The sounds coming from our house are often quite loud. With an active toddler who makes it a point to let her presence be known, a one-year old baby girl who swears you are breaking her heart each time you leave the room, and two adolescent siblings who fight near as much as they breath air, it is no wonder it is loud. I haven’t even got to our house yet. Oh boy, it looks is like a cross between a teenager’s bedroom and a toy box that threw up and then threw up and well, threw up again. And then there is my mother, she is often very quiet. Sometimes I worry that she is too quiet, and I feel like a terrible daughter because I am not spending more time with her, guiding her as she does something she once enjoyed doing. The other day I made the mistake of leaving her alone to cut some fabric that she had purchased for a few quilts she intended to make. Let’s just say a slight disaster ensued. I made the mistake of telling her that the fabric for her quilts was under the bed (in my defense, at one point it was), and that she could start cutting it soon. Oops! I didn’t realize that she would take the steps to get the fabric or would not have notice that the fabric she decided to cut was the hand-me-downs that I have been saving for our 2 younger daughters.
These are the things that I live with now. For us, it is Frontal Temporal Degenerative Dementia that is slowly taking my 56-year-old mother. It has been less than a year that she has lived with us, but there are some days when I think it has been much longer than that. It has been at least two years since her mind has began to decline. In the early stages, when something was not quite right, I knew. There was a feeling inside my gut that told me it was some form of dementia, but I must admit, I was in denial. Then denial was taken over by a very much unexpected pregnancy (I mean supposed to be permanent birth control unexpected), and then that was followed up by a traumatic car accident. To say the least, we are a busy family. For us, the dementia adds new challenges every day. The fact that my husband and I are in our early thirties means that we often have hectic schedules, doctor’s appointments, school activities, 4-H, and boy scouts to only name a few happenings that fill up our calendar. For other families living as members of the sandwich generation, it may be cancer, unexpected accidents, or another form of illness. I started graduate school after the birth of our third child, which was way before I knew that we were taking my mother into our home.
I struggle on a daily basis to find a balance to my life. There are times when my heart hurts, when all I want to do is sit in my room and allow the tears to flow. There are times when I am so angry with the thought that such an illness is taking my mother, a woman who is one of the kindest, sweetest, and hard-working people that I know. We are in the moderate stage of her illness, but I am in the beginning stages of wrapping my brain around what the next few years, hopefully more, of our lives will look like. How on earth am I going to survive this? This is a question that I often ask myself. I have read more lists on how caregivers should take care of themselves, but I struggle to find enough time in the day. I have researched over and over again the timeline of progression for someone with my mother’s illness. I have been pulled in so many directions that at times I literally feel like the room is spinning. I have change baby diapers then hop up to make sure my mother is no longer tangled in the straps of two of her tank tops. There are so many times when I feel like I am not doing enough or that I am stretching myself too thin, but then I really don’t have much that I can cut out.
So, here I am, trying my damnedest to survive, to pray and trust more. I have gone through Army deployments with my husband of ten years, I have felt the pain of childbirth, I have graduated college, I am a survivor of trauma, but I am honestly feeling like I am being punched in the gut on a near daily basis. Being a part of the sandwich generation seems like an cliché, but it is a true fact of life. What I have learned, honesty has become a stronger part of my life. When people ask how I am doing, I make it a point to tell them honestly that I am not doing well. I make sure not to make life seem happy-go-lucky all of the time. Asking for help is difficult for me to do, but I graciously accept my husband’s assistance with cutting my mother’s meat at the dinner table. I allow myself to cry on my husband’s shoulder and try my very best to explain to him what is going on inside my mind and heart. I have even sought out the fellowship of our local support groups to surround myself with others who know what it is that I am going through (at least partly). Speaking honestly, this does not mean that I have found the time to follow through with actually attending a meeting, but the fact that I am even considering sharing my world with others (especially strangers) is a big step forward.
Shew…on to another person who needs something from somewhere for some reason.
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