Grandpa's Alzheimer's "Groundhog Day" Moment

I don't have the time or energy to capture all of our family's fun and important memories anymore. That makes me feel a little sad and guilty. My kids are also bigger and I feel like talking about some of the important events going on in our family is an invasion of their privacy. I've been trying to compensate by making these little Chatbooks, which are mainly compilations of comments and pictures that I've taken with my phone. It's not as good as what I used to do, but it is something.

The biggest thought I've had lately is one I can't stuff into a little photo book. It's more an ache that I try to subdue with faith than a thought, really. We're losing Bill, or we've already lost most of him. He's still here - alive, and still has his same old mannerisms and the same face that I love, but he eats cheese now. He's always hated cheese, and refused to eat it, but now he eats it on a sandwich and doesn't know that this is new.

And it's more than that.

He's lost in a world of paranoia inside a chasm of incredibly deep confusion which he will never climb out of. He's only 68 but he doesn't know who we are anymore and lives only in the moment. His world is like the movie "Groundhog Day" where the main character lives the same day over and over again only in his world he's living the same moment over and over again, and it's not a pleasant one. The moment he lives in perpetuity is one where he feels angry, extremely unsettled, anxious, confused and he never understands that those feelings are caused because he is sick.

His world doesn't make any sense to him. He doesn't make sense anymore. He can talk but he strings together words that never make a point. He doesn't know what has happened prior to that moment or have any context for what will happen next and so he can never be comforted or settled. It's a terrible way to live. I thought Alzheimer's was blissful unawareness but his experience has been so different than that. There's no bliss and he is very aware that he feels terrible. So then comes the faith. I know he won't always live like this.

Is it a terrible thing to look forward to death? That's the only peace he will have and until then it is just enduring. It's so hard to watch someone I love suffer.

We all mourn the loss of him even though he is still physically here. I heard one of my kids correct themselves last night when they asked to go to "Grandpa and Grandmas's house" and instead changed it to just "Grandma's house". It's just Grandma's house now. Grandpa will never go home ever again. Grandpa will never be at his Easter Egg hunt, or Thanksgiving dinner, or there to watch us all open his Christmas presents. He'll never go to another one of my children's school programs, piano recitals or soccer games. That hurts. We miss Grandpa and I miss my wise father in law who we could turn to for advice about the problems we have. Chris and I used to confide in him. Bill was always there with a solution and his toolbox. I am missing one of my favorite persons.

He's living in a different care center now than the one we put him in last September. It's a temporary place with a psychiatrist who is adjusting his medicines to help him become more mentally and emotionally stable. We're hoping that it will be possible for him to return to the nearby care center. We feel so much concern for him every day and now, more than ever, the only thing we can really do for him is pray. We pray for him to feel comforted and for him to be strengthened to be able to endure. We pray for his caregivers and for his doctors that they can find the right combination of medicines to help him be as comfortable as possible. And then we wait.

Halloween 2016

Halloween is one of my favorite days to play with my kids. This Halloween Awesome Husby was out of town on a business trip to San Diego so I was all alone with my kids. I'm always lonely when he is gone but this time was a little better because my kids had Halloween off school and I enjoyed being with them all day long. We carved pumpkins, ate Cafe Rio take out for dinner and then went Trick-or-Treating together. 

Carving pumpkins is a lot harder than it looks. It takes a lot of patience and some good fine motor skills; all things my children are developing. Every year that goes by I'm encouraging my kids to be a little more independent. This year I told them they were going to carve their pumpkins on their own as much as possible. I watched as they struggled, did better than they thought they could, adapted, complained, asked for help, gave up, and continued with perseverance. This year they learned that things that are fun aren't always easy. While they worked I fished out pumpkin seeds from the guts to roast later, which are a traditional favorite in our family.

Marilyn had the most perseverance carving pumpkins out of all of my kids. She's got lots of practice with that perseverance stuff. Max even carves his pumpkin like a ninja! I hurried and took this picture during the first two minutes of Noah carving his pumpkin because that's how long it took for him before he said, "to heck with it" and went to find something else to do, and that's OK.

Linda came over every day after school to give me some adult companionship and make and eat dinner together. What a difference it made in my mood! She and Kim helped me clean my house, fold my laundry, and work on gardening projects together. On one of these days he told me a story I didn't remember from growing up; it's interesting how differently we remember things. We lived duplicate lives and yet things that made impressions on her didn't on me and vice versa. When I was 7 or 8 my teacher made us pumpkin seeds and brought them to school to share. For an assignment we had to write a recipe on a card and I wrote the recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds. I'd never had them before and apparently loved them so much that I saved that recipe card for months and gave it to my mom for a present for Mother's Day or something. 39 year old me thought that was really adorable of 7 or 8 year old me! I think I like pumpkin seeds even better now. 

Halloween night the kids and I set out to go Trick-or-Treating. Noah was a cobbled together amalgam of whatever he could find in our costume box and around the house that he thought would be fun. He wore these goggles the whole time that shined blue lights out of them and he covered it up with a black ski mask. He could barely see where he was going and I spent the whole night guiding him around while he held onto my arm. That kid! Marilyn was a very pretty self made version of Raspberry Torte from the cartoon Strawberry Shortcake. Max was a green ninja. I always feel so carefree and childlike with my kids when we Trick-or-Treat together and this night was no different.

Max Belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ

Max is named after my Grandpa Max Madsen who died a few months before my Max could come home to America. My Grandpa Max knew about my son Max, had seen his picture and knew we were naming our son after him. It was actually at my Grandpa's funeral that we got the news from our adoption agency that a very important approval that we had waited months for had been issued by China's government allowing us to move forward in Max's adoption. I felt that that approval was heaven sent aided by my Grandfather.

Anyway, my Grandpa's birthday was October 8th and my little Max had the privilege of being baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints this past October 8th. It was a really special day and just one more sweet connection to my Grandpa Max Madsen.

Max was really excited to get baptized and was truly prepared. He has such a diligent little soul and has a genuine desire to do what is right. He felt this was right and has a budding testimony of the truths of the Gospel. I'm so proud of my little "double handsome" Max. (That's what JunShuang means in Mandarin.) I have no doubt that he will continue to honor the covenants he made with Heavenly Father when he was baptized as he grows up and it will one of the sweetest privileges as his mother to watch him.

I love you, Max!

Grandma Parker continued the tradition of making a cozy quilt with the child who is getting baptized's name embroidered on it along with the letters CTR or Choose the Right on it. Max LOVES his quilt and sleeps under it and the love from Grandma that goes with it every night.

It was such a special day!



October Happenings

Noah is so funny. He loves animals SO much even though he is allergic to them. One day he was walking home from school and when his siblings made it home and he wasn't with them I went looking for him. I found him and his little friend Carolina on a street near our house. The first thing I noticed was Carolina struggling to hold all of the books and rubbish from Noah's backpack. "Noah needs a lesson on being a gentleman," I thought to myself. I invited Noah and his friend to climb into the van and the next thing I noticed was how Noah was cradling his zipped up backpack in his arms and how it started to move like there was something alive in it. Then it yowled. He immediately looked at my face to see what my reaction to all of this was going to be and it was so hilarious. His face read, "Uh-oh. My mom probably noticed that. What's she gonna say when I tell her what's in here?" It was a cat - the neighbors cat. He had taken off the collar to justify to himself that the cat was now "homeless" and needed to be rescued. He told me so and that he needed to take it home and give it a place to live. It took a lot of persuading to convince him that by doing so he'd be taking the cat away from his family, which would be wrong and that someone would miss him. Ugh.

Marilyn and I have had some really good Mommy/daughter moments this month. We celebrated "White Cane Day" together at the Hogle Zoo with the USDB and her friends from "Short Term" programs. It was so wonderful because there were docents all over with animal skins, skull, models, high contrast pictures and other tactile objects that the students could touch to help them "see" the animals at the zoo. They also told us a lot of interesting facts about each animal. At one station we got to see and touch a tortoise, a snake, a hissing cockroach, and a ferret.

One night Marilyn and I stayed up late after putting the boys to bed and I let her try on all of the special dresses I had saved throughout the years. She wore the dress my mom made me for my 9th grade promotion, the Sr. Prom dress my mom made me, the dresses I wore for Heidi and Linda's wedding, and we got out my wedding dress and she tried on my veil. It was a giggly night that helped us feel close to each other.

Marilyn had a piano recital where she played a duet with her piano teacher and did great! She is really maturing. This time around she enjoyed herself more, was pretty relaxed and didn't get so bothered when she made a small mistake or two. Plus she sounded great!

Max was especially excited to open an account at our credit union and we took the other two with to open up accounts for them too. Max had saved up $21 to put in his account!

I wasn't feeling well one day and Max curled up on the couch and had some snuggles with me. He's been my super-duper little sweetheart lately.

My Christopher and I have been fitting in some wonderful dates with each other. Those are the best of times. I sure love him! We took advantage of being alone with each other on Columbus Day when he had the day off work and the kids were at school to go on a hike to a nearby mine that I'd never heard of. 

My Awesome Husby and I find time to date each other even when we can't have a traditional date. Earlier this month Max was still having soccer practice at a park after dinner once a week and on one of those nights we left Marilyn home, Noah to play nearby at the park and Chris and I went hand in hand on a walking date right there at the park. Look at how lovely it was! I LOVE walking with him and connecting. Sometimes I have a hard time getting my words to come out but walking will always loosen them up.

Megan, Joel, Paisley and Emerson came into town for a wedding and that Friday I went shopping with Megan, Paisley and Emerson to help them get ready. I had such a fun time being around my two little niecephew buddies again. That night all five of us sisters and my parents met for dinner at an Italian restaurant for dinner. It was fantastic to all be together again and celebrate my mom's birthday. We all went in together and gave her a beautiful amethyst pendant since amethysts are her favorite. She loved it! That Sunday both sides of Emerson's family met at the Park Park to eat cake and celebrate Emerson's first birthday. Then we went to my parent's house and had dinner together again. I love soaking up those family moments. 

This fall break from school the kids and I have been enjoying ourselves. The first day we had a Princess and Prince Tea Party at the Memory Care Center Grandpa Parker lives in now. Grandma Parker and all the Utah Parker cousins came and it was a lot of fun to all be there together with Grandpa. There were fancy treats and lemonade to snack on, crowns to decorate, fall games to play, and even a "Sparkle Station" where the boys could spray their hair different colors and the girls could paint their fingernails and wear sparkly make-up.

Grandpa Parker is finally starting to settle in to his new home at the care center and we are starting to settle in to the idea of him living there. Bev takes SUCH amazing care of him and visits him for long stretches every day. I try to take the kids there a few times a week which is pretty easy because the center is right down the road from us and Noah begs to go there almost daily because he loves the cat who lives there, "Morris". I visit Bill by myself once a week in the afternoon when I take him to the kids' school to volunteer with me in my sister's classroom where we sit and listen to kids read out loud to us. Then we go on a walk around the park and eat ice cream cones or get a soda. Chris and I visit together at least once a week, oftentimes without the kids so we can enjoy our time with him without managing kids. Chelsea visits him at least once a week while most of her kids are at school and Brendan's family gets there as often as possible. He's also got great friends and ward members who go visit often. He is loved and being well taken care of. He's not nearly as bewildered at being there as he was.

The kids and I spent another afternoon at Lagoon with Grandma Buckholts and a bunch of their Buckholts cousins plus Aunt Krista. We enjoyed a blissfully warm October day at the end of another wonderful season full of fun Lagoon times. 

One Sunday after church we were packing up in the car to go home and Noah was no where to be seen. We called for him and said to each other, "Oh, well. He's probably walking home or else when he sees us starting to drive away he'll come running. We decided to drive around the church with our windows down and keep calling/looking for him. From off in the distance we heard what I thought sounded like some kid calling from far away or my mommy's mind imagining something. It's a good thing Chris heard it too because it was real, it was Noah, and it was coming from a the furthest back grassy corner of our church's property. We pulled up, Chris popped out to inspect and what he saw amazed and freaked me out a bit. Noah had wanted to get to the farm on the other side of the fence and decided he'd try to crawl under the fence, and the concrete supporting it, and between a cemented in water overflow drain. He was stuck in the mud, with one leg wedged under the fence and the gap in the cement and couldn't get out. We literally had to dig him out! Chris hopped the fence in his dress shoes and I drove home really fast to get a shovel. I hurried back, passed the shovel over the fence to Awesome Husby and he dug and I pulled. Finally Noah popped out. It was a little like when Winnie the Pooh gets stuck in Rabbit's hole only Noah's crisis was due to mischief rather than honey.