Caring for a mother-in-law who was once an independent, self-sufficient individual was unexpected, at this stage in my life, to say the least. It started with a knee surgery and now, 4 months later and 4 surgeries later, I find myself in Pretoria, South Africa attending to her at every visit allowed in the High Care Unit. Love is being tested and leaves feelings of guilt when a test is failed.
“There is nothing on this planet quite so toxic as guilt.” Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease is no joke. It reminds me of popcorn, one of my favorite foods. Great finished product, but the grease gets hot and if the lid isn’t on the pan, grease will fly and you will get burned! Two women. Two wills. One to keep the other one safe-no matter what. Ruth and Naomi-sort of, in a very unromantic way. The raw stuff of life. Literally. From a knee surgery to give her a new lease on life, followed by a blocked colon that burst in the middle of nowhere in Africa, miracle survival, and a bag to catch-you know what. 2 months of that and this week it got reconnected! That part is going to work again, but I can honestly say, along with my dutiful, devoted friend Michelle, who helped me, I was knee deep in !@#*! The aroma was anything but savory.
The one certainty through all of this is the few Sunday mornings when we were at home over the last few months. No matter what, our mom would be well enough to go to church. It was a chore. I bought some beautiful new outfits for her before her knee surgery. I also bought some warm Pajamas for the recovery time in hospital. There was one pair that was a favorite. Much to my surprise, the outfit I had picked out to wear was put aside and I was informed she was going “casual”. I came in to administer the morning meds to find her fully dressed in the favorite PJ’s! Should I let her go, or preserve her dignity, even if unappreciated at the time? A forced, “nice” outfit was imposed and wills clashed. I won. Sometimes the popcorn gets burned. The smell hangs around for a while. But oh, the joy to taste buds is the warm, salty taste of perfect popcorn! The process in the pan is intense-but if we stick with it, there are moments of delight.
Time is not on our side. The past 4 months have proven that. I hope I can get a few good batches of popcorn and heck, if she has to wear pi’s to church to be happy, why not?