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(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Though I have the occasional nightmare, what I have more frequently are what I call stress dreams—dreams that are more like nighttime anxieties on daytime themes. Mostly I dream of not getting to places on time or of misplacing important items or not being able to find where I’m supposed to go—you know, things like missing flights or not being able to find my classroom or misplacing whatever it is I need to do what comes next. I’ve always made my flights and found my classrooms, and even though I have misplaced things from time to time, still my days are not nearly as stressful as these dreams. I’ve never thought of these dreams as anything more than an over amplification of my desires to be responsible—until today.

Last night’s dream was slightly different because it involved experiencing these sorts of anxieties while visiting a dementia care center. As I shared the dream with my friend Lenny who, like me, lost her mother to Alzheimer’s, and who, unlike me, is also guiding a father with dementia, she said, “Oh my gosh—you just got an insight into what people with dementia must be thinking and feeling.”

Talk about raising the stress level on my lifelong stress dreams. But really, with that insight, no wonder I found last night’s dream particularly upsetting—and it wasn’t even about my having dementia.

What the dream did do was bring me back to those days when my mother was trapped in her increasingly unreliable mind—and essentially trapped in her care facility. Now mind you, this was the place where the well-designed purpose-built setting and the wonderful caregivers helped her to relax into where she was and make it her home. She loved being around the people who provided her care and, unlike so many, did not need to be coaxed into eating the well-cooked meals. Though I can’t speak for how she felt about the betrayal of her own mind, I can say that she seemed much calmer and lost much of her agitation in that safe space. This, however, was not true of everyone.

When you visit your loved ones in those settings, you begin to know and reach out to the other residents. Often you thank God that it isn’t your mother who knows her name but who has no idea how to find her room—every time you visit. Or that it isn’t your mother who worries out loud about “being naughty” and who begs for forgiveness in one breath and then tells you you are going to hell in the next. Thank goodness there are others who have more good moments than bad.

When your mother’s music is silenced, you sing hymns with someone else’s mother. You listen to another woman describe how the Vienna of her youth is the only place where you can find the best schnitzel. You know to be thankful when the woman who has not been very nice to your mother all of a sudden relaxes and smiles—because your teenaged son has such nice hair. You do your best to meet these people in their realities—unless, of course, that involves agreeing that there can be no redemption for you or the other residents.

The amazing thing is that after awhile you start to lose much of your fear of visiting your mother in this condition in that place where everyone is lost or has lost something. You are in awe of the love and kindness shown by those who work with the lost day in and day out. And, if your mother only sleeps while you hold her hand, you chat with the other residents and the staff who also have social needs.

So my dream didn’t exactly start out stressful. I talked to residents and provided help, if needed. Staff members came out and said, “I haven’t seen you in awhile.” Then my mom found me—she was wearing that pink shirt of hers—not that pink was her color, but no doubt she had bought it because it was on sale. We sat together, me with my arms around her, as if she were a child, and rested into one another. Then she left to take dinner with the other residents.

That’s when the stress began. Where was the bathroom? Did they change the colors on each residential section or had they also remodeled them? I had to leave, but first needed to put away all the supplies I had pulled out. Plus, where did they all belong? And then where was the bag I brought with me? Where did I leave it and did one of the “shoppers” (what people with dementia are called when they tend to take off with things that don’t belong to them) find it? And if I didn’t find the bag, how was I going to get to where I was supposed to be? With so much to worry about, I just couldn’t find my way to the door even though it was way past time to leave.

Oh, Lenny was right—those must be the sorts of thoughts that run through the minds of those with dementia. What a nightmare for them.

Thank goodness I was only dreaming—let this be a wake-up call to live well now and to quit stressing out over minor details.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Too bad the letter for today isn’t “E” since we have a tradition of dyeing eggs the day before Easter—which this is. However, I like that the daily letters challenge me to work around my original thought.

The truth is this tradition has become more about spending time with the kids’ grandmother. Sherman’s mom is Grandma Pat to them—I’m glad that last year Christiana could continue the tradition and that this year Jackson can do so.

When we’re young, if we’re lucky enough to have active, healthy grandparents, we take for granted they will be able to remain active participants in our lives and in the family traditions. At least, I did. Only one of my grandparents had slipped into dementia and poor health before I graduated from high school. The other three continued on much as I had known them for many more years and by the time another grandparent disappeared into dementia, she was just short of her 90th birthday.

I want this to be a glad post, but realize it’s really more gloomy than glad. The thing is you never know how quickly an aging person’s health will change, either physically and/or mentally. You have to hold onto your shared traditions as long as you can because when both the people you have loved and the traditions are gone, you will miss them for the rest of your days.

My kids can barely remember my father, who became ill in 2001 and died in 2002, while they remain heartbroken over how they lost who my mother had been to them over a period of three years. By the time she died last year, she was nothing like the talkative, energetic grandma who had put them at the center of her life.

(c) 1997: Alex, Grandma Pat, Jackson, & Christiana

No, when it comes to people whom we love, we really do have to live by a carpe diem attitude. Dye those Easter eggs with them, make the holiday cookies, and sit with them at the table of your family celebrations. And, if those options don’t work anymore, just hold their hands and be in the moment with them.

Grandparents are gifts to us too soon gone. Giving thanks today for my grandparents Esther and Charles Ritter and Elva and Pat Lange, as well as for my parents Dick and Mae Lange.

Am also reminded that dying eggs means more than a treasured tradition—it is a symbol of new life in the glorious resurrection. Now that is a gift beyond all others . . .

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

You know my messy table isn’t really the problem—it’s just an obvious sign that deep down all is not well with my soul.

This is one of those years when I can’t talk myself into seeing the happy endings—or at least the unhappy endings that lead to deeper understanding and long-term happier endings. No matter what I said about wanting to be done with talking about unhappy topics, I am not. I can’t will myself to come up with the neat and happy moral of the story that will tie up a less-than-hope-filled post.

Although I’m feeling a bit like George Bailey on the bridge, I’m not looking to jump into the river. No, I just want to take that suitcase I bought with happy travels in mind—and run—anywhere that isn’t where I’ve been.

You see, I know God is hearing my prayers, but I’m having a hard time saying them. The good thing about God is He hears the prayers that have sunk so deep within us that we can’t even use our voices to speak them—they become so much a part of us that they rise from our very pores.

If nothing else, perhaps He’ll send me a bumbling Clarence to show me a better path than the one I am on.

Sometimes no amount of research or any continued pursuit for new solutions can fix a problem. And you especially can’t make someone else choose to see the hope in their situation if they prefer to see only loss.

You’re probably thinking I must be talking about myself, right? See, that’s the irony, isn’t it? So easy to see how to solve someone else’s problem, but then you look in the mirror and realize that maybe you’re so busy trying to solve someone else’s problem because it makes it easy not to be responsible for solving your own problems.

The years of trying to help others with celiac disease, dementia, depression, and ADD have taken their toll on me. I’m fresh out of perky solutions that are always met with a big “but”—because after all I have no idea how bad it is for someone else.

Well, the truth is they don’t know how bad it has been for me to watch them suffer. If I could, I would wave a magic wand and remove the problem. Would be much better than searching for other possible solutions that will never be good enough because the only solution the person really wants is to wake up completely healed.

They also don’t know how much I’ve suffered watching them refuse to consider anything but Plan A when I would fight to find them Plan B through Plan Infinity to aid in their movements forward. This week I realize I’m done being the pep squad. All that energy spent helping those who at this point won’t help themselves is making me feel like a failure. I know I am not—I tried, as God is my witness, I tried. Maybe I tried so hard that they didn’t think they needed to do so. But in the end all any of us really can do is help ourselves.

And during all those times of caregiving, I did not help myself. In some ways it’s just not possible to take care of yourself in the midst of others’ crises, but in other ways you have to be careful not to see any results as the only proof that what you did mattered. Some problems can’t be fixed despite anyone’s best efforts.

And so, I need a Clarence to come show me how I helped even if I could not beat back the demons of the diseases. I need to know that without me this place would have become a Potterville. Maybe I have a bit of a savior complex, but, by God, I’d like to know that sacrificing my potential trips around the world made some difference to others.

But short of that, the only thing I can control is the direction of my own footsteps in the future. A future where I stop trying to find solutions for everyone else and start looking for my own regardless of who is coming along with me on the trip.

Clarence, are you ready to earn your wings? Then help me climb down from this bridge so I can pack my suitcase for the trip of my lifetime.

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

Blame it on seasonal weather changes, thirst, the continuous Zumba music running through my head, or the puppy (!) who will be arriving in our lives soon, but I have not been sleeping deeply the last few nights. Anyone who knows me well, knows I am prone to strange dreams anyway, but when my sleep is restless, the dreams get even more vivid.

This April (that cruelest month) I am mourning, but to tell you the truth it’s not so much the recent loss of my mother but that the dreaded disease, Alzheimer’s, took her several years ago. I lost my mother years before she died—that’s one of the harshest aspects of dementia.

Mom was always an absentminded person who often lived outside the norm. We just came to expect her to be slightly crazy. In fact, that was one of the best sides of who she was. Still, when our father died, we realized very quickly that he had been her timepiece, the person who anchored her in the reality of the world of chronos. For her, life was almost all kairos—for good and bad.

But the first time she forgot my birthday, that hurt. Still, it didn’t 100% point out that she had dementia because if she didn’t know what day it was, she couldn’t know it was my birthday. My brother always came to visit at Thanksgiving, so she remembered his birthday longer, but apparently insisted on making him a chartreuse green angel food cake since that was what he supposedly liked—I was the one who liked angel food and the green frosting only happened once, thankfully, when I turned 13 in the mid-1970s.

Looking back, we realize all the dementia checklists in the world don’t necessarily point out when something’s wrong with your loved one. Really what you need to note is when they can’t do the things they always did well. True, she was having trouble with words, but that isn’t so unusual for post-menopausal women. For her, when she started misspelling written words, that was a huge sign of change since she was pretty much a spelling snob. Still, all that’s water under the bridge of sorts for our family.

What I want now is to dream of her as she was throughout most of my life. However, I continue to have these dreams, as I have for the last three years, where she is either in need due to her dementia, or just needs help. Although the final years of her obvious dementia represent only about 5% of her days on this earth—thank God that percentage isn’t even higher—the most recent images seem burned in my brain.

In the pre-dawn hour, I dreamed she and I were at some sort of a roadside stop, such as you find in the Rocky Mountains, where tourists can linger to visit nature. There we saw this circular flagstone or other natural rock structure—water sat deep within this man-made well of sorts. While Mom was looking in, she fell headfirst. I screamed for help, though I didn’t see how there would be time for anyone to climb in before she succumbed to the water.

When my husband showed up, I implored him to do something. Sherman returned to report he had spoken with her and she said she was fine and would get herself out. She’d gotten hungry (blaming blood sugar difficulties was her consistent excuse for any mental or physical missteps and how she attempted to deflect any dementia concerns) and, pointing to a ladder on the inner wall, she would climb out herself after she’d eaten.

Maybe if she had admitted to needing help, she could have avoided some of her distress, but really, there was no way out from her dementia. She was as lost to us as if she’d fallen into a deep well. We could still see her, but could not reach her.

I’d like to think our family’s story is unique, but unfortunately in 2011, the Alzheimer’s Association released a report estimating 5.4 million Americans have the disease and another 14.9 million people function as unpaid caregivers.

I don’t have to read the report to know I am not alone. Sylvia from Deep Water class, Lenny from Yoga class, my nephew’s mother-in-law Anita—these are just a few of the people I know who are walking beside someone they love who has some form of dementia.

Supposedly some people don’t visit their loved ones often because of fear about their own possibility for getting dementia. Suffice it to say, when I stayed away I think it was due to fears about what was happening right then, but that may just be a form of denial. I remember thinking I hoped my kids didn’t have to go through what I had gone through with my mother—and then realizing that if they did, it could be because I had fallen into that well!

So, I will keep working through my own grief and doing what I can for my own brain health, and trying to find more peace in my dreams.

But the thing is it’s not just about my mom or me. We as a nation cannot afford to continue to lose all these brilliant minds—just hearing all the previous professions and past adventures of those who lived in my mother’s care center taught me how much these people had contributed to our society—nor can we afford the costs of caring for them, either financially or emotionally.

Between 2000 and 2008, deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 66%, while deaths from other diseases, including heart disease, decreased. We need to step up the research for this disease in order to both prevent it and treat it. Currently there is nothing that can pull any of us out of the well once we fall in.

But in my sweetest dreams, there really is a ladder on the inner wall, ready for us to climb at any time.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I like to help people, but deep down I’m a chicken. I prefer to help people from a distance, mostly by providing them with resources or getting some sort of task done for them that helps them with something in their everyday lives.

Truly, I like hiding behind my computer—behind words, numbers, etc.—not because I’m cold, but because I have a hard time forgetting others’ problems. I can imagine things well without having experienced them myself. Maybe that stems from the voracious reading I’ve done since I first learned to pick out words for myself. Or maybe that’s just how I came into this world since movies, songs, and visual pieces such as paintings and photos can reach me in the same way.

That’s why going to a support group can be a double-edged sword for me—sometimes I have to work not to feel overwhelmed. I love that I might be able to offer some information that might relieve someone else’s burdens, but often I find myself wanting to run away from the emotions that arise in such a group.

I suppose that’s one of the reasons why I haven’t run the Race for the Cure for several years. For anyone who has participated in the Race for the Cure, it’s not just the visual cues from the survivors’ pink hats or the heartfelt signs pinned to participants’ backs that make the event such a powerful emotional experience. I admit that cowardice has made me want to run away to avoid the race course’s tunnel—in such an enclosed space I know I am not able to escape from the emotions exuding from the crush of other women running so close to me. It’s as if fear, loss, anger, sadness, and whatever else are released from the sweat of those running and/or walking the course route—which is how it should be.

At this week’s Alzheimer support group I rather felt as if I were in that tunnel when the session started with a couple members in tears from deep loss—even as I looked to them with compassion in my eyes, I just wanted to bolt from that room and forget that anyone had to suffer through living with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s.

But at the end of the evening a couple people who come solely to provide support—who have lost their loved ones—validated what it is we can give one another. The truth is most of us didn’t ask to know anything about this disease and how it affects people, but had to learn from the School of Hard Knocks.

There are so many of us out there—wherever I go I meet people who are dealing with loved ones with dementia and I do reach out to them in those spontaneous encounters —whether I have anything new to offer them or not or whether I’m just a fellow traveler on a similar journey.

My urge to run tends to occur more often when I’m in formal situations where people come together to share their burdens. However, running from others’ emotions is all about taking care of myself but not at all about helping others. In the end, others need me to help them in person, as much as I am able. I’ll never be that extremely warm person who always reaches out to others but I’ve come a long way. When you’re face to face with someone in pain, it’s pretty much impossible to retreat and think it’s good enough to give them help from a distance.

I can’t take away the main reason for other people’s pain and they can’t take away mine, but for a few moments side-by-side we can share one another’s burdens—and feel some weight lift from our shoulders before we leave to go back and do the hard work of helping our own loved ones through the long goodbye.

I’m so glad that last night people reminded me—again—why it’s so important for me to stop doing the stupid chicken dance and just stick around and be there in person for someone else.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I want to write about happy things, simple things, random topics, you name it. I don’t want to keep returning to the same unhappy or irritating topics, but that seems to be my life these days. I think I have tried really hard to be upbeat in the face of adversity, but I keep encountering so many snafus that life seems a little absurd. I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s my attitude that’s attracting these problems. What I do know is I try really hard these days not to ask what’s next.

So what’s today’s unbelievable situation?

My mother’s doctor’s practice refused to sign the necessary papers so she could move today as planned.

Why? The doctor’s policy is that he has to have seen the person recently so he knows he’s sending the best information to the new facility. That makes good medical sense.

What doesn’t make sense is that the staff at the practice says that yesterday was the first time they heard about those papers—which is why they feel we were rushing them. The papers and the request were faxed to them on Monday, March 22. The new facility left messages for them throughout last week with no response.

So yesterday, Monday, March 29, after the facility had been in contact with them throughout the day, at 4:50 p.m. someone from the office called the facility and left a message saying it was a no go.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve had trouble getting a response from the practice. The doctor is great with my mother, but administrative tasks don’t get done quickly there. In February our pharmacy made at least four requests for a prescription refill—which did not start out being time sensitive, but by the time there was a response, my mom had run out of her medication.

We were planning to change providers because it just makes sense due to the set-up at the new facility, but after our experience today, we would have done so anyway. Enough harm already.

The attitude we faced this morning seemed to be based on that saying “your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on our part”—despite the fact we didn’t give them an unrealistic amount of time to respond—especially for a practice with a focus on elder care. If they had contacted any of us to tell us Mom needed an appointment first, I would have brought her in. What I especially didn’t appreciate was that staff members didn’t seem overly concerned that one of their patients was getting caught in the middle of an administrative problem—whether or not it was their fault or our fault. My mom needs to move for medical reasons just as her current facility needs her to move.

Nobody took the time to say, “Wow, for whatever reason, we didn’t receive the request. Since we didn’t know, it’s going to take a bit longer.” No, instead they were hostile to the new facility staff and unsympathetic to me. And, I never once heard a word about how this affected my mother.

After the facility person’s visit failed, and I could only reach voice mail, I walked in to talk about the situation in person. Once I had waited twenty minutes, I was able to schedule an appointment. They squeezed Mom in today, but by then it was too late in the day to make the move. Since people with dementia are at their best in the morning, it isn’t a good idea to make a big change once it gets closer to dinnertime.

So Mom’s move happens tomorrow. Same schedule, different day.

Physicians take an oath to “Do No Harm.” But everyone who works in a medical practice or facility needs to understand that poor implementation of processes can do a lot of harm to both patients and those who love them. If the communication systems in place don’t work well, we don’t need to be treated as if we caused the resulting communication breakdown—that’s just poor customer service, whether your service is providing fast food or caring for medical needs.

At the bare minimum, medical personnel need to understand that when they see us at some of the worst times of our lives, they need to muster up some compassion for how hard it is to take care of all the associated details, especially in light of how heartbreaking many conditions are all on their own.

This is my only mother—and she has Alzheimer’s, whether or not it’s convenient for her, her family members or anyone else who has to deal with her. She’s painfully aware of much that she has lost and so am I. Is it so much to ask that we be treated as if we matter?

This day has come too soon. And yet it is no surprise after the last several weeks. Today, just a couple weeks after Mom’s residence facility called to suggest assisted living, I received a call saying it needs to be the memory wing or else. How I wish she didn’t worry about “those people behind that door.”

We all know that none of us wants to become one of those people in the secured wing. The bitter pill is that sometimes entering that door is much safer than life outside that door. I wish I could argue that she doesn’t belong there, but she does.

Mae, Betty, & Phyllis--Three Roommates

Mae, Betty, & Phyllis--Three Roommates

Tomorrow I was planning to meet up with one of her friends from her single teaching days, so that the three of us could have lunch tomorrow in her building. I’d warned Betty that we needed to do this sooner than later. Despite the fact that it’s later than we’d like, we’re not changing our plans, though, because this is probably our last time to be “Ladies Who Do Lunch” together.

I’m bringing pictures that show Mom & Betty, young, beautiful, and hamming it up with their other roommate, Phyllis, who has been long gone. One more chance to remember the good times and realize that much of life was really good, even if things aren’t going to end the way anyone would have wished.

I know I can’t pray or exercise—or even eat enough chocolate—to put a good spin on this. But during savasana today in yoga, I saw my mom, young and radiant, dressed in orange chiffon and full of life. I don’t know if she ever wore orange chiffon, but she should have.

Mae at a College Dinner

Mae at a College Dinner

As I rested, I watched as all the important girls and women from her life joined her. We danced around her, the movement swirling our own chiffon dresses, each in our own favorite and empowering color in the prime of our youthful beauty. The rainbow of love couldn’t have included all those young women who were touched by her who I didn’t know, but I can tell you the group of those faces I knew grew in numbers until Dr. Dennie called me back to the reality of this world.

My mom may be going behind that door, but I know that young woman in orange is waiting to dance again. May we all help her until that day comes.

Dix High School Marching Band 1955

Dix High School Marching Band 1955

The first time I heard or noticed Dan Fogelberg’s song, “The Leader of the Band,” I was in the early phases of a somewhat awkward road trip back to college in Ohio. My friend, Linda, had a visiting aunt and uncle who were driving back to their home in Dayton after spending the Christmas holidays in Nebraska. Somehow our families worked it out so we could cancel my expensive plane ticket and replace it with some gas money and an inexpensive night in a motel—who really wants to visit Iowa in post-holiday early January?

Turns out there was a good reason no one wants to visit Iowa then. By the time we had reached the Iowa border, winter had returned in full force, often forcing semis onto their sides on the icy roads. Luckily, Linda’s uncle was a cautious driver who took few risks—other than the fact we were on the road at all.

Elda Mae (Ritter) Lange, Senior Picture

Elda Mae (Ritter) Lange, Senior Picture

But before the weather changed, I remember riding on colorless roads through Nebraska, feeling generally bored, as most of us are prone to feel on drives through empty spaces, especially when we aren’t traveling with people we know well. I listened to the radio and thought a lot. When I started hearing the words of Fogelberg’s song, I instantly thought of my own mom, even though at that time, she was only tired because she was working long hours in her second career at the unemployment office in a time when too many people needed benefits.

My mom graduated from college at the height of the Korean Conflict. That meant that many jobs previously available to men were opened to women. And band director was one of those jobs. Like Fogelberg’s father, she was a school band director, but since she taught K-12 in rural Nebraska schools, she was also a choir director—and most likely in charge of the smallest child’s musical education.

When I came along a decade later, she had already taken time off to be home with my brother. Before I turned four, she was back working in the schools, bringing her songs with her. All my teen babysitters were her musicians, either vocal, instrumental, or both. Though she also taught piano lessons in our home, she wisely sent us to other teachers for our own lessons.

Mae playing piano, 1957

Mae playing piano, 1957

Our father ran the local drug store, which meant he worked all week except for Sunday. Mom had to do something with us when she had to escort her musicians to Saturday competitions. With most of her babysitters on the trips, she often chose to bring us along. I remember times when we rode the bus with the band and marched beside the band director through autumn parades. (Is it any wonder that when I was in band I could not join the band when our drum major started us on the wrong foot?) I spent days at music competitions, reading or drawing. At the end of the school year I often helped my mom sort the music back into its proper places.

Although my mom introduced me to more than my fair share of music, I didn’t turn out to be the musician she is. I’ve played piano, clarinet, violin, and oboe. Ever since my mom taught me to sing harmony while singing from the hymnal at church, I haven’t really been willing to sing unison. I sang in school, but my best memories are of the youth choirs my mom led at church and with my 4-H group in my teens. If I came home to visit after I had left home, she just might throw me into her bell choir at church. And I always say that it wasn’t an option for me not to have rhythm!

So the leader of the band was able to teach me how to sight read, just not how to want to practice. That’s why I think of myself as musical while I think of her as a musician. It’s just who she is—and who I think she will be until the end.

Mae singing with guys--no doubt as the high tenor!

Mae singing with guys--no doubt as the high tenor!

My mother was more than the leader of the band—she was one of those teachers who made personal connections with students. She was always leading someone in song, whether it was her students, people at church, in the community, or those in her extended family. While I have turned out to be merely musical, several of her family members are musicians, just as she has been. That is one of her greatest joys.

The leader of the band is definitely getting tired now. It’s not her eyes, like in the song. No, unfortunately it’s her essence that is growing dim. I have no answers for that, but know that I need to be with her in these confusing times and always remember that her song is in my soul.

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That’s what I need. That’s what my mom needs. That’s what we all need.

My mom’s hospital stay has forced me to admit that her changes are picking up speed. I don’t think I can say enough to help her understand the things she needs to do for her medical care. And I can’t do it all either.

Remember when you didn’t know what to do and you could turn to your mom for help? Me, too, but those days are gone. Now she’s turning to me for help and there is only so much I can do for her. She says, “I used to be able to do all these things. Now I can’t. Why?”

Why indeed. As Sherman pointed out, sometimes life is too ironic. We all have our one thing that really makes our lives worthwhile. For my father it was his love of good food—and then when disease came after him, it took away his ability to eat. For my mother it has been her love of intellectual pursuits and, maybe, just a little bit, showing off how smart she was.

How can I assuage my mother’s fears about her losses when I can’t assuage my own? Where will this lead us? How will we relate with so much changed?

When she was in the hospital, I couldn’t get her to understand little things like why she had an IV or why she had to wear that universally humiliating gown or why it didn’t matter that her apartment key didn’t come with her on her short ambulance ride.

And now that she is back to her independent living apartment, all those medications I line up for her make no sense. She takes them all together and then wonders why she feels so poorly. There are too many for most people to understand, but together we had a system that used to work. She was so proud that she didn’t have to wait to get her medications from a staff member—her daughter brought her her medications.

Oh, I won’t be sad to give up the task. Every week as I prepare her medications, I try to channel my pharmacist father’s accuracy with pill counting. I wish I had his knowledge to understand how all these medications come together to keep her safe—and not harm her at the same time. It is a big responsibility. And one I am only up to if the patient can follow instructions.

So, tomorrow I relinquish my larger role in that duty so that someone else can make sure she doesn’t miss what she needs—or doesn’t stir together too many dangerous chemicals at the wrong times. A few months ago I know she would have been angry at me. I don’t know about now—what she knows now is that too much confusion swirls within her mind.

Still, will she turn and say, “Et tu, Brutus?”

“Help me if you can, I’m feeling down.”

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