Thursday, February 17, 2005

Alzheimers - What a Bitch

What horrific disease Alzheimers is. I'm not sure if there is a more cruel disease out there. I've had to learn to deal with it in a very personal way.....much more personal than I would have ever hoped. My mom has Alzheimers.

She was diagnosed about 5 years ago at the age 74. It started out with my mom driving home from the grocery store one day, like she had done 1000s of times before, and then all of a sudden looking around and had no idea where she was. She had inexplicably went the wrong way and traveled a good10 minutes without even realizing it. She had no idea what had happened. She made her way back home, and while she didn't make a big deal about it, I know it frightened her. I think she immediately instinctual thought, "alzheimers". Her former job as a social worker put her in contact with elderly folks in nursing homes and many times they had alzheimers. I know she hated the disease. I remember many conversations with her where she said she could not think of a worse thing to happen to a person. So, I think after her driving episode, the possibility had occurred to her.

Everyone thought it a good idea for her to go get a check up. None of us kids though, ever even considered the possibility. Doctors cannot directly diagnose Alzheimers. They basically have to rule out everything else, and then they are left with alzheimers. And this is what happened with my mom.

When I was told, I was floored. I couldn't even comprehend the idea. My mom had alzheimers?? My mom....one of the most mentally and physically active people I knew had alzheimers?? I was crushed. I could do nothing but cry, because all I could think about was how horrified my mom had to be hearing this news. Literally, her worst fear had come to pass. She put on a brave face, but, my heart just sank everytime I thought about her lying in bed at night by herself and thinking about this and I would imagine spending many nights crying herself to sleep.

Doctor told us, she probably had anywhere from 2-5 good years left but, even the good years were going to be marked with a non-stop decline. I prayed for the long end of his diagnosis. I prayed he was wrong completely. My mom did relatively well for the next 18 months or so. The first signs of decline was in her talking. She would just be unable to come up with the word she was thinking of. She knew what she wanted to say, but just couldn't say the word. For example, she would want to say "snow" and after trying her best would end up just saying "that white stuff that comes down". We had to move her next door to my sister into this really nice townhome, which I'm so grateful she got to appreciate for a good year. We were able to have 2 really great family Christmas' while she was still in good shape, but then the decline started to happen more rapidly.

Her speech became more and more a struggle for her, and she was becoming very forgetful. And you would not believe the effects that has on a person. It starts to cause all kinds of side-effects, mainly paranoia. My mom was convinced my sister, who lived next door (literally 20 feet from each other), just did not care about her anymore. She would call up us other kids and tell us all these things about Patty (my sis) and unfortunately, not fully understanding of the disease, would believe my mom and blame my sis for being so thoughtless to our mom. Mom would say days would go by with her never seeing Patty. Not so much as a "hi, how you doing". But, in reality, Patty was seeing her everyday, checking up on her, spending time with her. But, my mom just would not remember. She would also lose things. And that manifested into someone stealing stuff from her. Again, another strange awful effect of this disease.

The best way to say what happens to a person with alzheimers is that their world just becomes smaller and smaller and smaller. My mom used to be up on everything. She got such a kick out of politics (liberal to the core) and we could talk for hours about politics. But, her world just started getting smaller. Soon the bigger world picture was not something she could comprehend. Then slowly but surely, even her family that she did not see each and every day got to be too much for her to comprehend. And eventually, even those in the family she did see each day became too much for her to comprehend. Today, her world consists of the 8th floor of a nursing home for alzheimers patients. That is her entire world. She remembers no one in the family. She just exists in the present moment and is reduced to the most basic of emotions and needs. She likes to eat, she likes to sleep, she likes to walk around. The place she is at keeps her relatively happy and comfortable. That is all we can ask for at this point.

The last time I saw her was 2 Christmas ago. I went and visited her in the nursing home. It was the first time I'd seen her in total full blown alzheimers. She did not know who I was. I was absolutely crushed. I still have not recovered, from that blow. I did everything I could not to burst out crying while there. I stayed a while, and talked with her and tried to get a feel of how she was and then after I said my goodbyes I barely got out of the hospital before I just completely lost it and started sobbing uncontrollably. I have never felt so heart-broken in all my life. To this day, I still have a hard time talking about my mom. The sadness is just so heavy. I've reached a point where I understand life goes on, and I have to also, but, it's not always easy.

I never knew how much I loved mom. She was my best friend, and I never even realized it. She was a remarkably strong independent person. Raised 4 kids by herself. How she did it on the money she made, I'll never know. But, she did it. And looking at the 4 of us kids, she did a pretty good job. The admiration I have for her is unbelievable. I just wish I realized this earlier and could have told her so. I think she knew though. I was the youngest of the 4 and being a bum for most of my 20's, I lived at home with her until I was 30. We became really good friends when I was in my 20s and we learned alot about each other. Looking back, I'm so glad I was a bum, so I was able to spend the time I did with her.

I do feel we let her down in the end. I honestly feel she would have wanted us to help her put an end to her life than to let this happen to her. I know her. Not in a million years would she had wanted to let this happen. I think we had a small window of opportunity to help her, and none of us kids were strong enough to broach the subject. I too think my mom was not strong enough to broach the subject. To this day, I have this horrible feeling that we let her down.

Today, I have a heavy heart because I cannot bring myself to go see her. I just dont know if I could take it, and I don't know what good it would do anyways. She does not know me and as soon as I left you would forget me again.

All I can say is, I would not wish this on anyone. Our family was not prepared and the family paid a heavy price. Our once very close family is no longer. A huge fracture in the family happened over my mom's illness and is not likely to be fixed. Another tragic consequence. If you have not experience this, you just don't understand what this disease does, not only to the person, but to the family. The toll is tremendous and if you didn't experience, you just would not be able to understand why and how this happens. But, it does.

The doc told us the average life span of a person after being diagnosed with alzheimers is about 10 years. So, my mom is now 5 years into her journey into darkness, and probably has about that much time left before the ravages of this disease take her physically too.

I miss you mom, everyday. I love you. Thank you for everything you ever did for me. I will never forget you.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Local and National Leaders, What They Good For...Absolutely Nuthin'!

Sunday morning and it's a beautiful day here in Warwick, NY. Brisk, sunny, clear and am looking at the hills in the distance from my hilltop home.

Just reading through the morning paper, shaking my head as usual. Being fairly new to the area, I'm still finding out about my new surroundings. Just reading about Middletown, NY schools. Middletown is the big city in this part of southern Orange county. The former superintendent of the schools is now in jail. Convicted of molesting a male student. Unbelievable. That actually is kinda old news, but what is new is that this same superintendent not only had the personal morals of a rat, but he also has professional morals to match.

It's just been disclosed by the new superintendent of schools that for the last 4 years, this slug was falsely reporting the high school drop out rates for Middletown. They have gone back and looked at the numbers, and they could not be further from the truth. Since 2000, the dropout rate has been more than 50%. A drop out rate of more than 50%!! And this slug was reporting to the state a severe misrepresentation of the facts (according to his numbers the drop out rate was around 25%). So, instead of the state knowing of this outrage and providing resources to try and determine why and how to fix it, this guy just said everything was just peachy, no need to worry anyone. Meanwhile the kids continue to lose and he would continue to collect his fat super's check. Despicable.

Also read the great Medicare prescription drug program is going to basically drive us into the poor house and an incredible fast rate. The Bush Whitehouse LIED through their teeth when they sold this bill of goods to the Congress and the public. There is no other way to put it. They knew the cost they were presenting was completely fabrication, and we've learned that as we have gone along since then, but now, new numbers coming out show an amazing deception was pulled over on us. This program is going to cost $724 Billion dollars for the first 10 years of this program! The Bush WH claimed it would cost $500 billion for the same time period.

And NOW, Bush says, "There's no question that there is an unfunded liability inherent in Medicare that Congress and the administration is going to have to deal with over time".

Gee, what a fucking surprise. And you know damn well, it won't be Bush's administration that deals with this problem they have created. That will have to be dealt with long after he is gone. How do I know this to be true? Read between the lines on more of the president's bullshit:

"Obviously, I've chosen to deal with SS first. Once we modernize and save SS for a young generation of Americans, then it'll be time to deal with the unfunded liabilities of Medicare." In other words, ladies and gentlemen, "I will be passing the buck".

Congress is feeling they have been duped. More and more members are speaking out with viewpoints similar to Senator Dianne Feinstein who said recently, "This new information further demonstrates what appears to be an attempt to dupe Congress and win passage of the legislation". She is also calling for an investigation by the Senate Finance Committee. I'm all for it.

And by the way, "saving social security"???? Anyone with any kind of ability to look at facts instead of beig spoon-fed propaganda by this administration knows that added privatized accounts to the SS program will do NOTHING to "save social security". NOTHING. It's akin to trying to fix a leak in a dam by planting a tree. They have nothing to do with each other! On top of this insanity, it will cost $2 TRILLION to implement. Not millions, not billions, TRILLIONS. Perfect plan.

Hard to stay positive when we have leaders, both nationally and locally that will do and say anything to make themselves look good, even at the expense of our society.

Friday, February 11, 2005

What a World, eh?

Well, what the hell, it seems to be the rage, so why not start my own blog. It beats standing on my rooftop and shouting.....too cold this time of year and I hate it when the neighbors throw things. ;)

So if there is anyone out there, welcome. I am a 38 year old male who lives in southern NY state (about 40 miles from NYC). Politically, I am pretty strongly aligned with the Democrats, but I always have a hard time with the labels "liberal" and "conservative". I'm quite liberal on some issues, and I think rather conservative on others. I guess your label is determined by the person who is defining you. I also happen to be gay.

The whole gay thing is not that big of deal to me. I am gay, but I am so many other things too. I do not think of myself as a "gay American" anymore than I think of myself as a "white American". I am an American. I love my country (although the conservs sure do seem to like to say I don't), I pay too much in taxes, I work hard, I obey the law (for the most part), I take out the garbage, try to be a good neighbor, a good son, a good brother and a good partner to the person I've been with for the past 9 years. There is nothing that startling or exciting about me. I'm just a regular guy.

I used to be a teacher, came to my senses and now work for a company in Northern NJ in the finance part of the operation. Been there for 5 years. It used to be an easy place to rag on, but, they have actually treated me fairly well over the years, and to my great surprise have grown a bit of an allegiance to them. If it weren't for them, we would not have been able to buy our home we just bought a few months back. But, of course, now they know they got me...trapped and dependent more so than ever on that paycheck i get every 2 weeks.

As for the bigger world....christ, what a mess. war, terrorism, nukes, an asshole for a president. the only good thing about Bush winning re-election is that in another 4 years he is GONE FOR GOOD!! What an embarassment that the democrats could not put someone up to beat this guy. If there was ever a sitting president that was ripe for the picking, it was this douche bag. The democrats are in a deep pile of shit as far as their party is concerned. They have got a lot of soul-searching to do over the next few years. They need to remember who they are and what they stand for. They've just become lost because of their chasing polls and automatically taking the direct opposite stand of anything Bush does. They are constantly reacting instead of acting. Oh well, maybe in 2008 my main man will finally run...former senator Bob Kerrey.

Anyways, let's see what happens with this place. Maye it will develop into something. Maybe not.

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