address.
These past 2 weeks have been some of the most emotionally wringing I have ever been through. My dad no longer resides in his own brain. He makes sporadic appearances. When he first went to the hospital 2 weeks ago, he was the most confused I had ever seen him in his 17 months of diagnosis with Pick’s disease. I believe he has had this disease for a lot longer than 17 months, but that is about how long we have officially known something was wrong. There were days that he could do whatever he had to do with no problem, and then there have been the days when I or my mom or my younger brother have gotten a call…”Is everything okay with Dr. B?” No, as a matter of fact, no.
Mental illness is shrouded in mystery for most. Me included. I first encountered it when I met my beautiful, lovely BMom, the woman who gave me life and did not end my life. When I found her in 1990, she was very open and honest about her struggle with substance abuse and mental illness, and 24 years later, I cannot thank her enough for her trust in me and her openness about those issues involved.
I don’t know a lot about the brain. I took all the courses in chiropractic school that pertained to the function of that pretty important organ, but let’s face it, that was 22 years ago, and it’s come a long way, baby, as they say. I am learning anew, though. As I get older (guess what, as you get older, too), I am faced with more brain issues than ever before. I have written about my Grandaddy’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, and now I get to experience first hand the struggle that dementia can bring. Here are the major differences in the two, in the world according to Bopper:
1. Memory: Grandaddy (Alzheimer’s) cannot remember ten minutes from now. He must have asked Hubs 10 times over Easter, “How long have you been growing that beard?” My Hubs had a Duck Dynasty worthy beard for about 2 months before shaving, and Granddaddy could not get past it. He also cannot remember when or what he ate, hence the reason I NEVER want to sit next to him at meals, because he is like a puppy begging for food, because you are still eating and he’s done…but to him, he never began.
My dad, now, dementia, he remembers a lot. Way more than we want sometimes. He doesn’t remember going to the hospital, thank goodness, but he remembers the fact that he’s got 2 trailers that need to get ready to rent. He remembers things that I would forget.
2. Personality: My Granddaddy was always a beautifully sweet man. Gentle. I heard this week that “meekness” should never be mistaken for “weakness” and that is my Granddaddy. He is meek, but certainly not weak. Gentle in manner, kind in thought…that was my Granddaddy.
Well…okay, I am putting it out there…we all know I am fighting my weight, and I am just going to tell you what I have considered making my autobiography’s title: “The Reason I am Fat: My Momma was Crazy and My Daddy was Mean”…okay, okay, I own my weight, but really, I felt that way sometimes. (And by the way, the “momma” referred to here is NOT my step mom, Donna, who is my rock and my best friend, and it’s not my BMom…so you can put the name in there however you want). My dad, who always made me feel like I could accomplish anything, could also make me feel like I BETTER accomplish something. How’s that for a conundrum? Some of the times that I have shed the most tears have been incidences in which my dad was involved.
My Dad, once again, is my hero. He made me who I am. But mental illness, disease of the brain, is robbing me of that man. And we are a little embarrassed, as Americans, of mental illness, aren’t we? If my dad had cancer, I would be on all social media, requesting prayer and praying for miracles. But because of the nature of the Beast ( and trust me, this is one big butt beast), we are keeping it quiet, and I am not even FBing this blog post. Because I can’t see the light. The light at the end. But oh, wait.
“This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
So I am going to tell you a little about what this is like. Because misery loves company, you say? No…because I know my God has people out there who love us, and who will lift us up even with a brain sickness…because my God is bigger than this, and I know that He knew this would happen before my dad was even born.
So I leave you with what is quickly becoming my favorite verse in the Bible:
“My heart and my flesh may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26