Saturday, September 8, 2007

Watching Our Parents Age

I miss writing into this amazing universe called the blogosphere. I put thoughts, recipes or photos into the world wide web and a magic thing happens - other people out there respond. Beautiful connections to people from all around the world are made. Yes, indeed, blogging is a lovely gift of the computer age.


I have been a way for a while - in Santa Barbara helping my parents. I know, like many of you, you are either watching your parents age, or watched them age and then pass away. I feel truly blessed to be a part of my parents' lives and be able to watch them age, and in addition, to actually like them and love to be with them (an added bonus!) However, watching a parent suffer is so painful. My mother has been suffering in pain for six years - chronic headache pain. She has days when the pain is less, never a day when the pain is completely gone, and most days the pain is moderate to severe. For the last ten days, here pain has been severe and there is nothing that modern or alternative medicine can do about it. She has been to every kind of specialist that one should see. She spent three years going to a top-notch pain clinic, she has no less than three doctors on her case at all times. We feel that we have tried almost everything. There is no explanation except that it is most likely an auto-immune disease. (That catch all term for diseases that no one can figure out.) It seems as though her nerves are damaged and sending a continual message to her body that she is in pain. Add to this the fact that she has a form of Alzheimer's called Lewy Body Dementia, her situation is sad, to put it mildly.


Watching my father watch his wife go through this pain and become someone different everyday is also torture. The whole thing is heartbreaking. Those of us trying to help end up feeling helpless, like our efforts are futile. Even the doctors feel this way.


Witnessing my mother's changes and pain have brought different qualities out of me. I found out that I am a really good caretaker and nurse. I have an ability to just accept what I am seeing as a part of life and not try to fight it. I have a hunch years of meditation and yoga are helping me here. I have a reserve of calm and fortitude that is deeper than I could have ever imagined. I am learning (mostly by reading a lot) how to deal with my mother's dementia in a way that preserves her dignity and how to reach her on an emotional level when rational thoughts and conversation no longer work. I have learned more gratitude for what I do have and what we still have as a family. I take things less for granted. Don't get me wrong - I am not an expert in any of these things, but I am constantly learning by being in the thick of it.


So, while I wish my mother was out of her pain, I am fishing around for the tiny pearls of wisdom to be learned from this experience. Admittedly, there is another side to me that feels like a lioness - I want to roar and demand justice. I want someone to come up with a solution to help her. I want to protect her at all costs - even if to the extent of wishing euthanasia was legal.


I am not writing this for pity, but to, as always, make connections with others out there who must have experienced or are experiencing something similar.


My mother on a particularly good day three years ago, being feed one of her favorite foods - ice cream - by one of her granddaughters. While not a good photo, it is a happy one.


An added afterthought: I believe that suffering in life is a given. Whether it is emotional, mental or physical suffering - we cannot escape it. But as African Vanielje says in her comment below, it is how we deal with it that counts. It is through these lessons we have the opportunity to grow, learn and deepen our connection to others and the great spirit.

10 comments:

african vanielje said...

Life is a circle Bella, and while this is easy for me to say, while you are the one suffering, I truly believe it is not so much what happens to us as how we deal with it that allows us to hold our heads up and open our hearts and continue to find beauty in teh world. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would like you to know you are not alone. We are here...

The Passionate Palate said...

A heartfelt Thank You AV. Yes, life is a circle, not always an even neat circle, sometimes a bumpy one, but a circle. It is a privelege to experience. I couldn't agree more with what you said, life is so much about how we deal with it and not what happens. Thank you again.

Rebecca Lemke said...

To Jeni, your Mom, and all who touch her life, may you find "the way". I'm sending love to you.

Joanna said...

Such a sad post - but strong, too. There's a strong need to DO something when life gets tough - and you are finding good and useful things to do, enriching your own experience, something lasting to come out of these difficult days. Keep strong.

Joanna

sognatrice said...

Thinking of you and your family as well; sometimes watching the circle of life is difficult, but as my grandmother always said, it's better than the alternative!

Love the photo of your mom :)

cathouse teri said...

Yes, pain does certainly seem to always accompany growth. Perhaps it's because we resist growth. We find a happy place and just want to stay there.

I'm sorry you have to experience this, but as you have put it so well, it's part of life ... and love.

It was funny, though, when I was reading, I read the sentence wrong that said years of meditation and yoga prepared you for this. I thought it said years of medication and yoga! Ha! Those two didn't seem to go together, so I had to reread it. :)

Maryann said...

What a strong and good woman you are! You are finding that when the big picture isn't comfortable to look at, you need to look closer. It's like cropping a photo. There is a jem inside. I'll keep your family in my prayers. Stay strong and be well.

The Passionate Palate said...

I feel so touched by all your comments. It shows that we are never alone and we all feel the same feelings at one point or another. Thank you and grazie to you all!

Dana said...

My heart hurt for you reading this post. I went through something similar with my grandmother a few years ago and although it was very difficult at the time I look back now and cherish the time I got to spend with her.
That's wonderful picture of your mom :)

The Passionate Palate said...

Dana, thank you so much for the kind words. I am with my mom this week and while it is really difficult, I'm counting my blessings that I can be with her, as you were for your grandmother.