Last week I attended an initiation to a secret club. The admission criteria are tough. One does not choose admission but still must pass a rigorous selection process. No one asks to get in this club and no invitations are issued. If you meet the qualifications you are in. Forever.
The club membership consists of those of us who have watched, waited, cried, cursed, promised, loved, and hated a parent who suffers from Alzheimer’s. If your parents have passed away from other causes you probably did not have years in which they no longer knew you. You also probably did not visit for years and years and just stare into their eyes. Always hoping, hoping, hoping for a glimmer of recognition that is no longer and never more to be found. You might have wondered (as all club members have) how long, how long can this possibly go on?
Those of us in the club have also wondered about ourselves. How did we become someone who can accept a horrible new reality in which our parent slowly fades away? It is like a giant eraser is slowing moving back and forth over your loved one as they become fainter and fainter. And we increasingly wonder about our own future. Is Alzheimer’s perking away in our own brains just waiting to bring our children into the club?
In this club the membership is prone to drink, curse and pray, sometimes all at once.
In this club we examine the past over and over, looking for clues we missed or ignored or pretended to ignore. We look endlessly into their face for a sign of the person we knew and loved. Always asking, are you still in there?
In this club we all suffer from guilt over conversations not had, time not shared, consolation not given, patience worn thin as a razor, and anger over the entire damn mess.
In this club we love and hate old photographs. You know the ones where they are young, happy and hopeful? These photos will stab your heart.
The recent initiation was another large, loving family. Our membership grows by leaps and bounds. They sent their once glamorous, talented, intelligent mother off with loving words and praise. She would have been proud of them all that day.
Welcome to the club dear friends.