Alzheimer

Early Onset Alzheimer’s – Encourage, Inspire, and Inform: Life on the Front Porch

Our
Oregon, Idaho, Montana family visited us for the past two weeks and stayed at
the house that Jim and I built. While my nieces and sister-in-law JoAnn were
here from out west, my nephews arranged a memorial service for my sister-in-law
Dinah who passed away on Christmas Day. After the memorial, we held a cousin’s
reunion at the park with a big family gathering and tables groaning from the
food. In addition, we had several impromptu reunions as various family members
came to visit them at the house.

We
spent a lot of time on the front porch. Part of the time was visiting, and some
of the time was playing music and singing. I jammed with my brother-in-law
Terry and my nephew Larry. Ginger, JoAnn, and my nieces joined in the singing. It was a laid-back country style way to spend our
evenings. Gathering on the front porch was like stepping into the past. We used
to spend a lot of time outside in the evenings when the cooler evening breeze
replaced the heat of the day.

 

Jim and
I both came from musical families who often played on the front porch or out in
the yard. The activities made it feel as if Jim were a mere blink away. It was
a balm to my soul to see the house and yard filled with family. What was at one
time an every weekend occurrence had been missing for the past fifteen years.

 

While
we sat on the front porch, I recalled a few of the stories about Jim when
dementia brought about memory failure. I talked about the day I was wrapping a
baby shower gift because we were going to Eric’s house for a shower. Jim, as
usual, got tired of waiting on me to come outside.

 

I
walked outside, gift in hand, to realize the truck was gone, and so was Jim. Ginger
was mowing grass and had moved Jim’s truck out of the way, and had left the
keys in it so she park it in the normal spot. She was mowing with her back to
the truck so she never saw, or heard, Jim leave.

 

Since
Jim knew we were going to Eric’s, I figured that was where he was headed. Sure
enough, he made the drive without incident. He apparently forgot he no longer
had a driver’s license and forgot that I was going too.

 

We
laughed about the time Ginger took Jim to the State Fair in his truck. She had
to pause to pay for the drinks Jim snagged from the barrels of ice outside
vendor booths. After the evening concert, they climbed into the truck, and
Ginger couldn’t figure out how to turn on the headlights. After Jim had a good
laugh at her expense, he finally reached over and turned on the lights.

 

Jim was
seldom seen without his video camera perched on his shoulder, tape rolling as
he videotaped special occasions and everyday life. My nieces enjoyed watching
the old home videos. One of the tapes showed their entire family at Christmas
time. One thing about watching old videos, you may have no recollection of the
events unfolding on the screen. When you think of how many fleeting moments that
make up the days, months, and years of our lives, it is no wonder that only a
few of them remain in your brain vault.

 

Each
night when I left the nursing home, I recorded how things were going with Jim
and others that I interacted with—residents, staff, and other visitors. When I
transcribed the tapes after Jim passed away, I was surprised at how little I
remembered. It was almost as if it was someone else’s story.

 

When
you spend time on the porch with family, you find time to share memories. Some
of the memories we shared were painful, but sharing sad times lessened the
burdens on our hearts. Many of the memories we shared brought laughter and joy.

 

I feel
blessed to have been born into, and later married into, a large family. The
heart connections traverse miles and time. We do have to remember that physical
distance should never be a barrier to communication with our beloved family
members. We hold dearest those times when we meet in person so that we can hug,
laugh, and cry together.

 

Copyright
© June 2021 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

 


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