So, there is this episode of The West Wing, that addresses (but does not resolve) CJ's father and his issues with Alzheimers. And though I have been watchning WW, again, for the last couple weeks, I kind of avoided this one. I didn't really think about it much, I just decided to watch something else, or read, or do the dishes or feed the cat...
See, it's my dad. The short version is, Dad had a bad couple days, a couple months ago. And in the days that followed that, as my brothers(1) and I talked about it, one of the things that came up was a list of the medication that my father is taking. Six prescriptions. Some for his heart, or related issues. Two, though, for Alzheimers.
Oh, and I was reading The Shepards Crown(2), when the accident that started all this happened.
This is what I know. Alzheimers is not readily diagnosable from direct evidence. I mean, I think that you can get a brain scan, and see that there are bits not working properly. But, mostly, it is something that is diagnosed behaviorally. Observations from the spouse, and or self reported. Also, Dad has been an alcholic for 50+ years(2). And I know that has ... likely has, some measure of impact on brain function and structure and integrity.
So, short version, for whatever reason, my dad is ... not doing as well as one could hope. Of course, given 50+ years of drinking, plus 30+ years of smoking(3), plus 75+ of just plain living, raising four young men born over the course of 10 years... etc, Dad is doing remarkably well, considering. In any case, it is something that is on my mind. I know that none of us are immortal, and it is the right and proper order of things that I will see him pass.
I just know that I don't know how. I just know that when I talk to him on the phone, a difficult conversation in the best of times, lately it has been more difficult. I don't know if that is because of the a downturn (temporary or consistent; we all of have our bad days), or if this is the new normal. I know that I am here, and they, Mom and Dad are there, in Salinas, California. Brother J is in the Bay Area, and Brother C is in San Diego. So they can each be there on relatively short notice. (Brother M lives in the Virgin Islands, so is somewhat less able to get there quickly).
When I decided to move to 207, to stay here, this was something I considered. I thought, hey, I can save up and move to San Jose, do Postmates delivery work, build a life and be there for my parents... Reconnect with friends, while maintaining and continuing and moving forward with Seattle stuff and friends and family.
Which is, of course, probably a vastly unrealistic and completely unfeasible image of how things would actually go. It is actually more expensive to live in San Jose than it is in Seattle. I have no idea how much I would make on my bike, there, and the fact that I might be able to get an office / desk gig for Postmates is a lot to gamble on.
Do you know what your sin is, Captain Reynolds?
I ask myself that. Do I know what my sin is? Leaving aside that, like Mal, I am pretty fond of all seven. I acutally tend to fall prey to Pride. Specifically, the pride, the arrogance that says "I can do that", "I can Handle that". I promise more than I can deliver, to myself, and to others. I know that, finally, and I am getting better at it. I am more willing to take a moment, and more than a moment, and look at the situation, and make an honest assessment of my abilities. Which is not say an Accurate assessment; Let's not get crazy(4)
The thing is, I am pretty sure that this is a sin, a trait, not unique to me. I am dead certain I have seen it elsewhere. One place I am ... afraid, I have seen it is in Mom.
She is the one who is taking care of Dad. She is the one, the only one, that deals with him daily. They have no social life to speak of, don't go to church or engage in hobbies. They do go to the Gym, frequenly by walking. But that is pretty much it. I mean, they go out to eat, they go to the movies, they go camping (though not, I hope, in this season). They do stuff. But they do it all alone, together. And if there is something that goes wrong, if there comes a time when Mom is not able to handle the changing and changed circumstances, I am afraid that Mom will not be able to see it or recognize it for what it is.
On the other hand, there is my Aunt Ann. Moms older(5) sister. Ann is, for all practical purposes, mentally retarded. Though not really. Though she does display some of the traits, physically and developmentally of someone with Downs syndrome, this is the result of early childhood Scarlett fever. She just turned 80, and lives in an assisted living facility in Kentucky (6). The point of which is, Mom has been dealing with this sort of thing, literally, her entire life. I am sure it is not what she wanted, but it would be the height of arrogance (hah! see what I did there?) for me to assume she cannot deal with this. That she is not prepared for it. I mean, I know that this is different, in ways I cannot even begin to imagine, and I am far from being the one who knows definitively what to do.
Which is kind of the end state. I don't know what to do. I am seeing, on the not very very distant horizon, something that looks like the end of my relationship with my living father. And it looks like it is not going to be a swift and easy end, but maybe a long and difficult one. Though swift and easy is a really, really inappropriate term. But in any case, I am here, dealing with all the stuff that I am dealing with here. And in the background, one of the things is that.
So. I watched that episode. And now I am going to get my laundry out of the dryer. Because, really, what else can I do? Right here, right now, what else can I do?
(1) Three older brothers, plus three wives. And, in one case, an additional wife, and ... others, whose title I am not privy to. Another issue for another day.
(2) Not just a can of worms for me but an entire bait shop, that I may or may not address here another day. This is not about me, or at least, not about that.
(3) He quit about 25 years ago. It was quite amazing.
(4) I also think I am funny.
(5) Until I was about 23 years old, I never knew that mom was the younger sibling. Also, I thought that Ann's first name was, well, Ann. Nope. Mom is the younger, and Ann's first name is Margaret. This revelation was followed by detailing that I did not know Mom's parents first names (Granny was, as far as I knew, Ruth Malone Petty. Her Maiden name, however, was Illa Ruth Malone. Grandaddy was not Earl Petty, he was Milton Earl Petty. I was also quizzed on each of their siblings (six for Granny, Seven for Grandaddy, though not all of them survived long enough for me to have met them), and I was nearly perfect. I actually knew Aunties full and correct name ... which, suddenly and embarrassingly, escapes me right now... Jarmin. Her last name, by marriage, was Jarmin). Alma Petty Jarmin. Which means she probably has another first name, also.
Funny Story; when oldest brother Chris was getting married, 30 odd years ago, soon to be sister in law Cathy was getting the invite list. She asked Chris what "Aunties" name was, and he replied "Auntie". That is all we called her. Cathy ended up calling my mom, to get the correct information. I actually knew that, though for the life of me, I cannot tell you when or where learned hat.
(6) Where mom was also born, lived, and went to college. UK, class of '58, BS Mathematics. This may go a long way towards explaining how I got this way. And why I am deeply proud of my mother.