Hard Things

fall leaves

It has been a week of hard things.  The thing we had been dreading came to pass.  Moving Ray into memory care was physically exhausting as expected, but I don’t think it was because of the move itself.  That part only took the movers two hours because there is very little stuff left.  Each move we have made with Ray (or my parents, or my aunt) has required a downsize.  We came home with two more carloads of things for our already jam-packed garage. Much of our history is in the garage now, and boxing up things that have been significant in your life or that of your relatives is a kind of grief all on its own.  It is the emotional exhaustion which really takes it out of you. Each time I walk to my car, I am face to face with stuff that reminds me time is moving on and the baton is being passed.  I am not ready for it, but it is racing towards me and I must get ready to receive it, ready or not.

The first hard thing was getting all the pieces in place for the move.  Talking to those who care for him in assisted living, doctors, the in-house nurse, the sales department, the director of the place he was, the director of the place he was going, the movers…so many moving pieces.  Once the medical staff and day to day caregivers recommended memory care, and we conversed with Bill’s sister Gail, it was a matter of finding out availability.  The sales team took us to see the one bed that was available and we agreed to move him.  The movers rearranged their schedule to move him the next day. All of these people were and are good at their jobs.  They are compassionate and understanding, which was much needed this week.

The second hard thing was telling Ray.  It is one thing to tell a person who does not understand and will not even remember.  It is another thing to tell a person who understands the need. But Ray is in between the two.  Much of the time he is still functioning at a pretty high level for a 91-year-old.  Other times he struggles to remember or is confused about things.  However, he doesn’t remember those times, therefore he doesn’t see the need to be “locked up.”  His reaction was anger.  Anger he has no choice.  Anger he will have to leave his friends.  Anger he will be with people who can’t function. He sees no need.

I think the telling him was almost as hard as the moving him.  It is emotional to watch such an accomplished man wrestle with his frailty.  It breaks your heart that you have to be upbeat and positive about the change when really you want to cry.  There is an incongruence internally when you are making life choices for other people. It is a heavy load.  Trying to explain he has been having strokes, when he doesn’t even remember them was hard.  Seeing some recognition in his eyes as they teared up, was hard.  Witnessing the resolve not to move at one moment, while preparing to die the next, was hard. Crying because his beloved dog couldn’t move was hard. We sat, strong and resolved to make this change, while underneath questioning if it was the right thing to do.

The third hard thing was going home.  After we told him, we left him there to contemplate moving.  Bill was beyond stressed.  When hard emotional things happen, his brain gets overwhelmed.  He either files through all the emotions, or disconnects from them.  In this situation he could not disconnect because it was several days of activity.  Therefore, he felt them all.  Anger, sadness, hope, grief…all rolled together in his head, which causes irritability, headaches, and constant trying to process the un-processable.

The fourth hard thing was the move. I worked all morning at my office, then met the movers at the facility right after lunch.  Ray came in when the movers were taking his stuff out.  He wanted to know where we were going to store his stuff.  What he was going to do without it.  Why he had to move.  He thought he had filed an appeal and we were waiting on it. He was angry.  Bill explained there was no appeal. He had to redirect Ray and take him out. The compassion my husband showed in the mental state he himself was in, was nothing short of miraculous.  I stayed and packed and orchestrated. Closed down one room and set up the other.  Got some of the pictures hung before I had to leave to go tutor.  Ray came by and seemed surprised his stuff was all there.  I think he was picturing a hospital room, so he seemed to take it all in, slowly.  He seemed pleased with how the room looked even though he didn’t want to be there.

The fifth hard thing was leaving him there in the lock down unit.  His lady friend was left behind in the other unit, so he was alone.  We left him there in the day room with many people who cannot talk and do not know where they are.  There are some higher functioning people there as well, but the reality of where you are cannot be ignored.  Watching the door close behind me was one of the hardest things I have done. Bill was as close to meltdown as I have seen him in a long time.  That night at home he was agitated and restless.  At the same time, he was exhausted and his brain was shutting down.

The sixth hard thing was going back.  The next day, I went back again after work before tutoring, to take his dog to visit and hang pictures.  Bill had to take the day off. I talked to Ray for a long time about each picture I hung.  Being a politician, he has pictures of himself with several presidents.  He directed which ones had to be hung where.  “You can’t put Obama next to Nixon, the one of Talmage has to go there.”  Or “Where is the one of the astronaut? (John Glen) He can go on the president wall because he ran, even though he didn’t get it.”  His detailed memory was working overtime.  Yet, he told me my son Aaron was coming to see him soon.  I told him Aaron had already come, and he was upset that he “didn’t come to see me.” I told him Aaron came to see him three times while he was here and one of them was when he was confused in the hospital.  He teared up because he couldn’t remember any of it.

The seventh hard thing was cleaning out the closet. The next day, I had to downsize the closet since it was overflowing with clothes.  As I took out several suits he said, “I guess I don’t have a need for formal clothes anymore except for one for my funeral.”  Then he remembered, “I am being cremated so I don’t even need one.” Tears once again filled his eyes, and I pushed mine down to tell him, “We are not there yet, Ray.”

The eighth hard thing was trying to get him acclimated. Bill took him on a walk around the new place, and into the old to see his lady friend.  Peanut was there and as always, garnered a lot of attention.  He seemed to perk up some after that.  Bill also took him to the doctor, and for a haircut this week.  Trying to get him to see that he can still go out, and he can still see others, he just has to have more supervision in case he has another confusing episode.

This weekend we are taking a break.  Trying to rest Bill’s brain and my emotions. 🙂  I must say I am no longer in meltdown mode and have been above the water this week, rather than sinking down.  It was a long week, but we have had many Aarons and Hurs. We can feel your love and concern.  We can feel your prayers.  Hopefully, there will be a settling in that will happen for Ray, some stress relief for Bill’s brain, and a new normal for us as we get used to going by with Peanut each day.  Thank you for your care for us.

14 thoughts on “Hard Things

  1. I wish there were enough words of comfort, enough prayers to pray and enough thoughts of sympathy to think for you and Bill in this time in your lives. There aren’t. Just know that because of our love for you we, too, feel your distress and each day walk spiritually with you in this valley. Bob (Anne, too)

  2. Oh, Michelle and Bill, What a hard season! You have communicated well. I wish so much that I was local so I could be of some physical help to you. I am thankful that Ray is in the right place and I pray God gives him peace and serenity in his spirit, so he can feel settled in his new environment. I pray for sweet and kind caretakers for Ray, and for rest for both you and Bill. God has this. Please be sure to take good care of yourselves. We love you two.

  3. Oh, Michelle, my prayers are for you. Been there, done that. Hubby, Sis and I count five senior care-giving cases. – that is, the loooong drawn out ones.
    They each became life a chunk of life to be lived with daily over years. I came to think – or try to think- of them each as, in someways, a gift, although a very difficult “gift.” – experiences unmatchable with unique individuals in an intimate way that tried us all but taught us all, and gifted us all – had happy moments, Jesus-gifted spiritual moments, and (would you believe?) humorous moments. That’s why I wrote voraciously, and quoted them in my writings.. It was and still is a source of comfort. – luv, mary

  4. Thank you for sharing. You may not know, but, my 81 year old dad has been living with us since 2017. We are not quite where you are with Ray, but, I see it getting closer and closer. Thank you for allowing me to see what to expect. We have seriously downsized him when he left his home. But, all the other “hard things” are coming and this helps me tremendously!

  5. I could feel God walking with you as I read about each hard thing. I’ll pray that all of us might experience some level of kindness and compassion that you’ve showed to Ray should we live into such a vulnerable season. I will imagine God settling in around Ray and you and Bill as as you each navigate his new circumstances. Remember, when you just can’t tread water for one more minute, lie back, float, rest, breathe, and look up. So much love, my friend. Praying peace.

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