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The Good Student

I believe that my path this lifetime is uniquely my own, and one of my many lessons has been to learn independence, complete and total independence (emotionally and spiritually).

My first semester (17 years ago), I majored in Alcoholism.  My second semester I majored in Alzheimer’s - caregiving for one, while inadvertently enabling the other.  Both scenarios lacked other people’s understanding, support, validation or help, but I did the best I could and took care of business.  Was I pissed off about that?   Absolutely.  Did I feel sorry for myself and have pity parties every other Sunday with cake and ice cream?   You bet I did.

But at some point, the cape and crown of disappointment in others was traded in for a pair of Nike Cross Trainers, I needed something better to run like hell in to take care of Mom.  Today’s quote has everything to do with learning Authentic Independence and the ability to save myself.  Learning this was only part of my lesson, Part 2 came from Mom, who is still teaching her little girl lessons even in the throes of Alzheimer’s.

Mom never expected to be saved by anyone.  She never even expected to be saved from Alzheimer’s.  Not because Alzheimer’s is terminal, rather, Mom has always lived a self-reliant life.  She has been fortunate to have the love, loyalty and support of Dad for over 45 years of marriage, and the support of my sister and me, but she’s never had the expectation of being saved by us or anyone else.  So in watching Mom my whole life, including her battle with Alzheimer’s, her self-reliance is Part I of learning the important lesson of authentic independence.

Part 2 has been watching Mom accept Alzheimer’s as her path, “Shitty as it is,” (her words).  It extends to my having to let go and not save her.  What she is teaching me is a fine line that can be crossed when nothing further can be done for her (on any given day), shitty as that is - my words.

Don’t get me wrong, Mom is no Saint here.  Does she get pissed off at times about this?   Absolutely.  Does she feel sorry for herself at times?   You bet.  Countless times we have just sat and cried.  But because of the nutty people we are, we invariably wind up laughing.  Then we’ll go back to crying.  Then one of the dogs will fart, or fall on the floor, flip over, and give us an expression that would crack us up and get us laughing again.  I think we can laugh and cry because we know the cosmic witticism of it all and we are capable of learning profound lessons while struggling through the tragic reality of dementia.

What a great thing it is to allow another human being to walk their own path without intrusion or interference from me, regardless if they have a terminal disease or not.  For me, it is one of the highest forms of compassion, acceptance and respect there is.  I can give back by offering my insight, ideas and support, if asked, then allow the other person their God-given right of free will to do whatever they wish with our conversation.  I am not here to tell anyone what to do, or how to live their life, or to “save” them - that is not my purpose or the purpose of this website.  I’m here to stand by your side, offer what I can, so you can save yourself.

As for Mom, she is just now beginning to lose the ability to remember her “acceptance” of this disease and knowing that this is her “path.”  Depression is starting to set in more often, and I am having to let go more often.  I feel very fortunate to observe her live by a philosophy I want for myself.  Thanks for that, Mom.  At the very least, she knows I am there for her, always standing by her side until her very last breath.

What Is True For Me:   I am grateful I learned to let go of the myth of being “saved.” I am grateful I can trust a handful of others who offer their wisdom, support and ideas, who stand by me, while I save myself, on my path.  I know that Alzheimer’s is now my mother’s path, and it deserves the respect of not interfering and letting go.  All of this can be applied to everyday life outside of caregiving.  Everyone has their own path, but caregiving has given me immeasurable meaning behind its many lessons.

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