Monday, May 3, 2010

Life Gets in the Way

I missed an entire month.

I have a good excuse. For the first half of the month, Steve was in intensive training that kept him working very long hours, so blogging time for me was nonexistent.

And then, Steve's dad died.

Steve's dad had been descending further and further into dementia over the past few years; he had early-onset Alzheimer's disease. He had trouble speaking properly and was very confused the vast majority of the time. He'd also been wandering, and had started walking around on the highway and refusing to come home. The situation had become unsafe. Steve's mom had checked Steve's dad into the hospital in the hopes of medicating him to calm him down to the point that he could go into a nursing home.

He'd always said he didn't want to go into a nursing home. Most people who knew him actually thought he'd like it there once he got used to it, because he was very extroverted. In a nursing home with a good dementia program, he'd have people to talk to all day long -- fellow patients who wouldn't remember that he'd already told them something or who wouldn't notice if he wasn't making any sense. But he seemed to have an idea in his head about what it would be like, and it brought him to a panic whenever he thought of it. So Steve's mom kept him at home, and every day he wandered.

For a couple of years, he had been walking miles and miles daily through the dirt roads outside his small Mississippi town. We had worried about him constantly. At his viewing the night before the funeral, several distant neighbors showed up unexpectedly. They said Steve's dad had been visiting them regularly on his long walks. One family said he used to come and sit on their porch. The first time, they called the police. But he came back again, and the neighbors realized he was just looking for company. They said they often sat with him and talked. Turns out, a lot of people were watching out for him.

His demise was lengthy, but even still, we had expected it to take years longer. He was only 65 and was in very good physical shape, no doubt thanks in part to all the walking. The end, when it came in the form of a pulmonary embolism, was sudden and unexpected. I don't think it's callous to say that many family members were relieved at how he died. He never forgot his family. He never became incapacitated. He was able to meet little Lexie and he knew he was her grandfather (referring to himself as "paw paw").

Lexie stayed in Virginia with my parents while I made a whirlwind three-day trip to Mississippi. Steve comes home tomorrow after what seems like a long time away.

RIP, paw paw.


dcpeg said...

Please accept my condolences for you and Steve.

Early onset Alzheimers claimed a close friend of mine last year at the age of 54. I cannot think of a crueler disease.

How wonderful, tho, that he knew Lexie was his grandchild!! Hope you took lots of pictures of them together.

Hang in and hang on. XO Peg

MzMannerz said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

This is such a moving tribute, and what a sense of community rises when you write about the neighbors who he visited.

Take care.

areyoukiddingme said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I know the feeling of being grateful for a quick end. It's nice that the community accepted his quirks - you don't see that too much any more.

My condolences