Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mismash of Thoughts/Feelings

My brain is on thought overload and consequently immersed in an endless array of conflicting feelings. Sadness, anticipation, frustration, relief, edginess, and on it goes. The entire bubbling pot of feelings has me restless and exhausted, despite hours of sleep.

My body feels like someone has taken a "2 x 4" and hammered me. OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration but whenever the stress levels climb, so also does the physical reaction which for me involves muscles aches and stiffness. "Yoga, Yoga, Yoga...." I whisper to myself but as of yet, no forward movement takes me through the door of the Yoga studio. Paralyzed, I sit with coffee and aspirin and my swirling thoughts.....and then of course, the feelings that come from the thoughts.

I've thought of Laura countless times in the last days. She leaves Florence tomorrow for the long journey home; 4 bags stuffed with her belongings and much left behind for the next group of study abroad students to use. Today she shared with me that she took a long walk through town, by herself (which is unusual), and said her goodbyes to the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, San Lorenzo Market, and enjoyed her last gelatto (limon and raspberry). She was chewing on her last "kabob"; her choice for a late lunch when we talked on Skype an hour ago.

How can I explain the feelings of great anticipation when I think of holding her close to me after so many months apart and the simultaneous down to the bone sadness that brings immediate tears to my eyes when I think of her leaving Florence, the place she has called "home base" since September 2008? The sadness comes from a chapter closed, over, ended; only memories to carry her forward. And so what? Why the sadness? Deep inside I know that the young woman we launched from the airport in Portland bound for Europe last fall is not the same young woman we will greet in Seattle tomorrow night. Time....she passes and changes us all and we are caught up in the wave, ever moving forward to places we can only imagine but not control.

Bittersweet, I guess. What else could explain my tears every time I think of her homecoming?

On the local front, my thoughts (and then my feelings) focus sharply on my parents. How wonderful it is to have them situated in a home that is prepared to care for the changing, unpredictable needs of nonagenarians. How fortunate was our family to find this good place and to move swiftly to make the move happen in less than a week from the time they were accepted into the facility? I get it: we are very, very lucky. This is all good (rationalizing).

But...... (and someone smart once said, whenever you use the word but, everything you've said before the but, you really don't believe in. It's what comes after the but that's your hard kernel of truth in that moment. I believe this too.) For all the positive changes in my parent's lives over the past 5 days, I'm pulled away from the relief to wallow in the sadness and the change. Even good change is hard for me to take if it comes with a dose of reality. What was a five minute drive for a quick visit is no more; the travel time to the new home is 30-35 minutes one way. I won't be visiting as often (most say this is a good thing). They still have no phone (most say this is a good thing). They still don't have their US mail delivery or the NY Times (more hassles and time to be spent arranging and re-arranging). Every move comes with a long tail, I like to say......the physical move is the easiest part. Adjustment and re-alignment (of all those former services) feels like a turbulent ride.

And so, the overwhelming feeling when I think about my parents is not relief (as I suspect it is for my siblings), it's sadness. My heart continues to break open as I struggle to accept that there's nothing I can do to fix the fundamental problems. I long to look my mother in the eye, shake her gently and say, "Mom, Mom...wake up, it's me, your daughter. Where are you? Come back, come back. I need you. I still need you." But, it's not to be. That thief we call dementia, that robber of soul, is a tough opponent. If tears are any indication, I haven't yet accepted defeat; I'm still fighting and bucking against a steel wall. And Dad? He's tough to read. I feel for him, living in a home that specializes in dementia care. He will need to find his connections with caregivers who are grounded in the world he lives in and in family who visit.

I want so to fix things. Fixing things is what I do. But, I can't. And that makes me sad. Much like this photograph, of early spring buds, life is on auto-pilot. The buds mature and open, leaves come to life and then they die. The cycle goes on and on without our input.


  1. I appreciate the way you write here about the contradictions you feel about all that has happened and what still lies ahead. So honest. Change is hard for me, too, and while I struggle with acceptance, life goes on. We are at that point in our lives where there is so much we have no control over and little that we can fix. I am reaching the conclusion that change is the new constant.

  2. Get yourself a massage. It will help with the physical pain and may help with some of the mental. So sorry your parents' conditions are so painful for everyone, and without a satisfactory solution. Ah, life! Always the contradictions.

  3. Wow, you do have a lot going on. And bravo to you for actually sitting down and FEELING these things, being aware and even writing about them. They are a great, poignant and real record of things that people do go though... it helps to read about it for many, so I hope it helps to write about it. I know I appreciate your honesty and strength.


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